Mental Health | 11 mins read

Updated at September 21, 2023

A Dark Alley

It's pitch black that I can't see where I'm going

I came across a friend’s blog again, after I saw some FB posts about illustrations, which prompted me to search for him to see what’s his latest works are on the internet as he deactivated his social media account. In any case, I stumbled across his blog, and got troubled with a couple of his blog posts (posted almost a year ago), and I really wish that everything goes well on his end.

This is a tricky feeling though, as although I genuinely want to help him, the fact that he’s struggling with his mental health (depression) makes me remember that I should try to figure out my brother first. My older brother is struggling with depression too, and I have no clue how to help him.


Although I have to admit that my family is doing well financially as I turned out to be a driven individual against all odds, naks naman, buhat chair, driven parang kotse lang… I cannot say the same for my parents and brother. My father is suffering from Parkinson’s (an illness that I see myself getting in the future as I’m exhibiting the same symptoms as what my father had when he was younger, I was even rushed to ER last week, “ok” experience, 6/10, some room for improvement, but that’s another story for another time) thus his medications are quite pricey. My brother does not have a regular job, and I’m not even sure if he has any means to earn right now, and there are times that his situation is causing him to spiral deeper into depression. He would message me at times about this, and although I want to help, I have no idea how.

Although I want to help, I have no idea how.

The thing about just listening is that it is, to be honest, taxing too for the listener, especially if the listener views the person as someone important. The feeling of helplessness is unavoidable, as anything you do does not seem to help at all. You’ll be there one day, listening to all what he says, and then after a few days, I’ll learn from my father that he tried to hang himself.

Did “just” listening help? I’m not even sure at all at this point.

I’m a software engineer, throw me a problem, and I’ll give you the solution based on the problem statement. You’re feeling sad because you got no job? Well, let’s try to find you a job. The job market is tough right now, but the BPO industry so far seems to be able to withstand the effects of the recession. I suggested him about trying that out, but he preferred to work at home. A part of me wanted to scold him that he’s not really in a position to be picky, but another part of me just held it back because I do not fully understand the gravity of mental illnesses like depression.

The unknowns make it really hard for me to connect with him in a way that can be helpful. Heck, I don’t even know if I’m in any way helpful to him by just conversing with him. What if he hates having a conversation with me? It’s a legitimate thought, as I’m the younger brother, I can’t help but think that being in the position that I am right now is contributing to the negative thoughts in his head, presumptuous yes, but a legitimate thought that came across my mind at times. But I digress, whenever that thought crosses my mind, my emotions go sideways.

He messaged me a number of times about his thoughts of ending it all. He messaged me numerous times about his feeling of sinking back into darkness.

What do I do?

How can I help?

I feel like a blind man hearing someone crying for help. I want to help, I can hear the direction of the plea, but I cannot even move my feet a step closer.

What happened to him? Did he trip? Or is he hanging by a cliff? If I take this step, will I step on him and hurt him? Or will I slip and fall into the same pit myself too?

Look, socializing was always my weakest trait, and now I have to go figure out how a person with mental illness thinks and feels in order to somehow help them. It’s a daunting task.

This feeling is at odds with everything else. I’ve been helping, or trying my best to help others. Strangers, people I never knew before. I am quite religous and I share to strangers whenever I get the chance. It’s not only helping others through ministry either as I also got involved monetarily in unicef and sos for almost a decade straight now, and yet, I can’t even help my own kin.

Do I stop helping others because I cannot even help my own blood?

I wanted to insert some positive note here, or a self-deprecating joke to lighten up the mood, pero wala e, nagugulumihanan na nalulungkot na nanlulumo na di ko alam how to describe this feeling anymore.

Side effects

There are times that I succumb to negative thoughts whenever I’m in a situation where I have to figure out how to help my parents or my brother.

Looking into myself deeper, it all stems from the fact that I grew up living under the shadow of my brother, the feeling of always being the “other boy”.

The other kid

Back when we were kids, my brother was consistently an honor student. It was just expected that he would get all the attention from my parents and everyone else around us.

But you know what felt like a nail to the coffin? The opportunities that my parents presented to my brother than I never got. I felt that I was left to fend for myself scraping for scholarship while my brother went to a relatively decent university called Mapua.

My father told me to get a job so that I can fund my own education to get my bachelors degree. A degree I never got til this day. I always feel that I’m missing the foundations of the career that I was passionate about, but I’m unsure if I would ever get enough time to pursue it at this point in time.

