Thanksgiving 2017: Looking Back, Saying Goodbye, and Moving Forward.

Ahh Thanksgiving. Today is the day many give thanks. American traditions aside, I think everyday should really be Thanksgiving Day.

I decided to write my thoughts on here today after a prolonged absence on the blog because of a few things. First, after 2 weeks of a debilitating illness which involved a virus attacking my liver and my lungs, I am finally well enough to sit up and stare at this computer screen and type small words. Second, because I think it’s time I tell my story, a story that I had been wanting to share with you but on so many occasions found it too raw and revealing. And I was worried about being judged for it. But now, I am past that fear and judgement of others about my situation no longer bothers me. After all, everyone will always have an opinion about everything (especially about things they know absolutely nothing about haha), and we really just cannot please everybody anyway 🙂

I looked back on this blog and realized it has really been a long time since I wrote something substantial. Well, most of them have been short posts, perhaps also because I found that people tend to just check out Instagram and Facebook for short blurbs instead of lengthy, almost novel- like posts– like this one that you are reading now 🙂  I hope this post would resonate with some of you, and would in ways also inspire you.

I am so grateful to be where I am today. And I’m not referring to “where I am today” from a career standpoint. This is from a deeply personal standpoint. I have always loved writing as I had often found it fulfilling to express my thoughts on paper (and well on here), but in recent years I stopped doing that. I kept my deeply private thoughts only to a handful. I alienated myself from my blog readers and for that, I am sorry. Because I thought, as long as I haven’t resolved my issues, I didn’t think I should be sharing them. People wouldn’t really have that much to take away from sad or negative posts anyway, so what for, right?  So yes, I have been on quite a lengthy and deeply personal and private journey.  But oh every so often you get a glimpse of it through my “emo” quotes and posts on Instagram and on Facebook. This has been a long time coming, but finally I feel content with where I’m at, and in some way, finally at peace.

For years, I had harbored a secret and private pain from you all– details of that pain which may have perhaps been heard of and told only via whispers from many who knew of me or knew me in some very small capacity (the ones who knew me well didn’t really contribute to it. It’s the ones who don’t know exactly what I was going through that had the most to say. Ironically LOL). You guys already knew I had a very difficult marriage because I had opened up and written about it not too long ago. Why difficult? Because even from early on, we already were off to a wrong start– I will admit now that I had a lot of problems with my in- laws because of their situation at the time of our wedding which involved a lot of dirty politics and politicians. The stress of my in-laws was inevitably passed onto us, a then- newly married couple. While we should have been given space to grow together as a married couple, space to build our own marriage foundation together, we were instead subjected to their stress. It didn’t help that while my husband and I started out as good friends, I realized that there were so many fundamental differences between us in terms of the way we were brought up, and most importantly, in terms of values and priorities. My husband and I were friends for almost 3 years but only dated for less than a year before he proposed marriage. The early years of my marriage, coupled with my father’s unexpected death had left me feeling utterly alone. And while I was establishing a new closeness to my own family after my father’s death, I had left out a lot of other incidents that happened in my marriage and spared them the details because they were grieving the loss as well. I didn’t want to be another burden to them. I thought I could handle things on my own. And I fell into depression. D-uh (and that’s why when you have problems, it’s really important to talk to someone… a person you can trust not to judge you or preach to you).

Depression is ugly. It is a serious mental health issue that needs immediate attention. And it is often misunderstood. It is not loneliness. It is that sinking feeling of helplessness, of hopelessness. It is a very dark place that not many can understand unless they too have experienced it.

I hadn’t even known I was depressed until I shared what I went through much later on in my life. And it was then that one of my friends, a clinical psychiatrist, told me that I had suffered from it! I didn’t get any professional help because I didn’t even know I was going through it– it would’ve helped me if I had known much sooner! I just figured then that if I had slept off most of the bad days (which was a lot of bad days), I’d have some good days. There were days my husband would leave for work in the morning with me still asleep in bed, and would later come home at 5pm with me still under the sheets– either in tears, or asleep. I used to rack my brain over and over again to try and figure out a way to understand my increasingly difficult issue with my in-laws and my marriage, but I only ended up in frustration and in tears. I just couldn’t find a plausible reason why I was fighting the fight on my own, alone. And I did feel incredibly alone and isolated.

