Food Aesthetics: The Importance of Food Presentation in Combating Loss of Appetite and Depression

I think it’s safe to say that cooking is my first love. I remember watching cooking shows (Cooking with the Dazas, Cooking with Sandy, Wok with Yan, etc.) at a very young age. My first attempt at cooking was at 5 years old, one summer morning at my mom’s hometown in La Union. Every summer, I would go over to visit cousins and spend time with my grandparents. I was bored and I wanted to try making scrambled eggs Sandy style, with evaporated milk. So I asked my grandfather to watch over me as I tried my hand at cooking. It was a successful breakfast for a first-timer, and I have been cooking since then.

I continued learning by observing my mom and our household help in the kitchen. I also started watching more cooking and baking shows. As I began expanding my repertoire and exposing my palate to different flavours, I also became interested in food presentation. We eat with our eyes first, after all. I loved watching the chefs make plating look so effortless. I was drawn to the use of colour to highlight the food, how sauce is utilized as decoration, and how they are all tied together by the beautiful dishware. Not only does the presentation make the food enticing, it also makes the experience of eating it even more special. And although I may not be the best in plating, I try my best to marry taste and aesthetics in my cooking. Some may think of it as fussy, but I find great pleasure in making my food not only taste good, but look nice as well.

Those who know me personally (or those who have been following my Instagram account for a while) may know that I use cooking as a therapeutic activity and stress release. I found myself in the kitchen a lot when I was going through my crappy year. I used my free time to make myself some nice meals to help me with my mood. When I was feeling extra creative, I would document these meals as visual reminders for myself in case I need to recreate them in the future. I found that making my meals aesthetically pleasing helped me overcome my loss of appetite and dour demeanour.

To those who want to try it out, here are a few tips to make your simple home-cooked meals look better. Bear in mind that I have no formal training, and these are just based on my own personal experiences:

  • Invest in quality pieces that suit your style – personally, I am all about the Moroccan/Mediterranean/rustic/hipster vibe so for the most part, I tend to gravitate towards the colourful ceramics, copper cups and utensils, wooden bowls and plates, mason jars, etc.

Prepped a boodle fight for seven at home all by myself
  • Don’t be afraid of colour – it’s 2020, so leave the monochromatic scheme behind. Especially with food, it’s more appetizing to see different colours on your plate. And you have to admit, having that variety makes you feel a little bit fancier. If that doesn’t lift your mood, I don’t know what will.

My Paella Valenciana
  • Play with garnish – I know this goes against what we’ve been taught as children, but when it comes to food decoration, you need to have that playfulness to inspire your own creativity. And lastly,

  • Practice makes perfect – I’ve had my fair share of failed plates too. I was just smart enough not to take photos of them (lol). But all jokes aside, we can’t expect things to come out perfectly the first time. Even the pros make mistakes too. It probably took them many years of training to master the art of plating. So as beginners, we cannot be too hard on ourselves if we end up making mistakes in the process. Plus, self-criticism is counterintuitive to our therapy.

I find cooking to be a very relaxing activity. It keeps my mind focused on the task at hand, instead of stewing in negative thoughts. Making my meals look presentable is my way of showing myself some love – that I deserve to have a nice looking meal even if I am the only one eating it. The best part is that after all the prep and decoration, you get to eat the fruit of your hard work. And if you made enough servings, others may get to enjoy it too. Should I post my address for future food delivery?

The 8-Year Engagement: A Review

“If I didn’t know that this was based on a true story, I wouldn’t have believed that such kind of love existed.” Those were my thoughts after I watched this movie. After reading its synopsis, I wasn’t sure if this was the type of movie that a person with depression should watch. It didn’t have rainbows and unicorns in it, after all. However, I am currently in a Sato Takeru phase and wanted to see a different role played by this very versatile actor. From a stoic swordsman Kenshin (Ruruouni Kenshin), a quirky – and cute and adorable – butler Mameshiba (Mei-chan no Shitsuji), a moody musical genius Aki (Kanojo wa Uso o Aishisugiteru), a delinquent braided baseball player Yuya (Rookies), we now have Hisashi: a devoted, loving, loyal fiancee who took care of his girlfriend after she fell ill from a brain disease.

