At 4 AM, I woke up to a great news: my submission was accepted and was now live on an international platform. What a wonderful start to a normal day, I thought.
At 6 AM, it seemed that the universe wanted to spoil me a little more: another article was accepted and was now live on a local magazine’s website. I was so happy that I literally jumped out of bed.
At 8 AM, I went to work. I was all smiles as I braved the heavy early morning traffic. I had two reasons to be happy, after all. I tried to not let those things get in my head as I prepared myself for the long day ahead.
At 12 PM, I just returned to my workstation when my boss sent an announcement on our group thread: she commended me for writing praise-worthy blog posts. Our clients were pleased. Could it get any better than this?
At 5 PM, I clocked out and went home. I thought about the 101 reasons to be happy, about how my dreams as a writer were slowly coming true, and suddenly the monsters were there. Beside me. On my ride home. Taunting me. Sucking all those happy memories out of me. Eating me alive.
“What the fuck were you thinking? You’re going to die, anyway,” echoed the monsters. I thought about how time flies. Of how anything could happen any minute. Of how we’re all doomed.
I thought about the 101 reasons to be happy, and suddenly I was not happy. I thought about all the things that could happen that could break the streak. And the mere thought of it did it. My worst fears were creeping up my soul.
At 6 PM, I was crying. On my way home. In public.
At 7 PM, I lay in bed. Thinking about how my parents could die at any moment. Of how my siblings were growing too fast. Of how my boyfriend and I could suddenly realize we’re not meant to be. Of how the much-feared seven-magnitude earthquake could ruin all of us. All of my dreams. Of how the universe could collapse any minute. Of how I would face my death. I thought about how Jeremiah Saint-Amour killed himself at 60 because he didn’t want to grow old. I don’t want to grow old.
At 7:30 PM, I was thinking. Always thinking. I couldn’t stop thinking. I wanted to stop thinking.
At 8 PM, I received a notification that three of my posts were featured on this women’s platform. I locked my phone. I cried. I had 101 reasons to be happy and yet I was not. I cried some more. Fuck you, I thought. I opened my laptop. Please stop. I took a deep breath. I stopped crying. I wrote this.
This week’s writing prompt is “favorite superhero.” If we’re talking about Marvel, DC, folklore, local, or mythical, I don’t have any. I could write about the people who saved me, but I’ll save that for later. Right now, I guess I’ll settle for my favorite author.
Let me tell you a story.
My sophomore year in college was revolutionary. Life-changing. Soul-shattering. Heart-wrenching. You name it. I began to see what life really is about, which is far from the fairytale stories that they made me believe when I was younger. Thanks to my depression, I became a drunken bookworm.
I held on to books as if my life depended on them. And by books, I mean To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Looking for Alaska, The Women’s Room, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Thirteen Reasons Why, and the likes. These books justified the realities of life and existence of all the bullshits—evil, racism, loneliness, aloneness, depression, societal sexism, injustice, failures, and death. These coming-of-age realizations made me want to disappear from the world completely. They knocked down my studies, relationships, and above all, my emotional, physical, and mental health.
All of a sudden, alcohol became my constant companion. My favorite pastime was to drink the night away with my college friends. I wanted to leave the city and disappear forever like Margo in Paper Towns, but I didn’t have money. Even if I did, I didn’t have the courage to leave. One day, I decided I’d be Alaska Young. I thought that perhaps if I smoked and drank too much, I could suffer from a serious disease and die. Still, I didn’t. I was like Marla in Fight Club. My philosophy in life, like her, was that I could die at any moment—the tragedy was that I didn’t.
Then I decided to read everybody’s favorite—the Harry Potter series. For a girl with great disdain for mainstream stuff, I admit that I have fallen head over heels for this series.
I was lucky I became acquainted with these witches and wizards. In the times when the Death Eaters cast unforgivable curses on me, I buried myself between the pages of the books and lived in fantasy. In the moments when the Dementors tried to kiss me, I relived the movie scenes in my head and became happy. At school, my friends and I even formed a friendship as strong as the Dumbledore’s Army. To make the long story short, the Harry Potter series became my ultimate escape from reality.
