Thanks for asking.
December 26, 2017. I was home. For the last two weeks, I have stayed in my bed watching sitcoms and waiting for the performances of my favorite group in year-end award shows. I get up when it’s time to eat or to wash up, occasionally chatting with my mother in front of the television. I do not sleep until the wee hours of the morning and wake up in the afternoon. No one questioned me. No one asked about anything. They figured I was resting. And it is true. I was resting. I am resting my brain from thinking negative thoughts. I was stopping my heart from feeling too much pain from a past that is not only gone, but is also done. This day was the very first time I turned down my high school best friends’ invitation for our yearly hangout. For the first time, I had no reason or alibi. I just said I cannot make it because I just think that I cannot. Something was clearly wrong with me.
It is strange, to think that half a year ago, half of my world is crumbling and yet, half of me is still figuring out what was happening to me. It was also December of that year when I experienced my first ‘anxiety attack’ (I do not know exactly what is was). I was out with my closest colleagues. I walked home and craved for beer. Suddenly, there, at the side of the street, I cried. I cried and cried… messy thoughts in my head. I thought I was going to die. I thought no one cared and I could easily haul myself in the middle of the road and get hit by the rushing cars and buses and I would be left there to die. I just had one of the best and happiest nights of my life, after a semester of stress and conflict, and there I was, barely breathing on a roadside that I walk through every day on my way to work, slowly disintegrating and self-destructing. I slowly walked to my dorm, wiping my tears, unfocused eyes looking out for people in my compound who may be watching this ugly scene. Upon reaching my room, I saw myself in the mirror and saw someone I do not recognize anymore. For the first time in my life, I broke down. The tears kept falling and I barely stopped myself from screaming. It was the worst feeling—the feeling of emptiness, the feeling of numbness that could not make sense to you since you feel every bit of your soul and body aching, the insatiable want to just disappear into thin air.
I reached out to someone. I told them I was afraid. I was scared because I do not know what was happening to me. Was I overreacting? Was I being irrational? I tried to explain but they too, did not understand. I cannot sleep that night. Wanting to forget how horrible I felt, I went out and got that beer that I craved for. I drowned myself in bottles of unhealthy alcohol and felt my consciousness slowly drifting away. I am finally getting the rest that I need. But it was not the rest that I wanted.
I still had to administer an exam the week after that incident. Thinking about it now, it is somehow amazing how one person can put a mask in front of other people, when literally they felt dead inside. I admire how they keep it all in without crumbling in front of their friends and family. I know for sure that my students hated me, yet I still wanted to look okay in front of them. Back then, I refused to think about it but the feeling of wanting to just stop lingered for days. Hence, the reason for my hibernation for weeks. I wanted to escape, to rest, maybe permanently. It did not help that I heard of a person committing suicide that year. I spent several sleepless nights just thinking about his courage to just end things and be free from the world that had done nothing but to wound and tear him, piece by piece.
It was hard to start over from that point on. There was clearly something wrong with me. People did not understand. No one asked me how I was. I avoided people because I felt that I was a burden to them whose problems were bigger than mine. My only problem was myself. No one asked, yet as I asked myself every single day, “Are you okay? Can you go through today?” There was no answer. I just assumed that one day, everything will fall right back in place and I don’t have to ask myself anymore.
June 30, 2018. It has been six months since that incident (and others that I cannot bring myself to talk about) and I feel as though everything happened yesterday. I do not know how many friends have I told this story to, but somehow I felt the need to write this down so that I won’t forget. I wanted to write these so I can officially start over again.
As a scholar, of course, I wanted to know what was wrong with me is, but at the same time, I was scared to even consult a professional, or even a close friend. I was afraid that my feelings and emotions would be invalidated, reduced to mere heart break, or a “midlife crisis,” or something to that effect. At the same time, I was afraid I was right. I did not even want pity. I just want understanding. Most of all, I wanted to understand myself.
I started a new job and applied to another job at the beginning of 2018. I was otherwise preoccupied. I was excited about the future ahead. In a way, I was in rehabilitation. My friend adopted me and I live a good and peaceful life with her family, without any worries. They sincerely care whether I eat or not, or overwork myself, or get an overly dark tan (haha). I looked okay. I looked tired and stressed all the time but it was the good kind of tiredness and stress. But of course, everything was not perfect. I still felt that from time to time.
Self-healing, self-medication—these are hard. I do not even know what works and what does not. I am not talking about medicine, but things that could possibly make me feel happy, contented, and loved. It was hard to expect love from other people that you have no choice but to put yourself first at all time. As cliché as it may sound, I slowly learned to “love myself” more than anything. I distanced myself from people who clearly do not care anymore. I treat myself most of the time, reward myself for a job well done, and sustained healthier relationships with my family and friends. I simply lived and simply cheered for myself for every little win and forgave myself for every defeat, small or big.
I ask myself now, “Are you okay?” and the answer is no. I constantly feel that I am a waste of space in the world. That I do not deserve anything good in life because I do not work hard yet I play hard. That I still want that rest. Yet, the prospect of having a better job in the future… of having the things that I dreamed of, or the people that I want in my life, keeps me going. “No, I am not okay, but that’s okay. I can try again tomorrow.” I also figured that the day where I do not ask myself this question would not come. Things were better but I still have to check if I can survive despite just being me every day.
It is a bit dramatic, having demons in your head (and heart). They make you not want to get up in the bed in the morning (or afternoon) after one sleepless night. They make you regret being alive in the first place. They make you inhuman. But on the brighter side of things, these demons taught me that in the end, all you have is yourself. If no one asks, they answer for you, and you have to do, even the bare minimum, in order to reverse their answer. They do not go away, ever. You have to live with them, but you have to make them live with angels in order for you to survive. And angels? They are hard to find. Thankfully, I found mine. No it is not a lover. Somehow, they are something more than that.
So, thanks for asking. Six months after every human emotion imaginable overwhelmed and broke me, I can finally say that I am better. It somehow feels surreal, to have the ability to love yourself more and more each day. No matter how hard it is, despite everyday pressures and failures. Thanks for asking. I may not know the exact answer yet, but thanks for having the slightest concern about whether I live or not.
Thanks for asking, self.
06302018 / 6:12PM
Session Road, Baguio City