Tuesday, December 8, 2015


I think maybe something's wrong with me...I think I should see a shrink or something.

I was half joking, but my best friend, the only person whose genius I find intimidating, was serious in her response. That's what I've been telling you for years.

And because we are so much older now and so much more mature, I retorted, You need to see someone too. You're just as crazy.


I wrote the above 5 lines in June 2015.  I had started this excerpt, got distracted, and forgot it all together.  And here I am, 6 months later, seeing a therapist...through series of events that had nothing, yet everything, to do with me.  Maybe I'll blog about that someday.

But I started the above entry after seeing a dental hygienist who said, "Do you grind your teeth?" And I said, no.  Then, she said, "Do you clench your teeth sometimes, maybe when you're tense?" And then I realized, yes, I do.  Although not sometimes. Not often.  But ALWAYS. Whenever my mouth is closed, even with a smile on my face, unknowingly, my teeth immediately clench.  I now have to be very aware whenever my mouth is closed to unclench my teeth and loosen my jaws.  And then I tell myself, For heaven's sake, Chic, relax!

And so here I am, prodded by colleagues in the mental health field to go "see someone."  That mental health check ups are really...healthy.  And I hear their prodding as: Hey, you're a nut case. Go get fixed.

And I immediately want to yell, Have you driven through the Staten Island Expressway?? Try crossing that highway, then the Verrazano, then the BQE, and then come back for another 26 hours of traffic for YEARS and you tell me if YOU wouldn't turn into a nut case yourself!!

Anyway...my first session took place 2 weeks ago.  It wasn't my appointment, but I decided to take the spot and show up for myself.  Maybe because deep down I realize that I have been trying to figure myself out.  I mean, this 4 year blog is made up of me comically expressing myself to my readers while trying to discover the truths about who I really am.  And frankly, I am tired of having to consciously unclench my teeth.

It was dark when I went and the office was in a basement and the dark, tired look of the place gave me the creeps.  Once I got comfortable, I told the therapist, "Your office is creepy."

He looked up, clearly surprised by this.  "Really? You think so?"

"It's so dark," I said, pulling my jacket close.  "Your patients are probably developing phobias so they keep coming back to be fixed."

He laughed and I thought, this kid looks like a good Mormon.  Buttoned down shirt, khakis, dirty blonde hair parted on the side...is he from the Midwest?

We started by talking about family and I talked, nonstop, for a full hour.  I don't think I took a breath. And he seemed overwhelmed and then said, "Wow, you're telling me a lot...it's good, it's good...Usually people don't open up right away."

"Yup," I said. "Getting my money's worth."

Another laughter. Not sure if it was nervous laughter from my newfound therapist.

When we finished, I said, "It's so dark outside, I'm afraid I'll get nabbed then murdered."

"Would you like me to walk you to your car?"

"No, I'll just run. And then once I'm in my car, I can die from the anxiety."

The curious thing about therapy is realizing that this Mormon will not fix me. My second session, which was last week, comprised of me asking questions that I answered myself.  And whatever questions the therapist asked, I answered with further questions which I eventually also answered.

"Hey, I'm doing all the therapy here," I quipped. "I'm going to pay myself today."

I told my husband that I should just sit in front of a mirror and ask myself a bunch of questions.  That way, I don't have to wait week to week for therapy or run across a dark street hoping a serial killer won't discover me.

"I always tell my patients that it's like being in Nascar. You're the driver, but I'm on the passenger seat.  Every time there's a sharp turn, you seem to crash straight into the wall. Well, I tell you that the next time you come to that turn, you should move your head away from the wall and into the road. But when we get there, you keep looking at the wall so...I gently move your head towards the road.  And guess what you'll do?  You'll move the steering wheel away from the wall and onto the road, and this time, you won't crash. Your body will follow the movement of your head. Because the mind is an amazing thing."

A--ha.  Okayyy.

That was my honest reaction when the Nascar analogy was explained.

But 3 weeks later I am watching the intensity of my responses, clenching my teeth less, and have committed to taking one day off a week, no matter how tempted I am to go into work.  Okay, today is that day off and although I am home writing up this blog, I have responded to emails and at-least 45 text messages from employees---I am a work in progress and the wall is bigger than I realize. Clearly, I will have questions for myself in this week's therapy.

I'll have to get in that race car and listen to the "Passenger."  And so far, the ride has been this:

Why do I work so much? 

The passenger: "Do you really have to work seven days a week when you own the place?"

Why won't I relax?

The passenger: "You have to loosen up, you really do."

Why am I such a control freak? Wait, I'm such a control freak!

The passenger, laughing, "There you go!"

Why won't I turn the wheel?

To think that I told a close colleague, I'm going to flip this therapy session. First, I made the therapist reflect on the creepiness of his office (he bought extra lamps the following week), then I'll tell him he reminds me of a Mormon, and then I'll ask if he's heterosexual.


The past 4 years have really come down to this.  This was supposed to be the pursuit of the Virtuous Woman.  Really, I've been in pursuit of myself.  I think I overwork because I'm running away from me. And so, here I am. On this car ride, racing through these laps and confronting several walls.

One. Crash. At. A. Time.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


I took a day off today. A real day off. No work. And I stayed inside, perfectly secluded in my bedroom.  I didn't vegetate, of course not. That's just not my personality.  I cleaned like a madwoman, taking advantage of finally being home. After throwing my back from vacuuming and cleaning up the bedrooms, I sat up in my bed and thought, "I can do this for the next 100 years."

Stay inside.  Minimal human interaction. A good book. A foreign film on Netflix.

Those who know me well, which is less than 5 people, know that I'm an undercover hermit.  I dread social events, idle chatter, and perfunctory greetings. My husband knows where to find me during a party in my house after 3 hours. In my bedroom, in front of my laptop or an open book. His reproach is always the same:

Babe, these are your family downstairs and you're here hiding!

And, eventually, my sister-in-law will find me and chuckle.  Here you are. Getting to be too much, huh?

What's funny is her daughter, Amber, is always compared to me. She's exactly you. She looks like you. She talks like you. She acts like you. Except Amber thrives in the spotlight and attention is key to her energy.

I am the complete opposite.

It is true.  I can easily be the loudest in a group and I will not shut-up.  And I have one of those laughs---HA HA HA---over simple and mundane comments that are merely amusing and far from hysterical. But the laughter comes out and I laugh easily. It's an inherited thing. It's also cultural. Filipinos love to laugh.  And growing up a pastor's kid, I talked to everyone, I greeted everyone, and I joked around all the time.  And laughed at my own jokes. HA HA HA!

But I could never wait to stop talking, to stop being amusing, to stop laughing and get to my bed and hide. Enough with the chatter, enough with the noise, enough with the charm.

"Do you think I'm a snob?" I asked my husband yesterday.

"No," he said, thinking. "But you're only comfortable around very few people. People you're familiar with."

And when interactions with those familiar people stop, they fall under the category of people who now make me uncomfortable.

I'm 41 now so I've taken ample personality tests that revealed what hardly anyone who was around me in my 20's would believe: I am an introvert.

I sang solo in college, I preached in the pulpit from the time I was 17, and I had the reputation of being a dynamic youth pastor.

I found out later in life that "introvert" is not synonymous to "shy."

I did not play with children when I was a kid. Actually, I just did not play. I had, at most, 2 friends. And I never let anyone know, ever, how I was truly feeling inside. Strangely, what I do for a living is create treatment plans for some children who have those same social deficits.  My Aspie clients remind me of myself. They're perfectly content in their own universe and need no other peer to interact with to stay perfectly content.  And sometimes, while developing their treatment, I think, But why should he have to engage in social interaction!  Of course I know the answer to this:

It is socially valid. This is a social universe. We have to interact.

But...I want my bed. I want my book. I want my laptop. In the privacy of my own bedroom.

And I look at those Aspie kids and think, I know. I understand. But we gotta do this. Now go say hello to the other kids and look at their eyes when you do it.

If we don't interact, if we don't socialize, it is rudeness. People think you're a snob, or that you don't like them, or that you're mad. And there are always those who think, What is your problem?

I can't keep up with the amount of people who, I later on found out, thought I did not like them, or that I was mad at them, or, in the case of one, I genuinely hated them. Sadly, I did not even know the person's name, nor how he looked, or what he was like.  I just never looked up whenever he was around.

Oddly, at 41, I can only come up with one person I genuinely did not like.  Recently, another person joined that small group but overall, I genuinely like people.

It's not a matter of liking for introverts, I don't think.  It's a comfort level. I don't mean surface, social interaction. I'm actually a pro in that. I can engage and interact and be charming like a true PK (Pastor's Kid) and enjoy the experience.  But a level of plutonic intimacy requires a much deeper level of comfort and safety. I think most introverts have to feel safe enough to peek outside their very private shell and let a person in.

Once in, an outsider will find that inside my shell reside…absolutely nothing. No secrets. No hidden personality. No rare treasure. No psychedelic lights with sparkling stimuli. Nothing inside but a workaholic who enjoys watching documentaries and foreign films on Netflix.

And it's exactly how I like it. No clutter. No noise. Quiet and private.

Friday, March 20, 2015

On Relaxation...

After years of workaholism and emotional stoicism, the verdict came in:

"Degenerative Disc Disease," my doctor said, looking over the recent result of my cervical and lumbar spine x-rays.  I would google it later on and find that it sounds far more alarming than it really is.

He read some medical words and said,  "Your cervical spine is completely inverted. A perfect C."

Then, he proceeded to draw a picture. He seemed amused. He's had me as a patient for a couple of years now and although he is my doctor, we had developed a rapport like two colleagues. I jumped from where I was laying.

"Let me see that," I said, standing next to the doctor and reading right along with him. "All from stress? This is all from stress?"

The lower back pains, the unbearable migraines...

"Well, stress can definitely be a factor."

I kept reading, as though I understood the terminologies. "But what does this mean? What does it mean?"

"It means," my doctor said, "that you're a mess."

