TJ Manotoc’s Message of Hope on Depression: “You Will Be Alright”
In January 2018 TJ Manotoc put out a video on YouTube dealing with how he survived depression and anxiety disorders and that others, too, can overcome depression. Initially, he felt it was “a bit of a risk to do this because inevitably, reliving all the horrors could re-open some wounds as well. And yes, due to that so-called ‘Social Stigma’, it may change the way some see me.” But his inspiration to do so was Max Ricketts, who he had met 27 years ago.
Max had gone through hell much worse than Manotoc, but he not only survived it, but also made it part of his life’s mission to share his story and counsel those who were in the dark like he once was. Manotoc himself, being a journalist for 18 years and now a News Anchor on TV, “lost count how many stories of suicide and depression I have reported on and I feel it’s about time it is talked about not just in the context of someone dying, but also in the context of giving hope. Max gave me hope that I, too, one day could be like him – alive and well. And this time, it’s my turn to pay it forward.”
“Coming out and sharing my story and in a very visual and dramatic manner may seem a bit much for some, but I know in my heart my story can touch some lives. And if I save a life or two in the process, it will be all worth it. To sum it up, my message is clear, YOU WILL BE ALRIGHT (which is also the name of his YouTube video).” He shared the video also on his Twitter account, which chronicled his history with depression, starting from his childhood on to adulthood.
TJ Manotoc’s Brush with Depression
Manotoc reveals in the 13-min tell-all video that he had battled and survived depression as a teenager and chronicled that phase of his life which he now looks back on as a “blessing” that gave him a higher purpose – that of being a “blessing to others.”
In the first two minutes of the video, Manotoc explains what depression is. “It’s more than just a bad mood,” says Manotoc. “Depression is a serious mental health condition. It’s triggered by various things. There’s genetic, there’s biochemical, there’s environmental and there’s psychological factors.” He speaks of personal and intimate experiences, such as when his father left him in 1980 when he was just a kid, and what it felt like to grow up without a father.
Manotoc narrates in the video that as a second-year high school student at Ateneo de Manila University “he did nothing but school, shut everything off, didn’t watch TV, and didn’t spend time with my friends.” This was in contrast to his “irresponsible” self the previous year, after which he decided to pull up his socks upon his mother’s urging to “shape up” so that he could graduate.
While this helped him become a good student, it put him through a lot of pressure and stress. He began to have trouble sleeping. His first real night of insomnia was such a nightmare that it really hit him. He didn’t know what it was, but apparently he was going through an anxiety attack.
‘Perfect Storm’ of Depression
These are the early signs of a major depressive disorder, his doctors told Manotoc and his mother, at the time. Manotoc labels the possible triggers of his condition as a “perfect storm.” He was told that it was the combination of yearning for a father figure, an inherited physiological imbalance, and the self-created academic pressures.
“There’s a difference of experiencing clinical depression and just being sad,” Manotoc affirms. “It’s just like, ‘Why am I sad? Why can’t I choose to be happy at this moment? Why can’t anything make me laugh? There’s nothing really bothering me, there’s nothing really [that’s] a problem.’ But you’re just so, so empty inside that you can’t figure it out. It’s just so different.”
Manotoc went through a few more anxiety attacks for the remainder of high school. What tipped the scales was a “big mug of beer, with a shot of Johnnie Walker” he had had in his first year of college during a reunion party with his high school friends.
“When I got home, I just started to speed, and my mind was racing. Just to fast-forward the process, I didn’t sleep for three days straight. This was different from other attacks,” he recounts. He felt “paranoid.” In his room, he paced back and forth carrying the Bible, and spray painted several crosses on the walls to “feel protected”. So, soon he found himself admitted to a psychiatric ward, where he was medicated to help him calm down. He felt like he was “dying”.
How TJ Manotoc Survived Depression
To help him recover, Manotoc was pulled out of school. His mother tried various remedies, from crystal healing and acupuncture to meditation and natural supplements. Manotoc at this time was not taking antidepressants.
He found that what really helped him were the seminars and workshops. They made him “think positive” and were the most effective ways of “healing”. This was a paradigm shift that he experienced. He told himself, “I’m going to be strong-willed, I’m going to have a strong mindset, and be focused, and be positive, and not be a pessimist anymore.” He felt that mental illnesses needed not just medications but also “willingness and determination to get better”.
“It’s up to you really. You have to help yourself. And since that day, when I said, ‘No more,’ it never happened again,’” he narrated. That is how TJ Manotoc survived depression and lived to tell others about it and help them cope with it.
You Can Survive and Overcome Depression
The video “You Will Be Alright” also served to launch Manotoc’s advocacy group of the same name. He aims to “be a Max to thousands of people” through social media.
“I know that there will be one, two, three, or four kids that I can reach out to in the darkest times of the night. They might see the video, and that could give them hope. And give them the first step to find somebody, something that could help them. I’m not going to solve problems, but what I want to do is plant seeds of hope. They are seeing someone who made it through,” he said.
“All that pain, it contributed to who I am today,” he said. “Like now, I wouldn’t be in the position to help people if I didn’t go through that pain… They told me it was a blessing, and there would be a bigger way to be a blessing to others.”
“I’m telling you now: there’s a way out,” Manotoc says in the closing of his video. “That’s why I’m coming out and telling you my story. I’m hoping that I give you hope. You can tell yourself, ‘Look at him, he made it.’ That’s the message I want to tell you now. You’ll make it through… Find a support group. Understand and accept that this is happening for a reason. And never, ever, ever give up, and you will be alright.”