Grief. (pt I)

TW // Suicide Attempt. Death. Abandonment. Psychological Abuse. Trauma.

This isn't fiction. This has been a topic that I tried to approach with as much grace and honesty. With honesty, that means mentioning things that aren't going to make people feel comfortable. It is difficult. I have kept actual names out of this in respect of their privacy and also the deceased. Everything that is expressed here, are my own perceptions and feelings, and should not be taken as facts, or any form of endorsement. If you have any depressive thoughts, please reach out to someone, and if you are currently experiencing a huge loss in your life, whether it's a failed relationship, a fallout with a friend, a death of a friend, and you have so many questions unanswered, please feel free not to continue further with this post. I don't want you to feel more hurt than you already are. You may return another time to read this when you are ready. 

And because it is a series of events that have taken place in my personal life, it would be impossible for me to have it condensed in one post. As such, I may be posting 2 or 3 parts of this topic that surrounds grief. While there are mentions of the fear of abandonment too, this story solely focuses on the stages of grief that I went through while coping 3 separate losses, all in which took place in the same week.

I knew Felix* only enough to exchange greetings when we passed in the university halls. I was the president of an English society and in the parlance of the time, fairly introverted. And I was insecure, too conscious, especially around people in general—species I found perplexing and more intimidating than lightning struck bright and sudden. All of which may explain my confoundment when he pulled me to a side to ask if I was all right while we were inside an International Students’ Society room. I’d just finished handling an event and I was exhausted.

He greeted me calmly. I remember the twinkle in his eyes whenever he spoke, he had a certain kind of gentleness he carried with him, the one that you knew you’d feel safe with. I recall the conversation like it was only yesterday.

‘Are you okay?’ he asked.

‘Do I look not okay?’

‘You just look tired. More than usual.’

‘I don’t know if I’m not okay either.’ 

Thus, whatever plans that he had, whatever work he was supposed to do, Felix laid it all down to talk to me. He wanted to make sure that I was feeling okay. He never mentioned that he had plans to go out with another group of friends for supper. He never told me of the time that he was having a difficult time with his family. He had to teach himself to be independent on his own, and all the struggles he was facing on his own, would become the root of both his compassion and his sensitivity to someone else’s hurt.

I was grateful for him, of course, and had a habit of thanking him for being him whenever we bumped into each other on campus. Each time I reminded him how indebted I was to him, he would smile and say it wasn’t a big deal, and that he was more happy to hear out a friend. Friend? Yes, he said I was a friend. I needed that. 

The last conversation we had face-to-face, alone, was in 2018. One night at Astaka, we were sitting on the benches that faced the campus field, it was empty and lonely. There were stars that night. They were shining bright. Out of nowhere, he spoke the words that anyone who has dealt with some form of depression, would freeze for a while.

‘Isn’t it so random how the most amazing people die so quickly?’

We talked about Chester Bennington, specifically about the song ‘One More Light’ by Linkin Park. Initially, the song haunted me, but it was also comforting. I would listen to the lyrics and it was almost as if I was listening to suicidal notes, an imagery of a candlelight flickering. Perhaps that was just the nature when it came down to Chester’s voice and words. He may no longer be around physically, yet his legacy leaves on. There is still so much of him that is very alive to this day.

It was strange. I remember telling Felix how tragic it was, that life seems so bleak, so short for a person so loved by the world. As I said so, I told Felix I knew that he was capable of great things, and that I couldn’t wait to see what the future held for him, and what he would be contributing to the world. Felix smiled and thanked me.

‘Can I help you, not to hurt, anymore?’

Each time I consumed a creative piece, be it a song, film, spoken words, poetry, instrumental… I can’t help but wonder each form of art is about a person who struggle with a sense of belonging, who is sad, depressed and dealing with issues they can’t possibly talk about. Or even if they tried, no one really cared enough to understand or be patient with them.

And I wondered then too, why, despite all the obvious cues, the social hints, we are never truly able to save a life. But I guess, what no one really talks about depression is that it is ocean deep. You learn to swim to shore by yourself. No matter how sharp the rocks are, or how they can cut you, you have to find the strength to get to shore. Because it’s scary. It’s terrifying to fall into the comforting familiarity of the harsh waves and the sensation of drowning. I told Felix, despite whatever pain we were both going through, I told us to hold on. He said he believed in good things to come. And I believed him too.


