Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Self Esteem

Staring into the Abyss

The other day, I was talking with a classmate about depression. I was saying how the thing I fear most is when I get hit with depression (serious depression, rather than the low-key depression I normally suffer) is that I’ll be plunged back into the darkness and not be able to come out of it again. Intellectually, I know it’s just a temporary state, but because I lived in it for twenty-plus years, it’s easy to feel as if it’s back for good. It used to be my normal state, and it’s weird to feel it envelope me again like a well-worn coat. It’s shabby, and it has holes in the elbow, but it still fits. Not well, and it doesn’t block out the elements as it used to, but it’s still my old coat.

I’ve stretched that metaphor as far as it can go. The point is, it feels familiar, but still strange.¬† I can’t believe I used to feel this way all the time; I don’t know how I survived it. I think it’s because I didn’t know any differently at the time. I’ve been depressed for as long as I can remember, and I assumed I would feel that way forever. When the fog started lifting, it was so incremental, I didn’t realize it until I was well out of the darkness. Going back to it, even briefly at ten times less the intensity, it shakes me.

It’s fucking horrible. I’ve tried to explain what it feels like before, and I’ve never come up with an adequate description. Everything flattens out so that when I’m looking at something, there’s a flat affect. Not that it loses color–that only happens when I have a migraine. It’s more like my brain refuses to register there’s color. I become detached from my body or rather, from my brain. There’s a slight wall between me and everything/everybody else, and I feel emotionally cold.

I used to have nightmares all the time, some of them narrated. It was strange to watch myself do something in my dream and to hear a dispassionate male voice say, “She is now walking into the room” and the like as if it were a movie. It often felt as if I were watching a movie, and I was semi-conscious it was a dream, but not enough to lucidly dream. To me, it symbolized how unconnected I felt from myself, and it was a manifestation of my mind/body split.

When I was in college, I started having dissociative states in which I would disappear for up to an hour at a time. I don’t mean physically, but mentally. I’d be talking to someone, and then I’d ‘come to’ and realize I’d lost a chunk of time. Apparently, the other person never noticed, which makes me extremely nervous to remember. Then, it started happening during classes. I’d be ‘out’ for the whole hour, my notes would be filled with gibberish, but nobody seemed to notice. Those were both bad enough, but then I started doing it while I was driving. I’d be on the freeway, then I’d ‘wake up’ several minutes later not knowing how I got there.


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Getting My Freak On

I’ve mentioned my love for my stories over at Captain Awkward and Ask A Manager. One reason I’m addicted is because I don’t interact with the world at large very much, and it’s a way to gauge how weird I am against two communities that are more similar than not to my personal leanings. CA is way more left-leaning than is AAM, but both are more progressive than the country in general. In addition, both are filled with passionate, thoughtful commenters (and have strict commenting rules), and even when I don’t agree with someone, I can usually come away with something to think about.

What do I mean about the weirdness? I’ll give you an example. There was a letter at AAM from someone who played a ‘prank’ of locking her (AAM uses the generic she/her unless otherwise noted in the letter) coworker on a balcony right before an important meeting in which the coworker was presenting something. He was let out (phrasing hers. It appears she didn’t let him out), and he waited until after the meeting to go ballistic on her, pulling her away from a client and telling her he would kill her if she ever did that again. The OP (original poster/letter writer) took great pains to say that they had a jokey relationship before this, and asked what she should do now.

My immediate reaction was that it was a malicious thing to do, especially before a presentation, and that she should take her blaming tone and shove it. She was framing the letter as if she had done this silly little thing and look at how he overreacted!!!!! Now, him grabbing her and threatening her is not cool. At all. I am saying that upfront. However, what she called a prank is not cool, either. She locked him on the balcony, not knowing if he might have issues with being out in the open for a long period of times, heights, or not having an escape. Two, she did it right before an important meeting in which he had a presentation. He might have been thinking he would miss the meeting, and that would have been an unpleasant feeling as well. Three, apparently, she wasn’t the one who let him in.

I was really disturbed by how she minimized her own behavior only to focus on his. There were plenty of people on my side, but there were also plenty of people saying the prank was probably innocent, and the coworker really overreacted. I’m not defending his behavior because there is no place for grabbing/threatening, but I can at least see where that behavior is coming from. I have much less sympathy for the OP because who the hell pulls a childish ‘prank’ like that? Apparently, many people, according to the comments.

