How did you cope with pain?

Cope, by definition, dealing with something difficult effectively.

Pain is something, for me, harder to define.

What kind of pain are you asking me?

Was it the pain of a scraped knee? At first I would cry. I wasn’t used to the physical pain. I was afraid of having to wash it with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide because that stuff burns. Even iodine was scary. But eventually I got used to it. Repeatedly falling and scraping my knees, my elbows, my palms, became something sort of second nature. I trip so often and so easily. When I got used to the scratches and the wounds, I learned to clean them myself. I learned to enjoy the sting of alcohol. I learned to love the way iodine solution felt on the open skin.

Was it the pain from when I burned my hand when I accidentally poured boiling water over it? When I saw my skin rising, I punctured it. I was curious. I peeled the skin off the burned area and boy did it hurt. I didn’t know better back then. Thankfully my parents had the sense not to put toothpaste on it. I relied on them to take me to the ER. I relied on the doctors to put the proper ointments and wrap it up with gauze. When I didn’t know what to do, I welcomed help.

Was it the pain of when my friends and family all called me fat? It was an alien form of pain. One that ointments and alcohol couldn’t clean. One that I couldn’t cover with gauze or iodine solution. I learned at the age of 10 to trade one pain with a different form. I started eating less, then not at all. The pain of hunger felt to me like the sting of alcohol. It would cure the pain of humiliation from being fat, I thought.

Was it the pain of losing your first love? Or the pain of witnessing your parents break up? The pain of your mom leaving the house to live with her new boyfriend? The pain of seeing your dad get hinself drunk everyday? That was a different sort of pain too. A deeper kind. One that I can’t claw out of my chest, or carve out my skin. Although I tried. At this point I have learned to love the pain of the physical kind. It was an easier pain to navigate and deal with. I learned to self harm. And I learned to cut deeper and deeper. I almost cut deep enough. Sometimes I still wish I had. Often I am ashamed I even did it at all.

Was it the pain of being bullied? Because you were smart without even trying? Because you were kind and had the boys falling head over heels for you? When people started calling you a slut, a whore, a bitch, when you weren’t even trying to flirt, how do you deal with that? I think I just hid. I just folded in on myself wishing that if I stayed small and silent they will eventually not notice me and stop calling me names that I had no idea how I earned.

Was it the pain of losing a friend? I think I coped with that one by transfering schools. By shifting to a different course. I had no more place in the same vicinity that I shared with them. I felt like I shouldn’t breathe the same air they do.

Was it the pain of watching your father die? Of seeing the light leave his eyes when his heart beat its last? To feel him cold and stiff in your arms? I wanted to claw out the doctor’s eyes. To hurt someone, anyone. To scream. To open my chest and rip my heart out. The pain of grief is something I never coped with. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression… Acceptance. I think I got stuck on depression. It has been four years and I haven’t coped still.

Was it the pain of loving someone who treated you like you are vermin? Who told you that you are trash. That you are worth nothing. That one I got stuck on anger. Borderline hatred. The sound of his name still sends chills of boiling rage down my spine. Sometimes, when it is cold and the sheets won’t warm me enough, the anger does the trick. I know forgiveness is the key to freedom but I don’t think he deserves to be forgiven just yet. I would imagine his suffering. Never his death. No. I want him to suffer long and hard with no relief.

Was it the pain of waking up one day and realizing you are a failure? The anxiety of knowing you are running out of time? The thought that it is too late to pick yourself up? That paralyzing fear of the future? That one is a little easier. I could break my way through the walls of my doubts and their judging eyes, and make my own rules. Success to me is knowing I attended all my classes this week. Success is when I have submitted all my requirements in time for the deadline. And sometimes, when the fear is too great it wants to chain me in my bed, I deem it success to be able to get out of bed, do my laundry, take a bath, face the day, brave the traffic, go to school despite being late. I see it as success when I fail today and try again tomorrow.

Of all the different kinds of pain I have had to deal with, one thing is for certain. Everytime I had successfully faced on pain, I get stronger. My threshold gets higher. My tolerance as well. Pain is something necessary to build your character. As long as you let it build instead of destroy.

I think there is no specific way of coping with the pain. As long as you let it build you instead of destroy you, you have dealt with that difficulty successfully.

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Just Keep Swimming

This semester of A.Y. 2017-2018 has been rough for me. I experienced how to be spent emotionally, mentally, socially and financially for almost the whole semester and I thought I would never make it.

My phone fell and the screen cracked on the first day of the semester. My P.E. shoes broke and I couldn’t afford to buy a new one so I had to let go of my P.E. class. My laptop was broken as well so I had to borrow laptop from my friend, or sleepover their house so I can use their PC or laptop for my paperworks. I had to do my thesis on my phone with a cracked screen because hey, I need to get through this semester.

