Coping with the past…

For grades 7th-12th, I studied in a college preparatory school where the ultimate goal was the get students to ace their SAT’s, apply to schools in the States and leave Puerto Rico to study away from home—where success, it is believed, is guaranteed. From the young age of twelve, I was already thinking about college and at fourteen, I was worrying about applications and where I would like to go study. New York was it for me. I wanted to study in Upstate New York so I could be able to travel to the city whenever I had a break. I applied to several schools in the Upstate area and was rejected by most except one. That one school that I was accepted to was the school that I decided to attend. I didn’t visit the school before I made my decision. I knew that was my only option and an opportunity to leave home and learn to be independent. And so I left.

My first year was almost a disaster—I coped with an eating disorder and a terrible ordeal with my roommate almost made me part ways with the school.

But I returned for my second year and lived in a single (that was a much better experience,) except for the fact that my good friend Sebastian (who studied with me in the same prep school before college) decided to move back home to Puerto Rico.

I was devastated. So I applied to two schools in the city (where another good friend is currently studying and almost done with her bachelor’s.) I thought it would be good to have her company, and even if I decided to go to another school, I would still be in close proximity.

What happened was that I didn’t receive enough financial aid and I decided to give my school, where I had studied for two years, another go.

My first month of my junior year seemed promising: I was getting along with my roommate (who is still in our dorm, finishing the year.) I was having a good time with my friends, and I was enjoying my classes.

But accumulated stress and anxiety resulted in something terrifying: a panic attack.

I had a panic attack and I decided it was time to go back home.

But it wasn’t just the panic attack that affected my decision; it was the constant tachycardia and inability to sleep and the feeling of fear that I suddenly started to feel (despite living with a roommate.) My mental health was in a delicate state, and I no longer felt stable living on my own.

It was a difficult decision to make, but I am back home and after months of not being in school (since early November,) I am starting to feel like myself again.

Years of undiagnosed depression without any treatment left me in a delicate situation, where I chose to leave my studies for a while and focus on myself.

In August, I’ll be continuing school and even though I will be one year behind, I don’t care.

I took the time to take care of myself and focus on what I needed rather than what I wanted, which was to be in school.

Now I’m coping with the past and understanding my high school years—the years that led up to the incident of my panic attack—and later, a more serious incident—a psychotic episode.

That one I’m still trying to understand.

It is important for me to understand my history and my past and the behaviors that signaled that my problem started much earlier than I thought.

One sign was months of compulsive exercise and extreme dieting. Signs such as these may be left unnoticed, but it is imperative to pinpoint behaviors such as these as red flags and indications of something more serious.

So I urge all that have had similar experiences or those who compulsively exercise or have eating disorders to understand that these are signs of crippling mental health and if you need help—don’t be afraid to ask those around you—family, friends, peers, teachers, counselors, are all there to help us understand and to help us get better.



When You Feel Like Quitting, Remember That Nobody’s Perfect

Learning the ropes of a new job is no easy task, especially when you’re dealing with delicate and expensive merchandise such as jewelry. My grandfather owns and operates a jewelry store and as a learning experience and opportunity to make and save some money, I’ve decided to work for him a few times a week. Thankfully, it isn’t a full-time job; I don’t know how he works from 9 am to 9 pm five days of the week considering he’s almost eighty years old! On my second day, I made a HUGE mistake. That very same day, I felt like telling him that I couldn’t do it anymore, that I couldn’t go to the store and help him because I wasn’t adequate enough for the job.

Here’s the thing: in a jewelry store, people are expected to be treated with the utmost patience and respect, especially a store such as his that sells expensive and fine jewelry and has been operating for more than thirty years in the same shopping mall. You also have to deal with people constantly, and that’s just not my forte. But this kind of experience teaches me patience, a virtue that I have yet to foment (I am naturally a hyperactive and impatient person.) It also teaches me how to relate to people in a sales setting as a salesperson (which I am clearly not made for.) But, despite my lack of skills as a salesperson and despite my ability to focus one hundred percent on the tasks at hand, I am reminded that nobody is perfect. And when I felt like quitting, I remembered that it was my second day on the job and that I have yet to learn many lessons about what I should and shouldn’t do. For now, what is important to remember is that I have to focus on three important things: patience, concentration, and treating people with ease (despite my awkwardness, nervousness, and natural anxiety around people, (hello introverts!) ) So: when you feel like quitting, remember that nobody’s perfect. And those of you that work in a sales environment and have to be on their feet constantly and dealing with all kinds of customers on a daily basis, I salute you! It is no easy feat and the tasks at hand require near perfect concentration (to say the least!)


