Phantom Quakes and PTSD

“While the building was swaying and the ground was shaking, God remained the steady figure I could hold on to.”

It’s been twelve days since the 6.1 magnitude earthquake that shook Central Luzon. I shared the story in my previous post, Shaken. This time, I will be sharing what I have been experiencing the past couple of days.

I have always had a fear of shaky rides and shaky ground. That is why I am not overly fond of theme parks and their rides. During field trips when I was young, I hated it so much when we had to walk on hanging bridges. Turbulent flights scare the hell out of me and the slightest shake of the plane would cause me to hold on to the armrest of my seat while I try to calm myself. From time to time, I would do something unusual like hopping on a zip line or riding the cable cars like I did in Ngong Ping and in Ocean Park. I thought of them as attempts to get rid of my fear of anything unstable. I never realized how bad the phobia actually was until last month’s earthquake happened.

After having gone home the night of the earthquake, I was in my bed and I was watching videos on my phone when I suddenly felt something push my bed. I almost dropped my phone in the process. It turned out that a 4.4 magnitude earthquake happened in Bataan, a place around 50 km to 60km away from Manila. I didn’t sleep well that night.

I came to work the following day, seemingly okay. In my head though, I was already making plans on what our emergency bag should contain and what else will I need to get in case another earthquake happened. I was working just fine, completing tasks one after the other. Deep inside though, I was still scared. The 6.1 magnitude earthquake had its epicenter at around 67km away from Manila. I told myself it was not at all that bad compared to places near the epicenter. I felt guilty for being too scared and judged myself as overreacting. I could not understand why I was feeling that way.

Was it because for around five years now, we have been warned about the possibility of a major earthquake from the West Valley Fault that can damage the whole capital region and the recent earthquake gave us a tiny taste of a strong earthquake? We’ve felt earthquakes in the past here in Manila, but I don’t think there was anything as bad as the recent one.

In the past few days, it would take six to seven hours for me to finally fall asleep. I had migraine-like headaches and would feel as if the room is shaking every now and then. When I felt any sort of shaking, I would immediately check my phone for alerts sent by Phivolcs, trying to confirm if there was indeed an earthquake that just happened. I would suddenly feel dizzy and a little disoriented for a couple of minutes.

Phantom quake. I was experiencing a feeling like there was an earthquake even if there was not any. From what I have read on the internet, I am not the only one experiencing it. It would come when I am at work, it would come at night when I am in bed. I would feel as if the world was shaking, but it was only me. My mind was playing tricks on me.

I don’t think my productivity at work has been greatly affected, but I haven’t been able to go to my yoga classes anymore. My blood pressure is a little bit elevated, which probably explains the dizzy spells. Thankfully, except for the intermittent feeling of the room shaking, I can say I am fine.

Gradually, my sleep pattern is returning to normal. I still have difficulty falling asleep, but at least when I manage to, I don’t feel half-awake anymore. I still feel tremors from time to time, but knowing that it’s all in my head, I do not reach out anymore for my phone to check for earthquake alerts and posts over Twitter. I manage to calm myself more quickly now. Unless another earthquake happens so soon, I am pretty sure I’m on my way to getting over the whole thing already.

I also just want to say to those experiencing phantom quakes or PTSD that it’s okay to feel that way. We react to situations differently and even if the people around you do not appear as scared or shaken as you, it’s okay to feel that way. What is important is we acknowledge our feelings and we try to go back to feeling normal again at the phase we’re comfortable with. It’s okay to express our fear to our friends and family so they can help us feel that we’re in a safe environment.

Most importantly, pray. While the building was swaying to the shake of the ground, God remained the steady figure that I could hold on to. At the time of the earthquake, I managed to send Mom a message, asking her to pray for us (by that I meant everyone affected by the earthquake, including her). I told my sister the same thing, but she was unfortunately on a plane to Hong Kong from Korea at that time. It’s true that when all else fails, it’s only God that remains. That’s how powerful the Lord is.

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Shaken

“An earthquake achieves what the law promises but does not in practice maintain,” one of the survivors wrote. “The equality of all men”.” ― Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Close to seven hours ago, I was minding my business at work when I felt a jolt. I thought I was just dizzy, but some colleagues starting to look at one another. Then there was another jolt. Someone instructed, “duck, cover and hold.” I hid under my desk.