I was on the verge of a breakdown almost everyday, tired and worried and stressed out both due to academic and financial reasons.

Nothing in my life was stable. My friends were often busy, and I felt like I have become a nuissance because I had to borrow a laptop for paper works, or money if I ran out. My allowance would often come late because my mom’s salary would often be late. I was in a relationship where I have to pretend we are just friends in front of the people who matter. The thought of my mom losing her job was always hanging like a storm cloud over my head and I do not know what tomorrow will bring.

I would often have bad headaches due to lack of sleep and overthinking.

I wanted to give up.

It came to a point where I thought I was failing even when my scores are alright. I had more absences than I would have wanted because I am either sick, woke up late, got caught in traffic, or trying to catch up with the requirements from other subjects.

I would often be sad or cranky, or annoyingly very bubbly and I know that behind my hysterical laughter is a breakdown in the making.

It came to a point where I wanted something stable to hold on to, so I broke up with my “boyfriend” and asked him to be just friends. Something concrete and stable.

There were a lot of days I contemplated suicide. In between looking for possible part time jobs and considering stopping a year in school to help my mom with finances, I was contemplating just giving up. Walk in front of a truck or jump off a bridge or something.

I was spent body and soul and spirit I just wanted it all to stop.

I was drowning. But I kept on swimming.

And now I am one final written exam away from conquering this semester.

So just keep swimming.

Distant (a writing prompt)

In retrospect, I wanted to be a doctor since I could understand the question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Every decision I made since then was for that dream. I chose to study in a Science High School to challenge my knowledge in the field of science. When I graduated high school, I got accepted to University of the Philippines Manila (UPM), a “prominent” state university in my home country, specializing in medical courses. I took up BS Biology in UPM and for a while I was driven. I was on my way to fulfilling my wish.

Now it is but a distant dream.

I was fickle. During my summer break before I started high school, I fell in love with another dream–Writing. As I continue making decision after decision with the goal of being a doctor in sight, I grew more restless and distracted.

I found a new passion and it felt wrong, being in the course I was taking.

When the workload came creeping in during my second year in BS Biology, I had to stop writing. And it crushed me. That is how I knew. I have fallen out of love with my long-term dream and found a new one.

I started to get distracted.

The artist in me just couldn’t take it anymore. Being a doctor is a noble dream but it felt like it wasn’t mine anymore.

It felt like refusing to let go of your baby teeth, the permanent ones are begging for space to be free, but it is hindered by something that no longer fits you. Like wearing clothes bought in the kiddie section when you are a full grown girl.

I couldn’t breathe.

I felt lost. Too far away from where I had to be and yet too afraid to turn around and find my way again.

There are a few reasons why I was afraid. First, everyone was looking up to me, expecting me to be the first doctor in the family. It was a pressure too much for someone who’s having doubts about whether or not she still wants that destiny. Second, my mother have already invested money in me, and I have already invested time and effort to be who I thought I wanted to be. Third, everyone kept saying “Be practical. You won’t be able to feed a family or pay the bills being a writer in this country.

My fears have trapped me and it seemed like there was no escape. That I would be too selfish and naive to escape.

I was digging a grave for the child artist in me.

In my third year of college, the distress and discontent was affecting me. I no longer wanted to wake up in the morning. I dreaded school. The anxiety was killing me. The way I killed my dream to keep on pleasing everybody.

I distracted myself with garbage, fell in love with a man who was a monster underneath. I destroyed myself slowly, bit by bit.

Then my father died.

It was the last straw for me. I filed a leave of absence and went with my mom to Abu Dhabi where she works.

I was traumatized by how heartless the public health system in this country is. I saw the doctor I wanted to be let my father die right before me.

After five months, when my mom thought I was ready to go back to school, I tried pushing one last time. I still enrolled for two semesters and failed both accordingly. I begged my mom to let me shift to creative writing in Diliman but she convinced me, “There is no work when you graduate creative writing.”

Even my professors pitched in. “You are a bright student. You will waste your potential in Creative Writing.”

So I opted for another premed course that will not force me to pursue with medicine and still end up in the medical industry: Nursing.

At first I was happy. I saw the pride in my mother’s eyes, now my only pillar in the family, when she saw me in a white uniform. If it makes her happy, I will try.

But I was still restless.

Eventually, I went back to my habit of not going to classes again, dreading the day and embracing the night. I wouldn’t go to school, but I would go to malls and gigs. That is where my spoken word poetry and artist manager career began.

I met my best friend and fell in love with him and his original music. I started writing him poems and performed them on stage. I even co-wrote songs with him.

The child artist in me that I long ago buried and I thought had died started to breathe and live again.

I was happy. But I was guilty.

At the expense of my mom’s efforts and money, I wasn’t honest about school and life in general.

