The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The-Unbreakable-Kimmy-Schmidt

Source: TUKS Official Facebook Page

I’ve been wallowing in the pits of despair for weeks and word vomiting in this blog for what seems like an eternity. Until one of my board exam tip readers Eric jolted me to back into, well, living again. My friend Jehz again recommended Netflix therapy at a time of my life where everything is just going wrong. He is a very strong person and I value this piece of advice.

It just so happened that I needed to research on comedy shows on Netflix for an article I am writing. So I ended up getting to know The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It was the best 8 hours of binge watching that I have done in this abnormal life. I was only supposed to preview it for a few minutes but ended up binge watching until the second season. And I will continue to do so until my PTSD normalizes itself.

Plot-wise, there was not much to it. It’s just a funny watch and highly encouraging. I know. She’s a fictional character of someone who got trapped by a lunatic preacher in an underground bunker for 15 years and survived to make her way in New York City after. And maybe taking inspiration from a fictional character is not the soundest of methods, but hey, it works.

I liked the fact that she had PTSD symptoms and continued to function and exude positivity. At this point, I need that kind of pick me upper. Her horrible situation did not keep her from reaching her full potential or hinder her ability to believe the very best of people. She is strange and she embraced it. And even though her excessive smiling annoys me during my low mood, I think she is a cool companion for a depressed woman who had just experienced having her entire world turned upside down and having one of her life’s supposedly happy chapters robbed of the usual joy it carries.

Anyway, I am living again. Tangina, these past few months were hard. But I am living again. I am not yet dead so that must count for something. This must mean there are still better things coming or something. Whatever. I truly hope that IRL, I can be as unbreakable as Kimmy Schmidt was in her world.

 

Chaos Post-Mortem: PTSD and Digital Purging

Waking up in the middle of night to cry, negative flashbacks, and avoidance symptoms are just some of the many indicators of post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. I have them almost on a daily basis this month. Based on some initial research, it aggravates itself during pregnancy. It’s difficult to have PTSD symptoms on top of everything (hyperemesis gravidarum, my usual mood stuff, etc.) but it’s not surprising considering the immensely messed up situation I had to deal with in the last 2 months. I turn to two things that never fail to cheer me up even in my bed rest: writing and task lists. Oh, and I added a third: reaching out to a friend or two. I used to hole up in my cave. Now, I message people even if it’s against my natural hibernating instinct. There is actually a group that I can comfortably open up to now, strangely.

PTSD’s drive plus some palpable nesting behavior finally gave me the freedom to do the long overdue digital housekeeping I’ve been dreaming of doing for years. I overhauled some online accounts to foster a better recovery phase. First, I killed my Twitter account last week. I figured that the monitoring of my favorite topics can be done elsewhere like Feedly (RSS), Reddit and 4Chan. I organized a system of storing bookmarks of my favorite online resources.

I finally arrived at a phase of having a neutral stance on Facebook which allowed me to have a more objective look of its pros and cons. I went from extreme love (before 2014 and in my hacked account), to extreme hate (2015-early 2016), to neutral (present). I used to have 2 Facebook accounts and it’s difficult to switch from one to the other these days. So I deleted the incognito Facebook account that I use for research and work and decided to just stick to using a singular and sanitized Facebook account mainly for research and messaging, some coordinating, and occasional catching up to certain people. I activated my old personal Facebook account and then cleaned it up by deleting the clutter that does not help me become the best version of myself and optimizing my news feed. It’s completely overhauled and organized now. My albums are sorted in the way I want. I just have to do some more minor grouping and tweaking in my list and it’s working perfectly according to the main purpose of communicating substantially and promoting a more positive mindset. It’s streamlined and the list of friends now is half the original size when I created my account. I am really happy with it now. I finally designed my remaining Facebook account to function in the way I want it to function, as it should have been right from the beginning.

Prior to all this, I had a conflicting attitude with my social media accounts. Even though I was really feeling like my accounts were cluttered, I feel like I have to keep things on Facebook just for the sake of some invisible social protocol. It was bustling with activity, but I felt like my social media account was not reflecting who I am offline or how I really want to use it. Now, I was finally able to break the gaps and what you see on my Facebook wall is pretty much consistent with what’s in the real world.

The crisis revealed who I am genuinely, and I was able to mold my digital accounts to reflect the real me. 🙂 And that’s one of the many good things and unexpected side effects of having a series of unfortunate events thrown my way.

The only thing that’s left for me to fix is all offline: my bedroom’s desk and the food and medication stash by my bedside. My mother’s condition is still the same. She is still sick and fighting for her life. This time, though, I still want her to get better but I am no longer compulsively trying to save her from everything. I no longer have to worry that the hospital will send her home just because she can’t pay for her bill. I can no longer control how she will respond to the medication or how they will manage the donation money from my bed rest. On my end, I have done my part and there is a peace of mind in knowing that I did not wait for her funeral to show my love or shed crocodile tears. I actually did something to fight for her life while she was still alive. I pulled all stops and did the unthinkable for her and I will not regret that decision even if it made me really uncomfortable and exposed me to a lot of people.

This time, my goals are simple: being a wife and a mother. A good and responsible one, I hope. I choose to tend to the needs of my unborn son because he deserves to see the world for the first time in the best possible environment. I always remember that day he almost died from miscarriage because of abusive people. I will always remember that day they almost killed my unborn son because of their selfishness and use it as a life lesson, going forward.

I lost a lot of things these past three months, but I gained clarity and a very relieving sense of simplicity. When you do not have a lot of stuff, it’s easier to see what matters, what is worth keeping and what needs to go. It’s a hard situation but there is a lot of good in it, surprisingly. It prepared me for motherhood in unorthodox ways. There’s nothing more jolting than a full blown crisis. You get your life priorities in order once all the mayhem and dust settles back down to the ground. I am more certain about what I want and what I do not want at this point in time. I am more selective about what I allow in my life and what I promptly let go of for the sake of promoting what’s good, worthy, positive, and encouraging.

When you become who you really are in real life and in the digital world, you lose a lot at first but you gain more in the long run. Essentially, you stop giving a fuck about the externals and you become real about what really matters to you in life. It’s wonderful to have that. You lose everything externally, but you gain the FREEDOM to be who you really are and have no more need to hide. You become vulnerable for a time, but once you get past the initial discomfort of opening yourself up, it reveals the strength that you never knew you actually had.

Well, PTSD is still a bitch. I still have negative flashbacks. I still burst into tears in the middle of my activities during the day. I still wake up with bad dreams. However, I think of the silver lining to this giant cloud. I am more in tune about who I am, what I want to do, and who I want to do it with. And for that, wherever this road leads me, I am certain that better days are coming for real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ground Zero

It’s my third day of being a digital orphan and I was thinking that maybe there will be some massive change or lightning bolt in the sky to mark my decision. None of the sort happened. As it turns out, it’s pretty much like the regular grind before all this craziness happened. I realized that I was, in fact, orphaned a long time ago. I only acknowledged it now and ditched the illusion of family that I had been nursing before. There is no more use to deluding myself.

I remember that one time in my childhood that the Census guy came to our house in Caloocan and he tagged me as “No Family” because I had a different surname. His classification turned out to be accurate. I refused to accept it for years but the assessment was pretty accurate. I have biological roots like everyone, but after this crisis, I saw that I really have no family. I only have a mother and a sister (maybe a cousin or two); the rest are just strict relations by blood.

My husband’s family grafted me as one of their own, but prior to their arrival in my life, I am just floating emotionally. I needed to tie this loose end so that I can move forward in life.

Embracing this truth was a tough choice but it was very empowering. I continue to send help to my mom and my sister because I care about their well-being, but that’s pretty much it. I have reduced my involvement to providing funds and palpable help as needed. I am still involved in the cancer treatment options as a daughter. But this time, instead of taking full reins and compulsively handling each element of her therapy because no one wants to budge, I wholly respect the balance of nature and let the husband do the work. It’s up to him if he will lift a muscle, but I am no longer picking up the work he refuses to do as a partner to my mom. I will not regret the fund raising drive or the public Facebook posts. But I’m more of a free agent than a part of family now.

There are no more plans of going back to where I grew up. This time, it’s focused mainly on moving forward and making sure that my son lives a high quality of life. The focus is on concentrating on making the best of my bedridden state and moving forward. There is an ease with cutting toxic ties after you know that you have done everything in your power to make things work and it didn’t. This is not the most ideal of circumstances, but this time, I am finally truly free of the guilt tripping, psychological torture, manipulation, and emotional abuse. It’s my birthday gift to myself and an appropriate welcome gift to my baby when he comes out into the world this January.

When you become responsible for a little one, the tough choices that seemed impossible are no longer impossible to make. It’s much easier to say no, make tough calls, and judiciously choose between what’s helpful and what’s not for the sake of the child. There is a certain decisive power that comes with being a mother. Instead of just thinking about yourself, you think about what’s best for the child. If it means cutting all the toxic people out of your life to make it happen, so be it. No matter who they used to be or who they are, you cannot allow your baby to be dragged into a mess that he does not deserve.

For all the chaos, I am happy that it happened. There is no greater test of authentic relationships than a full blown crisis. And even if I am literally standing on ground zero now, losing my family and my possessions and my well-guarded privacy,I know that better things are coming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disengaging from Emotional Abuse in the Middle of a Crisis

The most emotionally abusive people in this world have the expertise of making a crisis much worse, sometimes painfully unbearable. Today, I realize that even if I have the best intentions of helping my mother get the best care, I also have to start considering the fate of my child and protect him from this very toxic situation from my hometown that has been going on in my life for the last 30 years.

Two days ago, I had a very honest conversation with my mother about my feelings about this abuse which she sadly perpetuates for the last few decades of my life. I mean, it’s already a handful to accept her cancer diagnosis in the middle of my delicate pregnancy and mental illness.

To be emotionally abused on top of my genuine attempts to help is really overkill. 

Last week, my stepfather called me up and he was livid with rage. The reason? I sent a priest from the cathedral to bless my mom as she goes through cancer. I had labor contractions and a stomachache after his phone call.

What was so bad about requesting healing visit for the sick? He did not even have to do anything because it will only take five minutes for the priest to bless my mom.

He is the husband. If you are actually keen in observing this whole escalated situation, you will wonder where he is in this whole mess. I mean, he is the life partner of the terminally ill, after all. Isn’t he supposed to be the one minding these things so that I can have bed rest in my pregnancy?

Last month, I told him that I am predicting that my mother will need 200,000 soon and I was nagging him to call his OFW brothers to shell out funds to assist me in trying to raise them. He just said that it’s better to wait for my mom to die because he does not have the amount, nor is he willing to work out the means to raise funds to save her if it comes to that. That was the night my labor contractions started.