22nd September, Wednesday — I had known this amazing person since July, I still think of him as someone special. For the sake of keeping this individual’s privacy, I will not go into full details. But do understand that what I share, is solely from my perspective, and may not necessarily reflect on that person’s character and feelings at that time. I’ll call him Sean*. We had our time set aside for each other then, we would talk of the things that mattered to us. I was happy to be myself around him. Yet, we drifted. Maybe that’s not an entirely accurate way to put it. The words we speak, the voices we drown, the choices we make, the dreams we question, they each come with their own repercussions. To put it bluntly, what he did, hurt me. And I need anyone who is reading this to understand that, while it broke me, I still care a lot for this person. The times we had spent together were golden, a bit unreal. I wouldn’t have traded those memories for anything. Despite that, everything that we had said and done, I could forget nothing.

How was I supposed to?

And again, why would I want to forget the good things?

I was in tears. I was livid we ended things through a text. I didn’t want the conversation to end in a bad place, so I left my last text. I couldn’t continue on with the conversation because anger was going to take my stead. I had to save this friendship. Even if that meant not getting out the exact emotions I was feeling.


24th September, Friday — I received news of someone passing. We never talked much, but this individual would confide in me from time to time. Just how do you respond to a text when their sibling informs you they have taken their own life? It made my head spin. There was a lot I simply couldn’t comprehend. I thought of how differently I would feel looking at their texts knowing they won’t wake up anymore. Sad? I wasn’t sure if I was saddened. I hadn’t had any proper emotions since 22nd September.

I thought staying over at my second brother’s was going to cheer me up. I was wrong. He tried his best and cared for me like any older brother would. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t shower. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t get up from bed without the pain in my chest. The worst nights were the ones where I would have vivid dreams of having conversations with Sean, where he’d say he wasn’t being himself, and that we’d talk again. I hated that I had to wake up, to be disappointed, that it was just a dream. But mostly, I was just terrified of falling back to sleep if I was going to dream about the good times we had, only to be slapped by reality that I was left behind.

It broke my brother. Not a single day went by where I wouldn’t struggle to breathe, get panic attacks, and cry. I would cry even whilst I was doing nothing. And it felt apparent at that time too, that I amounted to nothing. It’s something else to be hit by someone and getting hurt, and it’s also something else to have someone make you feel like the world, promise you that they would never leave you, only to leave you. And what difference does it make even though we still have each other on social media? What difference does it make for me to follow him, and him to follow me, now that we are just ‘strangers’? Because I already feel like I don’t exist. Maybe, I was the only one who wanted to feel seen. Maybe, it was wrong of me to reciprocate. Yet, asking myself now, do I regret any of it? I don’t have an answer for that. All I know is, it hurt then. Still hurts.


25th September, Saturday — On my way back to my apartment after what I felt was just me burdening my brothers with my presence in their home, I thought I was finally going to make it. For me, I was going to try to be strong, just for one day. All I begged myself was to not cry for one day. I needed to be strong. Then it all came crashing down. I missed a phone call. I couldn’t answer anyone in the state that I was in. Then a text notification came in, I froze. 

My friend, Felix, isn’t here anymore.

I wanted it to be a joke. 

I called up my friend. This had to be a joke. It had to be. I didn’t care how low it was to be one, but there was no way, a bright 26 year-old like Felix, who had huge aspirations, who inspired the people he encountered in life, has died. This must have been a prank someone thought of, and maybe Felix was just planning for us to meet up or something. But hearing the uncharacteristically quiet scratch of my friend’s voice on the line, I knew Felix had left us that day.

‘I thought you might want to know. He was close to some of us.’ my friend said. ‘Do you want to come to his funeral?’

‘I’d like to go,’ I replied.

The word sounded strange even as it left my mouth. Like? Why would I like to go to a friend’s funeral? Is that what I am supposed to say knowing a friend—a kind, bright and sensitive individual who was going places? I left my apartment room and walked aimlessly in the common area. I am told by friends that through texts, I seemed completely out of it. I don’t seem to remember what took place except people kept mentioning I was just not being myself. 

Even then, I was present at his funeral. I saw people weeping. Some didn’t. It was odd to be hugging friends that I had not spoken to in years. To be meeting up with former friends in a funeral. Why did we have to meet up this way, in the midst of a pandemic, on a cold rainy night? And the night felt long, I still don’t remember much of what happened. 

