I already lost count on how many times the companies where I applied on, rejected me….
In my most honest opinion, I can’t even barely remember what I was doing on that sunny day. I was only three years old and it was my first time in Manila. I still remember traveling there by sea, aboard the ill-fated MV Princess of the Orient via a connecting trip after we sailed in a Waterjet fast ferry from our hometown, Surigao City.
I most remembered frolicking in the playground, climbing atop monkey bars as if they were a ladder, and then asking a woman to give me some pieces of Planters (cheese sticks or cheese balls, I cannot remember).
What shattered our world was my diagnosis: I have Autism. I was advised to undergo occupational therapy every now and then in order to see some improvements. There were not too many special schools in our province but we are thankful that my paediatrician was there to help, as she also has a special-needs son.
I managed to attend regular school the following year. I tried my hardest to remain as attentive as ever in class. Sometimes though, I didn’t really feel like attending school because I wasn’t just a sickly kid. Some of the lectures presented seemed a little too hard for me to fully absorb, but for a reason I still could not figure out why, I was eventually able to catch up with the school activities and in no time, I was a consistent Top 2 student.
In college, I finally became what I thought would make me happy. I became one of the popular students and even I could not explain why. Finally I got to embrace the fact that most people accepted me for being true to myself. I just didn’t realize then that I could not please everyone.
I tried to remain composed upon finding out that one of my cousins, whom I had dearly missed since the day we moved to Manila, had passed away of leukemia. She never got to see me grow into the man that I have become. I had always craved more of her presence especially when I started to feel lonely.
At this point in my life, I should have started earning some money for myself, but life had other plans for me, particularly in the past four years. I already lost count on how many times the companies where I applied on, rejected me, nor the number of times that I wasn’t able to make it to my supposed job interviews. I seemed unfazed and still willing to continue, but I could not really tell everyone that it started to take a toll on my mental health. I started to research about signs of anxiety and depression whenever I had the time. The fact that I would feel sad without any clear reason even during times that I attended celebrations could never conceal that I am experiencing signs of depression!
Upon doing some research that persons with autism can also experience depression, I tried several ways to calm myself down especially during times when I don’t feel like doing anything that keeps me productive.
At this point in my life, I am hopeful that I would be finally able to land a decent job, be it home-based or somewhere not too distant from our residence. Then I could be more able to monitor my progress and maybe become an advocate for mental health.
My journey is just starting, and I will look forward to a bright future.