Learning To Read

The first time that I read a book from cover to cover was when I was in highschool. Our English teacher assigned us a project of reading a book and then making a review out of it. Being a highschool kid who never had any interest in books, I got myself a random fiction book called “The Twelfth Angel” by Og Mandino. It was a book that told the story of a little American kid who’s into competitive baseball.

And the book taught me the value of “never, never, never, never, never giving up.

A Whole New World

Reading the book was fun and exciting. It was like I was dragged into a whole new world with interesting characters, and where I can think and feel what the characters think and feel at the moment. After two months, I finally finished the book. Man, does it feel good to finish a book from cover to cover! Then my sister showed up. She asked me if she can borrow the book. I agreed. She took the book from me, she read it on her spare time, and then after one week, she was finished.

She finished the book in just a week, while I struggled to complete it in two months.

That was the time when I said to myself, “I have no talent in reading. I hate reading books.

Three Reasons To Read

Everything changed when I got into the later years of my college days. I now consider myself an evangelist of reading. In fact, just last year, I finished reading 41 books within a single year. I’m still a naturally slow reader, but I try to atleast put a portion of my time towards reading.

And here’s why I think you should too. I can probably list tens, or maybe a hundred, but I’m going to give you just three reasons why you should read books:

First, because the world-class guys do it! Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Benjamin Franklin. If I am to name one thing that these guys have in common, it is that they realize the importance of reading. These guys have been reported to be voracious readers and that their reading eventually contributed to their success. If these guys who are already at the top did it, and are still doing it, why aren’t we?

Second, because it’s fun. Books can take you not only to different places, but to different eras and even different worlds as well. Imagine, time travel at the palm of your hands! Who would have thought that I could get to experience being in the Romantic Period of Europe? Or who would have thought that I could learn the childhood years, the aspirations, and the habits of one of the Founding Fathers of America? Books open to you how big the world is.

Third, because it makes you smarter. Studies have shown that reading books improves the following: Concentration skills, creativity, self-awareness, knowledge, empathy, and that’s just to name a few.

Reading As An Investment

The simple act of reading might be one of the best investments that we can make. It improves many aspects of our life, and it improves us as a person and as a society overall.

If you can remember what I just shared earlier, I have no talent in reading. I was born a slow reader. And I just got into reading late into my college years. But I now realize the importance of reading.

And a thing that I also believe is this quote that I found to be true. It’s goes like this:

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

So I had a clinical depression that lasted some weeks, if not months.

But I finally started to beat it down until it became nothing but a pulp!

Through books, articles, videos, lessons, prayers,
and most especially my experience,
I can share to you how I beat depression.

Because you certainly can!

blackdog
“What have I got to do with you pal?”

BREED OF THE BLACK DOG:
Depression In Its Definition

Depression is a sickness.

It is a serious and deadly one.

It is  a major cause of
unproductivity, loneliness,
sadness, vices, insanity,
and even suicide.

It robs its victim’s peace of mind,
focus, need to sleep,
and ability to think properly.

It can be a vicious and destructive loop,
like a poisonous pit that entraps
and slowly kills its hapless victim.

It slowly destroys life,
until the victim loses vitality,
even the will to live.

It lasts from weeks, to months,
and even years.

But the good news is,
healing is just waiting for
you to take hold of it!

Taking Hold of Healing

Again, depression is a sickness.

It is an abnormal state of the human physiology and can be explained by the neurochemical imbalances in a person’s brain.

In my own personal case, I decided to take a proactive approach to cure my condition.

I studied, I researched, I read books, I conducted personal experiments.

I did what I saw that I could!

Until finally, after a week’s effort, I can finally say that I beat it.

