Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Mental Health

Focusing When Sick and Tired

One of the side effects of being sick is that my mental acuity isn’t where it normally is. Simple things take more energy, and I feel slow as molasses in the brain department. I went to the store today, and I had to put extra effort into interacting with people. It’s not my bailiwick to begin with, though I’m usually adept at it, but being sick makes it even harder. I can’t take for granted that my automatic responses will flow as easily as the normally do. Plus, just walking around exhausts me. When I came home, I grabbed my three drinks (including tea) and two snacks, and I brought them to the living room. I set down the pop, leaning over as I did, and poured some of the boiling tea onto the back of my left hand. This is the second time I’ve done this, and I know it’s partly because I’m sick. It’s also because I tend to be lazy and want to make as few trips as possible. I’ve hurt myself countless times before by overloading myself in an attempt to save time. My taiji teacher has a saying about a donkey and laziness that I don’t quite remember, but the bottom line is that it’s better to make multiple trips with lighter loads than one trip all bogged down. She is right. Hopefully, I will internalize that one day.

OT: Nioh. Ah, Nioh. I’m having complicated feels about the game, but I don’t want to get into that in this post. I just want to say as a pro tip that if you’re a scrub such as I am, weapons matter. I recently faced a boss that was whipping my ass, though she really shouldn’t have been. She wasn’t that hard, per se, but I do the worst against fast humans. Which she is. Sort of. Anyway, I kept tinkering with my load-out and my different magicks, and I was really frustrated because I felt I had her. I also thought she had a couple bullshit moves, but that’s par the course for these kinds of games.

Anyway. My axe wasn’t doing it. It was too slow. The dual swords/sword (both infused with fire, which I thought would be beneficial for this boss) didn’t do enough damage of stagger enough to be viable, and I watched my stock of elixirs steadily deplete. I decided to try my odachi because the strong attack staggers enemies, which seemed to be what I needed. It was a miracle. I used the appropriate magicks for defense, then I just chopped the boss into oblivion with six or seven hits. OK, I’m sure it took more than that, but it was really short. Moral of the story: I’m sticking with my axe/odachi/magicks combo for the rest of the game. Of course, I’ll swap out to other weapons  if I need to, but the axe/odachi duo is really my jam.

Here is a video of Jun’s Kitchen. He’s a Japanese man with some serious knife skills. In this video, he’s making sushi for his lucky cats. Enjoy!

I’m Minding My Body

Still sick. Still grumpy. Feeling an intense headache coming on. ‘Tis the season to be sick, apparently, and I’m just done with it. Unfortunately, it’s not done with me. I’m lying on my couch with my cat, Shadow, on my legs, re-watching The Great British Bake Off, Series 6. I’m sipping my ginger honey lemon tea, and I’m GRUMPY. We got snow last night, so that makes me happy. I love snow so much. Anyway, here’s a video of Maru kneading a pizza whilst nursing on a toy. His sister, Hana, makes an appearance as well. Too cute!

Bonus video of Shironeko (white cat) and his buddy with purple cabbage leafs on their heads. Shironeko is one of the chillest cats I’ve ever seen, and his buddy is very laid-back as well. So cute, and very relaxing as well.

When the Physical Affects the Mental

I’m struggling, fam. I find that when I get sick physically, it’s a drag on my mental health as well. I know it’s a truism that the body and mind are connected, but I used to believe that my body was nothing but a meat sack for carrying around my brain. My soul or essence or whatever didn’t even come into the equation. I dismissed it as negligible at best or bothersome at worst. I valuedd my brain above and beyond everything else, and I didn’t much care about my body. To be honest, I abused it terribly, though not through the usual avenues of drink and drugs. I have a history of eating disorders ranging from anorexia to bulimia to binge-eating. I think it’s more a question of control (or a lack thereof) than a matter of food. I felt I had little control over anything in my life, so food was an easy target. Also, I wanted to whittle my body away to nothing because I despised it so much. I also self-harmed with cutting and cigarettes, but I haven’t done that in years if not decades.

