Exactly a year ago today, I turned 25 and I celebrated my birthday by sitting alone on a patio of The Book Cafe in Singapore – utterly depressed, exhausted, and drenched with sweat from the humid Singapore air and my anxiety. I sat there for hours to write the very first blog post where I acknowledged my debilitating depression and my intention to quit my job and take a long break. I was unmistakably broken last year – I was constantly focusing on my failures and have decided that my life is not worth living and yet I was trapped in a limbo, too lazy to even kill myself.
One month after that I quit my dream job and a month after that I finally went to seek professional help. I was diagnosed with clinical depression and given three medications: an anti-depressant, a mood stabilizer, and a sleeping pill. I felt better for a while but then there were episodes of relapse and I would quietly withdraw myself from the world, unable to face anything nor anyone.
A year has passed since then, I am once again on a patio of a coffee shop, alone, celebrating my 26th birthday, and writing this. I still have my episodes of depression and anxiety every now and then. The different is today, I actually feel content and peaceful – last year I was unmistakably broken, this year, I’m unmistakably at ease – I’ve learned to acknowledge, accept, and even befriend my depression. I’ve learned when ‘it’, the depression, comes knocking on my mind and forced me to stay in bed and hate myself, I’ve to say to ‘it’: “No, I’m getting out of bed today, I’ll make myself a cup of coffee, take a shower, read a book even just for five minutes, play with my dog, and even go out to see a friend.”
“The people who succeed despite depression do three things. First, they seek an understanding of what’s happening. They they accept that this is a permanent situation. And then they have to transcend their experience and grow from it and put themselves out into the world of real people.”
― Andrew Solomon,
In my year-end blog post last year, I wrote about how I started this year with a sense of apathy and pessimism, but, at the same time, I also wrote about how I learned the reason that makes me want to stay alive even if I hate myself and my life is all the people I love – my family, my best friend, my dog, and everyone whom I’ve been lucky enough to encounter. I love all of them and I want to stay alive for them – I want to give meaning to their life the way they’ve given me meaning and purpose to live, the way they’ve helped me to not kill myself just by existing.
Today, on my birthday, I just want to express how grateful I am that I am still alive – that I’ve found a reason to live in all the people I’ve met and love and the people I’ve yet to meet in this huge world I’ve yet to explore.
I’ve always been extremely introverted and reserved – unable to express my affection though I have a world of affection inside my head that I wish I could convey to all the people I love. I’ve often been described as emotionally-distant, cold, and even arrogant because I have this constant blank and emotionless face when in fact I am feeling a sea of emotion inside of me and I’m trying so hard to suppress it as to not burden others with my emotions. This is why I resort to writing. Through writing, I’m able to honestly convey just how deeply in love I am with everyone in my life and the world I’m living.
Today, on my birthday, I want to thank my mother, my sisters – for understanding my depression and not for judging me, for trying to cheer me up, for reminding me that I will always have someone to back me up, love me, and support me.
Today, on my birthday, I want to thank my extended family, my aunts, and uncles, my cousins – for existing and bringing me joy, for their prayers, for their belief that I’m destined to be a great person who’ll be able to help someone.
Today, on my birthday, I want to thank my best friend. My high school friends who stick by me and takes me to many impromptu hang out and help me realize how I really love spending time with my friends, my college friends who are akin to a wind – they appear and disappear but I can always feel them, their support and their unconditional love and back up, my colleagues who turned into a small little family I cherished in Jakarta for reminding me how I’m actually capable of having a long-lasting friendship despite not meeting each other that often. Thanks, guys, hours of hanging out in a coffee shop may seem like a trivial matter but it means a lot to me for I always feel my life is worth living after all.
I think I’ve learned that happiness truly is as simple as a coffee and a good friend. How very trivial and yet I cling to that trivial joy.
Today, on my birthday, I want to thank the people I’ve romantically loved and currently love – for loving me, for stopping by, for the lessons you’ve taught me, even for breaking my heart because I got to learn even in a painful moment like heartbreak, there are still things that can be learned and I found that to be very beautiful. I also want to apologize for the heartbreaks I’ve caused. I hope whatever happened between us, you’re able to cherish me as a friend the way I’ll forever cherish you as a friend for you’ve shaped me to be who I am today.
For the person I am in love with now, who sticks with me in my worst moment and still stubbornly and persistently love me, I don’t think the word thank you or even thousands of poems and flowers can express how grateful I am to be with you. I wish I can give you the world and that still wouldn’t be enough for you still insist to love me when I am so unworthy of love. You’ve survived me at my worst when you should be loved in my best. You’ve told me that you want to be brave for the both of us because you know the chance to feel this way towards someone in one lifetime is rare – I want to be brave for you too, I want to be better, to stay alive, to be happy and bring happiness to you. Let’s go forward and embrace the uncertainty of the future, shall we?
“Kita yang sudah sejauh ini, aku dan kamu yang tak tertandingi.” – RA.
Last year when I turn 25, I told myself:
“I’m now standing at an intersection, overwhelmed, and yet, I’m fully aware that I have two options: to succumb deeper to the depression, or to leverage the pressure as a force for change.”
Today I turn 26 and I want to congratulate myself for choosing the latter option. I want to congratulate myself for exercising my biggest strength – my enthusiasm for life and my ability to look at the brighter side of life despite being surrounded by darkness.
Today I turn 26 and I just want to say how in love I am with the world and all the beautiful people who appear in my world – I love you and thank you, thank you for appearing, disappearing, staying, leaving – thank you for painting such a beautiful everglow color in my life.
All of you is the reason I survive and able to celebrate yet another birthday.
I think the most important lesson I learned between my 25 years old and 26 years old is the fact that it is okay not to be happy all the time, not to be in control all the time, not to be ‘someone’ significant for the world to see, it is okay and enough just to be significant for your loved one – to be there when they need you, to bring even just a tiny bit of smile on their face. I learned that I don’t have to be famous or changing the world to live a meaningful life – I won’t be able to end all suffering in the world or end a humanitarian crisis and that’s okay – as long as I never stop trying to give even just a little bit of meaning to someone’s else’s life by actually doing something instead of choosing to be apathetic and ignorant.
I learned to pick my battle, I can’t save everyone and solve everything but there are things I can do to help others in the way I’m capable of and I think I learned to be at peace with that.
Goodbye, depressive episode,s let’s bury you away in the back of my mind. And, if you come back, I won’t shoo away and pretend that you’re not there, I’ll hug you and tell you,”Hello, old friend. How shall I greet and treat you today? Would you like some coffee?”
Happy birthday, Rintachos. Congratulations for staying alive yet another year.