It was past midnight by the time I settled down in my apartment. Settled down, or so I thought.  I threw up whatever I had for dinner. Back in my room, the sight of my antidepressants made me sick to my stomach. As my anxiety grew worse, even the order that was present in my room soon became a disarray. My focus and vision both grew scattered so that it became a challenge to stand still. And I fell to the ground. Shaking. I was scared.

I mustered what seemed of my remaining strength, switched off the lights, and dragged my heavy feet to bed, forcing myself to sleep. The nightmare came, I saw Sean again in my dreams, and we talked happily. It shouldn’t have been a nightmare if we were still talking, but everything that felt beautiful then only turned to sheer terror for me when I opened my eyes. The problem with being in the care of a person consumed by their own pain and grief is that your problems can’t exist to them. In a weird way, you don’t exist to them. And so the neglect is ultimate. The abandonment is real along with the unfulfilled promises and loving words spoken carelessly. 

It’s not just the abandonment that hurts. It’s the post trauma that follows it when you have opened up to someone you trust. It’s waking up and checking your phone for a message that isn’t there. And the last exchange is still apparent. And you know, they have left you.

I was left behind.

I woke up screaming.

I felt as if the world used to laugh with me, hold me when I spent my time with Sean—no longer. Now the world mocked me. It was as if the world had shrunken away to leave a cold void around my skin, as if I had become detached from reality itself. It was dark. And then I asked myself the question I had been meaning to ask myself, but was always afraid to.

What if I just do away with myself?

What if I just swallowed every antidepressant and went to sleep?

What if I just don’t have to wake up anymore?

Because it sure as hell beats living.

But I can’t. 


I have a purpose in this place. But I wasn’t convinced either. I needed to reach out. I could only think of one person to call at that time, it was Sean. It was just a matter of time before I consumed those pills. I had them on the floor with me. I dialed his number, I was fighting back the tears, and I bit my lip so hard it bled. He didn’t answer. 

Second time. Nothing.

Third time. And nothing.

Did it matter if I called again? Because if he stopped caring, then who would? If he thought the best solution to go about parting with me was through texts, then did I even matter to him now? Did I matter to him then? I couldn’t just call him to start over this friendship. I couldn’t ask him to be here when I was at my lowest. And I started believing that I wasn’t good enough. But I still wanted to live, I still wanted to have hope. To breathe.

Now, let me tell you… there are times in life where you fall down and you feel like you don’t have the strength to get back up, you sort of put on a mask. A mask where you deny your vulnerable self the chance to breathe and cry. And it starts forming into a survival essential where you are from. It shuts your emotions down, it makes you more alert, more adept, yet more detached to compassion. I didn’t want to go back to being that. I was fearful of indifference. 

You know how when you have to pretend that all is well when it’s going downhill, and you head home, you lay down in your bed when the world’s no longer watching. You don’t have to impress anybody and you are yourself. Then fear comes in. You know the fear that you have as soon as you walk into the doors of your house? Or the fear that comes when you are leaving home and you remind a parent, ‘Please, don’t make them angry today. I don’t want to get hit.’ Yes, that. Maybe it’s a broken home. Maybe you are constantly walking on eggshells with your family. And it scares you. Maybe you are worried about what people perceive of you just from the first contact. You don’t know what they are talking about behind your back. And that fear paralyzes you. You feel as if you can’t do anything. 

Well, I told myself to call another number. And if the second person didn’t pick up, I wasn’t going to think anymore and kill myself. On the call, when Helen* answered, that soft voice that said, ‘Hello?’, that gentleness in Helen’s voice dissolved whatever stood between me and my sorrow. My torrents of grief were unleashed. 

‘I tried to kill myself.’ 

We spoke for about 3 hours on call, taking turns for me to cry, and for Helen to comfort me. With her, I felt safe, even though we were separated by a huge geographical distance. I found solace in the words she had to say. For it was through her words, I believe that she too, felt the pain that swirled in my brain, all the unfinished chapters I kept telling as if they held answers. They don’t. Helen said something along the lines that hurt people do things because their emotions are driving them that way.