From my experience, here are the steps that I took that greatly contributed to my healing:

  1. Physical Wellness
    • Physical exercise is a major key factor in my healing. It not only releases happy hormones in your brain, but it also keeps your body’s wellness in check. From my 100 pushups, I moved higher to include repetitions of whole body circuit training and doing 100+ pushups every day. It was physically taxing, but this was a strong investment towards the healing that I needed. But you don’t need to do the pushups, just get some serious workout.
    • Sleep routine is also one that I made sure to contribute to my physical wellness. Depression can be caused by irregular sleep patterns (which I am guilty of), thus I deliberately scheduled my time and my sleeping pattern to make sure that I only get the enough sleep my body needs for its optimal performance and healing.
  2. Identify Your Triggers
    • Writing down what contributed to my depression helped me alot. This is not only a step towards healing, but it is also a safety step to ensure that I’ll be resistant to it in the future. I thought that this is a step to learn. And it was.
      Write down all of the possible triggers, and learn how to deal with them.
  3. Appreciate Life
    • Deliberately desiring for a shift of mental perspective.
      I did what I could to experience new things, from eating new things, to going to places, to reading new books, just so I could gain a better perspective of life. Depression usually messes with a person’s point of perspective as it did with mine, but it should change. It is supposed to, for the sake of healing. And it can.
    • Learning to notice the small but nice things of life.
      I learned to realize that all the things here on Earth are really just bonus things. All the possessions, status, assets, enjoyment, and everything in this life are just bonus things that have been given by God. So they are worth to be appreciated. Physical life is temporary. We don’t deserve most, if not all, of the things that we currently have. It is all by God’s grace.

  4. Read the Bible Daily
    • “I have no right to be depressed when I’m not even reading the Bible.”
      That’s what I made sure to think everytime I wake up in the morning. Coping with the sickness, it has become very, very difficult to read the Bible. Every since the sickness got me, it takes supernatural strength of me to do it! But I pushed myself. I pushed myself. Because truly, I have no right to be depressed when I’m not even reading what the Creator of the Universe has to say to me on a daliy basis.
    • Worshipping and thanking God for everything.
      For the air.
      For the life.
      For His love and trust.
      For my family and my friends.
      For my computer.
      For my clothes.
      For my job.
      For everything.
      No matter how small or big.
      Even when I did not feel like being thankful.

      Because we should not live by feelings nor by what we think, but by faith.

    • Prayer.
      Again, it takes supernatural strength of me even to pray!
      But I knew that it is God’s will for me to be healed and for me to learn from this. So I prayed and declared healing everyday.
      I also thank the prayers of my family, friends, and my brothers and sisters in the Church.

      There is no use in focusing your mind on the sickness, instead focus your mind towards perfect healing.

  5. Taking Time
    • Healing is a gradual process.
      Don’t beat yourself for being sick just like what I did to myself, be it physical beating or mental beating. It takes time. I even asked for a rest period from my job. I withdrew temporarily from all of my commitments for me to gain the time that I needed. I don’t necessarily encourage this step to everyone because personalities greatly differ from one another. But just realize that it can take time, and that you can shorten that time if you decide to be deliberate.

I pray and desire the healing of everyone who is currently suffering from this condition.

If you are one of them, I want you to know that you are not alone.
I also hope that my experience and my new knowledge contributes to your accelerated healing.

Because there is healing in Jesus’ name.

black_dog_ecard_heel

What? The Struggling Christian?

Me: “What does it mean to be human?”

Me: “…”

Me:“What does it mean to have sufferings as a Christian? Are involuntary mental sufferings a sin: A sign of lack of faith? A sign of Christian immaturity?”
Me: “…”

Just a normal day with a very lively conversation with myself.


The start of my 100 day challenge was a real nightmare to me, but I was ready, atleast partially, to embrace it. Because the rewards are far greater than the risks that I was going to take.

Since then, a lot of things had been bugging my mind, and a lot of them still are unanswered. Its probably due to the neurochemical imbalances in my brain due to my attempt to shift my circadian rhythm to an 8-hour degree. But still, there are facts that remain true in my experience. And one of them is that I fell deeper to clinical depression.

Facing Depression As A Christian:
Battling Through Mental Sickness
and Social Misunderstanding

elusive
Credits to Adam Ford for this webcomic.

I want to stress out that the above illustration does not really depict my reality, but I have found that this feeling, mentality, and even treatment, is not uncommon among Christians.

I am by no means against the Church, pastors, leaders, or people. I am only here, expressing my experiences and my efforts, to educate, for us as a society, even as children of God, to become better in handling this issue.

