Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Mental Health

My (non)optimal way of dealing with self-isolation

There are several posts/videos out there telling you the proper way to work at home in this time of self-isolation. This is for those who don’t work from home normally, and they are full of fine information, such as to have a routine, get dressed as if you were going into the office, and have a way to separate your ‘work’ life from your, er, life life. As I said, this is all good advice. I also break two of the three with abandon. The first one, I mostly do. I get up, feed the cat, have a half cig, do my taiji for half an hour, then sit down to work. First, blog post. Then, quick (or not-so-quick) break. Content writing for a few hours. Another break. Fiction writing. Then, whatever. So my work is interspersed throughout my day, but I do the same thing in the same order every day, so that qualifies as a routine. I wear sweats and a t-shirt to work, and that’s what I wear to sleep as well. I work from my couch with my cat on my legs for much of it, and I get up for breaks every few hours. So, here we go with how I’m dealing with the covid-19 self-isolation, and I would not advise it for anyone else. I’m going to do it in the format of the conventional wisdom and how I deal with it (or not. Mostly not). Shall we start? Let’s go!

1. Go outside for at least thirty minutes. Outside is not my friend. Outside is where everything is trying to kill me. I am allergic to everything under the sun, and probably including the sun. As such, I flinch whenever I’m outside. Last time I went to Cubs, there was a man wearing so much cologne, I almost vomited. No, that’s not nature, but it was me going through nature to get there. And it’s technically outside of my house. Anyway, I don’t like outside is my point. I do go outside to smoke a quarter cig every three hours or so, and that’s how I get my thirty minutes of outside. Five minutes six times a day. Done. Sorted!

2. Get thirty minutes of exercise a day. I got that one sorted with my morning taiji routine. I also stretch every time I get up, so no worries here. By the way, I watch a shit-ton of British content, so that’s why some Britishisms creep into my vocabulary like ‘sorted’. I used shattered to mean emotionally drained to Ian, and he was confused for a hot second. I’ve always had a thing for the Brits, and it’s even stronger now.

3. Get thirty minutes a day (yes, that’s a theme emerging) of contact with other people. No. Moving on. Kidding. I’ll elaborate. Most of them are talking about real people, not internet people. Obviously, we’re all trying to self-isolate, but they mean by calling or by Zoom meetings or whatever. By the way, I didn’t know what Zoom was a month ago, and now it’s all over the place. That’s what my teacher uses for our online classes. I’m a loner in the best of times, and the last thing I want to do when it’s not the best of times is to make extra-effort to talk to people. I mean, I want to touch base with *my* people on a more than regular basis, but I don’t need to talk to someone every day. And, the idea of attending more meetings, social or not, exhausts me. So, yeah, no. I’ll watch streams and participate in chats now and again, but I don’t want any more than what I normally do.

4. Shut off social media apps while you are working. I don’t use apps. I don’t use my phone except when I’m on a smoke break. I work on my laptop, so I have the social media open at all times. Right now, I’m accepting that my brain is fragmented and will be for some time. I am getting my work done, but it’s just taking longer over all because I’m taking mini-breaks along the way. I’ll write for ten minutes, then check social media. Write a few more minutes, then browse an article on whatever. Rinse, lather, repeat. It’s hard not to berate myself because my day-to-day life hasn’t changed that much. However, that doesn’t help anything so I’m trying to be a bit more gentle with myself and just accept that I’ll get it done when I get it done.


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Trying to Goldilocks it over here

Love in the time of the covid-19 is so strange. First of all, my OCD tendencies makes me cringe every time I type it because everyone does it differently. COVID-19, covid-19, Covid-19….WHICH IS IT? Can we still call it the coronavirus? Do we *have* to say it’s the novel coronavirus? That’s the kind of thing my brain gets caught up in when I don’t want to think about the matter at hand. Speaking of, I was at Cubs today, and there were a lot of people not practicing good social distancing. Standing smack dab in the aisle whilst looking at their phones, not paying attention to anyone around them. I mean, I know they’re probably like that, anyway, but come on, people. Gonna have to switch and go at 9 p.m. as much as I  prefer to get it done first thing in the morning.

