Overcoming Depression

Yes, bouncing-Tigger-personalities like mine, who always find the good and the sunshiny in most circumstances, get depressed too, and for the same reasons as everyone else: the restlessness in finding our best career fit, the loss of a romantic partner, frustration from plans that have been jilted, or the loss of all hope in general. I think no one is exempt from these feelings as it is the Devil’s way of bringing us farther and farther away from God’s presence.

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I say this because I’ve been there; I’ve been in a place where waking up to a new morning feels like the world is still a dark place with no hope (dramatic, I know). Even though I knew that God’s mercies are “New every morning,” there was a time, in my “great” sadness, that I almost didn’t believe it. But I also knew that staying in that dark place wasn’t right (God never meant for us to dwell on and languish on the negative), and that no matter how my friends and family helped me to get out of that pit of sadness, I had to be the one to ultimately help myself.

Exercise, running in particular, was one of the things that helped. And it did so much more than to reverse my negative thoughts and feelings.

As this article from Reader’s Digest also explains, there are 16 other ways to help oneself when stuck in that dark and often dangerous place that is depression.

If you’re feeling hopeless, sad, or even depressed today, try doing some of these to lift your mood. While I also understand that clinical depression is a true sickness that needs medical attention, I am also of the opinion that “milder” forms of depression and mood swings are symptoms of selfishness. If we focus less on ourselves and start doing things for and with others, we set ourselves up for healing and a renewal of our spirits.

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Good morning, Happiness!

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Tap away!

Cheers to a new week, a new day!

Just a few things I want to thank God for the moment I am awake:

1) I am alive and well.
2) The sunshine that seems to make the day seem instantly brighter.
3) This happiness video (“Philippines: United Nations International Day of Happiness 2014″), shared by Cynthia Nuval.

How about you? What three things make you happy and thankful today? Post them in the comments!

Because He lives…

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Hope and a future.

I can be so forgetful at times. Life’s many twists and turns can make me forget that God has everything planned out. And over and above all of life’s many ups and downs, we forget, I forget the one thing that gives me hope: “An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.”

Because He Lives
I Can Face Tomorrow
Because He Lives
All Fear Is Gone
Because I Know He Holds The Future
And Life Is Worth The Living
Just Because He Lives

Lyrics by Bill Gaither

Waiting to wear my Sablay

Next Saturday and Sunday, I graduate from the University of the Philippines. For the second time. There will be sunflowers lining the University Avenue. I will be wearing UP’s official academic regalia, my Sablay.

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Taken in the Summer of 2013 at the University Avenue, forseeing my graduation

I remember my graduation in 2002 as a bittersweet moment because it meant that I would be leaving the Acacia-lined lanes of the UP Academic Oval, the friends of my college youth, and the comfort of life as a student. The real world was waiting outside. Somewhere. Graduation meant that it was time to test the waters with whatever we had learned from four years of university experience, extra- and co-curricular activities involved.

This time around, I feel that my graduation means a similar yet different thing entirely. While I imagine the moment when I would proudly wear my academic Sablay (UP’s official academic regalia), I imagine not the mis-adventures of younger undergraduate days, not the org (organization) initiations, not the running around campus chasing enrollement slots and class cards, not the travels and conventions and events we organized and hosted, not the lunches we sneaked into the Science auditorium, and not the Math and Economics and the Statistics classes required of my BS Tourism degree.

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The original Sablay I wore to my graduation in 2002

What I imagine when I wear my Sablay is the sacrifice and the hard work and the determination to finish. Whatever. The. Circumstance.

The thing about a masters degree is that you are not expected to get one. No one expects it of you. Except when you expect it of yourself. Then, you realize that whatever circumstance may come, you will go out of your way to push on.

Another thing about getting a graduate degree is that you don’t have life waiting to happen after graduation. You are already IN life itself, and more often than not, immersed into it, knee- sometimes even neck-deep in personal and professional obligations (and contracts). Oftentimes, it is this juggling of personal, professional, and academic pursuits that challenge your circus-acting skills.

