The Unspoken Side Effects of Covid19

The Unspoken Side Effects of Covid19

It has been 4 months since I have written. In a time where it seems as though all we have is ‘time,’ you would think I would have had more to say. But if I’m being honest, waking up at 3am on many days with a racing mind and a pounding heart has not been easy. And I thought I would share this with you, in case you have similar experiences.

Let me start by stating that this not a look at the physical long-term effects of patients diagnosed with Covid19. I myself have not contracted Covid19, and therefore cannot speak about how it affects your body, health, and well-being.

I am sharing (from a personal, not professional point of view) how the ripple effect of Covid19 can play a role in altering our psychological make up, and how anxiety and depression has increased due to the instantaneous lifestyle change brought about by living in a global pandemic.

We see the infinite loss of jobs, and the pleas of the needy. In a third world country that is made up of predominantly the underprivileged, we knew the damage that even just one week being locked down would create. Fast-forward 21 weeks, and the nightmare that is our crumbling economy, along with a failed healthcare system has caused a rise in deaths. And mind you these aren’t just deaths due to breathlessness, intubation, and a weakened immune system – these are deaths caused by starvation, stress related health issues, and even suicide. 

We hear about the increase in domestic abuse cases, and can only imagine the pain and suffering women and children are facing. And though this is an issue that has been a problem long before the lockdown, the spike, to a degree, has to do with the rising unemployment rate – as of today it is a staggering 13.5 million. Couple that with families forced to cohabitate 24-7 – spouses with zero space, and parents having to home school and entertain their children with no breaks in between, and no playing outside or with peers. All this with the added anxiety of actually contracting this harsh and highly contagious virus – humans were not meant to co-exist this way.

But what is the alternative? We are seeing our healthcare practitioners exhausted, and we are being told that there are no more hospital beds available. Nurses are quitting. Doctors are breaking down. Many are getting sick, and some are dying.   

It is a situation in which no one wins. Both paths are detrimental. And with social media being the only outlet to most, the blame game plays on, with many forgetting that the true battle is against COVID19.

Living day-to-day, seeing the world collapse in front of you isn’t easy, even if it is from the comforts of your bed, in a home that is well stocked with food, and every other basic necessity. No matter how secure you are, it brings about a feeling of helplessness. This mentally and emotionally draining standard can definitely cause anxiety and depression.

The problem lies here – all this, along with your run-of-the-mill everyday stresses, compounded with other issues brought about by this change in your routine are things you do not complain or cry about. Because in the end, no matter how difficult it has become, we (at least people like me – calling out the cancers and the Catholics) tend to compare our situations to others and be grateful for our many blessings. Now listen, there is nothing wrong with being grateful, no matter how much we make fun of being ‘hashtag blessed.’ But that doesn’t stop it from being hard. It doesn’t stop the pain. Your problems may seem petty but they are still there.

So what do we do? We brush it aside. We bury our worries so deep, until we’ve convinced ourselves that they’ve gone away.

But they don’t. These issues and burdens keep gnawing at you, manifesting in ways that you may not even notice. Mine came in many forms – shortness with my husband, impatience with my daughters, and being generally more irritable than usual (Yup, an endless PMS), as well as the sleepless nights and a tremendous loss of appetite. I look at this picture of me and I am ashamed. Weight loss, sunken cheeks and sadness in my eyes.

But somehow, when my mother, or my closest friends ask me how I am doing, I simply say, “I’m good.” For a while, the sources of my pain became unrecognizable to me, as they have been sent to the furthest corners of my mind, but the hurt is still there, deepening. 

I am sharing this because though I have things to sort out, I do not feel alone. The one upside to all this is that we are all going through this together, fighting the same enemy. One of my favorite quotes that I have seen:

Reading this has reminded me to be kinder and more forgiving, not just towards others, but towards myself. That said, it is also not the time to judge others, as everyone is going about this in the way that is right for them. Focus on yourself and if you need to talk, call someone who you know has your back. Having more open conversations with your loved ones can be very helpful. If you can, lend a listening ear. But do this with caution – sometimes we are not in the mental space to be burdened with the problems of others. If need be, call a professional – there are free online services which I will plug below.    

http://www.silakbo.ph/help/
https://www.spot.ph/newsfeatures/the-latest-news-features/76652/free-mental-health-consultation-philippines-a2748-20190117

Finding outlets has also helped me immensely. One of my favorite things to do during this pandemic is getting my daily dose of Vitamin D. I would sit under the sun for 30 minutes, allowing myself to sweat out any toxins while listening to my favorite music. Sometimes, it is in the form of meditation, sometimes during a work out, and other times by simply tanning. I have friends that found solace in the opposite – sitting in an airconditioned room, and enjoying the lower temperatures. Exercising has been a lifesaver as well. Getting my heart rate going has allowed me to sleep better on most nights. I have also been fortunate enough to spend time by the ocean, which brings me my greatest solace. When in the city, I try to find a silent area that has a lot of trees – you will be surprised at the powerful impact nature has on one’s wellbeing.  