I’ve been having a problem with how I should be reacting to this. I’ve written about it in the past, but I have PTSD. That means I overreact to small things and under-react (or maybe rightly react?) to big things. I’m also having a weird reaction to enforced isolation–I’m mad at it. It’s what I do on a regular basis, anyway, and I really my alone time. A lot. More than I enjoy being with other people most of the time. I have no problem not leaving my house except for shopping and taiji in my regular life. Now, it’s down to Cubs once a week with taiji online Zoom classes, and it’s just weird. Like, my life is pretty much as usual though my brother dropped by twice this weekend. Which is strange. I mean, he does it every now and again, but two days in a row? That’s weird. Then again, he was in the neighborhood two days in a row, so maybe it was just that. I think, though, it’s that he’s an extrovert and is lonely for some conversation. The first time, I was in my taiji class, so he just did work in the dining room. The second time, we stayed ten feet away from each other and chatted. He is wearing a mask when he’s out. He has one of those masks that look as if he’s surviving a nuclear war and a plain three-layer cloth one. He’s doing social distancing, but he’s still showing houses and doing his realtor business. I told him he’s not invincible, even though he has a great constitution.

I’m not that worried about me, oddly. Mostly because I’m as isolated as you can get. But, I have flares of irrational fear that are hard to tamp down. It’s the uncertainty and the fact that it doesn’t seem different–but is so very different. Also, we don’t know how long it’ll last–that’s a big part of it as well. It might be two weeks (unlikely); it might be two months (more likely); who the hell knows? Nobody, and that’s part of the problem. There is so much conflicting news out there, it’s dizzying. I’m trying to keep my news intake to a few times a day, but it’s difficult to do. It’s everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I saw a lady wearing a scarf in Cubs, and they had a sign about social distancing by the cash registers.


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My contrarian side coming out to play

In this time of enforced self-isolation, I feel a compulsion to leave the house. I’m not going to do it unless absolutely necessary, but it’s part of my, shall we say, oppositional personality. Tell me I can’t do something, and I’ll do the opposite. I’m the same in arguments. If someone gives me one side of a story, then I automatically see the other side (even i f I agree with the first side). There are few topics in which this does not hold true, but in general, I can think of a thousand reasons why someone might have done something.

Side Note: Advice columns are a great way to see the fallacy in people’s thinking. And reading comprehension. Recent relevant example. There have been a few letters about the covid-19, of course, and in each, the LW was asking about how to navigate living with a significant other and dealing with business-related issues such as trying to interview while your partner is taking a conference call in a 500-square foot apartment. The partner was specifically at home because of the covid-19, so it wasn’t a normal situation. Several of the first comments were, “Go to a nearby cafe/library/park.” I mean….Not to be rude, but that defeats the purpose. Which, thankfully, several other people pointed out. It happens regularly, and it’s pretty annoying. Or, people will go down one train of thought and no matter how much evidence to the contrary, refuse to give it up. I know it’s natural human nature, but it’s annoying as fuck.

Side Note II: I am extremely picky when it comes to consuming popular media. I have so many things that irritate me, it’s difficult for me to find something that doesn’t tick me off on some level. It’s the same as my sensitivity to, well, everything. It’s why I don’t watch many movies or television shows, and it’s why I fall off things hard after some time. Right now, I’m trying to find a Sekiro* playthrough, and I’ve watched the first five minutes of a dozen YouTubers/Twitchers. I’ve done this before with the same results. I watch five minutes, cringe, then shut it off. What are the things that turn me off? I’ll quickly list them.

  1. Sexism. Unfortunately, it’s still a man’s world, and it’s still rife with sexism.
  2. Teabagging. I think it’s stupid, and I hate the underlying gross humor.
  3. Screaming and shouting as theatrics. Not my style. At all.
  4. A grating voice. Ugh.
  5. Someone who talks all the time.
  6. Chicks who try to out-bro the dudes.
  7. Anyone who is too good.
  8. Someone who misses things by not paying attention/not reading.