I have four tattoos, and they were my way of reclaiming my body, though I wouldn’t necessarily have phrased it that way at the time. I wanted a tattoo for many years before I got one, and true to my nature, I got one on a whim when I finally decided it was time. My BFF and I went to the only tattoo shop opened at midnight, and unfortunately, the tattooist was the nephew of the owner, who was still in training. In addition, Asian skin doesn’t take to ink in the same way white people’s skin does (didn’t know this at the time. There are many things that Asian people don’t react to in the same way than do Caucasians, but that’s another post for another day), so by the time he was done, it was puffy, blotchy, and definitely not the black yin-yang in a sun that I requested. To make matters worse, it was on my chest, so it’s not like I could avoid looking at it. PSA: Don’t get a tattoo on a whim. Fortunately, I found an excellent tattooist years later, and he did a representation of Kali (the mother/destroyer goddess of India, grossly simplified) right over my navel, with suggestions of flames. I was so pleased with it, I commissioned him to do a cover-up tattoo on my left breast. It’s a massive purple and blue lotus blossom engulfed in flames, and I adore it. I got my third in San Francisco–a bracelet of red thorns with flames as ‘charms’ on my left forearm. My final one is from my local artist, and it’s a bracelet of flames and waves on my upper right arm with a yin-yang pendant. Originally, I only wanted flames, but my tattoo artist suggested waves to balance it out and match the yin-yang. Brilliant!

I love my tattoos. I’d say they were the first step in me accepting my body. First, grudgingly, and then, in a matter-of-fact manner. I can’t say I love my body because I don’t. In fact, I would still like to lose weight (and, yes, I have a number in mind), but because of my history of eating disorders, I’m worried about going down that road. Any time I try to diet sensibly, it spirals out of control. For that reason, there are several ‘sensible’ dieting tips that I absolutely can’t follow. One is counting calories. The first time I slipped into anorexia/bulimia, I did this obsessively. I can still tell you what the calorie count is of the foods I used to eat regularly. That’s another thing I tend to do–eat the same thing over and over. It’s part of my OCD tendencies, and it’s partly because I get overwhelmed by choices.

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The Art of Relaxation

My cat, Shadow, has developed a morning ritual since his brother died* in which he meows loudly at me, gently gnaws at me, rubs his head against the blanket in which I’m encased, and then hops up on my hip (I usually sleep on my side) and stands there. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a fifteen-pound cat just stand on you, but it doesn’t feel great. When I try to roll back and forth to get him off, he simply rolls with me. It doesn’t matter how quickly I roll, he sticks like glue. Funny side note: One morning this week, he wasn’t around when I woke up. I was puzzled, but went into the kitchen to get his wet food for breakfast. I open his cabinet, and he still didn’t come. I was starting to get worried and was about to go after him when he came running towards the kitchen as fast as his chubby little legs would take him. He opened his mouth to meow, but it was cut off by a huge yawn. It was ridiculously adorable that he had fallen asleep on the job!

Anyway, I was thinking about that in taiji class yesterday when we were talking about relaxation. It’s one of the most important tenets in taiji, and it’s something I struggle with all the time. I’m a tense person by nature (and nurture), and I carry all my tension is my shoulders and back. It used to be my upper back, but now it’s mostly my lower back. The way to relax your back is to drop your tailbone, and every time I check in with my tailbone, it’s ratcheted up an inch. Every damn time. Even if it’s a minute from the last time I checked in. I think it’s less ‘up’ than it has been in the past, but it’s still tense. The problem is, though, that I can’t always think about my tailbone. If I did, I wouldn’t have time to think of anything else. I get easily frustrated when I can’t do something, which is one reason I love Dark Souls games so much. I’m not inherently good at them, and they’ve taught me not to give up when things get tough. I’m still inordinately proud of beating Biggie & Small (Ornstein & Smough) after almost giving up on the game.

