Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Self Esteem

If only I could see what others saw

a soup of negative emotions.
A peek into my brain.

Recently, I received two compliments from two women I admire and respect (my BFF and my taiji teacher), and I was really taken aback. For some background, I grew up believing that I was a toxic presence who had to earn my right to live on a daily basis. I believed that every day, I started with a negative number (never could ascertain what that number meant, exactly, but it wasn’t good), and I had to do good enough to get to zero and have no effect on the world around me. Then, I would go to sleep, and the counter would reset. Why? Well, that’s a story in and of itself.

Part of it was childhood trauma. Part of it was being Asian in a very white world. Part of it was family dysfunction, and part of it was culture expectations taken to the extreme. In Taiwanese culture, it was heavily frowned upon to say anything even remotely positive about yourself lest you look as if you were bragging. In the white cultural, I was ugly, weird, and a freak. I’m still a freak, but that’s beside the point. In my family, I was taught that my only worth was what I could do for others, and I had no intrinsic value in and of myself. Add to that a deep depression and an impressionable brain that twists everything into a negative, and it’s not surprising that I ended up firmly believing I had to earn my right to live.

In addition, I had all these elaborate rules as to what counted as a positive, and it was extremely hard for me to make it to neutral. I don’t think I ever did, actually, because I rigged the game in such a way that I was bound to fail. When I talk about it in the past tense, it’s clear to see how ridiculous it is, but at the time, it felt as real as the sun on my face. I was miserable because I was constantly failing, and I just wanted to die. I spent much of my childhood well into my thirties wishing I had the courage to kill myself.

I hated myself. I couldn’t find anything about myself that I liked except my hair and my intellect (though I saw the latter as a curse oftentimes). I couldn’t believe that anyone would like me for any reason when it was obvious that I was pure toxicity. I’m not saying it was reasonable or rational, but it governed my thinking for longer than I care to admit. I truly thought I was a worthless human being (while at the same time having an exaggerated sense of the impact I had on others around me, which is common with people who have low self-esteem), and I was miserable every day of my life.

Then, sometime in my thirties, I slowly started shedding this idea. I’m not sure how or why (probably because of taiji and therapy. I attribute most of the positives in my life to taiji with a shout-out to therapy), but a few years ago, I realized that I no longer had that mindset. I didn’t think I had to earn the right to live, but I wouldn’t say I had a healthy self-esteem, either. I still didn’t like myself, and I still didn’t like what I saw in the mirror (literally and figuratively), but at least I wasn’t actively thinking of ways I could passively allow myself to die.

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Prioritizing priorities

Before we start, the four advice columnists I regularly read were featured in a column in Buzzfeed about life as an internet columnist. I was legit excited to see all of them in one place, but I was sad that none of them were people of color (as far as I know). It was a good read, and I thought I’d share it with y’all.

Now. On to the post. I have several things I want to do in the new year. So many things. All the things. It’s the story of my life. I’m not satisfied with anything. Wait. That’s not completely true. I am satisfied with writing 2,000 words a day. I could do more, but it’s a good base. Other than that, though, I am dissatisfied in all areas of my life. I know I need a therapist, but I don’t have wherewithal to find a good one. My last one came recommended, but I don’t have anyone I can ask this time around. Also, I really appreciated my last therapist, but there were a few glaring issues. One was concerning race issues. She wasn’t cognizant of the nuances, or rather, she had a hard time with stepping outside the American way of thinking. It’s the same issue I have with advice columnists, come to think of it. Any time race comes up, I just cringe. Even if the columnists themselves do a decent job with their answer, the comment sections are a mess (at least the three I read. I don’t read the Dear Prudence comments because they are a hot mess and not moderated as far as I know). It’s simply different for someone from the dominant population, no matter how many friends, lovers, family they have who are minorities.