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The thin line between preparation and flat-out panic

The world is in a tailspin right now as we all know. I’m trying to keep up to date about what’s happening without freaking the fuck out. I’m already anxious by nature, and one way I cope is by only keeping up on the basics. It’s kinda impossible to do right now, but I’m keeping it to a minimum. Why? There is only so much I can do, and having the news bombard me 24/7 doesn’t help. In addition, I pretty much self-quarantine, anyway, except for taiji and the grocery store. Occasionally, I see my brother, but that’s about it. I reluctantly decided not to go to taiji this weekend (Friday because I felt like shit and Saturday because of the self-isolation), but the only other concession I’m making is that I’m washing my hands more. I have a tube of aloe, which is good because my skin on my hands is cracking a bit.

Another thing is that I’ve realized I touch my face so fucking much. So. Fucking. Much. I’m trying to break the habit, but it’s not easy. I mean, I have to push my glasses up in place, but beyond that, it seems there’s something itching at all times. Plus, I’ll put my laptop on the coffee table and then prop my chin up on my hand while I’m on my side. Any time I catch myself doing it, I yank my hand away, but it’s still way too many times for my comfort. I just don’t know the perfect reaction to the situation, and I can’t match the panic I see around me.

My parents called last night because the number of cases in MN went from 2 to 14. My mom was freaking the fuck out, and she kept talking over me. She claims that my father is the anxious one and that he’s the one who made her call me. I tried to point out to her that may be true, but she was the one who babbled endlessly to me about how terrible everything was whereas my father mainly said, “You’ll be fine. RIGHT????” Neither is great, but I’ll take the latter over the former. My mom insists that she’s just going about her day and that her regurgitating her fears to me for a half hour isn’t anything unusual. My best guess is that as usual, she’s using me as a dumping ground because she doesn’t feel like she’s being heard by anyone else. I know my father doesn’t listen, and she’s the therapist among her friends. That’s sad for her, but I just can’t handle her anxiety on top of my own.


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What is my life really?

I woke up today convinced it was Wednesday. Then, I thought, “Wait,  I have to write my post on health and wellness. Did I fuck up yesterday?” Then I checked my clock, and, no, it wasn’t Wednesday–it was Tuesday. This time change has really fucked me up. I don’t know why as I normally don’t have a problem with it. For whatever reason, it’s been messing with my head this year.

My nose is simultaneously running and stuffy. I’m incredibly tired and for the first time in a long time, last night as I was lying on the couch, I wished I were dead.  Not enough to do something about it, but it was there.

Side Note: I have spent much of my life not wanting to be alive. I’m used to it, and it’s not alarming. Really. It’s just a part of me the same way I like to read and I like swords is. I have no desire to be alive, but, and this is the important bit, I don’t WANT to die. At least not for the most part. When I was in my twenties and thirties, I did want to die when I was in my severest depressions. There were a few times I actively worked towards that goal (most of the time, it was passive such as not wearing a seat belt).

It’s something that I rarely talk about because what’s the point? It would just make people feel bad, and there isn’t anything they can do about it, anyway. I also don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing. It’s not a good thing, mind you. It’s just a thing. I wake up. I brush my teeth. I don’t want to be alive. I know it sounds dramatic every time I say/write it, but it’s pretty mundane to me by this point in my life.

When I slide from not wanting to be alive to wanting to be dead, though, that’s cause for concern. There’s no rational reason for it, but depression isn’t rational. We all know that. I can tick off all the reasons why I should be happy to be alive or at least neutral about it, but it means jack and shit to the weasels in my brain.

I just can’t today. I just can’t.

Goldilocks and the three reactions

I have PTSD, and while it’s lessened over time, it’s still a thing. I can blow up the smallest thing such as an interaction with a stranger in which I felt I didn’t handle very well. For example, I was at the deli counter at Cubs a few days ago. I wanted the bottom rack of ribs, and I said it to the woman behind the counter. I made sure to say the bottom one twice, but she didn’t say anything at all to acknowledge she heard. She just went to get a container, so when she returned, I mentioned it one more time. She snapped that she had heard me, and I managed to say, “Great. Thanks.” In my head, though, I was thinking, “Look, bitch. The normal thing is to actually acknowledge that the other person said something.”

