traveling is supposed to make you uncomfortable
it’s supposed to make you grow
san francisco, ca, usa
gua gua, philippines
los angeles, ca, usa
I took my mom to Chapel Hill with me for a transfer session. She was cussing because there no parking and how there were so many Asians I would have to compete with. She almost got mugged by the homeless, almost passed out during our trip across campus to our free meal, and then skipped the student tour to take her own tour across Chapel Hill.
My mom has been the most involved with my school stuff so I thought this would be great for her to experience. But oh boy it was a wild experience for me.
Then two weeks later, I took my dad to my school. He’s been excited about Chapel Hill. He printed a sightseeing guide of my campus and started hitting every single Dollar General and colligate merch store to represent my acceptance. This man is very cheap, so it was a surprise to watch him spend money for stickers, tshirts, and other Chapel Hill things. He was very excited and started counting down the days to explore my school.
To be honest, I just let him wonder around the campus. He had a map and he went to whatever building looked interesting and started talking to people. He wandered into the football stadium and got me to take him pictures with the blue seats. He walked into a bookstore and took pictures of expensive Jordans, then started talking to students for ‘school tips.’ I won’t lie, he’s very resourceful. I don’t know what he does at work, but he was able to print me student packets, my academic plan, and any other information about Chapel Hill I would need to know. And then on this trip, he was able to get more tips for me to SUCCEED in school. After the bookstore, he wandered into The Pit, maybe a dormitory, the Steele building, and the Old Well and then the Carolina Inn and a cafeteria. But he didn’t take pictures of the ‘highlights’ of Chapel Hill (Old Well, etc.), he took pictures of the trash cans, bicycles, carolina blue walls, and trees.
I’m glad I got to take him on this trip. He’s never been involved with my academics except for that high school meeting that he fell asleep and snored at, so now it’s nice to have both parents excited and involved.
It started when I stopped brushing my hair. I already had the dark circles under my eyes and terrible posture, I didn’t think it would matter what my hair looked. It was almost always kept in a bun too. I didn’t like to work with hair in my way. So, I would be like Violet Baudelaire and pull my hair up and work on a given task. I thought it shouldn’t matter what I looked as long as I was able to work hard and accomplish my to-do list.
It got worst when I stopped painting my nails. I didn’t even realize I had stopped. I wore this baby pink on my fingers and reapplied every two weeks. At this time, I was studying for finals, working on graduation and transferring, and working near full time hours. I was able to handle all of this. I already had dark circles and a cute messy bun, and now I had naked nails. During these days, I didn’t have to do everything on my to-do list because most days I didn’t write one down.
Then I stopped wearing makeup. It was like my nails; I didn’t even realize I had stopped. During this time, I was sleeping less and waking up as late as possible before getting ready for work or school. I didn’t care how I looked. I only cared that I was getting my work done. I would graduate school with high honors and continue working near full-time hours. I was making good money and able to buy the things I wanted. I should’ve been very happy accomplishing goals.
When I found myself in a doctor’s office, I realized I was not okay. It wasn’t just looks that had hinted towards a breakdown, but it was this pain my body had endured. I had chest pains from stress, obviously fatigue from lack of sleep, and this shoulder pain from my mental illness. I felt like shit sitting in that office. I was successful with grades and the money I was making, but I was so sick. I had been stressed from work because of the responsibility I had and then with school. I was anxious and depressed from working in a toxic environment. And it sucked. It all sucked. I had been working for my goals, but was in this black hole where I had become a stranger to myself. It sucked. It sucked seeing pictures of me smiling and knowing I wasn’t happy. I hated witnessing that.
It makes sense to no one else, but I’m taking a break. Not just an academic break like this gap semester before I go to Chapel Hill. Or am I taking a break just to do nothing and be like a child. But I’m taking a break to get better. I want to change my life before it’s not just my looks that are not upkept or something worst than an intense shoulder pain is my warning of a complete breakdown. I want to develop healthy habits, grow, and rest. My mental health has been awful. I’m not as stressed, but I’m still so so tired and uncontrollable with my mood. I want to take this break just to know I’m smiling in a picture and actually mean it.
