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‘Am I selfish for putting my mental health above my obligations as the family breadwinner?’

By BṺM TENORIO JR., The Philippine STAR Published Apr 03, 2022 3:00 pm Updated Apr 03, 2022 3:28 pm

Trigger warning: This article mentions mental illness and depression, which could be triggering to some readers.

Each week, PhilSTAR L!fe addresses a reader's concern about relationships, career, and anything they want to talk about through its advice column: Asking for a Friend.

Dear L!fe friend,

Apologies in advance as this is going to be long. 

Just want to vent out and seek your advice. To start off, I'm the eldest of three siblings and I've been a breadwinner since I graduated from college. I've been working non-stop and currently, I am on my third employer, which is a well-known bank. I am an inbound customer service representative—I take and handle calls and concerns of clients over the phone. I never really thought that I would stay long with this type of job because it is really hard. It is so stressful dealing with 40 to 60 clients on an average daily. But here I am and I am currently in my fourth year as a phone banker. 

In 2020, I got pregnant and took time off from the office. I was given a work-from-home duty all throughout my nine months prenatal period and had another four months postpartum leave. I've been grateful that our company did not leave us amidst the pandemic.  

Returning back to the office, I thought I will be able to adjust easily but it is a very big no. Our management changed drastically, been client obsessed, and the ones that suffer because of that are us, employees. They have implemented several rules that I personally—together with my colleagues—can no longer take. For example, as our calls are being evaluated (for quality purposes), even a small lapse that does not even affect the quality of service rendered to a client became a big deal to them. They keep on asking '"Why is it like this?" and "Why can't you do it right the first time?" Every single day, they make you feel like you are not giving your best or you are plain stupid. They even tell you things like "Ano, pumapasok lang para sumahod?", "Pinapasweldo kayo, mahiya naman kayo," "Simpleng bagay lang, hindi nyo magawa?", 'Wag kayo magmarunong kung hindi nyo alam ginagawa nyo," "Ano, mahina comprehension?"

I take all the harsh words as I need to stay. I have a maxed-out credit card, a P100,000 bank loan, and my sister is currently studying in an expensive private university. I support both my sisters' allowance and I give daily funds to my mother as she is only a housewife. I've been crying, throwing up as I badly want to resign already. Every day, I get tormented and I get very disappointed with myself. I feel stupid and their degrading words make it worse. One time, I did something that I thought was just right (and turned out that it was indeed the right thing to do), but I still got scolded over it. I trembled, I felt nauseous, and I cried and cried. My TL mentioned that I had to explain my performance lapse again and that was the time that I advised her that I was going to resign.

Right after they heard about it, they became nice to me and approached me well. I know for the fact that they are only doing that because of the high attrition rate from our office as resignation keeps on surging due to toxic management. Although I have to admit that I cancelled my resignation since I still have big obligations. But now, staying longer drives me crazy.

Am I selfish if I am considering my mental health this time? Not sure if it is a mix of stress, anxiety, and postpartum depression since I haven't been diagnosed by a professional. But I really couldn't leave my financial responsibility, too. In our office, several people have been filing their resignation due to the toxic work we have. 

Please enlighten me on what to do. I can't keep going, but my obligations keep choking me. 

—Troubled Girl

Dear Troubled Girl, 

You got me reflecting on my own life with your letter. It brought me back to how a promdi like me ended up working in Manila. 

For six years, I worked in a government agency based in Laguna. I enjoyed the first few years but the last two years were hell. My boss asked me to write the assignments of his daughter running for cum laude. No extra payment. I did it because he was my boss. He was kind to me. But I felt used at times. 

Another boss from the same agency tapped me as the documentary writer of the department. I did my job well, but everything was not good enough for him. I weathered the storm, so to speak, with a cool and calm perspective. I was a junior writer. I knew too well how to deal with senior staff. 

What broke the camel’s back was when I was reprimanded—on microphone—in front of a hundred guests in Baguio City when we had a symposium. My mistake, according to him: I was not beside him when he was presenting and the slide carousel had a glitch. I was not beside him because he told me I was not needed anymore. So I was at the end door of the venue. When I saw that he was in trouble, I dashed to the front to help. He lashed me with unpalatable words. I just took everything in. I was redder than the red suit of Santa Claus, whose image was right across the room, because it was Christmastime. 

After his presentation, the boss approached me. With profuse apologies. Verbally, I intimated to him my resignation. He cajoled me to stay. “Hindi ka na nasanay sa akin,” he said. 

With a firm tone, I said: “I have had enough. I don’t like the same kind of treatment. You will not change. Thank you for the opportunity.” 

I filed my resignation that day—Dec. 22, 1994. Thursday. And claimed my terminal leave benefits. He never saw me again. 