Anyway, we were talking about breathing in class. It’s important, obviously, and there are many different ways to breathe. Our teacher told us about the man who owns the Guinness Book of World Record for holding his breath, and one of his practice techniques is passive breathing. You inhale with your abdomen, and then you just let the breath passively exhale. I’ve tried it, and I’ve ended up feeling choked or lightheaded. I mentioned it to my teacher, and she said not to do it then. She said that focusing on your breathing is important, but it shouldn’t be laborious or painful. My problem is that the passive exhale is an anathema to me, which makes me angry. As I said, I don’t do well with things I don’t understand or can’t do on the first go. While I can conceptually understand what passive breathing is, I can’t do it in practice. I don’t understand how to let my breath out without actively pushing it out if I’m concentrating on it at all.


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Love in the Time of Stubbornness

I’ve been thinking lately a lot about dating. Why? I don’t really know, but I’ve discussed it with friends to try to puzzle out my feelings. I’ve written before about how I realized in my early twenties that I didn’t want children. That’s also roughly the same time I realized I was sexually attracted to women as well as men. In my late twenties, early thirties, I decided I didn’t want to get married. It’s only recently that I’ve questioned whether I want to be an a monogamous dyad relationship or not. I’ve been in an open relationship before, but it was more because that’s what my boyfriend wanted than because we both agreed, so I don’t really count it when calculating my metrics about what I want from a relationship. I also realized in my mid-twenties that I was more comfortable with casual sex  than are many women, but I didn’t really know what to do with it.

Now, I’m questioning whether I want a traditional romantic relationship or not. I’ve been reading a shit-ton of Captain Awkward, and I must admit that the letters she gets makes me very disinclined to date. Intellectually, I understand that she’s seeing the worst of the worst because you don’t write to an advice columnist if your relationship is peachy keen. However, the steady stream of women (let’s face it. A vast majority of the emotional labor done in a heteronormative relationship is done by the woman) writing in with horror stories that curl the very straight Asian hairs on the back of my neck confirm my bias for just snuggling down on the couch with a good book, a mug of tea, and my cat instead of venturing into the dating world.

I hate dating. I always have. I know most people don’t love it, but I hate it to the point of revulsion. I don’t like making small talk with people I know, let alone people I don’t, and there’s the possibility of rejection constantly hovering in the back of my mind. It’s hard to not feel as if I’m auditioning for the role of girlfriend, and it’s only recently that I’ve realized I have veto rights in a relationship, too. In other words, I’m not just auditioning for them–they’re doing the same for me. Even so, the thought of having awkward  conversation with someone while sipping coffee makes me cringe. When I used to meet people online for dating (read, sex) purposes, I was very comfortable with the emailing portion of the ‘courting’. I’m a writer, and my strength is in my words. I can be witty, vibrant, intelligent, and fearless in my writing. It’s quite different when I actually open my mouth. It’s the same with me and my Twitter persona. No, I’m not being someone different, but I’m being a more confident, more brash me. I’m sure if people on Twitter met me in real life, they would be slightly (or not so slightly) disappointed that I wasn’t as dynamic as I am online. Also weird–I swear way more in writing than I do in real life.

The real me is low-key to the point of inertia. I have low energy, and it takes a great deal for me to do something that it outside my norm. Take going out dancing with my bestie, for example (when she used to live here). We would set a day to go to First Ave. I’d be up for it when we set the date. Then, when the day arrived, I would think, “I don’t want to get dressed and leave the house. I have to drive to bestie’s house, which, ugh. Then, I have to dance around people I don’t know and maybe fend off unwanted advances. Then, I’d have to drive home again in the wee hours of the night.” I didn’t want to do any of it in the moment, and I’d have to force myself step by step. I had a great time when I went, and I love spending time with my bestie, but my depression makes it seem like going out is a mountain when it’s really a molehill.


