Breaking Habits

A/N: This is the first story in a series of posts that I will be writing as part my beloved group’s version of a nanowrimo, which takes writing to a lesser degree. This is supposedly the story for the prompt for the first day, but I was busy with work so I was not able to finish it immediately (/ n \)

Christine tossed and turned in her bed, watching the clock strike a quarter past 10 in the evening. Normally, she would be sleepy enough to be drift off until her alarm would wake her up, but after encountering bad luck with some of her special clients, her eyes felt more alive than they have for the past few days. Her energy was depleted, but something in her longed for a way to calm her nerves that involved methods that went beyond her comfort zone.

Christine was never the kind of person who would stay out late, much less do something beyond her normal routine of bringing a book to bed. Her friends, on the other hand, had a habit of sending her texts weekly, inviting her to drink with them. She stared at the screen of her phone as she contemplated on what else to do to get herself back to sleep.

It isn’t like I’m going to get any more sleep than I will.

Sighing heavily, she threw back the covers of her small bed and reached for her jacket slung over the chair.

***

Groaning inwardly, Christine frantically pulled at her black dress, in spite of its modest length. She stared at the other girls about her age, with their hair pulled back and their outfits showing so much skin that she wondered if there was anything else that the outfit covered at all. She spotted some of acquaintances during her cases for her clients in spite of their heavily shaded eyes and dark lips. She pulled the jacket closer to herself as she made her way inside the bar.

She immediately knew that this was definitely not the place for her. The speakers were painful to her ears, and she could not understand how this place would be able to make people dance so closely to one another. She could smell the alcohol even from the moment she entered the place, and she could not help but turn around and head outside. But as she did so, she bumped into someone from behind, and failing to keep her balance, fell on her bum.

“Christine?”

She knew that voice from anywhere. Gathering her strength, she looked up into a pair of crystal green eyes filled with surprise and concern. Ignoring his outstretched hand, Christine slowly stood up, internally scolding herself for not looking where she was going.

“My bad, Ian. I suppose you’re off looking for some other girls?” she replied acidly. She knew she struck home when he looked away. Without waiting for an answer, Christine made her way out of the club.

Stupid, stupid, stupid! How could I have forgotten where I am!

Memories started rushing in like a waterfall: the day they first met over a notebook that Christine left in the classroom; the day Ian asked her out; the days they celebrated their anniversaries.

But one memory remained of the last time she saw him. One which made her swear to never take a chance beyond what she knew would be a risky move.

***

“Are you even sure that is going to qualify as a smart casual outfit?”

Christine smiled at her boyfriend’s outfit for the day: A white long sleeved shirt and a pair of jeans with his trademark converse shoes. He was on the chubby side, which she had always found cute; but seeing Ian in these kinds of outfits made her swoon because of how nice he could look. He was off to meet a business partner in town, which would potentially boost his reputation in his line of work.

Ian chuckled, pulling her closer for a kiss.

“I promise I won’t be late.”

“You know our promise, right?” she had asked teasingly.

“No drinks, no girls, always think.”

She kissed his cheek once more as she made her own preparations for her work with her clients, not knowing that she would eventually stay up until the wee hours of the morning. Little had she known that if she had not stayed up late, she wouldn’t have seen Ian with a woman as they opened the door to their apartment as they hung on to each other as if they needed each other like air. She would have never known the next day that there was no such meeting that day, and that Ian had been on leave from his job for the day.

***

The phone rang endlessly as she went back to her small room. She did not care if it was him, or her friends, or anyone who had seen her bump into him earlier that night. She did not care for what would happen the next day. She did not want to think about the consequences of breaking her habit of sleeping early.

She reached into the back of her closet and brought out a bottle of tequila and locked herself in the room until dawn.

From a Psychologist’s Perspective: Problems

I’ve been in the helping profession for a few weeks now as a psychologist (and training for it for 5 years to date), and I’m starting to enjoy my life caring for my children in my assigned household. Granted, this is not the only home that the psychology department is handling. However, I’ve started to get to know each of the other girls and boys who enter the office and greet us with warm smiles. We laugh and eat snacks together, and that’s one of the few things that keeps me going throughout the day.

Naturally, I’d like to put in a twist here and say that these children are not normal. No, not like the X Men kind of normal. These children were abused or neglected by their own parents, hence they were transferred here so that they could be safe. But having that amount of trauma from their caregivers is a burden that these children cannot handle. They come in with a smile on their face and I slowly begin to start distinguishing their behavior. Of when they are truly happy, or when they are trying to keep up appearances of being happy. Like this:

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This is, of course, a natural defense against their own negative emotions. But these children are so affected by the amount of pain that goes along with growing up and having people who leave from time to time is not a bed of roses for them. It’s a band aid that covers up their pains and grief.

