Finally, in a low whisper, he said, "I think I might be a terrible person." For a split second, I believed him - I thought he was about to confess a crime, maybe a murder. Then I realized that we all think we might be terrible people. But we only reveal this before asking someone to love us.
Why do I cry? Why are the tears flowing? This unexplainable pain in my chest, the tears that won’t stop its flow. Is it my fault? The curtains in the office, they look just as bare and blank as I am in my life. I hear the standing fan, it doesn’t try to pry into my thoughts for the voice inside my head, is louder. Am I not strong enough to adapt to this life where I was told since young, that it was I either I gave it my all or nothing at all?
So why am I on the verge of tears? In the office, no one sees, how could they? Their backs are turned behind me as they scramble to finish a monthly report. Meetings after meetings, quotas to be met. It’s not their fault either. We are all just good at pretending we are okay. These all-or-nothing achievement systems our societies had been promoting all along was supposed to make the world a better place for people to achieve their dreams. Instead, it seems to be an incubator for adolescent depression and suicide. I was led to believe that this belief of perfection was the only viable way for me to survive and it was cruelly adapted into me. But why should that even matter? I am an adult, I am supposed to have this figured out, right?
No, I can’t.
It’s hard. And I know perhaps this might be relatable to some, or not—either way, this is what I am going through. Perhaps some of you can find comfort in knowing that I am not perfect, that I do come with my own flaws.
Wednesday, 9.00 AM — I told my second brother that I didn’t return his messages sooner because I was hit by anxiety (again). I believe he set aside the things he needed to do to assure me. It was difficult for me just to type the words I wanted to say. Finally, I was able to come up with a concise text, “I don’t know exactly why, but if I must take a guess, it has been an on-and-off thing since I accepted this job position in a reputable corporation. I can’t help but feel the blame is on me because maybe, just maybe I am the one who is not trying to adapt? Or maybe it’s the added factor that I got accepted into a job during the pandemic.”
I further told him about my growing anxiousness regarding my vaccination appointment which would possibly fall on the same day in which I am supposed to handle a livestream video for my company. The fear of not being able to present for my task and to let someone else even manage it for a bit didn’t sit well with me, and there was the added stress of thinking that I have let the team down for being away… In truth, it wasn’t fair at all for me to blame myself. My chest was hurting at this point, one hand on my chest and the other on the keyboard, I had to force myself to tell my brother my fear of disappointing my team and how some days I felt distant from them.
What followed next was nothing but words of assurance and compassion from my brother. My chest still hurt, but somehow, reading what he had to say calmed me, even if it was a little.
He said, “Rather than thinking of failing to meet your team’s expectations, it is okay to make mistakes. Be more compassionate and patient to yourself. If you feel distant, why don’t you try asking them how they find you as a person in or out of work when working together with them?” And he continued on, “I do understand the feeling when your responsibility and things or events just overlapped each other. I would advise to give your team a heads up about it and have a contingency plan in hand. You have been working with them for quite a while now. I believe you can navigate them a little bit on how it’s supposed to run with much ease.”
Those three words.
“I believe you.”
Why? Why did my second brother have such faith in me when I had none for myself? How could he possibly hold so much faith in me when I have been nothing but a mess? Am I not seeing something in myself that he can see? Or perhaps, I am the one here with little faith.
I still didn’t quite catch what he said, and I couldn’t understand where he was coming from having such confidence in me. When I finally mustered some strength and had both hands on my keypad, I typed away and told him that one of the biggest things I had always struggled with anxiety is when things are sudden and changes its course. I even told him how it sounds so silly and childish, that because I am an adult, I should be able to know how to manage myself and my schedule… isn’t that right?
And I don’t think I was fully prepared for the question he raised next.
“Why do you really think it is silly and childish? And what makes you think that an adult can manage themselves 100%?”
I never thought about this. Have I not been giving myself enough grace, or was it the perfectionist in me that feared the unknown? And thus, my brother carried on, “From what I see or understand is that you have set your ‘if and then’ rules, in a manner such, ‘if I fail to manage myself perfectly, then I am an immature person and I contribute to the failure to the team as a whole.’
Unbelievable. Like he read through me. I agreed and he went on. “My next question would be, is it not okay to let loose then on the ropes that you grip so tightly and constantly? Whatever the rope may represent in your life.”
Now I’m not the most religious or spiritual person, but I am in my own ways, sensitive to certain things. But what my brother had allowed me was to question the ropes that I have been holding on in my life, and so I lamented.
“I look up to you, kor, mom, and dad. I always feel that somehow everyone else seems to know what to do in life, and I just don’t? Take mom for example, she is so good with accounts, and knows things about estate, property, etc. Dad knows how to deal and manage himself in an unfamiliar territory, even kor too.”
Perhaps what I said made perfect sense to me then. Isn’t that how it is though when we look at someone with our own perceptions? I could tell my second brother was incredibly patient with his worrywart sister, and so he asked, “What makes you confident and feel that way? Are you assuming from your stored information or having a talk with us personally and inwardly? If it is through your observations, does it really reflect on how the said person actually feels inwardly without you talking and understanding with them? Take for example, your friends have been observing you as a reliable friend that manages everything well, but they haven’t spoken to you and understand what or how you are feeling on the inside.”
That’s how it is though, isn’t it?
All of us. You, me, and everyone else. We only know what we think we know. I had grown accustomed to the image of “I can’t mess up or fail anything in whatever I do, otherwise I am a failure.”
With much love and patience, my second brother advised me to talk to my colleagues on their struggles with life. I considered, but I didn’t want to force a conversation with them either. My anxiety went down a lot and I managed to eat something. I didn’t want to fixate on a miscommunication that happened in the office, but I kept my brother’s word at heart.
Thursday, 3.17 PM – A miscommunication happened which caused me to have my storyboard idea to be half scrapped. I was frustrated as the idea was presented more than a week and the review came in late. That meant more work on my end, and at the very last minute too, just the day before a presentation. I took a leap of faith and voiced out my feelings to my manager.
Now, I wasn’t expecting her to take my side, to pity me, or anything. I just really didn’t want to bottle up my emotions. Because I trusted her too, I wanted to be honest with her. What I didn’t expect was her to really, listen to me, and tell me an incredibly personal story.
“Everyone should pull their own weight in the team, the final results will tell who puts in effort and who doesn’t. But life never goes the way we plan at all, especially not in this industry. And when you’re in the corporate world, you face all sorts of people. You might face people who are slow with instructions, the ones who get confused all the time… sometimes we think our efforts are wasted when we spend so much time trying to help them to understand our ideas, they can’t see it, it gets rejected. It hurts, you might think everything you did was for nothing, but what you had gained on your own, the knowledge, the skill, it stays with you—no one can ever take that away from you.
Anyway, you might think I’m not the one who stays up and prepares all these concepts and storyboards, that’s why I’m doing all the talking here… But what I am trying to help you to understand is that the corporate world is full of challenges. It can break us, it can make us stronger, how we navigate around those challenges is important.
Like you, I kept my feelings to myself. I handled things on my own. I wasn’t relying on anyone, did everything by myself, it overwhelmed me. I cried. I had a breakdown in the office, and I left in a sudden. They had to call someone to find me, and they brought me back to the office to calm me down. A lot of things happened before you showed up here… and you know, slowly, it just got better when I formed my own team.
I don’t ever want you to feel that your efforts are not seen. I see your efforts. I see your struggles. I see your frustration. Understand this, I share how you feel, not as your manager, but also your friend. Don’t ever keep things to yourself. Even when I am being unreasonable to you, talk to me, tell me that I am being unreasonable. Because you are the person I hired. I saw something in you. Does that not speak enough of your own worth in my eyes?”
Now… I didn’t know how or what to respond to her.
I was just, shocked.
I didn’t realize I had shed a tear too. One of the few moments I’m grateful for working at home so no one could see me cry. But you see, in that moment of all the hopelessness and loss I felt, assurance came to me when I least expected it. And I can’t exactly describe how it feels because you have to experience it for yourself—feeling like you are nothing and having someone to remind you your worth.
Suddenly, I recognized that these triggers or anxiety attacks that I was experiencing so frequently were exposing me to parts of myself that I may have yet to make peace with and fully accept. I realized in my feelings of “not being enough” that were coming up, that I had still some work to do on accommodating the parts of myself that did not feel safe and welcomed. That for those parts to feel welcomed, they first had to be acknowledged and welcomed by me.
What would I have changed when I was a child?
What would Lucid do?
A lot of my mental dissociation or anxiety attacks are connected to childhood wounds, tied to moments in my earlier development when my needs were not met. For me, I suffered not feeling safe and welcomed in the social spheres I entered. Even in family gatherings, gossips and rumours would spread, and the wound of alienation would soon spread to me. I lost a huge chunk of my childhood. I went through a period of anger and hurt myself. But now, things are different. I messed up.
Still, I will persevere.
If I can’t wake up at 7.30 AM, I will try getting up at 8.00 AM.
And that’s still something.
More importantly, the conversations with my second brother and manager had opened the door for me to give myself some grace. Compassionately, I took a break from social media in the day. I made time to speak to my inner child. I told her how much I care for her and how responsible I feel for her safety. I also assured her that she was safe within my body. That, today, I will reparent her and meet her needs; essentially, that she is welcomed here and everywhere she goes.
That she belongs and she is loved—especially by me.
So I say goodbye to the ropes, the ones that I’ve held on for too long, the ones that left me bruised and scarred. This time, there are no more ropes. Just hopes.
Someone gave me a tough pill to swallow. It's the same one I intend to give you. Please take a deep breath beforehand... Breathe in... Hold it for a couple of seconds... and exhale... slowly... ever so slowly... Here's the tough pill: You are not your pain, nor your shame, nor your grief, nor your trauma. You are pure, unconditional and unadulterated love. Your mind may scream and say it's a lie. It's okay. Take your time. Like I said, it's a tough pill to swallow. You are loved. ♡