The problem with finding a therapist of color, however, is that I live in Minnesota. That’s the first problem. Secondly, finding an Asian therapist who is also amenable to queer issues makes it even harder. Let’s face it. I’m a freak in so many ways, finding a therapist who is empathetic to all the issues is a fool’s errand. I know some of this is self-defeatist talk, but it’s also the reality of being a weirdo. In addition, I have to have a therapist who is intelligent enough to call me on my bullshit. Because I know psych lingo and because I have brains, I can run rings around many therapists. I’ve done it in the past even when I knew it wasn’t to my benefit. My defenses are so ingrained, my impulse is to protect my neurosis, much to my detriment.

First up.

Publishing my book

Or rather, a book. Any book. Which book? I don’t know. Or rather, I have a few ideas, but I’m just not sure which one I want to push. I have a trilogy I started sixteen years ago, and I’ve finished the second book in the trilogy. The first book is on my fiction website right now, but I may pull it down if I focus on publishing it. I really like it because the protagonist is unlike any other I have written. She’s brash, confident, and gives no fuck about other people except in a very basic moral way of treating everyone with common decency. She cares about very few individual people, and even with them, it’s limited.

In the second book, she’s aged sixteen years, and while she’s older, she’s not always wiser. She has the same friends she did from the first book, and she relies on them when she gets in trouble. It was fascinating to me to write her sixteen years later, and I look forward to another sixteen years later when I write the third book.

The other option is the current trilogy I’m writing. Yes, I like trilogies, so sue me. I write mostly mysteries, and I think that the series drag on for too long. I’ve decided that seven is the maximum any series should go, but does anyone listen to me? No. My current trilogy is an urban fantasy mystery, and the protagonist is pretty similar to the protagonist of the other trilogy I mentioned. Pragmatic, not very emotional (though she has more of an excuse as she is not human), and not much of a people-person.


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The only thing I have to fear is fear itself

It’s time to admit it–I’m depressed. Not just the low-level depression that I always carry in my back pocket, but full-blow depressed. It’s not as bad as when I was chronically almost-catatonic depressed, but it flirts with that end of the spectrum more often than I care to admit. The one saving grace is that I know it’s outside of me, but that’s not always enough to stave off the demons.

It’s hard because good things are happening for my friends. That’s not the hard part. I am ecstatic for them as I love it when good things happen to people I love, especially when it’s the fruition of their diligence and perseverance. The hard part is looking at my own life and finding it empty in response. Or rather, stagnation. I feel as if I have nothing to show for my life, and that feeling only increases with every passing year. It especially poignant around this time because it’s the start of a new year, but also because two of my friends are experiencing really big changes.

One of them is going to affect me. My taiji teacher is taking over some of her teacher’s classes at her home studio, which means she’s ending one of her classes at the Northeast studio where I study. She’s adding another class in a few weeks at the Northeast studio at a different time, and it’s going to be for a shortened amount of time, but even with that, it would only be twice a week. I used to go three times a week before I got sick, and then I just stopped going to the Friday night class at her home studio. It was two hours long rather than an hour and a half, and I didn’t like that studio for a variety of reasons. In addition, the drive felt twice as long even though it was roughly the same time, and I had to deal with highway traffic jam traffic, which was not my favorite at all.

Here’s the thing. If I go to the Monday class at the home studio, it’s an hour earlier than the class at the Northeast studio had been. That’s not great, but I can deal with it because I’ve shifted my sleeping schedule to be earlier than it used to be by several hours. Although the past few days, it’s been creeping backwards again. Ugh. I try to be in bed by two, which is approximately four hours earlier than I used to go to sleep. The new class starts at 11:30 a.m., which would have been unfathomable two years ago, but is doable now. It lasts an hour and a half, and then there’s an hour-long sword and sabre class which my teacher is also teaching. I could finally learn the rest of the saber form!

Here’s the problem. Or rather, problems. One, two-and-a-half hours is much longer than I can do in one go. Two, I don’t do well with new people. I would know some of the people in the classes, but it’s still not enough to dampen the anxiety–especially as one of them is a woman I have an aspirational crush on*. Another is a woman who has no concept of boundaries and thinks we’re souls sisters. I am not good at erecting and maintaining boundaries, and my impulse is just to deflect and avoid until the end of time. If I have to interact with this woman, I’m going to have to tell her to back off at some point.