Take care of yourself – physically and mentally. It’s good to work for your goals, but the path won’t always be straight and easy. There are obstacles and hardships, but it shouldn’t be a signal that this isn’t your path. It might just be a little warning to try a different way or to slow down. Take care of yourself, realign you.
I got accepted into Chapel Hill about 20 days ago. I read the decision and cried on my living room floor. I was ugly crying and shaking, and my parents were very concerned. As a Catholic family, they thought I was possessed and needed an exorcism. After a good 10 minutes, I finally told them the reason behind my sudden breakdown. I showed them the letter and I cried again. I ugly cried, like Viola Davis in Fences, on my living room floor. Meanwhile, my mom was hugging and kissing me in congratulations and my dad was rereading the letter over and over again. “I can’t believe it. I have a kid going to Chapel Hill,” he said, rereading the later. I kept crying. It was a very . . . emotional moment.
Today I finally got the packet. It took 20 days, but I finally got it. Part of me wanted to be humble and keep it within my group of friends and family. The other part of me wanted to post that FB/IG pic with their acceptance letter like my former classmates did my senior year. I like having my private life, but I wanted to share this moment. I posted on Facebook and waited for the likes, I mean instant gratification and just more validation that I worked hard and deserve this, but then I started crying again. I had my former teachers congratulating me and giving me kind words of when I was their student. It just struck something in me. Sure there’s me who worked hard for this, but it was also them who helped me. I could read it in their voices and I knew how proud they are of me.
I got to celebrate with my family and cry with them. And now I’m crying over the other half of my support system that have helped me get this far. I’ve loved most of my teachers, but have learned something from each of them. I got to share it with the people I care and it just makes this so much more for me.
I don’t know how to write. I don’t know how to have a voice that portrays me. Every time I write on here, I sound like a phony and it discourages me. I write only a side of me I want to share, and that part I’m pretty good at. But this side of me sounds like a phony. I don’t sound like a liar, but always writing in this direction sounds insincere.
There’s this girl I know on Facebook that’s very real. She shares the good of her relationship and raising her kids then she’s open about sharing the bad. She’s unashamed of sharing the good and bad, and maybe oversharing the bad, but I see it as being real.
For a while I ridiculed this idea of oversharing on Facebook. Why would anyone want to share every bad thing on social media? It was dumb. Everyone saw how messy you were and how you could be. However, she explained why she did as she did as letting herself be very open and honest with her life.
Sometimes I think it’s dumb that she overshares her life, but I do think it is a good reminder that life is good and bad. It sounds cliche, but with Instagram pictures of perfect vacations and beautiful outfits and faces and filtered life updates on Facebooks, these social interactions have allowed us to think this is the normal. But it isn’t. Life is messy, grey, and unpredictable. But that girl on Facebook sharing the birth of her next child and how her baby daddy is in jail reminded me how life can be: unfiltered and raw.
This is sounding more like those Facebook posts that your mom shares about another mom raising awareness or having some little epiphany, but can’t blame myself for what I am. I’m raising two little chicks now and it has made me develop these motherly instincts for these dumb birds. But hopefully, I’ll get to my point.
I could blame social media for my disingenuous actions and motivations, but that’s the easy way out. I got caught up in being picture perfect. Everyone does it. They edit and control their image. Beyonce does it and my best friend does with his acne and blemish editing app before he post on Instagram. It’s easy to edit your story. I know I could just step away, but I feel like I really got caught up in being picture perfect. My ego got the best of me.
I didn’t just want to portray I was picture perfect, but just simply be picture perfect. I know what started this obsession and I know that I encouraged this obsession. I made a 4.0 GPA, got a job with good benefits, made good money to indulge, and the best company. For a while I became everything I had always prayed for and was happy. I had finally reached that point of accomplishment and my vision of success. I was really happy, I really was, but it didn’t satisfy obsession. It wasn’t enough that I was successful, but now that others failed. I hated how long I pretended to care and fake support people I didn’t give a shit about as long as I was still the best. I really hate how my success wasn’t what I thought it would be. I hated how strange and dishonest I had become with myself. It just hated seeing pictures of myself smiling and knowing how unhappy I was, but I wanted to prove I was perfect, better than you, more successful.
