“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”

― M. Scott Peck

May 02, 2019 – After a day at work and missed flight, I was finally on my way for a trip to Phuket. On my flight, upon browsing the first few pages of my favorite book The Road Less Traveled by M.Scott Peck – the very first line that struck me the most was “Life is Difficult.” So many emotional thoughts came flashing back.

Back in January 2012 – In our apartment in Manila, while I was waiting for the right time to speak to my mom about how I was feeling. My sweat was blossoming like a fungal growth. It was spreading all over my body and I couldn’t breathe. I had been feeling restless for almost 6 months, I did not want to feel empty. So I pretended to be nonchalant about it. For me during that time it was a sign of weakness. I masked it with smiles, being an obedient daughter and great performance at work. But underneath the guise of smiles, I was suffering. I was dying inside.There were sleepless nights, relentless thoughts and roller coaster of shitty emotions. I told her the truth about how I felt, that I was in pain.

The initial reaction was obvious – we pretended that I was okay since I can still walk, work, eat and converse. We gave it time. I was encouraged not to entertain the thoughts and feelings. Going to a shrink that time was shameful. I did not want that. I did not want anyone to see me as a weakness.

But my mom began researching what I was feeling. She’s a nurse. I trust her, we studied this. We know these things. But if the shit came right at your doorstep, it’s still hard to swallow the truth. That I could be depressed.

The following day, my family huddled. Yes, we love huddling. It brought us closer. We have talked about it and decided to visit a shrink. We kept it to ourselves because people might think I was going crazy 😉

Luckily, my brother’s then boyfriend (J) was working in a hospital. He’s a respiratory therapist. He knew some doctors and recommended one to us. We hurriedly went to UERM- it’s a hospital in Manila. We waited in line to talk to my shrink, let’s call him Doctor D.

I always wonder how the shrink’s clinic looked and felt like. Was it the same as what the movies portray them to be? It is somewhat the same. Doctor D’s clinic was spacious, very private space, feels like an aroma can calm your soul. I was welcomed by his assistant and we were introduced. We talked for an hour, he listened and asked some questions. I always come to his clinic whenever I have my anxiety attacks and talking to him relieved me. It goes on for 3 months of talking when I finally began to open up.

I was clinically depressed when I was 24 years old. I was diagnosed I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – I had repeated unwanted thoughts that something bad might happen to me so I had to check with a lot of different specialty doctors to ask them that nothing was wrong with my body and that I were okay – that I was completely okay. I was so scared of a building collapsing in front of me when I walk by, I thought that when someone touched me I would have incurable disease – I was going to die. In other words, I had a fear of losing.

This was due to accumulation of certain situations I went through while I was growing up. I thought I was going to lose my mom when I was 5 years old. To see her in the hospital in a lot of pain wrecked my heart, I was bullied in school, Issues in family, finances and career. But all the issues I just shrugged it off and did not admit how it affected me. I shrugged off the feeling that shit happens sometimes.

OCD can be managed by managing one’s values. How I view certain situations. I needed therapy. It was more of opening myself up and accepting the truth while moving on.

I wanted my life to be perfect but it came crashing down. I fantasized my life not to be miserable but I kept failing. I hated it. Doctor D said I had to let go of things that were beyond my control. In other words, I have to admit that life sometimes sucks and I had to deal with that. It’s okay to feel miserable – it’s just how you perceived it to be.

It was discovered during therapy that the biggest baggage that triggered my depression was my relationship with my then boyfriend was. I had a horrible story of my ex. But just to summarize it – He didn’t treat me well. He cheated repeatedly. He was selfish in bed and I felt used. It was a shitty relationship but I stayed for 4 years. It was like stabbing you in the chest for 250 times and yet you still survived so you kept brushing off the red flags.

My doctor asked why I chose to stay? I had no answer. I thought before, maybe if I met another guy this would be easier to let go. Maybe if we’re richer I wouldn’t have felt this way. Maybe if he did treat me well I could have been better. I was so afraid to let go because what if he changed? what if he loved me better? All those what ifs got me so miserable. A lot of what ifs but no action taken. I have realized now that the reason why I stayed was because I thought I was unworthy of love and belonging. I thought I could not love someone again. My values toward meeting the right guy was so weak. I was not confident to walk away because I was afraid of being alone and I have no other options because I didn’t meet people.

I went in a deep depression towards the end of 2012. I thought it was just a normal feeling of a heartbreak. But it was a whole new level of meaninglessness – sadness so deep that I literally died inside. The emptiness was unbearable. I felt helpless. I always wake up with a very heavy heart, it was a piercing pain almost like getting punched in your stomach 250 times (yes I always say 250 times haha). It was so painful – physically, emotionally and spiritually. I actually did not want to wake up anymore because it’s always the same feeling almost everyday.

People would even come by to ask how I was and cheer me up. Say the right things and do the right things. I told them I was glad they have reached out, faked a smile, lied and told them I was feeling better. The truth was despite the cheer, I was still in a deep sadness. It burns inside, I felt so empty.

