The truth is… “Kate, Anthony and I…” (A Story about Mental Health Awareness and Hope)

mental health awareness and hope writer author blogger true stories real depression anxiety recovery

Location: Lung Hin, Marco Polo Ortigas | Photography by: Veejay Jimenez | Make-up by: Czari Pizarro | Hair by: Tony Segun

The truth is…Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain and I might have had something in common…

Blogcast Introduction (PLAY ME!): 

Thinking and writing about this has been utterly difficult as doubts and fears bombard my reasons for sharing this story. But knowing that my similarity with Kate and Anthony happens to an estimated 300 million others more (according to WHO or World Health Organization), I couldn’t help but to take courage and do my part in raising consciousness, reducing the stigma, and reaching out to people who are struggling with such battles, and to those who are around others that may be needing the right care.

Imagine that one in four people around us are actually going through, went through or will go through a mental or neurological challenge. It could be one of your family members, friends or a stranger that you just met. The question is, “Are we prepared when it happens to us or to others?”

Depression is a common mental disorder and one of the main causes of
disability worldwide. Globally, an estimated 300 million people are affected by depression.” –WHO (World Health Organization)

With this question in mind, I hope to provide more awareness and hope by sharing three stories that were inspired by a new acquaintance, a friend from my teenage years and a response that awakened me to the reality of depression.

As I do my best in writing my thoughts, my only request is for you to stick around and stay present as you give a portion of your time for this, because:

Regardless of your background, age or status,

This is one of the truths that I heard from Mr. Tony Cloud, a Certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor from National Council for Behavioral Health in Washinton, D.C., U.S.A., as I attended EPCALM’s event “Understanding Grief: Mental Health First Aid” last May 31.

So first, I want to genuinely ask you a question,

HOW ARE YOU?

No, really HOW ARE YOU DOING?

(Please make sure to pause and take time to honestly reflect on how you’ve been doing these days, your overall feeling, health, thought-life, relationships, and work.)

PAUSE and REFLECT

Now that you’ve paused and reflected on this question, how does it feel to really look thoughtfully on how you are really doing? (I provided a Contact Form below for those of you who would like to share how you’re really doing.)

Don’t we all sometimes wish that someone would really ask us this question like they mean it? Like someone would really STAY and LISTEN, and not just ask as a way to greet us, hastily leave and walk away?

Do you guys know that the origin of this phrase’s meaning is to really inquire about a person’s health and well-being (the condition of their physical and mental health) and how they’re really feeling and doing? More than an utterance, this question is asked to communicate that someone IS INTERESTED with how you’re doing in life and is AUTHENTICALLY CONCERNED about you and what you have to share.

How many Kates and Anthonys are in need of this today? Sadly, we all sometimes fail (myself included). Instead of exhibiting compassion, we even express comments that aren’t that necessary. I’m not sure if it’s just a habit (not a good one for sure) but often times we would comment more about how others physically look (e.g. the weight that they lost or gained) and if they’re currently struggling, even suggest how they should cope and that’s as if all struggles are bad and should NOT be okay (again, I was guilty about this too).

This was what a new acquaintance experienced when she lost her dad many years ago. And this is my STORY #1.

1

“I hope someone told me that it’s okay to grieve.”

Many of us grew up with the mind set that any sign of weakness from crying, having struggles and asking for help will either make us a burden to others or will make us less of a person. Most often than not, we’d like to exhibit a posture of strength, independence and security (even when we’re already dying inside). And growing up, I acquired some of this kind of mentality too. I would control my crying and I would limit sharing about my struggles.

A similar experience was recounted to us by a new acquaintance. And this happened many years ago when she lost her dad. A loved one prescribed an instruction that she CANNOT grieve for her dad.

Though we can never judge the intention of that loved one, I can never imagine the kind of despair and untreated hole that that must have left her from not being able to process that bereavement.

I have yet to hear about my new acquaintance’s complete story, and the depth and effects of not being able to grieve for her dad. But I was pleased to hear that she’s now going through some healing sessions that are helping her deal with it. I also appreciate how she was able to bravely and generously impart a glimpse of her story to us, and a phrase that really echoed to me that evening, “I hope someone told me that it’s okay to grieve.”

