An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

12 February 2016


It didn't matter that he was far away. He still managed to send flowers, from the deserts of Qatar, for Valentine's Day.

The dozen red roses arrived nestled in green leaves and layers of textured black wrapping. It had no note, but a two-stanza poem that he had written specially for me also arrived in my inbox a few days before.

For a man who acknowledges that he has very bad timing, he is now seriously working on it. I think he's doing just fine. I am Chief Beneficiary of all his efforts at love and affection, and because he loves me this much, his timing will thus always be perfect for me.

Happy Valentine's Day, my love.

[Other previous posts about J: 12345678910]

04 December 2015

Tomorrow this blog turns ten years old

It has not been completely smooth sailing since I have started this blog. There were a lot of fits and starts, and life often got in the way, but my blog is still alive. Ever since I started blogging regularly again in August of this year, things have been going like clockwork, so it’s all good.

I have now amassed over 200 posts to date, covering a wide range of topics from physics to law enforcement to books and reading and driving to love and the men in my life to my son and my family to comparative literature to papers and notebooks, and many more in between. I’ve been through so many things that this blog has been witness to. This blog, I daresay, has earned its heft, just like I have earned mine.

To commemorate this birthday, let me share with you some of my old blogging-related blog posts.

1. This my very first blog post. This is shortly followed by a run-down of the current affairs in my life at the time.
2. Here I celebrate my first ten thousandth view. My blog is hardly a high-traffic one, but it's nice to see I have a decent amount of readers.
3. This features a word cloud, which used to be the rage in blogs at the time.
4. One of my favorite posts. This is about books, reading, writing, and blogging.
5. Here I talk about giving my blog's template a little change.
6. In 2007, I once blogged about why I blog.
7. Sometimes I adjust my blogging schedule after a breakup. I no longer do that, because life should go on.
8. My blog has been reviewed a few times.
9. In 2009 I have decided to blog only on Fridays.
10. After six months and one day of not blogging, I blog again here.
11. Here is when my blog turned five.
12. Here is another blog post about why I blog.

There are several more, but they are scattered all over here. Feel free to come in and look around. Settle in. You are welcome to stay as long as you like.

[Image credit]

27 November 2015

The State of my Fortysomething-hood Address: The First 100 Days

It has been mostly quiet, which I believe is because I have just come from darkness and the brink of destruction. The first hundred days of my being forty has been spent quietly and slowly going through the remains of my old life and putting the most important and most essential things back into perspective. It's a very enlightening endeavor. I now have a slightly different view of the world and how it works, and of how I fit into that world. I'm still working through that, though.

When I turned thirty, I was excited. I was riding on the wings of a new life in Manila, and I had nothing and was no one but I was working on owning something and being someone. Turning forty, on the other hand, was full of trepidation, largely because I was sick, but also because I never really paid attention to the passing of the years, until I woke up one morning and realized that a decade has passed me by. My contemporaries were having grandchildren. Former classmates were celebrating two decades of married life. Twentysomethings were calling me "Tita." I, however, remained where I was in time, until time kicked me abruptly out of my thirties. I can't say it didn't try to warn me; of course it did, but I wasn't paying attention. I guess I was too busy living my life.

So here I am now, a hundred days into this fortysomething-hood. I haven't yet figured out how to proceed, but here are some things I have learned recently.

I don't really need as many material things as I thought I did. I could be totally happy and productive on just a five year-old MacBook Air.

I am not a shoe person. Neither am I a bag person. I have ended up using the same bag and the same two pairs of shoes for the past six months and I have never noticed until now.

My father is the most reliable and the most patient man I know, my mother the most caring, but in a slightly nervous fashion.

It is possible to have housemates and never know their names. It is also possible to have housemates you don't know the names of and still care whether they need pain killers for their menstrual cramps.

I still detest the idea of dying my naturally salt-and-pepper hair a different color.

I cannot live without a table and a traditional electric reading lamp.

My genes have asserted — and I have conceded — that my hips will always, always be at least 40 inches no matter what I do.

People totally take naps while riding public transportation, and they don't always get robbed.

It's possible to get to the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus, from where I live in the City of Manila, for less than 50 pesos.