In contrast to those who say that psychologists are just in it for the money, or perhaps stay for the sake of reputation. Let me say for one moment that this is complete and utter bullshit. Psychologists have to become in tune with other people to look into their deepest emotions, and it isn’t easy for their part.

It’s so unbearably difficult to become professional and yet empathetic to these children when sometimes, all they want is someone who will guide them even through the difficult times, but that’s something that they will not have.

I call bullshit to those who say it’s something they have to deal with. Of course it is, but if you had a child of your own and you saw them suffering? You would definitely do this.

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I’m only 21 years old, for God’s sake. And I feel like a mother who wants to protect her children, even if they are not mine. It makes me relieved that they can open up to me enough to show me their true feelings, but it pains me so much when I have to resist every urge to comfort them. Yes, a hug does help. But these children are also so susceptible to getting their hearts broken over their relationships with others like their house parents and even some of the employees here that it personally pains me when I leave the office, because I want to see them and somehow make them smile.

But they’re growing up, and they cannot simply depend on people forever to stop them, just as I am also learning to stand on my own. Imagine telling someone so broken and so scared to stand up. It’s difficult. It’s unbearably painful even to us psychologists, because even we would not have the strength to do so at the moment. But sometimes, it’s up to us to tell them up front that it isn’t going to end.

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The only thing I can do for my children is to trust them to open up, and listen to each advice and counsel that we give them, even if we need to tell them every day. Because in the end, they’re going to get out of that, and they’re going to face each problem with renewed determination, which is something that us psychologists look forward to see in them.

Magic Meets Humor: Highland Magic Series

I’m pretty sure everyone’s read at least one book about fantasy and dreamed about being able to get superpowers one day (or perhaps up until now). Everyone’s probably waiting for the day that someone blasts their way past the front door and takes you on a magical ride to Hogwarts or Middle Earth or some place where you don’t need to pay the bills. But as time passes by, we all get tired of the same old story where everyone gets happy endings after some very painful deaths (I’m looking at you, JK Rowling).

But never have I seen a series which was consistently a perfect balance of humor and reality with a heavy emphasis on magic and the implications it has on the level of society.

Too heavy for you yet?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In contrast, the combination of elements was so perfectly done by none other than Helen Harper, an urban fantasy author who does not get enough recognition for all the books she writes (along with every other writer in the world who bleeds their eyes out to submit something decent to their publisher by the deadline date).

Okay, show time.

Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead!

  1. Gifted Thief (♥ ♥ ♥ ♥)

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Okay, I have nothing against publishers who want to use actual people to resemble characters in the book. But I have to admit that I did not bother to read the summary in the hopes of avoiding some dramatic summary about love and magic in some bizarre manner.

I was honestly confused with the prologue about the main character’s beginnings. It reminded me a little about Vin from Mistborn, because she was some special person who was raised on the streets. Naturally, we’d expect some dark past to twist this character’s personality.

But this girl is in love with hot pink. And she has a shitload of jokes to boot. 

I gaped at the book like this: 

 

 

 

 

 

This was definitely a character who I hoped would keep her personality (and her corny jokes) up until the end.

So more or less, this just gives readers a preview of the kind of life that the main character leads, woven along with bits and pieces from her past that does not completely scare you shitless, because sometimes, that’s what every author wants to do to their readers.

Naturally, there would be an element of romance. But it’s not as cheesy as you think! In some way, the author even pokes fun at the main character’s emotions and turns it into something that eases the drama in the novel.

My rating? Four out of five hearts. There were definitely some parts that needed a bit of polishing, like the whole introduction of the actual plot, but I loved the first book nonetheless.

2.Honor Bound (♥ ♥ ♥ ♥)

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(Okay, I have to admit that I like this change in the main character’s appearance)

So basically, this is the part where there’s an element of Hunger Games in the way that the story is plotted. Except it’s not. There’s a twisted set of rules that is applied to the way that the games are played in this book, and the reader soon understands why the author decided to give the second book its worthy title.

In all honesty, where I saw the comical and gutsy main character in the first part of the series, I loved the counterpart personality that she plays behind everybody’s back. She displays a kind of heroism that goes beyond victories and honor.

And Helen Harper does not forget the other supporting characters who once seemed so insignificant. In fact, there is so much added  elements that gave readers an opportunity to look in at all the characters’ sides and see that not everyone who is bitchy is necessarily evil.

