My Prayer for You

I pray that your year, with all its ebbs and flows, gave you much-needed perspective, showing you what’s truly important, worth keeping, and worth fighting for.

Now I pray for the days ahead.

I pray for your health, that you may enjoy more beautiful mornings and rare, red skies; that you would see the moon, at first in its fullness, then as it takes different shapes, then as it disappears, and once again as it is reborn.

I pray for your failures, and in those failures may you find the strength to rise and realize that they weren’t failures at all; they were merely challenges that brought out your resilience and resolve.

I pray for the people you hold dear, that they may continue having meaningful moments with you, that they add value to your life the way you add to theirs, and that they realize that you chose to pour your heart and effort to them, out of all the people you could have chosen.

I pray for that which you seek, be it love or healing, success or learning, or so many other things. I pray that the path you walk brings you closer to it, and that you realize that the journey is just as, if not more important, than the destination itself.

I pray for moments in your life: hopeful moments, joyful moments, triumphant moments. I pray for moments that will rock you to the core and test your mettle. I pray that all these moments create a beautiful tapestry, a narrative of your days that you can look back on and appreciate.

On that tapestry, I pray that these words are embedded, and are read again and again.

12/25/17

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Things I Should Have Said

Hello.

My mind has been crammed with thoughts these last couple of days, but writing this had been in the works for several weeks now.

If you think you’re one of the people in this post, there’s a big chance you are. I thank you for finding the time to read; we’re all busy these days, and that’s also the most convenient excuse we all make when we don’t feel like doing certain things (like reading this).

I’ve been left with my thoughts these last several weeks, and they continued to simmer, to take form, to make sense, until the time finally came for me to write this.

Let it be said that this post was written with a lot of introspection, anxiety, and definitely a certain amount of regret. I should have said these things long ago. Maybe I always meant to tell them, but I thought that I’ll have other days to bring them up.

Those days never came, so here I am writing all these things.

1. _ _ _, it’s been ten years. How did a decade pass by just like that? We were young and naïve and just starting to explore all the options laid out before us. It was the first time in my life where I willingly became vulnerable to someone. We made mistakes together, we learned together, and we supported each other. It was my first taste of sharing my life with someone else; trusting that another person (aside from my family) valued me as much as I valued myself.

Ten years later, and I still pray for you and wish the best for you. I still believe that the strongest friendship is one that comes out of a romantic relationship that just didn’t work out. We probably talk once or twice a year, but it’s always a delight when we catch up. You’re one of the few people capable of seeing me without any of my walls.

The last time we talked, it was about seeking professional help. How are you now? I do hope you’ve found support from the people around you. I’m also happy that your dog is giving you so much joy.

2. _ _ _ _ _, I expected we’d drift away the moment we stopped trying. We did try to make it work (albeit with varying degrees of effort) for four years. Maybe we really just weren’t meant to go beyond 2011, and there’s no shame in that. Maybe, in the grander scheme of things, we were meant to lean on each other for a short time; the years that followed were just us being stubborn.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t miss you. I feel like I’ve lost a dear friend, simply because neither of us reached out after those four years. I don’t blame you; we were probably exhausted from trying.

But are we still exhausted now? Maybe it’s time to be good friends again.

I hope your current job is giving you the satisfaction that you’ve always wanted. I hope it allows you to create to your full potential, because you’ve been blessed with one of the most creative minds I’ve ever known. While you were never comfortable with words, you were always expressing through your art. I still hope, however, that you’ve learned to be more open to others. More importantly, I hope you’ve become more open to the right people.

3. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _, I regret that our friendship wasn’t able to stand the test of time. I miss late night conversations with you, especially when you fall asleep mid-conversation.

We can try to rationalize why we drifted apart, and the reasons would be valid. Maybe we got too busy with our studies and, later, careers. Maybe we were only meant to be friends for a couple of years (those were an amazing couple of years, though). At the end of the day, however, I think we really just forgot to prioritize the friendship.