::sigh::


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Navel gazing for the new year

One of the worst things about my depression is how it makes everything at least twice as difficult. I am my own worst enemy, as I have noted time and time again. For those who have never experienced depression, it can be difficult to comprehend just how time consuming it is. A small example: when I have to go out, say to taiji, I first have to convince myself that I will go. Even if I want to go, the idea of driving fifteen minutes to get there is daunting. On my worst days, it seems impossible. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done it in my past. It doesn’t matter that I can do it in my sleep. Every fiber of my being does not want to do it ever again.

It used to be that way when my BFF and I used to go out dancing. Both of us suffer from depression and the overwhelming desire never to leave the house. We’d talk about how we both had to stop ourselves from cancelling, and we always had a blast when we went out. Not only was it difficult to make myself leave the house (my leaning towards inertia is high), but I would imagine everything that might possibly go wrong while I was out. Again, even for something as simple as going to taiji, I ruminate about will it drain me (not completely invalid when I’m sick), can I put up with talking to people for that long (an hour and a half. Not exactly earth shattering), etc. I go to the co-op afterwards, which brings with it a whole new set of worries. Even something as banal as talking to the cashier can tie me up in knots.

I mention this because there are two things I really want to focus on in 2019. As I’ve written before, I am not big on resolutions, but I do like to set goals for the upcoming year. The difference to me is that goals have steps with concrete actions that seem achievable. By the way, I hate ‘actionable steps’. I know what it means in context (something you can actually do as opposed to a theory or an idea), but to me, actionable means something that you take legal action on. It’s a personal pet peeve, but it sticks in my craw every time I read it.

All of that is explanation as to why I tend to have the same goals every year, even if I have concrete steps I can take to actually meet the goals. I  have to overcome my inertia to even get to the point of doing something about it. Then, I have to deal with the negative self-talk. No matter what I’m doing, there’s a voice in the back of my head saying, “What’s the point? Why bother? Nobody cares.” Some days, it’s better than others, but it’s always there. It’s happening as I write this post. Most of the time, I can ignore it enough to get what I need done if it’s part of my routine. But, if it’s something new, then it’s much harder. Or if it involves driving. Which is one of my least-favorite activities in life.


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More things to ponder in the new year

As the year draws to a close, I’ve become more pensive than I usually am. Which is pretty pensive to begin with. This has been a rough year for me emotionally, and I have no  idea why. It started roughly six months ago, and it’s only gotten worse as the months have passed. I know what the answer is. Therapy. The thought of it makes me sigh and recoil inside myself. Not because of therapy itself. I am a big proponent of therapy, and it is one of the main reasons I’m still alive. My last therapist helped me with some really serious and dark shit, and I’m eternally grateful to her. So why my resistance to finding a new therapist? There are several reasons. One, I’ve been in and out of therapy since I was fourteen. That’s thirty years (quit my last therapist a few years ago), and I’m tired of it. Two, finding a therapist is hard. Before my last therapist (and she was a recommendation), most of my other therapist were crap for various reasons. The biggest was that I could run rings around them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I need someone who is smart and savvy enough not to let me get away with shit. The fact that I have a psych background and am VERY good at speaking the jargon makes this a tall order.

In addition, I thought I’d get over it. Or rather, I could wait it out. Since I pulled out of my last chronic crippling depressive episode (lasting decades), I’ve had low-level depression with short periods of more intense depression. The latter have always been relatively short (a few weeks) before returning to my norm of low-key depressed. This time, it’s been months, and it’s only getting worse. I’m still able to recognize that it’s not a part of me and that it’s irrational, but it doesn’t help. My brain tells me that I might as well be dead, and even though it’s manageable most of the time, there are flashes of ‘do it now’ that are harder to  ignore.