The therapy took about a year. The only way to beat my crazy depression was to realize that someone else needs me to be strong for them. When I saw that my mom was also struggling for our relentless visit to my shrink, my cold feet when I slept at night, when I just cried in a middle of a happy conversation. I realized I had to be strong for her, for my family. They need me to be strong for them.

After therapy, I thought I was okay because I felt okay. My therapy was over so all my misery has ended. But I was in denial. The truth was after everything, I was still frustrated. I did not deserve whatever happened to me. It couldn’t be me who experienced it. Why me? Why should I suffer? as if there was no one else who suffered before me. I felt so unworthy of love and belonging. I was a victim hood chic – it became my style. I was very selfish just thinking of how I felt. In the moment of deep insecurity and despair, I have become susceptible to an insidious entitlement.

I blamed my ex for my depression and for treating me so bad, I became entitled. I always gave it as an excuse to make people bad. I deserve better. All the other men I met should treat me well. I blamed them too. I pass off the responsibility for solving my problems to others. I thought that if I met a guy who can treat me right, all my problems will fade. He will be my savior, everything will be great! He is responsible for my happiness, to make me feel good.

And then, I was introduced to my next boyfriend. I thought he was kind – he goes to church every Sunday, has a devout Catholic community and lots of friends but he cheated on me repeatedly too .

In retrospect, I have already noticed the red flags of my exes but I just brushed it off. That was my fault. And I was not that great of a girlfriend before too. But that doesn’t justify the shitty things they did.

All the while, I was blaming people for the problems I needed to solve on my own. I had a choice – for all my previous relationships. I should have left when they were not treating me right. I had a role to play in enabling the shitty relationship to happen. I was solely responsible for all my actions. And aside from that, I made mistakes too. I was not the innocent victim I’d believed myself to be. If I did date a shitty person for that long, how did that say about me? After all, birds with the same feather flock together. I learned the hard way.

The values I had in 2015 all the way to 2017 were crazy. I overcompensate the insecurities I felt by spending a lot of money to shows, partying, concerts after concerts, shopping, extravagant food spots, social media validation, being in a relationship after the next. I thought all of these will make me happy. It was pleasurable (in certain doses) but it was not sufficient. My other favorite book and an inspiration for this blog – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck says that pleasure is not the cause of happiness, rather it is an effect. If you get other stuff right (the other values and metrics), then pleasure will naturally occur as a by product.

In the middle of 2018, after my last heartbreak, I started researching and reading a lot – about relationships, connecting with people. I got interested with life and how to continuously improve on myself. I learned that vulnerability is courage and not weakness – thanks to Brene Brown.

I have made a startling realization that I have so many issues I have to work on. Accepting responsibility is the first step to solving them. My values are imperfect and incomplete. But I am very open to be wrong so that any real change or growth can take place. We must first be uncertain of our current values. Improvement is based on thousands of tiny failures. If we’re unwilling to fail, then we’re unwilling to succeed.

Some people will criticize how you approach these things in life. But that’s okay. Shameful remarks are common. I just always remember how Brene Brown simply put it “If you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I’m not interested in your feedback”.

It is just not easy. I am going to feel uncertain. I just changed to put my care elsewhere. – the more worthy of my energies. It’s really a good thing that I’m always wrong about everything, over and over that’s why my life improves. And it’s fine. Certainty is the enemy of growth.

When I took this approach, a few things have happened.

Depression days- I was unambitious, unadventurous, socially awkward in a lot of conversations, irresponsible, forever obsessed what other people might be thinking of me.

Post- depression – I began to improve on myself and began to feel better. I morphed into a new person – curious, adventurous, responsible, hardworking, and a flirt 😉

I started taking care of my body – I quit smoking cold turkey, I experimented on diets, worked out, spend more time with my family(I have become closer to them when I open up) met a lot of new friends, travel to places (I have only been to Bintan before) haha, do some volunteer work, manage my finances, conquered mountains. I still have my insecurities but I always give more attention to something more important than that.

My self-worth is based on my own behaviors and happiness now. If I want to improve on my love life or in any relationship. One of my values is to have good relationship with others, go out and not wait for the right guy.;) To make anyone I meet feel great about themselves. It is not only finding the right guy for me but building and maintaining healthy relationships with others. I am going to meet a lot of people socially regardless if I would be rejected or not. Value is process oriented, ongoing and life long process.

My heartbreaks were one of the most painful experiences in my life. But, it was also the most influential and special. Nobody makes it through life without collecting a few scars on the way out. I had gained lot of personal growth. As my doctor put it, I had a spiritual awakening. My depression was a blessing in disguise. I did not know what he meant before but I know it now. I can see it very clearly. I already know that there are other parts of my life that are important and still need to improve on. I’m so in love with my life right now and I can’t wait to meet the right guy, yes he is imperfect like me too but we will both figure things out as we grow together. 🙂

This blog is dedicated to my family – the pillar of my strength. Thank you for embracing vulnerability.

Love,

Maria, sometimes Niskie 🙂