I remember that I did try to reach out for a while. I never forgot to send a greeting as we celebrated another month of friendship, but maybe that greeting had already lost its meaning years before. Nevertheless, if we ever get the chance to talk again, that’s something I will really enjoy.

I’m happy you’re getting married. You have such a good heart and I’m glad you get to share that with your significant other.

4. _ _ _ _ _, you met me at a very dark time in my life. I was mourning the death of my Mom, and I was not in a good place emotionally, mentally, and my better judgment was clouded for most of that year.

I really did like you. You had a strong personality, and we had common interests. I enjoyed our conversations and I loved how you’d challenge my opinions and convictions. Unfortunately, things happened, and I wish they never did. Maybe we’d be something else entirely right now.

If anything, I wish I really got to know you more, beyond the books, TV shows, and music. I wish I knew why you didn’t think any of your stories are worth listening to.

Maybe, one of these days, sooner rather than later, we can be friends again. I’d like to think, more than two years later, our lives are in a better place.

5. _ _ _ _, I still want an opportunity to work with you.

For a time, we really wanted to build our own company and create our own content. Unfortunately, the responsibilities of adulthood caught up to us and we drifted apart ever since.

I think I failed to maintain our friendship; for a while I also didn’t know if I still wanted to pursue content creation, and that was a big part of our bond.

Four years later, I’m pursuing that dream anew. I’d love it if you pursue it with me again.

6. _ _ _ _ _ _, back in January, I wrote the last long letter I’d ever send you. I think I poured my heart out into that, and I still hope and pray that your situation gets better.

If your family fails to function like a family and it’s done you more harm than good, then please find a more supportive environment for you. I think you have a lot of love to give, and I certainly hope you’ve found someone worthy of receiving that love while you also get the kind of love that you deserve.

I hope you’ve learned to be more open about your past and not be ashamed of it. I hope that the people who listen to your story love you even more because of it. Your strength and resilience still amazes me, as it’s carried you through more than two decades of hardship.

You don’t have to carry that burden alone.

8/22/16

I had my first counseling session with a psychologist last Monday in order to help me with my OCD.

It was weird, confiding in someone you only met a few minutes prior.

This is what I need, however.

Joseph, 26, Manila, Philippines

The Secret Illness

I tell myself that certain events/films/books never happened so I can stop over-analyzing them

joseph-no-textWhere do I start?

First of all: Please don’t judge me or anyone battling OCD. Please don’t label us as crazy people.

Second: Long, long post below. Read at your own peril.

Anyway.

I find it hard to explain, even in writing, since I’ve never really attempted to explain my condition in detail to anyone, and also because so many memories about it have been forgotten. It’s hard to recall everything or if there really is a reason behind all this.

My OCD manifests itself in a number of ways: repetition of thoughts and tasks (or doing things or thinking about things a certain way), obsession with symmetry, obsession with cleanliness, obsession with the number 5, thoughts about death and dying, and so on. The most common manifestation in me, however, is the repetition of thoughts…

View original post 1,206 more words

In Which I Try to Make You Understand OCD

NOTE: I submitted this to The Secret Illness, a “creative project that explores the realities of living with obsessive compulsive disorder.” The photo of myself that I submitted to them will be pixelated if/when they publish the post, but let me just show it to you now. I’m not hiding this illness, anyway.
This version, however, has some additional lines and reflections.
If you wanna know more about OCD, read THIS.
————————————————–

Where do I start?

First of all: Please don’t judge me or anyone battling OCD. Please don’t label us as crazy people.

Second: Long, long post below. Read at your own peril.

Anyway.

I find it hard to explain, even in writing, since I’ve never really attempted to explain my condition in detail to anyone, and also because so many memories about it have been forgotten. It’s hard to recall everything or if there really is a reason behind all this.