Sending you all love, light, peace, and prayers. And remember, to be able to truly take care of others, you must take care of yourself first.

G

The Divide

The Divide

Today it was announced that the lockdown would extend until April 30. What began as a 14-day quarantine on the 15th of March is now going to go on for at least another month. I believe that this will be beneficial for the betterment of the country, though I realize that I could be crucified for saying so. I am housewife and mom who works primarily from home. I live with my husband and children who are safe and healthy. None of us are hungry. We are comfortable. And though we are worried about how this ECQ may impact our lives and sources of income, every basic need is still met.

As of late, I look out the window in the evenings as the moon sits comfortably and am delighted to see the city stars again. I think of our oceans and the atmosphere that surrounds us and find peace in this time of quiet reflection. I am one who truly believes that this is happening because the world needs to heal. And yes, again I feel like these statements may backfire – Because as much as I have a deep spiritual connection with the earth at my feet and the air that fills my lungs, who am I to get to decide that this is what is ‘needed?’ Who am I to revel in the fact that the earth is healing, but through it, the world is dying?

We are all suffering in some way. The health crisis aside, businesses everywhere are affected, leaving many in debt or jobless. And though I too will feel the adverse effects when life begins to normalize, I cannot pretend that I am not one of the lucky ones.

I see the news. I am made aware of death tolls and confirmed cases and PUI’s. I continue to read the countless forwarded messages in my endless chat groups. And though I may empathize with them, I cannot truly understand as I have not been directly affected by the COVID19 pandemic, or been a victim of the new policies that the situation brings.

As I write this, I am staring out at my husband who is quietly reading from the terrace outside our bedroom. We are surrounded by greenery and from a distance we can even make out the mountains that border the city. But in this moment, all I can see is my privilege, clear as the summer day. I am aware of the fact that, there are too many who do not have half of the luxuries I have often taken for granted.

When the spread of the Coronavirus began, one thing was for certain – it did not know race, sexual orientation, status, or age. This virus does not care about your portfolio, bank account, or contributions to society.

So how can a non-human entity, which clearly equalizes us all, make the human divide so clear?

For the privileged, the humorous consensus is, “if corona doesn’t kill you, the lockdown might.” We think about the normalcy of how our day-to-day lives were, and we yearn for it. But while some of us are safe at home, trying to be responsible by social distancing, others simply do not have the option to do so. The slums leave so many with no control over their own personal space, much less the 6-foot radius.

Our lockdown stresses include homeschooling our children, missing our brunches and cocktail hours, cohabitating with our spouses 24/7, not having a particular ingredient for a dish we wanted to prepare, and God forbid, running out of toilet paper, “Will people think I’m hoarding if I buy in bulk?”

But the less fortunate face problems that are so poignant, sending them deeper down the hole they already had trouble climbing out of. Many have lost work, while others who are able to still work risk their health and essentially their lives to survive. How much longer will they be able to stretch those last few pesos? Many are separated from their families. And most will not have the funds to seek medical treatment if need be. It is a panic you or I will, thankfully (and hopefully), never understand.

Another aspect that shows how clearly the divide is in medical systems across the world. This spans beyond privilege and shows uncertainties in the level of unpreparedness as well as the blatant abuse of power in many. Locally, a multitude of issues continuously arise – from the distribution of medical supplies and protective gear, to front liners everywhere having to beg individuals to stay home to flatten the curve. The statistic in the Philippines is 1 doctor to 33,000 patients. And if that isn’t alarming enough, most people who are sick don’t even have access to test kits. While you have international celebrities and local politicians who have not only been tested, but given speedy results, some even showing little to no symptoms. How is any of this right or fair?

They say ‘tough times reveal true colors,’ and no truer words have been spoken. This whole piece is not a judgment on anyone (I too am guilty of some of the things mentioned), rather something that is meant to open our eyes to the plight of those whose lives have changed drastically – whether from sickness, loss, hunger, or fear.

