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Ellen Adarna Is Now in a Good Place, Thank You Very Much

The actress talks about finding happiness by finding herself as she marks her return to show biz.

by Isha Valles | Jan 8, 2021

From feeling lost and unsure of who she was, Ellen had gained her confidence back... She came back a completely different person with a completely different mindset.

After nearly a year of being fodder for headlines, actress Ellen Adarna took a break from show biz and retreated from the limelight in 2017. It was only in early 2020 that she became active once again on Instagram, sharing workouts, uploading rare photos and videos with her son, and even actively answering her followers’ questions via Instagram Stories.

And while she said in April 2020 that she had no intention of making a show biz comeback just yet in order to focus on her son, news that she would be appearing on our screens this month came last November. At this very moment, she is filming for the TV5 sitcom John En Ellen that will be showing on Sundays at 7 p.m. starting January 24. 



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Ellen Adarna for Preview.ph January 2020

That said, the road to this return has not been an easy one. Ellen has opened up on her Instagram about having dealt with depression during her break, as well as how she overcame this with the help of a program in Bali, Indonesia.

For our January cover story, Ellen tells Preview about what she had dealt with privately during her near three-year break, and what it took to get to the happy and peaceful state she is in today.

Anxiety, Anger, Depression

“It took two years for me to heal,” Ellen says. “I really went on a downward spiral. I really lost it.”

The actress had just given birth to her son Elias after a difficult pregnancy and was experiencing post-partum depression. “I didn’t know what I was supposed to feel,” she says, explaining that she had always wanted to have a child and couldn’t understand why she was filled with sadness.

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But she also knew that she was grieving. Her father had passed away just two weeks prior. “I’m the only girl and I lost an anchor. Me and my dad, we had a weird but good relationship—tough love, but father pa rin,” she shares.

It was also around this time that she was dealing with a very public relationship that wasn’t working. “You know, we weren’t compatible, obviously, that’s why we broke up. Of course, any normal break up hurts. You want things to work.”

Post-partum depression, grieving the loss of a loved one, and a relationship that was coming to an end—a combination that can trigger many difficult emotions. Ellen recounts: “It was just really darkness and negativity. [There would be times when] the bathroom was my security blanket. Siguro in a day, tatambay ako sa banyo for three hours, just to be away, because it was in the bathroom that I felt safe.”

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“I would not feel sad anymore, but I wouldn’t be happy either. So I was just basically a robot.”

ellen adarna opens up about depression and relationship with john lloyd cruz

As a mother, her anxiety had manifested as a regular fear of sudden death. “Everything was ‘Oy! Accident yan!’ ‘Oy! Mamamatay!’” It had gotten so bad that she would imagine the ceiling falling on her as she was lying in bed. Riding in cars was also an ordeal as she worried about dying in an accident, the breaks not working, or once, in a taxi in Japan, she was crying thinking that the car might explode.

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She sought counseling and therapy but didn’t take medication until she had finished breastfeeding her son. Her baby, of course, was the priority. Musing on why this didn’t help, the young mom says it’s because she didn’t get to the root of what was troubling her. “I was so unconscious of myself and my choices, so it was just still there. I was in denial.”

And even when she was able to take the prescribed medication, she felt that her condition had not improved. “I would not feel sad anymore, but I wouldn’t be happy either. So I was just basically a robot.” It certainly wasn’t the quality of life that she wanted.

Seeking Help

On the verge giving up and resigning herself to the fact that her new life as a mother “sucked,” one of her best friends, furniture designer Vito Selma, told her about their friend Sam who had gone through a similar experience. Sam had been able surpass it and heal by joining the KoKoro Program in Bali, Indonesia.

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At the time, there was no information online about this. All Ellen had to go by were the videos Sam shared showing different physical exercises that they would do. “Parang 'Survivor' ang peg,” she describes. “When [I saw] the videos, I thought, ano bang mga ginagawa ng mga ito?” She didn’t quite understand what it was all about.

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So why did she decide to sign up?

“I was in Europe with my family for Christmas vacation,” she narrates. “I thought mawawala na yung sadness ko, but I was still sad, crying and crying. I was in a nice place and I still felt shitty.” That was her turning point.

Desperate to get out of what seemed like a black hole, she told Sam she was ready to join the program. “Sige na, I’ll try it! Bahala na, come what may. I tried everything na, eh,” she recalls with a laugh.

With the hope of healing, off she went to Pondok Taksu in Bali without fully knowing what she was getting into. What she discovered was an introduction into the world of Zen philosophy.

According to the KoKoro Program’s Instagram, something that Ellen and Sam urged their teacher to set up so he could help more people with their courses, “the job of a trainer/Coach/Sifu is to bring light into the darkest corners of the student’s soul no matter how uncomfortable the student feels about those points.”

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ellen adarna opens up about depression and relationship with john lloyd cruz

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In the beginning of the two-week program, she had to be isolated from everyone from the outside world. Through difficult physical exercises, her teachers were able to put her mind in a state of meditation. “They use your body, to get to the mind. So kailangan ka nilang pagurin, pagurin, pagurin—[it becomes] mind over matter.”