I am a Christian, after all.

But I am currently under the struggle of depression.

“But how can you get depressed Pyl?”

“Isn’t Jesus your savior and your life?”

“Hasn’t He given you eternal salvation, forgiveness, and joy?”

“Can’t you just lift up all your burdens and cares to Him, and then just feel all happy?”

“You’re being weird, Pyl. You just need faith!”

“If you’re like this, there’s no difference between you and the unbelievers!”

*sigh*

I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus, that He gave His life to me and died on the cross for me, something which I totally do not deserve. An undeserving being that has been given perfect love by Love itself–that’s who I am.

But I still am currently stuck (but fighting) in the pit of clinical depression. Why? Because of humanity.

The Science Behind It:
Not Just A Feeling, Nor A Choice,
But A Mental Sickness

Doing my research, I have found out that depression as a Christian is not uncommon in this world: I am not alone in this struggle at least. Praise be to God for the Internet for I have found out several Christian testimonies. And with these new knowledge, I act to share the education to my fellow brothers and sisters (along with supported links in case you are that concerned, curious, or serious of a Christian minister):

  1. Depression is not a choice, nor is it a simple feeling. It is not simple sadness, simple lack of faith (Well, probably. But which human has perfection?), more so a choice. If I can just snap out of it, why wouldn’t I? Asking a depressed person to try not being depressed is tantamount to asking a person who’s been shot to try and stop his/her bleeding.
  2. The cause of depression is manifold, but genetics and neurochemical factors are one of the big ones.  Depression is not a simple emotional matter nor a simple state of mind, but it is an illness, with a physical basis. I am convinced that to truly fix something, we need to examine its roots to have a better understanding on how to fix it.
  3. Depression, just like any mental illness, is not a sin as the Church may sometimes point it out to be. A common notion exists that all disease and sickness could be traced to sin, most especially in the days of Jesus. The Savior of the world knew this was not true, and He proved it.

I am not going to explain the scientific details of my points further because the links will be kind enough to do it for me to you. So if you’d be willing enough, it won’t hurt you to go clicking those links. I would appreciate that in fact.

Christian Guilt:
In Pursuit Of Perfection

Being a Christian and a person who’s in constant pursuit of perfection, I had this strong feeling of guilt whenever I fall into the isolated pit of depression. And I can’t keep but ask the following:

“Am I not supposed to be joyful?”

“Isn’t the Church going to judge me for being this incapable?”

But asking myself those, I hit a solid wall and came to a better question.

“Weren’t there notable Christians in the history who fell into the same pit too?”

Didn’t David write most of the Psalms from this same pit?

Didn’t Paul console himself to rejoice from this same pit?

Didn’t even Jesus Himself also wept from this same pit?

Didn’t other Christian people like Charles Spurgeon, this guy, and this guy, also struggled to live in this same pit?

*sigh of relief*

Its comforting to know that I’m not the only one experiencing this.

On Thoughts Of Understanding:
The Sickness Under The Human Lens

In hopes to share what it feels like to be under depression, let me incline you to watch this video from World Health Organization.

Depression has his fancy of poking at me.

At people.

Even at Christians.

Just like any worldly illness, it has no excuses.

Because, humanity.

On The Path To Proactive Understanding:
Clenching My Mental Fists Through Grace

I am taking proactive action to learn to tame the black dog.

I have already identified my triggers, took a logical approach in examining it, throwing away almost all possible temporary crutches, and looking up to God’s grace in the process.

With no one to easily talk and confide to, I have found comfort in researching and studying the problem (like what I’m obviously doing right now), trying to use mobile apps such as MoodTools and 7CupsOfTea, working out more vigorously, praying, keeping close a journal, etc.

I am still in the middle of the process, but by the grace of God, I am digging my way out of the pit. At one point in my life or another, I’d have to examine this issue deep down anyway. All I could say, I couldn’t ask for a more better opportunity. I had to fix this at one point or another before its going to affect any other things. And in fact, I am actually learning more about myself, even humanity itself, in the process of writing this.

So I can’t say that depression has zero uses: It actually helps me to be seated in the seat of humility.

