Exactly a month ago, I found myself in the emergency room of the hospital nearest to where I work. Most of the time, whenever I found myself in the ER, I was always the companion. This time, however, I was the patient.
You could say that this was the end-result of a stressful six months. Hours wasted in traffic. Ideas shot down by people who fancy themselves “brilliant” and “creative”; people who claimed to know better than I did. The sting of not being able to deliver the expected results. A loneliness both self-inflicted and circumstantial. An overwhelming sense of inadequacy.
It is easy for people to say “Snap out of it” or “Be grateful that you have a job” or even “You know, people would kill to be in your shoes right now.” It is easy for people to coax and cajole you to cheer up and perk up. It is easy for them to dismiss you as being “overly emotional” or “unduly sentimental”. It is easy for people to tell you you’re crazy and abnormal and strange. It is, thus, easy for people to make one feel helpless, useless, even worthless.
I live in a country where people are supposed to be all smiles; perpetually happy and optimistic. They say that the Filipino is unflappable and indomitable in the face of tragedy or just plain pressure. The spin doctors who have fed the world these claims have completely failed to take into consideration that Filipinos are just as human as everyone else. We, too, feel physical and emotional exhaustion. We, too, feel grief and pain. And, try as we might to mask our darker emotions, these will come spilling forth when we hit the breaking point.
In my case, the exhaustion gained a name: chronic fatigue syndrome. A state wherein body, mind, and spirit have all lost their vitality. All that remains is a lingering tiredness: pain in the joints, one’s thinking gone all foggy, a loss of faith in one’s abilities. People – well-meaning people, if I may add – tell me: oh, that’s easy to deal with. Change your diet, they say; go vegan, they say. Go on vacation, they cry in chorus; you can work from home, you know. Talk to a shrink. Talk to a priest. Take some meds to make yourself feel better. Oh, if only it were that easy.
I am currently at home, a month after that visit to the ER. I took three days off work after the diagnosis, but was still stressed because I still had to rush something for work even as I stayed home. I went back to work the Monday after; trying, in a fashion, to stay as “normal” as I could – but completely aware that nothing would ever be the same.
I am currently at home, having opted to extend the APEC break one more day in order to regain some semblance of vitality, to get some measure of rest. But it hurts, really: people have cattily said I’m just lazy or that I’m play-acting. People are quick to judge me as weak and, yes, worthless. They no longer see the “beneficial” person, the “useful” person I was. And, as a result, I feel that I am just a burden to the people around me. Those closest to me tell me, of course, that it isn’t true: that I’m just tired, that I need a break, that I shouldn’t force myself to recover so quickly just to pander to the agenda of others. I agree; I just wish the rest of the world did, too.