[Two Pronged] Depression and my career

Jeremy Baer, Margarita Holmes
[Two Pronged] Depression and my career
Cora writes to our Two Pronged duo asking what to do about her future in light of the mistakes she's made in the past

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,

Good evening. I want to ask foradvice about something that has been bothering me much lately. I don’t know what to do.

I would like to work, but I am already 36 and there have been so many times when I did not have a job and that will have to be on my CV.  

I have an AB that I finished but I do not like my degree, which is [Mass Communication (MassCom). 

I only took that course because I copied the courses of my high school barkada (group of friends). I was also mad at my sisters so I didn’t tell my parents so all of them would know nothing more about me. I kept it a secret from my parents because I did not want my sisters to know anything that was happening to me. 

I feel my situation is hopeless because I always remember my mistakes in the past. I made a mistake because when my mother asked me and I said I was taking an English short course.  But MassCom was also what my mother chose for me. I just laughed it off because of my anger towards my sisters.

I got depressed because of my college life and how I wasted all this time. My ate (older sister) asked me to apply to be a domestic helper in Singapore, but I could not stand that. My father wants me to get 18 units of teaching but I don’t think I can stand teaching either.  

If I apply here, maybe no one will hire me because of my age and those gaps in my CV.

I just want to know what my options are and what is in store for me the following year. 

My parents are both 68 and already old. I cannot keep on relying on them.  Please help me. 



Dear Cora,

Thank you for your email. 

Your account makes for interesting reading but what you omit is of course equally significant. You apparently chose MassCom because you were mad at your sisters (no explanation) and then pretended you were doing a short course in English (quite how you convinced anyone for 4 years that you were doing a short course in English eludes me – only those studying courses like medicine or architecture could possibly think that a four year course was short). Now you have a CV full of gaps (no explanation of the work you have done or why you were unemployed so much) which you worry will make it difficult, if not impossible, to get a job.

Your family want you to be an OFW domestic helper or a teacher but these jobs do not appeal to you. Nothing wrong with that, but occasionally beggars cannot be choosers and by your own account you think you are unemployable.

In the absence of any information about your employment record and the reasons for the gaps in your CV, it is impossible to give any useful advice. However, it is conceivable that your unremittingly negative view on life is a result of depression which Dr Holmes may wish to address further. 

In addition, your anger towards your sisters seems to play an important role in your life. You have chosen to tell us absolutely nothing more about this but apparently emotion has led you to make some seriously wrong decisions in the past and there has as yet been no resolution whatsoever of the causes of this conflict. Maybe you should address this and perhaps consider seeking some counseling. Your life might be surprisingly enhanced if you can put this sibling strife behind you.

All the best,

JAF Baer

Illustration by Nico Villarete

Dear Cora,

Thank you very much for your letter. There is so, so much I want to share with you, especially because your letter spans at least  20 years and not much help can really be given in a mere column. However, a lot can be jump-started, even with Mr Baer’s and my responses, and that is what I hope for.

Areas that can be jump-started:

1. Exploring the possibility that you may be clinically depressed.  There is no doubt in my mind that you might be, but that means nothing unless you open yourself up to that possibility. You see, only when you are open to see yourself in a new light might things start to change for you.

Currently, your self-concept is focused on: “I am in a hopeless situation because of my past mistakes.”

True, you are in a terrible situation and true, a lot of it is because of you – your decisions, your refusal to do anything that had no clear guarantee of success before you did it.

One possible reason it is so hard to deal with your plight is that you don’t realize you have a disorder and that disorder is treatable – in fact, one of the most easily treated in the world once you are ready to grapple with your real issues. 

I think you are clinically depressed, Cora. And in some obscure way, knowing you are can give you some hope. Now you know you are not alone, you are not the only one suffering from this mysterious fate.

Actual talking therapy can be very useful, but even “bibliotherapy” on one’s own will do for starters: 

Bibliotherapy is an expressive therapy that involves the reading of specific texts with the purpose of healing. It uses an individual’s relationship to the content of books and poetry and other written words as therapy. Bibliotherapy is often combined with writing therapy. It has been shown to be effective in the treatment of depression. These results have been shown to be long-lasting.”

An excellent book to start with is the 2008 edition of Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by doctor David Burns. Many other excellent books have been written on clinical depression (ahem – my own included), however to me, this most clearly describes its symptoms so the reader is left with no doubt whether s/he is indeed depressed or not. Also, Burns shares cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) exercises in this book that are easy to follow and can help you.

2. Confronting the reality that the way you deal with your sisters is not helpful. No, you do NOT have to “forgive and forget” although that may be the most effective if all sides are willing to. However, right here and right now, it is time to change this cutting-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face approach which, as far as I can see, harms only yourself.

3. Accepting that, in the end, you may have to take a job that you don’t like. At the moment, very few options (as in jobs you would absolutely adore) are open to you. However, they can be once you stop ruminating over your past (another symptom of clinical depression) and focus on how you can make a terrible situation more bearable.

4. Realizing that by your writing to us, you have already taken the first step. Diba, they say the first step is always the hardest?  So congratulations!! It doesn’t matter whether we’ve helped or not (although I sure hope we have, even in some small, itty bitty way). What matters is that you have done something about your situation.

Good luck, dearest Cora. It won’t be easy to climb out of this well of self pity, regret and resentment you are in at the moment, but it is possible. PLUS, it can only get easier the longer you stay on the path to recovery.   

Please, please write to us again, should you want to. Having been through the trenches of what seemed then to be unremitting, unrelenting depression myself, I will do all I can to help a fellow sufferer. 

All the best,

MG Holmes

 Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email twopronged@rappler.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.

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