I know the depression is bad because things that are hard for me to do in the best of times (set up an appointment to have my tire looked at) are now nearly impossible. On Saturday, I had to talk myself into going to taiji. I wanted to go, but I really did not want to leave the house and drive somewhere. To be fair to me, I had been dealing with a migraine, and was still shaky from it. It’s been years since I’ve had a full-blown migraine because I can usually catch it in time, and I had forgotten how debilitating it can be. If I catch it at the very first signs of a migraine and pop a couple Excedrin Migraine pills, it subsides into a low-key throbbing headache for a couple of hours. This time, however, I was already at the gritting-my-teeth phase when I noticed it. I popped two Excedrin Migraine pills, but it didn’t do a damn thing this time.

You’d think a headache would only cause your head to hurt. Nope. My whole body was drained, and I spent two full days just lying on the couch with the lights off, curtains drawn, and moving as little as possible. I managed to do my work, but it was slow-going. I could watch videos as long as the sound was very low, but I consider myself fortunate. I know that many people are immobilized by a migraine; I could at least move.


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Ripping off the mask

don't look behind the mask.
A perfect facade.

Sometimes, I feel as if I have a split personality. Not in the clinical definition of the word, but in the vernacular. There’s the me at home. I’m in sweats and a t-shirt, my hair in a sloppy bun. I sit/lie on the couch most of the day as I madly type away on my computer, and it’s only recently that I’ve been forcing myself to get up roughly every other hour or so to do my stretches. If you could see a picture of my brain waves, it would be a flat-line with only dips and no spikes.

I know it’s the depression talking, but I don’t see any reason to live. I’m not being dramatic. I don’t actually want to die (I never did. Not even when I was at my most suicidal–which I’m not); I just don’t see any reason to be alive. Nor do I think that many people would actually miss me if I were gone. Let me be clear. I am not going to kill myself, but I can’t motivate myself to do much other than meander through my so-called life.

I’m mostly numb these days. I know I need to see a therapist, but I don’t want to go through the bother of finding a new one. It’s been four or five years since my last therapist and I mutually terminated, and it took me forever to find her. I am not an easy client, and I can fully acknowledge that. I know too much of the lingo, and I’m very good at manipulation of people. I’m not proud of it, but I have to acknowledge it. I try to not do it because it makes me feel slimy, and I’ve watched my father charm the pants off people (especially women) throughout my life.

Another thing I made clear to my last psychologist is that I need someone to call me on my shit. I get into my head and the weeds way too much, and I can run in circles around most people when I choose to. I can use the psych lingo to justify anything or to explain anything, and to anyone with a lesser perception, what I’m saying makes perfect sense. i told my therapist I would try to do this to her, and I needed her to see through it and put her foot down. She was more than capable of doing so, but I had therapists previous to her who simply weren’t.

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Depression infusion

a mirror to my soul.
Unrelenting gloom.

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month because why not? I’m already up to 32,000 words, so I don’t think I’m going to have much trouble meeting the 50,000 words goal. I never do as writing a plethora of words is not an issue for me. I mused about looking more into the business side of things, which I have yet to do. Or rather, the marketing side as it’s much different in this digital age. Authors have to push their brand (themselves and their books) on social media in a way that makes me uncomfortable. I know it’s the way of the world now, but I have a very Taiwanese horror of promoting myself. I’ve talked with my mother about it, and she feels the same way.

Speaking of my mother, watching her twist herself into knots over my father has been disheartening, depressing, and enlightening. She’s using his illness as a reason to let her weaknesses run rampant. Let me be blunt. She is a control freak (I come by it honestly), and she is a constant worrier (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree). The problem is, anyone would be worried in her position. My father just went through a ten-hour surgery to deal with three fused vertebra. Plus, we believe he’s in early onset dementia. That would be a lot to deal with for any spouse. However, my mother goes past worry into straight up obsession. Whenever we talk, it’s all about him. She may ask me how I’m doing, but once I say, she veers immediately back to her own health for a minute or him.

