CHOOSING MY MENTAL HEALTH OVER MY JOB
It has been a year since I left my job in the real estate business. Up until now, I still get asked why I would forego an opportunity to work for a prestigious organization who’s always at the top of their game. Why waste the chance to earn big bucks in this money-making industry? Was it pride?
I started working for the company as a property associate during my internship. At that time, I was fortunate enough to sell two properties, both of which were sold to overseas Filipino workers. I remember that euphoria of being part of a family’s milestone in acquiring their dream house. I still remember that look a couple gave to each other when they finally determined which house to buy – where they will live, build a family of their own and grow old together. These are just some of the things that motivated me to continue on this career path. Recognizing the opportunity ahead, I decided to get my own license as a real estate broker. My employer contacted me as soon as I graduated. They showed their support as I prepared for my board exam and promised me that I’ll get the best training under their wings – and for that I am still truly grateful. I mean it.
You see, there was a big chance that everything could have worked out as planned.
But,there was a “but”.
I suffered from depression before graduating. I was suicidal. I did not even think I would get through college alive. It’s as if death is an open emergency exit door waiting for me. What triggered it? I don’t really know. Maybe it was my dad’s absence and infidelity throughout my childhood or my mom’s high expectations for me.The reason didn’t matter. It was there and I had to deal with it every.single. day. For almost 2 years. I attended counselling sessions without my family’s knowledge. I remember reminding myself, “You’re not going to kill yourself today, not yet.” My self-harm scars have already faded but my battle with depression will always be a constant reminder that one can survive from this. And I did survive. I got better.
When I started working for the real estate firm, I was already feeling 100% about my life and the future ahead of me. No more self-doubt. No more negative self-talk. Just pure optimism and a rock-solid hope that everything will work out just fine. It went on for a year until I was offered a position where I worked closely with the top management. They call themselves the “Core”.
The position they offered did not guarantee a promising pay grade nor benefit. Having the same license as my boss, I actually have a choice to leave the company and practice my profession on my own. But I still chose to stay with them. I stayed not only because of the gratitude I feel towards every person who has helped me so far in my career, but most importantly for the chance to learn and grow in my chosen field.
Working as part of the “Core” has opened the doors to serious work-related stress I never knew I’d experience. Being surrounded by colleagues 30+ years my senior, I was the youngest in the firm. Most of the time, I was asked to do things outside of what I was responsible for. Yes, I do love to offer my help especially when time permits, but it came to a point where my plate became so full. Aside from the role conflict, I worked long hours. I was on call. I worked on weekends. I was asked to work even on a sick leave or a holiday. Asked to handle other people’s clients, just because. I was doing all of these whiles being underpaid.
I still tried my best to endure everything, after all, I was gaining the expertise I was after despite the stress.But it went downhill when they started making unreasonable deductions on the commissions I was expecting to receive. At first, I didn’t really give much attention to it. Then, it continued and I realized I was losing money I worked so hard for. So, I raised my concern to the VP. Our conversation was so tragic it was almost funny. I heard every possible lame excuse I could think of that day.“Just because I am younger than all of you, doesn’t mean I’m dumb.” I thought.
Part of helping myself get pass through my depression is to avoid thinking negatively of other people and their intentions. I would always try to see the good in every person and every situation. Some people have told me that I should’ve left the moment I saw that big red flag being waved in front me. But I still gave them a chance to redeem themselves because once someone loses my respect, they don’t get to have it back.If I was ever going to leave, I want to leave the company without any resentment towards any of my bosses or workmates. So, I still stayed.
I decided to come up with a timeline to plan when I’m going to quit. It was hard for me to think about leaving while being in love with what I was doing. I loved the challenge that despite the emotional roller coaster I was going through, I still managed to hit and even exceed my monthly goals. I loved the grind and I was not about to let anything mess up my momentum. I loved the person I was becoming that’s why I tried not to focus on the things that would only disappoint me. I wish my story ended here – where I could just go on with my life, not caring about anything and do my job in peace.
But then something happened in the office again. I still cringe thinking about it now. I don’t think I’ll be able to write it down, ever. It was so messed up and insulting and just downright disappointing. Until now, I still ask myself, “How could anyone do something like that?”.
At first, I tried to tell myself that it’s just my brain making everything so much worse than it really is. Then, I started going back to my old habits. Being all negative. Self-medicating through alcohol. Complaining a lot. Hating everybody, myself included. I was really upset. It got to a point where I isolated myself again (emotionally and socially) from everyone because I feel like all they would hear from me was how miserable my life was at the moment. I couldn’t accept the fact that I let myself be hurt by people I chose to trust. And I found myself not wanting to be a burden to anyone again by sharing what I was going through.I thank the heavens for letting me recognize these familiar habits of mine. It was also during this moment that I realized, I deserved better and that it’s time for me to go. (Better late than never!)
