Time may change me

Sometimes my depressive phases are really obvious, but sometimes they creep up on me slowly and I don’t realise I’m in them until I assess the state of my room. I really like having things neat and organised, so it starts to become painfully clear to me that something is actually wrong when everything is a mess.

When my purses are piling up on the couch, along with press kits and other stuff that’s been sent to me; when there’s no space for my laptop on my desk because it’s covered in old receipts, junk mail, and all manner of things that really don’t belong there (six tubes of lipstick and five pairs of sunglasses, really?); when my makeup brushes haven’t been washed in weeks and my dresser looks like I tried to channel my inner Pollock with makeup products. Something is wrong.

But I’m at that point in my life with clinical depression where I mostly know how to handle it, and know how to pull myself back into regular function — a skill I’m grateful to have learned. And for me, part of that is cleaning up my space. I feel like the space surrounding you is reflective of what’s going on inside you. I need to clean in order to decompress and declutter my own mind and emotions. And I find it is much easier to motivate myself when I’m in an organised space. So I clean.

It’s something I also like to do close to the end of the year; a clean slate to herald a fresh start. I know New Year is no different from any other day ending and another one beginning, but these rituals are more for the mind than they are for anything else. There is so much power in symbolism.

My room was a mess, and the year is ending, so this go round, I hit two birds with one stone.

I always find things I forgot about in the process of cleaning, and one of the things I came across this time was my Traveller’s Notebook — my bullet journal. I’ve been trying to keep one since late 2016, but I never quite manage to make it through an entire year despite my best efforts. I think that’s probably because I’m a freelance writer working from home. I don’t really do much that necessitates writing things down, even if it is only in list form. And for the longest time, I wasn’t even writing, so I was just sad, funemployed, and living in pyjamas; the last thing I needed at the time was a reminder of how utterly useless I was as a human being, in the form of a very empty agenda notebook.

I think I might try again this year. Things feel different. In a good way.

The Midori Traveller’s Notebook is beloved for how customisable it is. You fill the empty leather cover with the inserts you feel are relevant to your needs. Mine has a grid notebook insert that I use for bullet journalling (three months per insert, then I switch to a new one), a plastic zip pocket in which I keep my writing tools, a cardboard folder for inserting papers that I feel like I need to keep, a ruled notebook insert for evergreen things like important lists and recipes, and a plain notebook insert for notes, meeting minutes, and scratch.

On the very first page of the ruled notebook, I found this list I actually forgot about, that I wrote at the end of 2017:

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The ghost of you

Published on 2 November 2019 in the Philippine STAR.

For all that Halloween is my favourite holiday, I have never been a fan of horror. When forced to watch horror films or series, I unapologetically spend the entire duration with my hands over my eyes. I scream along with every audio cue even though I can’t even see the jump scares; a waste of money at the cinema, a source of amusement during the Netflix segment of Netflix and chill. I don’t care how good The Haunting of Hill House is. I am not watching it.

But hot on the heels of All Hallows’ Eve and All Souls Day, I’ve been thinking a lot about ghosts. Real ghosts, the kinds of ghosts that truly haunt you.

Haunting, by definition isn’t actually necessarily scary. Haunting is about frequency. You refer to a place as a haunt when you’re there often. Haunting is a recurring manifestation, it’s something that keeps appearing to you. But also, haunting is about persistence and presence, perhaps a little unwelcome or unwanted.

What are the things that haunt us? How are we haunted?

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Black holes and revelations

Published on 26 October 2019, in the Philippine STAR.

I think one of the worst things about having clinical depression is the guilt. You want to pretend it’s not there — the emptiness — because you don’t feel like you have any right to it, and you know that there will be people out there who maybe won’t say it to your face, but will be thinking, How dare she? So many people are living infinitely harder lives, and she, with all her privilege and good fortune, has the audacity to be depressed? How ungrateful!

There will be people who will say it aloud, too. In my case, they’ve always been people who didn’t know me at all, and didn’t care to learn. Anonymous strangers on the Internet. Old classmates or distant acquaintances with resentments. And I wished so hard that I could tell them, You don’t have to say these things to me. I already tell myself every single day.

I’m so grateful for my life, and I hate that this illness — because that’s what it is, an illness, real and insidious — makes me feel ungrateful.

Something I wish everyone realised is that no one in their right mind would choose to have this condition. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It’s not a bid for attention. If I wanted attention, I would post a selfie or a picture of myself in a bathing suit like everyone else on the Internet. And sometimes I do. But when I write about heavy things, it’s because they’re incredibly real to me, and I don’t believe in putting on a positive show for social media if it’s rooted in pretense. There’s already too much artifice out there, and it’s so damaging to those who are already vulnerable or haven’t developed the discernment to see it.

But also, it’s because there’s a part of me that needs to know if anyone out there feels the same, because one of the other worst things about depression is feeling completely alone.

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