It’s not conducive worry, either. Conducive worry leads you to make a reasonable plan in order to deal with the situation. Then, once you make the plan, you put it out of your head and the worries are mostly allayed. I know it’s unrealistic to expect her to be completely blasé about it, but it’s all she can talk about. She’ll say something like, “I can’t leave him alone” followed by, “What if he falls when I’m not there?” and she’s off on a tangent about the fear of him falling for ten minutes. She sounds like the voices in my head when they go off the rails.

Normally, I try to listen and make soothing noises in her general direction. However, the last time I talked to her, I tried to inject some reason into her brain. I know, I know, but I had to give it a shot. After she was panicky for ten minutes about something or the other concerning the minutia of my father’s condition, I told her as gently as I could that constantly worrying about it didn’t help. I said she as a therapist knew that. She admitted that she it was her control issues at play, but she quickly glided over it.

I’ve said it before, but watching her interact with my father, or rather, watching her obsess over my father is the main reason I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship. Why? Because I see too much of myself in her. I know how easily I would slip into that mindset, and I see how hard it is to get out. She’s convinced herself that she *has* to worry about my father to this extent, and while, as I said, it’s reasonable for her to have a lot of worry, she’s pushing it to excess. She’s allowing her own mental health issues to drive the bus, and she has an excuse/explanation any time I bring it up.

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Dropping the mike

I’m tired. I’m so fucking exhausted. Still sick. Still got the chills alternating with still got the heat. Still grumpy as fuck. Still not playing MHW. I’m riding at about 40%, and I’m just done.

Funny note. I’ve been going down that Hot Ones rabbit hole. It’s a web series in which Sean Evans interviews a guest while eating ten wings with increasing heat. The first three or four ain’t nothing. They eat and Sean asks questions, and the guest answers. The middle four are increasingly hot, and most guests are at least breaking a sweat by this point. Then, comes bottle number 8 (used to be 9, I think). It’s called Da Bomb, and it makes me smile every time I see it because I know this sauce.

Backstory. My brother and I both love spicy foods. We have since the beginning of time, which is rather strange given our background. I don’t know how it started, but we began a tradition of giving each other hot sauce for Christmas with one giving it to the other one year, then using the same box, the other reciprocates the next year. It caused much merriment, especially for the other members of the family. The point, of course, was to try to find something hotter than the year before. This happened for several years in a row, and then came the year I found Da Bomb, considered to be the hottest hot sauce at the time.

“Consume one drop at a time with extreme caution” is on the bottle, and it ain’t no joke. I ordered two bottles so I could keep one for myself. I made a huge batch of chili and put four or five drops of Da Bomb in it. I’m talking HUGE batch. I tasted it and yeah, no. I had to throw it away. When I gave the other bottle to my brother, I warned him about it. I said to take the label seriously.  A few days later, he called me and said he thought we could end the contest right there. (WITH ME WINNING, LET’S NOTE.)

Side note: Several years later, the Carolina Reaper was created, and my brother sent me an email with a link. He only wrote, “We back on?” We didn’t restart the contest, though, and my tolerance for spice has decreased over the years. As I get older, I find that I don’t enjoy not feeling my face after eating any longer. In addition, I like flavorful rather than just pure spice.


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Spending time in a brown study

I’m mostly over the sickness right now, but I overdid it in taiji yesterday, so I’m exhausted. I could barely keep my eyes open last night, and I kept dozing off while writing and doing other things. I finally gave in and went to actual bed around two in the morning after falling asleep and waking up every half an hour or so for several hours. I’ve been doing the stretches my teacher taught me for my back and leg, and they seem like they are helping. However, my knees are aching, which means I’m overextending on my postures. This was a problem I’ve had for several years, and while I’m much better at not doing it, I still slip every now and again. I think being sick and adding these new stretches has made me concentrate less on my form, much to my knees’ detriment.