Let’s take time to ponder on those words,


“I  HOPE  SOMEONE  TOLD  ME  THAT  IT’S  OKAY TO  GRIEVE.”


Is there anything that you still have to process in your life? Were you able to grieved from a loss of a child, a parent, a spouse, a friend or a loved one? How about your separation from a partner, from a family member or a friend? Have you grieved from the latest doctor’s report about your health (or a loved one’s)? What about the struggles that you have or had with your finances, work, identity, or any other major and unforeseen transitions in your life?

What is Mental Health?
Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
– World Health Organization

Many of us go through or will go through a number of bereavements in many forms in our lifetime. As Thesaurus defines it, bereavement has something to do with a loss, deprivation, dispossession, privation; grief, sorrow, sadness, suffering, hurt or trauma.

Bereavement is also a reminder about life’s impermanence and frailty.


“Bereavement process is our natural response to broken attachment bonds.”

– Edward John Bowlby (1969)

British Psychologist, Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst, Founder of Attachment Theory


Source: psychologytoday.com

HOW DO YOU RESPOND?

Bereavement is an inescapable part of life. It will surely happen to us at any point or season in our lives. It results to grief where we experience a roller coaster kind of emotional and physical distress from anxiety to guilt, to remorse and anger, to denial and hopelessness, to extreme fatigue and burst of wailings or lamentations, from pain, suffering and anguish, and from discouragement to sudden blues.

[What is going on during bereavement? Why is it so hard? More about this on STORY #3]

These are just some of the ways that grief manifests. And although these are considered as common during the process of bereavement and the progression of our healing, which will also depend on a lot of factors (how a person copes, the kind of loss that he had, its depth or significance in his life, the manner that it happened, etc.), when grief is prolonged (or when it’s unprocessed) and is already disabling the person, this could develop into a mental health challenge like depression.

How do we recognize if we, or someone we know is already going through it?

UNDERSTANDING DEPRESSION

Source: Mental Health First Aid U.S.A.

What is Depression?

The word depression is used in many different ways. People feel sad or blue when bad things happen.

However, everyday “blues” or sadness is not a depressive disorder.

We all have a short-term depressed mood, but we cope and soon recover without treatment.

A major depressive disorder lasts for at least two weeks and affects a person’s ability to work, to carry out usual daily activities and to have satisfying personal relationships.

Mood disorders affect nearly 1 of 10 U.S. adults in a given year.

The most common is major depressive disorder, which affects 6.8 percent of adults in any one year.

The median age of onset is 32 years, meaning that half the people who will have an episode will have had their first episode by this age.

Depression is more common in females than in males.

It often recurs. Once a person has had an occurrence of depression, they are prone to subsequent episodes.

Two things to look for:

1. DISABLING IMPACT UPON THE INDIVIDUAL

Is there a disruption to their life, their ability to work and carry out usual daily activities, and to maintain good relationships with family and friends? Is there a loss of interest in the usual things that they enjoy like their hobbies?

2. DURATION OF TWO WEEKS OR MORE

Are they experiencing such disruption and disabilities for a very long period of time?

 

A person who is clinically depressed would have at least one of these two symptoms, nearly every day, for at least two weeks: 

An unusually sad mood

Loss of enjoyment and interest in activities that used to be enjoyable

 

The person also might have these symptoms:

Lack of energy or tiredness

Feeling worthless or feeling guilty though not really at fault

Thinking often about death or wishing to be dead

Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

Moving more slowly or sometimes becoming agitated and unable to settle

Having sleeping difficulties or sometimes sleeping too much

Loss of interest in food or sometimes eating too much

Changes in eating habits may lead either loss of weight or weight gain

*Not every person who is depressed has all these symptoms.

If you’re experiencing grief or even depression right now, you’re not alone.

Even during the ancient times, King David (among others), who’s even described as a man after God’s own heart experienced grief and depression on several occasions.

Here’s one of David’s psalms during one of his adversities:

“Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble;

my eye wastes away with grief.

Yes, my soul and my body!