Being a sucker for a good love story, I prepared myself for two hours of heart-tugging feels. Plot-wise, if caring for your comatose girlfriend for years is not romantic and sad enough, how about realizing that she has no memories of you after she wakes up? It was like watching The Vow and The Notebook, only more innocent and painful. I understood everyone’s sides: Mai’s parents’ concerns about Hisashi “wasting” years waiting for his fiancee, Hisashi’s steadfast love and faith in Mai’s recovery, and his strength to let her go for her sake. I would be lying if I said I there were no tears shed for this movie. Such love is truly commendable, and something anyone would be lucky to have.

The couple that inspired the movie

The movie itself had a very solid cast. I have first seen Tsuchiya Tao as Makimachi Misao in Rurouni Kenshin. She was much younger then, and seeing her portray the role of Mai gave her another layer of depth. She may have been sick for the most part of the movie, but seeing her character struggling to get better was still very powerful. I have also seen several dramas that have casted Yakushimaru Hiroko and Sugimoto Tetta. These veteran actors were very well chosen as Mai’s parents.

Hisashi and Mai

And then there was Takeru, the main reason why I watched the movie to begin with. It would be difficult for me to write an unbiased review about him. He currently sits in close second (after Kimura Takuya) as my favourite Japanese actor. To see him mature as an actor is a delight to watch. He has transitioned very well from his cute roles to more serious characters. Seeing him play the optimistic Hisashi was very compelling, and a stark contrast to his recent previous roles. I highly recommend this movie to those who are into the pure and faithful love, steadfast and true.

Me, Myself, and Moi: Finding Joy in Doing Things Solo

There was once a time when I would get self-conscious going out and doing things by myself. Eating out, travelling, going to events, etc. were things that I would only do solo out of sheer necessity. For instance, I went to the Molson Ampitheatre (now the Budweiser Stadium) in 2006 to see my favourite Japanese band Dir en grey perform at the Family Values Tour by myself as my family just moved to Canada a few months prior. I did not know a lot of people then, and the only fellow J-rock fans that I know were the ones that I have met online (shoutout to the Dir en grey Livejournal Community). It turned out to be one of the best things that I have done. Have I allowed my self-consciousness and social anxiety to win, I would have missed the chance to meet two life-long friends and other future J-rock concert lineup buddies.

It wasn’t until a few years later, after a life-changing experience, that I started to appreciate doing things by myself. When a serious relationship fell apart, I initially wanted to just create happy memories to get through the heartache. And then slowly, it started to evolve as a project of self-discovery and improvement. I wanted to define myself as a unique individual, and not as a part of a unit. I challenged myself to try new things that I would never normally do, especially alone. As a perfectionist, I figured it would be best to try things on my own first, instead of making a blunder in front of someone I know.

My first step to healing and self-discovery was travelling solo. At 27, I have been to different countries, but never alone. Growing up, I lived a very sheltered life. When we were in the Philippines, I never learned my way around as I never really had to take the public transportation by myself. I would either be driven around, or I would get a cab if no one was available to give me a ride. The only time I would take public transportation was when I would take the bus to the university, two hours away from home. I was renting an apartment with a few other friends in campus so I would come back home once a week. I only knew two routes: the way to school, and the way back home. For the most part, my dad would pick me up at the bus station whenever I come home. So imagine my family’s concern when I told them that I wanted to go away by myself. I told them I needed that time to get to know me better, and they thought I would get abducted. After much discussion, they eventually caved and off I flew to Barcelona.

It was my first time to plan an entire trip, and I loved it. I did my due diligence and researched on cheap flights, places to go, and things to do. I booked a private room at a travellers’ lodge, two minutes away from the Metro station. It was a very central location, and I was within walking distance to Las Ramblas and the shopping area. Being that I was in Barcelona, I made sure to buy tickets to watch a La Liga game and see Lionel Messi in the flesh (he was incredible, by the way). I was so enamoured that I even bought a second ticket, this time for their Champions League home game. I was there for a week, and it was one of the most memorable days of my life.

That trip made me realize how therapeutic and enjoyable solo travelling was. I was not working on anyone else’s schedule, so I got to dictate my own itinerary. If I felt like sleeping in, I slept in and did not feel guilty about it. If I wanted to take my time eating just to watch people pass by, I did just that. If I wanted to go back to the Camp Nou for the third time, no one stopped me. I walked around the city, bought their two-day hop on/off tickets so I could mark the places that I wanted to revisit or spend more time in. I met a couple of Korean chicks while club hopping, hung out with Estonians on a road trip at a bar (while listening to one dude’s breakup story), and had beer with Germans after a football win. I have tried things that I would normally not have done before and tested the limits of my comfort zone. I thought, no one knew me anyway… therefore no one would really care if I fucked up or did something embarrassing. It proved to be an effective personal mantra, and I have been applying it for all of my trips since then.

After that great start, I wanted to continue the journey of self-discovery when I returned home. For the first twenty-something years of my life, I never did anything athletic. I never considered myself to be a sporty person, and the only form of physical activity that I enjoyed doing was dancing. Earlier that year, I signed up for two 5km runs with my girlfriends. After those events turned out to be huge successes, I figured I might as well continue the habit of being physically active.

It was a good thing that my friends were very supportive of me. As a gift, I received class passes for pole dancing for me to try out. I fell in love with pole as soon as I tried it and the rest is history. I was doing it for two years, until I moved to a new job and had to cancel my membership for logistic reasons. But for those two years, I was the fittest and strongest version of myself. I got addicted to the endorphin rush. Going to the studio and working out was my drug. I loved challenging myself physically: I learned new tricks and choreographies, and even participated in a few showcase performances. Being surrounded by empowering and supportive women gave me a confidence boost.

Valentine’s Showcase 2016

When I moved to my new office, I knew I needed to continue doing something that will keep me physically active. Since I was working at the Financial District, traffic was always a pain to deal with. That’s why I needed to do something to keep me occupied while I wait for the rush hour traffic to die down. That was the time when I started discovering (and loving) more physical activities: hot yoga, Crossfit, regular and hot pilates, and dancing. I even participated in two showcase performances.

Slowly, I started enjoying solo activities more and more. Especially for tasks like shopping or working out, I actually preferred doing them on my own. It felt good to have things that I could do on my own, where I didn’t have to worry about making sure other people are comfortable or enjoying themselves. It also gave me a chance to be more social, as I got to meet new people. And while I still like eating out with company, I now don’t mind discovering new restaurants and trying new places out by myself either. I usually utilize the time to catch up on some reading, or simply get lost in my own thoughts.

Whatever the activity is, I realized importance of enjoying one’s own company. It’s not a bad idea to be left to your own devices once in a while. Sometimes, we get inundated with too much information that we need some time to process our thoughts and listen to our own needs. It took me some time to realize this, and even longer to fully enjoy it. It’s not an easy task to lose the self-consciousness, the anxiety, or the fear of judgment. Trust me, I am still working on that every single day. But we are given this lifetime to work on ourselves. It is when we are stagnant and unchanging that we become boring. And truthfully, life is too short to be boring. Think about this next time you request for a table for one.

This is 33(3)

More than Halloween, Christmas, or New Year, my birthday is the most exciting time of the year for me because I get to claim it for myself (I swear I am not narcissistic). Yesterday, I officially welcomed my 33rd year of life. I was so excited that I woke up at 6am, way before my morning alarm at 7:45. It also happened to be a holiday (Family Day), so realistically, I didn’t even need that alarm.

I feel like I have matured a lot this past year. Being a bit superstitious and a firm believer of starting things with positive energy, I tried my best to tie up some loose ends before my birthday. That way, I can start my journey into a new year on the right foot. I have started making the first steps towards some life-changing decisions, and I have not felt this excited in a while. It feels refreshing, after months of gloom.

Some special balloons from friends

As I turn a year older, I wish for good health for me (so I can take on new experiences without getting sick or dropping dead any time soon) and my loved ones. I pray for strength and resilience, as I try to navigate through a lot of the unknowns that come with making drastic life choices. Most importantly, I wish for patience: from myself and from others as I continue my journey of therapy and healing.

We were 2 seconds away from finishing the room!
This dude allowed me to sing annoying songs to him the wholes day

I would like to thank everyone for the love and warm birthday wishes. Thank you to my friends (my ride or die) who have celebrated with me over the weekend. You guys are the best escape room partners. I also want to thank J for making this weekend special. Thank you for allowing me to be annoying and not be annoying back. My family, for your continued support and love. You guys are my strength and the reason why I am always striving for perfection. From the bottom of my heart, I LOVE YOU. Truly.

And to all my family and friends all over the world who have been sending me their love and thoughts and have been greeting me since the 16th, THANK YOU SO MUCH. My life is so much fuller and happier with you guys around. Cheers to an exciting year ahead!

Not an Anti-Commercial Holiday Post: Valentine’s Day Edition

As a self-proclaimed ambisocial, cold-hearted individual who prefers being weird over being normal, I am not above celebrating this Hallmark Card occasion. With the day being so close to my birthday, I normally start getting excited around this time of the year. Or I could just be a really being piece of romantic sap… although this is something I am wont to admit.

Speaking of romance and birthdays, here’s a cute song by my birthday twin Ed Sheeran

Being at home cooped up by myself has granted me plenty of time to put my thoughts into sorts. For the most part these thoughts are about my plans for the immediate future and understanding myself more. However, today is different from those days. As I started getting ready to meet my own Valentine’s date, a thought occurred: How did this occasion originate? Ever the history nerd, I started doing a quick research (thanks, Google). Initially, I thought this was a holiday to celebrate the martyred saint, St. Valentine. I didn’t know that it also had historical roots to the Roman festival Lupercalia, where they celebrated the coming of spring with fertility rites and lottery-type matchmaking (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Valentines-Day).

Back in the Philippines, Valentine’s Day is a pretty big deal. Husbands and boyfriends scramble to buy their significant others flowers, chocolates, stuffed animals, etc. Wives and girlfriends on the other hand grace their social media accounts with photos of the sweet things that their baes, mahals, and labs have given or done for them. Just this morning, I already saw tons of said posts on my Facebook and Instagram feeds. And with mushy posts also come posts from the single ones.

I truly think that our sarcastic and self-deprecating sense of humour is a cultural thing. I myself prescribe to that kind of comedy. To balance the sticky sweetness of fluff, I also saw posts of memes and gatherings to celebrate the Single Awareness Day (SAD). Seeing memes like these on my feed were reminders that this holiday should just not be exclusively about couples only:

This occasion should be about an all-encompassing kind love, not just the romantic love. It should be about parental love, sibling love, friendly love, and most importantly, self-love. After all, this is why the saying “Before you can love others, you have to love yourself first” is so important. And sometimes, self-love is also the hardest thing to do. We tend to be so absorbed in making others happy that we fail to look after ourselves. Our tendency is to share ourselves to everyone that we forget to tune in and listen to our own needs.

The purpose of this post is simple: regardless of your marital status, don’t forget to celebrate this day. And it doesn’t have to be expensive either. Go out with your girlfriends, give your parents a hug, have a sibling Netflix date, or treat yourself to a nice warm bath with a glass of wine. No matter how you do it, don’t forget to show and celebrate LOVE. Not just today, but every damn day. Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

With love,

The Phantom of the Opera Review

One of the things I like about J is his willingness to join me do the things that I enjoy doing (except shopping). Dating him made me appreciate creating memories together and experiencing new things as a couple over buying material things for each other. Since last year was tough year for me, I made a conscious effort to fill 2020 with more activities to facilitate creating happy memories for me and my significant other. We had 98 Degrees in January and for this month, we watched The Phantom of the Opera, as my advanced Valentine’s Day present.

Surprisingly, I have not seen a musical since coming to Toronto 15 years ago. I have always been meaning to see a show, but something always seems to come up that makes me unable to go. After watching the movie, I have added Phantom to my must-see list of musicals live before I die. As luck would have it, the company has returned to Toronto just before Valentine’s Day and J has agreed to be my date. We managed to buy tickets for their second to the last day of the show in town. The Princess of Wales Theatre was fully packed but luckily, we were still able to get decent balcony seats.

What can I say about the show? Well to start, I am so glad that I watched the movie first before the musical… because seeing it live was so much better than the movie rendering. Here’s why:

  • The set was done so well. They used a rotating component to quickly change sets for the different scenes. Seeing the stairs leading down to Erik’s underground lair emerge from that rotating column was fascinating to watch. The music box was my favourite prop of the stage. Add to that the use of smoke, fire, and a bit of pyrotechnics to complete the magical experience.
  • The actors were simply amazing. As expected of professional singers, I found myself tearing up at some parts. My heart was with them all throughout the show. I have to say, it was very difficult to restrain myself from singing with the actors out loud. Derrick Davis’ Erik was very compelling. I felt his genuine love for Christine, even if he had a weird way of showing it. Erik put me through a roller coaster of emotions: he creeped me out with his stalking, but made me sympathize with him and his desire to be loved.
  • Of course, it won’t be a musical without the orchestra. And I absolutely loved them. Nothing really beats hearing the musical scores performed live. Being in the theatre and watching all of these elements come together (lights, music, actors, set) was truly an experience, and so much better than the movies. Sorry, Gerard Butler.

Overall, I will rate the experience a 9/10. It was almost perfect, except for the part that the theatre was selling exorbitantly-priced concessions. I guess the production company is not to blame for this, however it’s hard to rate this a 10 when I was so hungry towards the end of the show (I usually skip breakfast and the show started at 2:00pm). Note to self and those interested in watching a musical as a date activity: eat a huge meal before the show.

As a date experience, this is definitely a 10/10 if you’re the type of couple who enjoys watching plays and/or musicals together. Perhaps ask your partner ahead of time if they would be interested in watching one with you. I know some guys out there aren’t really into the musicals, so best to give them a heads up before buying the tickets. Although I will admit that I did not follow my own advice since I never really gave J much of an option when I went ahead and bought the tickets before telling him about it. In my defence, I knew that the only time he would say no to me is if he already has something planned for that day ahead of time.

In terms of budget, the price point for this activity is fairly reasonable, considering that I bought the tickets in November and the show dates were already almost sold out. I would suggest to keep a lookout on Groupon as well, as they would have some deals on some shows from time to time. Depending on how popular the show is, sometimes the platform would have some tickets available. Unfortunately, that was not the case for Phantom but I knew I still wanted to see it.

As I end today’s insomniac review, let me share the song that I have been listening to on repeat as I write this entry:

Honestly, I was singing this song for days after the show

Like Erik, I think we all desire to be loved for who we are. That’s what makes his character so relatable. We all have our own deformities: some external, others internal. Finding someone who will accept you in all your imperfect glory is indeed a blessing, and sometimes a rarity. Remember to thank your loved ones – parents, friends, significant other – for loving YOU. Not everyone is that lucky.

Dating on a Budget: J-Town and Little Women (and a bit of help from Mother Nature)

I have always been a homebody. But even more so now that I am in a funk. If my depression could have its way, I will never leave the house (or my bedroom) at all. Last Sunday, I caved to J’s request to go out and watch a movie. We have been binging on Netflix lately, but he said it was better to go out from time to time. I have been wanting to watch Little Women for a while, as I remember watching the animated series when I was young. Of course, I wanted to see Timothée Chalamet as well. So we decided to make a date out of it.

Since I am on short term leave at work, our budget for dates had to take a bit of a cut. I am very conscious of how much we spend on dates, as I feel bad that I am not able to contribute like before. I must admit, it was (and still is) a bit of a challenge since I was never really used to having a budget. However, having a significant other working in the field of finance, it was something that I had to get used to. With the movie decided, we began to brainstorm other activities before the show. We both agreed on getting snacks and desserts prior to the movie.

I have been craving for some authentic Japanese katsu curry lately, so I suggested that we go to J-Town for some homestyle Japanese cooking and yummy desserts. It was also a great opportunity to bring J there as he has never been to the area. We ended up being hungrier than we initially thought we were so we decided to order separate meals at Green Tea Lounge. Of course, I got my katsu curry and watermelon cream soda, while J ordered a bowl of miso ramen (pictured above). The food did not disappoint. I loved how homey and delicious the dishes were. The best part of it all was that the meal was under $30.

To those who know me very well, you know that my meal is not considered complete without having desserts. It doesn’t matter how full I am, but I always need to finish off on a sweet note. So right after dinner, we proceeded to walk across another establishment – Bakery Nakamura – for some pastries. I ordered their white and milk chocolate mousse while I got J a raspberry panna cotta, and tea for the both of us. I especially love their desserts as they are not too sweet, compared to other patisseries. I also love the texture of their desserts – the spongecakes are moist, the mousse light and airy, and the panna cotta smooth and silky. I was too excited to eat the desserts so I failed to take of photo of them. I am providing a link to the bakery’s menu items to make up for it. I only paid under $15 for the four items.

With our bellies full, we drove to the theatre to catch our movie. At that time, I was still feeling a bit off mood-wise, despite the fact that I have been wanting to see this classic remake. However, that quickly changed once the movie started. Even after seeing the anime and the 1994 movie, I still enjoyed watching this film. Here’s my personal opinion on the following elements of the film:

