Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: anxiety

The only thing I have to fear is fear itself

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

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

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

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

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


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Awkward dancing in my head

Ian had a thing yesterday (he’s here visiting me) with his old colleagues at Game Informer (GI) for their 300th issue of their print magazine. He asked if I wanted to go, and I said sure both because I wanted to meet the GI crew and to support him. Immediately, I was assaulted with anxious thoughts about the event. Would I look stupid? Would I sound stupid? Would I embarrass him in front of his old colleagues? Objectively, I know I’m decent at small talk and mingling with people. In my brain, however, I’m THE WORST PERSON EVER AND NO ONE WILL LIKE ME. It hearkens back to my days as a kid–fat, friendless, and endlessly picked on. It’s hard to escape that mentality, even forty years later.

Another problem is that I don’t interact with people I don’t know very often in my real life. Online? Sure. But it’s much easier to curate an interaction online and to end it when you’re done with it. It’s not as easy to do in real life, and I’m not good at gracefully extracting myself from uncomfortable situations. I’m the one who gets cornered at the party and has someone talk her ear off for hours about a problem I could care less about. I’m also the person who has cashiers pouring their hearts out to for no apparent reason, and yes, I’m working on curbing this behavior in others. I know part of it is my own fault for asking follow-up questions, but it’s ingrained in my head. Also, eye contact. It feels rude not to look someone in the eyes, though.

Anyway, my point is, I was fretting about this shindig for the whole week leading up to it. Not constantly (which is an improvement), but once in a while, I’d think, “Oh shit. I’m going to make a fool of myself.” What helped was to shove it in the back of my head whenever the thought popped up. I haven’t been able to do that successfully before, but I was able to this time. Then, the day of the shindig, I started telling myself things such as, “You aren’t that big of a deal. No one is going to give a shit about you.” I know that sounds horribly negative, but it’s not in this case. One of the problems with having a low self-esteem is that, paradoxically, you think too much of yourself. What I mean is that I simultaneously think I’m the worst person in the world (which is low self-esteem) and that everyone must be thinking of how horrible I am (which is egotistical if you really think about it). When I was at my lowest, I thought everyone was constantly thinking about what a terrible person I am. The minute they met me, they’d say it to themselves, and they wouldn’t let up until our interaction ended.

This is pure horseshit, of course, First of all, most people care more about themselves than they do about you. I’m worrying about how I’m coming across to others, and they’re probably doing the same to a greater or lesser extent. Even if they aren’t, they’re not laser-like focused on me, waiting to pounce on any misstep I may have.

The other thing I told myself is that if I get stuck, just get the other person to talk about themselves. This is something I’m really good at, and I can do it for hours on end if need be. It works ninety-nine out of one hundred times because as I said, most people hunger to talk about themselves, and for the last one out of a hundred, well, that’s a bit more difficult. I have only run into that person once or twice, however, so it’s not a big deal.

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Third Saturday Social-Media Free

So, this is the third Saturday I’ve been social-media free. I managed to remember it this week and didn’t even peek in the morning when I woke up. I had to check something from one of the people I follow on Twitter, and I managed to do it without looking at my TL itself. It’s a weird feeling of being simultaneously disconnected and in tune. Disconnected from social media and the world at large, but in tune with myself. Which is not necessarily a good thing. I may try extending the blackout through tomorrow if it continues to go this well.

My teeth are hurting. They have been on and off for the past few months. At first, I thought it was a sinus problem, but now I’m not so sure. I know I grind my teeth, and I used to have a mouth guard that was made specifically for me. I bit my way through it though, and it’s not cheap. Anyway, when I eat hot or cold food, my teeth hurt like hell for several minutes. They dully ache at other times. I know I need to see the dentist, but I’ve been dragging my heels on it. I hate going to the dentist for several reasons, not the least because I haven’t gone in a few years, and I’m embarrassed about it. My dentist is really good, though, and I like the dental hygienists, too.

I also should go to the doctor to get my thyroid meds checked again, along with what food sensitivities I might have. I already know I’m lactose-intolerant and have a sensitivity to gluten, but I’m starting to realize that there are other things that affect my digestive system in a negative way.

It’s Sunday. My self-imposed ban of social media is over. I checked my mentions and responded as necessary, but when I started looking at my feed on Facebook, I found myself getting tense. I haven’t even looked at Twitter yet. I think I may go a second day without checking my TL and feed. We’ll see how far I can take this!

On a different note, I’ve been watching more clips of best and worst auditions for various talent shows, and I have a few general tips. One, don’t ever compare yourself to icons like Whitney, Mariah, and Michael (Jackson), let alone sing their songs if you’re not an absolute powerhouse. Match your songs to your personality. Well, first of all, make sure you can sing. After that, though, the song has to match your voice. This young woman who said she sounds like Whitney had this kittenish voice which would have been better suited to…um…well, not Whitney.

