Filipinos Deep Love for Love
In America,we have a tendency to clump all Asians together in our so-called cultural competence conversations. We are stereotyped or we stereotype each other as if we all salivate for the same kind of noodles (chowmein and pancit are siblings but not twins) or as if withholding rice for any Asian will cause their demise- maybe 3 days will do it (just kidding).
I often find that cultural competence training that aims to educate the audience about the differences of cultural groups does what it does but by differentiating Asians as a whole to everyone else.
As a Filipina woman who continues to study my own culture, I find many striking difference between me and other sista’ from the same geographic neighborhood( Asia).
Surely, we share similar values on educating our young, tending to our elders, and knowing that verbal expression is not the end-all of any communication.
Expectedly, compared to our Western counterpart, we Filipinos would lag behind expressiveness especially in the area of affection. Many of our children born and raised in the States wished that their parents had told them I love yous more often.
Still, compared to our Asian counterpart, Filipinos are known to be quite affectionate.
Our tendency to tap someone on the shoulder or back, as we listen on is affection.
The number of times we nod to someone talking even if we disagree with them is affection.
The many times we stroke our children’s hair (as if shampooing it) as a sign of approval is affection.
The many times we rub our children’s back with vicks is affection.
The way we greet someone by kissing them on the cheek or using the mano for kids is affection.
I have been to many airports. I love it for the opportunity it gives me to observe people and culture. There you would find the culture of saying hellos and goodbyes. I’m always fascinated by it.
In the Philippines, saying goodbyes is a difficult transition. You may find plenty of painful embraces, hand-touching, and even tearful eyes. You will also find someone trying to leave abruptly not from the intent of sheer emotional apathy but the avoidance of a goodbye ritual. A ritual that would be too painful to bring with you in platform of a memory.
In America, the country of more expressiveness, airports are far from what I just described.
What Constitutes a Broken Heart?
For Filipinos/Filipino Americans who hold dear the camaraderie of family and friends. Broken heartedness can come from many different source, but most especially, the pain of physical and emotional distance from someone you love.
Physical distance can mean maintaining a long-distance relationship, death, loss of a relationship or what-it-used to be, a move or a transition to another life phase ( ex.raising kids to empty-nesters), all these can cause either a celebration for one but heartbreak for someone else.
Emotional distance can sprout from physical distance or vice-versa. Emotional distance in the Filipino culture can mean losing your interest on someone’s welfare or well-being. When your mom once said, “ bahala ka sa buhay mo. Wala na akong pakialam sayo” (do what you want. I don’t care about you anymore),” triggers an emotional stir that hurts your insides even if you knew slightly at that time that Pinay mamas rarely mean this type of lingo. The pain comes from the emotional distance that threatens your umbilical cord connection with the person you love. This can cause heartbreak.
Silent treatment and the like is emotional distancing. Many times, it’s a temporary state of conflict that begs for attention. A wife who feels offended by her husband but have been unsuccessful finding consolation from her non-verbal cues or other suggestions, may use silent treatment to find ways to be heard. The emotional distance it will bring to the husband can be a mere discomfort in the beginning but the frequency of its use can eventually cause heartbreak as the temporary emotional distancing can be more permanent or enduring.
Filipina moms who carry their mommy-ing role (being a mommy) as their life career can experience heartbreak as their children transition to needing them less. Most moms carry on without a scratch but I find Filipina moms unearthed heartbreaks as they muster a smile to send off their children with the confidence they hoped they had.
Personally, I know this will be a struggle for me. Even now, I affectionally beg my young children to please slow-down their growing up for me. I wanted to do this mommy-ing thing for as long as I can.
For Filipino-Americans the life-long search for one’s identity of neither passing as a true-breed American nor being Filipino enough is a middle ground you don’t want to be in the middle of. This alone may not cross a heartbreak but the sustain indifference to one’s core identity can lead to the inferiority of not being good enough paving the way to depression.
There are a myriad of sources for heartbreaks but I want to stress that events and life transitions per se do not cause them. It’s the emotional attachment we have placed on people and events that are better indicators of whether a heartbreak would arise from any type of loss, physical or emotional distancing.
When Heartbreak Becomes Depression
Most heartbreaks heal with time. Life may never be the same after the death of a loved one but learning to cope with it, eases our heartbreak enough to make us go on with life.
If you are caregiving a sick parent from a distance, say, you live abroad and your sick parent remains in the Philippines, the inability to be physically present despite being financially responsible for his/her care can bring on-going heartbreak. This heartbreak can remain as is or can lead to depression.
Heartbreaks become depression when it affects your daily functions in life. If your worries, fears, & aching heart affects,
The way you parent your children,
When you wake up most days like a robot just doing your thing to get through it,
When you find little pleasure in what used to bring you joy,
When you constantly have unexplainable health conditions, stomachaches, headaches, and
others that cannot be fully explained medically,
When it affects your work, or what it is that you call passion and dropping all interest, and
hope to anything related to it,
When it affects your relationship with others because your heartache has swallowed the best
When you’re just not you and you know it.
Depression is a lonely place to be in even if you have an army of people surrounding you. It’s not heartbreak simply from transition or adjustment to events that bring you pain. You wear it like a sleeve but it stays on no matter what outfit you wear.
Perhaps the picture you have in mind of someone depressed is one who looks a bit disheveled, pale, has dark bags under their eye, crying or emotional, withdrawn from the world. Yes, this too is the look of depression. Keep an eye on them.
Depression in Filipinos can look like the one I just described but not always.
There is a low-grade depression (Dysthymia) where someone may seem to be functioning normally, doing as should, bringing home the bacon and socializing enough with others to keep suspicion at bay. I’ve seen some who have managed to be good-enough mommies or daddies, model daughters even a responsible citizen appearing to tend to others hoping that their nurturing of others will nurture their withering spirits.
Sometimes it does. Many times, it simply prolongs being in this dark hole because impersonating someone else others want you to be, seem more of a plausible way to survive being you. This is depression, but-
Depression is not you.
How to Get Help When You Don’t Want to be Seen
Filipinos and our deep shame of accessing any type of Mental Health support cripples us to move forward. But, I understand, we were not born thinking that seeing a counselor or a therapist is a sign of weakness or that you’ve gone loko-loko (crazy), this is a learned concept that our well-intentioned elders have passed on to us.
As with changing our minds about our mental health, it will take some time unlearning of what we have assumed to be true.
It’s not TRUE that when you see a therapist/counselor that you’ve gone crazy.
It’s not TRUE that either you were born with a mental illness or not (it’s more complicated than that).
It’s not TRUE that you can’t get depression from heartbreaks, life transitions, losses and the like.
It’s not TRUE that talking to a therapist means you are weak. In fact, I have met the most emotionally strong people from my practice.
It’s not TRUE that all you need is a mind over matter approach (sometimes, you need support to take you there).
It’s not TRUE that you are an embarrassment to your family if you seek therapy/counseling (quite frankly, secure families don’t attach their family esteem on whether a member seeks therapy or not. Most families are simply not well-informed about therapy & after initial bashing come full circle into supporting individual member).
It’s not TRUE that you’re alone. Depression may make you feel that way but support is available to you. Believe it and reach out.
If you decide to seek mental health care but you don’t want to be seen, it might be helpful for you to know that therapists by law hold your confidentiality (stuff you tell us) sacred.
To access care, call your local County Behavioral Health department and ask for a referral. You can also speak to your primary doctor and ask to be referred to a therapist. Depending on your insurance or managed care system, sometimes your primary doctor is the one that acts as the Mental Health provider. I encourage you to advocate that you see someone who has mental health care as their specialty.
For sure, you can google around for therapists in private practice. Private practice means that the therapist has their own clinic and sets the rules regarding their office policies as allowable by law. Usually, therapists in this setting have more wiggle room on the way they treat their clients. If you pay privately (without insurance), they also don’t have to submit your medical information to get reimbursed for services they’ve rendered. Meaning, no one else has to know your diagnosis, if you have one.
On-Line Therapy/Counseling for Filipinos
Another wonderful option is on-line counseling/therapy. Some call this-teletherapy or e-therapy and I’m sure some other terms I have not caught up with. This is therapy that you can do in the comforts of your home, in your car, on your couch, wherever you would like to securely get mental health support from. This type of therapy saves you time and money. You don’t have to get in your car, pay for gas, put on your lipstick or at the very least run your comb into your hair one time. There is no need. You can stay in your PJs, curl up with your fav blanket, and leave your hair uncombed. It’s all good.
If you’re interested in this type of mental health support, please send me a message here.
Whatever mental health care platform you decide to go with, know that this is part of your self-care. If you’ve paid for a massage, a pedicure, someone to tend to your children so you can catch your breath, you deserve this to feel better.
If you are like most Filipina women/ Pinay moms I know, you care about nurturing your children, being a good wife, and everything in between. Feeling better will make others-care more enjoyable for you and those you call ka-pamilya (family, family-like).
To your wellness!
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