So I reopened the offer of letting me shift to Creative Writing. She agreed, but fate was not with me.

UP Diliman wouldn’t accept my request to transfer and shift to the program because my GWA from UPM and my units in UERM (where I took up Nursing) didn’t meet the quota.

Heartbroken, I left for Abu Dhabi, thinking I will never return again.

I thought it was the end of my dream, and my love story with my best friend.

But just after a few months in Abu Dhabi, destiny and my dream came knocking in. It was in a form I never expected, and it was quite ironic actually.

Denisse messaged me, and told me she’s currently studying again, after stopping for three years to work for her family. She’s taking BS Psychology, a course I have always been interested in, in Our Lady of Fatima University.

Seeing it as a chance to go back to the country where my heart and my dream is, I asked Denisse to enroll me.

I was able to convince my mom and she seemed more than happy to let me go back to my formal college education, and see me finish a bachelor’s degree so the papers went walking and I was officially a student of OLFU taking up BS Psychology.

I was reunited, quite bitterly, with my best friend, and I am now taking up a course which will help me in my writing and at the same time allow me to continue to pursue being a doctor without really forcing me to go that way, and leaving me with a few other options that I am willing to take: a professor, HR (Human Resource) personnel, guidance counsellor, psychologist, psychometrician, therapist, the list of options go on quite a bit.

I was happy.

At first I was scared that the happy feeling could be temporary and I could go back to my old ways and slack off of school again, but after I finished the first semester successfully, I was sure it was something I am willing to stick with.

I felt the fire in me begin to burn again, this time a small steady flame, not really very consuming, but enough to keep me going at life.

I have found balance that keeps me and my mom happy. The course has given me a lot of insights and inspiration for my writing and poetry. It helped me put things in perspective that I thought I had lost permanently. And it keeps the option open for me to still be a doctor eventually.

From being very distant from who I am and who I wanted to be, I am now ready to go the distance.

I am now officially a Phoenix. I have risen up from the ashes that was my hopes, my dreams, my personality.

via Daily Prompt: Distant

The road so far…

*Cue in a bad-ass background music*

Tomorrow is the last day of summer class. I have been busy the past two weeks, running on red bulls and coffee, and three hours of sleep per day. I had a quiz this Monday, a title defense for my research this Tuesday, a seminar this Wednesday, and a mock interview today. Add the fact that I had two global interpretations and a psychological report to write, due today.

But hey I’m okay!

I got the highest score, I defended my title like a warrior I am not, we successfully finished the seminar yesterday, I think my mock interview went well, my professor even told me I looked great in my corporate attire, and I am just passing the time since I just finished my papers five minutes ago.

Summer season is almost over too. Outside, it is raining. Or is it a storm already? Good thing I borrowed an umbrella, but I might have to buy one for the way home later.

I also went through stressful times. I had this groupmate for the seminar who suddenly snapped when I relayed the details of the meetings to her. She said she felt belittled that no one bothered to call her when there was a group meeting for the seminar. I told her, I do not have her number.

I also got sick for three days. But I managed to go to school despite all that.

I am currently running on fumes but the end of the road is at sight. I can rest tomorrow night.

But for now, I gotta run.

There was a power outage due to the heavy rain while I was writing this. When the electricity came back, I hurriedly printed the papers I needed to pass. It was flooding, and I am on a mountainside. My shoes are wet but I had more important things to think about.

After I passed my papers I went to the library where my friends are studying for their exam in Botany. Aya was having a meltdown due to the seminar paperworks. I wonder if she’s calmed down now?

My friend, Denisse, and I went to a mall to buy an umbrella and eyebrow pencil. Then I went to her place to finish the summary of our seminar’s evaluation.

When I got home, a really strong earthquake passed and I want to say I was scared but I am not.

I wonder if I’m okay.

When you try your best but you don’t succeed…

Today, our midterm grades were released in Research Methodology and I/O Psychology subjects. The passing [transmuted] grade for major subjects such as those mentioned is 76. I got a 74.

And I could make excuses for myself such as summer classes use a different grading system than classes taken in the regular semesters, or I was high on antibiotics and suffering from acute pharyngitis during the major exams so I naturally got lower scores, or its okay there is still the finals, but that does not change the fact that I failed in a standardized-slash-objective evaluation of academic performance.

Does that make me a dunce? Probably not. Does it make me feel like crap? Definitely.

The fact that doing well regularly on a daily classroom discussion, actively participating when I am so afraid of speaking, and doing everything in my power to get decently high scores in quizzes are not enough to earn me a passing grade is simply devastating.

I always hear people talking about how the educational system in the Philippines doesn’t cater to the different, the creatives, and the “I need some time to process these information” type, but I never felt it in its full impact the way I did today.