I also have a top three list of songs you should never sing in audition. I’ll give you the reason for each. 3. Proud Mary by Tina Turner, especially if you’re a white dude. Yes, I know there’s a CCR version, but people singing it in audition are definitely trying to do the Tina Turner version. From her growl to her wiggle to the outsized attitude, it’s a performance that I have yet to see anyone else pull off. 2. Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen and a million other people. The reason for this is a bit different. This song has been covered within an inch of its life. I love this song and have heard dozens of covers, each better than the last. Most people who try to sing it in audition want to put their own spin on it, but butcher it mercilessly. I have only heard one good version of it, and it’s mostly because the guy’s voice was amazing. The arrangement was pretty pedestrian, but he made it his own.

By the way, I saw David Williams’ comments from the initial audition, and he wasn’t mean at all. Plus, he’s hot. But that’s another post for another time. Anyway, Kyle’s version is pretty much a straight cover, which is why it works for his voice. If you can sing like this, then go ahead and sing Hallelujah. Otherwise, stay away from it.

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Depression, Anxiety, and Stomach Aches

darkness becomes me.
Shrouded in sadness.

I am in a funk, and I don’t know how to get out of it. I’ve written before about how frustrating it is to be depressed when there’s no reason for it and it feels as if it’s coming from outside of me. I’m used to depression being a part of me, and this feels alien to me. I’m guessing a large part of it is my ongoing health problems. Last week, I had a sudden case of the runs that lasted for three days, but only hit at night. I blamed the shawarma I had because it was the only new thing I’d eaten that week. (I tend to eat the same food over and over again.) I felt OK a few days after, but now, I’m having a stomach ache again. It’s not as bad, and I’m not having diarrhea, but it’s very uncomfortable. I’m thinking it might be corn (tortilla chips and corn salsa), and it would make me grumpy to have to give that up as well.

I have to say that giving up gluten and dairy has been a good thing, but I wonder if I’m creating more problems by doing so. I know I’m intolerant to dairy, so I think giving that up is a good thing, but gluten is a bit more iffy, and am I creating more problems by cutting it out completely? I think it might be time to go to the doctor again; I have to get my thyroid meds dosage checked again. I’m tired of feeling shitty most of the time.

In addition, *warning, first world problems ahead*, I had to run a few errands yesterday, and I wanted to do one before I went to taiji. That meant getting up earlier than usual, and I was waking up every hour or so because my brain won’t let me sleep if I have to get up at a certain time. I finally gave up and got up an hour and a half earlier than I had planned on, then it was a jaunt to the nearest UPS store. My Xbone controller has a sticky B button, which is not great since it’s the sprint/roll button in Dark Souls games. I’ve had to use either my fingernail or a mini-screwdriver to occasionally pop the button back out, which, as you can imagine, is not optimal gaming. Now, it gets stuck most of the time, and I have to hit the controller to pop it back out. It’s been interesting trying to play DS III without being able to consistently roll. Anyway, I bought a new wired controller without realizing it’s not the Microsoft controller. When I got it, it just didn’t fit right in my hand, and Ian noticed it was made by a different company. It’s official, but it’s not good. I really didn’t like it, so I decided to return it and get a controller with a cable set (nice, Microsoft. Squeeze out a couple more bucks from us for a wired controller), which is what I have now.

I love my Xbone controller. The minute I picked it up, it just felt as if it were made for my hands. I’m hoping my new one will feel the same. The fake one I bought most certainly did not. It felt cheap, and bumpy, and just WRONG. Anyway, Amazon told me I had to return it in one day in order to get the refund, so I hustled my bustle to get there. I sent the directions to my phone, and I generally know the area, so I thought it wouldn’t be a problem. It was. I couldn’t find it, and my phone wasn’t really helping. When I finally found it, it was a tiny hole in the wall, and I was frustrated by the time I got there. I missed the exit on the way home, and that frustrated me even more. I also stopped at the bank and the gas station, all of this before going to taiji. After taiji, I went to the coop and then to renew my tabs for my car. That’s six places in one day, which is six places more than I normally visit. I was so tired, I took a nap last night, which has thrown my sleep completely off.

I need to figure out what is going on with my digestive track. I need to get over this goddamn depression. I feel like nothing matters, and I know it’s not the real me. At least I am cognizant that it’s not me, but it doesn’t help me not feel it.

The Weird Thing About Anxiety

anxiety run rampant.
The thoughts never end.