I wasn’t a liar, but felt like one. This was a part of me I didn’t always know or show, but regardless a part of me. These movements and thoughts of mine were strange. I was unfamiliar in this body. I didn’t know if I could be true and keep my rules again. I had labelled myself as this and tried so hard to prove it, but fell short and got mad at anyone who tried to prove me wrong. During this time, I found myself identifying more with a closeted Republican who exclaimed support for conversion therapy. My life wasn’t matching with my perfection anymore. I felt like this was my broken mirror piece stabbed in my side.
I didn’t find God or anything, but I quit my job. I was depressed and very anxious. It got to a point where it was causing physical pain. So I quit my job. On my last day, I was kind of happy to know that my coworkers enjoyed my presence and companionship. They got me a cookie cake and bid me farewell with another gift. They brought me two baby chicks and I was shocked. Regardless of everything that told me not to take them, I took them home and have cared for them. I wanted to give them up many times, but I think it’s best to give a depressed person something to do. I wake up and give them food and water and talk to them a bit. It keeps me busy.
After I quit, I really just spent time at home, with my mom and caring for my chickens. I wasn’t in school and didn’t have anything else to do. I spent a lot of time with my chickens. I didn’t know a lot about chickens and I had never raised them. They’re funny little birds. I kind of went off the grid like how I always wanted to. I spent more time with my chicks and tried to keep myself busy. I’m taking this time for myself.
Part of me wants to end this on how I healed and grew up from being obsessed and unhappy, then part of me wants to end it about how social media makes you less social and connected so I could give some “thought provoking insight” that makes me more intellect and emotionally developed, but what a phony ending. I would honestly write more about my chickens and my new life as a chicken mom.
But in the end, I still admire that girl on Facebook for keeping it real. From getting a new job to fighting with her baby daddy, she keeps me grounded by reminding me how life is messy and how out of touch I was with this obsession of perfection. I realize everyone has their own path, own little happy, own idea of success. It’s yours, entirely yours, own it. Editing is easy, life is hard.
I could edit this post a hundred different times to make it look easy, some I overcame story, or milk & honey, but this post is the first time I’ve been real.
This is how I feel, what I think, and what I’m up to; my voice.
As of right now, I am a sophomore in college. I am currently taking summer classes and found myself doing almost everything else but learning and doing the work assigned. I’ve found myself in this kind of attitude that’s not just the feeling of ‘I don’t want to do this’ or ‘I can do this tomorrow, on the deadline, an hour until.’ The attitude I have had is ‘what is this worth?’
When I was younger, I didn’t see myself in college. I was a smart kid but never saw myself doing anything more than high school. I didn’t see myself not getting to a high school graduation or just becoming a bum afterward like the usual expectation for kids who don’t go to college, but I just didn’t see it as an option for me. It didn’t interest me and still doesn’t interest me.
Again, I’m a smart kid. I was placed in advanced classes from elementary school and decided to take rigorous classes when the choice was given. I get the grade and do good in school with testing and benchmarks or whatever achievement I was expected to get. I was always on the path of going to college, getting that bachelor’s, master’s and maybe doctorate, and be successful. But is this really the only path to success?
By the time I got to high school, I noticed the difference in education I was getting to what my previous years of education had been. Now, teachers and their ability to teach was inconsistent and I the uneducated in a certain subject was supposed to be well-learned in a subject to test well and get that A+. Now there was homework given because it was supposed to help but would take up 3 hours finding the answer than learning the material. Now there were tests given that only tested our testing ability rather than our knowledge of a certain subject. This kind of schooling has led me to memorize and dump information just for test and grown bored of sitting in a classroom, just to self-educate myself later with the assigned homework.
