this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on december 28, 2017.
The nights were bright. The days were filled with delight. But my happiness was out of sight.
I remember the least merry Christmas that I ever had. It was five years ago. Santa Claus was sliding down chimneys while my depression was crippling me. It was definitely not my season to be jolly. It was my season of heartbreak and endless breakdowns. I can barely remember how I stayed alive those nights, and here’s why: My parents were fighting, the worst breakup of my life happened, my academic performance was a flop, the curvature of my spine progressed, and all I wanted to do was kill myself. It was such a difficult time because the deafening silence between my parents made meals hard to chew and the disappointment that I was made me stay in bed for weeks. Sleeping at night became a hard thing to do, and being restless in daylight became normal.
All these happened at the same time when I was 14. I know what you’re thinking: Someone else had it worse, right? Others had bigger problems, right? Before everything goes downhill, let me tell you this: All humans are allowed to ache. What we feel is valid, and it doesn’t matter that someone else has it worse.
I was 14 when I began hurting myself. Here I am five years later, wanting to share how awful it was to celebrate Christmas when all I wanted to do was die. Here I am, pleading to the world to not let its loved ones suffer the kind of pain people like me have experienced. In the most wonderful time of the year, the best present one can offer is love and kindness. Spread love and kindness or spread nothing at all. Let people feel that they deserve to live a joyous life. If you know someone who suffers from anxiety, depression, suicide ideation, and the like, I hope you make an effort to cheer them up. Pray for them, but also help them in other ways, like visiting them, talking to them, or simply giving them a hug. These simple acts won’t cure the illness, but they will help ease the agony. It’s not easy to undergo such suffering. So please, be ever so kind to everyone, because not all wounds are visible.
Some of you probably don’t believe in mental disorder. Mental health has always been such a taboo topic in the Philippines. This Christmas season, the time of giving, I say do your research and lend us your ears. The stigma is very much alive, and it would be powerful to help one another revive. Life is precious and people do not realize that enough. Be one of those who remind everyone that there is light at the end of the tunnel. This time, it won’t only be about reaching out to the less fortunate; it will also be about offering a shoulder to lean on to the souls who feel unfortunate.
And to the brave souls out there, I hope you welcome 2018 with love and positivity. May all anxiety and suicidal thoughts vanish. May your heart be as radiant as the fireworks in the night sky. Most especially, may you hold on to dear life, because it will heal and it will be beautiful.
Live. Celebrate a hundred more holidays being both soft and strong.