When I immigrated to the United States from the Philippines at the age of 2, I lived in a few different apartments in San Francisco. But the one I spent the most time in (11 years to be exact) was a three-story flat in the Sunset. "Hotel Taraval" as my family called it housed a rotating group of Fresh Off the Boat relatives, but my mom and I were one of seven permanent residents in a 2-bedroom.
We lived on the top floor, below us was the family that owned the building, and in the garage was an in-law apartment where the mother of that family hung herself. How's that for a transition? When I was old enough to comprehend what that meant, I would run from the front gate past the garage door and up two flights of stairs so fast I was short of breaking my ankles just so the "mamau/momo/multo" wouldn't get me. There was a window in the door looking into the garage just low enough for me to see into. It was pitch-black at night, leaving me a perfect canvas to paint monsters and demons and dead wives on.
Fast forward about 2.5 decades later and I was back in the Sunset living in my own in-law, facing an adult version of the darkness - depression. This version of darkness was RELENTLESS. It didn't matter what time of day it was, or if I was alone or not. It wasn't picky either, it didn't need to be under my bed, in the closet, or the garage. It followed me EVERYWHERE. The darkness was so strong, I couldn't run away from it. Instead, I let it engulf me. It almost destroyed me. There were days where I couldn't see the light and even worse, some days where I refused to see it. My friends did everything they could to pull me out of that dark place, but ultimately, only I could do that for myself.
I stayed in that dark place for what felt like forever. I had become comfortable crying under the bed with the boogeyman and it felt much easier to give up rather than fight. But slowlyI began to see the light again. To smile again. To laugh again. To feel again, to love again. I didn't run away from the darkness, nor did I let it engulf me. I didn't even try to fight it. Instead, I walked through it. I am still walking through it, but now I can see.
I am still afraid of the dark. The only difference is now I recognize that I am the motherfucking LIGHT.