Because of this education, it has led me to learn in a different manner. Instead of going to class and sitting through the lecture, I’ve learned to reason if it’s worth going to instead of catching up on other homework or instead teaching myself because hey high school has taught me to do so. Instead of reading all the assigned reading, I’ve learned to share notes with peers and skim passages for vocabulary words. Instead of actually caring for my education, I’ve learned to get by and hope all these credits get me somewhere. Honestly, I don’t even care what my major and career will be because my passion and this kind of learning is so boring and time-consuming.
I do get that now to do anything requires a college education to be taken seriously, but to get there, yes, is hard work, but I’d rather be doing other things that mean something to me than learning about mitochondria and the binomial function because it’s a requirement for my undergraduate than actually helping me learn and gain experience in my degree and career path. I’d rather be getting an education elsewhere and from a first-hand account from travelling and reading my own books and being fueled by curiosity than having to meet requirements. Maybe I won’t be a doctor this way, but I’d be doing things that matter to me and do not seem like a waste of my time and something I can actually learn and do things I actually want to do.
I didn’t see myself in college not because I couldn’t do it, but because I didn’t see it for me. This kind of education bores me and is a waste of my time. Maybe when I’m made official with a degree and cap and gown, I’ll think differently, but after years of careless educating and more in college, I don’t see the value anymore. I’d rather work odd jobs in different places and be content living small but doing something new than meeting an essay deadline. I don’t want success in making millions and becoming famous, I want success in being free with myself and my choices. Right now school has restricted me from doing more and being able to be happy.
There are some people that can go through this whole education system and come out fine and land that degree and job, and then are some people who are able to make it without a degree. Those people are able to survive because of a passion or because they can’t sit still in a classroom. I can’t sit still in a classroom and have a dead passion, but I’d still work hard to live than only get by.
I want to learn by a different system because this one with testing and useless requirements hasn’t benefitted much except to show me a standard idea of success and that there’s only one way towards it.
I think it’s great that mental illnesses and mental health have finally gained attention over the past couple years. It’s becoming less of a taboo and more of a topic of discussion. There are now TV shows that represent mental disorders like depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, anxiety, and autism. There are now more open discussions of ‘what’s on your mind?’ and ‘how are you feeling?’ There is more information to educate ourselves and help to get better.
Over the past couple of years, I think the shift in acknowledging mental health is great. With more representation, there is less of a stigma surrounding these topics and those affected by it. People now aren’t seen as crazy or a product of the looney bin when they say they are affected by depression. Now I know that my friends are a lot more open to talking about what’s on their mind and more considerate of others. In this time, I’ve gotten more comfortable talking about struggling depression and an eating disorder. If this was five years ago, I don’t think the same response would’ve been as accepted or really well received by those closest to me.
Before I get to my next point, I do want to share my stories with depression and binging.
I don’t think I’ve always been like a happy-go-lucky kid; I always thought too much to realize my emotions. I was woke from a young age, well more aware of the world around me and how people said things to me from about five to now and until I die. Like I could tell when people weren’t really interested in what I had to say as a kid and if they were talking down to me because I was so young. Kids aren’t stupid or less of a human because they are small, they quite smart and capable of doing and understand things much like adults, but they haven’t been hardened and made selfish like we have. I really didn’t like that and was pretty much a smartass growing up because I realized adults didn’t really care about me. Now back to this super aware thing, I was able to read people easily and it followed me throughout elementary school and middle school where I could tell that now people just weren’t disinterested in me, but they thought I was lame by my body language. I think that kind of disinterest is worst than being verbally said because it’s never mentioned, but you know it and they know it. I knew I didn’t fit in with my peers much and I didn’t try to let it bug me because I did try to fit in and had other things to focus on, but it was always something that ate at me.