On a positive note, through this many living angels have shone brightly. From big companies that have used their resources to help others by lifting rent, granting payment extensions, given paid leave, and to smaller units giving donations, relief goods, and the like – thank you for being true leaders we can all look up to. But most importantly, to the frontliners – Medical workers, sales clerks, bank tellers, delivery drivers, janitorial staff, and every hard worker in between – I thank you. You are the champions the world needs. Sharing a beautiful excerpt from the Pope’s Palm Sunday homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters, look at the real heroes who come to light in these days: they are not famous, rich, and successful people, rather they are those who are giving themselves in order to serve others. Feel called yourselves to put your lives on the line. Do not be afraid to devote your life to God and others; It pays! For life is a gift we receive only when we give ourselves away and our deepest joy comes from saying yes to love without ifs or buts.”

I will end on this note, and with a reminder that though there is definitely a divide, we can mend it by treating everyone with kindness, and by doing our best to stay on the path that is good for everyone, rather than the one that is self serving. Help where you can, whether that means giving your time and effort, or even just staying home. Our privilege doesn’t make us bad humans, it just requires us to be empathetic and lead with compassion in these trying times. Only then can we begin to bridge that gap.

Women’s Month

Women’s Month

Women’s Month 2020

 

To kick off Women’s Month I wrote a reflective post on Instagram:

“Reflections as we begin women’s month – I try to surround myself with women who are genuine, supportive, and real. This is why I try to keep a safe distance from those that don’t have similar values. It’s not about judging or finding flaws in these individuals – it is simply about accepting their differences, but also loving yourself enough to avoid situations that will hinder your personal peace. I have no time for the competitive ones, or those that have no respect for relationships, for the ones that feel the need to put others down to elevate themselves, or those who believe they are better than even just one other human. This sentiment extends to men as well. And reading this, you might think, “but isn’t women’s month about empowering women?” YES, it is. I am empowering you to choose YOURSELF, draw a line that signifies your safe space, and only allow those who fill your cup into it. To those who are that for me, I love you and I will always be grateful for the nooks of my heart in which I carry you. And to those who aren’t – I see you, I wish you well, and I wish you happiness. Just not within my line of peace and self-love.”

And now, to cap off the month of March – I am going to share a little bit more on the topic.

If you are wondering why I chose these 3 specific characteristics in those I hold dear, it is because I’ve noticed that as I grow older, these are the things that I value the most and try to uphold within myself. Many may wondered why I didn’t value kindness or honesty, loyalty or love. The reason why, is because I can’t expect perfection from others, when I myself am flawed. Let’s take ‘kindness’ for example – realistically, we cannot always be kind. I have friends that I have seen become unkind when pushed to the limit. My husband isn’t always kind, not at work where mistakes are inevitable. My teenage daughter isn’t always kind, especially when she is hormonal. But then again, nor is my toddler when she is learning to navigate through social situations. I am definitely not kind 100% of the time. Though this is a virtue I want to impart on my daughters – we are imperfect beings. Sometimes our kindness will be challenged – same with our loyalty, trust, patience, honesty – and that is ok. This is something I can understand, forgive and accept.

I value individuals who are genuine, supportive and real because these are traits that are ingrained and won’t hinder just because you are having a bad day. These characteristics cannot be taught either. But most importantly, you have to value being true to yourself and who you are – imperfections and all – to truly hone these traits.

Genuine

To me, a person who is genuine is someone who always has the best of intentions in everything they do. If there is anything that these scary times have shown, it is the true colors of many individuals. Supposed leaders, or those who hold power. I have even seen so many use their faith and belief in God to try to prove the goodness of their intentions. But when push comes to shove have shown that they are willing to do what it takes to get what they truly want, no matter who suffers in the process. I cannot handle the hypocrisy. Though the religion cry is just an example, I feel like it is the most prominent in Manila society. Your mass and confessions wont save you.

 

Supportive

Ah, the concept of being ‘supportive.’ This is a characteristic I find very rare these days. Especially in a time wherein sharing the most intimate parts of ourselves with our circle as well as with the rest of the world has become the norm. I am lucky to have found those rare few that really support me. And even if it’s not in every aspect of your life – even if it’s only in the ways they know how – these are the gems. If you have someone in your life who supports your small business, or someone who sits with you and stands by you when you are at your worst, or even just someone that will push you to always put yourself first – Don’t ever let them go.

