Dearest Survivor

A Letter to Myself

A letter to myself: Today, I challenged myself to write a letter starting with the words ‘dearest survivor’.

Dearest survivor,

You survived? People back then always complain that you were weak, a cry baby. Maybe you still are. Funny how you are still alive today amid the ongoing chaos around the world. Wikipedia reveals there have been 3.89 million deaths from what started as a novel coronavirus – now, nothing novel about it – amusing you are not included in the statistic. Though I presume you would have wanted to be.

Of all people, I know you the most. Of course, you are me.

And I know you have attempted to kill yourself several times.

How do I start? A difficult childhood, a difficult life, a difficult setup – you lost your dad when you were thirteen, your mom when you were twenty-seven – a difficult life abroad, a difficult life here and there, no permanent home, and now living solo without anyone to lean on when times get rough. To tell you, I’m struggling writing this all down, because it might take me forever to write all the details, the heartache, the pain, the small victories, the laughter – everything. Let’s just say, I’ve cried for the most part of my life. Not just a river but an ocean, perhaps. Read more: Andrea Ortega Guanco | Ilonggo Blogger

Here are excerpts from my life:

Abu Dhabi

October 5, 2014, I thought of jumping from the 10th floor: From the edge of the balcony of the 10th floor of a building in Abu Dhabi. Yes, I was thinking of jumping. Had the thought of it every single day back then. But I always resisted.

November 23, 2014, letter to the future: Andrea, in the future, when you’re there at the airport for home, don’t forget to think about me. This is the 22nd of November. I can only gaze up and see the airplanes in the sky, wondering when can I be in there again – leaving for home. Drei, kindly tell me detail by detail how does it feel to be there. To be home. To lie again in bed. To embrace the old. To see Mom. To be alive. Andrea, when that time comes, remember me. Remember this time when the sole thing you can do is wish for it to happen. Remember me Drei, and say a prayer for me. (During this time I was at the bus terminal nearby Al Wadah Mall looking up at an airplane, hoping to be up there someday, going home. I looked at airplanes in the sky every single day for a year. On the coaster en route to work, I would often glance at the PAL Office asking myself when will I finally book that one way ticket to home.)

Way back 2014 people tell me I had a future. I had a job, I was living abroad. But I wasn’t happy. My company drives me up to the wall most of the time. I was homesick. It was a fast-paced and stressful world. I was anywhere but happy. And eventually, I bought my one-way ticket and left my job and the country I stayed in. I went home with nothing – but I was the happiest I have ever been in my entire life. My paycheck was reduced by three folds but it’s fine with me. People often ask me why I gave up. However, it’s not what I gave up that matters – it’s what I gained. The transition gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate my goals and ambition in life.

Losing my mom

To be honest, I couldn’t bear sharing the horrid details about her passing. She had respiratory failure.

April 27, 2016, losing my mom: I’d like to inform those who know my mom, Eufemia Rodriguez Ortega also known as Tita Fem to many, that she is now with her Creator; April 27, 2016 at 9:11pm. I love you Ma. And I know that you are in a better place. I love you, and I always will. Until we meet again. This is not goodbye, but merely a ‘see you later’. We will continue our travel plans in the next life. I love you Mama. You are the best that God has blessed me with and I am thankful for the 27 wonderful years with you. I love you and I always will. I love you Mama.

May 14, 2016:“To mom: After this, I am all by myself. But I rest on the thought that no matter how alone I am here in this mortal life, there you are reunited with family in the ‘thereafter’. I hope that wherever you are, you are happy, and embraced by the love of God in paradise. And, knowing that you are happy is good enough for me. I will be alright. I will not be afraid. I will face life head on. I won’t fear. Because there’s nothing else that life can take away from me. And when my time comes I know that, on the other end, you will be waiting for me.

August 16, 2016: “I go to church, I pray, but I don’t ask anything from God anymore. Not even for a happy life. Not even for a future – because sometimes, at the back of my mind, God doesn’t answer prayers. But I don’t denounce my faith in Him, or question His divine providence. I thank Him with all of me – and with all that’s left of me. My prayers are nothing but gratitude to the life He has given me and to the lives He took away. I know it’s going to be tough and God knows how hard it is. But it’s alright – because if I can accept God at my best, what more at my worst. 

Seeking professional help

August 31, 2018, seeking professional help: “After years and years of people telling me to see a professional, I finally did. I promised myself to write about it – for myself, for the people who hurt me, and for the people who might need to hear what I have to say. I thought I could fluently narrate everything in her office but all I did was break down in complete surrender. You see, in a span of four years I tried to kill myself three times. But life kept going. I live alone now and really struggling. Every night is a nightmare – all the experiences ‘flash’ inside my head. Then another ‘demon’ haunts you, it’s the thought that you have to be a fully functional individual. Time is ticking, you have to be the successful adult you have to be. Days and nights go on in a deranged kind of puppetry swayed by your own cruel thoughts. You beat yourself up. Then you beat yourself some more.

Do you still cry? I know for a fact that you don’t.

Because you’re finally happy? No, I guess not. Maybe it is the ‘chill’ that comes with taking Paroxetine and Quetiapine every single day. Do the meds make you calm? Yes, and maybe the fact that numb is all that’s left. (For the benefit of the readers, Paroxetine is a type of antidepressant under SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) used to treat depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Quetiapine, meanwhile, is an anti-psychotic drug used to treat schizophrenia and major depressive disorders.)

And you’ve been taking these meds for three years now.

At times, you are ashamed of sharing your ‘difficulties’ – because you often have to explain to people what’s wrong with you – because “other people can cope with their problems without the need to medicate”, because “all you need is a hobby”, or because you “don’t have God in your life”. It’s a struggle because, sometimes, you have to justify to others why you need to take care of yourself.

You matter. That is all you have to know.

And, I guess you are a survivor. You have been through a lot. And sometimes, I am grateful you have to go through all that – because not everyone is given the privilege to have a hard life. Others may have it better – a complete family, a present dad, a caring mom, siblings, a big family, a house, money, all the support they need to launch a good career, finding the right person for them, a long and fulfilling life or “happy ever after” as they say.

But then there you are in the dark. A lost soul looking at Eden from a distance. But it’s okay.

I’m proud of you because you’re no longer bitter. Maybe a bit, but not like before. You have finally learned to accept and be thankful. That hard life was probably God’s way of letting you redeem yourself. To show the world what you are made of. That you are no ordinary person showered with the best things in life. You were a person who was hit hard yet is still standing up to this day.

You were weak made strong.

Wear your scars with pride. Not everyone gets to have it.

Andrea Ortega Guanco

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.

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