‘All those things that hurt you, hun, had nothing to do with you at all… and perhaps that’s even worse. Because you know you did nothing wrong, and you are hurting. And these heartbreaks that you feel, hunny. They don’t get easier. The end of a relationship always hurts. And when you have to deal with other deaths one after another, it gets too much for you. You are allowed to cry. And no one should have to judge you for that. You have been giving too much of yourself to others, you haven’t saved any love for yourself.’

At that time I didn’t understand how Helen who had known me in less than a year, just virtually too, would notice that of me. 

‘Do you know how I know this? It’s because I keep my notifications on for you on Twitter. And see your every interaction with people. You give everything to others, putting their feelings first, validating them. It’s always yours that comes last. And all the hurt that you have been through, you still find the strength to forgive and let go. You still show love and care when everyone else would have found many reasons not to continue anymore. Because that’s who you are. You are so important. The world needs you, even if you don’t think it needs you. This world needs you to take up space. It needs you to continue showing understanding, patience, and love. It needs you to spread joy and bring a semblance of hope to those who have none. And whenever that voice tells you otherwise, it’s not true. That voice hates you, because it knows how strong and capable you are in this world. So, whenever you feel like it’s too much, that you can’t go on, please don’t keep it to yourself. You need a shoulder to cry on too when you’ve been carrying the weight of everyone else’s for so long. I love you so much, don’t kill yourself. You are needed here.’

Outside the apartment window, I could finally hear the wind rustling through the silence. It was hard for me to imagine that someone whom I have never met was able to comfort me with such intensity. I laughed inside, remembering those early days that had seen me rush out from my classroom to avoid being hit by my pursuers, grab a piece of wood for safe measure in case someone would hit me with a brick. I remember all the fear I felt for not being able to speak up, where the teachers never noticed the bruises on me. I wished, how I wished Helen was around then to keep me safe. But here she was now, miles away from me, believing in me and telling me that I served a purpose in this world.

I went to bed that night, finally smiling, even if it was a small smile.

(to be continued)

Beyond the divorce, a new hope found.

When you have no prior experience with love, the first person to show you the closest thing to love would have an impact on you. Perhaps that’s where some beauty comes in, though in some cases, the beauty and happiness fades fast when you are in a lonely rush, and that feeling you thought was love, was built on a rocky foundation, and things just change. I wish I could tell you that doesn’t mean that you can’t be loved, or that you can’t love.

You’re okay, and just because you’re growing up and falling out of love, that doesn’t mean you have to leave everything you liked when you were a child. You have a long way to go, to grow, and love someone special again… you’re only getting ready to say “nice to meet you” to somebody you never knew—you.

Divorce. It’s a word, an event that brings in emotions of all sorts. Usually, unpleasant ones. At least that’s what some may think or say out loud. I wish I could tell you that the end of a marriage doesn’t make you a failure; that I know you tried your best to make things work, but it just didn’t. You are more than your past. This post may be more personal and intimate than my usual ones, and it may take a while to read this. But I do want you to take a moment to realise this, whether you’ve been recently divorced or not, your divorce does not define your lack of worth. Sometimes, a separation happens so you can build up instead of breaking down, and perhaps the best thing you can do for yourself, is to forgive yourself, love yourself, and grow. 

It’s common to have someone painted as a villain when a marriage breaks down. While there may be exceptions too, I feel it’s necessary to understand why it happened. I was very blessed to have this conversation with my friend, Nicholas, who confided in me about his shortcomings and the things he learned from his divorce. One of the hardest things to take away from our conversation was “the things we wished we had known better”. What I truly appreciated was his vulnerability to talk about these difficult emotions, because they were necessary. A wound like this can feel fresh, even after months, and it was important for him to get his feelings out there, here, without being judged.

For the sake of confidentiality, I will be leaving out names. Nicholas first met her when he was 19. Prior to knowing her, he had never been in a relationship. Much secluded in his own shell at that time, letting people into his space wasn’t a part of him. And the times where some would try to connect with him, debilitating waves of insecurities would take over his mind, and Nicholas found comfort in persuading himself not to be attached at all and giving himself reasons why he was unworthy of having someone to care for him, vice versa.

“You’re not going to be good enough. You don’t have a car. You’re not in a stable financial situation. Your family is dysfunctional.” He went on meeting with this woman with that mindset, and all the other feelings he had in general, including the lack of experience with the opposite sex. And sometimes, the world plays tricks on us, on when you meet people. She was at the end of a broken relationship that was manipulative. What Nicholas had to say was, at that time, she was looking for a reason to leave—and then she met him, they found each other. Maybe he was a breath of fresh air, she took an instant liking to him.