Although there’s one fact. She does want to go for the crown that badly so she decides to do this kind of act:

 

AND THE BIGGEST PLOT TWIST THAT DID NOT SEEM LIKE A PLOT TWIST BECAUSE OH MY GOD THE PLOT TWIST.

(Not giving any more spoilers for the sake of those interested to read about it)

3. Veiled Threat (♥ ♥ ♥ ♥)

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In my opinion, this is where the rising action begins in the main character’s story. While the first two were full of action and stunning witty characters, the third book takes off on a more serious note, and it’s appropriate that it should be as such.

Why, you ask? READ THE BOOK!

However, here’s where we see the badassery of our main character in this magically real world that she lives in. While she initially aimed to use her identity to strike fear in the hearts of societies of who she truly was, we see that Helen makes use of this same girl to demonstrate another side of why she uses her identity as such.

We see previous characters slowly molding into mature characters. I also like the concept of Harper adding in a little surprise for the main character’s challenge, that is not only limited to her identity, but even to the fate of the world.

A little spoiler here: There’s obviously a prophecy, but this is not made entirely distinct up until this book, and I thought it was a little sloppy and unnatural in the way that the main character reacted to it. But hey, she’s a fiery one, so maybe I’m wrong about it.

What frustrates me more is that THERE IS A FOURTH BOOK ON OCTOBER 2016.

I’m flipping out. So if you guys want a different take on female heroes and magic realism, this might be something for you.

The Truth about Therapy

Everyone’s heard about the prevalence of depression in countries around the world. While some will joke that depression only hits the millionaires, it’s observable in everyone regardless of culture, race, or socioeconomic status. Contrary to what all of the Hollywood movies depict, it is never an easy race. I get very angry at those who throw around mental illnesses in the air without knowing the gravity of the term itself. Feeling depressed is such a deep emotion that sometimes, one is not even aware of it until it’s become too deep. Feeling “bipolar” is not fun. I have a relative who suffers from such, and she has been dealing with it for years while raising two children (and she’s very good at it!)

Truth be told, I’ve only been in therapy for four months and I still suffer from relapses. In spite of everyone’s reassurances that my physical, mental and emotional capabilities are not being judged… It still remains. So let’s get three misconceptions about psychotherapy real clear here.

  1. Psychiatric Medicines

Just because someone is undergoing psychotherapy, it does not automatically mean that they are prescribed medication. During my first few weeks with my therapist (who was not a psychiatrist, by the way), she went strongly against medication until she saw that my symptoms were dangerous to the point that I had to be accompanied by a member of the family. I would like to add that antidepressants aren’t the only thing here. There’s antipsychotic drugs for those with severe hallucinations and delusions. In addition, I was given anti-convulsive medication for treatment of my impulses towards non-suicidal self injury.

2. Length of Time 

In modern psychotherapy, it is highly recommended that brief therapy be administered to clients for economical and efficient handling of symptoms. However, one cannot guarantee the absence of relapsing back into what we have always been used to, most especially if it goes back to childhood, or even adolescence. In my current position as part-time psychologist in an NGO company, even we are given suggestions to compress the time we give to our children in therapies to a shorter time because they have other things to do (e.g school, tutoring, hobbies, etc).

Speaking from personal experience, I believe that I’m the kind of person who needs a long time before coming to terms with the demons in my past, which is too much to count and too much to manage. It’s always going to be a never-ending battle, because stress does not end in a certain period of time. It’s only going to get harder, and therapy helps us heal so we may learn to weather through the storms as we grow older. So while some would get better in a few weeks or so… there are always going to be some who will need more time to accept themselves and become stronger.

3. Therapy is all about positive things

Contrary to this, therapy will make you face your worse fears. Trust me on this: Whether you decide on group therapy, psychoanalysis, CBT, REBT, or any other method, you will be forced to confront your fears. The key to a successful therapy is only when one has learned to face the demons they find in themselves.

Let’s admit it, it all takes us a while to accept the demons in us.

But while some complain that they should have gone to therapy for this and that but they didn’t, do remember that we are all different people. Therefore, we have different mechanisms. Some need a friend. Some can manage on their own. Some just need a trip. Some need a professional. But people who go to therapy also have the same goal that you do: to be able to get through life.

 

 

The Politics of Body Shape

Note: Images and videos belong to their respective owners. 

