But I don’t feel guilty, it’s okay not to be okay sometimes
When a good friend and former colleague suggested that I enter this contest, I was hesitant. Up until the last hours before the deadline, I couldn’t write anything. What could I possibly tell my readers about moving on and surviving when I’m still struggling?
Having to go through life and death situations left me out of words. I struggled to write. And this is the first time I am opening up about what I’ve been through and what I am going through.
Memories of EDSA
One time on my way home, I burst into tears while driving in EDSA. I used to dread driving that road because of heavy traffic and flooded portions. But now, every time I pass by EDSA, I can’t help but remember my father. We pass by that road almost every day. When he died, I felt like I was left alone to endure the traffics in EDSA and life, in general.
I think most people hated driving in EDSA, especially during rush hours, but I was forced to bring the car to work because there was no public transportation yet that time and the risk of contracting the virus via commute was high.
During the early days of pandemic last year, I volunteered to report onsite because my father reported for work on a weekly basis riding a taxi.
Before pandemic, my father and I would park the car at the mall and leave it there and ride the MRT train to ease our commute. But we cannot do that last year, since he’s already a senior citizen and he also had comorbidities: He underwent a heart multiple bypass in 2018. He had high blood pressure, he’s diabetic, and he had kidney problems.
Even though I wanted him to stay at home as he was also retired years ago, he insisted to continue working. So, my mom and I had no choice but to support him all the way. And since my mother retired, too, my father and I go to work constantly.
Enjoying long hours of traffic
Traversing EDSA daily was no joke, but because my father was my passenger, those drives would be less tiring, less boring, and less lonely. Our day starts with him buying me breakfast at Mc Donald’s and we’d eat at the car. After work, I’d enjoy listening whenever he talks about his days in Saudi Arabia where he worked for almost a decade until he decided to settle in the Philippines to be with us.
On some days, we don’t really talk, to be honest, especially when we’re in a bad mood or tired from work. There were days we annoyed each other. But most of the times, we’d talk about anything under the sun, laugh, or just listen to Joel Osteen’s podcasts.
I like asking him questions even though I can research the answer/s in Google. I like how my father answers them or talk about how his day went in the office without going into detail about it.
You see, my father was a man of few words, but he can be chatty sometimes. And when we’re in the car and I’m driving, that’s also the only time I get to talk, ask, and remind him (sometimes scold him!) about absolutely anything (e.g. his medications, exercises, and medical checkups).
Sadly, my father died due to cardiac arrest on October 10, 2020, two weeks after I reported for work, and I was in complete shock. I think we all were – my mom and sisters, including our relatives and closest friends. Everything happened so fast.
My bout with appendicitis
So, I tried distracting myself by exercising and running in the morning. They say when we exercise, our body releases chemical called endorphins, which can trigger a positive feeling in the body. I wanted to be happy so I run. It became my comfort zone and stress reliever.
I thought I was doing great with my physical activities and healthy eating. In fact, I was at my healthiest weight ever in years. But on May 23, seven months after my father died, I underwent appendectomy – my first-ever major surgery in my entire life.
I initially felt a sharp pain in my lower right abdomen. After some blood work and CT scan, I was diagnosed with appendicitis and my doctors recommended appendectomy right away.
At first, I was in denial. I can’t believe it’s happening to me. The resident surgeon must have seen my worried face, so she told me: “Ma’m, you look really worried!”
I answered: “Yes doc, if this happened before the pandemic, I’d be okay with the surgery. But we are in the pandemic. Imagine the health protocols and tests I have to go through before the surgery.”
And I was right. Before admission, my mom and I had to undergo an antigen test – to which we tested NEGATIVE, thank God. And even after my surgery, the hospital had to confirm the negative result with a swab test.
Imagine if I/we tested positive? I will not only worry about my surgery and recovery, but also the “positive” result.
I was depressed, but I couldn’t show it. I can’t even cry or laugh because my stitched abdomen hurts. I can’t even move side to side like I used to. Plus, the reality that I can’t do my “normal” activities yet devastated me.
My life forced into halt
When my doctor told me that I can resume my normal activities minus heavy lifting during my follow-up checkup, I wanted to ask him: “Doc, do you know my ‘normal’ activities? I run 2-3x a week (as if I’m a pro athlete). I wash clothes. I clean the car. And since my father underwent heart surgery years ago, I also move a half sack of rice and gas tank inside the house. Does that look normal to you?”
But I refrained from speaking and just accepted the fact, that maybe, maybe this is God’s way of telling me to slow down. Rely on Him and only Him in everything and just see the good things He has given me instead:
- My appendix was removed before it busted so I was saved in a way.
- I have a mother who accompanied me at the hospital and took care of me.
- My small, cute nieces giving me constant joy.
- I have a stable job with a medical insurance.
- Good and loyal friends who comforted me during those difficult times.
- My church community who prayed for me.
- And the thought that there are people suffering worse than me, but they are still trying to stay positive and grateful in life.
Given those blessings in my life, I felt like I don’t have the right to complain. But as a human being, I know I have the right to be sad and get depressed. It’s ok not to be okay sometimes because it’s a normal human emotion. It’s part of the process and I must feel them so I can heal from the pain and losses I suffered.
I must admit there are some days I’m okay, some days when I’m not, but I know I will be okay soon. In God’s perfect time.
P.S. It’s been more than a month since my appendectomy. But I’m happy to report that I’ve started walking 3 to 5 kms again every other day, appreciating the sunrise and nature like good old days, and slowly going back to my “normal” activities.
This story is an entry to ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project Season 2: Dear Survivor”. The initiative continues to respond to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis. The initiative aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. The “Write to Ignite Blogging Project” Season 2 is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, with Eastern Communications and Jobstreet as co-presenters, with AirAsia and Xiaomi as major sponsors, and with Teleperformance as sponsor.