“It could have been me”. A part of my brain froze in horror yet my ears were actively hearing what my best friend was saying and a part of me was listening intently. Rare for me to be in a state of shock, hear what was being said, listen intently, understand what’s being said and for my brain to actively suggest which Psychology theory applies to the trigger and response acquired.
“It could have been me.” A part of me still wouldn’t stop whispering.
My best friend’s son attempted suicide and even after a couple of days have passed, I still don’t know how I feel and what I really think about it. I don’t know what I feel and think until I write about it. My brain couldn’t stop flashing the scenes described by my best friend as she hurriedly made her way to the airport. With the urgency of the situation, my poor best friend still had to face a nearly two hour train ride to the airport and a nearly 14 hour flight to Manila and the horrible drive to the hospital.
Just imagining of how close this unseen disease hit got me paralyzed to some extent. It could have been me and not this kid who hasn’t even seen the best days of his life yet. Luckily, he was found few minutes after he’s done it but until now, he’s fighting for his life and my poor best friend had to sit with this agony and fly halfway across the globe to see her only child after years of being apart and in this situation.
My best friend who has been like my therapist, cheerleader, motivator, spiritual counselor, partner in crime, wing-woman, a sister and family who listened to everything that I have gone through and how I have forced myself to make sense of them to preserve my sanity since I set foot in this country feeling lost, confused, broken-hearted, happy, giddy or even numb for feeling everything all at the same time.
Just thinking of what she has been doing for me and what her son did to himself to stop his pain makes me feel bad. Have I been stealing time from them with all my issues when it’s her son who needed that the most? It could have been my story she’s telling someone else if I didn’t put myself first and if it wasn’t able to get the support I need and the resources I have found.
But what about those who didn’t have the privilege I do especially in a country where mental health is just like a myth and even until now in the age of having easier access to the internet where most information is free and social media where people are slowly opening up about their experiences and working so hard to inform people using the easiest words they can find to make complicated cases understood.
But I am noticing that it is not the understanding part that is hard. It is the application and changing the behavior that no amount of apologies would ever suffice. Apology without change of behavior is downright manipulation.
The part of me that once felt so hurt and wanted to die for quick fix feel so sorry my best friend’s son. The part of me that understands everything he has been going through an the part of me that experimented on ways to find which will work in learning how to deal with my demons feels guilty. Why didn’t I reach out?
But healing also made me realize that it is not my job to save other people. It is not my job to always proactively offer solution even if I cared. My help wasn’t sought so I must also learn how to stay in my own lane. I just hope I’ve told my best friend enough what her friendship means to me, how grateful I am for her existence and what value I have found in having one real friend.
She who has been laughing at the same jokes I have been throwing, trying to understand everything nerdy thing I have been blabbing about and saw how much tears I have cried in the last five or so years until I realized that I have fully healed and how we’re learning to find little ways to celebrate every day of being alive and how we said we’ll find more fun ways of solving our problems.
And now, her only son, did something that just once played in my mind when I was in that same painful situation. Same pain I couldn’t help but adding for their situation has a lot in common with mine at some point in my life where I felt not home in my body and was still seeking love, acceptance and home outside myself.
How long did I need to feel home in my own body? How many books did I have to read? How many failed and broken relationships did I have to experience? How many podcasts did I need to listen to? How long did I sit alone in the nearby river to weep? How many journals have I filled? How many blog posts did I write?
How much of my efforts failed first and how many times did I need to experiment to find the ways that would work for me to heal? How much work did it mean to let all these pain be released from my body?
What could a child know? If I was in my 30s when I started going through that and I still struggled, what could I expect from someone as young as him?
I forgot how many times my brain toyed with the idea of doing something to harm my physical body to end the pain in my chest and to silence the voices in my head but I wasn’t that brave. Also even if everything seemed so blurred, one thing was clear. I was thinking that probably this life was not for me but also why was I given this life? That I must find out at least try before I continue wishing I die.
I have no qualms of talking about death. I lost fear of dying when I started wishing to die everyday that it felt like it’s the only affirmation I used to re-frame my mindset as if dying will allow me to change anything. As if I’d still be there to witness it. I didn’t even fear saying it out loud and often but inside me, I didn’t really want to die.