In those early years of marriage, I had to move houses several times. The first time we moved was out of our marital home which we shared with my in-laws. We were forced out of that home because a dirty politician had laid claim to the house. Again, long story (and not really mine to tell because it was not a problem we created). It was so sad to leave that home because my father had paid for the renovation of our wing as his wedding present to us (my husband didn’t want us to live on our own for financial reasons and would rather stay with his parents.) And that was taken away from us within the first two years of our married life.

When my in-laws moved into their temporary home (let’s count that as house #2), I decided to move back to my mother’s home as I fell pregnant with our first child and developed asthma in house #2. So my mom’s place was house #3 for me. My mother was very concerned about my health. She took me in and took very good care of me while my then- husband stayed with his parents to help sort out the mess they had gotten themselves into. I stayed in my mother’s house rent- free for the next year, and had gone home there too after my baby was born. It was on my baby’s 3rd month that my husband moved out with his parents from their rented home and into something more permanent– house #4. I already had reservations about moving in with my in-laws again (let’s be honest, nothing good ever comes out of living with the in-laws– this is a universally accepted truth). But because my husband insisted since he is the only child and that he still couldn’t afford to live alone, I supported his decision. Moved into house #4 and lived with the in-laws. While I was grateful not to have to pay rent, I also was a miserable wreck and it was only in my baby and in my pet dog Elvis (my other dog Kelly died not long after I moved into house #4) that I found solace and happiness. In less than three months, more conflict arose from that cohabitation (not surprising, really). Things were really tense and difficult between my in-laws and I, and it was worse not having support from my husband at the time. Perhaps I have a better understanding of it all now because it’s really never easy to choose between wife and family (and one shouldn’t really be made to choose at all), but as a wife back then, I was expecting my husband to protect me from this kind of conflict by moving me, and us away from it. It didn’t happen.

I fell ill with stomach flu one day while living at my in-law’s house. I was vomiting nonstop throughout the day and it was my mother who rushed over to take me to the E.R. before I got dehydrated or got worse. I was still breastfeeding my baby at that time too, so I was always careful not to eat anything with preservatives on it. It was really horrible. It pained me to throw away the milk that I had expressed just to be sure my baby didn’t get sick from me. Emotionally, I was already so frustrated and depressed by this time (my family had an inkling of what was going on, but they still didn’t know the whole story). Up until that time I fell ill, I had still been crying myself to sleep on most nights. It didn’t help that I was also probably going through postpartum depression. Nor did it help that my husband was clueless on how to comfort me. Lucky for him though he was able to sleep soundly (haha he snored too– remember my blog posts about the snores?) while I sobbed my sorrows away. It was an unbelievably sad time.

House # 5 happened because of that stomach flu I had while living in my in-laws’ house (house #4). Instead of being the passive wife (I was also so tired of crying to sleep every night because of helplessness), I decided to take matters into my own hands and help myself.  I found a place close to my in-laws (because I didn’t want them to ever accuse me of depriving them of their grandchild), signed the lease for a year, then paid for a full year’s rent with my own money. I could no longer live the way I did in their house and with such a hostile and stressful environment, I felt the only way to save my sanity was to leave even if it had meant earning the ire of my mother-in-law. I figured I could not allow my baby to grow up in a dysfunctional environment where hostility, resentment, anger, and negativity were the norm. I had grown up in a very happy and loving home, and all of what was going on in my marital home was completely foreign to me. There were so many times I cried thinking and wondering what I did wrong in the past to have deserved such a life. But when I made the decision to move us three out, I felt a burden lifted.

In the past, I had often sought validation from people I cared about and from the people whom my loved ones cared about. So it used to pain me so much when I would get into conflict with these elders whom my then- husband called family. It made me feel ill to my stomach when I get into heated discussions (as my husband sat and watched) with them because the actions I had undertaken were not at all what my parents had taught me. They had always taught me to respect the elders and never answer back. I felt terrible for disappointing my parents with the way I handled the situation. I answered back. But I also knew I had to fight for what I felt was right. I had to fight for a healthy emotional future for my baby and for my future kids.

In the end, I was made to feel that I was the bad daughter- in-law. And I think to many today, I’d still be painted as such (especially after what I am sharing with you all here). And to be honest, I no longer care about how I’d be perceived today (back then it would’ve mattered, but not anymore now). Because it had taken me so long to overcome this dark phase in my life that talking about it now is nothing but cathartic (I never sought therapy for my depression before, so I guess this is probably it haha). But let it also be known that I acknowledge my faults. I was no saint either. But because of these experiences, I know I do not want to be that kind of mother-in-law to the future partners of my children. I don’t ever want to alienate myself from my children as a result of the way I treat their partners.

