Yesterday marked my 25th birth anniversary. The poignancy of the moment has somehow triggered an unexpected trip down the memory lane, one which has enveloped me for the past few days – the triumphs, the tribulations, the dark times, the victories, the tears, the laughter, the pains, the frustrations, the triumphs, and the disappointments.

So let me take this moment to reflect and to reminisce, on those 25 years and share to you some of my life realizations and perspectives. But there are just too many words that I wanted to express so I opted to cut this piece in two. This first part is something that I have rarely opened up, even to my closest friends, for many reasons, and I hope you understand.

An Angry Child

A child is supposed to be carefree, free of the burden most young adults are afflicted with. He is supposed to be shielded from the harsh realities of life. But while some of the kids back then were busy laughing, running under the sun, chasing after one another, basically enjoying the innocence of puerile fun, there was this one child who isolated himself, psychologically.

This child was busy hating the world for all the things that were lacking in his life. He was not yet even ten then but the hatred and the anger towards the world that has accumulated in his heart were too much to bear that he started hating and being angry at himself – his ugly, pitiful, unlovable self. That child was me.

I tormented myself for the things I could, or at least I thought I could never have, most of which were childish and whimsical. But how could ever tell a child that? I was so emotional and so sensitive back then that I got hurt over the most minute of things – like how my parents prefer my brother over me or a simple scolding from my parents for petty stuff. I also envied other people for these things I never had.

My self-hatred and my emotional vulnerability have blown so out of proportions that it has basically handicapped how I have dealt with other people. I have developed a self-sustaining system that I thought would protect me from the most painful things in life. I have built an imaginary wall on my heart, so that nothing could ever touch and hurt me. I was so averse to emotional pain that I have practically pushed everybody away, even those people I loved and cared for. But buried in those plethora of excuses that I gave myself, the truth is that I was only afraid of losing the people around me, that it pains me whenever people leave.

The Dark Times

But the self-loathing was just one of my demons as I child. The worst is probably the depression that was the offshoot of this anger and self-hatred. Having learned to shut the entire world down at my own disposal, I thought I have become a connoisseur at controlling my emotions. Again, I was wrong, so very wrong that the repercussions of my delusional presumption will somehow haunt me in the years to come.

By “controlling” my emotions, I have learned to suck all my emotions in, instead of expressing them openly. I have built a virtual floodgate that will somehow hold all my emotions down. But then comes those times when the “floodgates” can no longer hold it together and it just burst.

With the bursting of the floodgates is the release of all emotions, both positive and negative, that eventually swallows me whole. It all becomes too heavy to bear that I start free-falling into oblivion, into an abyss beyond the limits of my sanity. My vision is clouded by the searing pain and the overwhelming sorrow. I have no concept of what is right and what is wrong, worse of it, I am neither happy nor sad – it is just a total absence of emotions.

I have learned to keep my internal struggles to myself for many years, for the fear that this oddity will somehow underscore my abnormality, that I will be ostracized from the society because of my affliction. I was afraid that others will judge me, and somehow fear me, because as I have learned over the years, people are always afraid of things that they do not understand. Moreover, I was cognizant of the fact that psychological instability and weaknesses are often considered taboos in the Asian region, including the Philippines.

I never talked about my depressive episodes with my friends and family because I wasn’t so sure if they would be able to handle my disability. So I hid it all in a mask, an inscrutable facade of superfluous joy to cover up the pain, and the hideous reality. But it pained me, having to cover it all up, because one part of me wanted so much to open up, to seek comfort from them but the fear was just too much. It was emotionally draining but I was too young  to realize that and that I was too naive to have a solid understanding of myself and of my surrounding. I can sum all of these up in one word though – inexperience, inexperience at handling life, and one’s chaotic reality.

On Ending One’s Life and Non-existence

As I have mentioned above, whenever depression takes over me, I can feel neither joy nor sadness, a total lack of emotion. Whenever I delve into the darkest parts of my soul and of my heart, I usually end up with the most depressing thoughts – that I am useless, that nobody loves me and nobody cares, that I am a sore loser. I am usually overcome by the extreme sadness that I started toying with the idea of death. I just thought that maybe, if I end everything right now, all my pain and sorrow would go away,and that maybe the world will somehow be better off without me. Oh the lamentations of a beautiful young mind!

I would be so locked up in my own misery that I thought the worst, and to think that these episodes started when I was just ten years of age. Many ideas started to form on my mind, that all the good things about life were literally pushed at the very back of my mind. What made my situation worse is that I was growing up in a time where suicide and young death were so prevalent that it got broadcasted via the media.

I was so enamored by the idea of ending my own suffering that I started forgetting about my grandiose dreams. You see there were so many things that I wanted to accomplish in my life. First off, because of my fascination with geography and travelling, I wanted to build and design the world’s largest city. I also wanted to become the Philippine’s first Igorot president and help alleviate the poverty that has so long plagued our country. I wanted to build the first 10 star hotel. I wanted to fall so hopelessly in love and then together we will travel around the world and discover it like we’ve never known it before. I wanted so much out of life. But these dreams and ambitions started to fade with each battle with depression. I made my dreams my bargaining chips for each longing to die, I had to compromise.

My battles with depression were so unpredictable. I can be happy in one instant and then all of a sudden, I will be overcome by an intense sadness. This became cyclical, so cyclical that I have exhausted and abandoned all my dreams. There were times that I got struck so very hard that I even prayed for my non-existence. It’s a good thing though that He never listened to my amateurish clamors because I have now started seeing how beautiful life is.

Breathing Lessons

But as I grew up, physically and psychologically, I started seeing light at the end of my endless tunnels. I started to understand things, though at times I still feel uncertain. I eventually learned to swim with the tides of life, its uncertainties, and its unpredictability. Through the times I got suffocated when I was younger, I started learning to breathe, just like a fish out of the water. I am still learning, still trying to get on my feet, but I know in time I will, and just like the phoenix rising from its ashes after 500 years, I will rise above all of these.

Yes life is tough, yes life has its downs, yes there are disappointments and feelings of loneliness, yes there are frustrations but there are also the good times –  the good times with the family, the good time with the great friends, the triumphs, the victories. But that’s how life really is, taking in the negatives with the positives. 🙂 As what I have read recently, “Even if life is painful and tough, people should appreciate what it means to be alive at all.”

Fifteen arduous years on, I still get lonely at times, but I just keep telling myself that in spite of the various reasons to give up, there are a million reasons to fight back, to stay. Life is one rough ride, with blind curves and steep falls, but one just has to learn to put his trust and faith on the Driver, He knows where to guide you. You might not be sure as of the moment, but in time you will realize and then you will understand. 🙂

P.S. This is never intended to be an excuse for my lapses. I thought maybe it’s time to open up on these things that have been haunting me as a child. In a way, I want to move on and let go of my past, though I know that it will always be a part of me.