When I wear my academic regalia on Saturday and Sunday, what I will imagine are the days sprinting from one end of the MRT to another, the negotiations for work schedules that will accommodate my class schedules, the evening classes shared with my classmates and professors, the weekends spent reading and writing papers, the money I used to pay for my own tuition, the naps I took wherever I could, the numerous cups of tea that kept me company until three in the morning, and my dreams (of writing my thesis) that would haunt me on some nights. (Yes, it came to a point where I would dream of writing my thesis and I would wake up to realize I really was in the middle of writing it. Even reality was in my dreams.)

On the other hand, when I wear my academic regalia the second time around, I will also imagine all the travels I took, the people I’ve met, the talks I made, the coffee dates I prioritized, the happy-geeky board and card games I played with my family to keep me sane, the students I mentored, the opportunities that knocked on my door, the gifts I received, the beaches I’ve lain upon, the articles I wrote, the karaoke songs I’ve mastered, the cupcakes I baked, the races I finished, the (small) mountains I scaled, the rivers I’ve swam in, the friends I made.

All of these things make up the journey that is my graduation— both the joy and the sacrifice. On Saturday (and Sunday), I wear my Sablay. It was worth the (very) long wait.

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Graduation 2014, with the Sablay worn over my left shoulder, signifyig that a degree has been conferred. To signify a higher degree, a medal will be attached to the blank area on the shoulder.

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Endnotes on the UP Academic Sablay taken from Wikipedia:

The University uses unique academic regalia. Instead of the traditional academic dress composed of a cap, hood and gown, some constituent units prescribe the Sablay. The Sablay is a sash joined in front by an ornament and embroidered or printed with the University’s initials in Baybayin script and running geometric motifs of indigenous Philippine ethnic groups. It is traditionally worn over a white or ecru dress for females or an ecru barong Tagalog and black pants for males, although there has been instances wherein the Sablay is worn over other indigenous clothing.[71] Candidates for graduation wear the sablay at the right shoulder, and is then moved to the left shoulder after the President of the University confers their degree, similar to the moving of the tassel of the academic cap.

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While it appears that other colleges and universities have also begun adopting their own version of the sablay, information suggests that UP has registered this as original academic regalia. Additional information here.

The Tiny Chia Seed

The funny thing about adulthood is that sometimes, childish fears come back to haunt us…comically. I remember that as a child, one of my greatest fears was swallowing the seed of any fruit. Somehow I had believed in the idea that seeds grow when planted—and thst they could grow anywhere.

So one day, I happened to swallow a seed. I don’t remember if it was a lanzones seed or a santol seed, but I remember it was summer, and all the fruits were in season, and I had swallowed a seed. I was terrified. I imagined a tree growing out of me and taking root in my belly, its leaves branching out from my limbs and orifices. I was a child, after all, and the thought of becomig half-tree half-human terrified me. In hindsight, I should have been glad.

Today, though, nuts and seeds are a regular part of my diet. One tiny seed in particular, has caught my interest: the chia seed.

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I’ve heard about chia seeds for some time now, but I never realized how versatile and easy to prepare this nutrient-rich food is. For a month now, I have experimented with different ways of using chia: as a drink, as a pudding, or sprinkled on top of my breakfast yogurt and fruit parfait.

Two of the recipes I share are recipes I have tweaked from various blogs. The last one is my own experiment.

Coconut Chia Fresca

coconut water (fresh) from one coconut
1 teaspoon calamansi or lemon juice
1 tablespoon chia seeds

Almond or Cashew Milk Chia Pudding

half a cup almond milk (homemade is best)
one tablespoon chia seeds

Buko-Chia Salad

young coconut meat, shredded
1/4 cup condensed milk (or amount suited to your taste; I prefer less condensed milk on my buko, for better flavor)
two tablespoons chia

For all recipes, it is best to mix chia thoroughly, then wait 15-30 minutes before eating or drinking, to allow the chia seeds to absorb the fluids and form a gel.

Enjoy!

Unending love; Amazing grace

I missed my lola (grandmother) terribly yesterday.

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one of my favorite photos of lola, which I captured right at her moment of pure joy

One of the songs we sang in church was the song my brothers and I chose to sing for her, during her posthumous birthday celebration, a mere three days after she passed away in November.