"I couldn’t accept the fact that I let myself be hurt by people I chose to trust...It was also during this moment that I realized, I deserved better and that it’s time for me to go."
It was mentally and emotionally-draining. I even started having panic attacks and meltdowns in the office. It got really bad. My anxiety has reached a breaking point. So, I decided to go on a much-needed trip. I didn’t even wait for their permission before booking the flight. That’s how bad I wanted to get away. I know I had to clear my mind because I was about to leave my job without a definite employment prospect.But between the fear of losing my job and not having a backup plan, losing myself by staying in that kind of environment was what I was most fearful of. I was afraid that if I did stay, I would just accept the way they treat their employees and that I’d become like them in the process.
In one of my quiet times by the beach, I finally realized that I loved what I was doing, just not where I was doing it. Work has been my escape. It has kept me pre-occupied and sane for a quite some time. But, staying is not an option anymore. So, as soon as I got back from my trip, I penned my resignation letter. “Fuck this. I’m out.”
MOMENT OF TRUTH
I took a long and deep breath before opening the door to our office. All of the “Core” members were inside. They were excited to hear about my recent trip, but I just smiled meekly and headed to our boss as soon as I entered the room. I sat down and carefully took out the letter. My colleagues saw it as well and they were all perplexed. I thought that I would just be dealing with my bosses that day but they decided to sit me down – the whole team acting as a panel. It’s as if I was defending my thesis all over again. They were all trying to make me stay, but their very words solidified my decision to go...
“You’re not thinking straight.”
“You clearly haven’t thought this through.”
“You’re wasting this opportunity to get rich.”
“You’re never going to find a company like this one.”
“No matter where you go, you will be treated the same way.”
“You should be grateful you have a job!”
“You need your money. You’re not getting any of it if you leave now.”
“FUCK YOU AND YOUR MONEY!” I thought.
Money wasn’t my concern anymore. It was out of the picture the moment my mental health got compromised. It was non-negotiable. I wasn’t going to let anyone ruin my peace, not again. I worked so hard to get better, went through hell and back just so I can function and be my normal and sanguine self again.
I never imagined telling other people how I truly feel. But at that very moment, I was at my most vulnerable.“Sorry po. Hindi na po ako masaya. Hindi na po talaga ako masaya. Ayaw ko na po dito.” (“I’m sorry. I am not happy anymore. I am not really happy anymore. I don’t want to be here anymore.”) were the last words they heard from me. I didn’t lie about my reason for quitting, didn’t make up any excuse. It was liberating telling them the truth. I firmly told them that I’ll be turning over all my work on that day and I finished everything out of my eagerness to leave.That same day was my last day after working for the company for more than three years.
Quitting my job had to be one of the best decisions I made for myself. I thought long and hard before handing in that letter. I know that not everybody can make the same decision I made. It was almost a luxury not all people can afford. It wasn’t practical, I know, but I had to it. Knowing myself and my tendencies, I couldn’t risk staying and spiraling down back to that dark place I barely got out of.Other people might not see it as it is, but having a fuck-the-world attitude, especially during a crucial time like this one, is actually a gift– it saved me. Looking back, I don’t regret anything at all.
SELF-LOVE AIN'T SELFISH
Once you realize that your mental health is suffering, know that it is okay to walk away. Walk away from that shitty job, that toxic friendship you have or any unhealthy relationship you are in. Choose yourself always – no matter what other people might think or say. Your thoughts and emotions matter. Your feelings are valid because you feel them and they are yours. Always be reminded that you deserve to be happy, even if it means cutting these people out of the equation of your life. Instead, surround yourself with people who encourage personal growth, not hinder it. Do not ever let anyone make you feel worthless and helpless.And if you ever did, forgive yourself and don’t do it again. You are a unique individual with a lot to offer the world and anyone who makes you think or feel otherwise doesn’t deserve your magic. Trust the universe. Soon you’ll find the passion, motivation and every bit of happiness that were lost.
"Choose yourself always – no matter what other people might think or say. Your thoughts and emotions matter. Your feelings are valid because you feel them and they are yours. Always be reminded that you deserve to be happy, even if it means cutting these people out of the equation of your life."
If you or someone you know needs help, you may:
Make an appointment with a specialist and get assessed today.
Other Suicide Prevention Hotlines (open 24 hours, seven days a week):
- (02) 804-HOPE (4673)
- 0917 558 HOPE (4673)
- 2919 (toll-free number for all GLOBE and TM subscribers)