There are over ten different kinds of folding umbrellas that Fibrella makes.

Metro Manila has the worst sidewalks. One can actually get injured — and infected — just walking on them.

It's important to get regular facials. Good lighting is equally important, both when studying and when getting my picture taken.

I don't need 1,000-count pure cotton bed linens to have a good night's sleep; all I need is peace of mind.

It takes me one hour to walk leisurely from the office to where I live, 45 minutes if I walk fast, and 30 minutes if I walk really, really fast.

I can read three Agatha Christie novels in one day if I wake up early, go to sleep late, and do nothing else on that day.

I will not die if my clothes hangers don't match.

When it rains in Metro Manila and I'm walking, the rain actually pours up from the pavement as well as down from the sky. Manila is creepy that way.

I have more than one kind of friend. I have the kind that actively checks on me and always insists on helping me out, everyday, and not without a little drama, and I also have the kind that quietly watches out for me from a distance and protects me in their own aloof way, without my knowing. I love both kinds of friends.

Writing things down and making lists is a crucial activity for survival.

Not all automatic transmission cars can be driven the exact same way, but all manual-transmission cars are the same.

You really, truly don't remember things from a fugue. Hollywood got this right.

Just as friends and family are important, so are fellow writers. They are the friends-and-family that always assure me I'm still making sense even when the rest of the world thinks I'm batcrap crazy.

Writing a book is a wonderful antidote to having accomplished nothing else.

There is a real and permanent cure for varicose veins.

Women wear short shorts everywhere now, which makes the aforementioned cure for varicose veins even more welcome. On the other hand, men's shorts these days are no longer shorts. They are vile, hideous half-pants.

Wide-range multi-coated progressive lenses are very expensive, but they are worth it.

There are times when a full jeepney becomes like a mini-barangay.

Three 27-inch LCD monitors placed side to side can really heat up an entire cubicle if the airconditioning is not turned on.

Not all projects that offer good pay should be taken. Sometimes the most fulfilling projects are the ones done pro bono for clients that actually care about other human beings.

If a man really loves you, he will come after you even if you leave him, storming your world with a passion so decisive that it changes him, turns him into the the man you want to be with.

It is possible for me to forgive the man I love and still keep my standards.

I am more aware now, not just of the minute, quotidian details of life, but also of the grand, overarching principles that surround living.

I have an idea of how small a dot I am in the universe, but I am also aware of the ripple that I can cause in this universe.

I have finally learned how to listen to time. It is telling me stories; it has been telling me stories all along.

[Image credits: 123456,]

20 November 2015

For you

I like brunches and midnight snacks and peanut butter sandwiches. I like museums and libraries and long walks at sunset. I like hugs and flowers and long talks and music from the seventies. I like sleeping in because I was up late reading. I like writing in longhand, and splurging my savings on really divine writing paper. I like sitting by windows and watching the rest of humanity pass by.

I like being quiet and still, so that you can have the chance to see me, clearly, de-blurred from motion, and thus figure out how to make me fall in love with you.

[Image credit]

13 November 2015

One step forward

I have always loved driving, and thought nothing of driving from Manila to Naga to Baguio during those years when I still worked for the Philippine National Police Special Action Force. I haven't driven as much since then, but I still drove a lot within the Greater Manila Area for several years, up until June, when I suffered from an anxiety disorder which rendered me unable to drive, among other things.

But since this November, I am driving again. The first two days of it was spent driving with a friend. We were both on vacation in Naga at the time; he came from Qatar and I came from Metro Manila. It was really a glorious day.

On the first day we went to a bar that belongs to a cousin of mine. On the second day we went around the city, and shared a meal at this really awesome Spanish restaurant.

Then we took pictures of this gorgeous black church, which used to be unpainted gray cement for the longest time. I think painting a church black is a really awesome idea.

Then we made a beeline for the the mountains. It was a beautiful day for a drive, and the roads were clear.

After that we headed the other direction, towards the coast. We even captured a rainbow on camera, a sign of good things to come.