Melt in Old San Juan

About a week ago I had a lunch date with my good friend Natalie. She suggested we try some grilled cheese sandwiches at this new place by the Plaza de Armas located at the Plaza de Armas Hotel in Old San Juan. “Melt,” she said. I was like “What? Melt? I’ve never heard of Melt!” It was an opportunity to try a new place despite our favorite—brunch at St.Germain—another great place to try in Old San Juan. I was charmed by the lovely décor and the cool-looking menu showcasing an assortment of delicious-sounding dishes. We both ordered from the “melts” section, of course. My dish was a combination of melted goat cheese and guava jam on two slices of thick, white bread. The side was a small salad of leafy greens with guava dressing. My first impression upon biting into my melt: absolutely delightful. I was in heaven savoring the goat cheese and guava combination and the thick, yet soft bread was a perfect vehicle for the mix of flavors and textures. What seemed like a simple grilled cheese sandwich did not disappoint. The salad was small but it was delicious, the greens good for intermediate bites between the eating of sandwich (it was no small feat, considering the good-sized portion!)IMG_0428IMG_0429IMG_0430IMG_0431

If you’re a fan of grilled cheese sandwiches or are looking to try something new, try Melt in Old San Juan, you will enjoy a delicious meal (there is also breakfast served all day long!)




Self-esteem on a daily basis

1.Practice gratitude journaling. Sometimes, writing down what one is grateful for every day boosts the way you feel about yourself, and also, how you feel about life in general.

2.Don’t knock yourself down for your appearance. If you don’t look your “best,” that’s ok. We can’t look awesome every day, but we can feel good about ourselves by not being too hard on ourselves.

3.If you gain or lose weight without meaning to, don’t freak out. Stress–and for women– (that time of the month) can contribute to fluctuations in our weight. And sometimes it’s ok to indulge and gain a couple of pounds (let’s not be too hard on ourselves!)

4.But, it’s important to realize that physical activity helps us feel good about ourselves physically, mentally, and even spiritually (go yoga!)

5.Having a good conversation with a good friend always helps me feel good about myself. So get out of the house, or call a friend and make a lunch date and talk. Talk it out. Let it be known…

To sum it up: practice gratitude journaling, don’t knock yourself down for not looking your “best,” it’s ok to gain or lose a few pounds (so let’s not freak out about it,) exercise can help us feel better, and talking it out works too.


Accepting Love as The Path to Liberation

All of us have secrets we sometimes wish we could scream out loud because they’ve been bottled for so long and rehashed over and over in our heads. All of us have something that we keep private, or better said, hidden. We hide this part of us because we are afraid of speaking up and saying what we feel or what we want to do. We’ve chosen silence as an option because we think it is the only one. My secret was love.

For years, I was striving to achieve liberation or freedom through the pursuit of knowledge (what I believed was wisdom.) But then I understood that without love, there is no wisdom. First, I had to learn how to love myself. That took time and introspection. Then I let go of my fear of declaring love and the secret that I had been hiding was my love for another person who did not correspond to me at the time. After I did this—after I revealed my secret—I felt free. But that wasn’t everything. I did not get the person that I desired, but that didn’t matter. Because in the process, I learned how to love myself and understand that sometimes we have to be alone because we are still coping with things in our lives that make it difficult to sustain a relationship. And in reality, these things cannot be planned—they come naturally. Whatever secret is in there that wants to break free, release it. Break the silence. Sometimes it’s good to reveal a part of us that feels like a burden, like a weight that we’ve been carrying for years.