Hell, my mom is in a critical state. Plus the stress from conversing with him is enough to kill my unborn child.

A day before he attacked me about the priest (and I had dangerous labor contractions from the stress), I was asking for help because in my bedridden state, I cannot process the paper requirements for the PCSO financial assistance program. He was following up eagerly on how much money was donated to my mother’s operation fund drive online. And when it’s time to ask him to do menial tasks like photocopy documents, he complains like it’s the hardest thing to do in the middle of this crisis.

After he attacked me again for some good that I wanted to do to my mom, I decided to block his number from my phones so that he can no longer pester me and harm my child. I texted him that he is supposed to be the one looking for ways to save my mom’s life. He just passively waited for the bedridden and mentally ill to find solutions for the family.

If you have been reading my blog posts, you also already know about the emotionally abusive aunt who is swimming in money but chose this opportune time of crisis to collect my mother’s debt. That’s not even half of the story, in fact. That’s not even the last of her bad deeds to our family. I will keep the ones she has done when I was a teenager in the crypt because I am just looking at their faultfinding things in the face of this present crisis.

That they made our situation worse is an understatement. That they are attacking the one person in the family who is trying to help them is really shamelessly fucked up.

Sometimes I wonder if I am really bipolar or if the people I grew up with are just suckers and opportunists who drained the life and joy out of me? Still, I took the benefit of the doubt and I continue to seek therapy for my mental illness. If they are seriously full of shit and they don’t want to manage it, it’s no longer my responsibility. But I can manage myself. I can choose to step out. It’s a tough choice but I am making it because I am not the only one affected by the emotional abuse. I have a baby inside of me.

As a 30-year-old adult, I am now fully capable of disengaging. It just so happened that my mother is in a life of death situation that I had to step in, make tough calls, and take the extreme crowdfunding measure.

At home, they habitually made fun of me for being weird and for having the mental illness. But how is it that the most mentally ill and the bedridden in a sea of “normal” people in that household was the only one who genuinely looked past differences and issues with my mother to get her some life saving help?  I was not even living there anymore when this happened and none of these “normal” family members had the insight to see the severity of my mom’s situation.

During the two weeks that she visited me before her health deteriorated at an alarming rate, I studied her illness and treatment options, memorized her lab work, stalked doctors online to find the best care. And they usually count on my phone instructions to tell them what to do next. Two weeks, man. They had her for YEARS and MONTHS and what have they done?

Yup, the normal people who can walk, have their own brains, and is with my mom physically everyday failed to take their own initiative to save her life in this crisis. My aunts made side comments about my mom’s shortcomings when in fact it was already time to put our heads together as a family to find that Php 200,000 that she needs. They basically just waited for things to unfold as they read their Bibles or whatever it is that they do. 

If there is anything good that came out of this situation, it’s this: it revealed to me about the strength that I never knew I had.

The saddest thing about the whole event was that my own sick mother, after all the things that I have done online to help raise funds for her operation, covered up for their faults. She took her husband’s side even when her own grandchild’s life hung in the balance from the constant emotional abuse I got from his calls and text messages. And same thing with my aunt. Instead of addressing them directly for betraying her and just lazily waiting for her to die when her Php 300,000 operation was a fighting chance, she blamed ME for her stress.

I know that it may not necessarily be a good time, but I became really frank with my mom in the midst of the painful experiences I had. She is sick but I had to call her out on the unfairness of her assessment of the help that was coming her way. I know she is hurting a lot, but the emotional and psychological abuse from my relatives has to stop as well.

So I told her Mom sorry if my means of fund raising to get you help is stressing you out. But I had no other choice. The people in our family who were supposed to be the grown ups in this situation refused to take charge and were pointing fingers when it came to dealing with your hospital bill. They relied on the mentally ill to take charge and call the shots. I told her that I did what I had to do as a daughter because I refused to just give you up to cancer without giving you a fighting chance. Because a human life deserves a fighting chance. Even if she is not my mom, I value life in general over petty issues and differences.

I told my mom that it’s perfectly OKAY if you love them more than you love me. It’s OKAY if you find faults in me but refuse to find faults in them. My goal is simple: I just want to make things better for you. And it’s true. It does not matter if she loves them more than she loves me or if she does not appreciate the things I’ve done. I just want her to LIVE, extend her lease in life, and see her grandson and do everything in my power to contribute to making that happen.

Sadly, I realized and fully acknowledged that for all the genuine care I have for them, they do not really care about me or my baby. If they did, they would be more responsible and manage these things themselves so that I can protect my baby and get some rest.

I have to take measures this time to protect my child from this kind of situation.

I am turning 31 this Saturday, and even if my relatives are still alive, I already feel like I am an orphan. After I have deposited the last batch of the donation money, I will stop the fund raising drive.

I will focus on my son and begin my 31st year of life minus the baggage and emotional abuse. I will continue to help and provide financially to the extent that I am able because my sister also needs money for college in 2 years’ time.

Considering my bedridden state, I think I have done more than enough. After those exchange of text messages with my mom, I am disengaging and cutting off these abusive people from my life starting today. That’s a charity I am giving to myself, this time around. And it’s not a selfish decision, all things being considered.

As a result of my revealing to the world about the real deal, the kind citizens of the internet somehow informally adopted me as a new member of this large digital family. I may have lost my own family but I gained a new one. My in laws are also super supportive and kind about my plight. My husband and I can finally start over. It’s a decision I have to make for myself.

Despite the ugliness of emotional abuse that went on for decades, the world is still apparently a wonderful and beautiful place. And I need to look forward to THAT. I need to paint happy things in my mind and override their decades of abuse so that the world will not be corrupted in the eyes of my unborn child.

I have done everything I can as a daughter to raise those funds. It’s now up to these “normal” relatives to do the remaining legwork to continue her treatment expenses and other needs. They have no more reason to just wait for her to die and wait for someone to shoulder the bill. Other people came through and gave the funds required.

This is me signing off from the habitual emotional abuse. This is me taking measures to make sure that my past does not define my future. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Slim Slice of Hope

admission

I’ve finished uploading the last of my stuff for sale this morning (my entire book collection and my Canon DSLR camera is now publicly up for grabs on my Facebook account) and finally, this piece of paper confirms that my mom now has the financial means to take that huge mass out of her uterus. It was all done out of the collective kindness of people in the internet. Before the fund raising, my mom’s husband gave out a resigned acceptance that she is to die without the funds required for her operation. The aunt I initially turned to for help last June made our situation more difficult and unbearable. And we mostly got painful words from the people I thought were our support group in a time of such a crisis.

I took consolation from my husband, my in laws, the anonymous donors, the strangers who chanced upon my When in Manila piece begging for help, and the friends on Facebook that I do not regularly talk to but are messaging me daily now. They came through right at the moment where I thought that the world is a dark and nasty place. They assisted us and it restored my faith in humanity, somewhat.

As a daughter, I refused to accept that my only option as a bedridden woman is to wait for my mom to die and listen to classical music in bed while my mom undergoes the worst leg of her health problems. No, I can’t let my mom perish like that after all the sacrifices she has done for me and the people she loves. I refused to give up on her when our other relatives are just waiting for her to die, making side comments about our plight, and pointing fingers on who should shoulder the bill. I felt despair but I still somehow had a belief that there is always a way.

I have seen people raise funds for pursuits that are not matters of life and death and they were smashing successes. I turned to crowdfunding this month to ensure that my mom gets a fair fighting chance at life despite her expensive cancer diagnosis and the very business-like model of hospital settings in the Philippines. The idea was sent by two angels in my FB inbox: Joanna Kayaban and Lulu Tan.

When I put the word out there, I was frightened. I was afraid of getting attacked online. Plus I was just expecting to get a few hundreds, maybe to add to medication or some menial matter.

I was completely overwhelmed when help came from everywhere and we managed to raise half of the amount in 7 days. I did not know that people would care that much. I figured that since I always disappear on my social media accounts, they will just ignore me. 

It was the only thing I can do in my bedridden state. This piece of paper in my mother’s hands is now her medical ticket to possibly extending her life.

I am spending the next two days funneling out the remaining donations to my cousin Joan who is in charge of fixing her PGH hospitalization requirements. My sister Harvey is also getting a little for groceries, supplies, and adult diapers that my mom needs daily.

I only raised the funds mainly for my mom’s financial needs and I have a complete disinterest in retaining the money in my bank account. I want it to to be used for the purpose it was meant to accomplish: give my mother a reasonably comfortable treatment and afford that bulk removal operation.

My husband and I will work in the remaining four months to save up again for our baby.

Now that her crucial operation is underway, I can finally turn my focus to my unborn son Santi and get my much needed time to recover and rest in bed. For the first time in weeks, I can now finally sleep in peace. But there are residues of my traumatic weeks of figuring out what to do. The fight or flight response has been up since last month and I need to work on calming myself down for the sake of my baby.

In the coming weeks, I may finally have a chance to start over with my childbirth savings with my husband’s help after every last penny has been drained from us as of end of July. But even if we became penniless, I will never regret that decision because it was for my mom’s life. No amount of money is worth more than her.You can always buy things again but you can never buy back a life once it’s gone.

Next week is the first semblance of semi-normalcy and going back to my freelance writing gigs so that I can spend the remaining four months earning money for my childbirth. Yes, I am still working in bed like I used to do in the first trimester of my pregnancy.

The remaining work on my mom’s treatment is now a giant waiting game. The human side of the work is almost done. It’s now up to the Divine Being to do the rest, if He actually exists or if He actually cares for me and my family.

It’s been massively exhausting. I just want to spend the next three days sleeping to recover fully from the trauma of the emotional repercussions and physical toll of my mom’s diagnosis in the middle of my delicate pregnancy.

Before I got semi-viral with this call for help and crowdfunding effort, I was already a very private person who only opened her Facebook account once a year and devotes her time writing articles freelance or word vomiting on this personal blog. Now, everyone knows about my diagnosis and I don’t know what that means in the long term. Will that mean I will be disqualified from work opportunities? Will that mean that I will get criticized or laughed at as that crazy girl in the internet? I figured that it does not really matter anymore because I was singularly focused on saving my mom when I did it.

I don’t know why all this had to happen but through this crisis, I was able to talk to people in similar situations. I was inspired by their fortitude and faith. I was able to reconnect to people I have not talked to in decades. I was exposed again to the social media world, but it was not as bad as I thought it would turn out. Reaching out to others was not as bad as I thought it was.

I think that after all this activity, I will still sign off and spend my remaining third trimester of pregnancy in social media hibernation and preparation for child birth’s labor. Out of force of habit, I will eventually switch off my account and use it sparsely. I genuinely want a normal birth and I want to carry out whatever reasonable birth plan I can still afford in the remaining months.

Despite this painful ordeal, I am thankful because this difficult challenge came with its life changing lessons. My paradigm of the world has changed. There are things about my incoming parenting style that will be adjusted because of recent events. 🙂 I think that strangely enough, this painful and horrible slew of unfortunate events somehow prepared me for my parenting journey by next year. It was not a difficulty that was wasted. A lot of good came out of it, somehow. Strangely, it is sort of making sense why it had to happen although at first I felt like heaven was shitting on me and my mom.

After this event, I’ve got nothing to hide to the world about myself. I was hiding in the last 2 years and I did not even realize it. I was hiding from people because probably I felt that having bipolar disorder is something I should hide. Now, I had to expose the reason for my fund raising. It meant exposing my weakness publicly, even in the face of strangers. And that exposure of my weakness turned out to be a means to find a source of collective strength from others. It’s really a humbling experience. The power of everyone’s individual contributions was enough to save a life. That mere lesson alone is worth all this pain, I think. I thought people will judge me for having a mental illness, like when my ex-friend attacked me last year on her Facebook wall just for revenge. I realized that people can still treat me normally and with respect even if I tell them about my illness, that it’s okay to ask for help, that it’s okay to be myself. 🙂

I am really exhausted but yep, I found something in my heart that I did not have for a long time now: HOPE. 🙂 It’s a slim slice but it’s there. I hope my mom survives. I hope my baby is alright. I hope for a better future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Baby Santi – A Letter to My Unborn Son

Hi Anak! It’s me, your crazy Mummy. 🙂 This week marks your fifth month in my uterus. I am at risk of losing you because of the stress of finding out about your grandma’s diagnosis.

Actually, let me correct that. I am at risk of losing you because of other people making your grandma’s diagnosis more unbearable and difficult for our pregnancy. But everyday, I am fighting for you, Anak. Even if I  am itching to work, I forced myself to rest because you are loved. Because we waited so long to have you. And I don’t want you to ever feel like you need to be evicted from my uterus too early. No, Anak. You are staying in there and I am forcing myself to be a good patient in my bed rest. 

Stay in there, little bean. You are our joy. You are the future. And you are going to have a much happier life than mine. I will pull all stops to make sure that this is the case. I am pretty good on delivering my promises, most of the time. And I will not fail you, my son. 

I am writing this down so that I will show it to you when you grow old enough to understand and read. You see, we got help from strangers, friends, and some of our relatives. This month, I had to make a tough decision. Should I expose our situation to the world so that we can get the help that your grandma needs? I tried asking out some people for help quietly last month but they turned us away. I was so broken and I know you felt my pain, too. I am so sorry, Anak. I did not mean it.

I realized that even if I am painfully shy about our family situation, I had to do it. And we did it, Anak. We were bedridden but we did it somehow. Well, we did not really afford giving your Lola a private hospital facility but we can at least line her up for an operation in PGH and maybe she will get a chance to see you when you go out to this jungle of a world in December or January. 🙂 That thought brings me so much joy. 

Here is an important lesson, tiny plum-sized tot: we did not do it on our own. We were helped by the collective kindness and mercy of people. At a time where I was starting to feel like you are going to enter a world of filth and darkness of selfishness, I saw some light and some hope. 

Before, I had loads of plans for you like art lessons and other things that will make you an accomplished human being. I played Mozart and classical music on our speaker in the bedroom so that you can have better brain development.

And then, this happened. Instead of that relaxing environment, we were subjected to so much stress and heartache. My poor baby. 🙁 I wanted to shield you from these but the circumstances in our pregnancy make it so hard.

But you know what? Last na ito, Anak.

I am going to make damn sure that when you go out into this world, you will not have to deal with ugly things you don’t deserve under my watch. You deserve a fresh lease in life. You deserve a nice environment with which you can grow and be capable of loving others genuinely.  You deserve to be surrounded by people who will be a good influence to you, not turn you into a selfish and self-righteous intellectual. You deserve a future where you are not an extension of me or your Daddy’s life frustrations. You deserve a place in this world where you are free to be who you are and pursue your interests in life without fear of not having enough resources.

In the midst of this horrible trial and crisis, we found out one thing together: there is a kindness in this world. The simple citizens of the world is your family.

I slightly changed my plans for you.

I started planning how I can instantly immerse you into a perpetually helpful attitude and lifestyle. More than anything, I want you to be kind to people. It’s a bonus if you are smart or if your IQ is Mensa level. I don’t care. You’ll always be the best in my eyes no matter what your school grades will tell me.

This time, I value it more if your Daddy and I will raise you, our firstborn, to be kind and helpful. We want you to grow up to be an encourager of people especially those who are down and feeling the burden of this weary life.

Because that’s what saved your life in this crucial time. We were helped by kind and helpful people. 

We got more crap from the smart ones I thought would love and care for us enough to help us out quietly in this painful ordeal. So I am a little wary about you having a high IQ but not having your feet firmly planted on the ground. Yeah,  I will still play some Mozart and classical music for you. Probably, I’ll pop in a chapter of the Bible or two if we still got time.

I am glad this happened to us, despite the labor contractions. I am glad it happened because I actually saw who are the people in our life who I want to come near you when you come out into this world. I am able to filter out the people who will be a bad influence to your growth. I am able to distinguish who genuinely cares about your welfare and who are just out there to make a mess and do crazy things to make our already difficult situation even more difficult.

What a very sacred responsibility parenting is. I have to think positive even when the chips are down. I have to be strong even when I am bedridden and cornered. I have to SURVIVE for you, Anak. And you know what? I thought I did not know how. Fortunately, I have a good example: your Lola Lynne. She made a way even when there was none when I was a little girl.

That’s why we fought for her in this battle. The happy thing? Other people also fought with us. Not the ones we expected. But wow. They were many. They prayed with us. They sent us text messages. They showered you with love. 

And I know that your future is going to be bright. So just keep swimming inside my tummy, okay? I am going to lie in bed all day if that’s what you want me to do. I just don’t want to lose you. I want you to feel how much I love you. Like really an immense level of love that goes beyond words.

Santi, you will be a source of joy to our lives and the lives of the people around you. I will really make sure that I will properly select your Ninongs and Ninangs. They will be good people and you will be guided properly by them.

I love you, Anak. See you in December or January. Please stay inside my tummy, I promise to be less stressed. I already lined up the coloring books and cross stitch kit that I need to get myself together. You’re going to be okay Anak. Even if things are not okay, I will make it okay for you until you are strong enough to navigate your way into this world.

Your grandparents wanted to name you Seth Antonio after your grandpas. But I am adding one more as a blessing and a marker of how we swam through this storm: Seymour. It means “mighty in water.” Because that’s what you are Anak.

Seymour Seth Antonio. 🙂 Writing classes will be a bit of a pain, but I am blessing you with a name that will symbolize how you will become in this life.

You’re a tough one, baby. You are riding this whole mess with me and you are still inside kicking me. 😀 Thank you for being there, Anak. You give me reasons to keep living. Your daddy and I love you very much. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Widow’s 2 Cents

I am writing this quickly because I am forcing myself to eat and rest well for the sake of my baby, who must have been completely stressed out these past 3 weeks. I want to do more for my mom’s cancer battle, but I have to sit this one out because this tiny passenger in my tummy deserves his own chance to see the world and have a good future.

It was funny because I never had to raise funds before. Usually, I have a lot of friends who ask me for favors and I give them stuff whenever I can without charging them because they’re my friends. I don’t have a lot of cash but I help people find rakets or jobs in the internet.

I just figured that if I have the resource they need, there is no reason for me to withhold it. I decided not to post actively on Facebook for productivity purposes. I only open my public Facebook account once a year and use it for 3 to 5 days if there is something I have to post or recommend to people. Or if I have good news to share. 🙂 I don’t bother everyone else with my life’s issues these days, really. I like working more than complaining. I have grown to love the solutions-oriented approach to life and I always work like that.

I don’t have a lot of liquid cash because I am using it to prepare for my child and to help my family when they are in dire financial straits. I occasionally browse through some fund raising sites and I give whenever I am able even just a dollar or two. I am not rich, but I like helping out in my own small ways. I put up a personal blog and give tips on board exams and other useful things.

Someday, when I survive this situation, I will be writing a comprehensive tip on how to handle a loved one’s cancer diagnosis especially in the advanced stage. Here is my main principle in life: if I just have the information, I freely give it away if it helps other people.

So when things got really bad after my husband and I used up our money, I raised funds online to help save my mother’s life while waiting for approvals from financial assistance programs like PCSO and PAGCOR. The paper requirement list is very long. In my bedridden state, I find it hard to secure the barangay certificates and other documents that these financial assistance programs require. I have to arrange a courier service to send documents back and forth from my Binangonan home to my mom’s home just to complete them.

My husband and I tried to provide for all the financial requirements for the last few months. Silently, we endured the financial repercussions of a cancer diagnosis as my mother deteriorated day in and day out.

To be quite honest to you all, I was not even on strict bed rest even if that was the doctor’s requirement. I was writing articles on a freelance basis. I am in bed, lying and I have this laptop on my side. I type articles. When my stomach hurts or I feel exhausted, I stop. I just do what I am able. And well, if you have a mom with a critical condition, even if you have six fulltime jobs in the Philippines and even if you are a licensed engineer married to a lawyer, you will not be able to earn the large hospital bill money instantly.

In fact, in July alone, we already spent Php 200,000 pesos approximately for most of the expenses required. Even if he is a lawyer and I am an engineer, this advanced stage of cancer does not discriminate. It will really eat up ALL of your resources. When my childbirth money was used up as well, I started to worry. And that worry got compounded when my mother’s hospitalization requirements turned from twice a month to weekly in a matter of weeks.

By first week of August, the only thing I have left aside from our empty bank accounts are our life insurance policies and the St. Peter coffin that I purchased in case I die suddenly. I just did not want to cause inconvenience to people so when I was still single, I prepared for my death by buying a basic coffin plan and an insurance policy. I figured that when it is my turn to get old and sick, my poor son Santi will have to grieve and then I want him to have some resources to bury me with. Right now and more than ever, I have to keep those plans in mind because I don’t want my son to suffer when I get old and weak.

During my mom’s biopsy hospitalization, I had a phone call from my cousin Joan about the doctor’s therapy approach. I was informed that we need to produce a minimum of 300,000 pesos to remain in the Kidney Institute to immediately have the life saving operation. So I raised funds while running the requirements for financial assistance programs. I got half of that amount only so I was forced to discharge my mom from the Kidney Institute so that she can be transferred to PGH paying ward which will require a minimum of Php 150,000 and the money I raised is enough for that single procedure.

Why the Kidney institute? She needed the urgent biopsy and the doctor told us that it’s much faster to have it done there than wait for a line or slot in PGH. And most of the financial assistance programs rely on the biopsy result or report. Besides, when you are dealing with urgency, you don’t really look at where you are taking the dying patient. You just think of where to have it done and have it done fast.

In my bed rest, I researched doctors. The case of my mother requires a double specialization of OB gynecologist and oncologist. They’re unicorns, like neurosurgeons or other doctors with highly specific specializations. I read medical journals. Her doctor Dr. Jean Ann Toral is someone I looked up and emailed directly for her first appointment. Before I did that, I read her thesis in med school which is uploaded somewhere online and I made sure that my mom had the best care with our current resources. The old Caritas-accredited doctor in Medical City provided false hopes and a wrong diagnosis last May. Her talent fee was 15,000 per checkup. This new doctor I had for my mom to meet charges 800 pesos per checkup and can do the surgery in both Kidney Institute and PGH.

Simultaneously, I was researching the government agencies and the Philippine cancer support groups and coordinating the paper requirements for PCSO and PAGCOR. We are going to use those financial assistance programs for her subsequent expenses after the first operation. I only had to raise funds just this ONE TIME because all our joint money is gone as of first week of August and she is dying. I am not sure how long the PCSO and PAGCOR approval will take but it will just have to follow.

The priority is to save her life and extend it for a few months or provide palliative or hospice care at least if it really comes to that.

I am bedridden but I have to always find a way. And there is ALWAYS a way, no matter how hard. In this case, it meant putting my situation out there so that I can raise the funds to save her life.

Before I turned to the mercy of strangers and friends, I tried asking another loved one for financial assistance as early as June this year. At the time, I was already feeling that my money will not be enough for upcoming medical emergencies. I was right. I always think two steps ahead. I knew what was coming and I needed to brace myself so I asked her for help. I came to her because I thought she loved my mother and she promised to help. But at the height of the caregiving requirements, she ended up making things more difficult and she even asked my mother to pay at least 20,000 of the 54,000 my mother owes her even when my mom is super sick,unable to work, and completely out of options. It was because of a long standing issue about my mom’s financial habits. Long story short, my husband and I paid her off and continued to work on paying for the bills day in and day out until our resources ran dry. That’s why all our money was gone by end of July.

I was thinking of things to sell. Our car is still necessary for emergencies because we use it to pick up blood bags. And my mother will need that transportation option on standby. I still use my laptop for work. And since I am bedridden, I am relying on my phone to call people in Caloocan and coordinate things about my mother’s therapy. The book inventory needs some physical strength to type up a list and haul the books and arrange for LBC so it’s taking a while.

I hate being idle. I had this bipolar disorder diagnosis since 2011. I work fulltime and take extra jobs even if my mental illness requires me not to be stressed out in any way. I surmounted each suicidal episode. In my head, half of my brain wants to get run over by a truck. The other half of my brain is thinking: “Before you try to kill yourself, here are some of the things you need to do and the bills you need to pay so your loved ones will stay comfortable.” And that worked. It always worked. Until I got bedridden this year.

Being pregnant is not easy when you have bipolar disorder . You have to schedule your pregnancy attempts because you have to be emotionally stable, stable enough to be able to ride the waves of your mood swings without medication. All bipolar medication maintenance drugs are Class D drugs that kill fetuses. So basically, my husband and I took a leap of faith when we tried to have a baby this year. We worked on our lifestyle and diet. We got me off my medication last February and I got pregnant in May. I was supposed to have a full-time job last May 10, but during the employment medical exam requirement, we found out that I was already pregnant. We waited a very long time for this baby. So I went back to freelancing to secure the baby’s safety.

Now I am at risk of losing him. I can’t. I am going to die if I lose my baby and my mommy at the same time. I shudder to think of what I will do if that happens. So I had to fight this situation and put it out here publicly even if I run the risk of people judging me. 

I have to apologize to my unborn son for the stress I am causing. Day in and day out, I talk to my son and I say “Sorry. I tried making this pregnancy experience as relaxing as possible. But your grandma needs us to do some things too.”

I think my son is feeling my desire to work fulltime and as a result, he is already trying to come out of my uterus even at 4.5 months. I apologized to my son and I respected the requirement for me to rest in bed to save him as well. Even if I want to do more for my mom, I force myself to rest in between my fund raising efforts. 

The funny thing with the donations was that the people who helped out are also experiencing some family crisis themselves. The first donor in my campaign page was a diabetic who is undergoing some financial strain. I talked to a girl that I never talked to before in my entire life. Her mother has stage 2 of breast cancer and she donated. Another friend has a mother who has stage 4 cancer and assists me with the requirements. It’s amazing because these people are like me, they are also suffering. But they gave what they had. Even if it was a just few hundreds, it felt like it was valued at ten million pesos. It reminded me of a Bible story about a poor widow who offered 2 cents in the temple. And Jesus said it was the biggest contribution that was given because she gave all that she had. Strangers text me and encourage me. They donate and get my bank details and then day after they donate, they follow up and check “How are you?” “Stay strong” “We are praying for you.” 