At sundown we started heading home, but we dropped by Bigg's Pili for an early dinner. There was an accident along the way. Two trucks crashed into each other, and one of them caught fire. We were stopped at traffic for about 40 minutes, but that traffic did not make me panic. That was yet another sign that I was already okay.

I drove the entire way, from morning to evening, and I felt no fear. I drove just fine. All the old driving instincts and habits have been preserved in me. My driving instructors and my entire driving life has taught me well.

Driving has never felt so liberating. I have a heightened appreciation for it now. I still will not drive in the legendary traffic of Metro Manila, to where I have already returned, but now I know that it’s because I don’t want to, not because I can’t. I have the power of choice again, and I am grateful.

06 November 2015

You fly out tomorrow but before you go

I want you to know that while you were here, the winds have blown wild in my world, bringing with them such colour and sound as I have never seen before. In that brief tempest there formed a capsule that contains time, words, nights, music, sunlight, roads, breath.

But in time this capsule will shrink, ever so slowly, until it becomes small enough to become the atom that buries itself in the back of my mind. In a while, even that minuscule remainder of who we have been will be subsumed by the years that will come and propel you away from me.

Go now, my love. Fly out to a me-less sky. May all your dreams come true.

[Related posts: 1234567]

30 October 2015

Into the light

For a while now I have been reading up on and pondering over the psychology of abuse, and why victims of abuse are so misunderstood. There is the pervasive misconception that we have the choice to simply leave the abuse behind, as if abuse was just a room that we can walk out of any time and close the door behind us as we leave.

But reality states it's never as simple as that. The abuse from people we trust begins very softly, very subtly, and goes on for a while without us knowing what it is, and then that subtle abuse begins to erode our beings little by little. The destruction lies on the psychological plane, barely detectable yet potent nevertheless. So we hold on, unaware that we are being destroyed.

Sometimes we call this “gas lighting” or “gaslighting,” a throwback to the 1938 British play Gas Light. 

The play is set in the foggy London of the late 1800s, and in it, the evil husband secretly spends time at night in the apartment above theirs, carrying a gaslight, to search for the hidden jewels of a wealthy woman who used to live there but was murdered for them. His wife starts to notice this, and to allay her suspicions, he gradually makes her believe that she is losing her mind. After all, just because you see it happening doesn’t mean that it’s really happening. You must be only imagining things.

And that’s precisely the end-goal of abusers. They want us to think and believe that the evil they are doing to us is not evil, that we deserve to be treated that way, because we are not worthy of being treated with respect and love. They tell us no one will listen to us if we tell someone else about it. They tell us other people will just laugh at us and think we are stupid for making up things. They gradually erode our self-esteem and self-respect for days, months, years, in the guise of love, until we are left with almost nothing.

By the time the abuse becomes greater and more obvious and starts to get physical, we have already been rendered weak and unable to fight back. This is why abuse usually goes on for years. This is why abused people can't just walk away: we have already been destroyed even before we had any idea we were being destroyed. We were slowly, gently backed into the shadows and taught that we were still under bright lighting. Some abuse victims never emerge from these shadows into true, real light.

I have. At first the light was blinding, and I was terrified. I thought my skin would catch fire from the light and my entire body would burn because I was not meant to be there. I closed my eyes and covered my face, afraid and ashamed. I felt unworthy to be in the light. But after a while, when I actually did not burn, I removed my hands from my face and opened my eyes, and I started to see the truth. The terrifying feelings gradually went away. It took a while, but I eventually started loving myself again. I started living again. Here’s what abuse has taught me: truth is always stronger than my frailty.

[Image credits: 12]

23 October 2015

The secret door

Any person will always, eventually, in their life, get to a point in which they shall have amassed a particularly checkered past. We all start out new and fresh and sinless, but as we go along, we make mistakes. Sometimes we even consciously and deliberately do wrong things, evil things, for reasons that may or may not be justifiable. We take the wrong jobs. We don't work hard enough in the right jobs. We settle down in the wrong city. We take for granted the right city. We strike up relationships with the wrong people. We mess up our relationships with the right people. We hurt the people we love. We prioritize the people who don't care about us. We generally make a mess of our lives when we should have been taking care of it. We all get there. No one in this day and age can turn forty still pristine. We are bound to get scratched and broken along the way, and many times it will be of our own doing. 