So thank you, J.K. Rowling, for saving me from real-life Dementors when they kissed my soul and sucked all the happiness out of me. You are the Sirius who inspired me to keep fighting while the Slytherins awaited my downfall. You are the Ron and Hermione who cheered for me when Draco caught the Golden Snitch. You are the Professor McGonagall when Snape closed the door to the Headmaster’s office. Yet you are also Snape who saved me from the worst enemy of all.
You were like me once—the aspiring author who suffered from depression and chose to write her way through life instead. You are the Molly to my Ginny and the Lily to my Harry. You are the Mad-Eye Moody who inspired me to become an Auror. You are also Dumbledore, the greatest Headmaster I’ve ever known.
Thank you for creating all these characters that became my companion during my life’s darkest hours. Thanks for teaching me Defense Against the Dark Arts to prepare for Voldemort’s returns to power.
Thanks to you, I am now on a journey to find the Deathly Hallows and destroy the seven Horcruxes. Thanks to you and your magical spells, I am now ready to battle against the Dark Lord.
I don’t find pleasure in it at all. The wet kissing, the touching, the banging, and all? Fine, but these things only satisfy the beast in me. Nothing less, nothing more. There’s no real connection, only physical attraction. Sex is for the weak. I’m not weak.
I don’t want to make love to you either.
Making love is for hopeless romantics. I’m not comfortable with it a bit. The slow moving, the passionate kissing, the tender caresses, the affirmation of love after sex? Fine, but these things make me hold on tight to the idea of us.
When we make love, everything’s just too much. There’s fire, and fire always seems a bad thing. Fire can ignite us, but it can also destroy us. Lovemaking is for passionate people who believe in forever. I believe in love.
Kiss me, caress me, fuck me all you want—hard or gentle, I don’t give a fuck.
But I won’t have sex with you, much more make love to you. I want to lie beside you and hear words of affirmation, but don’t promise me that this will last.
That’s the thing with lovemaking—it makes you look forward to another day. It makes you look forward to spending your lives together forever. It makes you hope for more. And sometimes, there’s nothing more. Sometimes, the night is all you’ve got.
I don’t want to make love to you not because I am weak, but because I believe.
I can be as passionate as the most passionate lover, I can stay up all night doing nothing but sex, but I won’t hold on to those moments and act as if they’re bound to last.
I won’t make love to you not because I don’t love you, but because I want love to make us.
If it’s meant to be, I won’t have to worry. If we’re meant to be together, we don’t need to promise each other forever. Let our love lead the way. I won’t have it any other way.
Going blonde was one of the worst mistakes I’ve made in my entire life–literally and figuratively. If you are a Filipina and you fancy sporting a blonde hair, please read on and learn from my mistakes.
The Bleach Is a Bitch
For a woman who has always considered herself as a strong human being, my reaction when my scalp was exposed to the bleach’s harsh chemicals was pretty lame. The original plan was to dye my hair gray, but I ended up with a blonde hair instead.
Realization#1: I hired the wrong beautician.
The Bleach Beautician Is a Bitch
When the chemicals started to take effect, I began to feel an extreme tingling sensation on my scalp. Perhaps the mixture was three percent too strong or the beautician was just plain dumb, but its effect on me became more intense as the seconds passed by.
I’ve heard tales about the bleach’s effect on the scalp before, but I never imagined it would be this worse. Little did I know, my skin was slowly suffering from a chemical burn. When I couldn’t take it any longer, I asked her to wash my hair. She told me that it was a little too early to do that, but I insisted. Fuck you, I thought.
Realization#2: Thanks to my inefficient, incompetent beautician, my hair was exposed to the chemicals for too long.
For these reasons, allow me to put the blame on the beautician–the original culprit–and not on the poor bleach.