When I got a job, I gave half of my salary to my parents. When my brother got a job, he gave less than that, but my mom would always tell me “buti pa kuya mo, nagpapakaen ng KFC pag sahod niya”.

I distinctly remember replying to her that she should instead encourage my brother to be responsible with his finances instead of encouraging splurging all of it. Obviously not the best response to her, but that was me reacting in the heat of the moment.

I was the younger brother. Mas malaki pa yung inaambag ko, tapos lunch ko ay half munggo and half rice for a year, lahat nalang napunta sa kanila. Tapos ganiyan maririnig ko? Aba’y di tuloy ako nakapagpigil sa pagiging pranka.

Bottled up resentment

It does seem like I have a sensitive spot when the topic is about my parents and my brother. I do have some resentment on how things transpired in my childhood years up to my young adult years.

The feeling of being neglected. The feeling that I am forced to carry the universe behind my back and consistently seeing firsthand the special treatment my parents are giving to my brother is always weighing me down.

I remember a couple of times where I thought of just jumping. There was this MRT station in Shaw where you can see the busses right below the platform. I imagined myself just jumping there and just end it all. But then, I thought, “was it just me trying to gain attention from them? If so, then isn’t it senseless because I’d be dead by then?”

And then there was this other moment where I just thought of suddenly crossing the street to get hit by a car. It was during one of those early morning commutes I had going to Fujitsu Ten. But then, I thought that it would be very inconsiderate of me to destroy a stranger’s life just because I wanted to destroy my own.

Jumping off a building would be the best bet, a spectacle to behold, I thought.

But I never got to do that, obviously, as I’m writing all of it down right now.

I don’t know what got into me, but I just thought of pushing it through. But it always trigger me whenever I hear reasons from my mom trying to defend my brother.

Hayaan mo siya, nag resign siya kasi nahihirapan nga naman siya sa commute niya. Umuwi nga siya isang beses na basa dahil sa ulan (Let him be, he had to resign because of how horrible the commute is. He even went home drenched once due to the rain).

Oh nice, like as if that never happened to me. I worked in Ortigas with minimum wage, the salary of a construction worker, for a year. I had to hang on to the back of a jeepney for most of my commute to the office. I had to bear with the heat and the rain while doing so. And not once did I hear any hint of concern from my parents.

There were many times where I had to walk from Ever Gotesco (Now SM East Ortigas) all the way to Tektite in Ortigas which is almost 6km away, due to the traffic and hefty penalties when late at the office. And not once did I hear any hint of concern.

Just because I was able to buy my first car on my own before my 4th year at the workforce, she would make it seem that I had it easy? That what my brother had to go through to get to work is something out of the ordinary, something that I couldn’t imagine myself going through???

It boils my blood just writing this down.

I’m not trying to normalize the struggle of commuting to work. All I am trying to point out is, why care about it when it’s my brother having to struggle through that but not when I had to go through, what I think is, worse.

What makes him special that I should be treated like as if I did not exist. Oh wait, I do exist, whenever I am delayed on sending their allowance.

Intindihin mo nalang kuya mo, may depression siya. Ok. Have you ever thought if I am struggling too? Sure, I’m staying strong, putting a smile, acting everything is jolly and great. But that’s just because I have to. I have 2 little girls. I have to see through it. I have no other choice. I don’t have the luxury of taking a pause. I never had.

I’m glad I got married to a girl that is mentally strong, and I hope she doesn’t wear down due to my own struggles that I often times have a hard time expressing.

There were multiple moments that I just bursted, all of the emotions overflowing that my head started to give up and that led me to spasms. I feel ashamed that my wife has to bear through all of that. She’s undeniably worried that I would end up getting a stroke all because of these episodes.

I am not sure how to handle it, and thus, I am trying to avoid this subject altogether. I just have too many resentments that I don’t know how to help them even though I’d like to think that I do want to help them.

No conclusion

How about the friend I mentioned at the introduction? He got his creative talent, and yet he feels that it’s not good enough. He used to work in industries related to his talent and passion. It’s already one step further than my brother, who struggled to keep straight ever since dropping out of Mapua.

If I’d cross paths with him someday, I’d love to grab some coffee or hot choco with him, but when that time comes, I hope I know how to properly help people suffering from mental illnesses.

I’m not sure if I would ever be completely healed myself, as I gave up confronting my weakness for years now. My thoughts nowadays are that if I know I’m weak at something, then I should avoid getting into the situation that would exploit my weaknesses.

Unfortunately, situations such as this does make me remember that I cannot escape this topic altogether, and I need to figure out a better way to handle these scenarios in a way that won’t trigger my meltdown.

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