The Year of Reckoning

Usually I post my blog entries every Sunday, but in the light of all the drama that has happened in the past year, I feel compelled to write something about mental health—specifically, my own.

It’s really hard to speak up about my condition, because I’d been taught all my life not to discuss these things in public. Up until now, I’m scared to open myself up to the major scrutiny, because I already have a notion in my mind about what people will say about me.

“You’re asking for attention.”

“It’s all in your mind.”

“Get over it.”

So I’d held it in for twenty years, trying not to bleed while telling people to “get over it” like I did. I got snappy whenever my friends posted emotionally vulnerable tweets on social media. I wanted to tell them that it’s just stress, it will pass, all sorts of things that people think you want to hear when you’re at the lowest of the low.

Then June 2017 happened, and with it was the back-to-back angst fest that was my life.

It was heartbreak after heartbreak, some of which was mitigated by my own inability to control myself. There were disappointments about books I didn’t get to publish and an academic program that I couldn’t continue. Days were spent looking for validation on social media without recognizing my own vulnerability.

The low point happened when I found what I thought was a dream job on a board that I followed online. I spent an entire day revising my resume, only to find myself exhausted in the end. I suddenly lost my own determination to look for work, and I couldn’t explain why. How could I give up at a moment like this?

Meanwhile, I started accompanying my Dad to doctor’s appointments in the city, and I spent a lot of time drinking tea at hospital coffee shops while trying—and failing—to read. When Dad had to undergo a procedure to blast out his kidney stones, I was suddenly confronted by my own sense of mortality, and the questions that I hadn’t asked about the time I was spending with my parents while they were alive. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still relatively healthy, but to face the possibility that they were going to die soon was something that I never expected.

And instead of locking myself up in my cocoon of self-pity, I decided to follow my psychiatrist’s advice and mourn.

It wasn’t easy. I had to get to the very root of my sadness. I had to take a break from all the fun escapist things that I used to do so I could cry over the losses that I’d suffered in my career. With sadness, I also excavated anger, bitterness, and a sense of defeat. I thought about the times I tried to end my life, and I sifted through the issues that I had in differentiating between crying for attention and asking for help.

Yes, medication helped too, but the deep dig into my psyche made me realize that, while I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was, my capacity to feel could be helpful to people. Yes, I can be a bit difficult, but I wasn’t a stone-hearted grump after all; I was capable of feeling actual feelings, especially sadness and mourning.

When I realized this, I became a little more aware. Of myself, but also of others. And I understood that I lost a lot of friends to my lack of empathy.

Like many things that I write about in this blog, I don’t believe that this way—my way—is the only way. But it is a path, and I wish that I’d done this sooner for the sake of my own health.

There are still some things that I don’t talk about unless I know you personally, and even then I might be a little conscious about saying the right words. If you ask the right questions, though, I’m willing to open up about everything that has happened to me, and how I’m processing my own overwhelming feelings in the past year. We can talk about how I’m still learning from the heartbreak and how I’m getting over the disappointment. Who knows where this would lead us? At the very least, there will be a measure of understanding, and honesty, and empathy.

I hope this post gives you an idea of how I’m dealing with the past and how I’m looking forward to the future. My email address is in the sidebar, so if you need to talk to me, I’m here.

Thank you, and I hope you have a happy new year.

Love, Stella

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Stella Torres

is the author of the adult contemporary romances Save the Cake, Crushingly Close, and Nine Years Away, as well as the short story “Be Creative” in the anthology Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Vol. 1.

In her previous life, she has worked in public relations, taught English as a second language, and even attended graduate school (twice!). She has lived in Indonesia, Honolulu, and Quezon City before moving back to her hometown of Los Banos, a few hours’ drive (with traffic) from the heart of Manila.

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