There was a terrorist attack in London a few days ago, and the NYT decided that the proper headline should be that England is still ‘reeling’ from the attack in Manchester a few weeks ago. It’s sensationalist and narrow-minded, and, frankly, embarrassing, but I don’t expect much more from a paper that hired a climate change denier as one of their op-eds. As to be expected, Brits had a great deal of fun at the NYT’s expense, starting the #ThingsThatLeaveBritainReeling hashtag. You gotta love the Brits and their dry wit. The NYT did eventually change their headline, but they never should have ran with it in the first place.

This post isn’t about the attacks or the media stupidity, however. It’s about the reaction of an anxious person (me) when the worst-case scenario actually happens. I’ve dealt with anxiety all my life. I didn’t realize it was a thing for me (along with severe depression) until I was in my late twenties, but once my therapist put a name to it, it made so much sense. It’s trite, but true that naming something takes away some of its power. That’s not to say that knowing I had anxiety issues made them go away, but at least I knew what I was dealing with.

I remember when I was in school (don’t remember the grade), my class was going to Valleyfair for the day of rides, games, bad fair food, and other delights. It was near the end of the school year, and it was supposed to be a fun day for all. I spent the whole night before the trip lying in my bed, worrying about who I was going to walk around with, what if nobody wanted to do what I wanted to do, and a various assortment of other minutiae that would never occur to anyone else. I was a loser in school, and I never had many friends. There were many reasons for it. I was a fat, awkward, intellectual, nerdy Asian girl in a very vanilla (in two meanings of the word) Minnesota suburb, and I didn’t fit in anywhere. I got along on a superficial level from people in many different groups, but I didn’t belong to any one group. I was intensely lonely as a kid, and it didn’t help that my mind was constantly worrying about every little thing.

I dreaded going to Valleyfair, and I would have skipped it if I could have found a plausible reason for not going. I also wanted to skip both my high school and college graduations, but I ended up going. As a person with anxiety issues, I can make a mountain out of any molehill. Ironically, though, the averse of that is also true. When a situation is dire, I’m at my calmest. I remember when 9/11 happened, I was living in the Bay Area and pursuing my MA in Writing & Consciousness*. I woke up because I had a phone session with my therapist back in St. Paul, and I had to use the bathroom prior to the session. My housemates were in the living room watching the TV, and it looked as if they were watching an action movie or something. It turned out they were watching the fall of the first tower, and I stopped to watch with them.

My memory is hazy, but I believe we watched as the second tower came down real time. Every channel covered it obsessively, and I watched the towers fall over and over and over again in the next hour until I forced myself to walk away. I was shocked and horrified, of course, but I wasn’t scared or terrified. It caused me to doubt myself and my humanity because I couldn’t get all freaked out as everyone else was. It’s partly because I understood why people across the world might be pushed to their limits by the behavior of America, but it’s mostly because I lived with terror every day of my life. It’s not an exaggeration to say that going to the grocery store used to cause me such severe anxiety, I would put it off for as long as I could.

I don’t know if this is how it works for other people with anxiety issues, but for me, the worse the actual situation is, the calmer I am. I think it’s because I’m always prepping for the worst-case scenario, when it actually happens, my brain is in its element. It’s fucked up, and I wish it weren’t so, but I can’t deny it helps when I have to deal with a crisis. I was in a minor car accident a year ago. I’ve written about it before, but what has stuck with me is how calm I was when it happened. I looked up, saw the car barreling towards me, and I thought, “I’m going to get hit.” Without thinking about it, I relaxed (I credit taiji) and accepted I couldn’t do anything about it. I firmly believe that’s why I walked away with deep bruises and nothing else, and they were from the seat belt/air bag.

That’s neither here nor there. My point is that I didn’t panic, and I didn’t freak out. I stayed calm, and it helped me deal with the situation. In fact, I had to calm down the young girl who hit me because she was freaking out about how her father was going to kill her. I patted her on the back and told her to take some slow, smooth breaths to calm down. She said her father had to go to work and now didn’t have a car. I told her he could get a taxi. The whole time I was comforting her, there was a voice in the back of my head saying, “I’m comforting her while she’s the one who hit me!” The voice wasn’t angry, however; it was just amusing to me.

Back to 9/11. The only thing that terrified me about it was the American reaction to the event. I stopped voicing my protest to the Iraq invasion because I felt unsafe in stating my opinion. I feared my fellow Americans much more than I did any Islamic terrorist. I came to loathe the American flag because it stood for a cheap, easy way to claim your patriotism without actually doing anything. I remember people putting out their flags and getting pissy if you chose not to do the same. I’m always uneasy with walking lockstep with, well, anyone, and I watched our country salute W.’s invasion with an enthusiasm that made me cringe.

