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Iza Calzado Says Her Late Mother's Mental Illness Is Why She Is Delaying Motherhood
PHOTO BY @missizacalzado/Instagram
  • Every detail of the December 2018 wedding of actress Iza Calzado and businessman Ben Wintle was perfection: the unspoilt beaches of Palawan, a sunset ceremony, her Rajo Laurel lace wedding gown, and her wedding bouquet bearing a locket with her late parents’ photos in it. 

    Showbiz insiders also wrote about a special gift she received: a bracelet which her mom owned. And although it was a beautiful tribute to her late mother, Iza felt the stories did not bear an important detail: that her mom did not die of cancer, as was written. Mary Ann Ussher, Iza’s Spanish-Irish-Filipina mom had, in fact, died by suicide in 2001.

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    In an intimate interview for Mental Health Awareness Day in October, Iza spoke for the first time about her mother’s mental illness with She Talks Asia co-founder Sarah Meier.

    “As a child, I grew up with a mother who was battling this. She felt people could never understand her as well. People were not talking about it, so I grew up with a stigma. ‘Yung nanay ko baliw’ — not baliw ‘fun,’ but ‘something-wrong-with-her’ baliw. ‘Stay away from the mom.’ And I received a lot of that energy as well,” she said.

    It was the ‘80s and no one was talking about the condition her mother had. “At that time she was told she was neurotic. She had a temper, she could flare up. Eventually she became manic-depressive and eventually, bipolar,” recalls Iza. 


    The 37-year-old actress says her mom, despite her illness, had tried to shield her from the ‘bad days.’

    “She knew when she was not feeling good, she would send me there [to Iza’s godmother]. Sometimes weeks, months.

    “The trickiest part about this is that I don’t want to paint a bad picture of my mom,” she says, describing her mom as generous and compassionate. “She had so much in her. I’m sure she didn’t want [the illness].” 

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    When Iza first entered show business, people knew her to be the daughter of Lito Calzado, a popular actor, director, and choreographer. Her weight loss journey was also much celebrated, but it’s only now that she revealed that her weight gain was tied to a condition.

    “People know about me as ‘She was big before, she was a big kid, she lost weight,’ but I was big for a reason. I was diagnosed with depression when I was in the sixth grade. Childhood depression. I didn’t take that to heart. The psychiatrist said that that’s why I eat a lot,” she said. 

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    Even if they had known about her mother’s mental illness, Iza was still shocked to the core on the day her mother died. 

    “I remember being there in the emergency room and my dad was already there. I didn’t realize she was actually gonna do it. There was actually a point in my life I thought it was an act. I thought it was a way for her to get attention. And then suddenly, she did it.” 

    There was a lot of guilt among those her mom had left behind, Iza says. “I also had my own healing journey — body love, self-love.” Her mother’s story is “a very crucial part of who I am, and why I’m having to go through this healing journey” so she decided to finally tell the truth about her. “It’s one of the reasons why I delayed motherhood so much,” she admits.

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    “Oftentimes people wait for things to go wrong before they seek help. This sharing of her story is also my greatest gift to her. I want her to know that I am no longer ashamed. And I understand her.”

    Watch the She Talks Asia episode in full below.

    Don't be afraid to reach out if you are feeling anxious, helpless, or despondent. If you need someone to talk to: 

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