Fun Fact: What’s in a (Filipino) Name?

Photo credit: JCT(Loves)Streisand* on / CC BY-ND

I was named after American singer/actress, Barbra Streisand., who was actually born with the conventional spelling of her first name: B-A-R-B-A-R-A, and then dropped the second “a” to be unique. Hence, B-A-R-B-R-A.

My mom named me after her because she was a huge fan; me, not so much. And I’m certainly not a fan of my name because I have to spell it out for everybody. Even then, they don’t always spell it correctly, which is really frustrating.

Up until high school, I went by Barbra, that is, Bar-BRA, not Bar-BA-ra. To simplify the matter of how my name is spelled/pronounced, I began introducing myself as “Barb.”

Then there’s my sort-of middle name. It’s A-N-N, without the “e” at the end. My dad was a huge Beach Boys fan, and I guess my parents compromised and named me Barbra Ann, after the Beach Boys hit, “Barbara Ann.” If you’re of a certain age, then surely you know the song. If not, well, here it is:

In Filipino culture, babies’ middle names are their mothers’ maiden names. So when I was born, I was Barbra Ann Lingat Natividad. My first name is actually Barbra Ann, like Mary Ann. But no one ever called me that because . . . well, I don’t know why. So when I became a naturalized citizen, I dropped “Lingat” and made “Ann” my official middle name.

My family, on the other hand, calls me “Chic” or “Chic-Chic” (pronounced “chick,’ not, “sheek.”) In Filipino families, it’s very common to have a nickname. My paternal grandfather called me his little chickadee, and that’s how I became “Chic-Chic.” Most of my family members call me by the shortened version — “Chic” — while my siblings and younger cousins call me “Ate (pronounced AH-teh) Chic-Chic.” In Filipino culture, older brothers/sisters/cousins have an honorific as a sign of respect. For girls, it’s Ate; for boys, it’s Kuya.

The first time I was married, I changed my last name to my husband’s. Whenever I’d show up for an appointment or something, people would look at me with mild surprise because they were expecting a white woman. So when we divorced, I took my maiden name back. When I married my current husband, I kept my name because: 1) I didn’t want to lose my cultural identity; and 2) for professional reasons — I had already published poetry under the name “Barb Natividad.” Is your head spinning yet? Lol!

Do you have cultural norms surrounding your name? Do you know how you got the name you have? If you’re a single/married woman, would/did you change or keep your last name?

via Daily Prompt: Simplify

Pride, Envy & Career Expectations

Daily Prompt: Undulate via The Daily Post

dentist-toothbrush-dental-care-hygiene-dentistry-1My cousin recently graduated from dental school. She worked hard to get to where she is, and I’m proud of her. But if I’m honest, I admit that my emotions undulate from pride to envy, the way a water bed lifts your body one moment, then sets its down the next. I’m especially jealous because her parents are incredibly proud (as they should be), which I read on a Facebook status posted by her mom.

In Filipino culture — and most Asian cultures — making your parents proud, particularly career-wise, is an important expectation. When I watch Chopped, a competitive cooking show, and there’s an Asian-American contestant, they almost always say that they’re competing to make their parents proud and to prove that they can be successful in their chosen profession. Some of the competitors admit that their parents expected more from them than “just” being a chef; this basically means following a career route that may not be of your choosing.

I was supposed to be a doctor. My parents, my mom in particular, expected this of me. I wanted to be a musician, but when I decided to quit my job at age 26, and return to school full-time to become a veterinarian, she was hopeful. Instead, I got a terminal masters degree (the highest degree you can earn in my particular field), which gave me the qualifications to be a creative writing professor. My students couldn’t call me “Dr. Natividad,” but “Professor” in front of my name still had a nice ring to it. My mom was proud. It gave her bragging rights.

Then, I had the Breakdown and couldn’t work at all — I often have trouble just leaving my house alone. How would I even get to a job? I feel unsuccessful, especially compared to my siblings.