While Nicholas was feeling lonely, he wasn’t actively pursuing something. With the added inexperience he had, she was just attached to him and latched herself onto him, emotionally and physically. There was a physical intimacy that he wasn’t used to. Just talking to Nick about this, he admitted that all the things they were doing, it was a rush. They were both young. She was experienced with men, and wanted something emotionally better. She knew what she wanted. He didn’t. He reciprocated because she did first. It is all so strange for Nicholas, this treatment—to have someone being so strong-willed and latching on to him this much. 

“Even if I wanted to resist, I couldn’t.” 

When Nicholas mentioned this, it made me think of how so many of us, especially when we come from a dysfunctional home, always feel lost when someone feels strongly for us. I think about just how much insecurity we carry with us unfairly for the way we were raised. And this ball of insecurity just keeps building itself up in subtle ways: giving us every single reason we can think of why we do not deserve better. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t perfect, he wasn’t either. They were both young, and perhaps that given a chance, they both would have made different decisions then. I could tell from his voice that there were times he would unconsciously reminisce about some good times to the point where it just stings.

I asked Nicholas, “You talked about not being willing to make yourself emotionally available to anyone. She came along, and came off so strong, emotionally and physically… and because you were a stranger to this sort of treatment, you just went along with it. Would you say, at any point, did you feel a genuine love for her? Or were you both co-depending on each other to fill in each of your personal void?”

It’s hard to confirm if it was love, and he confessed to having moments where he felt strong feelings for her. “To this day, I don’t know if it was love. I was never in a relationship before so I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know what I was feeling. Maybe back then, I felt that it was love. And maybe in hindsight, I’m being confused because I don’t have anything to really relate to and compare it with. I didn’t have anything to confirm that it was love. But, in comparison to feelings I had for her in the future, after things were said and done, I think that it really was more of a physical attraction-based kind of feeling—and that she gave me a lot of emotional and physical attention, quickly. I believe that’s what bonded us more than just me loving her for who she was. I don’t think I had those deep romantic feelings because it was so fast.”

He continued saying, “Sometimes, the more I’m thinking about it and bringing it up, there are moments where I can remember we disagreed heavily on something. And I have moments where I’m thinking ‘just what did I get myself into?’, ‘what am I doing?’, ‘where am I?’… I’m spending all my time with her, doing everything, ‘is this where I want to be?’. I’m not seeing my friends as much and I was used to seeing them a lot. I’m not doing my hobbies as much. And after a couple of months just doing the same things with her and when the emotions started to wear down, I still wanted to be around her. I still felt very committed to her but I wasn’t sure how I felt about leaving behind all the things I was used to, and that would constantly be a slight argument between the two of us. She was worried I wasn’t ready to commit because I was missing the things I was doing before.”

Throughout the first several months of being together, she was having questions about her ex, the way he treated her, and how she was feeling about him. Phrases such as “I really wish he wasn’t the way he was because I liked him for…” Being younger then, Nicholas didn’t like hearing about her ex. Those sort of emotions were heavy for him to handle. “The closest I even had to being in a relationship, it was me talking to a girl I was crushing on and she would just have me as an emotional ladder to make herself feel better. So to sum up everything, the attraction we had for each other was just through a fast emotional and physical intimacy. Freshness. Excitement…” His voice trailed off. “If anything, I think we were both bonded by the excitement of having something new.”

I noticed how he was trying his best not to stumble over his words too much. Things like this take time and a huge amount of self-reflection. Those memories are just from so long ago and Nicholas was trying not to let negative memories from the current divorce make those memories tainted or biased. And, here’s where I want to say it’s not easy finding balance in that because you either blame yourself completely or the other half. It takes grace to be honest that you made mistakes just as much as the other half did, especially since most of us have been conditioned by our households or the media that “one is always more wrong than the other”. This, I believe, is unique for everyone, not every divorce happens and ends in a fixed manner.

“And then the child happened. You were 19. Tell me how you felt when you found out you were going to be a father, when you were not prepared at all…” I whispered, “What happened?”