For my life is spent with grief,

And my years with sighing;

My strength fails because of my iniquity,

and my bones waste away.”

– Psalm 31:9-10

But what if we’re having difficulties in moving forward, in healing and in recovering? And we just want for our sufferings to end?

Please read through STORY #2.

* If you think you’re one of those people who needs help in coping or you know someone who needs it, check the helplines that I’ve added at the bottom of this blog.

 

2

“I hope that someone showed me that they care, that they have time for me, even just to listen.”

 

I was thinking about the first few times when I was confronted with the reality of depression and suicide. And I remember that when I was in high school, I had a few friends who tried to take their own life by harming themselves through pills and other means.

And one of those closest encounters was when I was 16 years old. I didn’t even notice anything different or strange with my friend. That’s why I was so shocked when I learned about her suicide attempt a day before our graduation.

A day before graduating, we visited “Zie” in the hospital where I saw a tube of liquid charcoal and another tube that’s filled with an orange substance being drained from her system, through her nose. Thank God that my friend survived!

As I remembered this close encounter with suicide, I decided to contact my friend and ask her some questions about that experience. (By the way, before doing this I made sure that she was okay and is fully recovered from it.) And with her permission, I’m sharing our conversation here with the mutual intent that her story could bring hope and awareness to others.

JM: “Zie, what made you decide to take your life when we were sixteen? How did you feel during that period in your life?”

Zie: “During that time I felt that nobody cares for me. Both of my parents were busy, my sister was away overseas, and both of my brothers didn’t have time for me at all.

I can still remember that my father was also happily drinking with his friends during that time. I was grateful that I had friends surrounding me. At least I was able to talk to someone in school. But I felt like it still wasn’t enough.”

JM: “What caused it and did you plan about it (committing suicide)?”

Zie: “It was a sudden emotional breakdown. I felt like nobody cared. It wasn’t planned at all because I was also scared before I actually did it.”

JM: “With what you’ve experienced, how do you think people can help others who are going through something like depression and other mental health challenges?”

Zie:I think it all starts with a good communication with the family. Sometimes we get too focused with work, what to bring home for our loved ones or how much money we should earn for them, but we totally forget how important communication is.

Having a simple conversation with your family will already make a big difference in making them feel loved.  

Next, have friends that you can trust. Having the right friends could be a source of strength, encouragement and laughter too! It’s also a nice feeling whenever we have friends who are always available to listen to us even when we keep on repeating the same stories.”

JM: “Anything you’d like to add which you think can help both those who are going through a major challenge or pain in their lives, and those around them too?”

Zie:I guess the best advice that I can give is try to get to know the other person. Having our ‘first impression’ doesn’t always apply to all. We may not know how a person is feeling if we’ll only look on the shallow things about them.

I want to quote two lines from the film ‘Wonder’, a film in 2017 that really spoke to my heart:

‘…the student, whose quiet strength has carried up the most hearts.’

And what Auggie said,

Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle. And if you really wanna see what people are, all you have to do is look.’

Also, I think that acceptance is really important. Pray and acknowledge the person and what he’s going through.

Through that experience I also learned that no matter how tough life is, I know that God gave me another chance in life, and to appreciate it. I’m thankful for having a second chance in life.”

Sometimes we can easily recognize the signs and symptoms of those who are going through a mental health challenge but other times, just like with my friend Zie, it could be a difficult one to notice.

I think from this conversation, I was also reminded about the importance and value of having an effective COMMUNICATION especially at our homes.

And as I encourage us to take time, ask, and listen to others, I also think that it’s equally important for us to take courage and seek help when we know that we’re already going through something that’s too heavy for us to carry alone.

(Thank you so much Zie for encouraging us with your story and recovery.)

DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

Source: Mental Health First Aid U.S.A.

Depression and Anxiety usually co-mingle.

What are its causes?

1. GENETIC PREDISPOSITION

– DNA of the individual, family history

2. NEUROBIO-CHEMISTRY

– brain, biology, chemistry in our bodies, nutrition, function of the brain

“Brain function drives behavior”

3. ENVIRONMENTAL STRESS

-environmental stress factors

(people respond differently to different environments and situations)

e.g.