IMG_0586I texted my dad this morning to ask him if he’s proud of me, which you can read on the screenshot. His answer is an enthusiastic yes. This gives me some validation, and I believe it to an extent. But what’s really fu@ked up is that I still want to make my mom proud, and she’s been dead for over a year! Her expectations became my own.

Have you ever felt envious of a sibling or other relative?

Did/Do your parents have expectations about your career?

Photo on Visual hunt

Psychiatrist #1 of 6

black-couch-furniture-living-roomI’ve had 6 total psychiatrists in my life, and I’d like to describe them. As such, this is going to be a 3-parter, posted today and the next 2 Sundays. (I can bundle Psychiatrist #s 3-6 in one post.)

When I was a senior in high school, an authority figure “recommended” that my parents seek psychiatric help for me because of behavioral problems (I skipped classes, smoked pot in and out of school, drank, fought with my parents, stayed out past curfew — teenage shenanigans). I can’t remember the exact circumstances of how this “suggestion” came about, but I do know that it definitely wasn’t my parents’ idea because of the stigma attached to psychiatric help in the Filipino community.

I don’t know where my mom found this psychiatrist, but I thought he was a total jerk. This was in 1987, and back then, psychiatrists didn’t just prescribe medication. They provided talk therapy, as well. During our first session, he did most of the talking; I remember feeling sullen. A few minutes later, I got off the couch and walked out of the office before the session ended. I don’t remember what he said that made me do that, but I remember feeling angry. Angry that I had to be there. Angry at my parents. Angry at him.

My mom was in the waiting room, and he asked the both of us to enter his office, where he suggested that instead of individual sessions, we attend a group family therapy that he led at 8:00 AM on Saturdays. Unfortunately, my mom agreed! 8:00 AM on a Saturday? No way! I was in high school, remember; I never got up before 10:00 on the weekends. But I had no choice.

The first time we went, both my parents came. Psychiatrist #1 started asking my dad provocative, introspective questions, which I can’t post (even if I remembered them) for fear of violating some kind of confidentiality law. My dad didn’t answer them, grew angry, and left the room. He never went back.

My mom dragged me there for a few months, until I had fulfilled the “requirement,” and I think we continued going for a short time after. Psychiatrist #1 would go around the room and ask each family how their week went. I would just mutter some things. My mom confirmed and/or added to my answers.

Sounds harmless enough, but it was horrifying. I have a specific example, but again I hesitate to describe it because it was about another patient and his/her parents. Let’s just say this was when tough love was really popular. After my mom and I heard this family describe the incident, of which the doctor approved, we looked at each other and never went back.

Photo via

Living In a Prison of Expectations

536081022_af8ae080fd_zI loved and worshipped my paternal grandfather, who died when I was 6. He was a doctor. I wanted to be a doctor. My parents expected me to be a doctor, especially since my dad didn’t take that route. They expected me to obey them, to get the best grades, to be the best at everything I did.

Then, I didn’t want to be a doctor. I wanted to play in the percussion section of an orchestra. At the first college I went to, my mom told me to major in Music Business, so I did. When I realized that I had to take accounting and business classes, I dropped out. I felt like she tricked me. I took the year off, and took private lessons from a percussion instructor. My parents were okay with this, as long as I took at least one class at a 2-year college. I did: typing.

While growing up, my mom always told me about her friends’ kids who got college scholarships. I had to be like them. That would please my parents. At the end of my gap year, I auditioned as a Music Performance major for the percussion section at a Houston university and earned a partial scholarship. Even though it wasn’t a full scholarship, my parents were satisfied.

I never registered for classes sophomore year because I was too busy partying. I no longer wanted to be an orchestra percussionist. I wanted to be a rock star! I had played the drums in various bands since I was 15, so why not? My parents weren’t happy, but for the first time in my life, I didn’t care (I was too busy partying, remember?).

After moving back to Chicago, I got a day job as an admin assistant. But at night, I worked in bars as a cocktail waitress, coatcheck girl, and go-go dancer. I was also the drummer for a band that had regular gigs at local venues. We were never headliners — we always opened for other bands, but it was still awesome. I loved it!

