A kind of resilience | Inquirer Opinion
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A kind of resilience

/ 04:15 AM January 11, 2023

People love resilience stories. They gobble “what didn’t kill me made me stronger” narratives like crooking their index finger for the last bit of chocolate stuck at the bottom of a jar. Anecdotes that start with a detailed description of becoming a fighter wins the din of the crowd. But the bitter pill to swallow is they don’t care how you became a fighter; it’s just that you won the battle. The endgame is they want you out unscathed, and the outcome has to be in their favor.

There tends to be a debate on discipline, specifically with regard to raising children, either online or during holidays when families get together. Traditional Filipinos would say physically hurting your children is a must. It’s only through violence and fear-mongering that children learn obedience and discipline. These people typically brush off trauma as kaartehan on the victim’s part, in this case: children. Their knee-jerk reaction is “lumaki naman ako (or: mga anak ko) nang maayos.”

Growing up in an abusive household, you’re trained to see violence through rose-tinted glasses. When my playmates would go to their respective houses in the wee hours of the night, I’d be told their parents don’t care about them. “Kaya ka namin sinasaktan kasi love ka namin. Tingnan mo ’yung mga kalaro mo, walang pagmamahal ’yan ng magulang nila kasi hinahayaan lang sa labas kahit gabi na.” I usually heard that when I was younger, typically after getting pinched anywhere on my body or being struck on my bottom. On good days, it’s just a clothes hanger or the strap of a belt. On bad days, it’s the buckle of a belt or a sound thrashing using an amalgamation of the closest things around. The funny thing is, there’s always an exception to the rule: Not one of them had ever struck me with a walis tambo, because superstition said doing so would result in children growing up skinny as a stick.

They said the thrashing would straighten our unruly tendencies, the pain equates to love and care, public humiliation would help us learn our lesson, this would help me grow up like refined silverware continuously brushed to perfection and groomed for success as adults. I was made to believe that I’m lucky to be in excruciating pain, and that my cries and whimpers were a testament to how much love I received. “Magpapasalamat ka sa’min pagtanda mo,” they’d add.

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What I can recall from the majority of my childhood were scraps of fragmented joyful memories. If it’s worth noting, there were only a few of them anyway, at least as far as I could remember. But the scarred memories that seared like burning copper tattooed on my skin remained, no matter how many times I tried to forget them.

In junior high, one of my closest friends told me he was scared of my mother. When I asked him for the reason, he said it was because he once saw me get pinched by my mother on my side on our way home to the tricycle. I was glad he didn’t see the rest.

That day he was talking about, my mother dragged me out of school for staying there an hour past my dismissal. I did tell my service they can go without me. I wanted to stay a bit longer because my friend was crying over being an outcast, but it rained, and I didn’t have an umbrella with me. My mother didn’t want reasons. It was a bad day, if not one of the worst I’ve ever had.

So, for the longest time, I was afraid to be late or out of reach because I didn’t know what I’d go home to if by any chance I can’t be contacted. My texts would always consist of where I’m going, how I would get there, the person I’ll be with, and what time I’ll be home. My friends used to laugh at me for doing this, but they didn’t have to know the reason why.

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The problem with resilience stories is it’s like dealing with a double-edged sword. For one, they can be a sort of inspiration to many, as resilience stories typically are. For the other, however, they can further entrench the firm refusal to admit that using violence on anyone, especially children—against the backdrop of caring or a way to discipline them—is abuse and can traumatize them as they grow up.

I’d like to think I’m disciplined and obedient, and that I grew up well if you’d consider being a consistent dean’s lister with a magna cum laude standing as a metric basis. But I’m also clinically diagnosed with an anxiety disorder with depressive symptoms, having taken antidepressants and undergoing psychotherapy for almost a year now, after going through two consecutive years of jumping from one psychiatrist to the other.

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And the thing is, no one wants to hear that this is also a story of resilience just because I didn’t get out of it stronger, and it goes against the typical Filipino values. I got out of it with full-on resentment and a mental illness, but my therapist and I are working on that part.

Isaiah Duey, 22, lives with her calico cat named Anya. She has a penchant for natural sciences, specifically astronomy.

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