Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Wellness

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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Of (not-so) sound mind and body

drinkin' tea 24/7.
All the tea in Taiwan.

I slept for nine hours the other night, which makes me think I’m getting sick again. I don’t sleep for that long unless I’m sick. I slept nearly seven hours last night, which is still a bit much for me. When I saw my taiji teacher yesterday, she was like, “I hope your week is filled with shitty sleep.” That was her way of wishing me well, and while it made me laugh, it’s sadly apt. The best way for me to gauge how sick I am is to look at my sleep. The ratio for sickness is directly proportional–the more sleep I get, the sicker I am. It’s not something that makes me happy, obviously, but it’s handy to know.

I don’t know what it says about me that my body only allows me to get a good night’s sleep when I’m really sick, but it’s as frustrating as hell. Is it too much to ask that I sleep a full night when I’m not sick? When I’m not sick, I sleep maybe six hours a night, and I wake up at least once. That’s not very restful, as I bet you could guess. I can’t help but think it hearkens back to the days when sleeping through the night was dangerous, and my body hasn’t yet realized it’s not necessary.

Side Note: I don’t sleep in a bed. I’ve found that I sleep marginally better on the couch. I think that’s part of the reason my back is messed up, however, so I might try sleeping in a bed again.

I also wonder if my shenanigans in college contribute to my sleep woes. My first semester I was there, I had a class at 7:45 a.m. (or some such ungodly hour), and I wouldn’t go to bed until three in the morning at the earliest. That meant I got at best three hours of sleep a night on the days I had that class. I think it was a T/Th class, so twice a week. I probably got 4, maybe 5 hours. In other words, I was severely sleep-deprived for my first semester of college.

I’ve told this story before, but there was one time when I woke up and couldn’t find my portable alarm clock. I looked everywhere in my (small) dorm room to no avail. I opened my mini-fridge to grab a Diet Pepsi (the way I always started my day), and there was my alarm as pretty as you please. I had no recollection of putting it there, which was worrisome. I put it on the sink across the room, which meant no more stowing it in my mini-fridge, but didn’t change the fact that I was having serious sleep issues.

I used to get four hours of sleep a night on the regular. Now, I’m up to six, and I owe it all to taiji. Well, taiji and therapy, but mostly taiji. It’s frustrating that it’s not more (and, yes, I know eight hours a night is ideal), but it’s amazing I even get that much*.

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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 blas√© 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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Over it

I’m done with being sick. I just can’t. I mean, I’m not literally done with it because it’s lingering like an unwelcome guest, but emotionally, I’m over it. I’m tired of it being the focus of all my energy and will. My microwave broke today, which means buying another. Normally, it would be an irritant, but not a big deal. Today, it seems insurmountable. Given that it’s also Election Day and I have to vote, part of me just wants to go back to sleep.

Anyway. That’s all I feel like writing today. So. here’s a video of Congressman John Lewis voting Gangnam Style.

Trade-offs health-wise I’m willing to take

I think I’m being hit with round 2 of the crud, and I’m fine with it. Wait, Minna, I can hear you say (or make you say in my mind). How can you be fine with it when you hated it so much the last round? I’ll tell you, and thank you for asking and setting me up so nicely.

Let’s backtrack a bit. I was sick for a long time as is my want. I have this loop of getting one thing–say, chills and fever–then getting something else–like sinus problems–before slowly recovering, only to be hit with a third thing–persistent, hacking cough. Then, when I’m finally over it, I pray to the cold and flu gods that I don’t get it again.

That’s what happened this time. I got over the last thing, then felt decent for a week or so, then I was incredibly tired last week. I mean, I’m tired in general most of the time, but I was at the ‘I literally can’t keep my eyes open’ stage for all of last week. For those lucky duckies who’ve never felt it, it’s when you’re doing something innocuous like watching a video, and then you come to with a start and realize you haven’t seen the last ten minutes/half an hour/hour of the video. That kept happening to me, and one particularly bad night, I passed maybe three hours that way, waking up every ten minutes to ever half hour.

Speaking of sleep deprivation, The Try Guys did a series of videos about driving while under the influence in four different ways, including not sleeping for thirty-six hours straight. They have a doctor in each video explaining the ramifications of driving under that particular influence, and in the sleep-deprived one, he said that people who were deprived of sleep for twenty-four hours, they had nearly the same impairment as someone who blows a .1 on a breathalyzer. His advice was, “Don’t drive when you’re sleep deprived.” He also said most people need 7-8 hours of sleep a night. I laughed, albeit it bitterly, because if I followed his advice, I would never drive. I venture that many Americans could say the same. Also, getting seven hours of sleep in one go is not gonna happen for me unless I’m sick. Which, incidentally, is another reason I know I’m getting sick–I slept nearly seven hours (total in two separate chunks)last night after going to bed around midnight.