I rolled my eyes. He had told me to de-stress. He had told me to exercise. He had told me to cut work. And in each visit, he had told me to learn to relax. I even got a history lesson on how he went from running his own practice and covering hospital rounds to working a few hours just 4 days a week. "I'd rather enjoy life and live like a person, not a machine."

He even wrote me a medical note for work to let my boss know that stressful situations weaken my already compromised immune system.

"What are you so tense about? You gotta just relax!"

And then the chuckle. A chuckle from a successful professional who has learned the art of not falling into the trap of the work wheel. The chuckle made me anxious.  Professional medical advice ensued, followed by a prescription for muscle tension and extension of physical therapy. I was going to be just fine, my doctor assured in a serious tone. Really, I was going to be ok. I needed regular exercise, continuation of physical therapy, and relaxation techniques.

So today, Friday, was my day off. A day of nothing. An empty day. A day dedicated to relaxation.

By 12 noon my lower spine started to throb. I had been returning emails, developing treatment plans, answering phone calls, and the stress of the morning finally found itself in my lumbar region.

What's wrong with me? Why don't I know how to relax?

And so on impulse, I called a spa and made an appointment for a 45 minute deep tissue massage. It wasn't going to be one of those feel good ones but I could feel the tension knots everywhere and I needed a good work up. And then, something on the website caught my eye. A relaxation bath. Scented oils. Soothing. Healing. Etcetera, etcetera.

It was just what the doctor ordered. And so at 2:30, I set off for my very first relaxation, scented bath.

"This is your locker," the woman at the spa said. "Just remove all your clothes and put this robe and these slippers and we'll get your bath ready."

I smiled awkwardly then locked the door behind me. I removed my clothes quickly and locked them in the locker. Then, I realized that bare necessities could not follow me in the bath. Neither could my cozy socks. So off everything went and I was suddenly filled with awkward dread and anxiety.  I would be much more relaxed in front of my lap top.

Once done, I went outside, wrapped in an oversized pink, fluffy robe that dragged by my feet. I could see a woman working by a buzzing tub and I could see some bubbles forming. She called me in the room. The bubbles had risen above the tub.

Was the temperature ok for me?

It was scalding hot but she assured me that was ok. A hundred and ten degrees was the norm and she only had it for a hundred degrees, but I suddenly saw myself standing outside in the middle of Summer under a scorching sun in a hundred degree weather and somehow I wasn't convinced.

The bubbles continued to rise. You don't think the bubbles will spill when I get in?

No, it was ok, the woman said nervously. Really, it was ok. But the bubbles continued to rise and the woman from the front, the woman in charge, joined us.  She told the bath lady to turn off the water and she left the room. But the bubbles continued to rise and I don't know what happened but the woman walked out for some reason and I somehow found myself alone in the room with this volcanic bubble bath and it began to spill on the floor.

"The bubbles are spilling!" I yelled.

The women ran in and I walked out. I could hear them talking. Turn it off.  But it won't turn off! Shut the water. The water won't shut!

I peeked in and saw that the bubbles had risen close to their height and its excess was seeping at the sides of the beautiful, white, clawfoot tub. The two dark haired women were frantically working on the knob and then finally, silence.

"We are going to drain the tub and do it again. It will just be a minute."

I waved my hand, no problem. It wasn't an issue. I was used to walking around wrapped in an oversized bathrobe with a sheepish grin on my face in a place with complete strangers.

Finally, the wait was over.

I looked at my buzzing bath that now had categorically minimal bubbles and low water.  I reflected for a few seconds. My bath lady was too afraid to put the scented bubbles in and had shut off the water before armageddon happened again.

My relaxation bubble bath, my soothing, healing, scented water, had anxiety written all over it.

I looked around the room and saw a mountain of bubbles on the sink, covering the mirror. They had gathered the excess bubbles from the disaster and placed them neatly on the sink.  The bubbles were thick and hard and sat like a tall, white, sculptured art piece on the sink.

My bath lady walked out and I attempted to get in. After a few ow, ow, ow! from the scalding heat, unable to sit, much less lay back, I adjusted the tub with blasting cold water and then settled in.  The force from the jacuzzi was too strong for my small frame and it shook me around side to side. I laid down thinking of what the experience felt like, the buzzing, the jerking, the convulsive flow of the water. My relaxing, healing, soothing bath felt...epileptic.

"How was your bath?"

"Uhmm...I could've gone without it. I...I...don't think it's for me."



"I'm sorry to hear that. We'll give you a 10% discount."

I beamed. Thank you, that's so nice and considerate.

I was relieved that she did not ask for an explanation. That I did not have to recount the fact that I had tipped the temperature off balance and eventually shivered in the tub, watching my pruned fingers tremble. And how I had buried my face in my hands in exasperation, only to find my finger tips stained in black, quickly realizing that I had just smeared my mascara all over my face.

It was indeed an experience, but not a relaxing one.

And so I left wondering if perhaps, just perhaps, I really am just not meant to relax. Ever. And if I try, I will pay the price. Even if it is at a discounted rate.