In 1995, I was supposed to replace the drummer for a well-known (at the time) indie band for the second leg of their tour with a more famous rock star. I couldn’t believe it! My dream was coming true! I was going to go on tour! A few months later, I was told that the band’s management decided that a “personnel change” (their words) so early in their career wouldn’t be good for them.

I had memorized all of their songs! They continually played in my head. I couldn’t delete them from my mind, so I lived in hell for a while. I decided to retire as a drummer to concentrate on treating my mental illness, which definitely didn’t satisfy my parents.

I’ve lived my entire life trying to meet my parents’ expectations. I still do, except that their expectations have become my own. And, if you read my last post, I am definitely not “good enough.” A quote from this article in dated September 25, 2017, “Asian American Women Are Killing Themselves” sums it up: “I felt like I disappointed them because I didn’t follow their traditional . . . expectations of me.” But I feel like I’ve disappointed myself.

I still have expectations. I may not be able to hold a job, but I expect that getting out of bed and showering every morning shouldn’t be such huge tasks, but they can be. I should be able to drive and do more household chores, but it gets overwhelming. I hate living in the prison of my expectations, but I’m fighting to escape.

Photo credit: Felipe Morin via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Throwback Thursday #8: ECT #1

Throwback Thursdays feature relevant posts (of about 20) from a private, online journal I kept last fall. They chronicle my time during a depressive episode, which led to another round of  ECT. You’ll read firsthand what that was like for me. The entries are slightly edited for clarity, and with regard to anonymity.


NOTE: The ECT machine pictured here is not identical to the one used at ECT Hospital, but its appearance is close. Also, I describe how the actual procedure is done from start to finish in my previous post. And, as stated on my About page, I don’t advocate for or against using ECT. I’m just sharing my experience.

ECT #1 – October 31, 2016

Well, #1 this time around, anyway. I think I was more anxious than the anxiety anyone would feel who was about to have ECT, but I was especially anxious today because I didn’t want This One Nurse to prepare me. She’s slow: last time, the nurse anesthetist had to check several times if I had an IV yet so they could give me my pre-meds (a blood pressure med because my BP historically increases during the procedure, and something else). I didn’t have one because This One Nurse was taking her time with her first patient and chit-chatting with him to boot (he was another “regular”). So by the time she got to me, she didn’t even get to enter into the computer the meds I currently take and the last time I took them, which is something the anesthesia people need to know. I vowed that next time, I would go to a different stall, instead of one of the last two, which are closest to the rooms where they do the ECT, and in which she worked the last two times I was there.

When we arrived, those were the only stalls left, though. There were also many more inpatients getting treated than usual, so there was a lot of activity at that end of the hall. I was also afraid that I’d get This One Nurse. So I started crying — like, sobbing — which I’ve never done there. ECT Doctor 2, who was on rotation, came to see why. Then ECT Nurse 1, who I trust, entered my stall, which meant This One Nurse wasn’t going to do my prep. So I just told them the reason I was upset was because it was too loud.

Apparently, they now have a nurse whose only duty, it seems, is to put the electrodes on my head, which the doctor usually does. When they were about to start, she asked me in Spanish if I was ok (she’s white). I was confused as to why she was talking to me in Spanish. She must have thought I’m Hispanic because of my last name, which I thought was presumptuous. I told her — in English — that I’m Filipino-American, which flustered her haha!

When I awoke, I told ECT Nurse 1 how I feel about This One Nurse, and she said she’d do what she can to make sure I don’t get her in the future. And just in case, I won’t go into one of the last two stalls even if it means I don’t get treated first or second. I don’t really know which stalls This One Nurse will be assigned to, but I’m not taking chances. I like her as a person, but she isn’t thorough. No, thank you.

When we got home, I didn’t crash on the couch as usual, which I thought was strange. I usually spend most of the day sleeping off the anesthesia. Not today, although I did nap for about an hour and woke up just a little while ago.

It’s too early to tell if the ECT is working. Hopefully it will be by the end of the week.

Photo credit: niftyniall via Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA