It is now covered in a haze, but five years ago, I truly believed I could never recover much less forget. It was not my heart that was broken, it was my soul. A torment, so finite it manifested as
The girl that built a wall around her
Some of my close friends told me that I have a wall. They could easily come up with several adjectives to describe me but friendly was never one of them. I am not comfortable talking with strangers like they’re my old friends, not that it doesn’t happen, but those few encounters are the exceptions rather than the rule. If I don’t have to talk to someone then I don’t. People say that I am unforthcoming and hard to approach; if they’re too intimidated, they don’t try anymore.
To be honest, I don’t really give a fudge. When I become privy of the talks people do behind my back of my seeming coldness and arrogance, I am more intrigued than offended. I am aware that I do come off as standoffish to people I barely know, but I don’t consider myself an arrogant person. I do have pride and the capability to not take shit from anyone, but I don’t possess a distorted sense of superiority over other humans. But I cannot make a case against ‘coldness,’ I’d be the first to admit that I lack warmth and could work on having sensitivity.
I am a doubting Thomas, I take things with a grain of salt. It’s a must for me to see the evidence, make an observation, and verify the sources before I accede to an argument or a claim. Many times, a person would air an opinion or share information, but when I find loopholes, I’d be quick to point it out. I am logic-driven, thus I have little patience for people who are given to half-baked theories and unsubstantiated stories. And I used to be so blunt, I hurt many feelings. The only way anyone could make me back down is when I’m presented with facts.
Let’s talk about feelings. There was a time in my life when the mere idea of feelings makes me cringe. I’m horrible at it, I never really knew how to handle it well. I think it’s one if not the main reason my depression lingered more than it should because I couldn’t process feelings the way normal people do. All of a sudden, I got all these emotions swirling inside my chest that I couldn’t fathom.
Simply put, a great display of emotion makes me quite uncomfortable regardless if the emotion in question is mine.
It’s because of these qualities that I have a wall. I am not the kind of person who lets down her guard easily. Trusting is a process; I gauge people by their characters, not so much for what they can or cannot do. I search for shared values and interests before I let someone in.
The girl who cannot be loved
I have always felt like I lack the necessary ingredient to build a romantic relationship; affection. Sure, I deem some men attractive, but to acknowledge a fact, in this case, a man’s features that trigger the dilation of pupils is different from wanting said man to be my forever-after. A beautiful man can make me nervous, but it doesn’t necessarily spell sleepless nights.
There is a reason for this ‘disorder’ one that is deeply rooted in childhood.
I grew up wanting love and stockpiling heartaches from people who could not reciprocate my feelings. In high school, I had many crushes and I watched them all chase other girls. I could only stare at them from afar, deathly afraid to show my feelings. I thought I was ugly and not good enough because what else could be the reason? Boys only go after the pretty girls; light-skinned, radiant smile, commanding presence. I, on the other hand, hang out with the average girls, my fellow plain janes. In the time where everyone seemed to be having their first love, I remained single and unwanted.
But the lack of display of affection runs in our family. We were not brought up to kiss and hug, we do not greet or give each other gifts on special occasions. My siblings and I were raised through corporal punishment by a turbulent mother and an unpredictable father.
Seven years before our first brother was born, there were just the three of us, the eldest, me, and the youngest sister. Big sister was the black sheep of the family who chased troubles like they were drugs. I couldn’t count on my fingers the times she left home, only to return months later. Defiant and out of control, she spent a good part of her teenage years skipping classes, sneaking out at night, basically everything that she wanted to the chagrin of our parents. Our parents have done all punishments imaginable to her, yet she remained
Our parents dealt with the problem that is my sister for many years. But I thirsted so much for my parents’ affection, I was sort of envious of all the attention that she was getting. I know how twisted that sounds but it’s the truth. Yet I was not as daring as my sister, I didn’t have it in me to defy our parents.
Our younger sister, on the other hand, was doted on being the ‘bunso’ in the family at that time. There was this day when I saw her lying down with a spherical toy in her mouth. I was suddenly gripped with fear that she would accidentally swallow the thing that I pried it away from her. My sister grew mad and started crying, calling the attention of our mother. Little sis told mother what I had done for which I received a good beating. Mama never cared to listen to my explanation. I remember crying in one corner, my young mind trying to understand what I could have done wrong.