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Fuck it all to hell

so. damn. tired.
Cannot move an inch.

I’m so fucking tired. Not of anything in particular (though I have plenty of that, too), but literally so. fucking. tired. For the past three days, I’ve been dozing on and off throughout the evenings, then crashing hard during the night. Yet, I couldn’t sleep for more than five hours or so. I’m currently watching a Try Guys video on driving while sleep-deprived (early access for being a Patreon member of a certain tier. They’re doing a series driving while ______, and this one is where they had a twenty-four hour stay awake party, then drive on a contained course. It’s well known that driving while sleep-deprived is as bad if not worse than driving while drunk. The doctor in the video said that it was ideal for people to get 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night, and I had to laugh, albeit bitterly. I’ve gotten up to 6 hours, but 7 hours seems like an impossible dreams. I used to get 4 hours a night on a good night, but I’m up to 6. Also, when the doctor advised not to drive when you’re sleep-deprived, I actually snorted out loud. That meant I would never drive, which isn’t possible where I live.

I remember once when I was deep in the middle of my chronic depression, my therapist suggested trying to stay awake for 72-hours as there was some evidence that it can jump-start the brain out of depression. I decided to give it a whirl, and made sure to plan it around a time where I wouldn’t have to leave the house for those three days. Well, life happens. My BFF had her baby six-weeks early, right around the sixty-hours-awake mark. In addition to me doing this experiment, I had an incipient cold. I had to go see my BFF’s baby, of course, or at least visit them in the hospital. I managed to make it there, talked to my BFF, didn’t see the baby because she was in the ICU and I did NOT want to give her germs, then started driving home.

I was going down a road I’d traveled hundreds of times. I could make that drive in my sleep. but, with a lack of sleep (going on sixty-two hours), I suddenly had no idea where I was. I looked at the road ahead of me and did not recognize it. It was as if I’d never had seen it before. I somehow managed to make my way home (still don’t know how), held out for another hour or so, then crashed hard.

When I was in my second year of college, I started having weird fugue states in which I would phase out of reality then ‘wake up’ a few minutes later with no idea of what just happened. I wasn’t sleeping as made clear by the fact that if I were talking to someone, they still were talking to me as if we were having a normal conversation. I had to pretend I knew what they were talking about, which was disconcerting. Worse yet, though, was that I would ‘fall asleep’ while driving, only to ‘wake up’ a few minutes later having no idea where I was. Fortunately, the routes I was taking were familiar, so my best guess is that my brain went on auto-pilot. Still, I was very lucky I didn’t have a horrible crash.

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Finally! No longer feeling like warmed-up puke

I started feeling better Sunday night, and when I woke up on Monday, I was markedly improved. Sinus was clear (although my ears were still scabby and crusty. Yes, they become filled with pus when I pick the scabs), cough was mostly gone (one or two hard coughs every few hours), and better yet, I had more energy than I’ve had in the last month. I didn’t feel like death warmed over, and I actually looked forward to going to taiji. More to the point, I had enough energy to propel myself out of the car.

It’s difficult, though, because I don’t like leaving the house in general. It’s my low-level depression that makes it twice as hard for me to get in the car and drive. My BFF and I have talked about how fucked up it is that we’d set up a date to go out dancing. We did that maybe once a month, which isn’t a big ask, really. Both of us would spend the whole day psyching ourselves up to go out and begrudgingly get dressed. I’d leave the house, feeling extremely reluctant to go. I’d reach my BFF’s house, and she wouldn’t be dressed yet.

Side note: We have a running joke about her being perennially late. Like other issues in our friendship, once we hashed it out, it was fine. I just mentally added twenty minutes to a half hour to whatever the start time was supposed to be, and it worked out. Funnily enough, one time, she was supposed to pick me up at my house at, say, eight. That meant I’d change around eight-fifteen. The doorbell rang at eight, and I exclaimed, “You’re early!” She said, “We said eight, right?”

We’d chat while she decided what to wear. She often roped her husband into the process (if he was there) because he had a sharp eye for fashion.

Another side note: We were shoe shopping once, and I was griping about my wide feet and how shoes looked so bad on them. She said she once asked her husband if a pair of shoes made her feet look big. He said, “_____, no guy has every looked at a woman and said, ‘Damn, she’s fine, but those feet are too fucking big!'” I laughed, but the message has stuck with me, even though that was probably twenty years ago.

We’d smoke a cigarette on her porch before reluctantly leaving. Once we hit the club or restaurant or whatever, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but it took a lot of wherewithal to get there in the first place.

It’s the depression. When it was chronic and really bad, I could barely make myself brush my teeth, let alone leave the house. Now that I ‘only’ experience low-level depression, I can make myself do the things I need to do outside the house. However, I don’t have an office job, so I don’t have to drive every. That’s another thing. I hate driving, and I’m terrible at it. There are many reasons for that, but suffice to say, it makes it easier for me to cancel on outings whenever possible.


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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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The more things change

all. the. tea.
Drinking all the tea.

It’s the same old, same old. Just as I was getting better, ROUUUUUUND THREEEEEEEEE. (Imagine buxom chick in a tiny bikini holding up a title card. Or Finchy (see clip. The boys’ character is always named Finchy). Whichever works for you.) It’s as if the fates that be are laughing at me every time I start getting better and saying, “You think you’re OK now? Oh, you poor, sweet, summer child.” I was roughly 85% better when I went to class on Saturday. I went home achy, but not unbearably so, and I was pleased that I was finally on the tail end of the bullshit.

I woke¬† with the chills. I immediately knew that I was worse because I don’t get cold if I’m not sick. Or rather, I don’t get cold until it’s well below zero. I threw on a sweatshirt and struggled through my morning routine. I skipped class and spent the whole day, miserable, on the couch. Then, early in the evening, I started having heat flashes–which happened the last time I got chills. Though, admittedly, it was cold/hot/cold/hot in rapid succession; this time, it’s chills in the morning and hot at night. At least from my limited data of one day and this morning. I have chills literally as I write this, and now because my words are so brilliant.

It’s depressing and discouraging. I know I need to see a doctor/acupuncturist, but I can’t bear the thought of being out of the house for more than a half hour. I’ve joked before that there are only two reasons I ever want to have a roommate/partner/cabana boy. One is to lift heavy things. Hey, yes, I can do it myself, but it’s nice not to have to do it all the time. The bigger one is to help me out when I’m sick. Shadow is currently snoozing on my legs, and he’s a great nurse (except when he meows at me, drags his nose across my bare flesh, and claws at me (gently) in the morning to wake me up for brekkie), but he’s not so good at making me tea or going out grocery shopping for the bare essentials.

Anyway. If this goes according to the timetable, the chills/heat flashes will last another day, and then I’ll slowly start getting better for reals. Or something. I don’t know, and at this point, I don’t really care. I’m watching Numb3rs as my comfort food right now and hoping I’ll feel better soon.

Making a bad situation worse

There is something intensely boring and self-involved in being sick. At least for me, that is. It’s hard to do much else when I’m not at my best or even at 50%, and it makes me cranky as fuck. I am not at my better self when I’m sick. Mostly, I want to withdraw into myself and hide from the world. Hm. Come to think of it, it’s not much different than regular me. I jest, I jest. (But only partly.) Since I am purportedly a goddamn adult, I manage to keep most of this shit to myself, but it’s harder to do when I’m sick. I’m funneling so much energy into being miserable, I have little left over for the constant controlling of my emotions that I do on a regular basis.

My taiji teacher suggested acupuncture, which I am fine with in theory. In reality, though, I have a complicated reaction. Not to acupuncture itself. I think it’s a good thing. But to the fact that I’m Taiwanese, and I know little-to-nothing about it. If I go to someone in Minnesota, they’re most likely going to be white. So, there’s a layer of shame and defiance in my attitude to begin with, which is not a good way to go into a new situation. But, as uncomfortable as that is, it’s better than going to someone who’s actually Chinese because I have even more feelings about that. It’s part of being in the diaspora–never feeling as if I belong to anywhere in particular. I know to many old school Chinese/Taiwanese people, I’m a disappointment/shame to my culture. In addition, I’m Taiwanese with a grudge against the Mainlanders*, which would not end well, either.

Regardless, I need to do something because every time I start to come down with something, it’s never-ending. It goes something like this. I start to feel off, which means my energy starts flagging. That lasts for a week or two. Then, sinus issues. Then, bowel issues. Then, coughing/sneezing/sore throat issues. Sinus issues may or may not persist. Throw in flu-like issues from time to time, lather, rinse, repeat. Last night, I was lying on the couch under a blanket and my cat (on my legs), and I got the chills. That’s another phase of being sick for me.

I’m tired of this. It seems to happen every year. My taiji teacher asked if it could be a prolonged sense of allergies, and that might be part of it since I’m allergic to everything. It’s worse when I get up in the morning and then for a few hours before I finally drop off to sleep. My ears are totally scabbed over with crud, and they hurt.

I’m in the same position, still have the chills, and I’m sipping my honey ginger lemon tea. Is it helping? Dunno, but it tastes good.

I really liked this song until I figured out what it was about (which was by the end of the song–it’s pretty obvious. At first, I thought it was about a lover, which would have been bad enough, but it’s God, which is even worse). Too bad because her voice is gorgeous.

 

 

 

 

 

*Brief primer: Chiang Kai-shek fled the Mainland to get away from Mao. He took over Taiwan and ruled it with an iron fist. Taiwanese people were considered second-class citizens under his regime, and he considered it part of China. My parents believe in an independent Taiwan and that we are Taiwanese, not Chinese.