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Cherish that heart and mind of yours

It took me awhile for me to finally write this. To be honest, it was so so difficult because I can’t even comprehend what I’ve gone through or what I’m supposed to feel. So here it is on the page. I thought what I went through in high school was worse but honestly these couple of years was strenuous and heart breaking journey. In high school, I struggled a lot with self-esteem. I’ve never felt good enough. I had a poor image of myself. I guess that’s why I’ve always been so quiet and shy (Only to people I’m not close with anyways). I’ve always felt like I was an outsider because of the fact that I’m living in and influenced by two different cultures. Junior year was the toughest for me, because that was when I realized that something was wrong with me. I felt anxious all the time. I felt like I never wanted to be on this earth anymore, because of so many issues in my life. I didn’t have a word for it at the time, but I felt a huge cloud over me that I couldn’t explain. One night was supposed to be the night that I was supposed to be gone, but thanks to a friend who called me that night and came over to help me realize I should keep living. She prayed for me. I believed she was God-sent. God sent her to me that night, to let me know there is still purpose for me to live. Faith for me was my source of healing. I’ve always lived with faith in God, which I know is not what everyone’s choice, but for me, it was my anchor. I honestly don’t think I would’ve made it out that night without God and my friend. Did my depression ever go away? Honestly, I have no idea. I have felt it creep in from time to time, but I’ve always fought it and reminded myself of what I should be grateful of. So yeah, that was the synopsis of what I went through in high school. I honestly can’t remember as much anymore of what happened. It became a blur to me as I slowly felt better and felt more like myself after high school. Life was good for me a couple years after. It was too good honestly. I got into college. I’ve felt myself becoming more confident and I’ve gotten more comfortable in my own skin. I began to be more involved in my college community. I wasn’t a hermit crab anymore. I advocated for mental health by sharing my story to others and helping others who struggle with theirs. I’ve learned how to care of myself, instead of always giving it all to others and not leaving some for myself. I found my purpose that God wanted me to see. He wanted me to see that what I’ve gone through was a testimony that will give hope to others that they are not alone and they can overcome their battles. Life was good, until it hits you.

October 2018 was the start of it all. This is now fall semester of senior year of college. I remember the date so clearly because it was the date Lindsey Lohan asked Aaron Samuels what day it was. (Millennials and Gen-whatever, Y’all should know this). It was October 3rd. It was honestly a great day, spending time with my friends and going to classes that I love. I went to the last class of my day. I was sitting there learning god knows what, then I got a text from my mom. “Lola” (grandma) passed away. I legit froze. I couldn’t hear anything that my professor was saying at all. Nothing felt real. I left the classroom, went to the bathroom, and broke down. I remember not feeling like it was real. I remember getting a surge of flashbacks and how thinking of them made everything hurt even more. I had to cancel my plans for that day and head home. What sucks was that she lived thousands of miles away and I had to say my last words to her through a video. I had to see her burial through livestream. I grieved for many days. You kinda get used to it. The first few weeks was tough, because the wound is still fresh. I began to lose track of my assignments and became detached from everything. It was weird. It was like I was in auto pilot. I was there but not really there. I was laughing and having fun with my friends and family, but inside everything was just empty. Grief is a mystery. One day you accept that they’re gone then another day you expect that they will show up somehow and realize that they can’t. You only have your memories, videos and pictures to remember them by. As much as I wanted to give up, I couldn’t really catch a break because I also had to be strong for my family and comfort my mom. I know that if my Lola was alive, she would have told me to get up and smile.

I accepted it eventually. Just thinking of her being happy, healthy and reunited with my Lolo (grandfather) comforted me. I promised her that I will be someone she will be proud of. I was grateful for the support that I got from my church, family and friends. However, I was never the same after that. Post grief, I became much more stronger and appreciated life much more, just thinking of who my grandmother was. She was an inspiration to me. She inspired me through her wit, her faith, and strength. Instead of feeling pain, I felt motivated when I think of her.I was proud of myself for holding up as much as I could, but when I couldn’t, I would get the worst anxiety attacks. I would just get them out of the blue. It was hard to manage. I guess my anxiety got worse after that. I still overcame and conquered that fall semester.