I just wanted the pain to stop immediately and death sounded like the fastest way to fix it. I just wished that people could be a little nicer and more understanding, leave me alone to allow myself to grieve for the parts of me that were dying and heal entirely but also for them to still be there when I am back, better, wiser and stronger. It’s too much to ask but that was what I needed that time probably now that I know better, I am around a lot for people in case they need me but it is not necessary.
The brain is the part of our body that decides if we’re dead and I have come across mental suicide in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich where he told the story of a banker who had used the bank’s funds and was discovered. He was so ashamed about he did that he was found in a hotel shortly before he died repeating over and over that he wanted to die and his brain acted on what he said he wanted to happen to him.
Could I be alive because bigger parts of me were clear that I didn’t really want to die? My brain didn’t act on that wish because a huge part of it was curious to see how everything would turn out for me and how my life would look like if I’d really go and follow my heart?
How does our culture in the Philippines deal with mental health issues?
How do our toxic Filipino mentalities worsen depression that forces people who’re going through unseen serious mental health problems to act on their suicidal thoughts?
It’s so sad to be in the Philippines when you have mental health issues especially if you don’t have money. I can’t imagine how my life would have looked like or if I’d still be alive now had I not left before my mental health declined. I can’t imagine being around people who’d call me overly dramatic, lazy and disrespectful for voicing out what I need and doing exactly what I must to heal.
In my country it is hard to be young. We are just supposed to nod and yield to people older than us to avoid “disrespecting” them. It is hard to voice out opinions without the fear of offending anyone even if we just want to communicate. It is hard to communicate and always remember to use the safest and most flowery words.
People in my country always resort to hurting someone physically and emotionally when offended that’s why we’re scared and that’s why most of our people want to leave the country. We’re like made to just take everything in and this is why we make good employees especially outside our country. We’re very grateful for the chance to earn money and leave.
How can we help people with depression?
What did I want when I was in the same situation? What kind of help did I need when I was feeling the same?
Everyone is the different and what might worked to help me cope might not work for the other too. It sure helps to ask the person what kind of support they at the moment need. I didn’t realize this when it’s me and my then boyfriend were going through the same thing when we were ending things. It was so selfish of me to only think of my sadness and not understand that he has his own way of dealing with his emotions.
My need to understand everything with regards to our relationship probably felt off for him that though he was telling me he needed time to process things, I was adamant of being so involved that I might have disrespected his space. We might be in the same relationship but we’re two individuals with own unique needs and his behavior showed me that that’s not his style of dealing with emotions and hard conversations and it is up to me to decide if I want to be with someone who isn’t mature enough to sit and communicate like reasonable adults.
Not everyone can face hard conversations. I know because I once had weak emotional boundaries and I just literally ran away from everything. I ghosted most things in my life that didn’t make me feel pleasant. That’s why I kept moving countries and still wanted to until I realized that I can’t run away forever. Escaping is never going to be the answer. Facing everything head on is the answer.
Accepting hard truths and braving hard conversations are opportunities to grow. The amount of growth a person will have is dependent on the amount of truths someone can accept. I realized that if I’d be easily offended, it’d be so easy to manipulate me and I’d always avoid hard conversations and facing the reality.
But it is not my job to fix people or to make them see what I see now. A great example would be the people close to me who’re hurting that though they obviously need time alone to process things on their own, I kept on “magically” showing up and subtly hinting that they need help or that because I got healed, the ways that I discovered which worked for me must work for them too. I was wrong. They’ll see it if they will. If not, it’s not my problem anymore. I must focus back on myself and the things I love to do.
I can only say that I’m there to listen and offer help. If they declined saying that they need some time alone, I’d give it to them and once they’re ready to talk, I’d be there for them and when that time comes, I’d validate their emotions, acknowledge their feelings, tell them it’s okay to feel and have negative thoughts and pain.
Most of the time, they don’t really need advise they just need someone who will listen without them being judged and tell them that it’ll all be alright even if at that moment they’d find it hard to believe that there’s hope and that that situation is trying to teach them something. And that it is okay to take as much time they need to feel okay again.