I had to turn to strangers for help. Another amusing thing was that most of the people who habitually asked me for free writing and editing favors plus rakets or job opportunities or financial aid for far less urgent things suddenly disappeared. 🙂 They are nowhere to be found now. It was like I suddenly had leprosy and they refused to talk to me.  My situation provided them with discomfort. Or maybe they just found it unbelievable that I am raising funds? 🙂

It’s alright, however. I never counted the amount of help I gave to them. I never thought of their favors in the middle of my work as interruptions but just as a normal way to assist people when they are in need. I just figured that it’s how people operate and things happen and we just have to help others. As it turned out, they cease to become my friends at this very time when I have nothing left to give or when I had no more benefit to their lives. I got seenzoned by people who habitually tells me “Thanks for helping me. I owe you! Sana makabawi ako sayo someday.”  Ako pa yung napahiya kahit na sila pa yung mahilig manghingi sakin ng pabor noong hindi pa ako nagigipit. And it was the same with my mom. Some of the very people she habitually helped and benefited from her, na akala ko close sa amin, during her comfortable days suddenly disappeared nung nagtatawag na kami ng tulong. And one of them even made it more difficult for her at ginipit pa kami lalo.

Despite how I was turned away by the people I counted on to help us out (aside from my mom and baby’s lives hanging in the balance), I am STILL very happy and grateful because the huge torrent of help came from all walks of life. And it came from people I did not expect. It came from people who I thought did not care about me or my mom. It came from people who don’t habitually like my sparse Facebook posts. It came from people who are not on my frequent chat lists. It came from people I haven’t heard from in decades. It came from people who I don’t know personally, whose struggles I have not known. It came from people who knows what it’s like to be drained of everything and still have to give a dying loved one a fighting chance. 

And my eyes were OPENED for the first time in 30 years. This effort is life changing. This experience changed me permanently, and fortunately, it was for the better.

Despite the people who I helped and ignored me in this time, I will continue helping others after this whole unbelievable difficult nightmare is over. I will continue to do what I can. I still believe that when you are not dead and you have something on hand, you need to use those resources and maximize these resources. I still believe that when you are fit to work, you should work and not mooch off from other people.

I know that some people think I am not in severe poverty to raise funds. I will inevitably get judged for opening up my situation, and I will take that judgment too. But the reality of cancer is that if you are not a rich man or a well-connected person, it’s a death sentence that will take EVERYTHING you have especially if it’s an advanced stage like my mom’s.

For all the things that other people will say against me for this initiative, that does not erase the fact I was able to give my mom a fighting chance kahit kinapalan ko na yung mukha ko to the highest level to people. To be quite frank, I honestly don’t think the mere peer pressure or pride of sustaining a fake illusion of wealth or comfort with me and my husband’s local professional licenses will save my mother’s life. It’s better to be completely honest about the situation than hide it and let my mother die in a hospital because I was not able to raise the financing she required.

But these days, I no longer just bank on my self-sufficiency and self-reliability in the face of a trying time. I figured that occasionally or at least once in a blue moon, it’s okay to be tell other people about your pain, to admit without pride that you need help from other people, to REST when it’s absolutely required so that you won’t cause additional harm to other people. Like this unborn child.

I figured that if I was not bedridden when this whole thing happened, I will just do the work of saving her myself and I will always take credit for surviving each crisis, and I will become overconfident about my abilities to solve things. Some people who are not nagigipit in life are like that: they figured that they can always work it out without other people’s help and all of those who raise funds and beg for help are lazy scumbags. It’s not entirely true. This is not a raket for me. This is one of the most bold things I have done. And hopefully I will not have to do it again kasi hiyang hiya na ako sa ginawa kong pang-aabala. Pero kailangan ko lang talagang gawin para sa Mommy ko.  

This time, I say it publicly that I did not survive this situation on my own. I survived on the collective mercy of strangers, friends, and family. And it will do me well to remember this experience as I become a mother to my son.

When my son grows up, I will always tell him: when you see someone in need, no matter how you think he or she deserves the assistance, give the help that you can give no matter how small. No kind word is wasted. Don’t leave that person empty-handed. And when looking for a life partner and you have to choose between kindness and intelligence, always CHOOSE kindness. It’s a bonus if you have both. But kindness prevails. 

I will still want my child to have a good education. Kung gusto niyang mag-doctorate, hanggang kaya ko, gagastusan ko siya. But after this experience, I realized that I don’t need an overachiever son in the future. My only wish as a parent is that me and my husband can raise him to do his best but also prioritize being kind to people. It does not matter what he can or cannot do. Gusto ko lang lumaki siyang mabait na bata at matulungin sa iba katulad ng mga Good Samaritans dito sa Facebook na tumulong sa amin.

No matter what the outcome, I will always tell my son about this experience when he grows up. That he and his grandmother Lynne had a chance to live not because people achieved things or because he has a lawyer dad or an engineer mom, but mainly because people were KIND to us and we were helped when things were falling apart.

I habitually turn to the internet when I need to boost my income by taking in multiple rakets. This time, for all the filth and the wars we find online, I can really say that the power of the internet gave my mother a fighting chance to live. In spite of the bad, there are still good things here. In spite of the people who use us and desert us when things get bad, there are still people who extend a helping hand. And we must NEVER GIVE UP.

I will forever be grateful. 🙂 Thank you for saving my mother with your widow’s 2 cents love offering. And more importantly, thank you for demonstrating me that THIS thing you have done to me and my family at a great time of need is what matters more in life.