An interesting difference between the two commentariats is that there are several ‘out’ polyamorous people at CA, and it definitely puts a different spin on relationship-related woes. The commentariat at AAM is very harsh against people who have affairs–both the partner who is married and the other person. Over at CA, the common belief is that it’s the person who’s married who has the contract with their partner, and they are responsible for keeping it. The other person isn’t obligated to honor the marriage and as people are not possessions, should not be the target of anger/ire. At AAM, there is a sizable portion of the commentariat who believe that if you help someone cheat on their partner, you are a terrible person, period. They liken it to being the driver of a getaway car for a bank robber–yeah, you didn’t rob the bank, but you’re helping the person who did.


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Girls on Film

Today’s post is supposed to be on fun (following my self-set schedule), but it’s not going to be on something fun so much on…well, let me just explain in my own, sweet, meandering time. I want to start vlogging because it’s what all the hip, happening kids do these days. Even though I’m an old, aching crankster who wants you to get off her lawn, I want to give it a whirl. Why? There are several reasons. One, many people don’t want to read longform posts these days. I understand because people are busy, not as interested in reading, blah, blah, blah. It makes me sad, but I acknowledge the reality. Personally, I don’t want to watch a video of someone talking about something and would rather just read it, but I think I’m in the dwindling minority these days. Two, I used to be a performer back in the day. I was with Theater Mu, and then I started doing solo performance pieces. It was hard work, but it was so damn rewarding. I would feel as if I was going to throw up ahead of time, but then I’d be riding high afterwards (followed by a crash, damn it). The several minutes after a performance was exhilarating, and the applause was just the icing on the cake.

I am a writer. I have said before that it’s in my blood, but I’d give it up in a heartbeat if I could be on stage. I wouldn’t want to give it up, obviously, but if I had to make the choice between writing and performing, it would be the latter every time.* I loved being in front of a crowd, and I fed off the energy of a live performance. Don’t get me wrong. I love writing, obviously, and I can do it copiously day after day (though I will admit that some days, it’s hard to crank¬† 1000+ words a day), but the interactivity of it is limited. I write my posts, then I publish them and send them off into the ethers. I may get a response; I may not, but there’s no immediate reaction to it. On the other hand, when I perform, the stakes are so much higher. I’ve forgotten my lines while performing, and it’s the worst feeling in the world. I’ve delivered flawless performances and have received standing ovations, and it’s the ultimate high. Seriously. Noting has felt as good as the applause I’ve gotten for my performances. Not sex. Not getting good grades in school. Not finishing the Sword Form (though, to be fair, that’s more a subdued and sustained feeling of bonhomie). Not eating a whole pint of peanut butter fudge ice cream (back in the days when I ate dairy).

I remember one performance in a workshop where I received the best reward when I finished my monologue–silence. Oh, I know everyone’s about the standing O, but there’s nothing like that moment of stunned silence at the end of a performance which indicates that your audience is so absorbed with what they’re experiencing, it takes them several seconds to transition back into reality. I remember another for a dyke event in which I stripped down to my panties and received a thundering standing ovation at the end of the piece. I remember another that gave me so much trouble as I was writing it–it was a performance from my heritage culture (Taiwanese) for children, and the kids loved it. It was worth every gut-wrenching moment of writing it just to have that experience.


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Losing the Veneer

I was at a wonderful Mediterranean buffet with Ian a few days ago for lunch, and I was trying to pick something out from between my teeth. TMI and kinda gross, I know, but it’s pertinent to the rest of the post. I felt something give in my mouth, and it was the top of a tooth! It didn’t hurt at all, though, so I knew I hadn’t broken a tooth. Believe me. I’ve had that happen, and the pain is agonizing and intense. This time–nothing. I cautiously touched my tongue to the space it came from, and it felt smooth. When I saw it, it had a metal plate in place, and I figured out with the help of Google (which may or may not be correct, naturally) that I had broken off the cap to the crown and not the crown itself. It’s just the top of the tooth to make it look like an actual tooth, but it’s not the crown itself. I have it wrapped in a napkin, and my dental office was closed on Friday when it happened, so I’m hoping after I mea culpa my dental office for not being in for years, they’ll be able to easily replace it. I read articles about how you should temporarily glue on the crown, but it was mostly to prevent from infection and if you’re feeling pain. As I have a metal plate covering the actual tooth and don’t feel pain at all, I decided just to wait until I see the dentist. Why mess with it if it’s not giving me any trouble or pain? In the meantime, I’m careful to clean it and I’m trying not to eat on that side of my mouth, but it’s not been a problem thus far. It’s weird to pass my tongue over it and there’s no top to the tooth, but it’s nothing more than an anomaly.

The reason I mention this is because I feel this way about my life right now. Putting aside with difficulty all the shit that is going on in this country right now (not to mention the world), my own personal life is going OK. I’m in a better place emotionally and mentally than I have been in a long time if ever, and despite the bouts of depression I get from time to time, it’s nothing like I used to feel on a regular basis. It disappears in a relatively short amount of time, but I still gingerly probe my emotions regularly to see if I’m feeling the pain. Most of the time the answer is no, but once in a while, it’s yes. This is where the analogy breaks down, so I’m going to abandon it for the rest of this post.


