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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Write

I have no wounds visible but I am bleeding. And with this blood I will write.

I will write my heartaches and sorrows away. I will write down the confusion, uncertainty and insecurity to navigate through it and make sense of it. I will write and write and write until I find an order to the thoughts running chaotic in my mind.

I used to write when I am very happy. Over-romanticizing the simple things, bubbling with joy and hope.

I would write in my fear. List down all the things that haunt me until my heart is still.

I would write when I am sad. I would turn my tears into ink and stories and poetry.

But there is nothing poetic to being empty.

So I would write and rant until I find where all my thoughts are hiding. I would write until I am full of words that do not rhyme just so I will not be empty.

I wrote a song for him yesterday. About how I have stopped waiting. About how I have given up. About how the butterflies in my stomach are all dead and turning into dust.

It was a song of wishful thinking. How I wished to rip my heart out so I would no longer feel it breaking. How I craved to be powerful enough to finally stop loving him. Of how I do not care about the silence between us when really, it has been driving me mad. When I am really powerless and helpless and how I really want him back.

I wrote of how I no longer care when every day I wake up waiting for his message and every night, I fall asleep with his name on my lips like a prayer. With tears unshed and words unsaid for far too long the letters are all a jumble in my head.

And still I will write to get them off my chest. Like half-digested meals of yesterday, I can not identify the feelings that I shed. Like old skin. Like baby teeth, said Sarah Kay. Parts of me I no longer need. And yet they hurt when I pulled them out of my heart, kicking and screaming and refusing.

Last night I slept with my ukulele beside me in bed. The notebook that held the lyrics lay open, fluttering in the wind. Maybe they crawled back to my chest in my drunken sleep. Because I woke up this morning with the same baby teeth. I woke up to the same feelings in between my cracked and broken ribs.

When I do not write, I run away. I try to push him at arm’s length. I wanted to show him I am not affected. But I am. I am. I am.

Because everyday, the same refrain plays inside my head. I want you. I need you. I love you. I love you. I love you. Why won’t you love me too?

Distance suits you well. You have found some playmate to flirt with I guess. And you can stop caring about me and my opinions in a snap. A trick I never learned. How to switch your feelings on and off like putting on a new mask. You can go for hours without hearing from me. Days without asking about me. You never really cared what goes on in my life but this is a new level of indifference.

And yet here I am, the stupid girl. Screaming inside my head “Please love me.”

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.