Finding out that she was bearing his child then, on that one particular day, it was the start of a very stressful year for both of them. What time they had remaining in 2014 was a rush of adulthood. To get a car, get a bank account together, a place to stay, a stable job for income to provide. Nicholas went from job to job, from gas stations to cleaning cars. Living from place to place, and surviving fights after fights. Adulthood came crashing down. “That’s when the foundation of having a family began, but it wasn’t a foundation that was built between me and her. Everything that used to be fresh and exciting just dwindled to the stress of being an adult, and a new frightening world where we were both becoming parents. I had to provide for my family.”

It was no longer a matter or question if he loved her. He was questioning his own self worth, if he was able to pull through all of this as a man, as an adult, and if he was able to provide for his wife and soon-to-be-born child. “We married in the same year out of obligation because we needed a place to stay. We even talked about it the night before, and I told her that I was sure we would’ve gotten married eventually.”

I cannot possibly fathom how overwhelming that was for both of them. Despite this, Nicholas realised something now and he assured me, “You know, back in those days, in a lot of ways, the quick adulthood gave me a jumpstart to myself at least. Back in those days, I didn’t have a good work ethic. I needed to be serious.” I couldn’t help but point out to him about something he mentioned. I told him I found it interesting that when he discovered she was having a child, they had the conversation of marriage, where he said he was sure they both would’ve gotten married, eventually. I couldn’t help but wonder if he said that to comfort himself, or to comfort her, just to ease the situation. It was probably to comfort both of them, he said. What’s the difference between getting married now or later? It was a coping mechanism for what was happening.  

To give a quick flow of what happened later, just having to raise a child, seeing her grow up, there were cracks in the marriage. Still detached, Nicholas couldn’t be emotionally strong and available for his wife. I asked him why this was the case, “Why were you so closed off? Was it still tied to the fact that she had more experience and you were just existing?”

“Once I became an adult, once I landed a job, landed a place to stay, and when my daughter was born, I was just worn out. That one event sculpted me and after a little while, I found myself yearning some of the things the old me had. The solitude. The responsibilities that I didn’t have. My friends… I missed my friends. I didn’t hang out with them as much anymore…” This was very painful for both of us. He struggled to talk, and I struggled not to break down. I sincerely believed that he could recite all the reasons that he is much better now, yet of course he was still left with the emotional pain and scars. All the “what if’s”, the guilt, the shame, the path both of them would’ve taken not to lead up to this day.  “And she was noticing these things. I confided in her.” he said. That’s when she finally asked, “Well, do you love me? Do you love us?”

Nicholas couldn’t give her a straight answer.

He hesitated.

She never forgot that hesitation.

He knew he couldn’t fault her for it. In her own brokenness, she was looking for validation for her own actions and taking accountability for what took place. She needed him to be a strong supporting figure for her and the child. “I was selfish. I couldn’t shake away those feelings of wanting to go back to where I was. It was just too much. While I immediately formed a fatherly connection with my newborn daughter, I told myself I wasn’t going anywhere. I was going to stay for my family. But at the same time, there was another part of me that wished I could be experiencing fatherhood at a later stage.”

They divorced in 2020. But during the late 2017 up to 2019, conversations about divorce surfaced every now and then. Verbal fights happened and one particular event sealed everything. I will not go into the details here. It’s like a series of landmines, they go off in your face without any warning. Maybe the signs were there all along, the cracks from the brokenness you carried. But the pain is unimaginable—all the shrapnel of memories piercing your heart. All the things that used to center around your life come to a halt, things that used to define you are just ripped away. The jigsaw puzzle of your life, half of its pieces all gone… and yet, the world still expects you to form a coherent whole.

Your happiness has become a distant sentiment; a mere memory of what once was. You look at childhood photos and recollect on who you used to be. It’s hard to believe that was you. That bright exuberant smile portrayed in one family portrays a realization of regret. Remorse clings beneath the words you speak. Anger arises in the gestures you create. A sudden dislike for things you once enjoyed becomes apparent. A fondness you once believed to be unbreakable has now been shattered by the person you’ve created… Then you just have enough. You’ve had enough; you’re exhausted and out of breath.

Nicholas started therapy early this year in 2021. Once he knew in his mind and in his heart that the divorce was actually happening, it set a new chapter for him to change his life, the things that he was bitter about and the pain he felt of not being enough. This was going to be an end to something that he had been so used to, and was just tired of.