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Sorry (Not Sorry)

OT: (And, yes, I’m starting a post going off topic) I forget that yesterday was one of my two days I take off from social media and just started tweeting about the restaurant I made for Ian in Cook, Serve, Delicious 2. It’s Boudreau’s Bed & Breakfast, and it only serves foods that begin with the letter ‘B’ (I cheated by including the burger, even though it’s official name is ‘Hamburger’). Biscuits & Gravy, Brisket Slices, Brussels Sprouts (side), and two kinds of Beer. After I went to may taiji class, I realized it was Saturday, and I stopped looking at social media for the rest of the day. I felt bad, but it reminded me how easy it is for me to slip back into my old habits when I’m not paying attention. The restaurant looks really sweet, though:

Boudreau's Bed & Breakfast
Come for the biscuits & gravy, stay for the beer!

Here is the menu from the restaurant:

cooked and served, too.
Deeeelicious!

Anyway, I just wanted to note that, but that’s not what the actual post is about

I’ve realized lately that while I’m used to having nontraditional opinions about subjects, I’ve taken to couching them in apologetic terms. I’m not sorry in the least for having these opinions, but I don’t necessarily want to argue about them all the time, either. The problem is, if something is steeped in Americana tradition, any notion to the contrary can seem radical, no matter how softly couched. I read an article by a woman who was child-free about her decision to make her home a no-kids zone, and I read the comments out of curiosity. I thought the article was snarky and a tad rude, but she said straight out that she was having a hard time writing it in a way that would be acceptable to parents. The comments were brutal, and I had to laugh, albeit ruefully, how entitled they all sounded.

Look, I’m not saying you have to be friends with people who don’t want your children in their houses, but realize that your kids aren’t the center of other people’s lives the way they are the center of yours. But, as Bill Hicks said so famously, “They [your children] are not special….Oh, I know *you* think they’re special….I’m just trying to tell you, they’re not.”

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Memories Are Sometimes Best Left Remembered

I’m on a mission to winnow out my mounds of books, and I started weeding through them today. It can be a strange thing to look at a bunch of books that I labeled my favorites and realize that I’ve moved past many of them. There are others that I still think of fondly, but many of them I put in the give away pile. The unofficial ratio seems to be one book kept for every eight or nine I’m giving away. One bad thing about books is that they were made with cheap material back in the day, so they can get moldy or grimy and feel tacky.

Anyway, I was going through a box of books, and I came across a few cards from an ex. I scanned them, and they were filled with billing and cooing, and I felt…nothing. That’s not exactly true. I felt a bit of regret, disgust, and shame. The regret wasn’t that we had broken up, though, but that we had hooked up in the first place. We were both messed up, and we were friends first. We shouldn’t have gotten together, but there’s nothing I can do about that now. In addition, because I was with him, there was a path not taken that I deeply regret. I was musing about it on Twitter last night because, well, sit back and grab a cold beverage. This is going to be unwieldy because that’s the way my brain works.

I was waxing poetic about how Mike Ness from Social Distortion would have terrified the 22-year old me, but that’s he’s insanely hot. It reminded me of a bartender I had met while I lived in the East Bay who looked a lot like Mike Ness with tats and nipple piercings to match. He was one of the hottest guys I’d ever met in my life. We hit it off, and he asked me out. Unfortunately, I was dating the aforementioned ex, and while we were technically open*, we had to talk about it before doing it. I turned the Mike Ness lookalike down with deep regrets, and I was tweeting about how one of my biggest regrets was that I never fucked him. The bartender, I mean. Mike Ness, too, but that was never an option. We probably wouldn’t have lasted, but my god, he was so fucking hot.


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The More Things Change

In cleaning up the house, I saw a picture of me from twenty-five years ago. I picked it up and stared at it as if it were an artifact from a different lifetime. I was in the middle of my first anorexic stage, and I had a perm and was wearing makeup. I searched my face for anything recognizable, and there it was in my trademark smirk. I don’t smile easily, and I always feel fakey when I do, but when I looked at the picture, it wasn’t terrible. Only I could see the pain behind the smile because I was pretty good at masking it while I was out and about.

I can’t see much of the current me in the earlier incantation, but it’s more the mental and emotional changes. Even though it wasn’t readily apparent in the photo, I was at the depth of my depression, and I struggled to get out of bed every day. Those were the days when I exercised seven hours a day in order to support my ED, but then I didn’t do anything else. Once I stopped exercising so much, I spent a lot of time on the couch, wallowing in my depression.

It’s hard to overstate how much I loathed myself at the time. My head was constantly filled with negative voices, the main one whom I dubbed The Dictator because he was always telling me what to do, and calling me horrible names in the meantime. I would never call other people the things I’ve called myself. It’s not even just the epithets. I was so cruel to myself. Telling myself I was worthless and not fit to live. I really thought I was toxic and the world would be better off without me. I called myself ugly and fat and lazy, and it was a constant narrative in my brain.

I believed that every day I was adding more poison to the world, and any good deed I did just moved me one step closer to neutral. But, because the negatives were more numerous than the positives, I was losing ground every day I lived. I have no idea why that belief solidified in my brain, but it was firmly intact by the time I was twelve or thirteen.


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Not in This Lifetime

I saw my last therapist for close to fifteen years. Around the ten-year mark, I said something about regretting that I was still working on some of the same issues that I had been when I first started seeing her. She said something to the effect that if I didn’t work on them then, I would be saying the the same thing in ten more years, except it’d be, “I can’t believe I’ve been working twenty years on this,” instead of ten.

I balked at what she was saying at the time (that’s just how I roll. My first instinct is always to counter what’s being said to me. I’m working on it), and I thought it was trite (which it was, but many tropes have at least a grain of truth), but she’s right. It’s fine to be sad that I haven’t fixed x, y, or z, but unless I work on it, it still won’t get fixed, and I’ll just have wasted more years. Take for example learning a new language. Chinese would be really useful for me to learn, but I would feel weird if I learned it before I learn Taiwanese which is my family’s native language. It would be harder for me to learn it, and I haven’t. I also haven’t learned Chinese. If I had started with that, I would know it by now.

Sigh.

In the past week, I’ve been thinking of my mortality. I’m probably past the half point of my life, and it’s all downhill from here. I jest, but not really. I have a thing that I hate the second half of things because it means the end is nearer than the beginning, and I’m feeling that way about my life right now. There are many things that are probably not going to happen in this lifetime, some for better and some for worse. Let’s start with some of the better ones.

  1. Have kids. WHEW!!! Enough said. Ha! Just kidding. About enough said, not about putting kids on this list. I can’t help but be smug when I remember an argument with a friend twenty years ago about having kids. There were three of us, all in our mid-to-late twenties, and one friend was insisting that I’d be the first of us to have kids. I don’t know why she thought that, but it really pissed the fuck out of me. I’ve known since I was twenty that I didn’t want kids. It’s the only constant in my life. To have someone who didn’t even know me that well tell me that I was going to have kids, aw, hell no. At the time, I thought to myself that I would send her postcard after she had a kid to gloat about it. She has a kid now and so does my other friend (my BFF), and me? Gloriously child-free.
  2. Get married. This is another that I assumed would just happen because isn’t it what every girl dreams of? Not me. I never made my Barbies get married–just have sex. I didn’t dream of my wedding because it seemed more like a nightmare to me. When I got older, I had political problems with it as well. The sexist origins of marriage, the taking of the dude’s last name, etc. Add to that the fact that marriage equality was but a dream when I was a young bi lady, and it was a big fat nope for me. Still, there was a tiny corner of my mind that wanted it for…reasons! I couldn’t articulate why, but I began to see it was to normalize my freak-ass self. I was such a weirdo and had no place in polite society. I had shed vestiges of an acceptable persona all throughout my twenties. I gave up religion, the idea of being a mother, and I had a hard time letting go of walking down the aisle in wedded bliss. What changed my mind? Over time, I realized I didn’t want to be with someone 24/7. I like living alone. I don’t like compromise. I like sleeping by myself. Well, maybe with my cat, but dassit. Any time I thought of marriage, it just seemed like a millstone around the neck. By the time I was thirty, I was done with the idea of marriage.
  3. A romantic relationship. This is in a gray area, but I’m leaning towards the idea that I’d prefer not to have a monogamous, primary romantic relationship. I’ve written about this before, but I’m not good girlfriend material. In addition, I don’t want to commit so deeply to one person. I have great friends that fulfill many of my emotional needs, and all I really am missing is sex. I’ve said it many times, but my ideal sex buddy would be someone with whom I could laugh, talk, eat, watch a sportsball game, then fuck for hours. Then, I’d kick them out and sleep the way I sleep best–alone. I wouldn’t mind having a few of these relationships. The idea makes me smile. When I think of a romantic relationship, there’s a constriction in my chest, and I have a hard time breathing. It feels smothering, which is what I tend to do in relationships.

Those are the ones I’m comfortable with. There are others that I’m less happy about. Let’s start that list now.


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