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Learning to Tolerate Frustration

I hate weeding. I hate it so much. If I had a top ten list of things I hate to do, well, it wouldn’t be on it, but it would be close. I especially hate it when it’s sunny and dank out as it is today. I sit there, sweating, resenting the hell out of the glowing orb in the sky. Let me be clear. Even though I’m a cold weather kind of gal, I like te sun shining in the sky. However, not when it’s dank. I fucking hate humidity because I sweat like a pig. When I used to read ‘health articles’ , one of the general tips was that you should workout until you break a heavy sweat. I break in a heavy sweat just by stepping out into the sun, so it’s not a good barometer for me.

Anyway, I was weeding today and just thinking nasty thoughts towards the weeds I was pulling out of the backyard. It seems so pointless in that even if you get the roots, there will always be more weeds to take their place. I will say, however, that I like breaking down boxes with a box cutter. There’s something immensely satisfying about destroying boxes to their basics. I also will say that I like manual labor as it makes me Zen in a way. I don’t think about anything as I’m working with my hands, which is a relief for me. My brain is constantly humming, and the more I try not to think about things, the more my thoughts race around in my brain. To be able to have it blessedly free of thoughts is a miracle, but is it worth doing the manual labor? Box-breaking, yes. Weeding, no.

I’m working on being more flexible in general, but it’s difficult. I find comfort in my routines, so anything that fucks with that garners a massive side eye from me. However, doing a few hours of housework every day has been good in that besides giving me time away from my thoughts, it also makes me feel productive in a way that I don’t with doing mental work. Clearing out the garage and seeing the actual progress is satisfying in a way that writing two-thousand words isn’t.

As many of you know, I don’t cook. Many years ago, I did bake, though, and there was something so soothing about handling the dough. It’s tactile, and it feels wonderful to have it ooze through my fingers. Then, placing the lump of dough (or lumps) in the oven and waiting for it to form into something delicious and edible was great, too. The smell wafting from the oven would tantalize me until I pulled it out, all brown, smelling earthy, yeasty, and sweet, and ready to be shoved down my gullet.

I did do a little bit of cooking. I made a seven-layer dip, a potato corn chowder with a whole tub of sour cream that was fucking amazing, and kung pao chicken. They were all tasty, especially the chowder, but it was so time-consuming. It made me feel good, though, to have this huge pot of chowder ready to be eaten, and what’s better on  blustery Minnesota winter day than a steaming bowl of corn chowder?


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Exercise, Activity, and Mood

I have struggled all my life with depression. At times, it has been chronic and crippling, to the point where me brushing my teeth was a major accomplishment. Right now, I would say I have a low-grade enduring depression that flares up into serious depression from time to time. It’s my go-to when I’m under stress, and the difference is how alien the encompassing depression feels now as in comparison to how comfortable it was back when I was in the middle of it day-to-day-to-day.

I would love to say that I worked on my depression and that’s why I’ve gotten better. I would love to be able to give a list of things you can do to feel better. I would love nothing more, but I can’t because that’s not how I emerged from the suffocating embrace of depression. Sure, I did my due diligence by seeking out therapy and medication through therapy, then starting taiji which has helped a great deal, but it was an outcome, not the main intent, but nothing I did consciously to help my depression mattered as much as the indirect results of other behavior such as the aforementioned therapy and taiji.

However, I’ve been in and out of therapy for the past thirty years, and I’ve been practicing taiji for almost nine years. Neither are an easy or quick solution, and I didn’t go into taiji with the intention of easing my mental health issues. That’s just been a nice side bonus. I will say, however, it makes me more aware now how fragile my mental health balance is. I went through a period recently of deep depression, not as bad as it was before, but still pretty intense. I knew it wasn’t from within me, which made it almost worse. Rationally, I knew there was no reason I should be depressed, but I also knew I couldn’t talk myself out of it. It lasted a few weeks, and I just gritted my teeth and powered my way through it. I was terrified it would last forever, but it faded after two  or so weeks.

