Pinay overcomes depression to become one of Canada's top immigrants
In 1997, Canada-based Filipina businesswoman Maria Santos-Greaves was in a rut. She was on her eighth year of working in a hearing clinic, a result of her father's insistence that she take up pharmacy and also of her own hearing problems.
In an interview with GMA News Online, however, Greaves said the daily grind kept her anchored while her direct-selling business was doing its best to sink her.
"There [were] a lot of people who owed me money who never paid me back," she said. "I tried to solve everything by myself. I never told anybody—my parents, I never told them at all."
Greaves said this continued "until I don't really know myself anymore. It's a terrible experience. A lot of people say, oh, I'm depressed. You don't really know the real experience of depression."
To unload, Santos asked for a two-month leave from work to entertain her parents, who were visiting her pregnant sister in Toronto.
Within the first month, she met her first husband, a divorced father who had two children from a previous marriage. However, their whirlwind romance had her go from a woman who thought she'd focus on her work forever to an expectant mother in just six months.
But what began as a welcome change turned to a dip back to the darkest time of her life.
"Imagine: I'm an instant mom, a different country, different food to eat, different culture—so many challenges. For me, back then, I thought my ex should've been the one teaching me about this," she recalled.
"A lot of stress happened, and the marriage didn't work. I actually left him six times, and then I felt like it's coming back, that I'm getting depressed again, so I thought I have to get out of there."
Greaves recounted her experiences in battling depression in the book Disruption 2.0., the second anthology of anecdotes by Filipina leaders from the Filipina Women's Network.
The book contains 37 stories about Filipino women's leadership in their host country and in the Philippines and how they manage their personal lives and careers.
Santos' frank discussion of this period on her life earned praise from her peers, all members of the FWN or previous winners of FWN's 100 Most Influential Filipinas in the world.
“I closed that story of mine a long time ago, but when I wrote the book, I said, 'You know, maybe I can talk about this again,' and wow, the response that I got… 'You have so much courage to talk about that ‘cause not everybody will be honest and open',” she said.
But what truly endeared her to others—and what led her to be among Canada's Top 25 Immigrants in 2015—is the business savvy and determination she displayed while fulfilling a dream she had during this period of her life.
For three years, while working at a call center to provide for her family, Greaves dreamed of building a clinic similar to where she previously worked.
"There's a lot of things I want to do for the client, for the patient, but I can't do it. I'm in control by the boss, she said.
Her plans came to fruitionyears later, when she, along with former business partner Vicky McKay, took loans and equipment from friends to open the first Surrey Hearing Care Inc. in 2009.
She said, "I started with nothing. It's all about connections. I talked to a friend, who was a licensed hearing specialist. I have another friend who provided equipment, and with the hearing clinic, you just have a reception area, the testing booth, the audrometer- you're good to go."
"I didn't see any barrier at that time, 'cause my goal was to open a clinic. I don't have money. I just gathered everything that I need, talk to people, look for the place, and then talk to a friend who can partner with me... and everybody said yes."
With careful planning and support from friends who were more than eager to help her start her own business, Greaves was able to grow the clinic to the point that she bought out her partner's shares and became its sole owner.
"There's a lot of opportunities and I grabbed it," she said.
Surrey Hearing Care Inc. now has four branches around Canada as of 2016 and Greaves hopes to bring it to the Philippines one day to boost the humanitarian work she does for impoverished communities yearly.
Though not all Filipinos could get in the same spot as her, the Filipino businesswoman believes that investing in one's personal growth and putting one's whole belief in their goals would pay off in the end.
"Spend time with yourself, invest time and money for yourself," Greaves said. "Nobody can take that away from you. You're gonna have that for life, forever."
"You have to be a risk-taker. It's not easy. You have to learn to risk, find your passion, determination, the courage. And no fear... just go for it! It's not about what you know, it's how much you care, 'cause people feel that, your sincerity to people," she added. —KBK, GMA News