But we seem to have a relatively comfortable acceptance of this fact. Though we might regret many things in our past, we still find the strength to move on, grasping at whatever we can hold so as not to crucify ourselves for the wrong decisions and not drown in the uncertainties of the future. We tell ourselves, "That's okay. I have learned from this experience and I am the better for it." We tell ourselves, "If this is the consequence I have to bear for the wrongs that I have done, I'll deal with it." We tell ourselves, "This will all make sense someday." And we keep all these inside of us, inside hearts that, as we grow older, gradually expand to accommodate these efforts to reason our doubts and fears and guilt away. 

When we find someone that we are willing to take a chance with, we open the door to our heart and let him in. And when he walks in, he beholds  everything that we have been bottling up, not just our doubts and fears and guilt but also the things we have placed alongside them to counter their powers. We show him our imperfections, and hope he still continues to love us. We show him and give him all that we are, and hope that he accepts the whole package. That's the ideal. That's the plan. But we don't always end up doing things that way, because new love is always terrified of judgement.

We are afraid that if he finds out about our past, he will think us unworthy of his love. We are afraid that he will be ashamed of us, and deem us unfit to be his partner in life. We are terrified to be seen as less than beautiful. And so we hide our past from him. 

We then reconfigure our hearts to have two doors. The first door is the one we lead him to. This door contains carefully curated things about us, good things and happy things, things that will make us look good in his eyes, our plans for the future, our right decisions, our accomplishments. This door makes us look strong and desirable and worthy of love. The second door, on the other hand, is hidden and always kept locked. Behind this secret door we keep the darkest moments of our past, the evils we have done, the particularly regrettable choices, the bad alliances. We keep this second door always in the shadows, carefully kept behind other things, so that he won't see it. And then we live our days in constant anxiety over that secret door to our past.

Sometimes I wonder how it would feel to have a man to whom I can open that hidden door, and have him walk in and walk through all the muck and mire that's there, and come out of it still completely in love with me. I wonder how it would feel to have that door wide open, all things that used to be inside it surrendered to the light of day, all walls that surround it taken down by his love and acceptance. I wonder how it would feel to have him tell me, "You are more beautiful in my eyes now after I have seen what you have gone through."

And inside this ever-widening space that is my heart, after the two doors have opened, I wonder how it would feel to have all partitions inside my heart fall down piece by piece by iron piece. I wonder how it would feel to finally have no more doors, no more walls. I wonder how it would feel to have a heart that is a bright, large, open field that he can run around in, arms wide open.

[Image credits: 123]

16 October 2015


You're here again, after I have waited for you, and a deep stillness hangs over everything, as if we are standing together inside the eye of a storm.  Peace and calm are finally granted to us, although it's only going to be in the very brief time that you will be here. Nevertheless, I know how precious this time is for you, because I know how hard your life is elsewhere.

Thank you for always finding time for me, for holding my hand again, for telling me all the things that's in your heart again, things that you were not comfortable saying on Skype, and for telling me all those now while holding me and looking straight into my eyes. You have always been the most earnest and honest man I know; that is both your strength and your weakness.

And would you believe it’s our anniversary week? We talked to each other for the very first time on this very same week, 23 years ago.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence. It’s like an entire constellation of events have come together to culminate in this moment, to bring us together a third time. And three is a charmed number. Thank you for coming home, my love. Enjoy your stay.

09 October 2015


Your plane will be touching down in a few hours, and I'm really looking forward to the time when you can be here where I am. I don’t know exactly how to handle having you here again. But I have waited as long as I have, and now the moment is almost here.

I first wrote about you in my diary in October 12, 1992. Your first email to me is dated January 19, 2014. So were your very first SMS and Facebook private message. The first time I saw you again after about two decades was January 24, 2014. You first kissed me on March 29, 2014. The last time I held you was in April 8, 2014. The last time I talked with you was today, when you were already on the plane and before you turned off your phone. And in a few hours, you will be here again. I’ll probably cry of relief, but I hope you won’t mind. I have missed you so much. Welcome home, my love.

