New Year, New Chance #WorkForHappy

Resolutions are not just for the new year. I know that because my resolutions started in the middle of fall 2017. Rather than fireworks, I started this fresh new chapter of my life in the aftermath of a breakdown that had repeated itself countless times before. I can’t say a breakdown isn’t comparable to fireworks in inventing a new me with a bang though, except this one involved less pretty colors and much more nasal congestion afterwards.

Artwork by Elliana Esquivel

I resolved to be a better person. It’s a huge ask, but I think I’m on track. Whatever ailments of the mental kind that dogged me constantly before became a minimal concern. I weaned off medication eventually, invigorated with a new outlook on life – I would work hard and develop my mental immunity. Sure, I still catch the occasional bout of anxiety or feel the virus of depression seep back into my veins every now and then, especially when I overwork or feel overwhelmed, but it’s just that: a cold. A sick day. I am back on my feet in no time and feel better than ever. At the end of the day, I am much stronger and cognizant of my mental health.

I count myself lucky. I want to tell you something I wish someone told me when I was in that dark place.

It’s all on you. It’s all on you.

You have to build the strength to face whatever struggles on your own. No one can do that for you. No one can make you better. You have to be resolved to get better. 

There’s this trend of wallowing in self pity and staying mentally sick forever because it’s “valid”. Don’t fall for it. While mental conditions cannot be prevented most of the time and most people will most likely suffer with it for the rest of their lives (including me!), that doesn’t mean you can’t manage it. Listen, managing your mental health does not make you any less sick. For example, someone who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer doesn’t equate them to healthy, they are attempting to manage their illness and save their life. Taking care of your mental well being by going to therapy and, I can’t stress this enough, actually listening and doing what you  are instructed to do is a mentally sick person’s way of undergoing intensive treatment to manage their illness and, yes, save their life.

Before anyone comes for my wig or whatever: no, I am not saying that mental illness is not a real illness. I’ve been through it. Hell, I’ve been put in hospital for it and have met people with all kinds of problems and mental and physical struggles. After witnessing the struggles of so many people and going through it myself, I would be the last person to say that mental illness is not real, or that anyone with a mental illness can be cured if they just changed their outlook on life or took responsibility or whatever. I am well aware that’s not how it works. I will never forget the freshman highschooler I met with an anger problem whose eyes lit up at the mention of Melanie Martinez. I will never un-see the rough tough gangster 25-year-old with knife marks all up and down his arms and the way he hugged his little Italian grandma when she came to visit. I most certainly will never forget code whites.

What I am saying is this, and read this very carefully: nothing will get better so long as you do not truly want to get better. For as long as you surrender yourself to doubt, resentment, or settlement, you will remain as you are.

This is just something I wish I knew when I was in the depths of my sickness, because God knows I could have gotten better a hell of a lot quicker if I had known that seeking treatment isn’t admitting defeat, or uncoolly swerving some weird cultural internet trend of being depressed.

If you doubt yourself, you will not get better. You must truly believe that you can do it in order to be successful. If you feel occasional doubt, turn to someone who can reinstate it. Find the people in your life that support you in getting better but do not attempt to control your getting better. Appreciate these people, and support them when you are able to in return.

If you resent your situation or whatever treatment it takes to get better, you will not get better. If you resent your therapist’s methods or your support system or your illness or whatever else, nothing can be done because your focus will always be concentrated on the wrong things. Let go. Find the right treatment for you and focus on yourself. Focus on how you can make yourself stronger, more open, and healed. Celebrate your victories, and acknowledge then move on from the mistakes. This could happen to anyone. It happened upon you. Appreciate your struggle for what it is: a hurdle to get over. An obstacle to overcome.

If you settle for whatever you are feeling now, you will not get better. Things do not magically mend themselves. It takes dedication and change. If change scares you, then get over that fear because it will hold you back for the rest of your life. Bettering yourself takes hard work, and as long as you are willing to do that hard work and welcome the changes that come along with it, and that includes taking full accountability for your mistakes and working to fix them, then you can heal yourself more and more. Be objective as possible. Own up, fess up, and put up. This is about changing yourself. That means getting off your ass even when it’s hard, and going for it.

