I suspected my father to be manic-depressive after I started dating X. Both men were unpredictable, at times violent, thrilling and volatile but never dull. The only difference between my father and X was that X admitted he had the disorder; my father on the other hand would yell, “I’m not crazy! I’m not crazy!” after we found him sleeping on the bathroom floor because the marble tiles “felt cooler than the bed.” How much of my father’s dark moments were considered an episode or just plain flaw of character, I’ll never know. He was never diagnosed. Never treated.
Dr. Luis Lacar was a brilliant sociologist. Charming yet too painfully manipulative to retain lasting relationships. He doted on me, yet he was physically abusive to my mother. He was a polyglot whose vocabulary waned to a few choice disparaging words when his anger and paranoia took over. He taught me how to handle my first .45 caliber handgun at the age of 12. As his mental illness worsened, I was compelled to lock myself in my room at night with the same gun, the bullets tucked away safely in a separate hiding place, like the knives and forks. My husband says, I have my mother’s heart, but I’ve always known that I have my father’s soul. He was my mentor, my art critic, my coach, my curiosity, my wanderlust, my temper...my anger. He adored me and I idolized him. Though I feared him, I feared living my mother’s fate more.
I can’t exactly pinpoint the day when I switched sides; when all I wanted to do was make my mother’s life easier... When I stopped pitying her and saw my father for who he truly was. Eventually it dawned on me that my mom wasn’t my father’s savior. Just as I couldn’t have loved X more to save him from self-destruction, she couldn’t have done more to make my father treat her with decency.
Through the years of silence, I remained my father’s daughter. Of all his children, he chose to call only me on the 12th of March 2008. Maybe to say, “I’m sorry,” or “I’ve forgiven you for abandoning me in my time of need,” or “Fuck you for abandoning me in my time of need,” or “Can you send more money,” or maybe just, “Goodbye.” I’ll never know my father’s parting words. I never picked up. I never called him back. On March 15, 2008 at approximately 5:00 am GMT+8 my father passed away, alone in his hospital bed in the Philippines. He left instructions to be buried the next day. I never saw his face, but my cousin said he looked “pained.” Three days after his burial, I was admitted to St. Luke Hospital’s Psychiatric Ward. I was diagnosed with acute clinical depression.
The following is an attempt to chronicle the scenes and objects I fixated on during my illness, the conversations of import and the moments of levity. Across the hall from my room at Clark 8 hangs a painting of yellow, purple and green meadows by Sarah McHugh titled, “A Journey Through Avignon.” This is a diary of my unraveling and hopefully—like the painting—my journey back to that place of peace. I believe in the value of sharing this work because of the reactions I have received from total strangers. The following images can be visually jarring but for those who have experience with such mental turmoil, empathy is a welcomed relief. One reader who, a year prior, told me that she "did not want to labor for her life” confessed that reading the manuscript made her feel like she “belonged.” I do not, of course, credit myself for her healing but I do understand that 10 minutes of mental and emotional respite is something that is very hard to come by when in the throes of depression. I myself found the empathy I yearned for in the artists whose works accompanied me throughout my mental isolation. Through their attempt at self-expression, I understood that I was not an anomaly, my existence isn’t random and that I am as resilient as I am fragile. To all who redeemed me, my gratitude is endless and I hope to pay it forward by sharing this diary.
**The following images are a sampling of what is inside the book.**