I have Trich, but Trich doesn’t have me

This title is inspired by a documentary shown on the Bio Channel on television, easily one of the most inspiring documentaries I have ever seen (while Imelda Marcos’ documentary was easily the worst). It was entitled, “I have Tourette’s, but Tourette’s doesn’t have me”. (Tourette’s refers to Tourette’s syndrome, the OCD that affects thousands (or even a few millions) of children around the world)

You see, as I mentioned two posts ago, I have a mild case of trichotillomania. I have this disorder for years, but I have been fighting it only recently. One of my greatest fears right now is to not be able to live a full life, because this trich thing causes me to feel bouts of anxiety, depression, worry, stress, humiliation, frustration, and confusion all at the same time. At times one of those emotions shadow all my other, more pleasant emotions inside of me, as if it will never disappear.

I understand that many people are worse off than me. I understand that some people have lower self-esteems than me, that people really suffer from depression, which lead them to resort to hurting themselves. I understand that some people are leading quite stressful lives that I myself cannot imagine what it feels like. This is exactly why I feel more frustrated than ever – I am not able to handle this as well as how other people cope with their own more difficult foibles.

I worry so much about how I am wasting too much time straying my fingers over my hair, or even just thinking about pulling my hair (which is even more aggravating), about whether I am making it worse, which will even make it harder to control in the future. Sometimes I do not feel like myself at all, or that I get overly anxious and tensed that what is left are harrowing thoughts, like: I am touching my hair again. Will this get worse? Am I doomed to this self-inflicted, time-wasting craziness? I wonder if I will ever stop worrying about weird things too much like normal people. OK, I’ll stop now.

Here I am again, writing about an utterly meaningless matter although I badly want to write about something else. But I know I need to fight this thing inside me, and I believe letting this all out will help me avoid making it even worse. I have read somewhere that when you share your goals with other people, you become even more motivated in achieving it. :)

Now you may speculate, how am I doing with this trich thing? Is this still affecting me very badly? Yes, I still have these urges and still have bouts of unpleasant emotions, but I can say that every day has been a learning experience, and every day I wake up comes a bright hope that I will fully let go and be (pull-) free.

And I want to share the things I’ve learned from the my trich battle:

1. Habits, especially the bad ones, can be unlearned. Yes, it does take a long time, but when you tell yourself positive, bad-habit-killer phrases like, “This has to stop for my own good”, accept that you need to change, it is already a big step.

2. Happiness is a choice. The pursuit of happiness and balance in life is something I still need a lot of work on, but there is one happiness principle I am quite sure of: Only you can control your happiness. Not the weather, not trich, not appearances, not grades. Rather, having positive thoughts, responses, and actions make us happy. :)

3. You may just need a little more patience than you think.

4. Always be gentle with yourself. I am guilty of always beating myself up by harboring negative thoughts about my bad habits. But as time passes, I realize that giving yourself time to grow, to heal, and to become empowered again is as important as pushing yourself to your fullest potential. (I hope I’m still making sense here)

5. Embrace your imperfections as well as others’.

6. You are not alone. I realize more and more that every other person on this planet experience the same frustrations, obstacles, distresses, and sadness at some points in their lives. And talking about it, sharing your struggles with others who care to listen may just be one of the most effective ways to heal your troubled self.

7. Think happy thoughts.

8. Smile. The universe will smile back to you.

To explain number 8, here is a quote from Eat, Pray, Love, the most wonderful, life-changing memoir written by Elizabeth Gilbert:

p. 206 Sean, my Yogic Irish dairy farmer, explained it to me this way.

“Imagine that the universe is a great spinning engine,” he said. “You want to stay near the core of the thing–right in the hub of the wheel–not out at the edges where all the wild whirling takes place, where you can get frayed and crazy. The hub of calmness–that’s your heart. That’s where God lives within you. So stop looking for answers in the world. Just keep coming back to that center and you’ll always find peace.”