In my country where cases like this and people who’re depressed are being accused of being overly dramatic or being lazy, it’s heartbreaking knowing how even the closest to that person reacts and takes it.
It’s a hard pill to swallow but most of the time, it’s family members who’re causing this and probably it’s high time to stop saying that family is family and accept that toxic is toxic and we must avoid toxicity at all cost.
It’s still hard to make people understand and accept that depression is a disease that kills more often and quicker than cancer or other diseases.
It’s really challenging to make people understand that life isn’t a competition and everyone is different and it’s okay. It’s hard to make everyone respect that difference and celebrate these differences.
What can we do to prevent this?
Two or three years ago, I took a certification course to become a life coach and at the very beginning of the course, there has already been a part that discussed what life coaches must do when a client says they’re depressed or having suicidal thoughts.
Life coaches must immediately tell the client to see a therapist, a psychologist or seek professional help as this is not a job of a life coach so that the clients will be able to receive the proper advise and help. I used to be so offended when someone told me to go and seek professional help because I came from a culture that doesn’t give so much importance to mental health.
But going through depression, having suicidal thoughts and knowing how hard it is to heal and how painful healing is, it’s easier for me to tell someone to seek professional help even if I myself didn’t seek one and instead dedicated an entire year to properly heal but not everyone has the same resources to do the same.
Not everyone has the luxury of time and money to dedicate to pausing their entire lives to be at peace with themselves. That at this point, at 35, I can only be thankful for my failed relationships and the fact that I don’t have children who depended on me for support because what kind of support would they have gotten from someone as broken as me before I healed. What kind of stability would they get from someone who didn’t feel rooted and would easily sway and fall?
This is why aspiring parents must be financially, emotionally, mentally and spiritually ready if they want to have kids unlike in my country, you’ll be called an old maid if you still don’t have a special someone and kids by 25. Now I realize how Germans settle down late or don’t even want to. They want to enjoy everything first and when they feel that they’re ready to experience the joy of being a parent and having children, then they plan for it too.
And I can also now understand why some don’t even want kids for it will limit them to enjoy this one life.
Unlike in my country were people have kids so early and even when they don’t even have the maturity and the financial capacity to become a parent and just pass on every trauma they still haven’t realized they have on their children that these children often resort to addiction to marrying very early to escape a problematic family or even end their lives.
We’re clearly chasing our own tails and maddening how we’re just recycling our traumas and passing them to the next generation like a precious family heirloom.
But we can end this generational curse by starting small and as simple as listening to ourselves when we speak and asking ourselves if what we’re saying will hurt us and if so, chances are, it’s going to hurt the other person too. We don’t know what others are struggling with. We don’t have to prove to anyone that we’re good or better.
We all want to make it. We all want to live, successful in our definition of it. Let’s be kinder and more compassionate. Let’s love and take care of other people like how we want to loved and cared for. It’ll make a huge difference.
If you’re feeling sad, depressed and hopeless, please know that you’re not alone in this and that what you’re feeling is normal. You’re human and it’s okay. And harming your physical body to stop the pain isn’t the answer. God chose to give you life and He has plans for you even if you don’t feel that at the moment. God gave you life for a reason and even if things are hard right now, one day, it’ll be better.
This sadness that you feel, these hardships that you’re experiencing, this is meant to teach you something that will lead you to what God created you to be. There’s nothing that you’re experiencing that will be wasted. At some point you’ll realize that something happened because you need to be equipped to live the life that your soul is silently praying and wishing for.
There are ways and please don’t be ashamed to reach out and seek professional help. There’s no shame in seeking professional help. There are also a lot of free resources you can find online like podcasts, TED talks and vlogs that talks about these issues. I know it hurts right now and the fastest way that will ease this pain is death but trust me, this is just a phase.
Stay long enough to witness how your life can change even not in an instant but in a month or two. Sit with the pain. Sit in silence long enough and you’ll find out that your soul is actually telling you something and this time, don’t ignore it. Give yourself the chance to be happy. Give yourself the chance to live a life that you love. You might not feel it right now but you have the power to create the life that you love. God loves you.