Official Poster
  • The cast: I thought the cast was very well chosen for their roles. In particular, I loved Florence Pugh’s take on Amy March. I must admit, I was never a fan of her character in the anime or in the 1994 movie. However, Florence’s Amy was relatable and really resonated within me. Of course, I also enjoyed Meryl Streep’s Aunt March. Her dialogues with the members of the March family were my favourites. Lastly, I have to comment on Laurie. For some reason, I always find myself gravitating towards the tormented-with-an-unrequited-love character. My heart always bleeds for the one who loves and gives, but gets turned down in the end. To see Timothée Chalamet as Laurie was my reason to watch the movie. After seeing him as Henry V in The King, it was nice to see him play the role of a childhood crush. I love how sweet and adorable he was towards the girls, and how cute he was around Aunt March.
  • The costumes: Being a big history nerd, of course I love watching period pieces. I especially love seeing the costumes of said films. The actors’ costumes really suited their individual unique characters. Jo with her tomboyish behaviour wore clothes that allowed her mobility were in contrast with Amy’s fancier dress choices. Meg and Beth’s costumes suited their personalities too, with Meg’s simple elegance and Beth’s quiet and homey comfortable clothing.
  • The dialogues: I can’t emphasize enough how much I enjoyed the banter between characters, especially Aunt March’s zings to everyone.
  • In comparison to the 1994 film: I think I prefer this more. But then again, it’s been a while since I last saw that movie. Maybe I should rewatch that and write a review of that as well.

It seemed like I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the movie date either. J mentioned that although he hasn’t seen the movie or read the book before, he liked the plot as well . Since it has been a while since the movie was released, there were only less than 20 people in the theatre. So we were very comfortable in the theatre. I would definitely recommend this to those who have not seen it yet, while it is still in theatres.

Another good thing about this date was that it fit right within our budget. J received a lot of movie vouchers from his family members so we got this date for free. While I know that not everyone gets free movie tickets from their family members, you can definitely schedule a movie date during half price Tuesdays if you are working on a budget as well.

As we were getting ready to head home, we were greeted with an unexpected massive amount of fresh snow. We were both in a very playful mood after a nice dinner and movie that we decided to play with the snow. As someone who has spent her childhood years in a tropical country, I never really got to play with the snow until last Sunday. After throwing a few snowballs at each other at the parking lot, we drove back home and changed into comfier clothing and went back outside to play some more. J taught me how to pack a snowball properly and threw them towards the tree branches as target practice. We also made snow angels and threw more snow at each other. It was definitely a lot of fun. Once we had our fill of fun, we headed back home where we enjoyed some vanilla lemon cookies (purchased at Bakery Nakamura) and tea. Just like the rest of the desserts, the cookies tasted amazing as well.

Lemon vanilla cookies from Bakery Nakamura

All in all, it was a really fun date. Although driving through the unshovelled was a bit of a pain, playing under the snowfall was an unexpected but very pleasant experience. It just goes to show that we don’t always have to spend a lot to have fun dates. It’s how you deal with the circumstances and the company that you have that make them enjoyable.

I have created a short video compiling our memories of that date. I am also brainstorming some content ideas for Youtube videos in the future. I am looking into incorporating some videos in my future entries. For now, here’s the very first video of my new Youtube channel:

My Current Reality

As I have previously mentioned, I will slowly update this blog with my current situation as well as the past experiences that have led me to this predicament. First off, let’s start with my current state: I am not well. Sometimes I even question myself if I even care enough to get better. Sometimes I beat myself up for being so pessimistic and fatalistic, and I put in the extra effort towards my recovery to offset my bad days. And sometimes, I couldn’t be bothered.

Let me elaborate… I have been sleep deprived for many months now. To be honest, I always had insomnia. I can trace it back to my undergrad days… so that would be over ten years ago. I won’t be surprised if I have years worth of sleep deficit built up. I used to utilize this condition to my advantage, as it allowed me to power through my research papers and my mountains of reading assignments. As I entered the workforce, I would go through phases of okay sleep and insomnia. I noticed a pattern wherein I would have weeks of decent sleep followed by weeks of insomnia. I used to brush off these phases as nothing serious, and never really thought about seeing a specialist for it.

Just like my insomnia, my depression would go through phases as well. In the past, the funks did not last for more than a couple of months, and I just chalked them off as my way of coping with stressful or traumatic events. I always managed to muster enough strength to power through and “get over” my issues. Being raised in an environment where being depressed was deemed as a sign of weakness, I have developed the skill of keeping everything inside and not allowing anyone else to see my internal turmoil. I have gotten so used to doing this that there are times when I refused to acknowledge these weaknesses myself. I never really allowed myself to be emotional. And if things got so overwhelming that I break down, I would beat myself up in remorse and self-hatred for not being strong enough. I thought “getting over” my funk equated to denying its existence. I was putting all of my efforts into concealing them from everyone, but I have never really gotten the chance to tackle its resolution. I have allowed years of negative feelings build up inside me and I never even noticed that my reservoir was reaching its limit. I thought I was invincible, that I could keep on doing this forever… that is until 2019 happened.