I missed my lola so much because even though she lived far away from us, she represented a huge part of my history, the only remaining link I had to my lolo (grandfather) and their collective memories of decades past. I also missed my lola because it is April and two weeks from today, she would have been at my graduation (or at least I would have given her my medal.)

As tears ran down my cheeks, what comforted me was the same song that drew me to tears:


My chains are gone, I’ve been set free
My God my Saviour has ransomed me.
And like a flood, Your mercy reigns;
Unending love, amazing grace.

How beautiful it is to know that someone you love has a personal relationship with Jesus and has received him as Lord and Saviour before they breathed their last breath. My lola is far from being the perfect mother or grandmother, or even wife. She admits to her faults, one of them being her temper. But I too am aware that during her sunset years, she openly chose to follow Jesus’ teachings. My lola clearly had a relationship with Jesus, her Saviour.

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Scripture from the New Living Translation of the Bible. Graphics from K-Love Radio.

As I tearfully sang this song today, I felt grateful. My lola is free of her chains, of the toil and earthly sorrow. She is now with Jesus in Paradise. I miss her, but I know that she is with Him. She has been ransomed and set free. Now forever with her Saviour.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
Will be forever mine.
You are forever mine.

The Story of Happy

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Rosa, my sparkly pink bike named after my late grandmother

Oftentimes we are not aware of the ripples of happiness that our positivity brings. Take this story, for example.

Back in November 2013, while in deeop conversation with my brother over the things that we want in life, we both agreed that there was nothing else we really wanted. We have everything we need and there are few things we really want. I told him the only thing I wanted was a bike. He knew I had been wanting this for a while: a pink or red Japanese bike with curved handlebars, a little basket, and a little girl helmet for when I was leisurely taking my bike for a sunny ride outdoors. In December, for my birthday, he surprised me with one.

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Surprise!

Ever since, I have been riding my bike as often as I could. I would do my groceries with her. I would go to the nearby mall, or go to my bank, or even my neighborhood spa, all on my bike. Recently, with the help of seasoned biker friends, I took my bike (or she took me) 17 kilometers around the city, from my home to Makati’s central business district. Riding my pink bike makes me happy. And I have a quaint brown-leather helmet to match.

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With Sir Potch and Sir Arnel, bike buddies.

But who knew that my little pink girl-bike was also making someone else happy?! Yesterday, my friend Eula tagged me in an illustration made by her little sister.

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Happy is a journey by The Story of Happy

I almost squealed with excitement! It looked exactly like how I would imagine my bike and I to be illustrated, helmet, pink sunset and all! Then, Eula revealed something to me: my bike was her sister’s inspiration for their theme in The Story of Happy.

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I’m so delighted to know that my being happy has caused this little ripple of happiness. I am sharing it with you.You never know how many ripples of happiness your own happiness brings.

Sports brands are not the point

I always feel a sense or irritation disappointment when, after finding out that I am into some kind of physical activity or sport, be it running, hiking, or biking, people ask, ” What brand (insert sports equipment here) do you have?”

On a very personal level, I engage in sports not because I’m sporty (I still feel like a girly girl), not because I dream of becoming a professional althlete, but because the sport makes me happy and my body healthy.

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My point exactly. (grabbed from facebook)

I took up running because after my first 5k run, the high was just something I had to have again. For someone who used to be hugely sedentary and cerebral, a 5k was such a feat. For that first run, I wore my old running shoes, a pair of jogging pants, and the race t-shirt I got from the then-cheap php250 ($6) registration fee.

Of course, in my succeeding runs, I decided to get new shoes which I broke in, new running skorts, etc. But my consideration for buying these gear, was not the brand, but my comfort, wearability, and durability. I felt more comfortable running in skorts as they covered my butt (yup, I want them covered!), and although many of my running friends swear by one or two brands, my feet personally weren’t comfortable with those shoe brands, so I shopped around for my own. It was not the brand or the name of the shoe that was important. It was comfort that meant more to me.

Other people though, rave about sports gear technology. New research that will make you run faster, that will trace your hearbeat and laps and gps locations, that will give you more mileage, will make you feel lighter, that you will have to pay an extra good deal of money for. Which is all good, really—if you are a professional althlete and all those technological thingies will really make a millisecond difference to your time and performance. But for me, I run (and bike) only for the joy of it, not to win races and accummulate medals. The millisecond difference will only be wasted on my non-professional, enthusiast-only run or bike.

So I go for comfort, safety, durability, and practicality, regardless of brand.

The other day, someone asked me: What brand of bike do you have? Is it titanium?”

I really don’t know what brand I have (it’s a Japanese bike that’s a gift from my brother), and I’m quite sure my heavy sparkly-pink Rosa isn’t made of titanium frames. But surely, a slow, beginner, weekend and errands rider like me will waste good money on a titanium bike so light if I can’t even speed up enough to go beyond the sixth gear on my current one. I shall reserve titanium bikes and hyper-techno running shoes and all their lovely brandedness for the professionals.

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me and my sparkly-pink Rosa

After all, a long-time running friend once told me,

“Expensive shoes help, but it’s not the shoes that will run for you. Your feet will still do the running.”

And as long as my feet (and legs and butt) are comfortable, as long as my sports equipment and gear allow me to love my active, healthy lifestyle, I will not be asking people about their “brands.”

We engage in sports not to show off expensive brands, not to flaunt our lifestlye. We engage in sports in order to be happy; to feel positive; and to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually fit. Sports brands are not the point. They never were.

Riding in the van with one boy

One of my favorite moments with this one boy is riding in the van with him. The boy I am referring to is my daddy.

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daddy in the van

Riding to work with dad at the wheel is like listening to a history lesson in full color and with accompanying soundtrack. His constant companions (at the wheel or at home while reading a book) include Simon and Garfunkel, Ray Connif, Matt Monro, Don Mc Lean, Cosby Stills Nash and Young, The Lettermen, and the Beatles. With their music playing in the background, dad would recall various moments in history that pertain to each song, each era, and he would replay little-known facts and explain well-curated lessons he learned in life. Even the songs and the music we listen to become lessons in life for his little dreamer princess. Of all these lessons, the best lesson that I have learned from my daddy is on how to be happy.

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image grabbed from facebook

He is in fact the happiest, most optimistic, positive person I know. He loves telling stories and I realize that even though dad never picked up a storybook to read to me as a child, his many real-life stories have helped me to see the world through his eyes.

Music being his only other interest next to food and reading, dad often tells of how he learned to play the harmonica. He didn’t learn it from some fancy music school or as a course in college. No. He learned how to play the harmonica on his own in order to entertain himself while he used to wait in line for his water pails to fill up at the local watering hole in his native Surigao. Among the many pearls of value that I learned from this often-told story are initiative, self-reliance, contentment, and self-motivation. Early on, dad had mega doses of these all on his own.

Another story that dad often recalls with fits of laughter is how his prankster brother, Uncle Baby used to scare him as he washed dishes in their dirty kitchen at night. One time, he was so scared that he ran out of the kitchen and out of sight…leaving the now-confused Uncle Baby to wash the dishes for him. It is during these funny recollections that I most enjoy hearing daddy laugh. Usually, he breaks into fits of laughter even before he delivers the punchline. Yes, daddy sure has a way to relieve himself of troubles and stress through his own comic-relief. It is through stories like these that I learned not to take myself too seriously. There is humor in everything, as long as you are able to laugh at yourself.

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Daddy making a wish on his 59th birthday

During family gatherings or at times when the family is enjoying a little too much ‘luxury’, dad would sometimes share how, as a child, his only dream was to drink a bottle of sweet, syrupy Coke. He grew up in a household headed by a simple government health inspector, and, although their family owned land, there were lots of mouths to feed and some of the things my brothers and I then-considered “needs” were luxuries to their family. I remember dad telling us how he used to go to school hungry and in mis-matched slippers, or how he used to sell ice drop, eventually finding ingenious ways to sell even the melted ones in order to earn money for his elementary school needs. Such was dad’s persistence and creativity.

Riding with dad to work is always a pleasant memory. My alonetime with him while driving allows me a glimpse of the dreams my dad continues to dream of, especially now that he is turning sixty. He’s long had his bottle of sweet Coca-Cola, for sure. From his humble tales of being a janitor in high school, he worked to finish college as a National State Scholar and earned himself an MBA from the Asian Institute of Management afterwards. He graduated with Distinction, an honor equivalent to a cum laude. Long gone are the days when dad used to hang around outside their neighbor’s window to watch TV. Dad now has other, grander dreams, not only for himself, but for his now-adult children. For us. For me.