Just imagine living with anxiety everyday. Imagine spending hours of your day as a prisoner of your own thoughts.

My OCD manifests itself in a number of ways: repetition of thoughts and tasks (or doing things or thinking about things a certain way), obsession with symmetry, obsession with cleanliness, obsession with the number 5, thoughts about death and dying, and so on. The most common manifestation in me, however, is the repetition of thoughts and tasks.

When I was a kid (I was probably 4 or 5), I loved the number 2. I don’t know why, but I just did. Maybe the way it looked or the way it sounded when you pronounced it. Two. It was probably the concept of repeating something, of having not just one of something, that appealed to me. At that age, I had to do things twice.

Sing songs twice? Check.

Ask my Mom why the sky is blue twice? Check.

You get the point.

Soon after, twice just wasn’t enough. Doing things, reading things, learning about things twice didn’t feel right anymore. There was discomfort. I had to go beyond two. I had to do things again. And again. And again. And again. And again, until it felt right.

I remember watching morning cartoons with my older brother (I was around 6 or 7), and when I didn’t understand what a certain cartoon character said, I’d ask him for confirmation. It went something like this:

ME: What did he say?

MY BROTHER: He said *insert sentence here*

ME: Oh okay. So he really said that?

MY BROTHER: Yes.

ME: But he really said it that way? He didn’t say *insert a variation of the same sentence here*

MY BROTHER: I just told you what he said.

ME: I just wanna be sure. So that’s what he said?

Of course, it annoyed the hell out of my brother so he’d give me the silent treatment. That wasn’t good for me, since I wasn’t satisfied yet. I wasn’t reassured of what the cartoon character said. It was awful, that feeling of not getting “it” right, whatever “it” was. Whatever that cartoon character said (or what I thought he said), that little detail, would haunt me for the next couple of days.

At some point between the ages 8 to 11, I also started to wash my hands repetitively (I still do this).

After a few years, I’ve had enough. I couldn’t go on repeating tasks and thoughts endlessly, and I knew I had to do something about it. Interestingly, when I was around 13 years old, I was obsessed with the number 5. I can’t really remember why, but it probably had something to do with symmetry. If you imagine 5 sticks, there’s always a middle stick, and there’d always be two sticks to its left and two to its right.

The number 5. Maybe I could limit my endless repetitions to just FIVE. It worked, for the most part.

Remember a specific detail about a specific movie 5 times? Check.

Read a paragraph I didn’t understand 5 times? Check.

Check if my door’s locked 5 times? Check.

Wash my hands 5 times? Check.

Say certain sentences or phrases in my mind 5 times? Check.

And then one day, 5 just wasn’t enough. If I read a paragraph 5 times but it still didn’t feel “right,” I had to read it 5 more times.

There’s the problem. I’d read it FIFTEEN more times, just to make it 5 sets of 5.

Then there’s another problem. I found that I obsessed about little details too much, especially if I find something really interesting. For example, if I loved the Los Angeles Lakers, I’d spend a whole day researching about the team’s history, championships, records, etc. If I found a specific detail about the team (the team won 65 games in 2009, for example), I’d focus on that detail, read it over and over again, until I’ve had my fill. At this point, the “5 sets of 5” rule no longer applied; I was back to unlimited repetitions of thoughts and tasks.

This would go on to many things:

  1. I obsessed over the 2002 Spider-Man film, especially the fight between Spidey and the Green Goblin inside a burning building. I watched that specific scene countless times in 2002-2003.
  2. Of course, when I watched the 2004 Spider-Man sequel, I loved the final battle. Same thing happened.
  3. When I had my fill of superhero films, I obsessed over Neil Gaiman novels around 2008. This would prove to be challenging, since I keep repeating certain paragraphs on his novels that I rarely get to finish any of his books (except the collections of short stories, since they’re easier to digest).

It was also in 2008 when Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” was shown, and it changed superhero films. I found the film PERFECT. It was.