Side Note: There is something about the deli/baked good sections of my local Cubs that must be toxic because many of the people working in those areas are exceedingly unhappy. And, they take out their unhappiness on the customers as well as with each other. Sometimes in the form of bitching with each other, but also in the form of bitching at each other.

I immediately thought that I had done something wrong, and then I was pissed at her for being a jerk. But, ultimately, it wasn’t a big deal, and I was able to shrug it off after a few hours. I know that still seems like an overreaction, and it is, but in the past, I would have ruminated over it for weeks before forcing myself to forget about it. I make a mountain out of every fucking molehill, and it’s so fucking tiresome. I can make myself feel bad about anything until the end of time.

Here’s the weird flip side to my PTSD overreaction. When I’m in an actual crisis, my brain goes on hyperfocus and I become deadly calm. I’ve mentioned this a few times, but when I was in a minor car crash a few years back, my brain slowed down. I accepted I was going to be hit, and I relaxed as the other car hit me. As a result, I only got a massive bruise on my stomach either from the air bag or the seat belt. The other driver was a young woman, only 17, and she was in hysterics. She looked as if she had South Asian blood, so I felt the urge to protect her. She sobbed that her dad was going to kill her because he needed the car (some kind of SUV, I think) for his job, and I said he could get a taxi or use Uber or some such. I told her he was not going to kill her, desperately hoping it was true.


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Another one bites the dust

More FODMAP shenanigans. I bought extra-sharp cheddar cheese as my newest re-intro food because goddamn I miss cheese. Of the dairy products, cheese is the one that doesn’t have a truly great substitute. There are some decent ones, but none that mimic real cheese. The one that I liked the best, daiya’s farmhouse block style, tasted gross to me months later. Which is sad because dill Havarti is my fave, and they had a Jalapeno Havarti that was delicious the first time I ate it. And the next several times. Then, I didn’t eat it for a few months because it’s only available at the co-op, and when I tried it again, it didn’t taste right.

So. I was nervous about trying the extra-sharp cheddar cheese because while it’s supposed to be the dairy that will have the least effect on a digestive system, well, it still obviously bothers some. I bought the smallest block I could find, and I cut off a relatively small chunk, broke it in two pieces, and put it on top of the sausage patties I eat for lunch (each on top of one half of a gluten-free hamburger bun).

I will admit I sat and looked at it for several seconds because I was nervous about the results. I had built it up in my mind so much, and I was not looking forward to the reaction. I knew I would have one–I just didn’t know how bad it would be. Or rather, I was pretty sure I would have one. There was a small part of me that wondered what if I didn’t have a reaction. I would have felt as if I wasted almost three years of my life. But, on the other hand, it would have meant I could eat cheese!!!! Amazing!

Long story short: I had a reaction. The immediate was that I started wheezing and my throat closed a bit. It wasn’t terrible, but it certainly wasn’t comfortable. Then, my stomach started bloating, and that was uncomfortable as fuck. Then, and this is gross, sorry, I was constipated and had very smelly dairy farts. Hours later, I still had the both, and my asshole was burning. Up until the last bit, I was like, I could maybe put up with this once in a while. But, no. Even today, I still have some lingering effects.


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The next step is the hardest one

I have good news. The Low FODMAP elimination diet I’ve been doing for….two months? Is that right? Well, that’s when I started planning it, at any rate. I know I was on it by Christmas, so at least a month and a half. Anyway, the good news is that with this diet, 90% of my digestive issues, including the worst, are gone. And, by the worst, I mean shitting my brains out for half an hour at a time. Oh, TMI, I guess, but I can’t really talk about my digestive issues without explaining what exactly is happening inside my body. Besides the ‘shitting my brain out’ aspect of it, there’s the bloated stomach feel and the flaming butthole feel. I still have a bit of the latter two, but it’s drastically reduced. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I can walk around without worrying about where the nearest bathroom is. I have only had to walk briskly to the bathroom two or three times in the past month and a half. Not run, and it didn’t last for half an hour.

