TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of depression, low self-worth, low self-esteem

Childhood

“Go to a science high school,” said the Monster of Depression. “So what if you’ve been Best in English for seven consecutive years? That doesn’t mean a thing, because the only people who get recognition or success are those in the field of science.”

“As for recognition, it’s everything,” Depression continued. “You are nothing if other people don’t recognize you.”

“Look at you, you’re invisible. You’re ugly and uninteresting. You may claim to have many talents, but clearly you’re not talented enough for others to think you’re interesting. Did I mention you’re not even good-looking?”

“You’re too fat, too ugly, that’s all other people see.”

2009 photo of Cza Formalejo seated in a hut
Me in high school – what I considered one of my “better pictures” after losing a bit of weight.

Adolescence

And when I was about to go to college, the Monster of Depression snarled into my ear: “Don’t take up Computer Science. You’ll stop learning and hit a plateau. Then, everyone will find out what a phony you are, and how much you really suck! Haven’t we established that pattern these past few years?”

I try to argue with the Monster. But I’m good at creating websites. Even though I fell behind in most of my classes, I sailed through third- and fourth-year computer science classes thanks to web development.

But Depression is one mean bastard — it mocks me the more I whinge and whine.

“So what if you’ve been really good at creating websites lately? Didn’t you used to suck at coding? You won’t be building websites all day. What happens if you come across another programming course that has nothing to do with websites? Oh, and news flash: you’ll have to sit for long hours in front of a computer screen. Weight gain awaits!”

At this point, Depression appears to be talking sense. Or at least that’s how it appears in my head. I can’t argue with the Monster’s logic.

I try to ignore him, and carry on with my life. But the Monster’s voice is too deeply embedded in my head. I hear him speak to me as I go about with my daily responsibilities. He is there every step of the way, pretending to be my life guide.

Adulthood

“You’ll never find someone,” Depression tells me as a young adult. “You’ve got too much baggage. You’re incredibly hard to love.”

(True enough, I never talk about my “weird family background” with anyone unless we’re close enough. I often feel like it’s too much to unpack — and truthfully, I just don’t like explaining. I also don’t talk about how I used to be known as a Gifted Child in my younger days.)

And as I chased freedom, Depression told me I would never be free. “There’s no way you can handle independent life. You’re going to depend on someone forever.”

“What’s the point of traveling, of planning nice vacations? You’ll go out and see some pretty sights for a while, immerse yourself in other cultures — and for what? You’re still the same unremarkable person when you come back.”

Soon, I hope to travel once more to places such as Bali. 🌴

“What you really need is stuff,” Depression tells my adult self. “More stuff to prove to the world that you’re meeting their standards. You have to buy all these shiny and expensive things to convince people that you’ve made it.”

“Stuff is all it takes,” Depression proclaims in a haughty voice. “Buy something — and then a little more. It’ll get you amazingly high! And for a moment, you’ll forget just how worthless you are…”

The Monster then bursts into an unsettling bout of laughter.

Maturity

…And then one day, I decide to talk back.

Healing words ultimately find their way to my lips. And I say them.

“Dear self, you’re good enough.”

“So what if you’re not the best? No one can be the best at anything. And to be really good at something, you’ve got to accept that you’ll suck at it first. We’re all beginners at some point.”

“Why must you listen to a Monster in your head, when you have the power to make your own decisions?”

And finally…

“I forgive myself for the times I listened to that Monster. For the times I let the Monster of Depression dictate my actions and choices.”

In some ways, I do regret having listened to the Monster. There are many ways I think I could have done things better. If I could live my life again, I know I would turn a blind eye to its criticisms and taunts.

Two sides of me.
Two sides of the same person. I can freely choose to “be” either one any day. 😎

But I also forgive myself for being the naïve child I was back then — a child who hadn’t yet learned to identify the voice of her own Truth.

Besides, not everything turned out to be so bad. I have a beautiful family now, a kid I’m raising to have a better life than mine (hopefully), and a decent means of making a living. I’m free to make my choices for the most part.

And my life journey is still ongoing.

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