What a blessing in disguise. That was the time I told myself, “I’m going out of my comfort zone in Laguna” and sent applications to companies in Metro Manila. I had always been afraid of the city.

At the start of 1995, I started applying for a job in a newspaper based in New Manila. I was called for an interview. And never heard again from them. I applied for a major TV network. It did not reply back. I applied for a new magazine and right away I was called for an interview. I aced the interview. I started working on Feb. 14, 1995. The management trusted me so much that they gave me a major assignment to interview Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who visited the Philippines for an Earth summit. Scorched Earth was the title of my first article. Cover story. 

The second cover assignment was as memorable: Who’s Next was the title because I did an in-depth study of bank robbery in the Philippines during that time. Valentin Lota, a security guard in a bank, was killed in a volley of gunshots, which riddled the whole bank. Many guards before him had been felled.

After a slew of a few more assignments, the management did not pay my salary anymore. They concocted many reasons why the employees would not get their salary first for this and that month. How should a breadwinner like me survive? Plus, I experienced borrowing money even for my bus and jeepney fare from my colleagues so I could go home every day to Cabuyao from Lawton. 

When my colleagues and I felt we were being duped, we resigned. That was Aug. 23, 1995. My take-home pay was not given—to this day. But I was happy I resigned. I was ready to go home to Gulod and take the offer of my father to take care of herds of goats to tie me over.

But fate intervened and I got reconnected with Christine Dayrit on the day I resigned from the magazine company. Christine, who I was meeting for the second time that day after I interviewed her in April and who eventually became my best friend, brought me to her dad. Her dad, who fell in love with the restaurant review article I wrote about his Vincent’s San Mig Pub when I was still connected with the magazine, offered me a job with a salary triple than what I used to get from my previous employer. I was offered a managerial-sort of position. My responsibilities were his restaurant and their diamond store business. I eventually became part of the Dayrit family. 

When you leave your comfort zone, you discover a different realm. 

I have stayed with the Dayrit family since Aug. 23, 1995. It’s been 27 years that I have been living with them. I have become family to them. That’s my fairy tale. Life is good.

Life is good, Troubled Girl. When you leave your comfort zone, you discover a different realm. 

Life is good because when you first brought up your resignation, the people in your office changed their toxic attitude toward you. Many times, you have to give them their own dose of medicine. That they changed their treatment of you means you are an important part of the company. Know that you are important. Know your worth. You are worth celebrating.

Maximize on that importance they accord you now and never allow them to step on your toes and ego—again. 

If I were you, I would file for a few days of leave.

I talked to Albert Ray Maggay, my colleague at St. Vincent College of Cabuyao and is a sought-after professor of Psychology, and this is what he wanted to tell you: “Take a leave.” 

“You have been suffering from burnout. Go away for a few days, but make sure it’s a paid leave. Talk to friends. Commune with nature. Go somewhere—to a place that you can enjoy either by yourself or, if funds will allow it, with some of your loved ones. It will be good for your mental health,” Albert says.

“Right now, you have to address your mental health to achieve optimum quality of work,” he adds. “An unhappy employee will churn out unhappy work. Take a break.”

We are responsible for our happiness—whether in our personal life or in the workstation. If the workstation is becoming toxic because of the people, take some gumption to amicably discuss it with the person concerned. If it does not work, inform the HR—so it is more formal. I did that before in my life. And life for me and my other superior became a breeze, a bliss. 

People in the workplace can sometimes, or many times, utter hurtful words, like what you got from your boss. It was a good thing you bottled it up—until you dropped the bomb that defanged him or her. Resignation lamang pala ang katapat para magbago siya. Takot din siya. Insecure. It’s okay to change your mind about getting the job back. Use it well.  Use it to your advantage. 

Regarding your post-partum depression, you may want to seek professional help. Please read our previous Asking For A Friend response. The hotline numbers are there. Trust me, the professionals in those hotline numbers can help you. 

As for being the breadwinner, you have a choice to send your sister to a school that is less expensive than where she studies now. But if you ask me, I’m also a family man in my single blessedness. I send many of my nieces and nephews to college. I don’t complain. I don’t count the cost. Walang sumbat. Kaya pa naman

I always believe that haughty or difficult bosses are the most insecure people. They are different from bosses who are strict because they truly are a genius. Genius bosses normally are kind. I know many of them.

Keep your job. It’s hard to find a job now. And you need all the money to support your loved ones. God will always bless your kind, generous heart. 

And please don’t be troubled anymore, Troubled Girl.

Your L!fe friend,


If you think you, your friend, or your family member is considering self-harm or suicide, you may call the National Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 1553 (Luzon-wide, landline toll-free), 0966-351-4518 or 0917-899-USAP (8727) for Globe/TM users, or 0908-639-2672 for Smart users.

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