TL;DR: On 2017, Depression, Burnout, Self-Care, 2018 Resolution

I. Hello again, blues, my old friend

I’m going to admit something that I’ve been feeling for a few years now, but could never quite say to myself for fear of going down a long, lightless tunnel. But I’m saying it now because I think I’m strong enough and aware enough to know the root of the problem.

Here it is: I don’t like the Christmas season.

This despite enjoying decorating the Christmas tree (something that I missed this year), loving the cinnamon smell of the apple crumble pie I help my dad bake, spending a lot of time thinking about what each of the friends I’m giving gifts to need, and participating in no less than three company events–the company bazaar, the decorations contest, and a Battle of the Bands event that forced me to confront my lifelong stage fright as I provided both lead and backing vocals. Needless to say, I had my hands full.

But I soon found myself doing the same things I do only when I’m feeling extremely down: crying at my desk, coloring in coloring books, and playing video games for hours on end. I may have subconsciously anticipated this would happen, so I took the last week of the year off work. I’ve been cooped up at home since Christmas, coloring and playing video games and having mood swings and dark thoughts I don’t understand.

I think joining the company events was my way of trying to avoid how the holidays make me feel. And in the process, I made myself feel worse.

II. All the metaphors for exhausted

Earlier this month, I thought my 2018 resolution should be to declutter. But I realized that I’d already gotten a headstart, selling books I probably won’t read and cutting out or demoting to acquaintance-level the people who hang on to my energy and emotions like leeches. It pleased me to know that my bullshit filter has been steadily getting better over the years. So upon thinking about it some more, I’ve decided that my resolution should be about getting better at self-care.

Those who’ve been following my social media accounts know that my life in 2017 acted like some kind of extreme rollercoaster when it came to the things I couldn’t control–from a sprained knee that now aches during bad weather to winning a writing contest that opened many doors.

But what I did not talk about was the burnout. I’ve burned out a grand total of seven times this year. For a long time, this confused the hell out of me because I didn’t have quite as many incidents as in 2015 or 2016, which were years when I was in a solid depression state (though in a way, I guess you could consider that stage one long period where the candle hadn’t just gone out; the wick was burnt and I couldn’t find the matches). But in 2017, the year that my therapist declared me depression-free, I found myself often crying at my desk, coloring, or playing video games–things that I often did only when I felt spread out (like butter over too much bread, hehe) or simply couldn’t do anything else. The early part of the year definitely still had depression interlaced with burnout, but after I got cleared, that’s when I experienced more incidents. And I could never quite catch the symptoms before the symptoms caught up to me.

What. The. Hell?

III. Adulting and self-care are actually the same thing

If you’re impatient like me, you’d know the feeling of wanting to do ALL the things even though you’re not fully healed yet. It’s like in physical therapy; after the interns got my injured muscles working and feeling again, I had to do exercises over a period of two months to strengthen them. Healing is a slow process; that applies to your mental and psychological health, too.

This book I’ve been reading says that burnout is not actually rock-bottom, but a sign that something within needs to change. Likely an unhelpful attitude or harmful belief that drives me to take on more than my own limits can take, while ignoring the little voice in my head going “ENOUGH!”

I’ve only got one resolution for 2018, and that’s to get even better at self-care. Not the ice-cream-and-a-massage-on-a-bad-day kind. The adulting kind; that includes paying my bills on time so that I don’t fear my phone line getting cut, sleeping enough hours so that I don’t feel like killing a man during the day, eating food that gives me energy instead of tanking me in the afternoon, living within my means so that I don’t have to take on freelance to supplement my salary, learning to spot emotional vampires from a mile off. Things like that and more. It sounds like a lot, but it means fixing different areas of my life to become more functional, more kind to myself and to other people.

I’m coming out of another burnout this Christmas. I’m also coming out of Christmas hoping that this is the last one for a long, long time. If I haven’t been there for you as much as I should have this year, I’m sorry. I would not have been in the best shape to be present in your life. And if you’ve listened to my problems even just once this year, thank you. From the bottom of my burned out–but not burned up–heart.

‘I open at the close’: 2013 recap, 2014 resolutions

2013 Recap

There are many words to describe 2013, depending on what part of the world you live in and what language you speak and how old you are and what the goddamn weather must be like over there. I’m going to choose “humbling.”