When my  husband and I had moved to our rented home– our 5th house, I received a very unpleasant email from my mother-in-law. I still kept that email as it was a reminder to myself never to be spiteful or hurtful to my children’s partners in the future. Today as I briefly went through that email again (before I began writing this), I am reminded of how emotionally troubled I was then. I sobbed nonstop when I first read that email after receiving it. I felt helpless and really scared– because I had up until that time, never received an email of that nature. It almost felt like I was cursed by the mother of my partner. And it was so difficult to see past that even if things were going to look up with the prospect of finally living alone as a married couple. Marriage reboot (only after 1.5 years of marriage). Imagine, 5 house moves after only 4 years of marriage!

Months into living in house #5, I fell pregnant and felt redeemed. I was not “cursed” after the move- out after all. I won’t lie though, there was already a lot of emotional damage done to our marriage by that time. So note to a lot of couples out here who are planning on getting married, please save your marriage and never, ever live with your in-laws. Never, never, never. Not even if you’ll both be so hard- up with finances. Because if you don’t get the right start, things don’t always get better. Remember, in the first three years of your marriage, you both should’ve set a strong and solid partnership and foundation. You don’t want those precious early years messed about by external factors such as in-laws. That said though and in retrospect, I no longer resent my in-laws for what had happened. For the longest time I admit I did put a lot of blame on them for the ultimate demise of my marriage.

But in recent years I have also accepted that we as a couple, had a lot to do with why it failed as well. We were to blame first, above all the other factors. It’s never really just one factor that triggers the failure. Eliminating one source of a problem does not mean all will be smooth sailing after. It doesn’t always work that way 🙂 Fact of life!

The real period of adjustment happened in our 5th house. I began to see the idiosyncrasies of my then- husband and the differences in our upbringing. And while we all have our eccentricities, I realized I had trouble living with his. Perhaps too because when I had married him, I was young and naive and had thought that he will change over time for me, as I will for him. I had also thought that in marriages, both will willingly learn to grow with each other. And if needed be, both will willingly change certain set ways (if mere adjustments are too difficult). I just didn’t realize then that not all couples would do it. Advice to couples here– don’t ever go into a marriage thinking your partner will change. And you don’t go into it thinking you can change your partner either.

Damn those romance novels for giving me these kinds of expectations LOL. Bottomline was this, we were just two fundamentally different people with very different values and goals in life. Character- wise we were also very different. I am always known to be the more engaging and gregarious one, while he was perceived to be the meek one because he was usually quiet and disconnected. But do you remember the saying, “Silent water runs deep?” 🙂 This rings very true for his personality.  It could have also been his upbringing (he is an only child), with the way his parents brought him up. But no point in pondering further because bottomline, our irreconcilable differences became even bigger over time.

Baby #2 later, I still had depression about my marriage but decided to turn my own life around. I was done moping around, feeling sorry for myself, crying, and staying under the sheets. So I began blogging. It was a creative outlet, having stopped working in the magazine publishing industry after giving birth. Shortly before the blog was born, I had also begun a bag resale business– it started out as a need to clean out my closet to make more space, but it ended up as a business. The blog became a supplement to that business. I began a blog because I wanted a new bag. But I had money for a couch. And I needed people to help me validate that I should just buy a couch and dream of a bag. LOL. Since we had moved into house #5 albeit a rented one, I wanted some furniture I could call my own. Buuuut, the blog had other plans, and the bag won, d-uh! Couch money that I had earned and saved up for went to that Louis Vuitton Denim Alligator Neo Speedy LOL. And the blogging journey began from there.

When the blog began to pick up momentum, my life changed completely. Apart from being excited to wake up so I could see my kids, I also couldn’t wait to get out of bed each morning to write. I was building something although truth it be told, that “something” I was building had no blueprint. I was making the plans up as I went daily. I had no idea the blog would propel me into who I would become today (apart from being a mom to 2 amazing teens whom I adore sooo much… haha I hope they continue to think Mom is still cool LOL )– a businesswoman (Accessory Lab), a bag blogger, an online influencer (though hah, that’s a laughable matter now because I got soooo left behind by my contemporaries who now have hundreds of thousands *even millions* of followers to my dwindling 50K), a newspaper columnist (though crap, I haven’t submitted anything in over a year and my wonderful mentor and editor has probably forgotten that I am still alive LOL), a social media and brand consultant, a TV presenter with my own show, and an executive producer for a new show, soon to be aired on Fox Life 🙂

After living in house #5 for 2 years, we ended up moving again– our 6th home. My husband was still saving money to build his own place so we ended up staying at my family’s spare vacant home, rent- free. At least this felt more like home because the place belong to my family, and they were generous enough to let us stay in the house for as long as we needed it. We stayed in our rent- free house #6 for a little over 8 years! And today, it still brings tears to my eyes when I think about how selfless and generous my family had been to us. All the marital support we had came from my side of the family, and I shall never ever forget that for as long as I live.