I have trich, but trich will never, ever have me. :)

This will be my last post about trich, and I will start moving on and pursuing more meaningful things in life.

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.

~ Lao Tzu

Falling in Love with Alay ni Ignacio

As an incoming second year college student, I will always cherish and forever be grateful with the fact that I can call myself an Atenean, a student studying in one of the finest universities in the country. And because of this, I vow never to waste this opportunity – to learn, to make friends, to have fun, to interact, and to touch other people’s lives.

One of my dreams as an Atenean is to join The Guidon, the school’s main news publication. I have always wondered if I can take my writing one notch higher and maybe make this little writing ability of mine be of greater service to people, and so I knew that this would be a wonderful opportunity.

I actually applied first semester of my freshman year, but being the easily overwhelmed-with-everything girl that I was before, I wasn’t able to finish the long list of requirements on time. But I was hopeful that I would one day became part of The Guidon. Hey, there’s always summer recruitment.

So there I was in the Guidon General Assembly two weeks ago, signing up for both Inquiry and Features Staff interviews because I couldn’t decide on which staff I wanted to apply for (Inquiry would make me take part in tapping into the conscience of Ateneans. There is always something nice and new to write about for Features. Waa Beyond Loyola section is also very interesting to work on). Eventually, I chose Features, my second choice. One reason why I joined is that the staff is known to be very bonded. Hmm. This just seems just like the kind of people I would like to work with.

I passed all my requirements just in time, and after a few days, I got a message from my editor, hearing that I just got accepted in the Features Staff of The Guidon. I made it.

Below is a feature article that I was required to submit. It is a “My Point-of-View” type of article which has a regular feature in the Guidon. This doesn’t have any interviews or an interview from an expert though, which was required. But the editor was really understanding! I will definitely strive to complete all that is needed next time.

Spending Summer the ANI Way

Alay Ni Ignacio volunteers are not paid to teach 304 public high school students, yet they are more than honored to touch their lives throughout the summer and provide these children the education they deserve – making a lasting difference, one diploma at a time.

“Good morning, Ate Be-ernie and Ate De-ess!” Thirty-five differently pitched voices squealed merrily as my partner, Bernie, and I entered the bright, sunny classroom in Bellarmine Hall. These thirty-five voices belonged to some of the most dynamic set of young people I have ever encountered. They are third year high school students coming from different public schools around Quezon City and Marikina.

In this class, one of them is openly gay, there is a girl who does not wear pants but only skirts (except her P.E. jogging pants) because of her religion, and there is one girl who can only see through one eye. But what is common among them all, besides liking the same kind of music and television shows, is that they are all enthusiastic to be inside the periphery of one of the country’s top universities, a place very different from their own schools back home.

A school run by students
What are they doing on a sweltering hot summer’s day in a classroom in the Ateneo, along with hundreds of other kids, filling up two floors’ worth of classrooms? They are studying, of course, in which lessons are prepared and taught by Ateneans who are volunteers of Alay ni Ignacio. Alay ni Ignacio is the student arm of Pathways to Higher Education, founded by Harvey Keh, a prominent Atenean graduate known for his various philanthropic projects. ANI is fully run by students, wherein they spend the whole summer teaching advanced subjects to fourth and third year public high school students, giving them a head start on subjects they will be taking up in the coming school year.

“School” a might be a more appropriate term for Alay ni Ignacio, rather than “organization,” since there are departments catered for the specific needs of students, very much like how a typical school works: administration, volunteer formation, marketing and finance, secretariat departments, and of course, at the heart of ANI is the academics department, which includes sub-departments made of different subjects such as Literature, English Grammar, Geometry, Chemistry, and Physics. Another subject included in the ANI summer is Christian Living, allowing the kids to learn more about their spirituality and to take part in prayer sessions, in addition to their academics. All these are put together by Ateneans, the best part of which is that it is made absolutely free.

Teaching 101
I volunteered to join the Academics Department. Subject: English Grammar.

