Sunday, June 19, 2011

Where to go when you're sad, bored, and tired

"Cuckoo", "sick in the head", "baliw".

These are some of the names you'll risk being called once you seek the help of a therapist. While it is a common practice in other countries to see a trained counselor when in need of help to handle personal problems, here in the Philippines there is still a stigma attached to seeking professional help. 

Filipinos underestimate the value of counseling; they believe that talking through one's problems with friends is no different than talking to someone who is trained in the field of psychology and counseling. 

Having gone for a number of counseling sessions with different psychologists, I have seen the difference it makes if one talks through her problems with a trained counselor than with a friend. While a friend's sympathy and listening ear are always comforting,it is the trained eye of a counselor that detects the corners of one's soul that badly need an"overhaul" to bring about permanent and life-changing fine tuning. Friends will lovingly pick up the pieces for you when you've lost the will to do so, and a therapist will skillfully put them back together. Both are equally important. 

Talk therapy has been instrumental in my healing. That is why I would like to share that a store just opened in Robinson's Galleria which makes counseling service accessible and convenient for everyone. 

Ripples Books and Gifts is the brainchild of Yasmin NuÑo, who is a survivor herself of life's many blows. Yasmin puts together in her store the many different things that have been, and continues to be, instrumental to her healing, which are: books that have empowered her to transcend her adversities, healing crystals and gemstones, counseling service, life coaching, life reading, and many others. Yasmin hopes that other people will also benefit from the same things that have helped her. 

                                                                  Ripples Books and Gifts

                                        The hallway that leads to the counseling rooms

Give yourself the gift of healing. Check out Ripples Books and Gifts here

Thursday, May 19, 2011

4 Things That Make Me Happy

One antidote to depression is to choose to focus on the good things of life instead of the bad. The operational word is CHOOSE. It's easy to see the negative side of things when one is depressed. Everything just seems so hopeless when one is down in the dumps. 

But there are always choices in life. We can always choose to count our blessings or we can choose to wallow in misery.

Today I decide to be grateful so I'm making a list of the top four things that make me feel that all is well.

Here goes:

1.) Good conversation with a kindred spirit

It always does my heart good to spend time with friends who can keep up with my quirk to analyze, discuss, dissect, and talk through anything that my hyperactive mind and flimsy heart pester me with. I am grateful that I have friends whom I can always count on for one of the things that I love best: good conversations over a cup of Peppermint tea that last long after the city lights have gone to sleep.

2.) Saturday mornings with the street children of Roxas Blvd., Manila

Even if at times I whine about the inconvenience and the amount of work that I need to do  for the literacy program called WISH that some friends and I have organized for the homeless children along Roxas Blvd., I am still grateful that I have the opportunity to go beyond myself and be of service to those who are less fortunate. The children's enthusiasm to learn and their parents' eagerness to assist in the project makes getting out of bed so early on a Saturday morning more than worth it. 

3.) A bag of Cheetos and curling up in front of the t.v. on a weekend night to watch a good movie
My favorite is Under the Tuscan Sun. It is a movie about a woman who bought a rundown villa in Tuscany after her husband left her for a younger woman. As she rebuilds the villa, she rebuilds her life along with it. It's a story of hope, friendship, picking up the pieces, and the journey to wholeness. 

4.) Dreams 
Whenever I'm sad, I remind myself of the power of dreams. I call to mind the aspirations that I've had before that have come true. I believe that the life is full of surprises and infinite possibilities and the Universe gives us the power to be anyone we want. It's enough to give me hope. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Blank and Bland

Sad but don’t know why? You are not alone.

“In the 1950s psychotherapists began seeing a new type of client, the “successful malcontent”. This type of person is normally successful by contemporary social standards, has a decent job, reasonable income, reasonable family life, reasonable acceptance and respect in the community: all the rewards that are supposed to bring happiness in our society. Success doesn’t mean there is no suffering or difficulty: some suffering and difficulty are part of normal life and are accepted as such. The successful malcontent knows that he or she is “happy” by ordinary standards but seeks therapy because he or she finds that life is nevertheless “empty”. Isn’t there more to life than money, career, consumer goods, social life? Where is the meaning?”

Helen Palmer, The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cure vs. Heal

"People get cured from depression."

The person who told me that gave me a reassuring smile. And upon hearing those words I was, well, reassured. She was after all, someone who has the credentials to back up her statement. She was one of those people who have impressive titles attached to their names that it would be difficult not to believe anything they say.  Or maybe I believed her because I wanted to. I wanted to be better. I wanted to have something to hold on to. I needed to believe in something because I lost faith in everything. And sitting there listening to someone tell me that whatever is was that felt heavy in my heart will soon go away, I was given hope. 