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dreaming with daddy as we welcomed 2014 in Tagaytay

I remember how, dad would accompany me, a fresh graduate, over breakfast a McDonald’s so I could wait out my initial fear of the corporate world each morning before logging in at 9am. I wasn’t used to logging in 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, as UP only had a four-day schedule and my classes allowed me much free time. This he patiently did until I had gotten used to the daily work routine. I suppose it is these moments with dad, these moments of listening to his dreams, at once simple and grand, that allowed me to absorb most of his outlook.

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two optimists being silly

His is an outlook that seems to never dim. Through all the hardships I’ve seen my daddy go though —from unreasonable bosses to unscrupulous business partners, from losing his parents to losing some of his siblings, through his children’s various heartbreaks (yes,mwe’ve gone through them, too) and struggles—his spirit has never dimmed. During the darkest of moments, when money was scarce and bills seemed to be growing on trees, I saw how his outlook shone brighter, how his strength of spirit withstood these obstacles. And this is why I love my daddy: because he always finds the good in every circumstance, in every person. Growing up, I will always remember how daddy found the best parts of me, even when I felt that others had already beat him to it.

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Dad's toughness is in his optimism

How can one not love my daddy? Everywhere we go, he exudes a certain charisma. He draws people in by humbling himself, by remembering their name and what makes them feel important. This goes for people of all kinds, all professions, all social statuses. Whether he is meeting an executive, a president, a janitor, a security guard, or a mailman, daddy would treat everyone with the same unbiased compassion. My daddy remembers them and they remember my daddy. He is so sure of his identity that he is able to help others define their own.


Wherever he goes, he brings with him the quiet, assured confidence of a man not made by his inheritance or by his riches, by his titles, his cars or gadgets. He exhibits no need for any form of status symbol, and I have always been proud to know that. His quiet, self-made assurance comes from his deep wellspring of love for people and his understanding of himself. And the deepest wellspring of all his optimism, his sense of self and accomplishment, is God.

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my daddy enjoying the simple things in life

Happy 60th birthday, dearest Daniel. The best years are upon you.

I love you because you are a dreamer, a doer, a believer, and a thinker. And when I am around you, I need no one else to show me the greatness I cannot see for myself. My future husband has a lot to live up to.

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grabbed from facebook

An Alopecia Story

You’re likely wondering: “How else can a person like her not be positive? She has everything in life including a good family, expanding work opportunities, two degrees under her belt, good health, free time and vacation time, close friends, and very few worries. How else can she not be positive?” Well, I’m not flawless; nobody is. I have Alopecia.

Alopecia is a rare and generally harmless condition where hair on different parts of the body stops growing. Mine has stopped growing in large areas of my scalp. My doctor used to say that alopecia is a genetic disorder, and cannot really be explained. My parents and my brothers all have full heads of hair, so it is beyond explanation why mine has stopped growing, Some alopecia is caused by stress or sickness and can be reversed, but mine is the disorder itself where my hair refuses to grow, despite many medicines, supplements, solutions, herbs that I have tried for decades. Some studies show that some women with alopecia suddenly grow their hair back during pregnancy, but of course, I have yet to see that happen to me (get pregnant). Alopecia is also an auto-immune disease where the reason why hair stops growing is because my body thinks that my hair is a foreign, harmful object, and thus attacks it before it can even grow.

Other than the loss of my hair, I am perfectly healthy, so I really have nothing to complain about. I was diagnosed with alopecia as a teenager, about fifteen years old, but back then, my hair was just thinning out unexplainably. My parents took me to various doctors. We had many medicines and tests. People gave suggestions. My hair continued to thin out and stop growing entirely.

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circa 2008, with my hair pulled back. Derma advised me to go short, but still, the thinning shows. The smile doesn't fade, though!

In 2010, a few months after I decided to wear real-hair wigs as much of my hair had already stopped growing, I finally decided to shave the remaining hair off.