I’ve always been good at being standardized. People often say I am intelligent when in fact, all I did was memorize a bunch of stuff that I will probably forget about in a month. So when I am in a situation where memorization is out of the question (disoriented from a sickness and the drugs prescribed for the cure), I obviously fail at it. And I hated it.

I hated the feeling I got while reading the questions in the test, knowing I read it somewhere in my notes, or remembered my professor mention something about it in class, but I can’t remember the term so I couldn’t give a proper answer. I hated knowing that if I wasn’t sick at that time I would have probably shined and even got an 86 or something.

Sadly, the grading system does not consider “Effort” as an objective criteria. There are no grades, no incentives or recognition for trying hard.

I realized that the educational system of the Philippines is designed for shaping and honing manufacturers. Blend in, do what society dictates is right and pleasing, do a good job and you will be considered a success. Here, there is no room for innovation and ingenuity. That is why most Filipino inventors sell their inventions to foreigners and those foreigners get the patent for it.

Here no one praises you for trying. Your value is dictated by the worth of the goods you produce. Your efforts do not matter, what’s important is the quality of your output. If you are slow in getting things done, you are already a failure and a nuissance.

Average is success in this country. If you go above the norm you are seen as a threat and people will try to pull you down. If you go below the norm, you will be de-valued and ridiculed for your incompetency.

Psychology should be about acknowledging the uniqueness of every human being, but psychologists are measured and trained to measure with a one-size-fits-all instrument.

The irony of things. We aim to measure the differences between our clients but we are gauged based on the distance of our deviation from the norm. We strive for culture-fair tests and fail miserably at considering that maybe, just maybe, standardization is not the key.

Constructivists argue that reality is subjective to each individual. What might be true for you might not be true for me.

Dearest standardized education, you might think that only those who get a certain score are qualified to pass. But we are all students learning at different paces and styles. Please do not normalize the curve. Surely there is a better way of evaluating a person’s achievement than stardized tests.

Then again, maybe I am just bitter about my grades.

Of early mornings and midnights [and trying to be productive in between]

I enrolled in advanced summer classes last month to catch up on units since I am way past my supposed graduation date.

So, I am taking up three major subjects that I am required to finish in 6-7 weeks and the requirements for finals are a bit overwhelming: a thesis title proposal and defense, a seminar organized by us, and administering psychological tests and writing a psychological report on the client.

But all that seems small to the overwhelming fact that for five days a week, for the next six or seven weeks, I will have to wake up REALLY EARLY. Like 5 o’clock in the morning early. I am not a morning person–at least not anymore since I started binge-watching series and anime on a daily basis.

Every Monday I will wake up fairly well rested, but come Wednesday, I am cursing the world. Thursdays, I am just running on fumes, and Fridays are “I am literally just zoning out” days.

I have read a lot of blogs and articles online about “how to adjust your sleep cycle to be a healthy and not grouchy morning person” or “the secrets of a good sleep hygiene” or anything along those lines. I have followed tips and advice from several friends. My sleeping habits were so bad, the school doctor actually prescribed some sleeping pills for me.

None of them worked. It is hard when your responsibilities are demanding so early in the morning and your passions are so enticing so late at night. If you are a student with an 8 A.M. class and a band manager with a 9 P.M. gig, and a young adult living alone with laundry to do and dishes to wash, how do you maximize your productivity?

Most people will tell me, just let go of the band scene. It is taking too much precious time from your responsibilities and rest. Others will tell me, “If you are making enough money on the band scene, why not quit school?” These two groups of people, while meaning well and good, simply do not understand.

I need to study hard and graduate and to do that I need to be a good student who goes to class no matter how early or late it is. And besides, I finally found a course that I actually enjoy and love that I don’t mind the pressures it bring, nor the paperworks and mountain load of assignments.

But I also need to be in touch with my artistic side. I can not let go of the music scene, or the spoken word poetry scene whenever I can. It is a part of who I am.

And doing the laundry, cleaning the house, washing the dishes, etc. etc., they are necessary for my health and well-being.

So how do I juggle all this?

Simple. I don’t have gigs everyday, so on nights I am free, I can insert some leisure and study time as well as cleaning time. I can sleep earlier on those days. The weekends are spent for doing the laundry, going out with friends, doing some more studying or cleaning, and definitely some well-deserved rest.

I have survived three weeks of trying to discipline myself into being a morning person now. And while it is hard, especially the past few days since I am sick (Acute Pharyngitis or something like that), and there is literally a major exam tomorrow I haven’t studied for yet (again, resting–you know, sick person), I think I am doing a pretty decent job of keeping my life-work-craft balance in check.

Although every now and then I fall off the wagon by sleeping way too late like 3 A.M. watching Detective Conan. 😂

This is why I am a Sleepless PsychiARTIST.