I chose love as my path to liberation because I knew it was important to live with the freedom of a voice rather than a prison of silence in the middle of my pursuit of knowledge.

We can’t have wisdom, or an understanding of wisdom without understanding what love means. Even if we are alone, we are freed by our declaration. And even if we have to deal with rejection, it is another experience we can learn how to cope with.

I accept love as THE PATH to liberation because I was freed through loving myself, loving others, and loving God.


Hope vs. Despair

During my four years of high school, I struggled to cope with feelings of deep sadness. I attributed them to the condition of being a teenager and the “angst” that one experiences during adolescent years. What I didn’t know, and what I know now, is that It didn’t go away after high school. I didn’t pinpoint the fact that I was still struggling with depression. I believed that what I was feeling was normal. I thought that experiencing sadness was normal and that everybody had a different way of coping. What I didn’t know is the kind of sadness I experienced regularly—the kind where you sob, and sob, and sob, as if you’re grieving—that kind is not exactly what “normal” bouts of blues are about. That kind, the one that had been ongoing for seven years, is nothing less than depression (and untreated depression, no matter how much we can try meditating) should be taken care of professionally. I sought help and treatment and I am feeling incredibly good.

For years, I had relied on journaling, exercise, and music, but there was a point in my depression where I just couldn’t function and one thing led to another and there was psychosis as a result of depression, anxiety, and sleep deprivation. I learned that I was living in Despair. I never sought help for my problems, which I didn’t believe were mental health problems. I tried to “deal with it” myself, and as it turns out, that was more self-destructive than beneficial to my health. I learned that—although I had not chosen depression—I had chosen Despair by not taking action when I had the opportunity to.

I never understood the concept of Hope until my incident, when I realized what was important: living day to day to get better and using Hope as a way to gain strength. The prospect of getting better was more promising than the everyday challenges of becoming this new person, or better said, entering a stage of my life when I finally let other people take care of me when I was too weak to take care of myself. However, if I had not experienced Despair, I would not know Hope. And as I look back to favorite quotes and book excerpts discussing these, I finally understand what it had meant all along to truly want to live. It is experiencing Hope everyday—Hope that we will get better everyday. For those struggling with depression or anxiety or both, just know that there are people out there who are willing to help if you voice your concerns and let them help you. You are not alone in the battle of Hope vs. Despair.

For those in the same process that I am currently going through—the process of recovery and getting better—just know that it is important to take it one day at a time and not feel anxious or despair but to feel hope. Hope that the next day you will be just a little bit stronger. If you’re accepting positive changes and trying your best every day, you will get stronger each day.

In the battle between Hope vs. Despair, Hope wins.

In the battle between Life and Death, Life wins.

Just be willing to accept that change takes time, but change is progress. And it is all a process.




The Journey is Understanding Yourself

The journey is to understand yourself.

Understand yourself first and then try to understand others.

But don’t do it the other way around. Don’t neglect the process of getting to know yourself, understanding yourself, and loving yourself.

Without understanding, there can’t be love.

Understanding is the foundation of love.

It is a nod of the head, a look in the eyes, a way of seeing the other with clarity and knowing. Knowing the truth.

But there has to be the same thing with oneself, if there is not then there is no growth in our development as human beings. And sometimes there is no growth with our relationships either.

We have to be willing to go to the dark places.

We have to be willing to feel the pain of memories and of the past, to deal with what hasn’t been dealt with, to confront our demons.

So I commend all to take the time and experience that sadness that has been repressed—or the sadness that has been there all along—to feel it properly and then let it go and move forward. There is new ground to discover in the journey.

But before we can meet happiness or joy, let’s dwell in that suffering for a bit. If not, there will be a time when it will all burst and it will be explosive and unwelcome, to say the least.

It all starts with understanding.

First, understand the Self: emotions, desires, fears, etc.

Then try to understand the Other.

This is the foundation for love, and what many don’t understand is that it starts with a little introspection: look into the soul and you will discover a few things about yourself and life.



Is love a choice or are we helpless to its power?