Source: healthyplace.com

Chronic stressors, such as economic hardship or social struggles

Low quality of life, due to poverty or a feeling of dissatisfaction with one’s life

Trauma

Exposure to toxins, especially at certain developmental stages

Family and/or relationships problems

Child abuse

Lifestyle considerations like substance use and risk-taking

(When I think about Kate Spade who was reported to have had anxiety and depression and was under medication for years, and Anthony Bordain who struggled with addiction and mental health challenges, I also think about their families. It’s never easy to see a loved one suffer and for them to end their anguish through suicide. But amidst this dark season in their lives, just like Zie, I hope that they’d be able to be restored and healed in time.)


REACHING OUT GOES BOTH WAYS. 


If you’re going through depression and/ or anxiety, or other mental health challenges, know that there’s hope and someone cares for you.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;

He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

–Psalm 34:18

Why do I know this? It’s because I’ve been there too. STORY #3.

3

“I’m grateful that someone told me that it’s okay to be or to feel depressed.”

When I was in my early 20’s I remember reading the book of Psalms with awe. I was so impressed with how David was so candid in writing his vulnerabilities, raw human experiences and emotions, and total dependence on the Lord. And during that time I prayed how I also wanted to write like David.

Now, I know that I really need to be extra cautious in what I pray for! (-Insert face with tears of joy emoji here. -)

I’m still so far from being a writer like David. But just like David, it was through a train of bereavements when I learned what it’s like to be real with my vulnerabilities, the beauty of having to share raw human experiences and emotions, and what total dependency on the Lord looks like. And just like David, expressing these in words helped me in my coping, mourning and healing.

“WHY ARE YOU DEPRESSED, O MY SOUL?”

– My take on writing like David 😉

I love sincere and intimate talks over coffee, gelato or just about anything delicious! And one of those never-to-be-forgotten conversations was with one of my friends and mentors who’s now based in the province.

As we were sharing about life, I told her how I felt, like I was in the edge of being depressed. She looked at me in the eye with her kind eyes and with a gentle and kinder, non-judgmental voice (with matching placing one of her hands over mine), “It’s okay to say that you were depressed.”

I paused. I pondered over her words. And suddenly I was awakened from my denial. Then I responded with, “Yes, I think I was depressed!”

If you’re also going through the same thing, it’s okay. Really, it’s okay NOT to be okay. If you’d like to understand why it is okay, continue to read along.


“Unfortunately, the modern church has largely lost the concept of redemptive suffering.

Society conditions us to regard suffering in any form as illegal, and we spend millions of dollars annually trying to anesthetize it medically.

 As a result, we too often teach that all pain is of the devil and therefore must be avoided or cast out, but this teaching is culturally conditioned, rather than biblically sound. It fails to represent the whole counsel of God, either in Scripture or in the experience of the saints and martyrs throughout history. 

Some forms of suffering come from the hand of God to bring about brokenness in His servants, to put the flesh to death and to create rested dependence on Him, humility and wisdom. This kind of suffering must be embraced, cherished and accepted in the faith that it leads to a great glory.”

 – Renewal for the Wounded Warrior

(A Burntout Survival Guide for Believers)

   Loren Sandford forword by James W. Goll


(Thankful to a friend for sending this to me just recently. : )

WHAT REALLY HAPPENS DURING BEREAVEMENT? WHY IS IT SO HARD?

Have you listened to the introduction that I included for this blogcast (click PLAY on the top of this article)? As mentioned, I’m not an expert on mental health. And even when I went through different kinds of grief and depression, I’m still not in the position to give an equation on how one should process or get recovered from any bereavement.

But what I can do is to share details from my study and research, personal experiences, and to provide the closest illustration/s that I can find so more people can understand themselves and others too.

With this, I need your participation with this simple exercise.

Please follow the instructions below BEFORE YOU PLAY THE VIDEO succeeding it:

  1. I’d like you to imagine yourself as the dad in this video.
  2. Next, think about the closest person that you have in your life right now.

   (Think about the person who’s always been constant in your life. Someone who really understands you, someone who makes you feel safe and loved no matter what, someone that you had a lot of memories with. E.g. a parent, a friend, a sibling, a partner, et.al.)