Fast forward to two years after when I was already "cured" and was off medications, I got into a debate with a clinical psychologist friend who believed that depression cannot be cured, just managed. Heck, I was cured and "depression-free", what more proof did she need? But she argued that clinical depression, like diabetes, needs lifetime treatment. It doesn't necessarily mean though, that one has to take anti-depressants for as long as she lives. Depression may be tempered, but it's just there, silently waiting for the next crisis that will trigger the symptoms to come full force, like the rejection of a loved one, the work promotion that didn't come, or a family reunion that reminds you that your life is not going in the direction that you initially aimed for. That's why, she says, a person who has once been diagnosed with depression and has already been "cured" has to have some powerful radar that would detect when a situation would set off the depression, and then do something fast to prevent it from coming. She cites physical exercise, meditation, counseling, and proper nutrition as some of the ways to manage depression. 

I find out now that she's right. A person with depression cannot be cured. But she can heal. 

And what is healing? A wise spiritual friend defines it as "awareness", and she was not only referring to depression but also healing from all the wounds of our past. Healing requires us to be fully conscious of the reasons why we say and do certain things, why we behave in a particular manner, and doing the necessary inner work to be free from the wounds that prevent us from becoming the best versions of ourselves. 

Healing is awareness. 

Awareness that it is your own insecurities that make you talk about your co-worker behind her back. And so you stop, and instead focus your efforts to overcome your envy towards her by working on your own strengths as a person. 

Awareness that you feel resentful over the fact that you are not the favorite child of your parents and so you work yourself out over the masters degree, the high-paying job, the latest gadgets, and the travels to cover-up for your sense of low self-worth. Healing is when you believe in your own importance as person not through your social status and other people's approval. 

Awareness that you are eating that second slice of chocolate cake not because you're still hungry, but because you want to numb your pain. And so you walk far away from the dining table to find more constructive ways to deal with the betrayal of a loved one. 

Awareness that you hold on to a relationship no matter how bad it is just so you won't be alone. Healing is finding happiness even if you don't have anybody to kiss under the mistletoe.

Awareness that the reason you get so riled up about the incompetence of the people you work with has a lot to do about hating yourself for not measuring up. And healing is being kind to yourself and accepting your own weaknesses as well as being patient with the shortcomings of other people. 

Awareness that you run away to some foreign tourist destination every chance you get and knowing that it's your way of escaping from facing something that you couldn't. Healing is learning to stay still while your own boat rocks violently. 

Healing, says my friend, is a lifetime process. There are no guarantees that you will no longer feel like a failure. In fact there will be many moments when you will fall flat on your face and you will be tempted to give up. But that's what healing is all about: it's about trying, wanting, reaching, and falling. And knowing that you will be okay, anyway. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Current State of My Nation

A colleague of mine just got married yesterday. She's changing her family name to Ramirez. She's not the only one among the people I know who now has a different surname. I see it on Facebook everyday- friends, former officemates, high school classmates, and college buddies, writing hyphens after their surnames followed by their new husband's family name. Wedding pictures, details of christening ceremonies, videos of some baby's first steps are all over the news feed. 

A few days ago, a former student of mine happily shared the news that she's now working as a chef in New Zealand after finishing a one-year culinary course. It seems to me like it was just yesterday when she would frequent my office to help her make some decisions regarding her choice of undergraduate course. Another student just sent me a message that he passed the board exams for engineers. He now has the title "Engr." attached to his name. 

Hearing about the recent developments in other people's lives somehow makes me feel...stuck. Everyone is going somewhere, but me, I'm still where I was when I first started nursery school: at the backstage of a ballet recital in my ballerina costume, peering behind the stage curtains to watch my peers perform, lacking the bravery to go out there and face the crowd.

I just handed in my resignation letter a couple of days ago. Though I like the work that I did, I  felt like I was being too comfortable with where I was and was no longer growing as a person. 

So now I have no job, no hyphen to my surname, and certainly no kids (I never want to have any, which is different story altogether). I am not bothered about this. I'm just saying that my life, it seems, is at a standstill. I'm standing at a corner in my ballerina costume while everybody else is caught up in the excitement of performing in a dance. 

When an elderly co-worker, who is like a mother to all of the younger ones in my place of work, learned that I'm leaving, told me: "You're doing so many things, you have a lot of involvements, but you're going nowhere." It was only then that I realized that my life's compass has seriously gone awry. 

Is there something terribly wrong with me that I am not the least bit bothered about what my co-worker told me?  I guess I have subscribed to the idea that "Life is not about the destination, but the journey." I might be a little lost right now, but I've decided that it's okay. I'll make sure to enjoy the scenery and the people I meet along the way. What's important is the HOW of life, not the WHAT. Emma Morley, a character in a novel called "One Day" written by David Nicholls which I've recently finished reading, puts it this way: 

"What are you going to do with your life?" In one way or another it seemed that people had been asking her this forever; teachers, her parents, friends at three in the morning, but the question had never seemed this pressing and still she was no nearer an answer... "Live each day as if it's your last', that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn't practical. Better by far to be good and courageous and bold and to make difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Go out there with your passion and you relectric typewriter and work hard at...something. Change lives through art maybe.Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance."