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Love. Life.

Love and other forms of madness

/ 08:30 AM September 20, 2019
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When you find the person meant for you, you’ll just know.

I have hated every iteration and variation of that one single sentiment all my life. Yet it’s the same thing that I heard from my closest friends and loved ones, every single time I got heartbroken. When you’re someone like me, that was quite a lot of times, growing up. I didn’t know it back then, but I was different from your run-of-the-mill single dude just down on his luck with love.

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For me, each pursuit of love felt as necessary to my wholeness as a person, to my happiness, to my existence. It embarrasses me to look back at the single-minded focus (read: desperation) that I applied to this pursuit. And when I was rejected countless of times for what I now can admit is something bordering obsession and desperation, I took it badly. Very badly. Where it would be enough for most people to drink the hurt away, it drove me into intense periods of self-loathing.

I felt then that I simply was the most unlikable person in the world when it came to “love.” I felt that there was something fundamentally wrong in me as a person that repelled women.

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In a certain sense, I was right.

It’s funny when I look back now to the moment when I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. In that singular instant when my symptoms were read out to me like a laundry list of the most horrible things a person can be, I understood. Desperate for affection? Check. Willing to do anything, lying most especially, to keep the fear of abandonment at bay? Check. The inability to read a neutral face or statement as being just neutral? Check. Crippling self-doubt? Oh boy, yes.

Even the name of the disorder sounded like something a serial murderer should have. Borderline? Borderline to what?

It did, again, make perfect sense. I wasn’t so much out for love as I was for affirmation, that I was someone worth loving. It’s little wonder why nothing ever worked out. I didn’t understand what love, to love, and to be loved was, anyway.

Huwag mong hanapin ang pag-ibig, matatagpuan mo din ‘yan. Isa pa ‘yan.

Yet that’s exactly what happened. I met a girl on Tinder, somehow managed to ask her out, and promptly fell head over heels in love with her. I wish that in that moment, it was like in the fairy tales, where the hero overcomes that great adversity, and it’s happy ever after. It wasn’t. You just don’t shut out borderline personality disorder, or depression, or anxiety. It just doesn’t go away like magic.

If there was one thing that was different with her than all the rest, it’s that I kind of managed to tell her I had mental health issues. I say “managed” because I called it by a more comfortable (and less serial murderer-y) catch-all term: depression. Much of the reason why was because I wanted to try something different for a change. I had, by my own assessment, reached a point in my life where I just accepted that “these things just don’t work out for me,” making it easier to throw caution to the wind.

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Surprisingly, she never stormed out on me at this revelation. Neither did she walk away when I verbally dominated the conversation because of how nervous I was. (She never fails to remind me of this fact.) I liked her even more. To be perfectly frank, I wasn’t expecting anything more than that first date. In my self-deprecating fantasy, it was all I deserved. That made every date following that one even more wonderful.

She always asks me when I knew I loved her.

It was when I took her with me to see my psychiatrist, to talk to my psychiatrist alone, and she remained. Nothing, nothing is more wonderful a thing to me as that moment, save for one. It was the moment when I did feel something that I sincerely never thought I would feel: hope.

It’s not easy to love someone with borderline personality disorder. We are an anxious lot. We are a fearful lot. We take your smiley-less ‘k’s as some definitive sign that we have said something terrible and have irrevocably ruined things. We take the slightest hint of anger or frustration in us as affirmation that, yes, we do not deserve to love. We rage at the slightest provocation and we lie when we’re afraid that the truth will make you leave us.

Just typing that out brings back the old fears, the old doubts. Am I really doing better? Am I doing the right thing? Why does she keep asking what I am typing right now? Why do I feel so crazy just being open? Are the sweet potatoes I left out to dry spoilt by now?

When you find the person meant for you, you’ll just know.

It’s true.

She said yes when I asked her to marry me, however horrifically bad the proposal was. It was. She stayed through what I’d call a shotgun wedding, before a minister who smoked unceasingly in an office that smelled like smoke. A far cry from the weddings we dreamt about for months and months.

She says yes daily even when I complicate failures like that with even more failures. Because she loves me.