Life became very fast- paced for me during those 8 years. And while all was great in my career, my private life was suffering more and more. It’s true what they say– if you and your partner don’t share the same pace in life, your relationship will inevitably suffer. Either one has to slow down or the other needs to pick up the pace. One cannot be stagnant while the other travels at warp speed. The relationship is bound to fail if someone doesn’t catch up with the other. Of course, that alone isn’t the problem. As I had earlier mentioned, fundamentally we were really just as different as night and day. We had so little in common together as time went by (this is also proof that not all good friends make great couples). The disparity grew wider each month– I felt that I was evolving and exploring new interests, while he stayed on with his old ones. In the end, the marriage had irretrievably broken down. While I was enjoying some kind of success with my work, I felt like a complete failure in my private life. Depression was still there rearing its ugly head, though my days were not as dark as they used to be– because uh- oh, I had taken up a terrible “cure.”  When depressed, some would take to the bottle. I took to shopping. I spent most of my hard- earned money on material things that I had no need for (in retrospect LOL but hey they gave me happiness at the time. Call it shallow, but oye we all have our ways of coping so please don’t judge, ok?). It was only after we finally moved to house #7 that I realized what I complete fool I was with my money. I could’ve saved all that for my own future and for the future of my kids especially since my marriage was no longer working out, and that it might be the end of our union. I shopped then, thinking since I could afford it anyway, that what I bought would satisfy a need, validate my success in my career, fill the void in my private life. But I was wrong. That void was going to catch up with me somehow. And it did. That and I also realized there was no more space to store all the things I bought! Gosh, I dread the day I’d be that woman on the TV show called Hoarders where pros are brought in to clean up house!!

Gulp!!! I do not want to literally be a “bag lady!!!” *cries*

After 16 years of a turbulent private life (but of a fun public life– see, all the near- perfect photos people post on social media aren’t indicative of their private lives!!), of all that we had gone through, of all the sacrifices and heartaches, of all those tears, and of all the effort I had spent trying to also convince us to work with a marriage counselor (which was sadly met with resistance until it was really too late to salvage the relationship), the marriage really ended. It was a very painful process of self- realization, and figuring out the next step was so stressful (I developed chronic urticaria as a result). The feelings of helplessness, like someone locked me in a cold, dark dungeon and threw away the key, did not go away. I was dying to leave the home (house #7) I shared with my then- husband. But thoughts about my children were on top of everything else– I had never wanted them to be a product of a broken marriage. No sane individual wants that for their kids, right? But a decision had to be made, though it took longer than expected to implement. Some time later, my kids entered into their adolescent years, and I felt they were more equipped to understand our marital predicament. Besides by now too, they won’t be the first kids in their class to have separated parents. I was actually secretly relieved they weren’t. After I had told them, they understood the situation. Another big burden was lifted. And then I was dealt with another big blow– Elvis, my only constant companion during my dark days (he knew everything) passed away at 15 years of age. In a way his passing felt symbolic. It was as if he knew that I was going to be ok after walking away from the marriage, and that a very long and painful chapter of my life was nearing its end.

Throughout those turbulent times, I ended up heavily relying on the love and attention of friends apart from my ever- supportive family. I had even allowed a handful of riffraffs into my life, not so much thinking about why these people befriended me and tried to win my friendship over so fast. I was blinded by their fake kindness, not thinking that they were only befriending me to take advantage of me. Lucky for me, I managed to obliterate these unsavory characters whom I once called “close friends”. Again that was a blip in my personal life, but am glad that I dealt with them even though at the time I severed ties, it pained me. I admit, I felt embarrassed and angry at myself for not seeing their true colors from the get- go, for allowing myself to spend a considerable amount of time with them when my other friends (my constants) saw through them right away.I was always the one who would beg for everyone to give these people a chance, despite the ill reputation they have. Guess who had to learn the lesson the hard way each time? ME! 🙂