2013 was first and foremost humbling for me because it was the year I got lost–really, truly, spiritually lost. I think that’s what standing at the intersection of a bazillion roads for the first time in your life will do to you. When all of your flaws stare right back at you in the mirror, and worse, in the very work you do (like how, after all this time, I still struggle with such a little thing as time management). I could not have gotten through it without the help of family, friends, my boyfriend, the act of writing, and Zen Pencils.

It was also the year I experienced some intense disappointments. Not getting to march with my boyfriend on graduation day. Not getting to go to Tacloban on assignment, after all. The slowness of government response with regard to disaster relief efforts, as well as the giant circus following the Pork Barrel scandal. That for all the power to change the world my school told us we possessed upon graduating, there was so very little any of us could do in those first few days after the super typhoon. Those are the only things I can think of at the top of my head at the moment, what with all the things I have to be grateful for, but I know there was much more.

There were also plenty of rejections, both of my work and of me in general, and far too much writing advice–most of it unhelpful, most of it disillusioning.

People walked in and out of my life, as well. But thankfully, those who walked in far outnumbered those who walked out. And those who walked out eventually helped me to see that my life is like bonsai tree–some branches need to be cut in order for it to thrive.

I think I got more cynical about the world this year, too, having discovered that much of it is run by idiots and psychopaths.

But it was also the year that I began to embody what I had realized sometime during my stint in college: out there, in reality, you have to build everything from the ground up. From sheer scratch, because no one is going to lift you on their shoulders every step of the way.

So I started this blog and sent out a few stories for publication and got into journalism as my first-ever job because I figured that if I can’t travel the world trying to learn things just yet, then journalism is the closest I’ll get.

I started taking Zumba classes at work because for the longest time, I used to dream of being able to dance without being afraid of people laughing at me, plus I wanted to comfortably fit in some of my old clothes again. (And it’s working!)

I finished my thesis of one novella and five short stories, and thus graduated. I met a ton of new people and thus saw new perspectives–and I daresay made a few friends out of some of them.

I finally got to visit Mindanao for the first time ever, specifically Davao and Iligan, and met up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while.

And while there were plenty of rejections and too much unhelpful writing advice, I think I’m finally figuring out how to tune all that out.

Made my first-ever professional sale (coming out next year!), and other writing-related triumphs that came to me at the close of the year, like Ann and Jeff VanderMeer retweeting my review of Wonderbook (eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!)–proving that 2013 for me is like the resurrection stone opening up for Harry in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Honed new habits and tried to get back into old hobbies (I don’t remember the last time I colored a drawing or held a violin).

And learned that, while the fools are in power, so many others who make up the foundations of that power are incredibly kind. These are the people who understand that it is the differences that make each person unique and that it is the similarities that bind us together. The world needs more people like those people, preferably also in the seat of government. It occurred to me in 2013 that perhaps it is the duty of such people to be no-nonsense against all the ignorance and hate in this world, to be the opposing force of something that perhaps has become the default for all humanity.

The point is, 2013 taught me that you learn to take in the disappointment and pain with the successes, and somehow move on with that mix. But you never, ever forget how it feels. I think that’s where art begins.

2014 Resolutions

Okay, so 2014 and I got off on the wrong foot. I went to bed at 3 a.m. and officially woke up at around 8 a.m. because my poor dogs were cowering in the room I share with my sister and I also had to go to work at 1 p.m. But I happened to have taken away from 2013 the fact that the wrong foot can always be corrected, whether that means putting down the other foot and adapting to the new direction or pausing for a few moments to get the timing and steps right.

So here are 14 resolutions I can muster enough hope for in my groggy state, ranging from writing to organization to health (and a few things out of place here and there). I figured I ought to make one solely about writing, but Chuck Wendig’s 2013 resolution and the 2014 edition are already good enough guidelines to remember.

  • Lose the belly fat. 
  • Read at least 25 books.
  • Finish a short story every month and send them out.
  • Review movies immediately after watching them. 
  • Write about things that scare me or make me cringe. 
  • Marathon the Lord of the Rings trilogy without doing something else at the same time.
  • Travel to some place in the Philippines with my own money.
  • Finish editing articles in an hour.
  • Hug my family more.
  • Learn driving again.
  • Eat less junk food.
  • Put some money separate from my savings away.
  • Dust and re-arrange the books on my shelf.
  • Blog more.

Happy New Year, one and all!