On Saturday, I had to get up early to pick up Ian from the airport. Without thinking, I checked my social media. Then, I remembered that it was my day not to be on social media, and I quit. I felt bad, but not too bad. I can’t tell you how much better I feel on the days when I stay offline. I don’t think it’s viable for day-to-day life, but it’s nice to get a break twice a week. It’s too easy to get overwhelmed while scrolling through my TL, thinking that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. I mean, it is, but not more so than it has been in the past. There is a lot of shit in this world, and there always has been. Having it flash past my eyes on a continuous basis leaves me in a state of numb depression. It’s something I’ve railed about before–how overwhelming all the bad news can be. It’s easy to feel hopeless about the state of the world and think that there’s nothing you can do to alleviate the pain.


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Taking People at Their Word

I ran across the video below last night as I was surfing YouTube. It was on my YouTube front page as a recommendation, and as my friend, Ian, has met and interviewed Dee Snider (which he, Ian, was in the army. he said Dee was a good dude), I clicked on it.

It hit me in the gut, and I cried while watching it at the rawness and the emotion. I shared it, then tweeted to Dee Snider my respect. He did it to help fund research for childhood cancer, and that’s an admirable thing.

Then I found out that Dee Snider was friends with this president, and I experienced a ‘what the fuck’ moment.  I Googled it and found out it was true. They became friends when Dee Snider was on The Celebrity Apprentice twice a few years back.  I  found out in the context of this president asking to use this song on the campaign trail, and Dee said sure. He said they were friends because they followed the adage to not talk about politics, religion, or sports (which, by the way, is not a luxury everyone has. Politics is not compartmentalized for many minorities, but another post, another day). When Dee started hearing this president on the campaign trail, he was confused because what the president was espousing wasn’t what he believed in, and more to the point, went against what the song is about. As he said, the first line is about the right to choose, which he elaborated meant a woman’s right to choose. So he asked this president to stop using the song because he didn’t want people thinking he (Dee) endorsed the hateful ideas he (the president) was spewing, and the president agreed. Dee talked about when Paul Ryan tried to use it and was flabbergasted the latter didn’t vet it. Dee:

I had to step up and say, ‘Wait a minute. Didn’t you vet the song? You’re singing the song, ‘We’ve got the right to choose’,’ and then railing against women’s right to choose. So I can’t endorse you using it.’ And that’s where I draw the line.

This was in June of last year, and Dee said he still liked this president, but couldn’t get behind him. Dee also sounded like he was struggling because he knew the president as pro-choice and a Democrat. That’s valid because this president has been all over the map, agreeing with the last person to present an argument he likes.
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Being OK With Letting Go

Yesterday, I came home from taiji and my mom informed me that my brother and the boys (his sons) wouldn’t be able to make it here for dinner. He suggested we go there. I immediately said no, and my mother said she knew I’d say that. She suggested we meet somewhere like Culver’s for dessert, but he decided to come here after dinner. Then, they came over, and my brother and I were discussing something while my mom and the boys were playing ping-pong. One of my nephews came up to say that my mom wanted to talk to my brother about something. He said OK, then we continued talking. I was marveling over that because I would have immediately gone done and probably resented it slightly. My mom can be very persistent when she has her mind on something, and it’s often easier just to give in than to defer. However, she also is more pushy with me than she is with my brother, probably in part because he’s very firm about his limits.