A Case of Christian Depression:
A Case of Humanity

Perhaps I needed this.

Perhaps I needed to realize that it is okay to be imperfect:

That I am still human.

That it is okay to be flawed.

That humanity is broken.

Because it is, that is, until the day of perfection.

But as it is now, it is in my hands, along with the constant grace of God, to learn to tame this.

And probably, just probably, I might even teach my black dog a few tricks.



Busting a Myth

“Its better to cheat than to repeat.” -Anonymous

This is a famous quote told from many of my schoolmates in my university.

cheating_rect
I grade that A for effort!

But I believe that to be a complete nonsense.

It is time for me to convince you to avoid cheating AT ALL COSTS.

It is time to bust a myth!

ghostbusting
Ghost busting! Not really. Just some culture busting!


Empty Papers and a Broken Heart

In college exams, I would submit near-empty papers on exams.

The reason? I haven’t studied well.

Another reason? I refuse to cheat.

Even if 99% of my classmates are cheating, I still refuse to cheat. Even if there is no teacher or proctor around in the room, I still refuse to cheat on quizzes and exams. The temptation is undeniably there especially when your classmates and friends are blatantly passing their notes and papers and the professor is nowhere to be found, but I still refuse to cheat. Some may call it foolishness. Some may call it pride. But I call it character development.

Don’t get me wrong, my heart gets undeniably broken in the process…

sad
With submitting my empty exam papers, comes my broken soul!

But from pain, I learn fast and hard. And from the things that I learn, I will share to you.

Of why cheating will kill me, my dreams, and probably the people that I love.



Why Cheating Kills Me

1. The more I cheat, The LESS I’ll learn

Saying that I love to learn would be a lie, because I am addicted to it.
I think that the greatest blessing and ability that any person can have is the ability to learn. Speaking from experience, it can do miraculous things. From a tone-deaf person to an ear-playing musician, the thought alone is still amazing to me. I have also seen it do wonders too. From people without arms being able to play the piano more skillfully than I can, to a limbless person who is able to swim obviously better than me.

I think learning is the greatest ability that we need in order for us, as a society and as a specie, to truly achieve our inmost dreams and goals.

The less a person learns, the less likely he/she is to succeed. That is what my mind holds, and it has proven me well up to this time.

I do not see school as the training ground to learn the important things and skills: I see it more as a training ground to develop one’s self.

2. The more a person cheats in school, the MORE chances that he’s going to cheat on professional things too.

Whether be it in business, in a job, friendship, romantic relationships, or anything. Basing on the principle of tolerance, the more we do a certain thing, the more we feel comfortable doing it.

Did you remember the first time you were trying to ride public transportation (jeepney) for the first time? It will be terrifying for the first time, but once you get the hang of it, it will be no more of a trouble to you. The same concept applies to almost everything. The more a person cheats in school, the more comfortable he becomes doing it, even as a professional.

And did you know? This country, Philippines, is said to be run by a majority, if not all, of professional cheaters (kurakot). Cheaters are said to be the root of corruption.

If we have cheating students, then are we not bound to have cheating professionals? Do you still wonder why this country is corrupted?

Cheaters are the least thing that this infant of a country needs.

3. The more I cheat, the LESS my character’s value will be

I hear some people say that talent is rare and that I am blessed to have been entrusted with it by the Creator. But I honestly think that character is more valuable and rare than talent. And I think that character can be trained and developed in many ways, whether it be to an easy, corrupted path, or to a challenging, but worthy path of integrity.

cheatingiswrong
Cheating is a choice. Its your call whether you want to achieve your true potential, or cheat it.

Our character is built from the easiest and trivial decisions that we make, to the hard and big ones.



Conclusions from a Developer:

codes
Nothing much, just touching some codes.

As a developer, I love to develop games, ideas, software, and some nerdy things.

But the one thing that I’ve been ultimately developing is my character.

Trying to have a good character is probably one of the least of the good things that I can contribute to this world and its history. And so can you!

So…have I convinced you enough to try to not to cheat? To avoid it at all costs? Let me know what you think on the comments section below.