Until it wasn’t.

I obsessed over the film, watching it over and over again, specific scenes and lines and details about the movie took my time over the next couple of years. It was because of this repetition and familiarity that I started to see specific details in the film that I didn’t like.

  1. Batman’s suit looks like he’s wearing a man-bra.
  2. How did the Joker kill Gambol, exactly? I don’t think carving a smile on his face would immediately kill him. The actual death wasn’t shown.
  3. The Joker was beating Batman in their final battle. In the comics (at least in the ones I read), the Joker was always inferior to Batman’s fighting skills.
  4. Did Batman kill Harvey Dent? Didn’t Batman have a “no kill” rule?
  5. Why call Batman’s motorcycle the Batpod if you won’t call the Tumbler the Batmobile?

The details above overwhelmed me. Days upon days were spent analyzing them, trying to find answers, even if there were none. I tried the “5 sets of 5” rule, but it didn’t help. These same details in the film have been haunting me since 2008, with some rest in between (by that I mean I shifted my obsessions to other things, with the same pattern of finding specific details and analyzing them). It doesn’t help that I can’t talk to anyone about it, in fear of being rejected or looked at as a psycho, so I can’t find any reassurance that things are “okay.”

It was around 2014 when I came up with a solution: Whenever I found myself obsessing over an unnecessary detail, I’d try to convince myself that the object of my obsession never happened at all.

That’s what I’ve been doing with The Dark Knight (or any films or video games that I find myself obsessed with). Since 2014, I’ve been pretending that Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy never happened. It’s the only way to not think about them, or at least to minimize the memories and thoughts.

This is why I’m afraid of liking a specific book, movie, game, athlete, artist, etc. I know, I just know, that I’d end up researching about every little detail about them, and then when I find something interesting (or imperfect), I’d obsess over that detail.

I can’t put every little compulsion and obsession I have in here, since I’d probably end up writing a novel (which I’ll never get to finish reading since I’ll keep re-reading paragraphs). Don’t even get me started on my recurring thoughts about car accidents.

If you’re my friend and if you’ve teased me at least once about being “OC,” please stop. I really don’t find it funny.

These obsessions and compulsions have taken away hours upon hours of my day. The weird thing is I can’t imagine living a day without them. It’s the only way of living that I’ve known all my life.

 

I Need You to Understand.

Listen.

I appreciate that you want me to get over the passing of my Mom; it’s been eleven months, after all. I appreciate the reassurances that she’s happily spending her Eternal Life in Heaven, free from any pain and suffering. I really, really appreciate those words.

But I must respectfully tell you to stop telling me to “move on.”

Please stop telling me those two words, as if “move on” can contain over twenty-five years’ worth of memories, lessons, triumphs, agreements, disagreements, promises, disappointments, medals, laughter, tears, Saturday afternoon pizza indulgences, cold wars, hugs, kisses, church work, and countless other experiences with my Mom.

Let me celebrate her life, let me remember her, for as long as I want to. The pain doesn’t sting as much as it used to, but it remains. From here on out, a very big space in my heart will remain empty, because that space, for twenty-five years, was reserved for her. No new experience, no new person can ever fill that void. There are other rooms in my heart for them, but this one space will forever be reserved for my Mother.

True, I’ve testified in church about God’s goodness and guidance throughout this whole year of big adjustments, but I never said that I’ve already moved on. I simply stated the things I’ve experienced, both positive and negative, but there was no utterance of “I’ve moved on.” If anything, I simply continue to move forward.

It’s been eleven months, and next month we’ll be opening a new room in church in honor of her. December will culminate a year’s worth of Facebook posts, messages, and letters I’ve shared and written to my Mom. If you’ve ever been irritated by the photos of flowers I share on my Facebook timeline, you’re very welcome to unfollow or unfriend me; it’s not for you, anyway. I told my Mom I’ll continue filling her Facebook profile with those photos so that HER friends will continue to be blessed by those (Mommy loved to share photos of flowers; that’s one of the things they said they’ll miss about her).