[Image credit]

02 October 2015


In a week's time, you will be here with me again, after having lived in a different continent for eighteen months. Eighteen months I have managed to survive without you next to me, through all those days and nights of longing. Modern technology has helped to sustained us although sometimes Third World internet connection quality didn't always cooperate. There were instances in which the time difference seemed much more vast that what it actually is, due to normal human tiredness and the general chaos of daily life where each of us lived. And then there were those times when mere words seemed to turn into monsters that threatened to destroy everything that kept us together. But still, here we are.

Little did I know what magic I would be propelled to live through when we started. I already knew then that you were leaving the country in a few weeks, but by sheer force of our newness, we felt that it would be a piece of cake. It wasn't. It isn't. It's no full feast, either, but it's food to my soul nevertheless. When I was going through some of my darkest personal upheavals, you were the man in my life who took the brunt of it. When it felt like I was my own worst enemy, you were the one who told me I'm an angel. When I was leaning towards destruction, you leaned towards love and understanding. And when I thought it was all over, you were the small but profound and steady content in my social media that provided me with hope. You were not really the strongest of men; you had your own failings. But in the best way that you possibly can, you were my wall, my pillar, the roof over my head when the storm came, and when the water became overwhelming, you were my life raft in the middle of a heaving sea.

Though I have none of your composure and humor, I'd like to believe that I was able to bring some beauty into your life, that I had a hand in keeping you sane as you tried to adjust to your new life in a desert country. I'd like to believe that every time you called me in your moments of loneliness, I was able to give you some comfort. I'd like to believe that despite the darkness of uncertainty, I was your beacon of constancy, and I was someone who you will always look for, someone who you will always call, talk to, desire to be with.

You had to leave the country without us ever being able to fully enjoy each other. If I count the number of hours that we have been together, the total will not make even half a week. Yet with only half a week's worth of actual togetherness, we were able to outlast 2014. Now 2015 is coming to a close in three months, and still we remain a constant in each other's lives.

Last night I took a slow walk home after dinner, and I thought to pause to look for stars in the sky. It was a cloudy night; it rained very hard just yesterday afternoon as it always does in Manila. There were no stars that I could find. But the sky was there, as it always is. And very soon, in a week's time, you'll be flying through that sky to see me.

[Image credit]

25 September 2015


It has been almost two months since I have let go of my old apartment and my old lifestyle and moved into an entirely different kind of living. While I still have the same day job that I have always had since 2008, and continue to study for my master's degree in comparative literature, my life beyond those is completely different. I can say now that life after the change has been definitely much easier.

Now I get out of bed every morning at five minutes to seven, get ready for work, and I'm out walking to work by seven-fifteen. After work ends at five, I'm usually home by five-thirty. In my bedroom I don't have a television, which I have given up in 2002 anyway. I also have no computer there, no library, and no wifi. What I do is read on my Kindle, which is now loaded with only ten carefully selected books at a time. If I need to do some studying for a class or have some readings to deal with in preparation for a class paper or a class report, I bring them home with me from the office. When I need to write something I draft it by hand. I take notes by hand as well. I spend almost all of my evenings quietly studying, disconnected from the world except via voice calls and text messaging, on a cellphone that is kept on silent.

Living this way, I have gotten more studying done than ever. My old life had so many distractions. There was high-speed broadband, my laptop, external hard drives full of movies and TV shows and Kindle books. There was also my entire library with its wall of book spines inviting me to deviate from my study course and read something completely unconnected instead. There was also my notebooks and journals and fountain pens and inks, inviting me to doodle instead of study. And then there was house cleaning and laundry and general tidying up.

There's none of that now. And as the year — and the semester — comes to a close, I prepare to write two different final papers for two different comparative literature classes. I am approaching of the end of yet another year lived. I am grateful. I am grateful for the quiet and the time I now have full access to, so that I could concentrate on heavy theory. I can hear my own thoughts again. I can think clearly again.

[Image credit]

18 September 2015


In the place where I live now, people go by in various intensities of walking — people going to and coming from work, students walking to class or on their way home, vendors peddling their wares, and thousands of other pedestrians going about their business.