I am no stranger to earthquakes, but that minute or two of shaking was the scariest and closest I’ve been to an actual disaster. The building was swaying, the blinds were repeatedly violently slapping against the windows. I could hear officemates praying out loud for the shaking to stop.

It was the strongest earthquake I’ve felt my entire life and all I could think of for the first few seconds was my Mom. She was a city away and I knew she was feeling it too. I sent her a message telling her to pray for us, just as I was. Then, I texted my sister, who was boarding a flight from Korea to Hong Kong, to pray for us because the earthquake was strong. They were all I could think of at that moment.

After the shaking, we were waiting for the go signal to go down the emergency exits. You see, our company wishes to ensure that before letting us out, where we will pass is safe too. It took a couple of minutes to go down from the 25th floor via stairs. My knees were shaking by the time I reached the ground floor. Then, we headed to the closest open area.

It took a couple more minutes before we heard anything from the news. A magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit a place that was 67kms away from Manila, a city only a few kilometers from us. If that was how strongly the earthquake was felt in Manila, I could not imagine how much worse the experience was for those who lived closer to the epicenter. News reports about shaken buildings, toppled commercial buildings’ water tanks, and ruined airport soon surfaced. What we experienced was milder than most.

I thank God for keeping us safe. I guess it’s really important to be actually present in our lives and not just watch each day go by. We need to tell our loved ones that we treasure them and to let them feel it. We need to be kinder to one another because you never know who will come to your aid at the time of need. We need to take care of ourselves so we can help other people, not only those who are close to us. We also need to learn how to share, whether material stuff or not.

Be safe, everyone. I pray for all of us.

The Hang

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.” –Tao Te Ching

It’s been a while since I last whipped out my tarot cards. Having slept all day and unable to sleep tonight, I decided to kill my boredom by doing a reading. I opted to pick one card from my deck with the intention for the card to tell me something I needed to understand.

I drew out The Hanged Man.

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Looking at the card, the first thing I noticed was how chill the guy was despite hanging by a foot from a tree. His other leg was bent and his arms were behind his back. It’s like he’s on vacation! His situation was not worrying him it seems. Also, because he was hanging by a foot, I would have expected for gravity to have stronger pull on him. So why was he still so relaxed and at peace despite the predicament he is in?

From my intuition and research, The Hanged Man card can be said to signify letting go and surrendering to “what is.” Hanging upside down can mean looking at things differently as well.

Let it go. I have heard it a lot the past few days. I didn’t like myself these past few days to be honest.

In yoga

I learned how to flip my downward dog already. I managed to make a split with my right leg forward. Yet, I still cannot manage Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) no matter how I tried.

My belly keeps dropping first, my shoulders collapse, and everything else always goes wrong when I attempt it. So, I asked for the teacher’s guidance on how to do it. At home, I watched YouTube videos on how to do it. Yet, no matter how hard I tried, my elbows won’t bend when I try to move from high plank to low plank. Then, I collapse on my mat.

Rina, my work colleague who inspired me to try yoga again, is very encouraging. She keeps on telling me not to rush myself and to not be ashamed of going for modified poses when I cannot do the main ones yet. But, stubborn me and my pride won’t let it go. So, despite my sore muscles, I kept trying and trying to do it at home.

Long story short, I now have very sore shoulders that hurt every time I raise my arms. I pushed myself too hard beyond my limit. All because I couldn’t accept that I am not yet strong enough to pull of the move.

In my relationships

I do not understand why I still keep on reaching out to people I want to avoid. They make me feel like crap, but I still approach them anyway, trying to see any sliver of hope that I can make the relationship work.

There’s someone I haven’t seen in a long time but I refuse to go out and see this person. Why? I am mightily scared of this person because of a long history of unhappy experiences. Yet, I am pissed at myself because I still care even if it’s just a little bit.

So, I sent this person gifts for Christmas through a courier. I did not hear anything although this person received the package. Don’t get me wrong. I was not expecting to hear this person’s gratitude or to receive gifts in return. Any reaction was highly acceptable. I just needed assurance that this person is still alive and kicking.

I told my friend, Alex, about it. I told him I felt like crap because I made a conscious decision to stay away from that person at all costs, yet I reach out and hope for a reaction. I am so messed up.

Alex told me to let it go. He’s right. But all I could think of doing was replying with a GIF of Channing Tatum in Elsa’s costume, singing “Let It Go.”