  1. Now that you have a name and a face in mind, imagine that person being the boy in this video.

After following the above-mentioned instructions, please PLAY THE VIDEO below:

How do you feel?

How did you feel after watching the video?

Didn’t you just felt the pain, the anguish, the guilt, the regret and all other blend of emotions?

Imagine this happening in real life. The only difference is that you’ll never know when and how it will happen. This is the reality about life. Our mortality (and our loved ones) is inescapable.

This is how someone who lost a person close to them, someone who’s fighting for her life to live, someone who’s taking care of a sick loved one, someone who has lost his job feels.

Amidst of all the suffering, uncertainties amongst other things, they need to be able to learn to live and function without that attachment or bond, to survive without the presence of that person, to restructure their life and plans while adjusting, to deal with the hole and emptiness while transitioning, and to move forward apart from that security.

And that person’s recovery and healing will depend on how the person copes, the kind of loss that he had, its depth or significance in his life, the manner that he lost it, and what that loss meant to his security and identity.

That’s why bereavement is hard.

But healing is NOT impossible.


BEREAVEMENT ⟶ PROCESS GRIEF ⟶ RECOVERY | HEALING


(Easier writing than applying this for sure.)

grief healing bereavement

Illustration by: Mari Andrew

I’ve never been this aware of my bereavements until I started thinking, writing and studying for this blog. I was trying to reflect on how I ended as depressed.

Then I realized that I was going through a series of bereavements over the last 8 years. It all started when my mom was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, then the loss of the first baby of my brother and sister-in-law the following year, to grieving for mom while I was in Israel (while surviving the second missile attack during the time of her passing), followed by the death of our family dog of 11 years, to dealing with a childhood trauma, and to having a physically challenging year.

No wonder I was depressed.

With all these changes, transitions and adjustments over the years, I needed to learn how to live with all the loss, to recover in between the series of grief, and to heal even from the past.

WHAT CAN OUR BEREAVEMENTS PRODUCE?

Besides how bereavement reminds us about life’s fragility and how fleeting it is, processing our loss could be a way for us to get to know ourselves better, to take advantage and be more purposeful with our remaining time here, and to gain and produce something supernatural from and through our pain.

My personal journey with grief brought me to some crazy and exhausting cycles of heartbreak and pain, from all those fits of wailing and weeping, bouts of frustrations, discouragements, hopelessness, and to all those sighing and yearning in between. Enduring these while still having to function and to taking care of the people around me was pure grace.

Through bereavement, I was able to let go of some of the heaviest and unnecessary baggage from my past, from any remaining un-forgiveness, bitterness, guilt, anger, fears, regrets, disappointments and frustrations, anxiety and paralyzing thoughts, and to the desire to be in control with the things that I can never be in control of. These are the same things that could have kept me from moving forward.

But these took me some time and humility to realize. As I was going through depression, I knew I needed to talk to someone. And I’m thankful that I was able to connect to another friend and mentor who walked me through the process, which really freed me from the past, liberated me in order for me to live in the present, and awakened me to my value, place and identity in Christ.

Through bereavement and depression, God turned around the “bad” to something good. I was able to rediscover myself, identify what’s keeping me from moving forward, have better relationships by loving others more, to choosing my battles, and to living wisely (this includes living a healthier lifestyle and a more purposeful life).

WHAT HELPED ME?

Getting through the process of bereavement, grief, depression or any other mental health challenge is never easy. But hope and recovery is possible just like with my new acquaintance, my friend Zie and myself.

And here are the things that personally helped me with my healing:

  1. ACCEPTANCE | ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The changes and healing in my life began when I started accepting and acknowledging what I was going through. And this led me to admit that I need help.

  1. COMMUNITY | COMMUNICATION

It takes a lot of humility to seek for help. Sharing our struggles to the right people is important. I personally sought and prayed for mentors during this time, and I stayed connected to the right people whom I know who can speak life, truth, and encouragement in my life.

Communicating what you’re going through to the people around you especially your family is also important. Let them know the things that you’re trying to process in your season and let them know how they can help.

