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  • Writer's pictureAndi Dela Torre - ANDLTORRE.COM

Rising Above the Tides + My Experience with Anxiety

Anxiety and depression have been long-standing concerns for the past decades around the globe. It has affected a lot of individuals and families in many ways.

After the coronavirus outbreak, things got even more challenging. Statistics have shown an increase in the number of mental health issues recorded. The pandemic has created a lot of stress for everyone and has made more people prone to agitation.

The Silent Pandemic

The silent pandemic is a pandemic of mental health issues that not everyone expresses aloud (hence the term silent). These issues may be pre-existing or new, like the ones caused by the lockdowns and sudden lifestyle changes during the COVID-19 outbreak. The most common are anxiety and depression.

Quick Definitions

  • According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure; while

  • Depression refers to extreme sadness or despair that lasts more than days. It interferes with the activities of daily life and can cause physical symptoms such as pain, weight loss or gain, sleeping pattern disruptions, or lack of energy.

What causes someone to be anxious or depressed?

There are many reasons why people get anxious or depressed; widely known ones are chemical imbalances in the brain or genetics (depression runs in some families). For psychological reasons, the most popular ones include the following: work-related stress, job loss, any form of pressure in general, confidence issues, health issues, loneliness during the pandemic, the death of a loved one, or job loss, among others.

There is always calm after the storm | Dealing with anxiety and depression during the pandemic | Blog, Philippines

At times like this, it’s all the more important to discuss mental health issues because aside from our daily duties and work responsibilities, many things are changing in our environmental and political landscapes. Not to mention, the way we interact has drastically changed over the past two years. Anyone can fall into anxiety or depression.

In the Philippines alone, data from the Philippine World Health Organization (WHO) Special Initiative for Mental Health reveals that “3.6 million Filipinos suffer from one kind of mental, neurological, and substance use disorder”.

On a global scale, the estimate is that 14.3% of deaths worldwide are attributable to mental health illnesses (according to a 2015 study from JAMA Psychiatry). The figures are probably higher during and after the pandemic.

Personal Experience

Last year, my husband and I got stuck with his verbally and emotionally abusive dad during the pandemic. It was the most dismal time in my life. It’s not very comfortable to say, but my father-in-law is the most terrible person I have ever met; he had no values and was a racist. It’s a shame he was stranded with us when he visited the Philippines. It was depressing to be around him amidst the pandemic when no one could enter or leave the region.

It's a very long story, but to cut it short, he regularly spewed very hurtful words that felt like sharp stabs; it started when my mom-in-law broke it off with him amidst the pandemic and when we caught him engaging in activities we did not want to tolerate. Unfortunately, back then, we had no choice but to deal with his aggression and take on duties that were not ours because my mother-in-law was overseas and couldn’t attend to her affairs. The whole situation was restricting and painfully exhausting. It was intense. We felt trapped. My husband's mood was affected, I wasn't myself for a long time, and we both had breakdowns. We sought help from the authorities, the local police, and some agencies because the circumstance desperately needed attention. The thing about people like my father-in-law is that they act differently in front of others and behind closed doors. They try to be charismatic in public, and some people buy the act (especially if it's a foreigner in a rural area). But eventually, the mask slips. On many nights, it was difficult to breathe. Parang sinasaksak na yung feeling. My father-in-law constantly yelled, cursed, and threw a lot of objects. It was traumatizing. He even threatened us before our civil wedding (but failed to do anything, thank God). Since this was amidst the pandemic, and my family couldn’t come to our wedding in the province due to strict border restrictions, we updated them via video after our celebration. Times were hard, but all went well during our simple ceremony. It wasn't exactly what we had in mind (we had to cancel our scheduled church booking last year upon the onset of CoVid), but we did it.

After the rain, comes the rainbow. After the storm, comes the calm | Inspirational quotes | My experience with anxiety | Lifestyle blog Philippines

While I've had a demoralizing experience, he is still my in-law, and deep inside, I feel sorry for him. His relationships would have been so toxic that he doesn't know how to build healthy ones anymore (let alone set standards). I think that's way saddening than what he did to us during those years. Hurt people hurt people. My father-in-law seemed to be a product of a very dysfunctional upbringing, which explains why he built only the same kind of relationships for himself. I saw how this affected my husband in many ways, but I'm proud of him for not following in his footsteps. It takes courage and effort to do that, especially for those who grew up in environments that didn't value family as much and those with dads like my father-in-law (whose heart has so much hate that he feels the need to project it onto others).

A Good Start

We still reside in the same place where it all happened; a modest resort that accommodates guests who don't know anything about the abuse that took place. We have to stay until my mom-in-law figures out what she wants to do with it and until we settle the issue with my father-in-law, which hopefully does not take a long time because enough is enough.

Going back, I want things to take their natural course and let time heal all wounds. Life is not perfect, but it goes on.

My husband and I are proud of overcoming this hurdle together. We are back on track. It helped that we spent a lot of time with my family. They were supportive and positive all throughout. I cannot thank them enough for everything. My mother-in-law also returned to settle some of her issues and spend time with us. Honestly, she is kind, but the problems we dealt with and had to manage were hers. We have done so much for her, even attending to her business obligations while enduring the emotional abuse by her former partner. We had to communicate how we felt because everything cost us our health. We have our own lives, too (can't keep getting in the middle of their issues). At least I can express my true feelings and don't feel awkward doing it. Without a doubt, the experience has made us stronger and strengthened our faith as a couple. It feels great in the end when you conquer a hard battle. You feel more ready for what's ahead because you know you've unlocked a better version of yourself. Of course, the healing part is still ongoing. Abuse, in any way or form, leaves a scar that doesn't go away overnight (not to mention that if you try to open up about it, some might invalidate your feelings). I wish what happened to us doesn't happen to you.

Check on your Family and Friends

Sometimes, in our misery, we don’t realize that others could be in a similar situation, maybe even worse. It never hurts to check on your family, friends, and relatives to see how they are doing. After I told my friends about the traumatic experience I had during the pandemic, two of them confided to me in private about their silent battle with depression. One was involved in a complicated situation that left her ill and unmotivated, while the other faced multiple obstacles alone, almost leading her to take her life. Apparently, by opening up, they felt comfortable to do the same and let it out. Ask how a loved one is doing, and lend your ears today 💕

It’s a Blessing to be Alive

Remember that a lot of people went through a lot during the pandemic. No one was ready to lose a job, lose a loved one, lose hope, or get sick. No one was expecting that a pandemic was going to change the way we live. Life isn't perfect, and that's fine. The fact that you have access to the internet and are reading this right now means that you are still in a good position. Believe it or not, somewhere out there, someone wishes to be where you are. In a world where life is getting short, and anything can happen at any time, it's a blessing to be alive.

As the saying goes, "count your blessings, not your troubles". 🌷

Calm after the Storm

As difficult as it is to comprehend at times, things happen for a reason, and there will always be lessons for us to keep so we can sail better through life. Sometimes, the moments we dread are the ones that bring us closer to what we want. It's a part of the whole journey. Again, life goes on.

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