In my faith

I was talking to my work colleague, Hanna, about my recent attempts to attend the church services of this born-again Christian group. I opened up to her about my Catholic upbringing and my lack of the habit to go to church every Sunday to hear mass. I shared with her my reasons for looking into attending church service outside my Catholic religion.

While we were on the topic, I also admitted to her how everything still feels different for me. One of the things that feel so foreign to me is seeing people sing with their arms raised up and their eyes closed. I told her how much I wondered how profound those people’s experiences are of God that they could do that without fear of judgment. I bet that if I were to do that, I will feel mightily embarrassed. Don’t get me wrong. I am faithful; just not showy.

Hanna replied that she was told by someone that being able to do that means you have been freed of the shackles around your wrists (metaphorically). I guess that by being free from those chains, one becomes less inhibited to display their faith that way.

Back to the card

If were the one hanging by a foot, I bet I would have been in a panic while trying to grab on to the branch to free myself. I doubt I’ll be able to do that given my weak core muscles though. But, you get the point. I could never be as chill as that guy in the card.

I have a bad habit of holding close everything that is dear to me. Letting go has not been my biggest skill even if I preach it to other people. So, it’s good to be reminded of what I need to practice on.

 

Perks of Having a More Successful Older Sibling

“Sister is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.” –Margaret Mead 

They say the youngest child is the luckiest child in a family. I am not sure I can say that with the deepest conviction. Maybe it’s because in our family, there’s only my elder sister and me. That makes me the “younger” child and not the “youngest.” That does not make me the middle child either so I do not think I have the right to say I feel the sufferings of a middle child. Let’s just settle on being the last kid.

Growing up, I always felt like I was my sister’s shadow. It was like my whole being was attached to my sister’s. As a kid, I remember Mom buying two sets of the same clothes (some exactly the same or some in the same style but in a different color) for me and my sister to wear. Lots of people thought we were twins with my sister having the advantage of being the taller one. That was when our sizes were not too far apart yet because when my sister eventually grew at a much faster rate, we stopped wearing similar clothing. That is, she got to wear new clothes while I wore her old ones.

Hand-me-downs. When I was younger, I really felt bad about always having to use stuff my sister outgrew or got bored with already. I felt so undeserving of being spent on. It wasn’t until I started working that I truly learned the value of money and learned to see the positive side of hand-me-downs.

I recently went to Hong Kong and my sister wanted to buy a new Fitbit watch. She wanted the one that had a heart rate monitor because her Fitbit Alta did not have that feature. Guess who goes back to Manila with a Fitbit on her wrist? Uh-huh. You guessed it!

I remember all the other stuff that I my sister passed on to me every time she bought a newer version or model for herself. The first was her iPhone 4s, then the iPhone 5c in that bright pink color, then her iPhone 5s. Yeah, my sister is quite the Apple fan. I’m waiting for her to buy herself a new Macbook laptop so I can get my hands on her Macbook Air that she bought several years ago.

Being given hand-me-downs meant not having to buy expensive stuff for myself. Since I was not so particular about always having the latest model of phones, I was contented with her hand-me-downs even if that meant having the phone on life support (frequent plugging to the power bank) a year later. I used to be pissed about using stuff she already used but these days, when she asks me if I would like one of her old stuff because she’s planning on getting herself a new one, I highly encourage her to make the new purchase. I dare not question her choices at all (insert an rotfl emoji here).

Oh how things and priorities change when you reach adulthood…img_9159

Perfect Timing

Life operates not on our timing. It operates on God’s. What may seem like a denial might actually just be a delay. So, be patient and keep the faith.

August 7th, Tuesday. I had a 12 PM yoga class to attend and by 11:25 AM, I was still far from the studio, there being heavy traffic. It wasn’t raining when I left my house but midway through my trip, the sky started being covered with heavy, gray clouds. I started worrying then that I was not going to get to class on time.

A few minutes more, heavy rain started pouring. I was already thinking where to be dropped off so I won’t be soaking wet and damage my new yoga mat in the process. You see, to get to my drop-off point, the driver will have to take a long road and find a U-turn slot. If it weren’t raining, I could have just gotten down at the bank across the yoga studio and cross the street.