At least twice a day I am part of this walking mass of people. I slip into the mass adroitly, walk a little ways to my daily commute, and then slip out of the mass at just the right moment so as not to disturb the beat and tempo of the busy and determined congregation. I, too, am busy and determined. At least I try to be, because I do have certain important things to deal with, things that require my presence, my skill, my energy, and my concentration. These are not exactly matters of national importance, but matters that are important to me, so that I can earn my keep, so that I can be useful to the human race, so that everyday I can become better than the person I was the day before.

Sometimes I wonder about all those people I walk with every day. What goes on in their minds as they walk? Do they count their steps? Do they try to recall a dream they had the night before? Do they ponder over breakfast or dinner possibilities? Do they tick off lists in their head? Do they wonder what kind of emails they will be getting that day? Do they wonder what happened to the email they were expecting to get that day but didn't? Do they wonder what their children are doing? Do they think about their finances, their laundry, their health, the locks on their doors? Do they sing in their heads?

And do they allow their thoughts to meander toward matters beyond the tedium of the day-to-day? Do they ponder over potentially life-changing decisions? Do they wonder about past choices they did not take? Do they think about the environment, the state of the country, and the human condition? Do they wonder about the future?

I do. My mind is always a whirlwind of thoughts when I walk to work and back. Ideas, memories, decisions, details, and songs swirl together like a storm inside my head, words colliding with colors colliding with aromas colliding with faces colliding with sounds. But even in the dark, twisting, heaving maelstrom, one very small dot of quiet floats around constantly, carrying its own light, sustaining its own buoyancy. That dot contains my thoughts of you: steady, clear, knowable.

Though you remain far from me, and stay connected to me only through the benefit of fiber-optic cables that span the entire globe like a spiderweb, everything you have ever given me — information, stories, songs, laughter, tears, hurt, worry, hope, promises, love, memories — get stored inside this dot. This dot is what keeps me in circulation in the land of the living, keeps me in step with the crowd of people that are aiming to get through life in one piece. In that dot, I find a handhold on love.

[Image credits: 12]

11 September 2015


It's not easy to upload a blog post for September 11 without somehow touching on 9/11, even if the blog post is really about something else entirely.  But today being a Friday, I am taking the challenge, and rather than do this in a roundabout way, let me just jump right in and tell you where I was and what I was doing when 9/11 happened.

I was in my parents' house, where I was living at the time, caring for my newborn son. I just turned 25 years old. I was very unhappy, but I didn't know it yet. Those days were spent mostly living from one day to the next, while making sure that the baby is fed and dry and well-rested. Such were my concerns: breathing and eating and sanitation. I was so preoccupied with surviving the tedium that I had no opportunity to even think about transcendence. Little did I know that my marriage was to come crashing down within that year.

But that afternoon, while preparing to sterilize my son's bottles, I heard my mother exclaim in the lanai, and then I saw my father walking over to her and turning up the volume of the television. I went over to the TV and saw that now-familiar footage of the twin towers oozing with black smoke. I no longer remember what the reporters were saying.

That was fifteen years ago. I was a young wife who had no idea that my future would be nothing like I had planned, nothing like I had ever imagined. The world had 9/11 that would bring humanity to the point of no return. I had the day of the 9/11 attack to mark the closing of certain doors to me at a very momentous time in my life.

I will never be innocent again. I will never go through life without another human being depending on me again. I will never be able to believe again that love would be enough. That was the moment of my fall. That was the very first betrayal that life had subjected me to. But fourteen years hence, I have already risen. I have already crossed the threshold, and have closed the final door behind me. My own Ground Zero is now grown over with a forest.

[Image credits: 12]

04 September 2015

Notes from the precipice

For about six weeks sometime this year I had to file a sick leave from work and stay with my parents in Naga because of an anxiety disorder that left me, literally, physically, scared stiff. I could not move my neck and upper back. I would shake at random times of the day. I would break out in cold sweat. I was terrified of everything, especially of cars and of riding in cars. Eventually it escalated into a fear not just of vehicles but also of high places, confined spaces, and loud noises. I would panic every time a vehicle would pass by our house. I could not stay in the bathroom for more than a minute, afraid that I would get locked in and the ceiling would cave in and I would suffocate to death. I could not sleep because if I did, I'd get nightmares about falling off high places, crashing into trains, and suffocating.