Being an English lover since my elementary years, I was torn between English Literature and English Grammar, but in the end chose the latter. This is going to be my first time to teach in front of a classroom, complete with formal lessons and group activities. Facing a group of students is no big deal, but what gives me jitters as I face a class is knowing I would be taking part in forming the minds of these young students, that whatever I say they will take seriously, because I will be now, in their eyes, a person of authority – even though what will come out of my mouth will mostly all be about subject-verb agreement, verb tenses, and the proper conventions of English grammar.

First day of ANI classes – As my partner, Bernie, and I stepped into the classroom, we introduced ourselves as Ate Bernie and Ate Dess. We checked attendance, discussed the syllabus, played some icebreaker games. It all went well, except for me occasionally stammering in between sentences, or becoming completely clueless as what to do next. I did not know how I would fare without my partner, who was a natural. She finished my sentences whenever I needed backing up.

In one icebreaker game called “Concentration,” we had to sit in a circle and to keep a hand-clapping rhythm while alternately stating each other’s names. When my name was called, I stumbled with my hands and wasn’t able to utter a single name. Of course, a consequence is in order. I was asked to dance in the center. Are normal teachers willing to dance “Low” in front of the whole class? Note to self: Concentrate. Then again, I think that dancing stint made lose some of the inhibitions I had before, and vowed to always act as myself, and simply let go.

An ANI tutor’s vision
For the next few days, my teaching fright slowly went away. The class quickly bonded, but the lively, fun atmosphere was already present since the first day. The name tags Bernie and I had made were a great help for us to remember each of their names.

Abby, Fleine, Queenie, Jil, Darryl, Denivie. Dexter, Juvelyn, Rex, Justine. Dustin, Raela, Iela, Roanne. Such beautiful, unique names. They were music to my ears every time I call each of them for recitation.

Since I was teaching English Grammar, all of them have to speak completely in English during class. I can see them struggle in choosing the right words to their sentences. When I ask them to make sentences using pronouns or the correct preposition, they can make coherent ones, but still sound like elementary level sentences, usually made up of more or less seven words.

“We all like to watch Fated with Love. We are all very thin. Our favorite place is Ateneo!” I led a group activity in which each group were to list down and present all the qualities they share with each other, and then the unique qualities only one of the members possess. It was a delight listening to their reports. This activity testified just how full of potential these kids had kept hidden. One of them could sing Korean songs. A guy showed some of his mean dance moves while another could be the next great news anchor. All of them had something to say. If only the world could listen, they could be telling it, “I want a better life! I have dreams to fulfill. Do I stand a chance?”

A child’s simple wish
ANI also holds mentoring sessions to all of the ANI kids. Seeing a great opportunity to be able to get up close and personal with these children, I signed up to become a mentor. I was assigned to four great kids, all of them leading simple lives but intensely holding on to their big dreams. “How much is the tuition here in Ateneo?” Ramir, one of my “mentees”, asked me in Filipino. I half-heartedly told him the estimated amount, then telling him that Ateneo gives scholarships to deserving students, so he should study well and maintain good grades. I want to give them hope, but never the false kind.

I have only been teaching for two weeks, but in that short while I have seen how poorly the education system is in this country, how there is so much work to do in terms of improving the curriculum, and how teachers must be trained harder for them to truly educate young individuals to be the best they can be.
“Teachers are expected to reach unattainable goals with inadequate tools. The miracle is that at times they accomplish this impossible task,” Dr. Haim Ginott, a renowned child psychologist and psychotherapist says.

In a limited amount of time, without degrees in education, we ANI tutors use every ounce of creativity, liveliness, and passion that we have in teaching these students. During these two weeks in teaching, I now understand why teaching is known as a most noble profession.

If only I had so much money, I will not hesitate to give my ANI kids the college education they deserve. Then again, teaching them English Grammar can do for now.

“Goodbye and thank you, Ate Bernie and Ate Dess!” From my point of view, falling in love with these kids feels downright amazing.