I can’t help compare our collective reaction to that instance of terrorism** with how Britain is reacting to the Manchester/London attacks. We overreacted in a big way, and I think it’s because it’s the first time many of us have ever experienced an attack on our country from outside our own borders. Britain has been attacked before, and they know better how to deal with it. I think it’s one reason I am calmer in a moment of true crisis than perhaps other people would be. I’ve dealt with y terrors ¬†and horrible shit all my life, so I’m not going to crumble under a real threat. My cat, Shadow, is a skittish boy, much like I am. He starts at any noise, and he has nightmares just as I do. However, the vacuum cleaner that most cats hate? He’s not fazed by it. It’s simply not scary to him. He’s seen real horror, yo, and some silly machine isn’t going to get the best of him!

I wish I could be as calm in my day to day life as I am in a crisis. I’m less anxious than I was even five years ago, but I still can obsess over the stupidest things. Hopefully, with time, taiji, and maybe another therapist, I can change that.




*From an institution that lost its accreditation years later. Sigh.

**But not, interestingly, the same reaction we have to domestic terrorism committed by white men.

I’m Having Fun, Right?

worry fear anguish anxiety
Overwhelmed with anxiety.

I went out tonight (last night by the time you read this) to the Acme Comedy Club. I haven’t been to a comedy club in….forever? Damn. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to one, it’s been that long. Anyway, Ian’s friend with the emcee (@ItsTheBrandi) on Twitter, and he asked if I wanted to see her and Dana Gould, his doppelganger at the Club (which is right next to where he works). I said sure, why not? It’s outside of my comfort zone, which is one reason I said yes. I’m trying to stretch my limits little by little, and I thought this would be a good way to do it. I like comedy. I like laughing. Who doesn’t? I didn’t know much about Dana Gould, but I’d heard of him, and he was bound to be pretty funny, I figured.

I woke up with a headache, bordering on a migraine, Tuesday morning/afternoon. I popped a couple migraine Excedrin, then lay* on the couch with all the lights off. I tweeted a bit and watched a Let’s Play on YouTube, but that was it. I felt shaky, and all the colors had bled out the sides of my vision. I didn’t move for hours, and late in the evening, I popped a few more Excedrin. I used to say I had migraines, but given the descriptions I’ve read of them, I’ve downgraded my migraines to really fucking bad headaches. I was sixty percent better the next afternoon, and I popped more Excedrin. Didn’t move much for most of the afternoon. My brother came over, and we had dinner, and I had to pop a few more Excedrin before going to bed. This morning, I woke up about ninety percent better, but still slightly shaky. Both Tuesday and Wednesday, I had a hard time doing my morning routine. I was exhausted by the time I was done, even though I cut it short both times. I felt slightly better today, but still tired. I haven’t done my weight set since the attack of the bad headache.

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Low Self-Esteem and High Self-Absorption: A Study in Contrast

Softly, the rain falls.

I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem all my life. I don’t remember much of my childhood, but the memories I do have are mostly negative. I remember walking home from elementary school, my stomach in knots. There was a much older girl* who would wait for me to pass by, then she would taunt me as I did. I have no idea why she got off on picking on me, but I dreaded the three blocks I had to walk home from school. She wasn’t there every day or even most days, but in some ways, that made it worse. I never knew when I’d see her, which meant every walk home was a chore for the first block. I don’t know how long this went on until one day, I just burst into tears as she yelled whatever it was she chose to yell my way. She immediately stopped making fun of me and wiped away my tears, saying I had pretty hair. She didn’t bother me after that, and to this day, I have no idea why my crying affected her so much. Thinking back, my guess would be that she had an unhappy life herself and took it out on me. My crying reminded her that I was a human being and not a punching bag. Alternately, she might have thought she was teasing me good-naturedly, that we were buddies of some sort, and was mortified when I started crying.

I didn’t have many friends in elementary school. I was always the weird kid who’d rather read than play. In addition, I grew up in the suburbs in Minnesota in the eighties, so I was one of only a few nonwhite faces at my school. I don’t remember many instances of outright racism except the occasion chant of ‘Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these’ with the accompanying pulling of the eyelids, but nor do I remember many overt expressions of friendship, either. I was a lonely kid, fat, awkward, highly intelligent, and hiding a dysfunctional home life. I felt like an outsider for so many reasons, and I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to be friends with me. I wouldn’t want to be friends with me if I weren’t me, so why should anyone else? I spent as much time in my own head as I possibly could because I hated the world around me. I was seven when I realized I would die one day. It simultaneously terrified and relieved me. I couldn’t imagine being alive, and, yet, I couldn’t imagine living for very much longer.

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