That thing called funk

I recently blogged about the emotional letdown that I have been going through a week before my birthday. Some of my friends both from Jakarta and Manila have privately reached out to me to check how I was doing.

To those friends: you know who you are. Thank you. 

Although I’m not back 100% just yet, things are getting better. Every day, I’m trying to make an effort to make things better, to feel better. Writing about it was an essential part of the healing and recovery process. First, I had to admit that things were not as rosy as how they seemed to be.

I needed to acknowledge that I was suffering from a form of depression so that I can move on, so to speak.

This whole episode started a few months ago, when I began working an average of 55-60 work hours per week. I felt like a hamster running in circles, with no end in sight, with no gains perceived from whatever I’ve been doing.

Sleep became elusive. Either I had difficulty falling into it or I found myself waking up at 3 or 4 am, not being able to go back to sleep again. I lost my appetite and my usual food cravings where nowhere to be found. If there was one benefit from it, I lost a little bit of the excess weight.

dark clouds above

Image from Pinterest

On most days, I found myself exhausted. Tasks at work that I can do in a jiffy, even with my eyes closed, took longer than usual to finish. I stopped reading my books and it took me hours to peel myself off the couch to do my usual workout routine that I know so well and which I used to look forward to doing.

I lost my joie de vivre. In most parts of the day, it felt like there was a dark cloud hovering above me, following me around wherever I went. This pesky dark cloud did not want to leave me out of its sight.

I started feeling sad for no particular reason, hiding my tears as I locked myself in the bathroom to weep, whimpering as quietly as I can manage so that my husband won’t hear me. I didn’t want him to worry about me and I didn’t want to talk about it.

My friends didn’t know any better, as I never shared what I have been going through. It’s not me to talk about my issues with friends, even with the inner circle.

In the process, I’ve alienated my family and my best friends. They wanted to know what’s going on, but I wanted to shield them from the negativity. I became unresponsive and I shied away from conversations that will lead them to ask what’s been happening.

In a way, I somehow felt guilty getting depressed. I have a great life and for some people, I have nothing else I should be complaining about. My life isn’t perfect but I have a supportive husband, a good job, a happy family life and an amazing circle of friends. Arshad and I are living a good expat life in a market that is replete with opportunities. We can travel and go to places we like, even randomly selecting islands where we can quickly and quietly spend the weekend.

That’s why I never talked about it. To me, it seemed frivolous to complain, to even feel what I’m feeling. It felt like an unfair sense of entitlement, that I had no justifiable reason to get depressed.

An aunt even posted on my Facebook: “April, you are blessed beyond compare.” But in my head, I was asking myself: Am I? If I am, why I am feeling so rotten?

Luckily, some of my friends who have gone through depression have reached out to me privately to tell me that they’ve been through the same thing. Some suffered through it silently, whilst some sought the counsel of friends. Others got professional help.

One of my trusted friends gently told me that I shouldn’t feel obligated to always do everything for everyone, which she felt was what I was trying to do.

She said:

“Even heroes have the right to bleed.”

And that it was okay to acknowledge how I was feeling and my current state of mind.

Denial was a river in Egypt that I had to swim through so that I can finally accept where I am and how I’m feeling so I can properly deal with it. The moment that I started recognizing my depression for what it is and the reasons causing them, the days started to get better.

I forced myself to read my books and deliberately searched for literature that can help me deal with this. I slowly clawed my way out of my misery by picking up my fitness routine again, with the hopes that my endorphin levels will shoot up and give me quick bursts of happiness.

For the close friends who were incessantly badgering me to talk about it (they have the best of intentions for me, God bless them), I made an effort to share with them, albeit in general terms, what has been happening.

The crying bouts became less and less frequent, although I still get melancholic every now and then. Whenever I feel that I’m going to crash again, I take a moment to acknowledge the emotions and deal with them. I realized there was no point in trying to shove it down further. It only made me feel worse.

My productivity started picking up again and I can think more clearly. When I spend time with friends, I genuinely enjoy the company and the conversations. Oh, my appetite came back (darn it!).

