If you are reading this because you’re thinking it’s a life hack, sorry but you’re on the wrong page. But maybe, you’ll get something out of this (I hope so). It has been a while since I last wrote something on my blog. I have been meaning to write about my recent travels, but it takes me a while to organize my very inconsistent and scattered thoughts. As a matter of fact, before I was able to write the first few words of this entry, I stared at my blank dashboard page and blinking cursor for hours and endlessly thought where to start. The past 9 months have been overwhelming, and between the countless travel photos on Instagram and couple of YouTube uploads, I am left taken aback. Wow! It has been 9 months already since I was in my bedroom in Parramatta, recounting the horrid memories that have happened in the past.
I was in denial for a very long time. I have not been open to myself and to anyone for that matter (which I am doing now). The laughter, the positive quotes, the blissful energy that I’ve always wanted to share have suddenly jumped off the cliff when I personally needed them the most. The trauma of everything that has happened to me has lingered for a long time, and for a while, I am lost. I lost myself. I was burned out. For some time, I worked so hard trying to forget everything, pushed myself too far and too fast, got sick, quit jobs, and found new ones. Then it became a vicious cycle, working too hard, getting tired, and then back to square one. I tried to focus and work my way up, trying to prove myself that I can do more and be more. But apparently, that’s when I started losing “me”.
I kept going and ignoring the reality that I was not OK. My almost 5-year marriage is now in the brink of getting annulled and I have to face the fact that it’s irreparable. He just left, in the middle of it all, without trying to solve anything. It happened in January, I was here in Sydney then. Before the marriage issue came my health issue which started the last quarter of 2017. I got sick, my right arm was senseless and I could not feel anything at all. I would burn myself from hot ovens, cut myself from sharp knives, see myself bruising and bleeding without feeling anything. Everything was intense as my right grip was too weak that I was deemed not fit to work by therapists and general physicians. I had to undergo physio therapy for my nerves to come back to normal. My doctors in Sydney were suspecting Multiple Sclerosis so I got myself checked by a neurologist. I underwent multiple tests, did scans, and eventually came up with a result that shattered my world to pieces. I was diagnosed with a pineal gland cyst on the brain, too small that it can’t easily be removed by surgery and the location is too sensitive as it is just beside my eye wall. One wrong nerve pulled out, and I could go blind. Aside from that, an artery is apparently abutting my 7th and 8th cranial nerve (that’s exactly what’s written on the MRI report), causing me intense headaches and dizziness. Aside from the numerous sad stories that I encountered from last year (some of it are a blur in my memory), my brain suffered the most and I am continuously apologetic to myself. My brain shuts down temporarily in most cases. There are some things that I wanted to relive, but because it causes me too much pain, I just can’t remember some of them. It’s probably my brain’s defense mechanism. When you’re too tired, and stressed, and you’re not sure which ones to forget, it just completely shuts down.
Then came my financial hardships. I had to let go of the things I used to have. I used to live in a spacious apartment in Parramatta, a city where I tried to build most of my goals while I am in Sydney. But sadly, it was the same place where I cried myself to sleep, calmed myself down as I try to grasp everything that was happening. I let go of impulse shopping, which was therapeutic for me while I was working as a fine dining pastry chef, after burning myself out. I used to buy whatever I liked, with the hard-earned money that I received from my sweat and blood job. I let go of eating out… mainly because there are a LOT of things I can’t eat now, but also because I am trying to train myself to be an adult with enough savings for the future. Now, I have a food budget of $50 for 2 weeks. People would always ask me, “Are you OK?” and I would think to myself. “I have a dysfunctional marriage, I had to let go of a lot of things, including the person that I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. I have to let go of the plans that I tried to achieve for the people I loved. I have a brain cyst and an abnormal brain artery, I am not fit to work, I have dues to pay… one after another, I am adjusting in a foreign country all by myself, facing reality. I have to reorganize my entire life all over again.” But I would smile and say, “All good.” And though I was at peace with myself most of the times growing up as an only child, I never felt so alone my entire life. Those moments reminded me constantly of how lonely I was. 🙁
That was my biggest regret, having denied myself the fact that I needed to recover. I still pushed it. I went back home, tried to reset, pretended that I was OK. I tried to do new things, played new instruments, traveled to new places, met new friends, listened to new music. I tried to cope with everything with the mentality that I was greater than my fears. I was stronger than my emotions. I never gave myself the chance to grieve and to rest. I just told myself, “You’ll be fine, so carry on.” I have no idea how I managed to smile and laugh despite everything. It was probably my way of telling myself that I am still OK, even if I was not. I never knew depression and anxiety were real, until it hit me. I thought I was brave. I carried on with life, but the concept of living it “normally” like how I used to was far more than how I imagined it to be. I was in a constant battle with myself and my own thoughts. Something in me would unconsciously instigate self-doubt. I went back to Sydney, and the first few days of coming back, I was really hopeless. The memories, the pain, the emptiness, the loneliness… they all came back haunting me. Every little detail triggers my anxiety. I would relentlessly ask myself, “What is wrong with me?” I cry on the train, on the bus, in the middle of the road, in my room, in a corner where I can only hear myself in between the sobs. I felt demotivated. All of a sudden, I was sick of everything. I didn’t want to do pastry and it was so depressing, because all my life it’s the only thing that I loved the most. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue my dreams. I didn’t want to do anything. I lost my spirit, I completely lost it. My friends tried to pull me back up, but I ended up isolating myself. I felt like no one would understand my perplexities, and it was true to that point. No one ever will… because no one would ever be in the same exact situation. No one would go through everything in a span of 9 months. Marriage annulment, be diagnosed with a cystic brain, having to deal with financial struggles because you are not fit enough to work to keep up with your dues, adjusting to your new place because you just gave up the apartment you once loved, adjusting to a new campus because you wanted to be in a totally new environment where you can forget the pain of the past… NO ONE ELSE BUT MYSELF.
