"...If I could teach also people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster, and children would have a smile on their face..."
- Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray
2018 was indeed the pivotal year for me. I don't know if it has something to do with my age, but my experiences this year taught me a lot to prepare for another year. As I write this down, what I feel is gratefulness...for being able to survive probably the hardest year of my life.
Let me start with the part where I came back to Jesus. People would expect that when one turns back to faith, life will be easy. But that wasn't the case for me. The test of faith started there. It was also the first quarter of the year and I was just freshly employed. I remember that day, I prayed to Him that I was sorry if it took so long to come back to Him. I surrendered to Him my doubts and made the decision to leave the corporate world FOR GOOD.
"Following your passion" often gets romanticized in quotes, in entrep talks, in books, but I tell you. It is not easy. Just the mere decision-making of going the path of uncertainty is one heck of a dilemma that bothered me for several days, and my expectations were right. I was broke for several months until I was blessed with a home-based job courtesy of my former employer. I did copywriting and graphic design, but the pay was not enough to build a life.
Nonetheless, I focused on my goal: to pursue my dream of being a fashion designer with a purpose, and there I started this website and coined my official slogan #DesignerWithAPurpose. I joined a fashion show I always wished to be part of: Philippine Fashion Gala. Joining a fashion show is expensive. Joining fee + your collection costed me more or less P50,000 and getting that money was not easy. God however is so good to me, he sustains me in ways I cannot expect to come. During the UP graduation season, I had a lot of clients that helped me build this money (plus of course a little donation from my mom and my boyfriend hehe). I also sought the guidance of my former professor, Felipe de Leon Jr., former chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. The show was a success. Finally, a part of my bucketlist has been ticked off the sheet. And I was happy that I was able to realize my advoacy of promoting indigenous cultures through my efforts. Second quarter of my year was pretty happy...but still broke lol.
However, after the show, what I have been feeling since the previous year (2017) was starting to get worse. Anxiety attacks. Insomnia. Thoughts of death. I finally faced the fact that I might have already have a mental disability. I brought myself to a mental hospital and I was diagnosed with General Anxiety and Depression. I didn't keep it a secret at all. In fact, I was very vocal in social media about it despite the stigma. I have been experiencing the same discrimination like other mental patients: that we are called "crazy", or that they are demeaning the illness as something that is "only in our mind"... ADULTS...ADULTS WILL ALWAYS EMPHASIZE THE FACT THAT THEY EXPERIENCED WORSE BUT DIDN'T ENTERTAIN THE IDEA OF HAVING A MENTAL DISABILITY and that is one of the things that every mental health patient should not hear. Anyway, I tried my best to ignore those because I still had the will to help myself heal. And surprisingly, through my stories, I was able to encourage my social media audience to have themselves checked too, and that to me is a fulfillment.
Mental disability is like any other form of disability; it will deter you to live a normal life. I was always down. I avoided people. More so, I felt like a burden to my mother and my partner. They are in constant worry that I might just kill myself anytime especially that I was living alone in our house. My mother even saw my anxiety attack and it broke her heart, and I can see in my boyfriend's face the stress.
But I continued to fight no matter how hard it was. In fact, I joined another fashion show. And if you read my blog about it, my experience with it actually worsened my mental illness. Of course I was happy that I launched another collection, especially that it was about my hometown, but the effect on it in my mental health was too intense, I almost literally died that only a miracle saved my life. I will forever be thankful to God for that.
With my regular consultations with my psychiatrist plus internalization, I am fully aware of the main trigger of my disability, but I'd rather not write what exactly it is to avoid further problems in my life. So I made the big decision of going independent. I looked for a condo I can afford and I am expected to have the unit turned over to me by 1st quarter of 2019.
I was blessed to have an online work that pays well, and a boss that understands my disability. I was able to save up. Plus with my exposure in fashion shows plus my efforts to market myself in social media, I had a continuous source of couture clients. Fashion design is and will always be my happy pill.
However, my physical health was also not in a good state. People were surprised how much weight I lost. I didn't go on a diet nor worked out. At first I thought that was actually a good thing but when I started getting unexplained bruises all over my body and then I was constantly experiencing fatigue, plus several times that I almost collapsed, my relatives are now worried that I either have leukemia or hyperthyroidism. I'm still in the middle of taking medical tests. I'll update you soon.
Before the year ended, I decided to face my "trigger" with the hope of finally eradicating the root cause of the trigger in order for me to completely heal. Sadly, it didn't turn out good. In fact, he disowned me. I already lost my hope in that aspect, so now I have no where to go but stand up for myself. And even if my mom doesn't tell, I can see in her face she was heartbroken for me, but I remained strong and I have no regrets with what I did. I know I'm not leaving the house with a lot of "what-if's" and that to me is enough.
2018, I received a lot of disrespect, discrimination, experienced downfalls, and I am proud that I survived the year. I am thankful for everything that happened to me in 2018. It didn't bring me down. In fact, it pushed me forward to be stronger. And from here, I decide to make 2019 a year of chasing after opportunities.
This 2019, I am answering all the what-if's by finally doing something about my frustrations in the past years. I will be opening my atelier around June 2019. I will also be joining a lot of singing competitions to give my childhood dream of being a singer a chance. I will also be building my modeling portfolio with the hope of inspiring petite women that they too can be models. With all of these plans in my mind, I take inspiration from our own Ms. Universe: to find a silver lining in everything. I admit, I was drowned in negativity last year, and you can't blame me for that given all the overwhelming experiences. But now I am just excited for a colorful year ahead.
I'm not saying that I'm already a hundred percent ready for this year. In fact, 2019 might be a crazier and wilder year for me, but one thing's for sure: I'm taking with me the lessons I learned last year and leaving all the negativity there. And knowing that I have my few trusted friends, my boyfriend, my mother, and most especially God, with me, I am sure I can rock 2019.
So yes, wish me luck! Stay updated through my website!
And have a beautiful 2019 to you too. :)
I did this photoshoot as part of my yearly tradition of doing shoots every start of the year. I am wearing my late grandma's sweater. I know she was with me when I was crying at night. :)
Photos by Zel Salcedo