 

Real

Social media has given us the power to be whoever we want to be – display what we want to show and bury what we want to keep hidden. And though there is nothing wrong with painting the very best picture of yourself, there is a line between what is real and what is fake. And unfortunately, because our lives have become so parallel to and interlinked our social media platforms, sometimes individuals lose sight of who they really are. For me, it just becomes difficult to respect these kinds of individuals. I love being online, but only care to truly live in reality.

Hope this resonates with some of you out there. Until my next one, please stay healthy, try to stay sane, and always stay safe.

 

Love and Light.

Farewell and F***k You 2019

Farewell and F***k You 2019

I sit and write this as I am looking out at the beautifully lit San Francisco skyline. You would think I had a different outlook on the year that has been. Don’t get me wrong – there is much to be grateful for. If anything this year has reminded me of how blessed I truly am. But I am writing this piece as a reminder to all those out there that live pretty great lives, but still get down sometimes. Life is tough – and you are allowed to feel the lows too. You are allowed to get sad. You are allowed to get frustrated. You are allowed to get angry. And yes, you are allowed to vent and complain if you need to. There is a little bit of self-care in letting your emotions take its course.

 

“Everybody hurts sometimes,
Everybody hurts someday, aye aye…”

 

This year started out on quite a low for me. I lost my grandfather. Though he lived a full life and suffered very little, it is never easy to say goodbye. Death also heightens emotions in those left behind. I saw and felt this again recently, when my husband’s maternal uncle passed away just a few weeks ago. This was one of the most difficult losses we (my husband and I) have had to face as he was our godfather in marriage. In the weeks that we watched his body fight so hard, but ultimately lose the battle with cirrhosis, we shed and saw so many tears. We saw a wife become a widow. We saw a daughter struggle with the greatest loss of her life. We saw a sister humble herself as she helplessly saw her baby brother take his last breath. And I saw my husband’s heart break.

When the time finally came to lay his body to rest, it was a very sad few days of services and mourning together with the people who loved our ‘Ninong.’ And when it was over, I thought the personal grieving and healing could begin. The night after the inurnment, we sat to dinner with my in-laws for my husband’s birthday. It was nice to be complete. It was nice to be together in celebration. Then I got a call. A call no one ever wants to receive.

This time, it was my cousin that had passed away. Tragically. He was just a few months older than my husband.

We immediately excused ourselves to be with my family. My sisters, cousins, and aunts rushed to be by the side of the siblings he left behind. As much as I wasn’t prepared to say another goodbye, I found comfort in being surrounded by those that have known me since I was born. The emptiness was filled with hugs, and stories of the past, hand-squeezes and understanding glances. In that moment, I was so grateful to be a part of this group of individuals who I knew would show up – regardless of time and distance, and even differences.

 

“There’s a time that I remember, when I did not know no pain
When I believed in forever, and everything would stay the same
Now my heart feel like December when somebody say your name
‘Cause I can’t reach out to call you, but I know I will one day, yeah…”

 

As it turned out, I had a flight to catch the very next day and could not attend the services. I’m sure you are probably wondering why I still left, or why I couldn’t just postpone my trip. And I know you are questioning because I did too. I still do. But I knew I had to go. As much as I wanted to be with family during this gut wrenching ordeal, I also knew I had to board that plane because I had nothing of myself left to give. I was so physically and emotionally exhausted, and devastated by loss.

So here I am in one of the kitschiest cities in the world – full of beautiful places, interesting landmarks, and trendy restaurants – yet there are moments wherein I just burst into tears. Tears of loss. Tears of guilt. Tears of regret. And without the presence of those who are feeling this same sadness there is nothing to fill that emptiness.

I guess everybody grieves differently. I chose to do it quietly this time. Though I missed everyone back home, I was also thankful for the silence. It was in those moments that I could see his face smiling the way he would on those crazy nights out we shared. I could hear his laughter after cracking a joke. I was brought back to a time wherein we had more time. Time to share with more than just our ‘inner circle.’

 

“Toast to the ones here today (aye)
Toast to the ones that we lost on the way
‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories (aye)
And the memories bring back, memories bring back you.”

 

You never know when it’s going to be the last time. Growing up, one of my favorite Christmas traditions was spending the 25th with my mom’s family. We would all share a meal and play bingo. All us cousins loved it. I don’t remember why that stopped. I wish I could’ve known that a few years ago would be the last time. I might’ve taken a better mental picture of that night. I wish I could’ve known that the last time I saw my cousin in our nephew’s birthday party that it would be the last time. I might’ve given him a tighter hug. I might’ve told him I was there. That we were all there for him, no matter what. I wish I had known a few weeks ago in the hospital with my uncle that it would be the last time I heard his laugh. I might’ve written down what we spoke about. I wish I had known my grandfather had less time than we expected. I would’ve held his hand a little longer.