Anyway. I mused a while back about my life and what I need to do differently. Looking back on it, I’m doing a bit better with health. The thing I’ve realized that while I’m really good at quitting things cold turkey (in general. Potato chips are one exception), it takes me a long time to get to that point of actually making the move, and I can only cut out so much without feeling seriously deprived. It’s better to add something to my diet rather than constantly take away things. Right now, I’m concentrating on eating an apple a day (which, as we all know, keeps the doctor away). Before that, I added an orange a day (or two clementines/mandarins) for achy joints purposes. My theory is that if I add things to my diet, I’ll naturally want to eat less of other things. I’ll let you know how it works.

I mentioned caffeine in the previous post. Currently, I drink one cup of caffeinated tea every few days, so I’m mostly caffeine-free. It was so hard in the beginning, but now, I’m mostly used to it. I’m over the initial ‘can’t keep my eyes open’ stage, and I rarely miss the jolt. I occasionally have a pop when I go out to eat, and it now tastes weird. It’s not the same as gluten and dairy, both which still tastes delicious–god, I miss cheese so much. I still eat gluten-free pasta and bread, and I’m back in love with white rice, but there is no good substitute for cheese that I’ve found. Damn it.

My brother is urging me to get an Instant Pot, and I’ve been resistant to it mainly because it’s new and seems like it’d have a steep learning curve, though everything I’ve heard about it has said it’s easy. But, easy for people who cook already or easy for people who don’t cook? Plus, batch cooking is not something that appeals to me. Yes, I know I can freeze it and warm up each portion a day, but that’s a lot of work, yo. Also, read the description to this bad boy. It’s full of techno-babble and shit that doesn’t interest me. My brother laughed and said it’s geared towards guys, and I said, “Yeah. I’m not a guy.”

Side note: My brother likes to run his advertising ideas by me. I have a hard time giving him useful advice because what works on most people actively turns me off. Anything relentlessly cheerful and positive is boring to me, and anybody who hypes their product too much makes me suspicious. My brother was leaning towards using words that are old-timey and suggest solidness like ‘trusty’ or ‘trusted’. To me, if you’re those things, you don’t have to say it. I’m not just going to take you at your word, either. You have to prove you’re trustworthy–you can’t just say it.


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It’s all a veneer

where's my cuppa?
I’m not going anywhere.

From the outside, it looks as if there’s nothing wrong with my life. I have friends I love and who love me. I don’t have to worry about money on a daily basis, and I am writing every day–meeting the goals I’ve set for myself. I am devoted to my cat, Shadow, and he to me–he’s making biscuits on my legs (the comforter over it) as we speak. I have things I’m passionate about, and I get to set my own schedule. For some people, this life would be damn near idyllic. But, as with many things, it’s what’s not being said that matters more than what is stated. Even though I have friends I love and who love me, I feel lonely sometimes. In addition, I get too much in my own head and start telling myself things I know aren’t true.

It’s the ugly head of depression, and it’s rearing itself up more frequently and higher than before. If I had to guess why, I would say it’s because I’m sick. Physical and emotional health are linked, and the longer the physical bullshit continues, the worse my mental health gets. It’s partly because I feel it’s a weakness on my part that I’m sick for so long. Rationally, I know it’s not true, but that little voice in my head is like, “You’re weak. You’re terrible.” Or, conversely, “It’s all in your head.”

Which it most definitely is not.

Yesterday, I was so exhausted, I skipped taiji. My sleep is shitty in general as I’ve documented before, but it’s been really bad in the past few days. I’ve woken up feeling exhausted with the chills, and I would struggle through the day, going to bed feeling exhausted and having hot flashes. Rinse, lather, and repeat. Last night, I was feeling perkier, but then I started coughing so hard, my voice turned raspy. This is one of the stages of sickness I get when I do get sick–hacking cough. I still have it today, but I’m feeling MUCH better in general. More energy, and not as if I’m death warmed over. I’ll take that trade-off any day of the week.

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