I started praying so hard for the rain to stop to allow me to get inside the studio without much fuss. The driver gladly offered to take another route so he can drop me at the entrance. As we neared the usual route to the studio, the rain poured even more heavily. I started feeling annoyed and was already thinking of how not to get my gym bag and yoga mat soaked because I only had a small foldable umbrella with me.

After the traffic light turned green, the driver drove past the street he was supposed to turn left to in order to find a way to not have to take the very long U-turn I was talking about. I had my umbrella out already. But, in a matter one minute, just in time for me to get out of the car, the rain stopped. From heavy downpour to nothing in an instant. Not even a drizzle!

I felt so ashamed that I got pissed off thinking my prayer wasn’t answered just because the rain did not stop at the exact moment I wanted it to. I did not realize that there was still time to allow the rain to pour before I had to go down the car. I felt like a brat who threw a tantrum for nothing because I really was pissed!

I was also humbled by that experience. From time to time I still insist on what timing I want, forgetting all the other times God amazed me with how perfect His timing was. He knows when to give what we want or when not to give it at all because it isn’t what we need.

Acts 1:7  He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

Needs and Wants

If one prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If they pray for courage, does God give them courage, or does he give them opportunities to be courageous? If one prayed for their family to be closer, you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings? Or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”- Evan Almighty (2007)

Last June 24, it was my second time to go to the church service at Victory Fort Bonifacio. I was hoping to hear my cousin deliver the sermon again but God had other plans. In his place was Pastor Steve.

Pastor Steve’s sermon mainly revolved around how we usually ask the wrong question to God. And when He does answer, it’s not the answer we were expecting because we asked differently. However, His answers are always the answers we truly needed; the answers to the questions we should have asked instead.

I realized that this also applies to our wishes, hopes and dreams. Sometimes, we wish for one thing, only to be given another. Most of the time, we do not realize right away why we were not given what we wanted.

I was deathly afraid of not being able to walk after my mysterious illness as a kid. I talked about it in a previous post. Two months later, I badly sprained my right ankle, causing me to face my fear of the wheelchair and confinement to my bed. I had to learn to swallow my pride and ask for help, learning that there are people who are genuinely willing to help and not see me as an inconvenience.

I wanted to be a doctor. But, circumstances would not allow it. Five years later, we had to make a decision that involved responsibilities that I could not have fulfilled had I still been in medical school. I also got into a job that allowed me to travel to so many places in my country, which could not have been possible had I still been studying.

Normally, in a fight or flight situation, I would choose the second option. I have always disliked heated conversations when people’s tempers are at their peak. Just a few weeks ago, I found myself assisting a colleague in a call with a difficult stakeholder and managing to cut it when the discussion was leading nowhere anymore. I had to confront my fear of heated arguments, raised and angry voices, and display of dominance.

Also, I realized how I was limiting myself to just wanting to hear my cousin deliver the sermons during the weekends. I wanted someone familiar; someone I felt comfortable with. I was afraid of exploring this new path I was taking towards deepening my faith with a complete stranger delivering the lectures. Just when I thought I had it all figured out (which date and time of service to attend), I found someone else capturing my attention completely. I had to open myself up to learning from a lot of persons rather than from a select few.

It’s normal to want to shy away from things that we are not comfortable with. Sometimes though, we are made to face them when we do not want to because it’s what we need.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

Pedestals

Imagine how much better the world can be if we were all kinder to one another…

It’s been a little tiring spending time on social media. A lot of people have been more open about their prejudices and distaste for anyone or anything they feel are “beneath them.” Comments sections are mostly filled with arguments, name callings and harsh words. I wonder if they are the same to people they talk to in person.

It’s not nice to think too highly of ourselves. People who have opinions different than ours are not automatically dumb, stupid, crazy or weird. People who are not as smart as we are cannot be simply regarded as imbeciles. People who do not look like us are not naturally ugly. People who do not share the same interest as ours are not undoubtedly boring.

Let’s be more forgiving and more tolerant of our differences. We have to accept that in one way or another, we all need each other.

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Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

We cannot always look at other people as beneath us and that dealing with them is an act of stooping down. It’s so lonely at the top. More so when the pedestal we think ourselves are in were just made by us.

We’re Not Perfect

It’s easy to be irritated by people who cannot meet our expectations. Even I am trying hard to be more forgiving too. It’s the idealist in me that sometimes clouds my understanding of other people’s situations.