Artwork by Elliana Esquivel

I worked my ass off to get to the level I am now. Am I done? No! Will I ever be done? Who knows?! I can always go into remission (as one would say in keeping with this whole cancer-is-like-mental-illness metaphor), but you fight it anyway. You take care of yourself. You listen to your body and mind. You make healthy choices with the help of your medical practitioner, therapist, psychiatrist, loved one, role model, mentor, mom, dad, grandma, cool book, fandom, ER nurse, whatever. 

At the end of the day, this is about you. If wallowing in self pity and wondering why nothing is turning out right is something you want to spend the rest of your life doing, then go ahead. This is just something I wish I knew when I was in the depths of my sickness, because God knows I could have gotten better a hell of a lot quicker if I had known that seeking treatment isn’t admitting defeat, or uncoolly swerving some weird cultural internet trend of being depressed.

If it takes the new year to put your life into perspective, then to hell with it. I will always encourage people to do what they think is best to make them happy. That being said, sometimes it takes a little kick in the ass to get going on that. Sometimes what we think for ourselves isn’t the best thing for us. That’s what friends, family, and healthcare is for.

Take advantage of this new year. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and believe that this will be the year you better yourself for real. Set goals, work towards something, and watch yourself become the person you would have looked up to a year ago.

Best of luck. And happy new year.


Eyes Open #WorkForHappy

(Or Alternatively, “Turning Twenty And Realizing My Eyes Have Been Shut The Whole Time: A Brief Birthday Reflection”)

Ascending into the two-decade old plane of existence was almost anti-climactic, but to be fair, it had to close a rather turbulent turn of the globe. Since last year, August 31, 2017, I have taken four total double 10+ hour bus rides, snared a dream role at a start-up publication, and even started dating a rather dashing lad who has an affinity for calling me a water buffalo in his free time.

At the same time I have screamed, panicked, had a handful of crises (less in comparison, though), was ghosted, and learned what it’s like to be between jobs about… five times. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the Mercury retrograde – I don’t even believe in that stuff and I still felt it in my bones that something was off in the heavens when I couldn’t even sip tea without burning my tongue.

Artwork by Tanya Shatseva

I survived 20 years of life. That’s cause for celebration, even if the sky doesn’t glow for me. The main difference between this year and the year before that is probably just how much I have matured.

Once I turned 20, I was faced with a very real responsibility – growing the fuck up. Being 19 was the last time I could plead being a teenager.

Do I miss this trump card? I thought I would. Do I still reach for it as if it’s still in my pocket? You bet your ass, I do.

The earth didn’t exactly pause in its orbit the moment I was born one humid Monday night in a Lester hospital, and it didn’t twenty years later either. The occasion was marked poignantly by my mother, who not only was celebrating my birthday, but the moment she officially became a mother. Every milestone and accomplishment in my life belongs, in part, to her as well.

My eyes were closed for my teenage years, and my mother had to remind me again that my eyes are hers, and she will not let me screw them shut any longer. I opened my eyes, witnessed everything I chose to ignore about myself, and realized that there’s a marked difference between walking through the dark, and walking with your eyes determinedly shut.

“You are my eyes, and I want you to see the world for me.” My mother never misses an opportunity to tell me this. Any moment I have self-doubt, or feel like a failure, I am reminded to open my eyes for her.

…there’s a marked difference between walking through the dark, and walking with your eyes determinedly shut. [Click to tweet!]

I have survived twenty years of existence, and now I am now en route of my twenty-first, I have decided not only to survive, but thrive. This sounds a bit tired, since everyone has a bit of a resolution when they get older, usually more and more sombre with every passing year.

My resolution, however, isn’t just to sit down and grow up – I want to grow. Perhaps now I am resourceful enough to actually push myself to do so, now, with eyes wide open.

Why And How I Developed Self-Control #WorkForHappy

megan brewty
Artwork by Megan Brewty

Upon my second and last visit to the hospital, I realized something essential that transformed my outlook on life forever: being depressed is a hell of a lot easier than being happy. I had just realized that the support of my loved ones had run out, and I was officially on my own.