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In church, with mom and my friends, Ate Mila and Ate Gerlyn from NextGen

There was no point in having patches of hair and baldness. I had been wanting to shave it all off for a while anyway, and I wanted to do it for myself, as a sign of courage. My yougest brother encouraged and strengthened me. When I came out in public bald, some people applauded my courage, some were uncomfortable with it, but mostly, I was just happy to have done it, to be free from hair that refused to grow anyway.

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Letting it go, even before Elsa sang about it!

After a few months going around as a skinhead, I decided that I and many of my close friends had been used to it enough and I returned to wearing my human hair wig. Going bald was one of the most liberating experiences in my life, but I needed hair to keep warm, to protect my head, and also to keep people from staring at me and making me an easy target when I travel alone.

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At UP Technohub, having my first photo op with my new hair. This photo got a lot of likes.

I have been wearing my wigs since 2010. They are quite expensive, but very comfortable. I sometimes even forget that I am actually wearing real, human-hair wigs and not hair that grows on its own, from my scalp.

I rarely talk about my condition. Before I began wearing my wigs, only those close to me looked beyond my thinning hair and chose not to talk about it. I always felt that people who looked beyond my hair and accepted me as a healthy, intelligent individual were the ones worth talking to. It was I who broached the topic with the people who didn’t nose around, didn’t ask rude questions. I would choose to tell them my story as i am now telling you.

On the other hand, I learned early on that the curious and the tongue-waggers would always ask questions and pretend to want to help me with my condition. I often secretly rolled my eyes at them, always avoided their questions and curious stares. You wouldn’t stare at a person who has lost his leg, wouldn’t ask someone how he became blind. In fact, it is just rude to stare and to ask questions that do not concern you. It should be the same for people with alopecia. I have learned that the best way to help someone with alopecia or any physical condition at all, is to accept them without prejudice.

I am quite a positive person, really, and for the longest time, it was my family who was hurt more by my alopecia than I was. I used to have a full, healthy head of hair, but after puberty, things changed and I had to find ways to accept it. Most of all, my family had to find ways. We have tried many “miracle cures”, drugs, pills, herbs, lotions, potions. Truth be told, (genetic) alopecia has no real cure except for acceptance, a healthy diet, and a positive outlook. Hair is really just cosmetic, aside from something that protects your scalp and keeps your head warm.

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Look at me with lots of hair. I really love braids. I still do.

My parents wish I had more hair (for my sake), and my brothers, both of whom have full, healthy heads of hair, all wish the condition had gone to them instead as bald men, or men in skinheads are generally more accepted by society. But no, the condition is on me, a woman. I have no hair, or very little of it, and society lauds a woman who has long, shiny, healthy hair. But I despair not. In fact, my family tends to forget nowadays that I am now completely bald. It is a funny thing, really. I make jokes about it. Better to accept it than to mope around negatively. It’s just hair anyway. Despite popular belief that a healthy head of hair signals health, my having alopecia does not render me unhealthy. I still have a healthy body, an active mind, and my limbs, my organs are complete. Some people have it worse and if they can still be positive, why can’t I?

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After a run at Luneta Park, one of the many runs I would take to inspire my friends and family to be fit.

I still don’t talk about it though, just like I wouldn’t dwell on things I cannot change, but my alopecia is not a secret. I just feel that only those who do not ask deserve to know why I am bald, why I believe I am stronger than most people, and the real reasons why I am so positive. This is one of them.

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Swimming hair-free and getting a scalp massage as a skinhead? Just two of the 'perks' of alopecia.

Alopecia is an illness, yes, but it is quite harmless, both for myself and for those I love.

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2014. Longer hair! ^_^

I could have had something worse, but I believe God allowed me this because my spirit can handle it. I have dealt with alopecia most of my life, and I am quite happy, thankful, and hopeful in spite of my lack of hair. As I hope you have noticed, I have never allowed my condition to affect my relationships, my work, and my productivity, my faith in God. In fact, ever since I was diagnosed, I’ve always felt that this verse was meant for me: Luke 12:7

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Counted! So God knows that my hair has stopped growing, too!

All my close friends, family, and even those who have loved me (and whom I have loved) know about my condition. I am loved and accepted beyond belief, and for that, I am thankful. Alopecia or not, I can become the person I truly am.

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Amen.