On emotional health, coping, and “kasiyana”

Emotional and mental health have somewhat been foreign concepts to me for the most part of my life, having been raised in a community where being emotionally delicate is dubbed as “kapoy” (weak) and the mentally-challenged are stigmatized. We are reared with the expectation to be always “taraki” (capable and strong) otherwise you won’t be able to find your way in the world, much less survive everyday struggles. For this, I am eternally grateful. I can confidently say that I was taught enough resilience and soundness of mind to enable me to somehow cope with the various trials and tribulations that have shadowed different stages of my life…or so I thought.

But human emotions have their limit. Like there’s only so much love one can give, only so much tolerance one can bear, and only so much loss one can accept to be fair. While we are all battling with the madness of this pandemic, I had to suffer back to back personal losses that set back my fortitude to the lowest notch. I had to personally experience fathomless grief and pain, not just once, but twice, to have full awareness of the decline of my emotional health and how it can drastically affect one’s well-being and functionality.

I had to learn the hard way that forcing yourself to be okay does not make things get better. I had to convince myself a lot of times that I am allowed a pass to be not “taraki” this time around. And then I had to acknowledge that I was undergoing the word that has never been readily recognized by the environment that I grew up in–depression. I believe that was the first big step towards coping, accepting that I am not vulnerable to this emotional state that is plaguing millions of individuals the world over.

Understanding the triggers to my emotional setbacks means attempting to accept these personal tragedies as an effort to reconcile with reality, no matter how agonizing it is. I find out that some days are easier than others, and I have no control over these much as I want every waking day to be better than yesterday. And there are definitely no shortcuts. I attempted going back to work after a brief leave with high hopes that sticking to my routine would establish a sense of normalcy that would ease me back to the daily grind that I’m accustomed to. But I was just not ready. This is something that just cannot be rushed. I realized that I have to be kinder to myself. That I need to allow myself to fully experience these tsunamis of emotions—repeatedly, and who knows how long.

Coping isn’t always a promising progression. One day I feel more like my old self, the next I just want to curl into a ball and exhaust myself bawling my heart out. But regression perhaps needs to be a part of it. One has to feel all these emotions, let them all out lest you burst or self-destruct.

Through it all, I needed to be reminded everyday that I was not alone. And though sometimes it works communing with just myself, most times reaching out to a kind, non-judgmental ear works wonders. Self-therapy, physical therapy, pet therapy, meditation, nature therapy, professional therapy–there’s not a single cure. I seek for that stalwart figure or figures to be my ready shoulder while being resolute in reconnecting to my dependable old self.

Here enters “kasiyana”. Loosely translated to mean ‘it will be okay’, “kasiyana” is that one term in our vernacular that encompasses an array of meanings and unspoken words of reassurances. It is like a big, warm hug, a very reassuring pat on the back, a firm clasp of the hand, and a hundred words that tell you, without literally telling you that somehow, it will really be okay. It’s a single word, but very heartening when one believes in it.

The same community that taught me and molded me with all these beliefs and values ingrained this basic but very powerful word. It makes me believe in silver linings. Because at the end of the day, with all the losses and the grief and the emotional torment, what else do we have left but faith. Faith that indeed, everything will get better. Faith that you will be alright. That you deserve good things after being denied some.

The first few times I heard my elders say “kasiyana” and implied the aid of the “adi kaila” ( the unseen), I never really bothered knowing if they referred to God, the deities, otherworldly entities, the cosmic forces, or maybe a bit of all. But whatever it was, I realized it was helpful to have something to hold on to. Religion, cultural beliefs and the values I have been grounded in are all crucial in somehow keeping me afloat day after day. These days it’s already an achievement to get through a day. Little steps. And it’s okay, because I have faith that one day I will get there. We’ll find happiness again, fleeting or long-lasting, it does not really matter. Kasiyana.

Finding the courage in accepting my vulnerabilities and limitations, much so opening and writing about these is actually scary. But knowing that being “kapoy” and doing something to overcome it—no matter how and no matter how long is I believe bravery in itself. I’ve been told by friends numerous times that I am stronger than I think, I would have to believe that. Like I have to believe in better days, in rainbows after storms, in laughter and happiness being so much stronger than anger and resentment, in delayed blessings. I have to have faith, because that’s all I have. Again, kasiyana.

Sunsets are beautiful. So is life. (Lake Danum Sunset, 2020)

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