I could not eat. I lost 20 lbs. I could not write, literally, because my handwriting would come out as ineligible chicken scrawl. I could not type on my computer because my hands would shake so much that all I’d get would be more typos than I could correct. I could not read or watch movies because any scene with vehicles in them would scare me to pieces. The constant fear gave me palpitations, and I feared that I could develop a heart problem because of it. Prayers were always on my lips because every moment was a portal to death. Thankfully, with the support of my parents and the expertise of my third psychiatrist, we got to the bottom of it. But for a while, it was touch and go for me, and I really felt that I could die any moment.

Turns out the fearful feelings were side effects of a psychiatric medication I have been put on by my second psychiatrist, and this was discovered by my third psychiatrist. The medication was Aripiprazole. The moment I was off it, the fearful feelings lifted immediately, and it was glorious. Imagine being in a situation in which you are about to fall off a precipice, without a handhold, and then suddenly and without warning, you are pulled back to safety completely. I was on the brink of either death or insanity, and then I was saved. That’s how it felt. After that, everyday has been an exercise in gratitude.

And as part of my gratitude for this second chance at life, I resolved never to place myself in a situation in which that could happen again. I changed my entire lifestyle. My life and my health are so much more precious to me now and I feel that I am both stronger and more frail at the same time. I am sharper at identifying dangerous things and people, but I am also more sensitive to negativity. I am now more decisive, but I also tend to shy away from situations of uncertainty. I take care of myself better, but the heightened sense of creativity leaves me vulnerable to certain evils. My focus is now much clearer, but I can also see other unrelated things in the periphery of my vision. It’s a balancing act, but so far my instincts and gut-feel have been serving me well, and I am still alive and sane and, I believe, happy.

My third psychiatrist and I decided to go off all psychiatric medication completely, and that I should observe my moods closely and learn how to master them on my own, without help from medication. (My third psychiatrist is doubtful whether I am truly bipolar, anyway. That diagnosis came in 2007 from my first psychiatrist, who had always placed on some medication or other and whom I fired in April this year because I can no longer trust her. My second psychiatrist is someone I started seeing in April after I had a minor emotional issue at work. The second psychiatrist is a student of the first psychiatrist, so I’m still not very comfortable with her, and I haven’t been to see her since I came back from the precipice.)

In the effort to take myself out of situations that can stress me out, I have moved out of my old apartment in Makati, so I no longer have to live alone and rely only on security guards for my safety. I no longer have to keep house and deal with housework and the maintenance of a pretty home. I have given up my car and moved to a place much closer to the office so I no longer have to drive and no longer have to pass through traffic. I no longer have to see kilometers of cars with their brake lights on for hours, which used to, and sometimes still, give me panic attacks. I no longer have to take on projects that I’m not completely excited about just to sustain my old lifestyle. Now every single thing I spend time on is something that makes me happy, whether it be designing publications, reading, studying, writing, or taking public transport to go somewhere I am eager to be. I no longer talk to people I don't like. I no longer even dress for other people anymore. I have now reverted to dressing the way I have always been happy dressing for years — in jeans, soft shirts, and light jackets. My nonessential wardrobe is all packed up together with all of my furniture, and I suppose I shall be giving many of them away, in the continuing effort to pare down my stuff and retain only what I absolutely need to survive. Life is more than just owning stuff. Life is more than just doing stuff. I know that now.

Perhaps this is why it all had to happen. If I hadn’t had that emotional issue at work, I wouldn’t have fired the first psychiatrist, wouldn’t have met the second psychiatrist, wouldn’t have started taking Aripiprazole, wouldn’t have had the anxiety disorder, wouldn’t have met the third psychiatrist, wouldn’t have been off psychiatric medications completely, wouldn’t have had the opportunity to realize what was really important to me.  I wouldn’t have had the resolve to write again and write much better. So I’m grateful for everything that happened, now that I know how it all fits into the bigger picture, no matter how awful it was when I was going through them. The bad things were not wasted on me. It turned me into this, and it's beautiful.

[Image credits: 123]