Rey Christian and I
Rey Christian and I
I’m not a fan of taking selfies (and I didn’t have a smartphone at that time), so my blonde hair moments were only documented when I took pictures with my boyfriend. The only selfie that I found on my boyfriend’s profile was this:
A Filipina’s Struggle
Let’s face it: a blonde hair does not suit all skin tones. I believe we’re free to express ourselves however we want to, but not everybody can rock a spot-on blonde hair. This holds true for Filipinas, especially for morenas. I had to make sure that the hair color goes well with my skin tone or else I would have to dye my hair black once again to avoid looking like a pokpok.
Sadly, as much as I want to change my hair color depending on my mood like Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I simply can’t because 1) can’t afford salon treatments, 2) don’t want to damage my hair further, and 3) ain’t nobody got time fo’ that.
Realization#3: I am a fucked up girl looking for my own peace of mind like Clementine, but I am not Clementine.
The Unsolicited “Compliments”
For over two months, I endured the additional catcalls that I received from random guys on the streets. These fuckfaces think that seeing a blonde is a free pass to a steamy, dirty sex. Yuck. When a woman walks the streets, perverts automatically see a walking vagina. It doesn’t even matter what she’s wearing. Worse, when a blonde dares to step out, it instantly translates as a “fuck me” sign in these assholes’ eyes.
On one occasion, I told my boyfriend about my unfortunate encounters with these perverts. We ended up fighting.
Him: What did you expect? You gave them a reason to insult you.
Me: Fuck you. How can you possibly blame me for dyeing my hair? *mansplains societal sexism, feminism, morality, religion, the essence of our relationship etc.*
Him: Well, that’s how society works. If you want people to respect you, don’t dye your hair.
Me: Fuck you fuck you fuck you… (repeat 13,000x)
I was so angry at him that I posted a Facebook rant, which I also deleted after some time. I realized that he only meant well. He said it pains him to know that I was constantly receiving those “compliments” just because I was blonde and that he didn’t mean it’s my fault. He just wanted me to realize that it’s useless to battle with societal sexism. After all, it’s just me and him against the world.
After eight long weeks, I decided he was right.
Realization#4: I wanted to make myself believe that I could handle all those unsolicited “compliments,” but I’d rather not risk it. It’s not worth it.
The Moment I Knew
Last February, I took the plunge. Due to lack of funds (LOL), I asked my boyfriend if he could do the honors and dye my hair at home. He agreed without hesitation because he’s cool like that. We braved the afternoon heat and went to Hortaleza to buy the materials.
My medium-length hair is naturally thick, so the poor boy had a hard time applying the mixture. It took us over five hours to finish the process. We started at around 6PM and ended before 12midnight. By 10PM, our stomachs started to rumble. We took yosi breaks every once in a while, but we couldn’t take a really long break because half of my hair had been exposed to the chemicals for too long already.
Realization#5: Eat your dinner before starting the dyeing rights.
The only thing I could do to cheer him up was to play The Beatles and Franco songs on my laptop. And because we forgot to buy gloves, we used plastic bags as a substitute, which resulted in 1) a stained favorite shirt and 2) hands tattooed with ugly, massive forms of black dye.
Realization#6: He’s the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.
Ha! Fooled you! So, this blog post is really my somewhat late attempt at greeting you a happy, happy 8th anniversary. I know I’m two days too late, but let me tell you the things that I wanted to tell you but couldn’t last Monday. But first, let me set things straight.
On the day you dyed my hair, I realized I have always been the lucky one. If I were in your shoes, I would complain every now and then about how thick your hair was and how the dyeing process was taking up too much of our time. I’d complain about my hunger, my lack of sleep, and above all, my tired legs. But you didn’t. You were always the patient one. You always believed in us even when I kept pushing you away. You always stayed, even though the only things worth staying for are the memories we shared. And for all of these reasons, I am grateful.
When I realized that last week’s writing prompt was about hair color, I couldn’t contain my giddiness because I already knew what to write. A blog post about my realization when you dyed my hair to be published the day before our 8th anniversary? The timing couldn’t be more perfect. Sadly, I’ve been pressed for time lately so I wasn’t able to finish the rough draft, much more hit the publish button.