As I walked home tonight, I looked up and saw the star-sprinkled sky, which is quite rare these past few nights in Jakarta as it had been raining. I whispered a small prayer of thanks and told myself:

“It will only get better from here.” 

Bali, in perspective

Again, my favorite quote from Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop: Travel is like a university without walls

Travel teaches you things that you can never learn within the confines of the four walls of a classroom.  You learn from experience, from meeting other people and from the different cultures that you encounter along the way.

You get a new perspective. Or it renews a good perspective that you already had but you had lost along the way.

Bali sunset

Bali sunset, Seminyak beachfront

In my case, it was the latter.

My recent trip to Bali was a gentle reminder of an outlook that I have lost somewhere along my journey, just because so many things have been happening at once.

Looking at the sunset and listening to the crashing of the waves reminded me that there is life beyond working 50-60 hours a week. Travel reminded me that my current emotional issues are a minuscule part of the world and that there are challenges greater than the burdens that I carry.

More importantly, travel gave me that renewed sense of self and refreshed my energy batteries, so to speak. I needed it. I needed the beach. I needed the breather.

It’s not a hundred percent back to normal yet, but this weekend’s Bali trip did me a hell lot of good.

It’s true, as they say: no matter the shit that you go through, hang on to that glimmer of hope that things will get better in the end.

I’m not okay, and it’s okay to say it.

It’s a week before my birthday and I’m feeling…off-kilter.

All my close friends know me as the Queen of Birthdays. I always give hand-written letters or birthday presents to close friends and for the past 3 years, my inner circle and I stuck to the tradition of posting what we call a “birthday collage” on our Facebook walls. The birthday collage is simply a montage of our photos together with the birthday celebrator with our heartfelt birthday messages.

Arshad always teases me for celebrating my birthday for an entire month, with all my brunches, dinner parties and celebrations across my different circle of friends.

This time around, perhaps because of the circumstances surrounding my birth month, I’m feeling not just a tad bit blah.

I’ve been having a lot of sleepless nights, I have been working longer hours yet I feel like a hamster running around in circles, pretty much not going anywhere.

Still, I go through the motions every day. I plaster a smile across my face and tell myself things are going to be fine because I have to be fine.

Today is a Monday and I woke up at 3am inundated by waves and waves of thoughts. Knowing that I couldn’t go back to sleep, I opened my Macbook and began typing away.

I realized, perhaps it’s about time to say it out loud.

I’m not okay. And it’s okay to say it.

I feel like my world is caving in. For all the things that I’ve done, amidst all the milestones, I feel inadequate. I feel I have not done enough, I have not given enough.

Much as I would like to do more, give more, at this point, I have nothing to give. Because I have totally drained myself.

For the longest time, I have repressed moments like this. I didn’t want to revel in negative emotions and I never, ever reached out to anyone for help, because the world is not friendly to people feeling sad, depressed or just simply feeling crappy about a situation.

At the same time, in my circle of friends here in Jakarta, 9 out 10 of my expat friends and office colleagues are men, which makes me the lone lady expat in a group of people who share the same industry and profession.

Well-meaning friends and people tell me to just snap out of it. Don’t you think someone like me isn’t trying to? Don’t you think for the past two months, that’s exactly what I was doing?

And this morning, there was that moment that I had this epiphany. I should stop denying it.

I’m not okay, and it’s okay to say it.

Emotions are signals in our lives that there’s something wrong. We have been accustomed to repressing the way we feel because of a host of personal, social and cultural reasons but then I realized, emotions are feedback mechanisms and to deny these is denying our way out of this rut.

And I want to get out of it. So this is my step 1.

Perhaps my pain serves a purpose. It’s a feedback mechanism for me to start sorting out through the cobweb of my emotions.

I do want to get out of this, but I should start acknowledging that I’m going through this phase, in the first place. Perhaps, for some, I’m being a wuss, but if this is the way for me to climb out of the deep rabbit hole, I’m hella climbing it.

The reality is no matter how successful you are, no matter how great your life is or how good it looks on paper for some people, there will be moments when things will just suck and everything will feel like crap.

No one talks about it because it’s not a pleasant area of discourse. In fact, people try to evade it. Generally, no one likes to talk about the shit they are going through.

The thing is, people need to start realizing that everyone goes through this phase. Even Little Miss Sunshine.

The difference lies in how we deal with it. In my case, I go through the suffering when it’s for a purpose and if the reason is worth it. Perhaps it’s my way of “suffering better.”

This morning, when I said a little prayer, I didn’t even ask for this pain to be taken away. I felt like I’m being unfair to even ask for it. I asked for wisdom and strength to deal with it better, with more grace.

And perhaps with this admission, I may be exposing my vulnerability, but if that’s what it takes for me to deal, then I’m taking it.

I’m not okay, and it’s finally okay to say it because I don’t intend to dwell in this longer than I should.

Jakarta Sunday Chill-out: Trying out William’s Casual Dining in SCBD

Given last Saturday’s fainting situation, I decided to have a steady Sunday – for real. Arshad and I decided to road-test a new restaurant in SCBD: William’s Casual Dining.

I discovered William’s Casual Dining through an Instragram ad (what do you know, IG ads actually work!). I figured, hey, the food looks interesting and they’re website is beautifully done. No harm in trying something new to celebrate my 2nd year anniversary in Jakartown.


Arshad and I at William’s for Sunday lunch

Situated at the heart of Jakarta’s Central Business District (SCBD), William’s is a laidback restaurant serving Western and Asian cuisines.

The ambience was true to their claim: casual dining. The seats were comfortable and there were booths for couples who wanted to go on dates and long tables for friends and family.

williams truffle fries

William’s truffle fries paired with chardonnay

I was famished so we ordered glasses of wine first. Chardonnay for me and Pinot Noir for the mister. For Rp110k per glass, I’m not complaining! Their wine selection, although limited, is not bad either.

I paired my chardonnay with the usual starters of truffle fries. I just love the aroma of truffle oil combined with my fries, although I try to eat this sparingly aka special occasions only, since I veer away from anything deep-fried. At Rp45k, it’s reasonably priced without sacrificing the truffle oil punch.

The watermelon salad we chose to share was interesting. It was a blend of cured watermelon, vanilla mascarpone, balsamic caviar, cashew crumbs, dill and lemon fluid.

The watermelon was fresh and the vanilla mascarpone had a hint of sweetness that wasn’t overpowering. Overall, the salad was refreshing and light. It’s something I wouldn’t mind ordering again.

William's watermelon salad

Watermelon salad from William’s Casual Dining: refreshing and uniquely interesting

For our mains, I decided to go for the roast baked barramundi with smoked mash potato, cauliflower, baby carrots, chilli oil and potato glass. Since it’s a pescatarian dish, I paired it with another glass of chardonnay.

The fish was fresh and nicely cooked, with the vegetables on the side crunchy when you take a bite of them. The mashed potato had an interesting consistency and viscosity to it, which I actually liked.

Williams_baked barramundi_wm

Roast baked barramundi with smoked mash potato, cauliflower, baby carrots, chilli oil and potato glass

Arshad, on the other hand, ordered the creamy mushroom spaghetti, which, according to its menu, is “as simple as its title,” and I couldn’t agree more. It was that: a pleasant, comfort pasta of cream and mushroom, with a very light hint of sweetness to it.

Arshad felt like it could still be creamier, as that is his preference for creamy pasta. I prefer it light this way and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I can order this for myself next time!
Williams_creamy mushroom pasta_wm

Overall, the food was both good and interesting. In terms of price points, I think William’s Casual Dining is reasonable, considering the freshness and the quality of the ingredients.

In terms of areas of improvement, the waiting time for the food tops the chart for me. The restaurant was almost packed for Sunday lunch, I don’t think the kitchen was ready for the deluge of orders. My truffle fries took more than 15 minutes before it came out (yes, I timed it). The main course took around half an hour.

Under normal circumstances, I would have bitched about it, but since I was trying to be zen that day, I patiently waited.  In fact, we wanted to try the Dragon’s Nest for dessert but we were told it’s going to take another 15 minutes or so for it, so we decided to just head out to another dessert place.

The wait staff could also be trained more, since they did not immediately give us out our plates and utensils. The salad came out without the plates and utensils and we were staring at it for quite a while, before the staff took the hint.

It’s a relatively new restaurant so admittedly, I’m more forgiving. The food made up for the delays but I do hope they improve the time spent waiting and they train their staff to be more attentive to the customers.

Plus, fine, they have good online presence and they have good Instagram ads, if I may say. I’m a sucker for beautifully orchestrated web sites and deliberate efforts on social media, so hats off to William’s on this.

Will I come back? Sure – just to give it another shot, perhaps on a less busy time or day. I’m keen to try their octopus crackers, arancini and king prawn aglio olio. Hopefully, I can also get my hands on the Dragon’s Nest already!

Here are the contact details of William’s:

Phone: +621 21889061 ext: 858

Reservation table recommended

Opening hours: 10am – 11pm; daily

Address: Jl. Tulodong Atas No. 28, SCBD , Jakarta

Budget: Rp455,000 for 2 people (average)
VAT & service charges extra
Cash and Cards accepted
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Of fainting spells & epiphanies

I fainted at my dermatologist’s clinic yesterday afternoon. I was about to undergo my usual Saturday facial routine when I felt light-headed. As my vision blurred and things went dark, I held on to the table in front of me and I managed to say, “Hang on, wait. I’m dizzy.”

I passed out.

Before I knew it, my doctor and my attendant were fanning me, I was on the floor and they were asking me to open my mouth and if I can breathe.

My doctor was repeatedly saying: “Miss, miss…are you okay? Can you open your mouth? Miss…miss…”

My first sentence when I got my senses back: “I’m sleepy, I just want to sleep. But I still want to do my facial. Can I still do my facial?”

I’m laughing at myself silly now that I’ve recovered and I recalled the first thing I said when I woke up. I swear. Why do I say these things!

I sent the clinic on a frenzy on what’s supposed to be a relaxing Saturday afternoon.

Not my best moment. Certainly not my most elegant.

In fairness to the clinic, they took care of me so well. I was very impressed with how they handled the situation and how very attentive they were. To my friends in Jakarta, hit me up and I will send you their details. They’re awesome!

But I digress.

While my attendant was lovingly scrubbing my face, massaging my neck and trying to do the best she can to relax me, a flurry of thoughts were running through my head.

“I’ve never fainted in my entire life. What the hell just happened there?” 

It was the combination of long hours, lack of sleep and my sugar levels dropping. In short: exhaustion. I tired myself out.

A day before that, I was in an amusement park in Ancol and the sun was scorching hot. The past 3 months were also crazy in terms of my work hours and trips. In all the weekends of September, I was in and out of several cities and I became a standard fixture in the airport.

Admittedly,  I had longer days because sleep became elusive. There were so many thoughts in my head, so many projects to finish and an eternally long list of to-dos that kept me up because my mind was just racing and I couldn’t shut it off.

I know. I brought this upon myself. Whilst I’m slapping me silly of this ruckus, I also caught myself. See! This is why I’m in this situation to begin with!

I’m too hard on me. 

I want to accomplish a lot of things. If I don’t, I feel like a failure. I feel guilty when I stop and breathe. 

I want to do everything. I want to be everything. 

Because I don’t want to disappoint people. And I don’t want to disappoint me. 

Everything has a price. This has a price and it took its toll on me.

Closing September this way, I realized it was a mild and gentle reminder of what other worse things can happen if I don’t slow down.

At the same time, as much as I am in denial and as much as I feel invincible, the reality is: I’m not.

No matter what age you are, wearing yourself down will have consequences. It’s a good thing mine was just 30-seconds worth of passing out and a day’s worth of embarrassment. It could have been worse.

Today is a Sunday and I’m writing this at 7am. After my usual gym routine, I’m supposed to have champagne brunch in celebration of my second year in Jakarta. I’m supposed to run errands, work on some pending personal projects, answer e-mails and fix my calendar for the entire week.

I’m scrapping my to-do list. Just for today.

Today, I will be on pause.


I’m gonna take my time, sip my coffee, stare in space, catch up on my reading, go to the spa, sleep.

Me, my sanity, my health and my well-being first.

Buying the eggs and ketchup can wait.