By the way, when I say half an hour, I mean that I’m in the bathroom for a half hour to an hour–not that I’m shitting for the entire time.  It’s like five minutes of shitting, then five minutes of sitting and fuming, and then rinse, lather, and repeat. I  know it should be lather, rinse, and repeat, but it’s rinse, lather, and repeat in my brain, and I’m fine with that. Now, it’s walk briskly to the bathroom and sit for five minutes, then I’m done with it. It’s such a change, and I’m very happy.

So. The goal of the Low FODMAP elimination diet is not to be on it indefinitely. You can, but it’s really hard to get all the nutrients you need, and it’s very limiting. I have said that I don’t mind eating the same thing every day, but it’s getting a bit old now. I had been trying to open up my meals before trying this diet, but now it’s just a sad, sad world. I tweeted last night about how I was choking down a just barely ripe banana, which I hate, because a really ripe banana is High FODMAP whereas an unripe/barely ripe banana is Low FODMAP.

It was mushed up/sliced up and on top of my cereal, and I was just a sad, sad person choking it down. Weird fact about me. I can put foods on other foods, but then I eat the topping first. Such as, I’ll put spinach on top of pasta, fake cheeze, and sauce, then I eat the spinach before eating the rest. So, I was having cereal with mashed bananas and almond milk. I was forcing the bananas down mostly because I was trying to broadening my palate a bit, but it was not a good choice. I also chose it for the fiber-like aspects of it–for obvious reasons.

Back to the point of my post. The elimination diet is not meant to be forever. The next step is to add one ‘forbidden’ food at a time back into my diet. Here’s the thing. I’m unwilling to do it because I don’t want to spend more time in the bathroom again. It was not fun, and it really messed up my insides. And my asshole. I don’t want to go through that again, and I know that I’ll have to in order to figure out what is the actual trigger.

I am fortunate in that I work from home and can plan my day around the need to camp out in the bathroom. It doesn’t mean I want to do it, though. I remember how painful it was, and I do not want to go through it again. In addition, I know I’ll have to note my reactions (in writing), and I don’t want to do that, either. I write so much on a daily basis; I don’t like making it a chore. That’s why I resist when I read about journaling emotions or other such shit. But, in this case, while I can probably keep it in my head, I don’t want to count on it.

I have to do it, though. I want to be able to eat more and to know what exactly is irritating my bowels. My plan is to start with garlic, then onion, then honey. By the way, you’re suppose to add one a week. I suppose you could add everything from the same family (five different categories), and then figure out if that category is one that hurts me. That’s more a brute force way to deal with it, but the downside is that when there is the shittening, I’d still have to do each of those foods individually. The time saver is that if I don’t have a response to the category, then I can just skip to the next category rather than add one by one. Garlic and onion are often both present in the same foods, so I may just try both while controlling for other ingredients.

The other thing is whether I want to try adding back dairy and gluten. I’ve done without them for more than two-and-a-half years, and my digestive problems vastly improved. Do I want to risk it again? I’m pretty sure I have a lactose intolerance because I’m Asian. As for the gluten, it might be specific types of gluten.

If I do try to add back dairy and/or gluten, I’m going to take it very specific because I know there is something within each group that irritates my bowels. It would be amazing to be able to have real cheese again. Honestly, that is the one that I miss the most. I can do without many of the things I’ve eliminated, but goddamn I miss cheese. The reason I don’t care as much about the others is because there are several tasty substitutes. When I gave up gluten, dairy, and sugar twenty-plus years ago, the alternatives were made of tapioca root and arrow root, mostly. It was sad, and by the fourth month, I was literally dreaming of pizza.

I know I’m going to be happier at the end of this journey, but it’s the taking of said journey that is going to be a pain in my ass. And in my asshole. Which is not going to be a good time.