But now that I’m ready to show it to you, I love you! I love you! I love you! I promise to be more patient and understanding with you. I love you and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. I love you.
Please stop saying that depression is “just a phase” because it’s not.
I know, because I’ve read it many times before.
In the chatroom, when a friend said that she was so lonely and she didn’t know what to do with her life anymore. In the comment section of posts that read “I give up” “I can’t take it any longer” “I hate life” “Fuck life” “Fuck this world” “Kill me now” “I wanna die” “Goodbye.”
I know, because I’ve seen it many times before.
In the television screen, when three celebrity moms interviewed a brokenhearted teen. In the school, when my best friend cried because the person she loved confessed that he was gay. In the office, when my workmate broke down because her favorite dog died a few moments after his father was admitted to the hospital. In the bar, when one of my friends said she had this weird feeling that her boyfriend was about to break up with her.
I know, because I’ve heard it many times before.
In my bedroom, when I bared my heart and soul to the person I love most. In their bedroom, when I got too drunk that I let out my suicide plans. In the coffee shop, when my friends and I were talking about how fucked up our lives were.
I know, because I’ve been there many times before.
But unlike others who gave up, I lived to tell the tale.
It’s just a phase, they keep telling everyone who almost lost the battle. It’s just a phase, they keep saying to the broken souls who can’t escape the pain. It’s just a phase, they keep telling me, but “It’s not ‘just a phase’,” I told them yesterday.
Depression is not a phase. You wanna know the truth? It’s bound to stay with you until your last fucking breath.
That just when you thought things could not get worse, it will hit you. It will fill your head with monsters and one sleepless night is never enough. It will haunt you and suck all the remaining happiness out of your mind, filling your brain with dreadful thoughts that will make your heart ache. Every. Fucking. Time.
And even if you live through a day without them, they will come back when you’re at your most vulnerable to remind you that your worst fears and nightmares are coming true. It sucks, but it’s true.
Depression is not “just a phase.” Truth is, you just learn to live with the pain.
So next time a person tells you that “it’s just a phase,” tell them they’re wrong. Tell them it will stay with you forever and that it’s okay. You won’t get over it because it will haunt you when you least expect it. It will come for you when you’re lonely. It will come for you when you’re happy. You won’t move on from the pain. You won’t forget the feeling. Ever. It stays with you until you grow old, even as you watch the last moments of your life tick away before your very eyes.
It will always hurt, yes, but the time will come when even the strongest storms won’t tear you down. Depression is not just a phase, but the time will come when you’ll learn to cope with the pain. Please tell them to stop acting like they know your pain because they do not. Please do it for your own sake.
There are times when death feels so close yet so far.
Those were the nights.
I would toss and turn in bed, willing my brain to veer away from unwanted thoughts, only to be haunted by dreadful illusions the next moment. I would pick up a book and try my best to absorb each word, only to leave the bookmark untouched and give up pretending in the end.
And then I would fall asleep, the kind of sleep that is heavy, the type that drags my heart to the bottom of the ocean until I fall into the abyss of the unknown. One moment I was fighting my way to sleep and the next thing I knew, I was having the worst dream of my life.
I was losing all of my teeth. I was falling endlessly into God knows where. I was being stabbed to death by a monster whose face I’ve become acquainted with in the past years. And then I would wake up from those nightmares, only to find out in the morning that reality is more terrifying than these dreams.
“It was a meditation on life, love, old age, death: ideas that had often fluttered around her head like nocturnal birds but dissolved into a trickle of feathers when she tried to catch hold of them.”
― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
I tried to convince myself that I had always been prepared for this.
Those were the days.
