The non-curated part of my life at this moment

I am now deployed in a war-torn country somewhere in Africa. I love this job. This is my dream job. I most especially love that part where I get to practise my photography. And I get to show it to others (about how I am progressing, photography-wise) on Facebook and Instagram – that curated side of my online life. And it seems like I am this courageous woman showing people that side of this country they probably won’t be able to see in their lifetime (or probably wouldn’t even care enough to Google just to see it). And it pretty much seems like I have it all together and organized. But what they don’t see is I feel another wave of deep depression.

It mostly has to do with work. Or the load of work. What most people in the private sector (or probably people back home working for the government) is that in an aid agency, one person has to do the work of at least five people. And right now, I have a growing to-do list (and it keeps on growing), and I would normally what to do with them individually. But with all of them with practically the same deadline, I wouldn’t know how to do a stellar job because everything is competing for the same space in my head. How is it even humanly possible to do all these things?

Right now, I just want to go someone and cry. I have friends here, but they’re all from the office. And it would seem selfish to complain about these things because obviously, everywhere else here is getting killed (probably more will be killed if I don’t do my job properly), and all I can think of is my workload. Not to mention that they all have the same workload as I have.

So I am letting it all out here, on my dead blog. Because, really, I have no one else to talk to about this. Not to people back home because they all have their concerns. I really can’t bother anyone else about this. I don’t want to be a burden.

Part of me sort of wishes to get malaria just so I can fall really ill and then just stay at my room here and have a break (probably go on a movie marathon – which I haven’t done in a long time). But, really, I don’t even need a break, maybe. I just need to find a person here who’s patient enough to listen and let me cry.


2017 will be a year of not writing

upper yangon jan 4 2017.jpg

The view from my room as I post this blog. Kamayut Township, Yangon, Myanmar (4 January 2017)

Every new year, I tell myself that it is going to be a year dedicated to writing; that I will maximize this blog for practice, then write more meaningful ones offline, on the pages of a tattered journal, while on top of some temple in Burma, or in a far-flung village in Southern Philippines. But 2016 has passed by, I’ve already been to some far-flung villages both in the Philippines and in Burma, climbed several ancient temples, but I’ve never really gotten around updating this blog page, and the journal I earlier bought remains as good as new, and in a plastic.

The year 2016 made sure that it filled my life with materials that can help any writer produce pages after pages of books, not just blog posts, not just journals.

Regrets, regrets. I should be filled with regrets for not writing about them.

Well, yes, there are regrets. But mostly regrets for deceiving myself in the past few years that I am a writer, that I have the heart or the mental capacity for it, when I don’t even have the stamina. This 2017, I will just stop deceiving myself: I am not a writer. I won’t be able to someday come up with something worth reading. I am just an occasional blogger with an invisible audience (perhaps even none at all). I am freeing myself from the self-doubt caused by this delusion. I am freeing myself from the pressure to produce anything worthwhile (outside of work), from the worries that what I am typing down is a clumsily put-together piece. This year, I will not write. I will just randomly type things down. No edits. And, as sloppy as they may be, I will put them up on this blog.


“Eat them for breakfast.”

“She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.” (Mrs. Dalloway)

Lately, I have grown quite unreasonably frightened of life. Its degree varies from day to day. There are days  when I can go on the entire day managing a smile on my face and carrying on with my usual sense of humor, but there are also days when the fear is just so terrible. Days when it takes a lot of courage just to step out of my tiny apartment. Days when the idea of a fatal accident is a lot less terrifying than a human, face-to-face interaction. This may seem irrational, I know. This may even seem unbecoming of me. People who think I’m this “fun, fearless female” would be surprised. Well, if you know what’s going on inside my head, you’d be amazed by how I am having anything but fun, and, most of all, how I am not having even the tiniest sense of bravery. I fear a lot of things. I constantly fear rejection. I constantly fear not being good enough for the people I love, for the people  I work for/with. I constantly fear losing people. I constantly fear that I will disappoint everyone who matters to me, including myself. I fear all sorts of uncertainties that have lately become so commonplace in my life. While the beloved constantly supplies me with his kind of inspiration and motivation, I can see that he, too, fears what will become of me (or what will happen to me), if I finally caved in and succumbed to my fears.

While I can always depend on the beloved who is trying his best to turn me into this brave girl, I am still aware that only I can turn things around for me. And so I have started the habit of posting various inspirational messages all over my tiny apartment.

It started out with notes written by friends and by me, which I posted on one corner of my house. My favorite note comes from a friend. It reads “Ano man ang ibato sa inyo ng buhay, PATULOY LANG [Whatever life throws at you, JUST CARRY ON].”

Photo by Rhea Catada

Then there’s this white board on my ref. The contents I regularly update.

Photo by Rhea Catada

Then there’s this one-word reminder on my tiny dining/work table.

Photo by Rhea Catada

Then there’s this tiny frame on my wall…

Photo by Rhea Catada


Then there’s this huge frame of a Neil Gaiman quote, also on my wall…

Photo by Rhea Catada

Recently, I created a small coffee nook in one corner of my home. This, I realized, is essential because preparing coffee is the first thing I do in the morning. And I need more than a coffee boost in the morning.

Photo by Rhea Catada

And before you poke fun at this obsession over motivational messages posted all over the walls of my tiny apartment, I say this is a better way to cope with depression and anxiety. A better coping mechanism than the almost-hourly posting of one’s selfie (with an accompanying dramatic quote, whether borrowed or not) on a virtual wall.


The usual post about anxiety, depression, neurosis, blah-blah

Recently, friends and family had to bear the emotional chaos that I was: in the most inconvenient hours, I would phone them, spit out unintelligible phrases, while I cry and cry and cry. Out of nowhere, I would start a Google Chat conversation, and basically talk about being constantly terrified of life.

Me: “I feel like I’m this scared nine-year-old girl forced into adulthood.”

Friend: “But aren’t we all?”

I then realized that not being able to hold everything in, not being able to put on a façade of emotional stability, is a sheer act of selfishness. The last thing they need, with all their personal issues and concerns, is this mess of a woman knocking on their virtual doors.

For not wanting to be a bother to loved ones, I eventually kept everything in, stayed indoors, and just let the four corners of my small apartment witness how I was reduced to this half-naked creature on the floor, crying endlessly, not knowing what to do with these almost-nightly attacks of anxiety, not knowing how to get out of this paralyzing fear of generally everything in life that is uncertain.

And it doesn’t help that he doesn’t allow me to go out while he’s away on a work-related travel. And it doesn’t help that I felt compelled to stay home because he forbade me to go anywhere (and the fake-courage to scream at him on the phone “F**k you! Stop putting me on house arrest! Let me out! Let me ooout!” didn’t help me get real courage to break his rules about going out).

I didn’t even bother tweeting a thing or two about the madness that was going on, which went against my usual habit of tweeting every thought, every emotion. The only person who knew about this wave of anxiety and depression was him. We both made sure that we had constant communication through phone calls. And he didn’t mind. After all, he knew I was trying not to bother friends with my personal issues. After all, he was the one who disallowed me to go out and unload everything to my friends over drinks. (“I am not trying to control you, I’m just managing you,” he later explained.)

Which is why, I guess, the only thing to steady my nerves was him coming home and making me feel protected from all of my fears, and yes, from myself. And while I am well aware that it is unhealthy to allow someone to somehow force you to make him your only world, I am surrendering myself to this man who knows perfectly well how to quiet my inner chaos.