Year of 2019 was a year of hills and valleys. I graduated from college. I got what I thought was my dream job. Everything was going well until October. I felt depression crept in my life again. It sucked because I was also helping people who were also dealing with mental illnesses. I was pouring life into others, while I was struggling to maintain mine. I never had time for self-care because my work schedules were constantly changing. Nothing was ever consistent. I still loved my job. Even though it was stressful, I still find myself wanting to go everyday just to see what little differences I could make for someone. I know that I can’t help them through everything, but just being a light for them is enough. Work was going well, but as months go by, I felt myself detached. October came which meant it was my Lola’s death anniversary. I remember feeling sad prior to that week. Then, three days before my grandmother’s death anniversary, I found out my uncle passed away from his battle from cancer right after work. I remember reading the text messages in my family group chat asking if my mom was okay or not. I wondered why what happened? So I called my brother to check what’s going on. He just told me that something happened back home. I knew then what had happened. I sobbed so much on the way home, praying it wasn’t real. He was a cancer survivor who went back into remission. He was the most humble and compassionate person I know. He had such an amazing heart. He was a pastor, who lived his life serving and motivating others. The irony of that day was I was helping someone see life was worth living while my uncle was trying to fight for his life. One person wanting to leave while the other is fighting to stay. I’ll never forget that. It puts everything in perspective, huh? Couple days and weeks after, things went downhill for me. My head was just not there. I was in auto pilot again. After coming back to work from bereavement, It never felt like I could connect again like I used to. It was so difficult, having to manage grief, staying positive and dealing with a taxing workplace. My anxiety was through the roof but I kept telling myself that I’m okay.

Later in that month, I find out from my cousin, that my other uncle from my dad side, was diagnosed with cancer. I was hopeful and praying that he will be okay but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. The cancer was too aggressive for his body to take. My dad and I flew to see him for a couple days. I was able to go see him. I hung out with him, ate some good food, watched comedy shows, and learned a few family history on my dad side that I never knew about. I did everything just to make him smile and laugh to forget what he was going through. It was so difficult to see him suffer like that. My cousin told us that it was good we came. He wasn’t as energetic like that before until we came. He was waiting for his brother to come. I commended my dad for being so strong in all of this. Unfortunately, I could only be there a few days. We had to come back but I will never forget the last time I saw him, sitting up on his hospital bed and smiling at us as we say our goodbyes. I will never forget the last hug I gave him. I still get flashbacks of that image from time to time. I remember my dad and I tearing up afterwards as we head out of the hospital. A few weeks past, my uncle began to weaken. We continued to FaceTime him and talked to him. I couldn’t make him laugh anymore because it hurts for him to laugh. He wasn’t in a good state anymore. He passed away in early December. I felt my world crash even more. I just kept tearing up all the time at home while toughening up at my new job. My family and I flew back to the west coast to spend time with his family and say our goodbyes. I missed talking to him a lot. He was the only uncle I was closed with on my dad side. So it was much harder for me to accept it. I guess the one good thing that happened in all of this was being able to reconnect with family. They are right when they say pain brings people together. We were all hurting but we still found ways to laugh and joke around. I guess that’s how we cope through all of this. My uncle wouldn’t want us to be sad. He would want us to be joyful. My uncle taught me to smile and laugh despite of all struggles you go through in life. It doesn’t mean to mask what you’re feeling but find the brighter places and things in life. I prayed to God asking for help through all of this. He gave me a peace of mind that one day I will be able to see him. I will be able to see my Lola, my uncle from my mom side and my dad side. Thinking of them not suffering and in pain anymore gave me comfort. I guess that’s the acceptance stage of grief. I’m not sure if I’m still dealing with grief but I definitely feel like I’m somewhat detached. I can’t handle watching sad things anymore or it triggers me. I find delight in watching self help podcasts, praying or watching comedy shows like The office. I definitely feel more motivated in life. I guess it pushed me to realize that life is short. Live everyday no matter how tough it gets. There will be brighter days.

I’m glad I was saved on that night when I was in high school because I would never have seen the strong and courageous woman that I have become. I would never have seen myself get through college. I would never have seen my brothers grow up. I would never have seen my brother pursue his dreams. I would have never been able to meet the people I was supposed to meet. I wouldn’t have been able to help those people that I met. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, no matter what your mind tells you, if it tells you that you don’t matter, please don’t listen to it because you do. You matter so much. You are precious to those around you. You never know how much impact you will make in someone’s life. Be kind to yourself. Cherish that heart and mind of yours. Cultivate it. Tell yourself you will overcome because you are so much stronger than you know. I hope my story have helped in anyway. God bless you.


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