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ALL IN THE FAMILY

A sense of purpose

I am not as depressed now,” says Jim (not his real name), a college junior. Jim was diagnosed with clinical depression in high school, and has been taking antidepressants for years.

Before the pandemic, he saw me in the office regularly, to discuss potential issues before they became overwhel­ming. Now, we chat online.

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“Maybe because there are no more tests,” Jim says. “No pressure. And everyone is in the same boat. Weird, but I feel much better. I don’t have the urge to harm myself these days.”

“I am relieved,” I say. “What have you been doing at home?”

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“At first I binged on Netflix, but then got bored. I cleaned out the closets, and my mom gave away stuff to our helpers and neighbors. That felt good.”

“Have you developed new hobbies?” I ask.

“I used to cook before, but I stopped. One time I watched ‘MasterChef’ and decided to do a carbonara. Not to show off online, LOL, but to make for my family. I was shocked when my sister, who can be irritating, said she loves it! Now I am helping our cook with our meals.

“Our neighbor is a nurse, who gets home tired. So I cook extra for her. Before I knew it, my cousins also want the food, because they are tired of eating the same meals at home.”

“I am sure you have thought about making this into a business,” I say.

“My mom told me to charge for the food,” Jim says. “But a business makes me tired. Everything has to be perfect always, which is so much pressure. I don’t want to post online. I don’t want to worry about ‘likes’ and ‘shares,’ which was what made me so depressed before. It’s enough that friends and family love my food.”

“Even if you feel better, do not stop your meds without your doctor’s say-so,” I say.

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“Yes, I still take them,” says Jim. “I am better, but I still have bad days. Before the pande­mic, when I wake up, I feel like a zombie. Now I have no time to dwell on bad things. I have to plan menus, try recipes. It’s tiring, and sometimes the food does not come out right. But my family and friends love it, which is awesome.”

I am proud of Jim, who has found purpose in these troubled times. But I worry about Lia, who before the pandemic was all set on going to law school. Unlike Jim, she was never diagnosed with any mental health issue.

Lia was doing fine in the early weeks of the quarantine, but as it wore on, she confined herself to her room, snapped at her parents, quarreled with her boyfriend.

“I did a lot of Lazada shopping, and when the boxes came, I felt excited at first,” Lia says. “We ordered delivery from hotels and restaurants, fancy steaks and such. But I feel guilty because poor people don’t have enough to eat, and we are spending a lot on deliveries.”

“Do you feel happier afterwards?” I ask.

“It’s exciting to get a new gadget,” Lia says. “I kid myself that I got it for law school, but I am just bored. It’s great to eat a good meal, but I get nervous wonde­ring if the chef has the virus, so I tell my family we should stop ordering. But we can’t help it.”

“Have you tried to hone your cooking skills?” I ask.

“I don’t have the energy,” Lia says. “You know, I can’t stop thinking of my graduation gift, a trip to Europe. I am so mad at this virus, at the way it’s being handled. Life sucks.”

“You want to be a lawyer to help people,” I say. “Why don’t you start reading resources online?”

“I dreamed of topping the bar and joining this prestigious firm,” she says. “But it’s no use thinking about law school now.”

I advise Lia to see a psychiatrist soonest. She has lost any sense of purpose, which is harming her health. Next week, we discuss why finding meaning in life is better than just chasing after happiness. INQ

Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at www.lazada.com.ph or call National’s Jennie Garcia at 0915-421-2276. Contact the author at [email protected]

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