Ahhhh, 2019. The year that I would rather forget. To some people, it was a year of happiness and bounty. To me, it was a year full of tears, panic attacks, mental breakdowns. There were some good days, thanks to the support of my loved ones. But for the most part, my year was a disaster. I felt as if I could not catch a break at all. Murphy’s Law was on a roll and Lady Luck was busy with other people. I will save the events for the next posts, but let’s just say that 2019 was nothing but craptastic. It was a year that truly tested my resilience. I have shed more tears in the past year compared to the first 30 years of my existence. I was such a mess that I had to rely on sleeping pills to help me fall asleep (though they never really helped me in staying asleep so I am still lacking REM sleep). I also started seeing a psychotherapist for the first time. And as per her advice, I have gone to my family doctor to get some antidepressants. I was initially very stubborn about those meds, as I was very scared of dependency and any potential side effects to my liver. However, both my doctor and therapist both convinced me that therapy alone cannot cure my condition. I needed the help of the medications to stabilize my chemical imbalance. My mental situation got so bad that it started manifesting on my physical health. My immune system is weakened, and my appetite has lessened. Just last December, I was sick with pneumonia for an entire month. And in January, I was hit with the flu. I may even be feeling the residual effects of it. It was a series of unfortunate events… literally.

Currently, I am going through another funk. And it has been going on for almost two months now. Every day I struggle to get up and find motivation to do anything. Sometimes I win, but most of the time I lose. And I would berate myself every time I fail. From time to time I would catch myself wishing that I would just disappear. Though I have not gone as far as to thinking about how to enact that yet. I have been pretty much confined at home for the most part, save for the few times that I have gone out to see my therapist (or attend events that have already been paid for pre-funk period). It now takes me a great amount of effort to force myself to do the things that I used to love. Most of the time, I have zero desire for anything. I find myself in this endless cycle of despair and self-loathing, and I am struggling to get myself out of this. I don’t even know what I want anymore. I just want the pain to end. Even writing this right now and listening to my internal voice is painful. You want to know how despair feels like? Imagine a constant pressure in your chest, like a weight that gets heavier and heavier every time you breathe. You feel constricted, like you are drowning. And the worst part? It’s all inside. No one can even see how much you’re suffering. You try to verbalize what you feel and yet no one understands. Perhaps it’s because you speak your truth with a smile to mask the severity of your pain. Perhaps it’s because you lose your eloquence, trying to organize your chaos into words. Or perhaps because others just genuinely don’t understand. Regardless of the reason, it doesn’t change the fact that you feel utterly alone.

So what do I intend to accomplish by writing this post? To be honest, I really don’t know. I am not trying to gain any sympathy from anyone. It is not my intention to host a pity party. But in order for me to start working on my recovery, I need to accept my current reality and stop denying the existence of my vulnerabilities. So here I go:

  • I need to come to terms with the fact that I have MDD and anxiety
  • For now, I need the help of both my therapist and medications to get better
  • There is a chance that I may need to take medications long-term (though of course I am still hoping that it won’t have to be the case)
  • I have a serious case of insomnia and it will take a while for me to pay back my sleep debt
  • My eye bags have never been bigger (or darker)
  • Due to the constant stress and sleep deprivation, my immune system is compromised and my appetite has lessened
  • I have frequent dizzy spells
  • I struggle finding joy in anything
  • Most of the time, I give zero f*cks
  • My default feeling is empty
  • I am an emotional wreck

Writing all of those points above made me realize that this recovery may not be an easy one after all. I do have to deal with a lot of sh*t, and most of them would require some major re-wiring of thoughts and behaviours. Am I scared? Yes… because I am scared of failing. But apparently, failing is also a part of the process. I guess I need to come to terms with that too. Do I want to get better? Of course. Will I be able to emerge from this triumphantly? We’ll have to find out. This blog will chronicle that journey. Am I hopeful? To be honest, I still feel meh about that. But I guess I owe it to those who love me to try.

An Evening with 98 Degrees: a Review

It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do

To look you in the eye and tell you I don’t love you

It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever have to lie

To show no emotion when you start to cry (please don’t cry)

I can’t let you see what you mean to me

When my hands are tied and my heart’s not free

We’re not meant to be

It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do (oh)

To turn around and walk away pretending I don’t love you

The Hardest Thing, 98 Degrees

I bet you sang that chorus while you were reading it. I was definitely doing so as I was working on this entry. I even have the song playing in the background!