Looking back, I have been through so much that the only thing I could ever think of is how to pick myself up. I tried. I was offered a big break. “Research and Development Head Pastry Chef” for an Organic Cafe. Wow! I thought, this was it. The chance to focus on career. It was a very tough job, and I started pushing myself to the limits again, trying to be OK. But then I ended up in the same spiteful cycle. In a matter of 3 weeks, I quit. Not because I’m a quitter, but because I was drained. I felt like a battery, almost empty waiting to be recharged. I was trying to attain a certain goal in my career and this was just making it real. However, I gave it up… because I realized that it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t what I wanted. What I needed was not validation nor a successful position. I wanted inner peace. At this point, I realized my mental and emotional health is more important than what I would be earning. I just want to be happy. Genuinely happy again. 🙁
At some time in between the struggles, I was crying non-stop. It was a cry for help and I did not know how to express it. I just cried because my heart and my brain felt like they were exploding. I felt like it was too heavy for me to carry. I never knew how to ask help from someone before. I always lived independently and I was always optimistic. It was also one thing that drew me back. Where was the old positive self that I once knew? I did not know myself anymore. I prayed each day. I prayed not for this to end, but for the strength for me to be able to carry on. I prayed more than three times a day. It drew me closer to God more than ever.
Then God answered one of my prayers. All I needed was someone to listen, someone who would tell me that I was not OK and I should stop trying and I should just take a rest for a while. Someone who would tell me that it’s OK to grieve, to be sad for all the losses, to be overwhelmed, and to be confused. I needed someone to remind me that I am a very blessed person, because not everyone has the opportunity to be where I am at. I needed someone to tell me that I should be proud of myself, and to be grateful for everything that I still have despite the difficulties. I needed someone to tell me that I won’t like everything that I will hear, and that is just fine. We all live in reality, and I needed someone to remind me that because I couldn’t do it for myself. I did not have the energy to pick myself up. God sent me people. I am very thankful for the deep conversation I had with someone at 2 AM Sydney time, 11 AM US time. Despite the time difference and the heavy tears rolling down, I knew it was a chance for me to pull myself back together. Also, I am thankful for friends who regularly check up on me, and for people who ask if I am OK. Sometimes, despite the independence, all we need is for someone to genuinely ask how your day went or how you are in general.
A lot of realizations are drifting into me as I write this post. This is the first time that I would ever be open to myself and to anyone reading this. I am not sharing because I want to seek attention and love, but I am sharing what I’ve been through because I want to tell you that sometimes, when you can’t pick yourself up, someone will lend you a hand and give you that extra push that you need. Someone will reach out even if you don’t ask for it. Grab it and accept it. Do not isolate yourself. You are not alone. When you’re too tired, stop what you’re doing and take a rest… I beg you, even just for a short time, take a rest. Don’t be too hard on yourself. There are things that are beyond your control and you have to deal with it. It’s ok to be upset, to acknowledge that you are hurting, but you have to pull yourself together. Do it not for yourself, but for the people who are continuously rooting for you. Do not pressure your friends or the people around you to get what you’re feeling. REMEMBER, they are your support system. You can’t lose them. They are trying their best to lift you up in their own way. People around us are not 100% sync with us. But remember, they are also trying.
To live a good life, you have to keep living it. It doesn’t always come out well. Enjoy the good times, but cherish the bad times too. You have to move forward. I am in the process of moving forward myself. I am taking things slow now. I am trying not to beat myself up. I am trying to free myself from denial. I am depressed. I am anxious. I have post traumatic stress disorder because of all the mishaps that I have gone through for the past 9 months. I am not sure if I am capable to love again and be loved. I am worried about a lot of things. I am not OK, but THIS TOO SHALL PASS. Or rather, THESE TOO SHALL PASS. In a couple of months, we will all be in a different situation from where we are now. Today may be a tragedy, but tomorrow might be the best day of your life. So LIVE WELL. Live in the moment, no matter how painful and confusing… because someday you will be strong and happy, and “right now” will only be just a memory. That’s how it’s supposed to be. I will be OK, maybe not now… but in due time, in God’s time. It’s almost the last quarter of the year. 2018 did not really start well for me, and who knows what’s ahead. But one thing is for sure, last 4 months… let’s make it count. 🙂