Funny how nobody ever tells my Dad to “move on.”

I hope you could do the same to me.

Year Four

M: For four years I’ve been haunted.

W: Haunted by what?

M: You know what’s been haunting me.

W: I don’t believe you’ve ever told me.

M: Possibilities. What-ifs. Thoughts of what could have been.

W: Oh.

M: And you. You continue to haunt me. Just by being here, just by talking to me, you continue to haunt me.

W: Well, “haunt” is a pretty strong word, especially since I’m alive, right in front of you.

M: Ha. Nevertheless, you’ve been a significant part of my past; maybe my future, too, but we don’t know yet.

W: I’m sorry. I’ve been indecisive and confused and –

M: And you’re scared. Of me.

W: Wait –

M: Trust me I know, even if you haven’t told me.

W: I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry.

M: Well, that’s the second time you’ve apologized in a span of ten seconds. To be honest, I’m tired of the apologies; where’s the action that’s supposed to follow? The effort to do better? To be better?

W: But I don’t get why you want effort. We’re not even a couple, we’re not a thing.

M: So what I feel for you doesn’t count?

W: It does, and I do feel the same way. Still, I don’t see why you expect effort.

M: I should be expecting it, I guess. I can’t help it. It’s been four years. I’m exerting effort to get to know you more, to show you that I’m serious about this. How can we build on that thing, that feeling, when we don’t exert effort? How can you justify liking me when you hardly know a thing about me? Is it really that hard to set aside ten minutes of your time to ask how my day was? To tell me you’re doing well?

W: I’m sorry.

M: There you go again with your sorry. But really, you say you like me, but you don’t put in the time to understand me. So do you really like me, or are you just in love with the version of me from four years ago? A lot has changed since then.

W: Yes, a lot.

M: These past four years, I’ve learned to become more patient and understanding. I know what you’ve been through. I know what you had to endure, and I’m really trying my best to understand your situation.

W: And yes, thank you for understanding. But this is something I can’t rush. You know I’ve been through a bad relationship and I’m really just scared.

M: I don’t think I’ve ever treated you the way he did.

W: No, I’m not talking about him. I’m scared of me. I became an awful version of myself with him. I don’t want you to go through that.

M: Do you think we would have had this conversation if I hadn’t brought it up?

W: I don’t know.

M: I think you’ve been avoiding this.

W: I’m really, really sorry.

M: I’d like to think I’m a patient guy, but four years is a long time. I’ve adjusted to you, I’ve accepted the circumstances, and the timing was always wrong. I’ve always been adjusting.

W: And I appreciate it, really. There’s so many things in my life I still have to fix, so I understand if you want to stop.

M: Well, two things. One, how many times have you adjusted to me? And number two, I never said I wanted to stop. However, I have to be honest. I don’t think I can wait for another year.

W: I understand, and I don’t want to keep you from meeting other people.

M: It’s about the timing. It’s almost funny. Ha. We’ve been trying this for four years already, and we’re also four years apart. Maybe that number’s unlucky for us.

W: Do you believe in luck?

M: No, but the circumstances are almost always wrong when it comes to us. Ever listened to Duke Ellington’s “Star-Crossed Lovers?” It’s almost perfect for us.

W: I’ll listen to it later. Perfect for us? Probably. Almost.

M: And I’m almost there.

W: Almost where?

M: At the point of giving up, or maybe at the point of finally making things work with you. I don’t know; you tell me.

W: Well, if I remember correctly, this is the third time we’ve ever had this kind of conversation.

M: What kind of conversation?

W: The conversation where we decide to end, or “pause.” The one where we keep saying we’re always open to continuing. Maybe, if the timing is right, the fourth time we’ll have this chat will be the best one yet.

Conversation didn’t really happen, but made-up things still deliver truth.