By Jendrich Quiambao
Sometimes you need to get lost to find your way. Isn't that what they always say? But what happens if, after you dive too deep into the rabbit hole, you find that "Wonderland" isn't as bad as it seems? What happens if you find the new world you trapped yourself in to be more comforting than you would want to admit? Maybe the alternate reality was the best escape you could come across because, let's face it: when we don't like who we are and the world we live in, all we want is to get lost in a world that could help us pretend that everything isn't as screwed up as reality sets it out to be. You keep chasing and chasing until one day, you've found that you've lost your way, and you know deep inside you, you're somehow happy that you did.
December 15, 2016, was the day I entered that rabbit hole. The fall was steep, and I plunged in fast that the speed of light broke its own laws of physics. The moment I landed, I should've guessed that this place wasn't what it seemed. I thought I'd found my fairytale at the glimpse of Wonderland, but the more I wandered, the more this place showed its dirt beneath. I was astounded at first—how could I not be—the sight was nothing like another. The rivers were blue, the fishes were dancing, and trees were sprouting in view. "I wanna stay here forever," is what I had said, and forever is what I did get. In time, I would see that I had just wished to be stuck forever in hell.
For years, I'd come close to leaving, but something always pulled me back. I had found comfort in the very thing that had destroyed the innocence I first came with. I kept exploring, and eventually, the place forged a shelter for me. No running back was what it seemed to be. No hint of what I had gotten myself into because, at the end of the day, I had only been 13.
After a while, I realized this was nothing close to the escape I needed or wanted. I had only grown comfortable being at the edge of my seat—never knowing when the next outburst would come. However, it had been too late, as I'd stayed in this lifestyle for four years. Before you judge my decisions, put yourself in my shoes. How do you leave a place you consider your home? Despite how damaging it may have been, where do you even go when nothing else or no one else was able to love and care for you that way? Was it really that crazy for someone to crave and find comfort in the destruction if that was the only thing they had known?
Then came the day that I left. The moment I did, I felt a wave of relief course through my body. It was like, for the first time, I had acquainted myself with the taste of freedom. Weeks passed, and only then did I realize: I had fallen deep into a rabbit hole once more; however, this time, I was trapped in the shackles of my thoughts and memories. I had traveled to my past countless times before, but it was due to a reminiscent feeling toward it. However, this was not the case for my recent travels—I was often brought back into the painful truth I'd only grown to concede. May it be awake or floating away in dreamland, I sensed the danger and unsettling emotions I had felt when I was lost in what I had thought was "Wonderland." I felt insane—my mind had constantly been wandering to places I wasn't even in anymore—being held by the events of my past and barely living in the now.
"What ifs" flooded my head until I was a stranger to my thoughts—I was lost again. Until one day, I had a set of miracles that led me outside of the office of a stranger who would one day set my path right and pull me back into the reality I deserve to pamper myself in. For years, I had thought about seeking the help of another for the endless troubles my mind would simmer in, but it was only until January 23, 2021, that I took a step forward to do so. I would be lying if I said the thought of bailing on my appointment didn't cross my mind because it did—multiple times. However, as I counted the minutes to experience the unknown, I found the courage to enter an abyss where my hope had been revitalized. Looking back, I'm glad I stayed because who knows if I'd be here now if I hadn’t.
I walked into the unknown, trailing a stranger before me. Beyond that door, a well-lit room is what welcomed me inside. To my right were clusters of folders stacked on a cupboard above the desk where the computer laid its base. It shone its light on the opposite wall, which hugged the facing chairs we posed in. Then began the session, which changed my life eternally. Silence filled the room as my blood coursed dangerously close to my ears with every beat of my anxious heart. She opened her mouth with a slight smile, "What brings you here?" filling every crevice of the room with her reassuring voice. "I'm not quite sure where to begin," I stuttered. Questions surged like an eagle through the night, and I tried my best to answer each one. With every word swiveling past the lump in my throat, I felt the uneasiness leave my trembling body and my thoughts assembling into an organized series of sentences that danced at the tip of my tongue. Suddenly, I'd grown to imagine the possibility of a world filled with happiness and one where I'd be relieved of my haunting past.
Week by week, I would visit her office to uncover more of the past I had escaped from but am constantly reminded of by my memories. I would share my laughter and despair as she listened to it all, thankful I had found my refuge. We tackled my past and what formed me into the woman who sat in that room. Through time she made me realize that my pain was not who I was. It was not my silly mistakes or my blundered decisions that defined the person I am. As I sat before her, she questioned, "What type of person do you want to be?" because isn't it who we want to be that matters more than what used to be? Isn't it the journey we build towards the future we wish to hold that count more than the journey we left behind?
Two years had passed since that first visit, and though I may not have fully grasped my capabilities and set my emotions straight, I discovered a newfound hope for a future where I lay. I began to commemorate my past for the path it set out, and I learned to look forward to tomorrows filled with a dream she helped me recognize. We explored my fears together, and she helped me face those too. Though I was told to revisit my past, she made me feel secure. For once throughout my life, there stood someone who understood that all I needed was a companion who walked the fields with me. For a long time, my thoughts were stuck deep down that abyss, but she was the one who guided me out and presented me with a life that had more in store.
Sometimes you need to get lost to find your way. Isn't that what they always say? Maybe it's true after all. Because even if I stumbled through the rabbit hole where my track had seemed to end, I was brought to that office door which brought a new onset. Despite being a mere patient to her, I wish to one day show that she is more than some stranger who listened to my mourns. She offered me a life that I thought had long perished, and she taught me how to paint with color in a world full of gray. I look at her in awe as I’m filled with hope and pray that, just like her, I one day wake up knowing I made someone live today.