My alarm would go off three hours before my shift at work. I would force myself to get out of bed because I knew that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to make it on time. Still, I would hit the ‘snooze’ button and fall back to sleep, only to wake up two hours later. I would go to work hoping that the day would end sooner, killing the time by pretending to be interested in my work and faking a smile whenever a co-worker tried to spark a conversation. I would keep my head high for eight hours when in reality, I was constantly willing the weekend to come faster than usual. It was a routine that I would never get used to. What a fucking boring, useless, shameful life it was.
And then I would go home, not to rest but to fix myself a drink. That was my favorite time of day: the moment when I could finally start to drink the night away. Optimism was not in my dictionary. Happiness was a strange sensation I’ve long forgotten. Life was but a dream, but melancholy was forever. Death was an old enemy that wanted to befriend me. Still, I stood there–breathing, laughing, talking, working, crying, living. Truth was, inside, I was dying.
“Marla’s philosophy of life is that she might die at any moment. The tragedy, she said, was that she didn’t.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Three years ago, my neighbor committed suicide.
I was browsing my Facebook feed at work when I saw the news: a college student committed suicide in a church after confessing to the priest that he was gay. I’ve read different forms of suicide, but this one shook me to the core. I never met the kid personally–he was a wallflower who became an instant celebrity when he died. I wish I had the nerve to do what he did. What a courageous act, I thought.
Since then, I had always forced my creative juices to cooperate and help me come up with a unique way to die. I wanted to be like that kid. If I couldn’t make my life worthwhile, I could at least make my death worth remembering. But I couldn’t think of anything.
I could try to jump off a high-rise building, swallow cyanide, jump on train tracks, hang myself, die from an overdose, cut my wrists, cut my throat, or stab myself, but these physically painful suicide methods were clichés. I didn’t want to be a cliché.
“Nothing resembles a person as much as the way he dies.”
― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
After months of wallowing in self-pity, drowning myself in the pool of my own misery, smoking thousands of cigarettes, and gulping down millions of glasses of alcohol, I was finally able to make up my mind.
I settled for the less physically painful, but it is the kind of pain that I would have to endure for the rest of my life. This is the kind of suffering preferred by the brave souls. I chose to live, and that’s more savage than any form of suicide. To live is to suffer eternally from the pain that is life. Slowly, but surely. After all, no person is braver than the one who chooses to live.
When I was seven years old, Happy Meals were the real deal. No, my parents didn’t bring me to that fast food chain to buy me meals with those red boxes, but I saw children all around me tugging at the shirts of their moms and dads, begging their parents to bring them to McDonald’s to buy them one. We were not well-off back then, so I had to be content playing with my cheap toys–some of them were even hand-me-downs from the children of my parents’ cousins. Back then, my idea of happiness was to open a red box with a big M on it. My parents taught me to be satisfied with whatever’s given to me, but as a kid, I have always dreamed of collecting toys from those red boxes. As a kid, I have always wanted a Happy Meal.
When I was ten, my grandmother was one of the teachers in our school. As her granddaughter, I had to maintain my high grades. Even though she didn’t say it out loud and we never talked about it, I knew that I needed to graduate with flying colors. She made me study day and night. During the exam seasons, she made me wake up before the roosters crowed in the early morning and stay at her classroom until sundown to review my notes. I was never the studious one. It was hard work, yes, but I studied hard because I wanted to make her happy and exceed her expectations. When I marched on the day of my graduation, I saw that proud look on her face because I graduated with honors. That was me back in grade school–my idea of happiness was to get high grades to make my grandma proud when all I wanted to do was to play after school.
When I was thirteen, I began to fall in love with the idea of love. I saw my friends go gaga over their crushes while I sat in the corner of the room, trying my best to absorb the words coming out of my teacher’s mouth. It went on like this for a while until people around me started to get into relationships. The inevitable happened–like normal teenagers, I was curious. I wanted to know what it’s like to have someone whom I could call my boyfriend. I met this guy, and for a while, everything was hearts and flowers. Little did I know, I was only in love with the idea of our relationship. When he left for college, I was left in fragments, not because I loved him so much and I couldn’t live without him–it wasn’t real love, but because I realized I was wrong all along–I held on to the belief that getting into a relationship would make me happy.
