“I think anybody who writes from direct experience comes from a very informed place, but when you combine that with fearlessness and a strong desire to speak your truth, then readers can tell and they will respond.”
A survivor’s fight
Alya Honasan, a Lifestyle writer at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, shares her story on coping with depression through writing her personal experiences about it. She also shared her insights on mental health and how writing somehow gives purpose on what she’s been going through.
Honasan first encountered her depressive episodes in 1990’s and she described it as a hollow block not leaving her chest. She gained a lot of weight and always slept at four o’clock in the morning, making it hard to concentrate at work. She once shared in an article she wrote that she felt like crying first thing in the morning and eventually, it turned into something worse. One day, she just couldn’t function–she couldn’t even write which was the only thing that she knows she could do forever. That was the time when she realized, she needed help.
After knowing about her own state, she immediately consulted a psychiatrist who then diagnosed her with clinical depression and advised her to take Prozac, an antidepressant. Her family was new to what she was going through, which made it even harder to cope with her illness.
Now that she is more stable because of medication and meditation, she continues to do what she needs to do in order to fight her illness. She sees her psychiatrist for two months, and as for her meds, if she feels better for months straight, the dosage will be reduced but if she’s experiencing too many depressive episodes, she has to go back to the original dosage.
Moreover, as part of her healing process, she had voluminous journals of thoughts during and after her depressive episodes. She also opts to do more of the things she loves such as taking care of her two dogs and attending yoga classes.
Her words as swords
Honasan loves the way words are a writer’s weapon in helping build the world a better place. Writing and informing people about the causes she believes in made the writing process therapeutic and fulfilling. The writing process greatly helps in coping with her illness, so she promised to write about mental health every chance she gets in order to raise awareness on the said matter.
“Now that I’ve generally got it under control (her depression), I write as often as I can about relevant subjects, because helping others overcome the unnecessary shame and fear gives some purpose to the experience, too. The fact that I can make myself understood as a writer in a mainstream newspaper means I can reach and potentially help more people,” she explained on how writing about her illness and personal experiences becomes a huge part of her healing process.
She shared that most of the people who have read her articles about mental health issues have contacted her directly on Facebook or email. They thanked her for her insights on the said topic and for giving voice to those people who are suffering from a mental illness. Honasan shared that these kind of messages are overwhelming and at the same time, it adds up to her passion on publishing more articles which discuss mental health issues.
The promise of hope
When asked for a message for the people who also suffer from depression, she said, “Get help, because life can be so much better. Find the right doctor, because some may not be ideal for you and please don’t be afraid of medication. It can ease a lot of the pain, and no, you won’t become dependent or crazier, although you have to see how you react to it. Don’t let self-righteous people tell you how to manage your illness.”
Alya Honasan’s story, as well as the stories she writes, serves as hope for those who are still afraid to get help or to talk about their condition. Her newfound purpose as a writer and a mental health advocate helps her in fighting her illness. She hopes to enlighten the public on this issue which is sitting in the dark for ages, not getting the attention it needs. By writing about mental health issues, she wishes to create a sliver of hope that the country needs in order to help people going through the same thing she does.
If you doubt that it gets better, Honasan’s story is a proof that it does. With the help of your loved ones and your own self, you will soon find a way to love yourself despite your illness.