I guess it helps to realize that we are all just a bunch of folks, trying to navigate life the best way we could. That each of us are trying our best and sometimes, we just fall short of other people’s expectations. Sometimes, we just don’t make the cut.

But standards are subjective and not all roles are meant for us to play. Being bad at something does not mean being terrible at everything. And it goes the same way. Being great at something does not mean you can be awesome at everything.

It can be tough to be compassionate to others. It is easier to criticize. Maybe it’s because we were designed to see everything but ourselves that we still need a mirror to help us with that. Even then, it’s easier to point out other people’s faults than ours.

My college professor in business tax always told us that the key to happiness is to lower your expectations. Notice that he only said to lower and not to completely remove expectations. I guess it’s normal to expect something from others but what makes us unhappy is our inability to be flexible with those expectations.

It’s tough being us. But it may also be tough being them. At the end of the day, we’re all just pretending we have it all figured out. Because no one can ever have it all figured out when it comes to life. We’re all just a bunch of fools trying to survive.

Setbacks and Comebacks

What’s done is done. There are things I cannot control and things that cannot be undone. It’s a lesson I still have to work hard on learning…

Some days are just so smooth; no bumps along the way, no heavy traffic going to work, no cramming to get things done and no heated discussions with stakeholders.

But some days can start wrong right away; you make blunders, you make more blunders, and you still have tons of stuff to do while feeling awful for your blunders! Alternatively, things may not go your way and so you get irritated about everything already that nothing can please you anymore.

I still badly need to learn how to bounce back immediately from setbacks so I can get on with the rest of my day the way I am supposed to. That being said, I should not obsess myself with replaying events in my mind going over how I could have done something better or in a different manner because that would be unproductive.

Gotta think positive even during the toughest days! Mistakes are learnings obtained in a tougher manner but these are the learnings that stick. Setbacks are just like slingshots pulling us back for a mightier comeback. We must not let our sunshine be dimmed by trivial stuff!

Being Kind to Myself

“Be kind to yourself. Remember that when you abuse yourself, you will experience the anger, apathy, and regret of the bully as well as the depression, anxiety, and insecurity of the victim. Whatever you do, be kind to yourself.” -Vironika Tugaleva

I made quite a few blunders recently. They are not life threatening nor will they cause the business to shut down. These were very minor mistakes that everyone keeps telling me are okay because I am still a newbie, technically. Their reassurance made me feel a whole lot better but I admit that before being told it was going to be okay, I truly felt bad.

I realized that around me are people who as kinder to me than I am to myself. When I make mistakes, even minor ones, I feel so terrible already, like I want to press a restart button so I could do it all over again. I do not like letting people down or causing them inconvenience and embarrassment to the point that I make everything I do a big deal and take things a little too seriously.

I have come to realize that while I am quick to forgive others for their mistakes, I find it difficult to apply the same ease to myself. With myself, I am a perfectionist and unforgiving. I feel awful when I do not meet my expectations and those from other people. It’s like a voice in my head tells me I am such a disappointment.

If I were younger, I could probably blame it on the bullying I had to go through for most of my growing up years. I had to watch every move I made or every word I spoke for the fear of offending my bullies yet again. Those were terrible years of feeling I was and never will be good enough. All my faults and flaws were made even more obvious to my face and it made me feel helpless.

But, there are no bullies now. Around me are really awesome people who have been nothing but helpful and kind to me from the start. And if they can be forgiving with me for my mistakes, I should learn how to be that way to myself too. I cannot keep myself from reaching my goals and my discovering the extent of my potentials because of self-doubt from setbacks and shortcomings that I can still do something about.

I turned to my watercolors while I was trying to distract myself from the lingering awful feelings from my recent blunder. Watercolor painting is not something I am superb at but it helps me become calm and patient. It teaches me that the more I try to pack on paint while the paper is still wet only causes the colors to diffuse and can ruin the paper because of abuse. It teaches me that water is ever flowing and sometimes, I cannot control where it goes or how much the color bleeds because of it. And, it also teaches me to let my mind wander; to let go of control and just let everything flow as they wish to.

Being kinder to myself is something I want to work on myself for this year. I want to be better at handling my faults, mistakes and blunders. Of course, I shall strive very hard to do a great job every time but I will not allow myself to be discouraged when I stumble along the way.IMG_6090