It was time to turn my life around, and I would only have one chance at it. It was now or never. It was life and death.

This is a new self-care series where I will be exploring how to be a better person in my struggle with mental illness. My first lesson: developing self-control.

I Almost Destroyed Myself… Here’s Why Self-Control Is Essential

Continue reading “Why And How I Developed Self-Control #WorkForHappy”

Fixing Yourself: A Brief Look At My Mission For Self-Improvement #WorkForHappy

I have an incredibly flawed personality. The first sign was probably around the time I got diagnosed with an actual personality disorder – unspecified – after my behavior led to a pretty self-destructive, “self-prescribed” binge behaviour. Honestly? I never actually considered it problematic for a long time.

Clearly, it was everyone else with the problem. Tsk, tsk.

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Artwork by Christian Russo

The problem with having a diagnosis that’s “unspecified”, especially when it concerns something as intangible as personality, is that the solution to your problem is also unspecified. At that point, all the doctors could prescribe me was a harsh slap to the face when it came to my true reality.

Now it’s like every move I make, I scrutinize. When I’m an asshole, I usually know it. A little bit of denial doesn’t hurt, until that becomes a flaw as well.

Do other people think like this? I’ll probably never know, but the scrutiny I have adopted has become both a blessing and a curse. I’m able to look at myself objectively and understand that whatever behavior I’m choosing is not appropriate. It’s like a super power, because I now understand mine and other people’s motivations and reasoning with everything they do. I get it now, when someone is an asshole. I do. Because I can do it too, sometimes.

But with great power comes great responsibility, or something like that.

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“Infinite Introspection”, by Francisca Borzea

I recognize my behavior, but do I actually do anything about it? Well… I’m trying. It took me years to figure out that I was wrong, and another year to come to terms with the mistakes I had made in the process. Do I regret these mistakes? Of course. But would I change it? Not at all. I am the person I am today because of what I have struggled with.

That being said, I’ve been trying to actually prevent such things happening ever again, but that takes a little more work than just some introspection. I have to actually change my habits, my mood, and, well, my personality. I’ve had to heal those wounds, and now I have to take actions so that I don’t inflict them on myself or others ever again.

What do I have on the agenda to actually fix about myself? There are the common pitfalls, like procrastination, lack of sensitivity, and impatience. Then there are the big ones, like bad attitude, lack of responsibility/motivation, dependence on others, and over-thinking. At this point, all I can really do is acknowledge what I’m doing wrong, be aware of problematic behavior, and seek to replace it with healthier moves by developing better, healthier habits. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but… I have the privilege of being surrounded by people who care enough to call me out on my bullshit when I miss it.

Go and love someone exactly as they are. Then watch how they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered. —Wes Angelozzi

The people around me… man oh man. I’m lucky, so incredibly lucky, to have such a strong network of people who care about me deeply enough to not only forgive me when I mess up, but support me in my journey to become a better person. I’m just so grateful that I now have the foresight of actually understanding the magnitude of how lucky I am. Privilege can be a lot of different things for different people, but for me, true privilege is having the support of people around you.

Like I said, this process is a blessing and a curse. You can feel hopeless sometimes, like you’re gonna be stuck being a bad person forever and that you’ll never be worthy of love – this is a common late-night thought that induces panic attacks for me – so I’ve learned to become aware of my good qualities too. I have a strong sense of maternal instinct. I am a compassionate person. I’m smart enough to succeed, when I put my mind to it. I can write, draw, sing, laugh. I even make other people smile, from time to time. I love others, and they love me. I repeat that last bit like its a mantra whenever my mood dips below the dark surface.

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Artwork by Mari Toh

Do I deserve love? That’s something I still grapple with, and honestly, it’s probably the main question that drives my mission for self-improvement. For a long time, I didn’t think I deserved the love I got from others, and that was because deep down, I knew that I was a fuck up.

But now, I want to deserve it.

I have an incredibly flawed personality. But flaws make the human, and the human can only work hard to rectify those flaws. And this is me doing that.

This is me. I’m the one with the problem.

And… I’m fixing it.