Fake happy | Inquirer Opinion
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Fake happy

05:06 AM November 28, 2017

I’m an old soul in a millennial’s body. I grew up listening to the voices of Paul Anka, Nat “King” Cole, and Frank Sinatra. The beats of my heart synced with the bass and the drum set of Queen and The Beatles. My eyes grew bright whenever I opened my yellowing cloth-bound copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and my fingers flipped through the pages that had creased permanently through years of being dog-eared.

But during my years of trying not to move too fast so the Ray-Ban that was way too big for my face stayed put as I danced under the mango tree in our front yard, even then I knew I was a loner.

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Throughout high school and college everything stayed quite the same. I climbed out of bed, ate my breakfast, brushed my teeth and got ready for school where everything I heard were bits of information I needed to memorize just so I wouldn’t turn in a blank paper on exam days. It was clockwork and it was boring, and there I was wasting a privilege that my parents worked hard for like it didn’t mean much to me.

Indeed, I was loved and cared for. I had a roof over my head and clothes to cover me. Sure, I had friends. But despite being rich with human interaction, at the end of the day everything just turned into a blur of faces and flitting touches and not
one constant hand that I could hold on to in the whirlwind that was my adolescence.

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It was during this time that I realized that, yes, I was alone but I was in a state in my life where if you put me in a room full of people, I would socialize and laugh and even make jokes, but I wouldn’t really fit in. I was alone and a living, walking and talking lie. I became too much a master of masking my emotions, that I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. And like a lit matchstick during a windy day, suddenly I wasn’t myself. I didn’t feel alive. And this has just been the one fixed thing in my life.

Like a stain that I could never wash out, like a hitch in a boxer’s swing, this state of mind greatly affected my physical being. I locked myself in my room for hours, sometimes even days on end. I could not get up, I could not finish things, let alone start them. My mind was in shambles, my breathing was erratic, and tears formed wet patches on my pillows as I tried to clamp down on my fears and anxiety so they don’t leak out under the covers.

I stopped going to school and pushed away anyone who came too close for fear that I might cause them sadness as well. When I did go out, I said yes to people who took advantage of my innocence of the harshness of the world. Needless to say, I just didn’t care anymore. I remember thinking, this is not a good place to be. I was trapped in my own mind, and back then I thought I was never going to get out. But I did, or at least I’m getting there.

It’s a continuous process. I’d like to think that the first step is just being aware of where you are in life, and I’m telling you, It won’t be easy to accept your reality and it won’t get better right away, but it will if you want it to. It’s just a matter of perspective, as some may say, but for someone with anxiety this is already a tremendous effort. It’s a step forward that surely won’t go unnoticed.

Whenever I deal with the world, despite getting acquainted with its shadow, I still decide to look at the brighter side of things, and with that I always come to recognize that I was alive, too. I know I probably sound like a cliché and even downright like a hippie, but this is who I was, back when I still saw the world with rose-colored lenses, and thankfully, I am doing so again now.

This self-discovery is not because of some form of divine intervention or a daily dose of TLC or even back-to-back appointments with therapists and psychiatrists who douse me with uninterested nods while scribbling notes on their pads and pricey medication. To be honest, I don’t completely know how. All I know is what I’m doing differently: consciously choosing to be “happy,” and doing whatever the word means to me. I’m not saying you should beat yourself with work to keep your mind preoccupied. Being mobile is good, but understanding your limits is beneficial as well. We’re merely human and we surely can’t live how we want to if we’re running on empty.

What I want you and me to do is to take a stand. “I’m the one in charge. My demons have no say in this.” I can say now
that through time, I think I’m doing better. I gained a healthy amount of weight, I finish what I start, I do well enough in school that I’m actually a senior student now, and I genuinely acknowledge all the energy that flows from everything that is or was to what it could be.

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At night as I get to sleep and right before I open my eyes as I wake up, I like to think of all the possibilities of what I could be and contribute to the world, no matter how small, if I just chose to be happy. And I am happy, in my own sense of the word. You may say I am fake happy as I am not defined by the typical smiles and bubbling laughter, not even with a sense of peace and a light feeling in the chest, but this is just how I am coping now. I am living and I am here. That in itself is a start, wouldn’t you think?

Nicola Marie Ramos, 21, is studying medical laboratory science in Lorma Colleges, La Union.

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