Anyway, after they were done playing ping-pong, they came back up. My brother, my nephews, and I were chatting about something when my mother said to my brother in a faux-whisper, “Can we go to Culver’s for ice cream?” A beat, “Or, we have bananas.” I started laughing, and my brother said with a big smile, “Can we go eat all the ice cream or stay here and have a banana?” He was making it clear that he realized there was really only one answer to that, which is something he wouldn’t have recognized before. We all started laughing and joking about it, and then agreed we would go, but in separate cars so they could go straight home. Then, my mom said, “Minna will have to drive.” She twisted her knee a week ago, and it’s still giving her problems. So, I said in a deadpan voice (because I mentioned it earlier, too), “Minna can drive to the place where she can’t eat anything!”* We all joked about that for several minutes, and then my mom said, “We should go now.” So of course, that got wrapped up into the joke (that my mom was making a suggestion she knew couldn’t be turned down, then adding layers of conditions to it), and it was a fun family moment.

To be clear, I was fine with driving even if I couldn’t eat anything. It was a moment of family teasing and bonding, and it felt great. I can’t help but compare it to how that shit would have gone down a few years ago.

Me getting home from taiji, quietly resenting that I don’t have space to myself.**

Mom (the second I step in the door which I still don’t like, but doesn’t send me up. the. fucking. wall the way it used to): Your brother wants us to go there instead of coming here for dinner.

Me (a bundle of resentment in part because I know that means me driving because my mom doesn’t like to drive at night, never mind that I don’t either, and my brother lives forty minutes away): NO I DON’T WANT TO GO JUST FUCKING GO YOURSELF GET AWAY FROM ME YOU EVIL COW ARRRRGH!

Obviously, I don’t say that, but it’s what I’m feeling. What I would say would be some variant of a huffy, “I’m not going there” in a very aggrieved tone.  I would feel I didn’t have a choice, which would make me really resentful, even if I did end up going. Also, my mom doesn’t believe she has the right to ask for anything (for many reasons), so she would never just come out and say, “I would like it if you drive us to your brother’s place.” It would be, “Your brother can’t come, but he said we could go there”, and I’m supposed to infer the rest. It’s actually part of what happened in the amusing family scenario above.


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When Positivity is Oppressive

I read a short rant by a Facebook friend on white spiritual workers (she’s white herself) being full of shit, and she ended it by saying Law of Attraction was bullshit. I didn’t know what that was, so I Googled it, as is my wont. I’ll get to that in a second. On this post, a friend of my friend posted how disappointed she was with the original post (OP), and she was being all airy-fairy about it, but I could easily read the anger under all her love and light words. Apparently, she unfriended my friend, which sort of proved my friend’s point. Many people who espouse to be all about love are some of the most repressed, angriest people I know. Not all, of course, but it’s easy to wrap yourself in the lingo as a away of avoiding your actual problems.

I’ve ranted before about Americans and our weird obsession with having a positive attitude. To me, it’s a way of coping with the fact that we have very little control over what happens, which is fine, I guess. However, we’re also a very repressive Christian nation at heart, which also believes that you get what you deserve, basically. When I was a Christian, I was told to pray to God if I needed something. If I didn’t get the response I wanted, well, then either I didn’t pray hard enough or I didn’t believe hard enough. It was always the fault of the supplicant and not of God.

That’s how I view positive thinking, at least the way many Americans interpret it. “If you think it, you can do it.” “You can beat this cancer if you just have a positive attitude!” “There’s nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it.” Even as a kid, I knew this was bullshit. I knew I could never be President of the United States, and this was before I discovered I was bisexual. I would never play in the NBA or be an award-winning photography*, neither of which I wanted to do, but still. I also felt I couldn’t be an actress which is what I really wanted to do because I didn’t see anyone who looked like me who wasn’t an extra on M*A*S*H, but that’s another rant for another time.

Barbara Ehrenreich, an author who is extremely conscious of social justice issues, had the same complaint when she got cancer. She went on all these online forums and was greeted with an onslaught of positivity that just made her angry because it seemed to be victim-blaming. One person told her to run to therapy because she was too angry. Being the researcher that she is, Ehrenreich dove into the positive thinking movement and wrote a book about it. She started a group called the Negatives, and they’re dedicated to debunking a lot of this bullshit. She makes it clear that she’s not a pessimist, but she sees a lot of problems with the positivity movement.


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