Let me reiterate. When you find the person meant for you, you’ll just know. It isn’t a singular lightbulb moment. It’s a series of moments and memories day by day that you just find yourself into, with a temporary stay from the incessant thoughts that mental illness can bring.

It’s being defeated by the battles that the condition inevitably brings, but also wanting to get up and bounce back. It’s building on what little victories that can be claimed because you genuinely love the person loving you.

It’s always trying to be better and to do the right thing, no matter how terrifying the fears, no matter how persistent the anxieties, because you want your struggles to be an expression of the love you feel, your appreciation of it, and your desire to return it as best as your damaged self can manage. It’s about learning to finally trust in yourself, trust in the other, and trust that the journey is worthwhile for all the stumbles you both will find along the way. It’s about learning that love doesn’t care about your brokenness, your failings, your shortcomings, because it exists beyond it. It exists by choice and not by chance.

There are nights when I cannot sleep and I look through the darkness to see the beautiful person lying beside me. And I have to be ultimately honest with the accompanying thought that I might not be loving her in the way that she deserves, or the way that I want to.

Mental health issues are never anyone’s excuse, but they are honestly one of the biggest limitations anyone can ever live with. There’s always a constant battle within, which no one can ever see, much less understand. In my case, what happens quite constantly is I am overwhelmed by doubts. That’s especially true for those of us who live with a condition where impulses and drives aren’t driven by mere idle thought, but by a potent physical pull and tug to act on these doubts, and not always for the best.

Yet there is hope. It’s always been about hope. I hope in the fact that I notice the good little changes within me that I never thought myself possible. The better ability to acknowledge my failings and shortcomings, where before I would live in a state of self-denial. The better ability to recognize when my actions can impact others, where before I was only attuned to what made me feel good and what affirmed me. Or even the ability to be honest about the little things that I would usually be so desperate to tuck away behind a veil of lies, to protect my terribly fragile sense of security.

Now, you might be thinking, this is the moment when everything leads to a bright ending, just like in the movies. But that isn’t true. I fail, still. I falter, still. I fall prey to that monstrosity which is my affliction, still, and sometimes in ways so spectacularly bad that I want to beat myself over those moments.

But I don’t, not anymore, because that’s the point. I have finally learned that love is never the destination we fantasize of in our youth. It’s all about the journey, rough, tough and tumble, through every second of every moment of every day, in spite of the many different challenges and trials all couples the world over face.

If you’re reading this, mahal, I love you. I love you in the broken way that I presently know how. And I will love you in the better way that victory over my own mental health condition will one day bring.

It’s never easy for someone like me to open up. I can already imagine people I know who might get to read this to be forming some very funny thoughts about me. I imagine and even feel myself start to slowly shrink within myself, until I am the smallest person in the world. I imagine that this is thought of as a desperate cry for attention. I imagine all the very worst, the most painful.

And I stand in face of all of that. This is my reality. This is my testimony. This is my honesty. This is my therapy, my healing, my hope. This is my rebellion against my fears, against my doubts, and my self-built prison. This is my courage.

Because I have found love, my love, and it is valuable to me. It challenges my long-held preconceived notions about who I am and who I can be. It helps me claw my way out of the darkness, against myself and the demons I have wrestled with, and am still wrestling with. I believe in my love. I believe in her. And I believe in me as I am and as I can be.

If you are struggling with mental health issues, take heart. It will never be truly easy to overcome what we face, but there is hope because there is life, beyond the walls of our internal prisons. And there is love.

How do you know when you’ve found it?

Well, when you find the person meant for you, you’ll just know. In the meantime, please, hang on and live.

_

Paolo II P Aldecoa is a content and social media marketing executive from Quezon City. He enjoys writing, reading, mobile gaming and wandering, and loves everything Star Wars. He shares, “Simply being able to write about my own unique experience of love through my somewhat shaded lenses has been extremely therapeutic.”

What is love for you? Send us your essays and get featured on INQUIRER.net!

There's no better time of year to send us your love stories! #LoveLife Transform those letters unsent into an essay of 800 to 2000 words (English or Tagalog), fill up our online form here: http://inq.news/love-life-form

INQUIRER.net 发布于 2019年2月13日周三

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