Then the summer before high school, something just broke. I don’t know exactly what made me be like this, but I remember thinking of absolutely nothing. Like I mentioned above, I’m always thinking and have something to think about, but at this moment nothing. Not a single moving thought occupied my mind. All I could ‘think’ of, well really picture, was this black fog always there. I remember not knowing how to deal with it and instead acted out on this nothing and developed some bad habits. When those dealing with depression say they felt nothing like were numb, I know that feeling. It’s like nothing makes sense during those days except you’re looking for something, but you’re not prepared for this task or the abilities you once had are useless for this task. You’re trying to get out, but it just seems like there’s no possible way. Another analogy depression sufferers make is that they feel like they’re on a balancing act between getting enough air and drowning, and that too is something I can understand. Yes, you feel like nothing and how you’re currently living life that doesn’t make sense because you’re still you, but there’s also something stopping you from being you, but now you’re struggling with days that aren’t that bad and you can take a shower and get a bite, but then there are days where you can’t get out of bed and you’re questioning why you were brought onto this earth, what you are doing now, and how death seems much better than this.
I won’t lie, death seemed much better than struggling between being okay and miserable, but a part of my nondepressive induced thought stopped me from pursuing that option. I was struggling with just having an okay day – the bar was that low where I wanted a single good thing to happen to me like see a friend and not go home and cry – and seeing how I acted around others and their reactions to me made it worst. I wanted these people to see the real me and not just this depressed mind. I cared so much when it shouldn’t have affected me at all. This were my words days that I try not to remember and move forward from each day.
Now back to the ‘always thinking and self-aware’ me. I had a thought about body image and now it’s been a consistent thought. First, it was my thighs and the thought of them being too big in the seams of my jeans. Next, it was my stomach and how my shirt seemed to show some bulge. Then it was my upper arms and how they didn’t appear that thin. It’s something I was always self-conscious about growing up and middle school just made it worst. In the midst of hormones and drama was the time when girls were body negative and always trying to change something about themselves. It was always a hair color or piercing. Then it became a couple inches off the waist or having a couple ribs show. This thought of self-hate and negative body images seemed to affect me too. I didn’t exactly hate myself, but I tried for improvements.
As smart as I thought I was, I realize how stupid I actually was, well actually ignorant. Now recovering, I’m more knowledgeable in losing and maintaining a healthy weight. But back then the only way I thought you could lose weight was binging. Somedays I would eat so much, much more than I wanted, but I would eat everything just so I could puke it all up later and sit on that bathroom floor and feel proud for losing weight. Other days, I wouldn’t eat a thing and go to bed with a hungry stomach. Then some days, I ate normally and didn’t find myself near a toilet or hungry. I did struggle with my body image and myself for these years, but I’m glad it didn’t get worst. I never found myself less than 90 pounds (which is dangerous for me) or bone skinny or in the hospital. I found myself struggling over the years with food, but eventually learned more about being healthy and losing weight.
Now that you’ve heard my story, I want to digress about mental illnesses and its exposure over the years. When I first watched Skins, I thought wow story of my life. I was in the midst of drugs and poor decisions and depression and eating disorder, so not only could I related to Michelle, but also Effy and Cassie and I thought that was nice. However, I didn’t understand how these characters never got the good ending but only got worst and seemingly worst. I knew I was messed up, but in no way did I think I was as bad as Effy – that suffered from depression – who would bash a girl’s head in with a rock or lash out on Pandora. Nor did I think I was as quirky and wondrous as Cassie who suffered from an eating disorder. In my youth, it left me confused about the disorders I did have and how I should be. I mean pop culture is our model for society and watching this television show made me think I had to act as manipulative as Effy and strange as Cassie. Skins allowed personality and mental illness to blur and for knowingly bad actions to be excused by mental illness. As much as I love Effy and the mysterious girl she is, I don’t think her being an awful friend or bashing that girl’s head could be excused so easily by ‘I was depressed and I couldn’t think straight.’ I’ve never thought to be destructive to other people as a part of my depression. In a sense, it only fuels the stereotype that those suffering from mental illnesses are violent and destructive not only to themselves but other people and should be separated to protect others and themselves.
