Author: Pao Alfonso

Heaven

I forgot to post this journal entry from April. It’s about a book I was reading at the time, Heaven by Randy Alcorn. Different religions have different beliefs about the afterlife, and being a Christian, I believe that there is a heaven and hell. After reading this book, I realized how I honestly didn’t really spend a lot of time thinking about it. I took for granted that heaven is just…heaven. More to be desired for what’s NOT in it than for what it is. The book explored the Biblical descriptions of heaven, and it paints a partial picture of what is to come.

The Valedictorian of Being Dead

The Valedictorian of Being Dead
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Published: April 23, 2019
Blogger Heather B. Armstrong found some level of internet fame when she got fired for something she wrote in her website. She has always been open with her struggles with depression, which has been ongoing from the time she was young, but in 2016 she found herself in a dangerously low point of severe depression. Some spoilers ahead.

I've followed Heather B. Armstrong's (yes, always with the B) blog (dooce.com) for many years, since  before she even had her first child. I loved a lot of things about her early writings in her blog--the photos of her dogs and her family, her hilarious writing style, the template design (at a time when people were only beginning to discover WordPress, she and her then-husband were already making awesome designs on their blog templates)--but the thing I loved best was how she wrote about her family and her depression. In a sea of picture-perfect bloggers, she was among the few I was reading back then who made an effort at some measure of authenticity. At that time, I thought she should write a book. What a gift that she wrote specifically about her depression in this memoir.

The book chronicles in alternating chapters her daily challenges as a person with clinical depression and anxiety, and the highly experimental treatment that she went through in order to get out of that deep valley she couldn't seem to climb out of for almost a year. I think you'll appreciate the things that she wrote in the book if you also followed her  blog, especially in the early years. The title, for example, is a kind of private joke shared with the readers of her blog, where she wrote that she's an overachiever even in the worst things. I can still remember that blog entry about being the valedictorian in constipated bowel movements, that was equal parts hilarious and terrifying.

There were parts of the book about her family, particularly her dad and her ex husband, which I thought must have been very difficult to write, and I applaud her bravery for writing it. The book made it clear that people who do not suffer from depression or anxiety can never really know how it feels, but it doesn't mean that it's impossible to empathize. Heather described the day to day challenge of living with depression, and how familial love played a big part in how she copes with it. The way that she described her depression, even while injected with typical Heather B. Armstrong humor, draws you in and gives you a glimpse of how immensely difficult it must be, and how cruel it is to add more pain to that kind of suffering by not believing it or by being insensitive about it.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is how she talks about her mother, the Avon World Sales Leader. I wish everyone in the world had a mom like mine, and I guess Heather can also say that about her mom. The  book feels like a tribute to this wonderful woman and underscores the very valuable role of family.

If you suffer from depression and anxiety or have a family member or friend who does, or if you really just want to be a better human being by understanding it from the point of view of someone who lives with it daily, I recommend that you read this book.

Screaming in a Closet

Today’s journal entry is about a book I just started reading. It’s “The Valedictorian to Being Dead” by Heather Armstrong. Heather is the blogger behind dooce.com, one of my favorite blogs which I’ve been following since 2007. I love her acerbic wit, her marvelous photos, and her irreverent but sensible views on a lot of things. It was one of the first blogs that I followed, being new to the idea of blogs at the time. She was also the first blogger I read who openly wrote about her depression. It was there, woven into her life, in between humorous and heartwarming entries about her family, her work, her world. She was the first to help me understand what having depression and anxiety feels like. Though I don’t believe that we can ever fully understand what it’s like, learning about it and learning how we can support family and friends who are suffering can make such a huge difference. The book had me teary-eyed even while reading the Prologue. Can’t wait to finish it.

Sunday Routine

Yesterday’s journal entry was about our typical Sunday. After months of disruptions (some of them heartbreaking), we’ve begun to slip back to our normal daily routine. My husband and I would eat out, talk about our week, what we’re currently reading, what we’re currently watching, news, our cat…we would just spend hours talking. I would read, he would read or play his games on his phone, and we would talk in between. We take our time before we buy groceries and head back home. This is comforting. Even the luxury of not being in a hurry is comforting. Happy Sunday, indeed.

Self-Care

Today’s journal entry is about self-care. I suppose we all have our way of taking care of ourselves after a week of working. Personally, I believe that self-care needs to happen every day, not just on weekends or on vacations. It’s about creating a routine that isn’t toxic so that you won’t feel completely spent by the end of the week.

I work from home so it’s a lot easier for me to do that, since I can create a work environment that minimizes the stress for me. In my case, it means really, really quiet. Like a library. I don’t play music when I work, I don’t talk, I even have my phone on vibrate. That, for me, is the most conducive work environment. I also log in a few hours earlier so that I can finish my daily tasks even before my colleagues log in. So I work on the daily to-do list uninterrupted, without new emails or chat messages popping in. I look forward to the long stretches of relaxing quiet while I putter on my computer, tap-tap-tapping away through the night (yes, I work at night). This works for me. This means that I am not completely exhausted by work, and that I have a lot more of me to share with my husband (and the cat) every day.

My typical weekend is more of less the same–I spend lots of reading and writing, lots of satisfying conversations and a few hours watching TV with my husband, cat cuddles. It’s quite predictable, but I feel better prepared to face the coming week when I’ve had this kind of predictable, restful weekend.