My first memory of rejection was when Mama got pregnant with my young brother. Little sis pressed her ear against our mother’s belly to hear the baby’s kicking. Curious, I tried to do the same thing, but Mama grew mad and shoved me aside running expletives. I was shocked and confused. I didn’t cry but I do recall feeling a dull ache in my heart.
From then on, I stopped trying to express affection to anyone.
The girl who thought she found love
I thought he was the one.
As an NBSB (no-boyfriend-since-birth) and a girl who always wanted love, meeting someone who seemed to genuinely like me felt strange but exciting to me. There was a guy who showered me with compliments, even using self-deprecation to make it seem like he didn’t deserve a woman like me.
I’ve known him a long time through an online community and we were friends on Facebook. Twice, he sent me a message inviting me to meet; both times I ignored because he wasn’t really my type. A few years passed, he started making his presence felt on my Facebook wall by liking and commenting on my posts. I didn’t think much of it until a common friend, a girl I used to be close with, noticed. She advised me to give him a chance. I shrugged and thought, “Oh well, why not?”
It all started by regular chats on Yahoo Messenger and at first, I couldn’t feel a thing. He seemed truly interested in me that I started paying attention. But it wasn’t until we met in person that my feelings grew.
I remember the first time he told me the three words that I had been waiting all my life, I love you. I didn’t expect that I would hear this and be miserable. The day he said it, he was also telling me that we should stop communicating because he couldn’t make a commitment. He was still seeing his ex-girlfriend and despite saying that he loved me, he ultimately chose her.
I knew right there and then that he didn’t love me. Thank god for emojis, he didn’t witness the mess that I was in that moment. I fudging wish he didn’t say it. I had been waiting for those three words all my life, only to hear it being dropped carelessly by a person who didn’t even mean it.
I cried for three years, a long time for something that was shortlived. I thought I could never get over him.
I kept all these heartbreaks in the attic of my mind. It was like having things that you knew you wouldn’t use anymore but you kept them anyway, thinking you’d find some use for them in the future. But unlike an old object, I have no use for these heartaches, yet I didn’t know how to liberate myself from them. Hence, they accumulated and slowly ate away my self-esteem.
This is the root of my decade-long depression; I couldn’t express my love but wanted badly to be loved in return. Falling for this person who couldn’t love me was the last straw; I was completely devastated.
The girl who chose to love herself
2016, I had a breakthrough. It was not an immediate realization, I went through the days as usual. While having one of my reflections one day, I felt for my heart and found it was no longer broken. I have unchained myself from all the pain I had been
He suddenly came to mind but I could no longer feel the bitterness of his leaving. In my mind, I said to him, “It took me a long time and I don’t remember the exact date, but in 2016, I can finally say with certainty, I don’t love you anymore. I’m sorry that it took this long, but I am finally here.”
“How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you”― Rupi Kaur
I was able to move on when I started to chip at my wall. I made new friends and let go of the old who either didn’t want to be with me anymore or were bad for me. I kept my close friends who loved me even in my most unlovable state. And the grandest of all decisions, I forgave everyone who hurt me, deliberately or unconsciously, including myself.
My inner world is rich with dreams, but it was time to step out of my comfort zone and make them a reality. Thus, I packed my bags and went wherever I wanted within the Philippines and overseas. I stopped regarding travel as a tool to deal with my pain but a way to appreciate the beauty of the world, to understand other people, and to discover different cultures.
In exploring the world, I went beyond myself and made all my sorrows small. In my pursuit, I have learned to love myself and alleviate the agony of being alone. I no longer expect people to give me what I need. What I couldn’t get from others, I gave to myself.
Recovery didn’t come from loving another. It comes from loving oneself.
To the girl who is reading this
In the end, we all want love. To be with someone to go home to, to feel those warm fuzzies of knowing there is someone who sees his whole world in your eyes. Love is beautiful, there is no shame in wanting it.
But there is a danger in asking it from another when you don’t even know how to give it to yourself. It may sound cliché but it’s true, not knowing how to love yourself triggers all kinds of miseries. And so with all the love that you have in your heart don’t ever forget to love “you.”
And with this, I’d like to end this long piece with the words of Bukowski.
“If you have the ability to love, love yourself first.”― Charles Bukowski