   (If you think you need some professional help, please check the helplines below.)


“BE QUICK TO CARE AND SLOW TO JUDGE.”

– Tony Cloud

Certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor


* I also just started a small community on Facebook. Feel free to add yourself at Episodes of Grace: From Mourning to Healing.

  1. FAITH | FOUNDATION

During times of uncertainties and brokenness, when we’re shaken the most, and we discover our limits and fragility, we need Someone stable, infinite and powerful to carry us through. And I can never think of anything or anyone else in this passing place who’s more stable, infinite and powerful than God.

He kept me sane amidst all the craziness in this life!

It’s true that when bereavements happen to us, we can never be the same. But we can always have the choice to be better people amidst any loss and brokenness. And these take an unshakeable foundation to help you believe and have hope that it is indeed possible to recover.

Bereavements can change us. Change is scary but with Christ, every pain can turn into a gain.

This verse also helped me a lot:

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

And this one was shared by a friend, Earl of LEAD OUT during one of her talks about Mental Health:


3 DAILY CHOICES FOR A HEALTHY MIND:

  1. I must feed my mind with truth and
  2. All the time (Matthew 4:4)
  3. I must free my mind from destructive thoughts (Romans 8:5, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

I hope this blog (or novel — I know, it’s a VERY long one!) helped you to understand more about mental health, encouraged you on how you can reach out to others more, and have given you hope that healing is possible.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you think this is something that can help others, click the share button below or on the left side of this blog.

Tell me what you think and write something on the Contact Form, which I included below. And if you wish to get updates from me please subscribe to my website.

Join me again next time as I share something that inspired me to live a healthier, happier and better lifestyle. (I promise, this one’s going to be shorter… haha!)

Stay grateful and hopeful!

◊ HELPLINES ◊ 

Need someone to talk to?

700 CLUB ASIA

(Prayer and Counseling Services via Chat and Skype)

(02) 737 0700

0917 4065001

1.800.1.888.8700 (Toll-free)

Skype: the700clubasia

CCF – GLORIOUS HOPE

glorioushope.org.ph

(02) 866 9985

0917 521 1527

0939 924 4596

(Contact them for their next scheduled program and other details)

EMMAUS ROAD COUNSELING CENTER

(02) 632 1354 to 56

(02) 635 0078 to 80

0917 532 7794

NATASHA GOULBOURN FOUNDATION (NGF)

(02) 804-HOPE (4673)

0917 558 HOPE (4673)

2919 (Toll-free for Globe and TM subscribers)

IN TOUCH COMMUNITY SERVICES

(Relationships problems, addiction, abuse, other emotional problems)

(02) 893 7603

0917 800 1123 (Globe)

0922 893 8944 (Sun)

Email: crisisline@i-manila.com.ph

LIVING FREE FOUNDATION

(Addiction, individual and marital counseling)

0917 322 7087

Email: livingfreefoundation@gmail.com

MOOD HARMONY

(Mood disorder support group)

(02) 844 29 41

UGAT FOUNDATION

(Psycho-spiritual counseling)

(02) 426 5992 locals 4872 or 4873

If you’re in the U.S.:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

 

Send me a message | comment here:

 

Blogcast Music: Emotions” by Simon More

Music provided by Free Music for Vlogs 

Contact the artist: Instagram

What people are saying about this blog:


“It’s captivating… I kept telling myself to stop reading and begin preparing lunch, but your stories pulled me to continue on. Thanks for reminding me the power behind the question “How are you?”. A question that should not be used flippantly, but asked with the sincere intention to really know. The two Iconic figure that inspired this blog to come to life allowed us to begin questioning .. which I believe is a good direction towards awareness. Thanks for putting your research together. Most of all, I am so proud of you for having the courage to share innermost thoughts . God bless and inspire you to write like David! Love yah” – JYC


“Thank you for sharing my story to raise awareness.” – Zie


“I wanted to tell you I love what you wrote. I can so relate to it, thanks for bringing out the words in my head and heart. You are a brilliant writer.” – Anna V.


“I’m super blessed by your article. Very encouraging and it’s also a nice balance with the facts on depression.” – Geca

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