Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: depression

Depression and escapism

the thinnest ray of sunlight.
Shrouded in darkness.

When I am depressed, I strip out all the extraneous things that I don’t *have* to do on any given day. There are a few things that I force myself to do every day, including my work and writing. I brush my teeth (and floss!) three times a day, and that’s the extent of what I force myself to do every day. I go grocery shopping every few days, and I go to taiji twice a week. Oh, and I do the dishes after I eat instead of letting them pile up for weeks. It’s a little change, but it made me feel much better. If I have energy and am not sick, I might go out to do something else, but that doesn’t happen very often.

I do the laundry when I would be running around outside in underwear otherwise (which would be today), and everything else is done on an absolutely needs to be done basis. I take a shower every few days when I remember it, and even that is a big production. I think it’s difficult for people who have not been depressed to understand how enervating it can be. I’ve heard people talking about someone, describing that person in a way that made it immediately clear to me that the person probably suffered from depression. Then, they would talk about how lazy the person was, and it would make me really uncomfortable.

Let me give you a small example. For taiji, I have to keep my nails short. That’s my preference, anyway, but it’s a good idea, especially when there’s hand-to-hand contact. Cutting one’s nails isn’t a big deal. It takes maybe five minutes, and a few swipes of an emery board after is all you need to do. When I first notice my nails need cutting, I simply think, “Huh. I should cut my nails.” Then I ignore it for a week or two as my nails continue to grow. The next time I pay attention to them, I think, “I really need to cut my nails.” I feel embarrassed and ashamed, but I still don’t do anything about them. Then, because I have shitty nails, they begin cracking and breaking. I also get hangnails which I chew and pick at, and I’ll chew on my nails to rip off the jagged edges. That doesn’t help, of course, but it doesn’t stop my brain from thinking it’s a good solution to the nail-cutting problem.

When it’s all said and done, it takes me about a month before I actually summon up the energy to cut my nails. I know rationally that it’ll only take me five minutes and then I can free up my mental energy for something else. Instead, I delay  it and stew about it until I absolutely have no other choice than to cut my nails. Looking from the outside, you could fairly call me lazy for not cutting my nails for a month. It’s not laziness, however, and it’s doesn’t help anything to have someone tell me I’m lazy. Believe me, I tell myself that often enough. I know if I wasn’t depressed, I would get so much more done. It’s not helpful, either, because it just makes me less motivated to do anything.

Continue Reading

Let’s talk about health, baby

the best is a combination of all of the above.
All the bad and none of the good.

Hello. I have sinus problems. It is no fun. I think it’s allergies, but I am not not sure. I woke up feeling as if ice picks are being smashed up my nostrils. By the way, I think I know why I’ve had two migraines and the beginning of the third in the past two weeks is because of the lemonade lite I bought that has Stevia. Now, it’s not one of the listed side effects, but it’s the only thing that has changed in my diet, and I haven’t had a full migraine for about a decade.

I had a taiji classmate who asked me how to tell if a headache is a migraine, and my immediate response was that you would know if you had a migraine. Correction, that’s if you get the headache part of it. My taiji teacher doesn’t, and I’ve learned that’s a type of migraine, albeit rare. You get all the accompanying symptoms without the actual headache. That sounds wacky to me, but it’s apparently a thing.

For me, I can tell because the world goes gray. Or rather, everything starts losing color and feels dull. In addition, stimuli hurts even more than usual (I have sensory issues in general), and I find myself wincing at the least bit of light. When I say hurt, I mean physically. The light hurts my eyeballs, and sounds hurt my ears. It’s as if I have no sensory filter, and everything scores a direct and palpable hit.

If I’m lucky and I catch it right in the beginning, I can pop two Excedrin Migraine (or the generic equivalent), deal with a lowkey headache, and go about my life. If I don’t catch it in time, however, it’s a completely different matter. I will say that I’m still lucky because I can at least function when I have a migraine, albeit at a much less productive pace. I have to turn off all the lights and if I’m watching a video, I have to keep the sound extremely low. I can still write/work, but I have to take more breaks, and my brain runs at a slower pace. The full migraine lasts roughly twenty-four hours, and the chemtrails last for another twenty-four hours or so.

Sinus issues are a different matter. This time, it’s not a sinus headache. It’s my nose feeling as if I’ve snorted a handful of pine needles into it. Again, it’s as if I have no filters, and I can feel everything more intensely than I otherwise would. My nose is also stuffy, and my ears are scabby. I have a cough that comes and goes as it pleases. My body is aching, but that could also be because of some changes my teacher is making to our stance in taiji. It takes more effort, though it’s supposed to be better for you in the long run.

Continue Reading

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.

::sigh::


Continue Reading

New year and it’s time to get it on

I’m writing this Christmas morn, and I’m already over it. Let’s face it. I was over it from the first time I heard a Christmas carol (which was two months ago). I was over it the day after last Christmas. Of all the ‘big’ holidays, Christmas is my most hated for how disgusting I find it. I’ve shared before, but I wrote an article for the school newspaper in either eighth or ninth grade about the crass commercialization of Christmas, and it’s only gotten worse since. I’m able to cut down on how much Christmas crap I have to ingest because I don’t watch TV at all. But, just hearing a Christmas song or commercial is enough to put me in a grumpy mood.

I was going to try to be more complacent about it this year, and the results were mixed. In general, I was less inundated because of the aforementioned no-TV watching and because I have cut down on my social media intake, so I was less irritated in general. If something about Christmas came onto the radio as I was listening, I quickly changed stations after a flash of irritation. On the other hand, it’s been a rough whatever-many months, and Christmas is just rubbing the salt in the wounds. I like being single and living alone with my cat, but it’s not easy to shut out the constant barrage of FAAAAAAMILY  for Christmas.

The rational part of my brain reminds me that there are many people who hate going to the family for Christmas but feel they can’t get out of it. I read advice columns in which there is nothing but agony about the holidays with FAAAAAAAMILY. Little reasons, big reasons, any reason at all. The holidays can be fraught with tension, especially since they’re billed as being all about family.

In the end, I’m not much more depressed today than I was, say, a week ago. As long as I don’t loiter on social media, I don’t have to see Christmas crammed in my face. It’s totally within my control, which is exactly how I like it.


Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

Real life getting in the way of my blogging

We’re coming down to crunch time with my parents’ visit being roughly twenty-seven hours away and me being in a panic because I am not ready. Cleaning-wise because I always leave it to the last moment, but I’m mostly at peace with that because it’ll never be clean enough*. I mean it more mentally and emotionally. I’ve had a better relationship with my parents in the past few years since, well, ever. I’ve been able to roll with much of the bullshit, and arguments went from daily to maybe once every other week.

I was on the phone with my mom the other night, and she was talking about my father as she normally does. 90+% of our conversations revolve around him (partly my fault because I get pulled into it), and she mentioned something that instantly triggered my, “That’s fucked up” response that is specifically tuned to my family bullshit. Now, I knew mentioning it wouldn’t make things better. I knew, in fact, that it probably would make things worse. I *knew* it. My brain was like:

I even said internally, “Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it.” Then it was as if the pod people had taken over my brain and I heard myself saying, as if from outside of me, “You know, that’s wrong.” I didn’t say it in exactly those words, but I was crossing that family boundary of saying the truth when a lie would do just as well. Even as I was saying it, I was yelling inside my brain to shut up, but something inside me compelled me to say my bit.

I was right. It didn’t make one whit of difference except to make things worse as I knew it would. I tweeted afterwards:

Continue Reading

How I deal with depression

just...no.
Do I hafta?!?

There are many suggestions for dealing with depression, some that have held steady for decades. The one that is recommended quite often is exercise, and there’s usually the accompanying exaltation of how great it makes one feel, how it helps with sleep, etc. It’s often touted as the magic bullet for depression, and while I’m sure it’s true for some people (it has to be in order for people to keep nattering on about it, right?), it has never been that way for me. I bought into that bullshit back when I was in my deep and chronic depression. I exercised every day, and it only made me irritated. Part of that was because I was doing it solely to be doing it, and because of my obsessive nature, I was doing it way too much.

In addition, sometimes, I was doing exercise that I hated, such as walking. I hate walking/running. No matter how in shape I was (and I’ve been in really good shape at various times in my life), walking was never enjoyable for me. When I lived in the East Bay, I walked four and a quarter miles a day, and hated every step of it. I did it for almost two years, and it never got any better. It got easier, of course, but I never hated it any less. That whole endorphin high people talk about never happened, and, yes, there’s some lingering resentment on my part that I stuck it out so long.

I switched to dancing in my living room for my aerobic workout, and while I enjoyed that more, it still didn’t give me the natural high that everyone keeps raving about. Even taiji, which I love, doesn’t make me feel instantly better. I will say that I think my daily taiji routine helps me keep the worst of the demons at bay, but it’s taken years to get to this point. In addition, I don’t think I’m doing enough and am slowing trying to add to it (weight-bearing exercise, mostly by doing sword drills and the Sword Form).