Two days ago, during a class I was taking in graduate school, a friend (let’s call her Friend A) and I were talking about her trip to Taiwan and the kinds of food she got from there. As I got up to buy dinner, another friend  (Friend B) of mine came in and asked Friend A if they could avoid going to McDonalds because she felt that she was getting fat. I could only do so much to avoid gawking at her because she was dressed nicely in a sleeveless shirt, defining her curves. Friend A had started complaining about how she needed to go on a diet because she felt that she was getting fat. Yet again, I kept my thoughts to myself as I went to the stalls to get my dinner. All throughout class, I regretted eating the food I ate because I felt that it would automatically make me look worse than I already did.

People around the world have banded together to address the issues that came along with being bigger than the normal individual. Sad to say that in 2016, normal seems to be defined by being a size 2 or 4 in any clothing store, or perhaps looking as good as Hollywood artists when they wear a bikini. In addition, some studies have shown that individuals tend to be biased towards better looking people when it comes to choosing the best candidates and the most outstanding person in whatever award is being presented at that instance.

I recall that my first taste of dieting was six years ago, when I weighed 140 lbs for a 5’2″ girl. At first, I understood that my mother made me go to badminton classes and restricted me from eating junk food at night for health reasons. However, once I dropped ten pounds and got into college, weight meant more than just something about health. It meant a standard for me, most especially when I saw that several of my college classmates were, in a way, the picture of an ideal body. In addition, I suddenly got called pretty once I lost the weight, and it became an addictive kind of behavior for me. This pretty much became one of my biggest triggers when it came to my illness, and I don’t think that I’m alone when I’m speaking about this.

It pleases me that there are several other women who have made it to international audiences who speak up not only on fat shaming, but also the other standards that women have started imposing on themselves in spite of the scientific evidence of the dangers of driving oneself to starvation and even excessive exercise. In the video below, Kelli Jean Drinkwater speaks up about how body image has changed the way that she looks at activities that have been defaulted to “the thin people”, and how she managed to rise in spite of this:

Last year, I started to see the emergence of skinny shaming, as the sudden #fitspiration became the new #thinspiration. My eyes were opened to my friends who would eat huge amounts of food to be able to gain weight, and would also go to the gym to transform themselves to curvy models comparable to celebrities like Beyonce and Jennifer Lawrence. I will not lie: I’ve initially scoffed at the idea of skinny shaming because I believed that they did not have to bear the common notion of what a “perfect” body is. However, I slowly began to see the sudden increase in insults towards skinny people and how they did not have anything compared to those who were broader.

This becomes a subject of concern because honestly, what is actually normal during this time? What is the main reason why so many people strive for a body that is honestly difficult to maintain if you only have one cheat diet or perhaps even skip one meal?

Perhaps body image doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but honestly? It probably is when billions of people around the world will still make it as such.

Coming Clean

I’ve always been known as the listener among my circle of friends, and I’ve always been the one who was closed off among my siblings. I’ve been considered the most timid person, and perhaps even the most secretive person in spite of my closeness to some people. However, it would perhaps be ironic if I was too secretive in spite of my knowledge in psychology of consciously suppressing parts of my life and being ashamed of them.

So here it goes.

If a stranger were to see me on an ordinary day, perhaps they’d think of me as a quiet person. If a classmate of mine were to see me during our graduate school classes, they would probably think of me as energetic and engaging. If my college friends saw me, perhaps they would think of me as someone silly.

But no one has ever seen me when I go to bed at night.

No one has seen me toss and turn and fall asleep, only to wake up two hours later. The cycle goes on and on until it comes to a point that I wake up extremely tired, and that I need more than just two cups of coffee to get by. No one has actually seen me when I get moody. No one has ever seen me clenching my fists to the point that they shake and tremble with the tremendous amount of effort it takes to swallow the anger and resentment towards myself. Even my boyfriend has never seen me when I crumble into nothing, and yet I can never fully reveal my deepest regrets and my best kept disappointments about myself. No one has seen me tear up papers in pieces as I control myself from screaming in frustration over all the efforts I exert to do something with my life. No one sees the envy and jealousy I harbor towards the people who display their success through photos and posts liked by hundreds.

No one has noticed how I’ve tried to keep the pieces together in the last seven years. At least, until February of this year. I’ve been urged to go to a therapist for more than a year by my boyfriend, and when I first went, things have been relatively well. I occasionally cried in between sessions and had been following the recommendations that had been given to me by my therapist at that time. But things had turned for the worse, and I was constantly haunted by the memories of failure and inadequacy that had plagued me in my dreams. I would plaster a smile on my face in front of everyone, and hide in bathrooms to cry. I soon went back to one of the most alarming behaviors in the field of Psychology.

I engaged in self-harm.