I became very close to my family as well as to a handful of people in these years of my life, and I am infinitely grateful for these people who have seen me in good and in bad, and are still around in my life. I have been a train wreck on many occasions, but these guy friends and girl friends still chose to stick around and support me. Oh oh and while I have the opportunity now, let me also say this for the record because I’d like to address what has been said of me– platonic relationships DO EXIST between a man and a woman, so try to take your minds out of the gutter for once and believe that I have platonic male friends! Not all male- female close relationships are intimate in nature, you know 🙂 Insinuating something that does not exist is and can be detrimental to relationships, so it’s time for peeps to learn how to take certain things at face value 🙂

Anyway, wow was this a crazy journey or what? Looking back, I realized what an absolute disaster my private life was until I consciously decided to do something about it (and I tell you, it was not easy to get out of bed and stick to that decision). I was once a young, dependent, entitled, and selfish person who did not have an understanding of life (or maybe I just refused to understand it). I am not claiming to be an expert on it now, but I do know to find solutions to problems on my own. I also learned to trust more by sharing what I feel when I don’t feel great  (though I still need to learn not to trust too much LOL… or just learn how to be a better judge of character). I know I grew up a lot. I have since moved to house #8, and am grateful that I have a respectable co-parenting relationship with my soon- to-be ex- husband. It took us a verrrrrrry loooooong time to get to this place. And it took me a verrrrry looooong time to come to terms with how my future will be. I had to overcome A LOT of fears.

Apart from not knowing what my future holds, I know this much about my near future– that it is time to let a lot of those material things I have accumulated in all those years go. And honestly it feels so good to be able to do it 🙂 *P.S. If you are interested, I am letting a lot of clothing and shoes go on my facebook group, THE CLOSET RAIDERS*

So today, I am very thankful for my journey. Thankful because it has brought me to this place of understanding, of contentment. I know I still need a lot of work on myself, but I know I am on the right path. I am done crying. I have been slowly picking up the pieces and am rebuilding again. And gratefully, I no longer feel helpless or depressed. It helped that I managed to share what I had gone through with family and some select friends, but now, I have also shared that journey with you all. I do hope this post has empowered you in some way.  I hope it makes you also realize that sometimes you have to take the wrong path to eventually lead you to the right one. And really in the end, it doesn’t matter where you’ve been. What matters is where you are going 🙂

Remember that we don’t always get too many chances to start over. Some people are only given a few years to live their lives in this corporeal world! So bear that in mind. Have courage to step out of your comfort zone in understanding who you are or who you would like to become. Have courage, period.

If you feel helpless, seek out a friend or talk to someone about it right away. Don’t wallow in it or allow yourself to sink further. If you are not happy about your current situation, identify the issues that make you unhappy and seek to eliminate them with the least possible damage. If you love someone, don’t hesitate to voice that feeling out and tell them. And if they already know and reciprocate your feelings, remind them of it everyday. Don’t just live to “survive” each day of your life. Find ways to enrich it, and really live your life. But also make sure you don’t hurt anyone or gyp anyone (especially financially, hello– no “YOLO” lifestyle using other people’s money please).  Find little doses of happiness in even the simplest things you do everyday. Be kind to everyone, and remember to always always always be grateful.

Treat everyday as Thanksgiving Day!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 🙂

x
TheBagHag

4 Comments
  1. I can’t NOT read this post and leave without writing anything. *Hugs. I just want you to know that you’re admirable and inspiring. I know about depression, for I’ve fought it for more than a year. It’s a dark emotional sinkhole that not many are able to rise out of. Sleeping your problems away, losing hope and crying yourself to sleep, they’re not something you’d wish on your enemies. You’ve been through so much… and yet you emerged out of it, strong and resilient. I’m so glad that you made it through successfully, not unscathed but hardened over time. You are very fortunate that you are loved and have a strong support group, your family and friends.? I am glad for you! Hugs*

    1. Aww Jamie. I hope you are getting better each day too. I know so much about that, though I wish I had been more informed about it much sooner. But yes, you know one thing I learned from my father is this– in times of adversity, there is always opportunity. And somehow I felt my father’s guidance in that time I felt so alone too. It was like one day, I just woke up deciding that I can’t cry anymore, that I can’t keep feeling sorry for myself anymore. That I needed to do something. And I think that one thought which I implemented into action was really the catalyst for change. I hope you feel much better too, and know that you are really not alone in this, and that all is not lost. It seems like it at times, but there is still hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel 🙂 Big hugs to you!

  2. So very empowering Ms. Ingrid, its like talking to a great friend personally and being enriched in the process. Its been awhile, blog wise, but worth the wait. All the best in all your endeavours and cheers to girl power ???

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