Another show I know that’s gained a lot of attention for its portrayal of mental illnesses is 13 Reasons Why and the feedback it’s getting is tremendous. There is a lot of good in the show showing the self-destructiveness of depression, but there’s a lot of negativity in how destructive depression is and its effect. I think it is great that the show focuses on depression and how it’s not something to romanticize, but I also think the portrayal of how manipulative and selfish a person can be when suffering from depression is unrealistic. Hannah Baker did need help, but I don’t think she can put the blame on other people for her problem. The people surrounding her didn’t give her the help she needed or really the help she wanted and it only led her to be more bitter and helpless. Because of this, it doesn’t make sense to put the responsibility on others for her depression when they couldn’t understand or know how to help her when she knew how depression was affecting her and how she could go against the reactions of her. I don’t understand how she allowed herself to just get worst in person and disorder. Sure some parts were out of control, but she herself was not completely out of control. It takes you first to make that choice of getting better and making a change, not the rest of the world because the world moves too slow. Her depression and the bad things that happened did not excuse her for the conflict she installed in other people in blaming them. If you let every bad thing affect you, you’d never move forward and grow. If you let bad things excuse your poor decisions, then is it really your past or just you yourself responsible? The show had great intention in helping an audience that was stigmatized and often ignored, but the representation could’ve been better in how high schoolers do act – it’s not just passing pictures and not being sensitive to others – and mental illness being an excuse to get back at other people ‘for not helping you’, this kind of representation does not help those suffering from depression and such.
Now the biggest issue that still persists with mental illness is the romanticization. Mental illnesses aren’t a trend you can wear or something that makes you quirky or something used lightly when you get distracted. Mental illness is something that those suffering through wish they didn’t have because they realize how hard it makes living life because they are suffering from it. They only want to get better and struggle through maintaining good days and getting through the bad days. There is not beauty in thinking of nothing or feeling absolutely nothing. There’s only the hope that maybe I can get better. Mental illnesses aren’t beautiful and distort who you are.
And those who wish they were ‘depressed’ or are ‘pro anna’ I wish you could understand the conflict, the confusion, the anger, the stillness, the self-hate, the illness that robs you from being you and living. These illnesses give you a half-lived life. They don’t make you more ‘lovely’ like Cassie would say or any more interesting like Effy or Hannah who suffered from depression. Living with a mental illness is constantly battling about staying alive. Depression fuels those bad thoughts because it’s all you have and eating disorders make your body be a shell instead of functional. None of it is beautiful living half a life and seeing the ‘pro anna’ tag on Tumblr and elsewhere makes me so mad because if I had stumbled upon that when I was maintaining a binge would’ve given me the okay that what I was doing was alright and others were with me on being self-destructive.
How I feel about mental illnesses might make me seem calloused, but as someone who has gone through and killed an eating disorder and someone who does struggle with depression, I want representation that is realistic and gives a good insight to those suffering from it and others. I’m thinking about the younger audiences especially who try to be edgy and exposed; I want them to know that some parts are romanticised for TV ratings and how they feel is validated because they feel it and everyone who suffers from depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anorexia, binging, multiple personality disorder, and the rest have different experiences and should not base it entirely on what they see. How I went through depression and deal with it is a story worth sharing so others can relate but not a story for them to have because I wish no one to go through this pain. I don’t want mental illness to be an excuse or an adjective to describe someone, but I want it to be relatable, I want it to be real, I want the exposure to be validated because others have experienced it and can have their story shared.
I am better and hope never to return to the very first time I got depression because those were the worst days of my life, but I have had my two steps back and didn’t blame others for getting bad again. I know myself and knew how to get better this time and knew when I was in control and when I could cry, but I never blamed others or let myself dwell for a long, long time. I choose to get better and I hope others can make that choice and learn to live better by coinciding with their mental illness than allowing it to live in them. I try to help others by letting them how my story isn’t just a happy ending because I’ve yet to see it, but it is a struggle of being okay and having bad days, but being better than the last. I hope my story helps others and gives light to what depression and binging are when the script isn’t written or actors cast. I try to help others with an open heart and mind and hope others do get the help they need because we all need someone.