It started as a way to control my own emotions, because I was always told off by my parents as well as my friends for being too sensitive to everything. They told me I wouldn’t survive with the kind of personality that I had. So I kept everything bottled in, and let everything out through feeling physical pain, even if a small part of me had protested against this. Naturally, I was in college at that time so I did not even listen. All I wanted was to maintain something that was closest to a picture-perfect life. Soon enough, my boyfriend found out about this and had told me to tell my parents about it. I resisted strongly against it, knowing that they had always gotten mad at me when I showed the slightest hint of sadness and then scolded me for not being thankful for what they give me. Naturally, that didn’t help because I felt more guilty for being so upset at everything. I harmed myself even more, until I started experiencing suicidal thoughts every night. I would prefer not to elaborate on the details, but more or less, my therapist confronted me about my psychological evaluation.

I was clinically depressed.

Somewhere inside me, I knew that fact all along. However, I resisted every effort that people who knew what I was going through had exerted into trying to get me to tell my parents. However, my therapist gave me a choice of telling my parents myself, or having her tell them about what I was going through. I went for the former. I was increasingly nervous as I approached my father to tell him about it.

I was pleasantly surprised. He hugged me as soon as I started crying as I told him about every little thing that I doubted about people who wouldn’t accept me for who I was because of what I was going through. I told him that I did not intend for it to get this bad, but he only assured me that he and my mother would get the best doctors around to help me deal with this illness that had caused me so much pain.

Fast forward and I’ve been on antidepressants for four months. If you want me to be honest, trying to skip it has been difficult, and there’s so much triggers around because of what I expect of myself. If you want me to be honest, I still hate myself a lot. But if there’s anything I can glean of this,  maybe I’ve gotten a little more open. No, I still find it difficult to tell my family or my friends or even my boyfriend about it (which has always been the reason for big fights). If you ask me, I think about how I fare in life compared to my other friends, or perhaps what I do not have compared to them. My therapist has referred me to a psychiatrist, who sees me every two weeks and tells me to go to the emergency room whenever I feel suicidal (which I honestly do not listen to).

But looking back, maybe I’ve learned to be a little more aware of my emotions even more. I may hate being sensitive, but maybe I’m (very) slowly learning how to manage them. I’ve become less aggressive and hostile when answering people while I’m under my very negative mood swings, and maybe I’ve learned not to give a damn on watching my every move in exercising (because for one, it causes me to become more depressed). In a sense, I’ve learned to sense when to talk to people, and perhaps understand them more.

As hard as things are right now, maybe coming clean helps me look up a little bit more.

 

 

Modern Realism

Let’s be honest, the world expects more from people.

The world runs on a different pace. Where teenagers would be satisfied with sleeping in on a weekend, I find my feed filled up with several of today’s youth wandering on different provinces in the country. There’s a larger amount of freedom for people to choose where to go because the principles that once bound several to homes and to a simple life with a white picket fence have now been considered obsolete. Wanderlust is now the new norm and simply staying home is not a popular notion.

But why is there still a shockingly huge percentage of people who find themselves frustrated and depressed over their current lives when sticking to old traditions is no longer strictly enforced?

Looking at this from a socioeconomic perspective, families of the current generation have parents who have managed to climb up the ladder and earn enough for their children to have good schooling. Currently, this becomes a more difficult thing to do because of the rise and fall of nations around the world, compared to the kind of lives people had in the sixties, for example. Technological advancements have also raised the bar for individuals to be able to ascend to the desired kind of position that will guarantee the stability of their lives as well as the freedom that they may have going to places and enjoying life as dictated by a large portion of society. Otherwise, most of the individuals today are bound to their chairs in the office trying to pay the rent without needing to lend from other people.

This does not mean that people are not able to reach their potential. On the contrary, people of this generation are a lot smarter and have more capability than anyone else. Sadly, this intelligence is a double edged sword and makes them become too idealistic in what they think they deserve, and too realistic when they start seeing what is needed to get there. I would also like to mention that this does not mean that laziness is common, which is something that older people would comment on the current generation. Because of this realistic perspective (that honestly borders on pessimism), there exists a kind of thinking that the individual is “trash” because they are not able to obtain a certain level of performance. This then makes them feel that they are incapable (or even not worthy) of getting the freedom that is coupled with life and its experiences.

In other words, it’s perhaps the inconsistencies between individuals who are able to obtain a level of stability at a young age compared to other people of the same group that causes a sense of insecurity, that leads to this kind of thinking. So maybe in some aspects, people just need a little bit of patience and a little practice in pacing themselves to obtain those goals.

Because success should never be rushed. Rather, it should be worked on full-time and with a clear mindset.