This week was a pretty satisfying one, mainly because of four reasons:

  1. First Game Jam: Participated in a 48-hour international game jam for the first time.
  2. Game Designer Role: Focused on game design tasks (mechanics, story, levels, direction, etc) in a 3-person game dev team, along with minor coding.
  3. Puzzle Genre: Tried my hand at the puzzle genre as a game designer.
  4. Implicit Story-Telling: Managed to deliver a story implicitly through the game’s mechanics and levels.

Being a fan of the puzzle game masterpieces Braid and Portal, I have always wanted to try my hand at crafting puzzles in a video game. Always have I wondered how these designers developed such genius but fair puzzles, and just this weekend, I (as the game designer), together with my friends Krisha (as the programmer) and May Ann (as the artist), managed to develop a puzzle video game in two days.

Braid, a puzzle platformer masterpiece by Jonathan Braid.

The Concept:

The theme was “All Things TheMeatly: Life of a Game Developer“. We were expected to create a game that somehow encapsulates the life of a game developer: its struggles and its satisfactions. I came up with Imaginarius, a puzzle platformer game about the fate and struggles of a creative boy named Imaginarius.
My idea was to develop a game that implicitly tells the story of a young game developer and his burning passion and determination to excel in the field of game development, along with its struggles and the realities of life.
Imaginarius, being a creative boy, is torn between the demands of the reality of life and his creative calling.

To represent this, I came up with a core game mechanic of the player being able to switch and interact between two separate dimensions located at the same space: the real world and the imagination world.

Real World
Real World
Imagination World
Imagination World

Imaginarius will have to switch between the two worlds in order to progress, collect motivation, and proceed to his fate, and in order to do so, he has to overcome every struggles and the puzzles of both his life and his imagination that he has to solve.

The Development in Two Days:

Having only two days of development, we managed to accomplish a few things on the first day namely the following:

  • Game and level design mockup prototype
  • Character, background, and sound assets
  • Getting the engine and core mechanic working

Being the game designer in the group, I did mockup prototypes of the level design that I came up with and made our artist the group’s faithful earliest playtester.

A mockup prototype of Chapter 2 made in Photoshop
A mockup prototype of Chapter 2

On the second day, we finalized and finished what we can in the game:

  • Implementation of the levels to the engine
  • Polished the engine
  • Implementation of sound and art assets
  • Additional visual effects and animation
Our programmer dishing out some Actionscript codes for the engine
Krisha dishing out some Actionscript3 codes for the engine
Jpeg
May Ann creating the artful background designs and character animations.

Overall, What Went Well:

  • Finished the Game’s Scope. I made sure the game’s design was grounded on the reality that we have to develop the game within 2 days only.
  • Core Mechanic. I am satisfied with how the core mechanic (dimension switching) worked. I find it interesting what more things can be done with it.
  • Satisfyingly Paced Level Design. Although the game is short and the level design is a bit cramped with just five levels, I am satisfied with the pacing of the difficulty curve
  • Sound Design. I received good feedback with the direction of the sound design. The initial plan was to have a unique soundtrack for each level, but time did not permit me. Anyway, the direction I decided to take is satisfying.
  • Implicit Story-Telling. I planned to deliver the story without cutscenes and narration for a more streamlined and smooth game experience. And with level design, the core mechanic, and the deliberately designed graphics by our artist (wall scribbles), we did it.

What Didn’t Went Well:

  • Bugs: We didn’t have enough time to fix all of the bugs.
  • Lack of Proper Ending: I am somewhat dissatisfied of how the game ended. I think the delivery of the story of the game could be better.
  • Lack of Levels: Being new at the puzzle genre, I had some difficulty coming up with more fresh ideas for more levels.
  • Lack of Polish: Again, lack of time.
Jpeg
Team Imaginarius from left to right: Me (game designer), May Ann (artist), Krisha (programmer)

Overall, it was a very satisfying experience as my first game jam, first experience as a game designer in a team, and first time at the puzzle genre.

Why won’t you try our game and tell us what you think with we’ve made within 48 hours? Play the game on your browser in the link below:

Click Here to Play Imaginarius!