How many times have you been asked how you are during this lockdown? What do you say? Are you really okay or are you exhausted by now?
Like us, celebrities have been battling with mental health problems and the struggles brought about by the stress of this pandemic. Which is why now is the perfect time to talk about mental health
PhilSTAR L!fe invited Kylie Verzosa, Jessy Mendiola, and Maxene Magalona as our guest speakers for the She Slays women’s virtual summit, together with author and psychologist Dr. Lissy Puno, and Stephanie Zubiri as the moderator to help us understand more about this reality.
How it all started
Magalona’s mental health journey began about two years ago. “I had blow ups, episodes of rage, I would have explosive emotional episodes that I couldn't really understand where it was coming from,” she shared. When these episodes continued, she figured there was something not right. And so, after seeking help professionally, she was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Verzosa, on the other hand, was ashamed to admit, not only to her friends or loved ones, but to herself that she was clinically depressed. “My father who is bipolar sort of sensed, ‘Anak, you know, baka you are depressed.’ So [it was] thanks to him.”
And for the first time, Mendiola shared her story saying she was diagnosed with depression, bulimia, and anorexia, and had suicidal tendencies.
“It's a bit hard also for us, especially when your line of work, you have to be fit all the time, or you have to be conscious of how you look, how you speak, how you act. And I think that really affected my mental health a lot.”
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The wake up call
Seeking help for these ladies wasn’t easy. Mendiola thinks that at that time, talking about mental health was still a taboo for people. “I didn't have anyone else to talk to about it. So I didn't know what was going on with me,” she said. Likewise, Verzosa felt that “there was a lack of resource in what depression was.”
But thankfully, they had partners or parents that helped them get themselves better. Mendiola had her fiancee Luis Manzano to push her to get therapy. “It was our first year together and he saw how much I was suffering and he was like, ‘You know you cannot just keep on going like that. You cannot keep on pretending that you're okay with it. You have to face your demons and you have to do something about it.’”
And it was Magalona’s husband, Rob Mananquil, and her mother-in-law, who encouraged Magalona to seek a therapist. “At first I was getting offended… It's something that you will be in denial for a while, but then once you make that decision and once you make that step, that big step, it's just gonna be amazing,” she shared.
Mental health in lockdown
The pandemic hasn’t been easy for a lot of us, including these ladies. Though people may say they’re privileged to be saying that, it has affected their mental health one way or another—just like anybody else. “It’s not only me suffering, I also get affected by, you know, seeing either my family suffering or other people in general,” revealed Verzosa.
Meanwhile, Magalona admits the pandemic has taken a toll on her relationship with her husband. “I think this pandemic really highlighted how we are at home and how we treat the people we live with,” she said. “Kumbaga, this pandemic really puts the computer in front of you, and shows you what it is you need to see about how you are with the people around you.”
It’s the same for Mendiola, who had broken up with Luis early last year, but eventually gotten back together, then got engaged. “I had to deal with all of the things happening one at a time,” Mendiola shared, “You have to choose what you can handle and what you cannot.”
And for Verzosa, who was used to having her personal space, still gives herself me-time once in a while now that she’s living with Jake. “It's still a learning process for me,” she said.
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Getting better each day
Each individual has their own coping mechanisms, their own pacing, and their own strategy. Magalona turns to natural healing to help her mental health. “I’ve been venturing into different natural healing modalities such as yoga, meditation, breath work, journaling, you know, because I really didn't want to be dependent on medications. So I wanted to seek a more natural path. And that's why I've been on this self-healing journey for maybe two to three years now,” said Magalona. Currently, she is a yoga instructor and is holding virtual yoga lessons.
The same goes for Verzosa, who opted to go for the natural way, and eventually got over depression after a year. Now, the former beauty queen is a mental health advocate and has founded Mental Health Matters, where they offer free mental health counseling. “[I’m] still trying to learn everyday and become a better person every day,” she opened up.
And for Mendiola, aside from therapy, just admitting that she needs help is a huge step. “I didn't want to pretend that I was happy or I was okay with it,” the actress shared.
But these ladies only have one message for anyone who is struggling with mental illness: Love yourself.
“Love yourself enough so that you can properly take care of yourself because that's where it all begins,” Magalona advised. She added, “This pandemic really opened my eyes to the importance of really focusing on myself before thinking of others. I really need to fill myself up first so that I can properly take care of others as well.”
Mendiola believes the same thing, take care of your own well-being first. “For you to be truly you, to be really healthy, you have to take care of everything—your mind, your heart, your soul.”
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Tips and tricks on how to stay positive:
Have a morning routine.
For Maxine, she starts her day at 4 in the morning and does a two-hour routine. “Personally, I really like getting up with the sun and meditating as soon as I wake up.” She does gentle yoga for about 45 minutes and meditates for an hour and a half. “I consider this morning practice a very sacred ritual that I do every morning, which has really, really helped me so much in my healing, because it really prepares me for the day physically, but also, most importantly, it connects me to God and to my spirituality. And just spending two hours in the morning just makes a big, big difference. And I've been doing this for the past two years, every day, every morning. And this I believe, has really helped me heal so much.”
Push yourself to exercise.
Verzosa, together with her boyfriend Jake Cuenca, have been fitspos to many couples lately (just check her IG and you’ll see why). For her, exercise helped both her physical and mental health. “I've noticed after a workout I feel just so much better,” she said.
Meditate and pray.
Mendiola finds that praying the rosary helps her stay connected with herself. “It's my alone time…And it's very important. For me, I feel like if I'm spiritually connected, I'm also connected with myself,” Mendiola said.