A very insightful college course that I took last semester taught me Individuals have Agency, which means that they always have a Choice. We always have a Choice. We have the power to say I’m going to do this or I’m not going to do this. We shouldn’t feel powerless by saying I’m not going to do anything, I’m going to stay silent and not make a decision because I don’t have a choice. No. We have a choice—we can say yes or we can say no. We can stay silent or we can speak up. But my question is in the matter of love. Is love a choice or are we helpless to its power? A conversation with my friend Natalie the other day almost convinced me that love itself is a choice. But it isn’t. What we choose is what say and what we do. We choose our actions. In the matter of love, sometimes we are helpless to its power.

After watching the film Carol (starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as two lovers) I was inspired by the thought that love is indeed universal and powerful enough to bring two people together even when it seems impossible. Natalie said that we choose to love the people that we love. But do we choose to fall in love? I don’t think so. I believe that we choose whether or not to pay attention to the signs. The “signs”—which can sometimes be confusing—are indications that another person is interested in you. And if you’re interested in that very same person, my advice is to let this be known. In the end, both have to make decisions and prove something with their actions. If not, this love will be unexplored. And that is just sad as hell. However falling in love is something that can’t always be explained. The only thing that I understand is that we are helpless to its power. So love itself isn’t a choice, what is a choice is how we treat this matter and our choice of voicing our desire, even if this means the other person does not return this desire. It is better to use our power as individuals than to stay silent for years and years, imagining what it would be like to say something or do something. The Choice is Ours. So let’s declare our love! It’s probably one of the most important things that we can do with our time and with the one life we get.




Having “Good Self-Esteem”

Yesterday I had a conversation with a good friend about self-esteem and what it means to have a good self-esteem versus a bad self-esteem or a high versus a low self-esteem. She said that she didn’t believe she could have a good self-esteem without understanding that it is a process; good self-esteem just doesn’t pop out of nowhere or feel that way when we want it to. My friend said that self-esteem is a reflection of your life and if you’re making positive changes in your life, if they are necessary of course (which they often are,) then it will reflect in your perception of what self-esteem is. Now that I think of it, that’s exactly what self-esteem is. It is a perception. It is also an attitude. It is the way that we think about life, the decisions we make to change what we have the capacity to change, and then the biggest decision—to be content with the things that we can change for the better and change the outlook on the things that we can’t change for the better. What remains is that we can transform the way we view the things that we can’t change. Sometimes a bad day is a bad day, but it doesn’t have to be that way for the entirety of the day. If we think of the glass as half-empty, it will be half-empty. However, if we think of the glass as half-full then we feel just a bit better about life and about ourselves in general.

So how can we conquer our “bad self-esteem?” That’s another thing that I talked about with my dear friend Natalie. Our fear of change halts the process of developing good self-esteem because we are afraid of rejection and failure. Sometimes we feel powerless and we feel “stuck” in the same old thing because we are afraid of making decisions, taking action, and promoting positive changes. My recommendation is to break this habit by experiencing the very scary task of conquering those fears that are keeping us from progress. Whatever fears those might be, write them down and tackle them one by one. In the end, it is worse to feel the regret of not taking the next step, of not conquering those fears. We learn from the experiences that we accumulate, including those that are most uncomfortable to us. So let’s declare our love, or let go of the past, or find a new job, all of these things count in making our self-esteem a high one.


What to Eat: Trying “Trifongo”

Mofongo—mashed fried plaintains—is a staple dish in Puerto Rico. It is often served stuffed with meat or seafood and it’s absolutely delicious. My favorite way to have is by itself rather than stuffed. When I heard of a restaurant serving “trifongo”—a mix of green plantain, sweet plantain, and yuca—I was surprised that such a mix existed. Even though this is also a typical food to eat in PR, it is less traditional than mofongo and less frequent in restaurant menus than its counterpart. I decided to try the trifongo at Fefo’s in Old San Juan, and it definitely did not disappoint. I chose the trifongo stuffed with churrasco or skirt steak. Honestly, I prefer mofongo because it is simpler and you get the full flavor of the plantain, but the trifongo was an interesting mix of flavors. The yuca or cassava was present in flavor and the green plantain was not overbearing (the stronger of the two in flavor.)