When I was fifteen, I was told to live life to the fullest. I was in college–I was a scholar, but I did not study for exams. I did not attend classes in school. Instead, I chose to spend my days in parks or libraries to read good books and drink the night away with my party buddies. And then I dropped two subjects–Trigonometry and World Literature. I almost didn’t make it to graduation–I almost lost my chance to march with my batch mates with a diploma in hand. I regretted the days when I skipped classes and wished that I could turn back time to do the right thing.
When I was eighteen, somebody told me that if I’m not happy, leave. So I left this guy. The relationship was toxic–we loved each other but both of us wanted to enjoy what college had in store for us. We waited and waited for the other to raise the flag. When I got tired of the waiting game, I pushed the button. We weren’t happy, so I did the most practical thing to do: I ended it. Five months later, we found our way back to each other, not because we couldn’t live without the other, but because we chose to be together.
When I was nineteen, I had a dream where my favorite authors whispered these words to me: pursue your passion. So I became a writer. I wanted to believe that I was happy with my profession because I kept telling myself that this was what I really wanted. At nineteen, my idea of happiness was having a satisfying nine-to-five job and not caring about the amount of pay I was receiving. Still, I wasn’t happy.
Now that I am twenty-one, I’m slowly learning to accept that happiness is not the end goal.
Looking back, I dreaded the fact that we were poor. When I was seven, my family couldn’t afford a Happy Meal–I always had to work hard to be able to get what I want. Now that I am already working, I still couldn’t buy the things that I need because I still have responsibilities as a breadwinner, but then I met people who had it the easy way. Their only responsibilities are their cars, their phones. They may not have to deal with toxic people in a squatter’s area, they may not need to persevere to reach the top, they may not feel a level of emptiness that comes from knowing that you have nothing, but they don’t know how to survive typhoons in life without breaking down, and for that, I am grateful.
Back in college, what most of my classmates wanted was to graduate on time and with high grades to land a steady, high-paying job. College changed my perception of life. I began to see more of life and depression hit me hard. Since then, all I wanted was to be happy. I’ve met so many people along the way–some of them I’m still friends with today, some I’ve made good memories with but remained as that: memories. My grades were not something that my grandma would be proud of, but I was young, I was free, and most importantly, I was happy. I realized that the one thing that kept me from enjoying my childhood when I was in grade school was the very thing that set me free in college, and for that, I am grateful.
I’ve lost count on how many times I tried to call it off with the person I love most because there are things about him that I want to change. Society told me that love should be unconditional, that you have to accept and love the person for who he is; otherwise, it’s not love. Society told me that if I’m not happy, I should leave. But as I’ve seen more of life, I realized that true love is always challenging. I realized that I shouldn’t believe what society tells me, that I should follow my heart always. So I stayed with the love of my life even if our differences always get in the way, and for that, I am grateful.
When I was a student, I never paid much attention to my career path. When I started working, I figured I wanted to be a writer for the rest of my life. I tried to convince myself that I was satisfied with my profession although I wasn’t earning much. Almost two years later, I realized that I was not happy. It dawned on me that I can still pursue my passion even if my nine-to-five job isn’t in line with it. Now, I would rather have a high-paying job, no matter how boring or unsatisfying it is and then do what I love after office hours than to push through with a serious writing career and don’t earn as much. For that, I am grateful.
Here’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a long time: will I ever be genuinely happy? One of the biggest lies I’ve ever heard is that if you aren’t happy with what you’re doing, leave, stop. Truth is, you don’t leave a person you love just because you aren’t happy. You don’t stop pursuing your dreams just because you aren’t happy. You don’t put an end to your life just because you’re sick and tired of dealing with bullshit. If I followed what society told me, I would have been dead by now.
I’m slowly learning to accept that happiness is not the end goal. You can be satisfied but not happy, and that’s okay. Perhaps if we just focus on finding the meaning of life, we might have a shot at living a fulfilling one.