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Her issues were no longer viewed as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress. It was simply called an imbalance. She explains: “You’re imbalanced, you’re depressed, because there is a part of you—let’s say mind, body, soul goals—that you’re not able to achieve, that you’re not able to fulfill. So they trained me: If you want to be a balanced person, your mind, body, and soul should be balanced. They have to be in harmony.

So how do you feed your mind? You keep your promises, you set your goals, and you have to reach them. You have to take care of your body, because it is the instrument. So you have to eat right, you have to treat it right. And then the soul is your reward if you are able to balance both. It’s the yin and yang.”

Rising Above Her Pain

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After four days of doing the exercises, Ellen says that she started to get her confidence back. “We had to bring out my issues all the time for me to be able to face it until I was able to just look at it and identify that I was feeling frustrated, or that this is anxiety. It’s just like observing all these feelings passing without reacting to it emotionally.”

This newfound awareness made her realize that she had a lot of aggression and anger inside her, as well as anxiety and frustration. She learned to master these with the help of sensitivity and intuition exercises that taught her to trust her gut, something that had been missing from her life for some time.

ellen adarna opens up about depression and relationship with john lloyd cruz

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These were done in a dark room with a blindfold covering her eyes. The floor would be strewn with thumbtacks, and she had to trust her instincts to get her to those spots that were clear. “You will know,” she says emphatically. “At first I wasn’t gonna [believe it], but there really is a power in you that’s protecting you—an energy.” Being isolated gave her time to focus and reconnect with herself. She shares that the mind will really take you to a safe place, and in her case, she never landed on any tacks.

From feeling lost and unsure of who she was, Ellen had gained her confidence back. She had gone to Bali not knowing what to expect, and she came back a completely different person with a completely different mindset. Even her family was amazed by the change.

Co-Parenting and Her Career

While she credits the program to healing her from the anxiety and depression she had been feeling, it didn’t mean that it had erased the issues in her life that she had to face. It did however change the way she approached and reacted to these challenges.

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In the case of her relationship with her former partner and the father of her son, John Lloyd Cruz, Ellen says that things between them are okay now. “Because I had so many issues na hindi pa na-resolve, I was projecting it on him,” she shares of her behavior in the past. With the help of regular meditation, 40 minutes to an hour every day, she has been able to heal herself. She says, “Now I’m in a very good place. I can say I’m 100% okay. I feel my environment changed. Like his approach to me, my relationship [with him has] changed without asking him to change. So I was just really the problem. [laughs]. How I viewed it, my thinking pattern was the problem.”

“My son needs him as much as he needs me. I see their relationship and I see how happy my son is when he is around. So that’s why I also have to work on myself."

ellen adarna opens up about depression and relationship with john lloyd cruz

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While they are no longer a couple, the two are able to co-parent their son Elias. Ellen shares that John Lloyd is a good father and is very close to her son, further noting that “my son needs him as much as he needs me. I see their relationship and I see how happy my son is when he is around. So that’s why I also have to work on myself. Because when I had my issues with JL, [I thought], okay, if I don’t allow my son to see his father, how will I tell him [it’s] because I had animosity towards [his] father? Damay pa yung bata sa mga issues ko.”

Life’s challenges come and go, and the actress feels better equipped to handle them now. “In the past, I would react very quickly or violently or without thinking. Now, I still feel [the emotions], I’m still human, but I’m better at reacting. I manage it well na. I think I’ve zenned it out. [Laughs.] I can identify when an emotion is coming: like what am I feeling, how am I feeling, why am I feeling this? If I react like this, what’s the outcome. So that’s all being calculated already. And ever since I had that kind of thinking, things have been so smooth.”

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You could say the change in her dynamics with her former beau was instrumental to her taking on a new project. She and her son were scheduled to be in Manila so he could spend time with his dad. Taping for the sit-com fell within those dates, and it only required five days, as opposed to the sleepless, month-long schedules for soaps. Her thoughts: “If Elias will be with his dad, and it’s only five days, hindi siya ngarag, might as well do it, right? So that’s why I said yes.”

As for future projects, it will also all depend on the timing and whether the project is light enough to take on. “If I get offered a project, and timing din sa schedule that he can be there for my son when I’m working, walang problem,” she says.

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Changes aside, she is vibrant as ever, her happy and carefree nature evident as she entered the room. With a newfound sense of self, it’s clear that Ellen Adarna is starting the year on a positive note.

Ed's Note: Channel Ellen's lightness of being by trying out the Ellen Adarna Angel filter on Instagram!

Photographed by Mark Nicdao

Cover art by Mark Nicdao and Bree Jonson

Fashion Direction by Steph Sison

Styled by Rain Dagala and Em Millan

Beauty Direction by Nicole Arcano

Makeup by Mickey See

Hair by Raymond Santiago

Styling Associates: Rioliza Camantigue and Elaine Villapando

Special Thanks to Danel Louise Calixto

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