The way forward is obscure

I’m depressed. I have to come out and say it because I’ve been downplaying it for over a year. Maybe two? I remember when it hit me, and I thought, “I’ll just wait it out. It won’t be that long.” My days of crippling chronic depression were behind me, or so I thought. I haven’t felt anything as mind-crushing as the depression I felt in my twenties, but that’s a pretty low bar to clear. I was passively suicidal in that I wasn’t trying to kill myself, but I wasn’t trying to prevent it, either. I would drive without my seat belt on short trips just to tempt fate, for example. It was a bad period of my life, and I tend to compare any current depression to that one to gauge how bad it is. That’s good on one hand because it reminds me of how bad it has been in the past and hasn’t been since. It’s bad on the other because then it’s easy for me to dismiss whatever I’m feeling now because it’s not like it used to be.

Side note: I have so many things I need to do that I have been putting off. Have a dead tooth taken care of. Find a new doctor because my old one left the network. Find a therapist because I know that I’m struggling. The downside of depression is that it makes reasonable tasks seem insurmountable.

Side note to the side note: I’m not doing well physically, either. I got a raging cold Christmas Eve, and I’ve been more sick than not since then. I had a week and a half of being relatively healthy, and then three or four days ago, I got slammed with a host of issues. The first being me sleeping eight or nine hours a night. I normally sleep six to seven hours a night, and one way I know I’m getting sick is when I hit eight or more hours. I’ve also had random chills, and I do not get cold. The only time I get chills is when I’m sick. The last three days (including today), I’ve woken up with a burgeoning migraine, and I’ve slammed two generic migraine Excedrin tablets the last two days, but I recently read that you can build up a tolerance to the meds and should not use more than ten doses (2 caplets in a 24-hour period) in a month, so I’m trying to ration them out. Today was not quite as bad as yesterday, so I did not take the Excedrin. I’m regretting it right now, though.

Side note III: Comorbidity is a thing, and I’m pretty sure my physical and mental health issues are interacting. Or rather, they’re making each other worse. One part of my depression is castigating myself for not doing whatever it is I need to do. My family is very industrious, and it’s hard for me to not see how I’m failing, even if I physically can’t do more than I am. I remember the last time I was in Taiwan, everyone wanted to walk to the top of a mountain. I knew I wasn’t going to make it, but I kept pushing on. I got hot and sweaty, and my heart started pounding. I didn’t want to say anything, and I suffered for longer than I should have. I was nearly in tears by the time I said I had to stop, and I felt so ashamed. And, I knew my parents put it down to me being fat (which they wrote to me about later in excruciating detail), but it wasn’t. Yes, I was fat. I still am. But even when I was at my fittest and walking four and a half miles a day, I still felt like shit while doing it, and I always ran out of breath going uphill.

Side note IV: I have the lungs of an eighty-year old. My last doctor told me that, and it was a relief to hear. I’ve always had a problem with breathing–I mean, I breathe, therefore, I am–and it was good to know that it wasn’t just my imagination. I’ve gotten better with the aid of taiji, but I’m still short of breath more often than not.

I have to push myself to do anything other than my normal day routine. Even then, I have to push a bit. I don’t want to do anything but just sit and stare blankly at the ceiling. There is little joy to be had in Whoville, and I pretty much just want to let everything go. Again, I’m not suicidal, though I have flashes of it, but I’m tired of trying to live.


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I. am. done.

I have been feeling feisty and fine* for the past several days. I managed to go to taiji on both Friday and Saturday (which I already talked about), and I’ve accepted the consequences because I pushed myself too hard. Yes, I was sore and achy, but not unbearably so. I was feeling cautiously optimistic, and then…I slept nine hours a few nights ago. What the fuck was that? I don’t sleep nine hours a night unless….

No. Fuck no. I refuse.

I told myself it was because of going to taiji two days in a row and overexerting myself. Hell, it might have even been true to a certain extent. However. The next day I felt a tickle in the back of my throat, and I was hawking up loogies. And I slept for eight hours that night. and now, I have the chills. The chills! I don’t get the chills unless it’s -10 outside or I’m sick. As I’m inside and the heat is on, it’s not the temp.

I still have gunk in my throat, and I’m so fucking tired. Do you see where I’m getting  at? If I’m sick again, I’m quitting the earth. I am just done with this.

 

 

*For me. Which is several levels less than most other people.