Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: depression

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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Night in the Woods, part three: Putting it all together

free your mind, mallard.
Mallard! What have they done to you?

Hello. Welcome to the third and hopefully the last post on Night in the Woods. Not because I’m tired of talking about it because I am most emphatically not, but because I know I sound like I’m obsessed–which, to be fair, I am. Anyhoo, here’s part two. OK. Let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about the third playthrough. Needless to say, there are going to be spoilers, and while I’ll try to note the more egregious ones, just be forewarned that I can’t talk about my third playthrough without revealing some spoilers in general.

After I finished the second playthrough, I immediately started the third. I was in a groove, and I knew there was still things I hadn’t discovered. Also, there are things I saw at the end of my second playthrough (while watching a streamer play), and I didn’t have enough days to do the whole quest. The fact that this quest exists at all is a marvel. As I was walking on the wires the second playthrough, I found a window I could open. I did that, and I went inside. There was a big float duck named Mallard bolted down, and I found a hole inside him. In the hole were two rats. Mae notes that they look hungry, and I decided I needed to find them cheese. I couldn’t find any cheese and it was only when

*spoilers*

I watched BaerTaffy steal the pretzel from the pretzel/pierogi vendor in the underground tunnel, and I felt like a complete idiot. I knew it was there, and I knew the paw icon popped up when I passed by the pretzels, and Mae was chastised by the vendor for stealing before. I should have put together the whole thing, but I didn’t. I stole a pretzel and brought it back up to my babies. Unfortunately, I did not have enough days to finish it, so I made sure to do it during the third playthrough as soon as I could–which is the first day, I think.

I fed them faithfully every day and each day there was one more, and then after four days (I think), they were gone. They were free. The coolest thing is once they left, I saw them all around the city. They weren’t there before, which is a neat little touch. also, in the same place as Mallard, there was a door to the bottom right that would not open throughout my entire first and second playthrough. It’s a door that you could easily miss, and even if you found it, you probably wouldn’t try to open it more than a few times. That’s the brilliance of this game, but also the frustrating thing. You need to check everything every day, and while the payoff is so damn fulfilling when it happens, it’s few and far between.  Continue Reading

Night in the Woods, part two: Getting under my skin

i'll just lie here, thanks!
Aunt Mall Cop was NOT amused by my antics.

I’m back to talk more about Night in the Woods. Here is part one. This time, I want to focus a bit more on the meta and on my third playthrough. Warning, there will be spoilers. I’ll try to keep it story-spoiler-free as much as I can, but I really need to get into it, which I can’t without giving some stuff away.

First, I need to talk about Mae Borowski, the main character. She’s a young (20), angry and scared black cat who tends to blurt out embarrassing or mean things when she feels threatened–which is often. She’s snarky and sassy the rest of the time, and sometimes, she’s both. She’s dropped out of college and returned to the small town in which she was born–Possum Springs. In the beginning, she’s portrayed as a bratty but endearing young woman who’s aimless and doesn’t have any purpose in life. She’s lucky she has a home to return to, and she sleeps away the day in the attic of her parents’ home–that they may not own for much longer, but more on that in a bit.

Normally, she’s the kind of character I wouldn’t like at all. But, there’s something about her that spoke to me. Probably because I *was* her when I was that age, though with a bit more social grace. I hated college and felt like an alien. I had trouble fitting in, and if I thought dropping out was a possibility, I would have heavily considered it. I only went to college because it was expected of me, and I still wish I had taken a year off after I had finished high school. For Mae, there is the added pressure of being the first Borowski to go to college, as her mom is quick to point out in the middle of a fight they have.

There is so much pathos in this game. It’s set in a dying Rust Belt town, and the depression surrounding the town is almost another character. It’s in every scene of the game, and it’s a constant reminder that many of the small towns in America are dying out. The only pizza place in town closes a few days after Mae returns home. There’s a character, Danny, who, while hilarious, is representative of the lack of livability in some of these towns. He can’t hold a job to save his life, and while some of it is his attitude, more of it is because the jobs simply aren’t there. There are the two NPCs who stand next to a bar all day long, and they only talk about one thing–The Smelters, who are the local sportsball team, I’m assuming. Then, one of the characters get a job in another city, and the two have to say goodbye. It’s sad, even though you don’t know anything else about them.

OK. Let’s talk about the gameplay, as it were. This is one of the few things I didn’t like in this game. One, it feels artificial in what is mostly an animated visual novel (and I say this as a compliment, though I normally don’t like visual novels), and it felt as if it was added to pad the game. After Mae makes an ass of herself at a party (in front of her ex, no less!), she starts to have nightmares/weird dreams that are gorgeous-looking and sounding (as is the whole game), but feels very game-y. I didn’t mind doing it once, but by the fourth or fifth time, I was just impatient to get through it. It doesn’t help that I have a terrible sense of space, so I couldn’t find where I needed to be very quickly.

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Night in the Woods, part one: A first playthrough

chillin' with my homies!
GREGG RULZ OK

Over a year ago, I heard of an indie game called, Night in the Woods, and I didn’t know much about it except it starred a black girl cat who had a sassy attitude, kinda like me. I watched a Let’s Play of the first hour, then I stopped because I knew I’d be playing it one day. I liked the snarky tone of the game, plus there’s a mystery involved, and it seemed like it would be right up my alley. I kept putting it off, however, as I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Then, a few weeks ago, it was on sale on Steam, and I was between games, so I bought it.

I started playing, and I was immediately frustrated with the first gaming section. I’m playing as Mae Borowski, the aforementioned cat, who’s 20 and dropped out of college. She’s on her way back home and walking through the woods to get there. I explored the area and was immediately stuck. I couldn’t go anywhere, so I knew I had to do something on screen in order to progress. The problem is, there wasn’t anything other than a creaky log. In watching playthroughs after finishing the game, the streamers all immediately understood what they had to do, but I didn’t. You probably know what it is just by reading what I wrote. I had to keep jumping on the log until it broke, and then it pushed up other logs (or something) so I could make progress.

I will say, my complaint about my first playthrough* was all the game parts. The platforming bits. The DDR mini-game (I keep calling it that, but it’s more like Guitar Band or Rock Hero**). I was spectacularly terrible at the latter, so much so, I completely electrocuted the characters for Pumpkin Head Guy. Anyway, the parts I like were wandering around town and talking to different characters. Which, thankfully, is roughly eighty percent of the game.

I love Mae unabashedly, even when I want to shake her for being mean/embarrassing/awkward. I can empathize with her to an uncomfortable degree. Even before knowing why she dropped out of college, I felt a kinship with her. She’s intelligent, but not always comfortable with other people. She’s awkward, fat (in her own eyes) and has a low self-esteem. She’s also warm and caring, but she doesn’t always know how to express it properly.

She can also climb across power lines, but I didn’t fully realize that until my second playthrough. I’ll get to that in a minute.

The first night, we run into her aunt who appears to be the only cop in Possum Springs. Mae calls her Aunt Mall Cop, but her real name is Molly. Then, we meet pops who is momentarily flummoxed by Mae’s arrival (her parents thought it was going to be the next night), but quickly recovers. Then, it’s bedtime, or in my case, practice the bass time. Man, I sucked at that so bad. I got better with practice, but I’ve never played those kind of games and my reactions are slow, so it’s frustrating for me. Fortunately, there are only two or three times you have to do it in game (two if you suck really bad at it, three if you don’t).

The rest of the characters felt immediately relatable. Gregg is her hyperactive best friend who is into doing crimes. He’s a fox, and it’s implied that he’s bipolar, but it’s never explicitly stated. He’s living with his boyfriend, a big, gentle geeky bear named Angus.  The drummer of the group (“It’s a laptop, Bea.” “It sure is, Mae. It sure is.”) is a weary, worn-down alligator named Bea. She’s goth from head to toe, wearing all black, an ankh, and smoking a fake cigarette all the time inside (and sometimes outside, I think, alternating with a real one).

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Riding the Waves of Depression

I’m swimming in the sea of depression and riding the waves of crushing hopelessness. I’m having a hard time keeping my head above water, and some days, I don’t want to even bother. Today is one of that day. So, I’m just going to post a depressing video and hopefully wait it out.

I also have a doctor’s appointment to check my thyroid, lie about my depression, and maybe get my annual. Rightly or not, I relate getting really sick twice last year with going to the doctor, which makes me even warier of returning. Anyway, I hope it goes well. Here’s the depressing emo video.