Exercise never helped with my sleep, either. I knew better than to do it right before going to bed, but even when I did it early in the day, it didn’t make me sleep any better at night. Disclosure: I’ve had difficulty with sleep all my life. I’m a bit notorious among my friends for my sleep issues. During one period in my life, I was having nightmares in which my friends died on a regular basis. It became a joke that you weren’t really a friend of Minna’s if you didn’t die in my dreams. A joke sadly based on reality.

I am not saying exercise isn’t beneficial, obviously. It’s better to exercise than not if you can, and I don’t want it to seem like I’m pro-sitting on your ass all day long. Well, actually, I am pro-that, but I acknowledge that exercise is good for your health. It’s just that it never gave me the boost that other people seem to get from it. I don’t want someone who’s severely depressed to think that if they don’t get the endorphin rush from exercising that it’s not worth it, and I don’t want them to be upset about expending the energy for seemingly no benefit.

Continue Reading

The unbearable numbness of being…depressed

Content Note: In this post, I’m going to talk frankly about suicide, suicidal thoughts and ideation, and severe or chronic depression. Please don’t read if these things are trigger points for you because I want you to take good care of yourself.

crying into the night.
When will this pain ever stop?

Anthony Bourdain’s suicide spurred a lot of thought about suicide in me–and pain. Actual pain for a man I had never met and hadn’t really thought about except tangentially over the past few years. Here’s part one of my thoughts and musings on the subject. Let me expand on these thoughts, starting with the last one: stopping the stigma surrounding depression and suicide.

There is still a lingering belief that you can conquer depression by pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. “Just think positive thoughts!” “There are people who have it much worse than you do!” By the way, this last one? Never say it to someone. Ever. I don’t care what the circumstance is, it’s a shitty thing to say regardless. Yes, it’s true someone has it worse, but someone also has it better. Plus, someone else’s suffering doesn’t negate your own. In addition, while gratitude for what you have is a good thing, it’s not helpful to have someone else scold you for not being properly grateful enough. And, again, it touches on my earlier points. We already know what we have to be grateful for. We already know whatever it is you think you’re telling us. Or conversely, there are plenty of people who have pretty rough lives. No, it may not be starving in a refugee camp, but that doesn’t negate that it’s still shit.

“Mind over matter!” “The mind can do anything!” The last is from a story I heard on NPR about someone who had to deal with a close friend dying by suicide (and had interviewed him about his suicidal thoughts before he (the friend) actually did it) and later, the brother of the friend who died by suicide as well. The friend’s therapist told him this, and I was appalled. Want to know my own therapist’s (my last and best one) take on this? When I was telling her that I felt I should be able to think my way out of depression, she said to me, “Minna, your brain is what got you here in the first place.” It was a light bulb moment for me, and while it didn’t stick around long, it did plant a seed that continued to flourish.

Side note: Drugs. There’s a disturbing trend for some people (both on the right and the left, for vastly different reasons) to decry antidepressants at the top of their lungs. Whether it’s because they’re ‘not natural’, ‘pushed by Big Pharma’, or ‘turn to God instead’, they need to STFU. I am not the person to go immediately to drugs, but I also know that they can help–they really can. I’ve been on three of them, all in the SSRI family–Prozac, Zoloft, and Celexa), and each one really helped me for approximately a year. Unfortunately for me, the effectiveness wore off, and when I tried them again, the result was disastrous. They actually made me suicidal, and I hastily had to get off them stat. By the way, a side note to the side note: During this period, I had a doctor’s visit. Because of the suicidal thoughts, I couldn’t eat, and I lost nearly twenty pounds in two months. My doctor, who was a fanatic about weight (side note to the side note to the side note: she was a fairly new doctor to me. I had to leave my last one for stressful reasons), noted approvingly that I had lost weight. I explained the situation and said it was because I was deeply suicidal. She faltered for a few minutes then quipped feebly, “Well, it doesn’t matter why you lost the weight as long as you did it!” I was shocked by what she said, and I never went back. Later, in retelling the story, I realized that she probably felt deeply uncomfortable by what I’d said and joking about it was her way to deal with the discomfort. This is a perfect illustration of what not to say to someone who is in a lot of pain, but it’s not uncommon.

I know it’s difficult to be with a friend who is seriously depressed. I’ve been both the depressed and the friend of the depressed, and while the former is harder, the latter is no walk in the park, either. It’s hard to see someone you love suffering so much without wanting to do something about it. In addition, let’s address the elephant in the room–a severely depressed person may not be the most pleasant person to be around. In addition to being self-destructive, they may lash out at anyone who is near them. Part of my own depression was pushing away people I loved and pursuing people who were incapable of loving me because deep down I didn’t feel I deserved love. I was never outright nasty to my friends, but it’s not uncommon. And, as in the case with any kind of relationship, the friend in question should not feel guilty about setting boundaries with their depressed loved one.

Continue Reading

Anthony Bourdain and the legacy of depression

Content Note: In this post, I’m going to talk frankly about suicide, suicidal thoughts and ideation, and severe or chronic depression. Please don’t read if these things are trigger points for you because I want you to take good care of yourself.

I read about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide the first thing when I hopped on social media on Friday. I saw one of the people no my Twitter TL posting a clip of Bourdain and saying it was a good way to remember him. With a sinking heart, I Googled Anthony Bourdain and found out that he had died earlier that morning. For whatever reason, I immediately thought it was suicide, and I was saddened when I saw it was true. I felt even worse when I read that it was his good friend and fellow chef, Eric Ripert, who found him. I can’t imagine being in that position, and my heart hurts for Ripert.

I’ve always loved Bourdain, ever since I first saw No Reservations many years ago. His lust for life, food, culture, and people (not to mention alcohol and cigarettes) was fully displayed wherever he went. What I loved best about him is that he would approach every culture with respect, not viewing them as a curiosity or specimens in a zoo. He showed the good and the bad of the country he was in without sensationalizing it in either direction. He was a good ally, even though he probably would never use that word or recoil in horror if he heard himself being described in that fashion, which is one reason he was a good ally. But, this post isn’t about that. I will write more on that later, however.

I watched No Reservations voraciously, living vicariously through Bourdain. I like to travel, but I also…don’t. I’m very much a homebody, and I have a hard time with the actual travel. I love visiting new places and exploring, and very much like Bourdain, I prefer not doing the touristy things. I’d rather eat where the natives eat, see the funky local stuff, and go way off the beaten track. I am never as bold as Bourdain was, though, as my anxieties oftentimes got the best of me. I loved the way he would eat anything placed in front of him, and he was gracious about it, even if he didn’t care for it. He was a good model of how you should act when you visited another country. He was the opposite of an ugly American, though he’s painted as a bad boy in his own country. Or was when he was younger, at least.

I hadn’t watched his shows recently, but I saw him being fierce about #MeToo, which started because he was dating someone who had been one of Harvey Weinstein’s victim. Again, I will write more about that later, but for now, I’m going to focus on the suicide. Every time I saw a tweet or quote from Bourdain standing up for #MeToo, I smiled. Even though I no longer watched his show much, I still had a soft spot for him. And, yeah, I’ll admit I had a massive crush on him when I first started watching the show, and I still found him intriguing years later.


Continue Reading

Walking a tightrope

i am not grace under pressure
SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP

I know I need to keep up on what’s happening in the world because I wouldn’t feel like I’m being a good citizen if I just poked my head in the sand and ignored everything around me. More to the point, it’s not in my nature to be willfully ignorant, which is why I’m never blissful. Before the 2008 election, I became obsessed with politics because I was #TeamObama from day one. The fact that a black man was running for president made politics immediately personal to me, and I had a vested interest in following his campaign.

Let me be clear. I have been a Democrat since I could vote, and I have only voted for a non-Democrat (Nader, 1996), and I made sure Clinton carried MN before casting my vote. I did it to make a point, and I didn’t like Clinton (Bill), anyway. I’ve voted straight Dem ever since. However, it was more because there was no way in hell I would vote for the Republicans rather than I was excited by anything the Democrats had to offer. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the basic tenets of the Democratic Party. Helping the poor and needy; equality for all; social justice, etc. However, before PBO, I felt as if I was taken for granted within the party. Being an Asian American bi agnostic woman meant I was invisible in so many ways, and I never really felt a part of the party.

When Barack Obama announced his candidacy, I felt an excitement I’d never felt before. In addition, Hillary Clinton also announced she was running, and while I didn’t care much for her, I was excited to have a female candidate as well as a black one. I really didn’t know which way I would go in the primary, but Obama won me over by being inclusive without making a big deal of it. He mentioned Asians when he talked about ‘all Americans’–probably because he has a sister who’s half-Asian, and he talked about nonbelievers without making it sound like a crime (this might have been after he was elected). He also actually uttered the word  ‘bisexual’, which made my jaw drop in amazement. No one ever acknowledged that bis existed, let alone said the actual word.

Continue Reading