sad looking womanIris is an actor, writer and volunteer living in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. She migrated from Cebu, Philippines in 2005. Four years after migrating, her struggle with anxiety and depression began.

Did you attempt to do self-help, or to manage on your own?

“I always try my best to help and care for myself. For example, doing physical activities that I enjoy — yoga, dance, even just a 20-minute walk in the nearby park. I attend spiritual silent retreats for a weekend or for a whole week. I try to meditate, though I do have challenges doing it regularly.”

“Nurturing friendships also helps, especially with friends whose presence are helpful and calming to me. I have joined support groups. I volunteer a lot. Somehow focusing on others and not only myself helps a lot.”

“I listen and watch documentaries about mental health. I also read scientific articles and journals about the latest research on depression, anxiety and their treatments. The latest book I’m reading is Marc Schoen’s Your Survival Instinct Is Killing You: Retrain Your Brain to Conquer Fear and Build Resilience. It’s also about knowing and understanding more about it.”

How did you seek professional help?

“We have to remember though that there are days when it’s difficult to manage on our own. On these kinds of days, I would either go to my acupuncturist or massage therapist. Other times, I see my counselor and talk things through.”

“When I was going to university for my second degree, many programs and staff were available to students. The university is aware of the many stresses students experience. Health and Counseling services in the university was strongly promoted and advertised all over the campus. When professors notice that students may have some issues, they suggest the services of the Health and Counseling staff.”

“My family doctor had referred me to services and programs in our area. I kept my eyes open for ads and posters in community centers and health clinics. I saw the ad for the BC Bounce Back program in my doctor’s clinic. I asked him about it and requested his referral. The next day someone from the program called me right away and helped me get started with the program.”

How are you managing now?

“I’m currently in a hormone therapy for infertility so it’s a bit rough for me. One of the side effects of the hormones is mood swings/depression. So I do the best I can to manage it.”

“I signed up for a Zumba class. I take walks, read fiction books that make me laugh, eat well. Eating well for me means cutting back on junk food like chicharon and Chippy which I enjoy! More fruits, vegetables and whole grain. Less sugar. I also try to keep away from people with negative energy or activities that will rile me up (e.g. political issues). If I read online comments from trollers who just want to incite anger among its readers, I try to not fixate on it and just scroll down or I read something else.”

“I met with my counselor yesterday and gained some new insights into my current feelings of anxiety. An important thing that I remember is to be kind and compassionate to myself. I can be very critical of myself. I say thing to myself like ‘I shouldn’t be feeling this or that. I should be more logical and less emotional.’  The more I push myself one way, the less kind I am to myself. One thing I am reminded by my counselor yesterday is to just let the negative feelings surface, not suppress it and not judge it…then let it go.”

“There’s no magic cure for depression and anxiety. It’s important to learn how to manage it and to not let it define you. It’s a constant learning experience.”

photo by: bradleygee