“Right,” I assured him, “and there was also your daughter to think about. While you were going through therapy, you discovered plenty of things that you didn’t know better then. Things that changed your mindset, the things that shaped you for the Nicholas that I am talking to right now. And I can imagine how different it must’ve been for you too because you had been alone, then together with someone for so long, having that physical person centering your life, and now you are going to be without that person.”

I think it’s incredibly nothing short of inspiring that, despite everything that happened, Nicholas was open to healing. But first, he had to accept that things went wrong and he was a part of it. He wanted to reach out and talk to people again. I like to think that, at least from what I remembered from our first few exchanges, it was clear to me that Nicholas was very troubled, it’s just commendable to me for him to just be honest and raw with me, and to just have that trust in me on all these things even when we barely knew each other. In that way, I could say that perhaps that Nicholas admitting that he needed help, getting therapy, was truly one of the best decisions he made for himself.

He thought about his daughter a lot in regards to how he was with his wife. He wanted to show his daughter what a healthy relationship looked like, and that was another reason for taking up therapy—to try to improve himself so he wouldn’t have to repeat the mistakes his parents did, the mistakes he did for himself, and for his daughter. That’s the Nicholas I know now.

I further said this to Nicholas to confirm some things for myself, “If I may add, you may correct me if I’m wrong since I am using intuition here and from the things I’ve gathered since our first interaction. One of the reasons why you struggled to get a divorce too was the fact it would have meant failure for you, as a father, as a man. The societal pressures and stigma were all on you, you were in that anxious and fearful state that also, at that time, seemed to have masked itself like a safety net (eg: you have a place to stay, a car, etc). But what you had not allowed to give yourself was space, a space to grief. You didn’t allow yourself to be vulnerable, that you needed a connection. You didn’t have the time to be vulnerable, to be real with yourself and acknowledge the severity of the loss, and really take your time to cry, to be weak, to break down and to mourn what you lost. That’s why you fantasized instead, “if only this” or “if only that”.”

“No, you are right. There was a large part of me that felt that I didn’t want to fail. I didn’t want to be like my parents. All I really wanted was a healthy relationship and even if I didn’t know how to do it, I just never gave myself space to reflect on what was best for us, individually. I didn’t allow myself to think about the things that I wanted, the things that could’ve made me happy. I was just caught up with being a father. I didn’t know it was okay for me to get help.”

Perhaps this divorce was the only way Nicholas was able to rediscover who he was, the person that is purely himself. He had all these dreams, of writing and creating things… All those memories of running in his backyard, making up stories in the back of his mind. It was nice to be young and innocent. He had those beautiful dreams that he needed to make into some kind of reality for himself. When your dreams are so very different and the person you are with can’t support you in that, everything can become muted and confused. Instead of building each other, both Nicholas and his wife gave each other a terrible compromise that made them neglect their own happiness. They are both better now, they have forgiven each other. While they both work on their own happiness now, they are in a much better place than they were before.

We have come to the end of the story here. I will say that marriages can end. Regardless, you deserve to move on with love for yourself. Even in your separate ways, to know that neither of you were perfect. While the initial stage of a divorce can create a radical new context for the past, and you find yourself groping through an all-enveloping darkness for structure and order, you are okay. You will be okay. Look out the window again and feel the breeze on your skin, hear how the birds sing a melody that affirm, on the darker days, the possibilities of life, the outside chance that aching may, one day—be suffused with tenderness and new hope.


“Lucid. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to just leave things behind and start over.”

Of course it’s not. 

The way we deal and handle adversity reveals so much about how we can grow, it starts with acceptance that we are not perfect, and that it is okay to be vulnerable, and reach out.

I wrote this knowing full well in my heart that I am grateful to be trusted with this piece to share it with all of you. It has been a difficult one to write, but it has been so worthwhile too. I hope that reading this piece, you were able to find comfort in some parts. Having said this, Nicholas is an amazing person and writer, and you can read 'Theater for Moths' by him and reach out to him at @nickhazeee. 

Dear Nick, thank you for trusting me for this, I’m so proud of you. 
Keep breathing. Keep healing. Keep growing.ps, dear readers: You can let me know your thoughts or if you prefer to talk to me in private, you can always reach out to me in my DMs. Love, Lucid.

Ropes.

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?

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. The previous general manager 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. So did our general manager. Does that not speak enough of your own worth in our 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.

It’s remarkable.

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. ♡