As 2019 comes to a close, all I have are memories of these souls that have touched my life in one way or another. So in these quiet moments, I will remember them and cherish the images that keep replaying in my mind. I could look at it as a bitter end, or I could see it as bittersweet, knowing that I was blessed to have had them in my life, even for a short time. And knowing that they are in a better place.

So I will try and focus on the positive, and smile through the tears – but 2020, may I ask that you please be kind? And if you are wondering why I am quoting a Maroon 5 song, its honestly because it plays on the radio around 10 times a day – and this isn’t an exaggeration. And every time I hear it I have flashbacks of the wonderful times I had with all the people who were gone too soon – from grandparents, to uncles and most especially, you dear Miko. I think I will always see your face when I hear that song, and yes, “Memories bring back, memories bring back you.”

Acceptance & Healing

Acceptance & Healing

I am a part of the problem.

 

It is so hard to admit because I have daughters and they deserve better. But if I’m being honest I didn’t want to post this photo – not because it’s a bit overexposed or because it’s a little cheeky. I didn’t want to share it because when I look at it, I see someone who is overweight. My eyes went straight to the extra skin peeking out of the swimsuit, around the underarm area. Then, to the lines that formed across my waist. And even down to the skin in my legs that no longer maintained that supple smoothness.

 

I realize that you are looking at this same image and thinking “she’s crazy,” or that this is some call for attention, or at the very least that I may be fishing for compliments. But the truth is, it’s not a call as much as a cry. And not for attention but for help. You see I’ve lived with some form of body dysmorphia for as long as I can remember. From being a fuller child and a round adolescent, to losing weight as soon as my period hit at 12 years old.

 

I have been trying to deal with it everyday that I look in the mirror – and luckily, there’s been a reason outside of myself to re-wire my brain which I was given the moment I looked into the eyes of my first daughter – I didn’t want to pass on this scary obsession. 15 years and a few more daughters later – I still can’t help but see nonexistent flaws in myself. It’s funny, I see women who are on the heavier side, but find beauty in them. I see women who are verging on too skinny and find beauty in them. I see women who battle acne and have skin issues and also find beauty in them. I look at the imperfections of others and think that they even add to what makes them so attractive. I look at others and see so much more than just the physical. While when I look at what I deem to be my own physical imperfections, I think they take a way from who I am. I am not shy to admit that I’ve had years of therapy, tried many diets when the occasion called for it, and yes, have starved at times. When I heard the phrase ‘dying to be thin,’ I knew exactly what it meant because there have been days wherein I thought I was going to die this way.

 

And I know all of this sounds very obsessive and even more superficial – I know because I hear it too. I wish I didn’t care this much. In fact anyone who knows me can probably attest to hearing my usual opening statement – “Sorry I look like crap today but…(insert excuse).” I say that and truly feel that way so often, and it is because all it takes is to have one hair out of place and that’s all I can focus on. Now imagine what I see when my clothes start getting tight? Or when my skin breaks out? Or when my white hairs multiply?

 

I have tried to be more aware of it but I’m not perfect and I have failed at times. I remember my daughter once comparing me to the mother of famous supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid because she was constantly encouraging her children to look their best to the point of pushing them. Though in their case, they came out successful in their own way, I can’t help but wonder if they too struggle with this obsession with their outward appearance. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about wanting to look good. In the end, looking your best does help you feel good about yourself. But for me, it gets to the point that I no longer feel good trying so hard to look good.

 

When it comes to my girls, even if I am careful with things I say and how I act in front of them – avoiding the mention of diets or the phrase ‘lose weight,’ and the like – I have still managed to convey a message on how important their outer appearance is. And yes, sometimes weight was involved. Even though I spoke about it in a more health-centric sense, perhaps there are certain things about yourself you cannot hide.

In the end, my question to myself is: Do I want it to define them? Of course not. That answer is easy. And then it dawns on me – the question I should be asking is: Do I want it to define ME? Of course not. Well maybe. Perhaps I don’t know.

 

What I do know is that we lead by example. And if acceptance and acknowledgement is the first step to healing, then consider this my confession and me owning up to this so I can break the cycle. I need to change, and I should’ve started yesterday. But I can’t afford to live with regrets, and today is as good a day as any to post that picture and to own that woman – flaws and nonexistent flaws and all.