Listening to the morning FM radio (particularly to the Roz and Mocha Show) has always been my thing to get me through the treacherous rush hour drive to work. On one such particular day in November, I found out that one of my favourite 90s boy bands was coming to town for a concert. Feeling very excited, I quickly purchased a pair of tickets without even asking J if he would be interested in watching it with me (thank goodness he’s such a good sport and agreed to join me). Fast forward to January 17th and we were booked for an overnight stay in Niagara to enjoy a wonderful trip down memory lane with 98 Degrees.

The band opened with with Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche) and the crowd – of mostly female fans who were my age or older – went crazy. There they were, a band of four talented singers, serenading me with songs of my childhood. They had songs for different phases of my life. Secretly pining for a crush: Invisible Man. Dreaming of your future wedding with your Prince Charming: I Do (Cherish You). Thinking about a romantic prom song to dance to: My Everything. The band performed all of the songs that I wanted to hear and then some. They also did covers from different artists: Jackson 5, Boyz 2 Men, NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Sugar Ray, Blink 182, LFO, NKOTB, and Britney Spears. The band performed for a good solid two hours, their sets interspersed with funny and interactive emceeing (and interpretative dancing while singing How Far I’ll Go). I love how they were all very candid about their age, and how they have changed over the years. I could tell that even J enjoyed himself, as the band made themselves very relatable and had no problems picking on each other.

Song after song, I was singing along with them, their lyrics still very much ingrained in my memory. I couldn’t help but smile wryly as I remembered the innocent feelings that I had, I was only 11 years old at the time after all. Looking back, I guess I have always been a big sap. But on that night, as I was getting teary eyed with heady memories, I felt J’s arms wrap around me and I allowed myself to get lost in the emotions. On two occasions I failed to stop the tears from falling: when they were singing Invisible Man and I Do. They sounded so good live, and they were singing a couple of my feels songs. I should not have bothered with putting on makeup. But thank goodness for waterproof eyeliner and mascara. My face was still decent after all the dancing, sweating, and crying of the evening.

All in all, it was an amazing experience. The stage was simple but worked so well with how laidback and intimate the event was. The men still rocked their dance moves and more importantly, they still sound great. The concert was decently priced, and I was able to book a nice hotel within walking distance to the venue, thanks to my Booking.com Genius discounts. So it is definitely a good idea for a quick weekend getaway.

To my fellow millennials who grew up listening to the band, or to those who just want to spend a chill evening listening to great 90s songs, check out their concert. I promise they won’t disappoint. For their tour dates and ticket info, here’s a link to their website: https://www.98degrees.com/. To my friends in Singapore and the Philippines, they will be there just after Valentine’s Day. I am actually jealous about that. I wish I got them for Valentine’s. I guess for now I will have to settle with listening to them on Spotify… on repeat.

They say that third time is a charm…

…so this will be my third attempt at starting a blog. Hopefully I can keep this more up to date (fingers crossed). I even bought myself a domain to motivate me to restart this passion project. Seeing a charge on my credit card provides that extra kick on the behind (although I did purchase this in December 2018 and have done nothing with it for an entire year. Yep, there goes my $80).

Since today is Mental Health Awareness Day, I thought it would be but timely to publish my (third) first entry today. A lot has happened since my last blog entry (that I have since deleted and purged). 2019 has been especially trying for me emotionally, physically, and mentally. The things I have gone through over the past year, I would not even wish it on my worst enemy. I have shed more tears last year than the past 30 years of my life. I have had many meltdowns and even found myself wishing to disappear. This has caused major concern to my family and loved ones and they have convinced me to see my doctor and a psychotherapist. That was when I was diagnosed with Anxiety and MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Truth be told, I am still not better. I am still on medications and still seeing my therapist. I was told that all of my pent up feelings and issues will take some time to be addressed. I am merely surviving day by day, and not living my life as I want to.

Little by little I am planning on elaborating these events here on my blog as a part of my therapeutic activity. I realize now that I cannot keep everything to myself. I am so used to dealing with my issues on my own, that I find it extremely difficult to rely on anyone and to trust them with my vulnerabilities. Before this day ends, I just want to share a bit of my narrative to anyone out there who feels stuck and in despair like me. I hope that by me opening up and expressing my truth makes someone feel less alone. I am here. We got this.

%d bloggers like this: