Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: low self-esteem

Swimming under water when I’m not a fish

on a quiet basis.
Depression hurts.

Months ago, I read an article about living with chronic depression and suicidal ideation. More to the point, the article was about how it’s difficult to talk about it without people freaking out. I’m not saying it’s not understandable–mentioning suicide or not wanting to live is deeply uncomfortable to hear. The impulse is to rush in and placate the person, say it’s not so bad, or give them a half-dozen reasons why they should want to live. Especially in America, we are not comfortable with death, and my theory is because we are so removed from it.

The piece really resonated with me because I can’t remember a day when I woke up thinking, “I’m glad to be alive.” There were long periods of my life when I actively wanted to be not alive. Note that I did not say I wanted to die because I’m afraid of death, but I most certainly did not want to be alive. I liked to joke that my negativity is the only reason I’m alive–I had more fear of dying, convinced that whatever was on the other side was worse than what was in this one. I hated life, though, and everything about it. I hated me most of all, and I would go over every day in my mind what I hated about myself. The list was long and seemingly never-ending.

It’s weird for me to think about those days because I was a completely different person back then. It’s as if it weren’t me, and I feel that way about most of my earlier incantations. I don’t have any connection to them, and I don’t know if it’s normal or not. I feel some sympathy for the younger mes, but I don’t feel as if they were me. It could be dissociation or it could just be normal growth. It’s hard for me to say.

Recently, I had a bout of wanting to die, and it was really strange. It wasn’t me. I mean, I wasn’t consciously thinking it–it was an external pressure. Back in the day, it was me wanting to not live. This most recent bout, it wasn’t that at all. I mean, to get a bit more nuanced, I go through most of my days not wanting to be alive. Or rather, I’m indifferent to it. I don’t see the point, and I don’t know what I’m adding to the world by being here. I will say it’s a huge step up from I used to think I was actively toxic. I had the mindset that I started each day with a negative amount of points, and I had to claw my way to zero in order not to be a sum negative to the world. I don’t know why I had this mindset, though I’m sure it had something to do with my very critical childhood, but it persisted through my thirties.

It was a trap, of course, because I started every day at a negative (indeterminate) number. Even if I managed to make my way to zero (in my brain, which I never did), any good points would be wiped out overnight. I can say that now and see it with such clarity, but while I was in the middle of it, it seemed like the way it should be.

Side Note: For years, I had a voice in my head that I dubbed The Dictator. He (and it was a he) would order me about, saying what I should and shouldn’t do. He was capricious in that what he deemed appropriate was, well, pretty much the same as my family, but hardened into a rigidity that was dangerous. I felt helpless to stop it, and it took many years of therapy and taiji to quiet the voice. I don’t know when I stopped hearing it, but it’s been gone for some time. I’m glad about that, but what’s replaced it is more insidious. It’s not a voice, but just a feeling of general malaise. You would think it’s better, and it is in general, but it’s also harder to combat. It sounds so reasonable when it’s saying unreasonable things.

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Analysis in the aftermath

self-imposed timeout.
Who could resist this face?!?

The parental visit is finally over*. After I dropped them off yesterday, I did a few things, and then, I just vegged out for the rest of the day. I mean, I did the things I had to do, but I did them MY way. Shirtless, to be more specific. With my parents in the house, I couldn’t be as stripped down as I normally am. My usual wear in the summer is boxer shorts and a tank top or no shirt. When my parents were here, I wore gym shorts** and a t-shirt. It may not sound like much more clothing, but for me, it is. I have both sensory issues and heat issues, and I felt as if I were dying much of the time. I had a personal fan blowing 24/7, and it still wasn’t enough.

By the way, the single indication of my father’s narcissism that stands out the most for me is how he keeps asking me if I’m cold/will be cold/might get cold. No matter how many times I’ve explained to him that I don’t get cold (for the most part, but he doesn’t do nuances), he can’t let go of the idea that if he’s cold, other people must be cold, too–especially someone whom he views as an extension of himself. On one of his many rambles, he opined on how he couldn’t understand people in India being able to tolerate living there. I admit I got impatient with him because he lives in fucking Taiwan! I don’t know how the hell people live there! (I mean, I do, but it’s a valid comparison.) I pointed out that people say the same thing about Minnesota and cold. He said you can put on more clothes when you’re cold (yes, you can, Dad. Which is my argument when he says 78 is too low for the AC), but you can only take off so many layers. I said only to a point. When’s it’s -35, there really isn’t much you can do other than go some place heated.

The point is, he can’t see anything outside his own purview, and it’s fucking irritating because it seems so basic to me. But, then again, that’s one of the characteristics of a narcissist–they literally can’t understand how anyone can be other than they are in any way. Also, a man. Too. As well. I try to tell myself not to get drawn in, but when he says something as egregiously ignorant as, “I don’t understand how anyone can live in India”, well, all my patience goes out the window.

I digress as is my wont, though.

This visit wasn’t the worst by far. Does that sound like damning with faint praise? Well, it is, but it’s worthy to note how much better than the worst it was and how I still passively felt like killing myself almost every day. In the past, I’ve actively wanted to kill myself during visits with my parents, and I’ve felt physically uncomfortable being in the same room with my father, so this is definitely progress. I’m not being flippant even though it sounds as if I am. Several years ago, when I was coerced into going to Taiwan on a ‘family’ trip, I had to stop myself from killing myself more than once. We’d be looking at the ocean–my spiritual home, the Pacific Ocean–and I had to restrain myself from walking into it until I could walk no more. When we walked across a bridge over the Taroko Gorge,*** the impulse to throw myself off it was so strong, it made me nauseated. Then, I thought, maybe I was supposed to have died there when I almost drowned in my early twenties, and I couldn’t shake that thought from my brain for the rest of the trip.

I was, to put it mildly, a hot mess for the entire trip, and the worst part was that I did it to myself. I knew it would be horrible for many reasons, but my mother wore me down. Every time we talked, she nagged me about it and guilt-tripped me about it until I gave in. That’s her M.O., by the way, talk and talk and talk until you agree just to shut her the fuck up. She did that to me about having children for fifteen years (going on and on about it every time we talked), and if I hadn’t been so deadset against having them, I might have given in. As it was, I once thought, “Maybe I should have a kid so she will shut the fuck up about it.” Fortunately, I realized that was a terrible reason to have children, but it just shows how much pressure I felt from my mother to even reach that moment.

By the way, my brother said on the way back from the airport, “Mom just won’t stop talking.” It was something I’d noticed over the past few years, and it was a tremendous relief to have it validated that it wasn’t just in my head. My parents are masters at the unconscious gaslighting (they don’t do it intentionally, but they are willful creators of their own reality), and if left to my own devices, I would question many of the observations I’ve made about our family. Then again, my brother can also do this to a certain extent, so it’s a double-edged sword. Everyone in my family, including me, is very invested in his/her own version of what our family looks like.

I asked my brother if it had gotten worse over the past few years. He agreed that it had. My mom has always talked a lot, but as he said, at least she would listen in the past. Now, she just goes on and on and on. And on. And on. It’s especially frustrating when she asks a question, but then will not pause to actually hear a response. My brother cuts in telling her she needs to listen. I cut in and tell her to stop for a second. Both of us say it in exasperated tones, which isn’t ideal, but understandable.

Here’s my theory. My father was forced to retire three or four years ago. That’s around the same time that my mom’s chattiness has gotten worse. My theory is that she’s gotten used to talking compulsively around my father because of their unhealthy dynamics. She’s always trying to please him, and he extends his approval and snatches it back at random. Well, not random exactly, but according to his byzantine inner rules about when someone has slighted him (which is more often than not). In addition, he’s probably in early onset dementia, which means he has no memory of anything said to him.**** So she has to tell him time and time again the most basic of information. In addition, his critical nature jabs at her anxieties, and that’s what the chatter is–her anxieties outwardly manifesting.

On the way to the airport the second time, I realized that she did not take a breath for the entire forty-five minute drive. There were stretches when I didn’t say anything at all, and there were other times when all I said was, ‘uh huh’ and maybe, ‘right’. I will admit at that point, I was doing a bit of a scientific experiment to see how long she would go without any encouragement, but it was mostly because I was exhausted and did not feel like talking. Also, she wasn’t looking for a dialogue. She just wanted to monologue about whatever it was that was in her mind at that moment.

I will say in that way, she and my father are alike. Neither of them cares about their audience–only in the reflection. What I mean is, with my father, he just wants to pontificate, and he wants you to reflect back what he wants to hear. You can tell by the way he crafts his questions that he is aiming for a certain response. That’s when he has a strong opinion on something (which is almost everything. Another thing all of us in the family have in common.) If he’s truly asking a question about, say, why squirrels go down the tree head first, then it’s a straightforward question. It’s still annoying because I don’t know and I don’t care, but it’s easy enough to ignore or to utter a platitude. It’s when he has an opinion such as America is so great and Taiwan sucks that I have a hard time just biting my tongue.

My mother, on the other hand, just wants what she calls a sounding board but I call a dumping ground for her woes. It leaves me feeling battered and worn, especially when I know that she will not do what it takes to change the situation. What’s more infuriating, she rewrites history so she ‘forgets’ what she was complaining about (or what I actually saw with my own eyes) happened. That’s what I mean about gaslighting, and that’s why I’m very particular about the truth. It’s hard for me to witness my father emotionally abuse my mother, and it’s even harder to listen to her deny it happened. Or ‘forget’ it happened.

I have much more to say, but this is running long as usual. I will save the meat of my musing for the next post.

 

 

 

 

*A day later than planned. My brother and I dropped my parents off at the airport Sunday at around 5:30 p.m. This was after having a tea at Starbucks for about an hour. I went with my brother to run an errand, and I made it home by 8:00 p.m. He called me ten minutes later to tell me that my parents’ first flight had been delayed to the point where they wouldn’t catch the transfer (2 hour delay), so they needed to come back home. I almost cried because I was so looking forward to having the place to myself and because driving back to get them–and then back home–was too much to bear. There is so much fucking construction that getting there and back nearly doubled the trip, and I hate driving in general. Fortunately, my brother was able to pick them up and bring them back here, but I was still irrationally pissed off at having to push off Freedom Day by fourteen hours or so.

**Both the boxers and the gym shorts I found in the men’s department. It’s hard to find women’s gym shorts that are baggy and have pockets (what the fuck is it with women’s clothing and pockets in the year of our lord, 2019????), and there is no such animal as women’s boxers. Unfortunately, men’s boxers seem to be dying out as well, sadly. Sigh.

***Where I almost died in my early twenties. I was in Taiwan during my semester abroad, and me and a bunch of the other women were swimming in the Gorge. Not a smart idea because I’m not a good swimmer. The rapids swept me away, and if one of the other women hadn’t grabbed me and pulled me out, I would have died.

****This is complicated because he’s always ignored anything that doesn’t interest him. So, part of his current not remembering things is hard to parse. Is he not remembering because he doesn’t care to remember or because he truly can’t remember? I think it’s mostly the latter because it happens even when he asks a question, but there’s also some of the former, especially if the answer is not what he wants to hear.

Turn that frown upside down

One of the persistent issues in my life has been a low self-esteem. It stems from being told implicitly and explicitly that my opinions don’t matter. More than that, I was made to feel like I had to keep everything to myself. The only person allowed to be angry in my family was my father. And, since my mother made me her confidant when I was eleven (or earlier, but that’s when I first remember it happening), I learned that my feelings were secondary to hers. It got better when I was in my thirties, but it’s reverted now that my parents are elderly and my father isn’t in the best of health. And is still the same narcissistic, yet insecure person he’s always been. Some of the things she complains about are things he’s done their entire marriage, which is nearly fifty-one years in length. It’s frustrating as hell because I can remember her complaining about the same things thirty-five years ago, and I don’t have a better answer now than I did then. Or rather, my answer is the same. Divorce him. I know she won’t do that, however, so all I can do is–nothing.

I hate that she only calls me to complain about him. She might ask me about myself (or not), and she might even listen for a few minutes, but then it’s time to talk ad nauseam about him. I wouldn’t want to hear that much about him if he was a good person and they had a great relationship. The fact that he’s not and they don’t just makes it even more painful. I know that on my end, I should just give a couple nondescript answers and end the call as soon as I can. I don’t, however, because I feel guilty that she doesn’t have anyone else to talk to. I shouldn’t, I know, but it’s my programming. I’m only here to manage the feelings of others. I thought I had it under control, but the fact that my parents are in the last stage of their lives has made me soft. It’s ironic that I’m better able to deal with my father because I just accept he is who he is. I know that he’ll never change, so it’s easier to gray rock him into oblivion. I just nod and agree with whatever he says or state my case once and then move on. I can do that because I don’t expect anything better from him. From my mom, it’s another story. I know she’s better than what she’s displaying right now. She’s a badass woman who single-handedly brought sandplay therapy to Taiwan. She has a waiting list for clients that is over a year long. She’s the foremost expert on the subject in Taiwan. She’s highly respected in her field. And, yet, in her personal life, she’s reduced to being the helpmeet of my father.

I’ve said before that one of the reasons I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship is because I can see myself in her. I could easily be that person, and it scares the fuck out of me. She couldn’t call him at work because it would make him lose face (yeah, I don’t get it, either); he would get angry if she asked him to let her know when he wasn’t coming home for dinner (because he was fucking around); and his way of punishing her would be to angrily yell at her until she backed down or give her the icy silent treatment.

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If only I could see what others saw

a soup of negative emotions.
A peek into my brain.

Recently, I received two compliments from two women I admire and respect (my BFF and my taiji teacher), and I was really taken aback. For some background, I grew up believing that I was a toxic presence who had to earn my right to live on a daily basis. I believed that every day, I started with a negative number (never could ascertain what that number meant, exactly, but it wasn’t good), and I had to do good enough to get to zero and have no effect on the world around me. Then, I would go to sleep, and the counter would reset. Why? Well, that’s a story in and of itself.

Part of it was childhood trauma. Part of it was being Asian in a very white world. Part of it was family dysfunction, and part of it was culture expectations taken to the extreme. In Taiwanese culture, it was heavily frowned upon to say anything even remotely positive about yourself lest you look as if you were bragging. In the white cultural, I was ugly, weird, and a freak. I’m still a freak, but that’s beside the point. In my family, I was taught that my only worth was what I could do for others, and I had no intrinsic value in and of myself. Add to that a deep depression and an impressionable brain that twists everything into a negative, and it’s not surprising that I ended up firmly believing I had to earn my right to live.

In addition, I had all these elaborate rules as to what counted as a positive, and it was extremely hard for me to make it to neutral. I don’t think I ever did, actually, because I rigged the game in such a way that I was bound to fail. When I talk about it in the past tense, it’s clear to see how ridiculous it is, but at the time, it felt as real as the sun on my face. I was miserable because I was constantly failing, and I just wanted to die. I spent much of my childhood well into my thirties wishing I had the courage to kill myself.

I hated myself. I couldn’t find anything about myself that I liked except my hair and my intellect (though I saw the latter as a curse oftentimes). I couldn’t believe that anyone would like me for any reason when it was obvious that I was pure toxicity. I’m not saying it was reasonable or rational, but it governed my thinking for longer than I care to admit. I truly thought I was a worthless human being (while at the same time having an exaggerated sense of the impact I had on others around me, which is common with people who have low self-esteem), and I was miserable every day of my life.

Then, sometime in my thirties, I slowly started shedding this idea. I’m not sure how or why (probably because of taiji and therapy. I attribute most of the positives in my life to taiji with a shout-out to therapy), but a few years ago, I realized that I no longer had that mindset. I didn’t think I had to earn the right to live, but I wouldn’t say I had a healthy self-esteem, either. I still didn’t like myself, and I still didn’t like what I saw in the mirror (literally and figuratively), but at least I wasn’t actively thinking of ways I could passively allow myself to die.

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Navel gazing for the new year

One of the worst things about my depression is how it makes everything at least twice as difficult. I am my own worst enemy, as I have noted time and time again. For those who have never experienced depression, it can be difficult to comprehend just how time consuming it is. A small example: when I have to go out, say to taiji, I first have to convince myself that I will go. Even if I want to go, the idea of driving fifteen minutes to get there is daunting. On my worst days, it seems impossible. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done it in my past. It doesn’t matter that I can do it in my sleep. Every fiber of my being does not want to do it ever again.

It used to be that way when my BFF and I used to go out dancing. Both of us suffer from depression and the overwhelming desire never to leave the house. We’d talk about how we both had to stop ourselves from cancelling, and we always had a blast when we went out. Not only was it difficult to make myself leave the house (my leaning towards inertia is high), but I would imagine everything that might possibly go wrong while I was out. Again, even for something as simple as going to taiji, I ruminate about will it drain me (not completely invalid when I’m sick), can I put up with talking to people for that long (an hour and a half. Not exactly earth shattering), etc. I go to the co-op afterwards, which brings with it a whole new set of worries. Even something as banal as talking to the cashier can tie me up in knots.

I mention this because there are two things I really want to focus on in 2019. As I’ve written before, I am not big on resolutions, but I do like to set goals for the upcoming year. The difference to me is that goals have steps with concrete actions that seem achievable. By the way, I hate ‘actionable steps’. I know what it means in context (something you can actually do as opposed to a theory or an idea), but to me, actionable means something that you take legal action on. It’s a personal pet peeve, but it sticks in my craw every time I read it.

All of that is explanation as to why I tend to have the same goals every year, even if I have concrete steps I can take to actually meet the goals. I  have to overcome my inertia to even get to the point of doing something about it. Then, I have to deal with the negative self-talk. No matter what I’m doing, there’s a voice in the back of my head saying, “What’s the point? Why bother? Nobody cares.” Some days, it’s better than others, but it’s always there. It’s happening as I write this post. Most of the time, I can ignore it enough to get what I need done if it’s part of my routine. But, if it’s something new, then it’s much harder. Or if it involves driving. Which is one of my least-favorite activities in life.


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Ripping off the mask

don't look behind the mask.
A perfect facade.

Sometimes, I feel as if I have a split personality. Not in the clinical definition of the word, but in the vernacular. There’s the me at home. I’m in sweats and a t-shirt, my hair in a sloppy bun. I sit/lie on the couch most of the day as I madly type away on my computer, and it’s only recently that I’ve been forcing myself to get up roughly every other hour or so to do my stretches. If you could see a picture of my brain waves, it would be a flat-line with only dips and no spikes.

I know it’s the depression talking, but I don’t see any reason to live. I’m not being dramatic. I don’t actually want to die (I never did. Not even when I was at my most suicidal–which I’m not); I just don’t see any reason to be alive. Nor do I think that many people would actually miss me if I were gone. Let me be clear. I am not going to kill myself, but I can’t motivate myself to do much other than meander through my so-called life.

I’m mostly numb these days. I know I need to see a therapist, but I don’t want to go through the bother of finding a new one. It’s been four or five years since my last therapist and I mutually terminated, and it took me forever to find her. I am not an easy client, and I can fully acknowledge that. I know too much of the lingo, and I’m very good at manipulation of people. I’m not proud of it, but I have to acknowledge it. I try to not do it because it makes me feel slimy, and I’ve watched my father charm the pants off people (especially women) throughout my life.

Another thing I made clear to my last psychologist is that I need someone to call me on my shit. I get into my head and the weeds way too much, and I can run in circles around most people when I choose to. I can use the psych lingo to justify anything or to explain anything, and to anyone with a lesser perception, what I’m saying makes perfect sense. i told my therapist I would try to do this to her, and I needed her to see through it and put her foot down. She was more than capable of doing so, but I had therapists previous to her who simply weren’t.

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Getting out of my own damn way

I’m my own worst enemy, and I know it. I can think about a hundred things I want to do or should do, but when I actually get down to the nitty-gritty, I start throwing roadblocks in my own way. I immediately think about a million of things that will go wrong, and then, more often than not, I end up doing–nothing. One big decision I made in my life was going to SF for grad school in writing. Writing & Consciousness, to be more specific. Yeah, it’s SF. Whaddya going to do?

Immediately, I was inundated with doubts. I poured them all out to my therapist, one after the other. After listening to me for twenty minutes or so, she stopped me and said, “Minna. Half of the things you imagine will never happen, and things will happen that you can’t even dream of right now.” I know it sounds cliched, but it really hit me hard. I didn’t have much control in my early life, so now, I worry obsessively as a way of trying to feel as if I’m in control. Her timely reminder that I can’t control what happens was what I needed, and it emboldened me to go forward with the move. The results were mixed, but I at least fucking did it.

You’d think I’d learn something from it, like, yeah, do something, anything, and just keep it moving. I’ve said it before, but one thing I really admire about my brother is that he’ll get an idea and just do it. If it doesn’t work, he’ll move on to the next thing. Now, obviously, there are downsides to that (like wasting time on unfinished projects), but it also means he can shrug it off when something fails or when he goes to the next project. Plus, he actually finishes a lot more things than I do. He once told me he had no regrets in his life, which blew me away. I regret everything in my life–everything! Even the good things, I can find a reason for regret.

You know what? I should take a positive example in my life–taiji. I had taken it before, and it was a terrible experience. Once I was recovered from it, I decided that I wasn’t going to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I liked taiji itself, and I wanted to take classes again. Of course, my brain was telling me a million reasons why it was a bad idea, but I managed to push through it and started researching nearby studios. I had a few things I were looking for–one was Asian-led. I let that one go pretty quickly, though, because I live in Minnesota. the second one was that the teacher was a woman. That one was a bit more fruitful, and I was encouraged. The third was no payment schemes. What I mean is, there are some martial arts schools that are more interested in getting paid than in teaching. A common way is to have paid belts. (There are no belts in taiji, or shouldn’t be.) There was one studio that insisted on a uniform and that you had to buy everything through them. NOPE.

I came across my teacher after hours of searching, and I have to say, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I’ve learned so much from taiji, and it keeps giving to me (even if I’m currently frustrated with it because of all the changes). It’s hard for me not to think of all the ways I’ve failed, though. All the bad decisions I’ve made, many of them in my personal life, are scarred deeply in my soul. Sometimes, I can’t help thinking about them and picking over what I’ve done wrong. Or, I Google my exes just to torture myself. (Not all of them, just the ones I regret where things went wrong.)

I tend to let things happen to me rather than actually be proactive about things. There are things I want to do, but I have a real fear of actually doing them. All these doubts besiege me, and I end up paralyzed emotionally. Let me give you a current example. I blog (duh), but I know that podcasts and vlogging are the ways of the future. Or, having a strong social media presence and piggybacking off that. Or streaming if you’re into video games, which I am. I *know* all this, but am I doing any of it? No. Why not? I’ll tell you why, one by one.

Podcasts and vlogging: I hate the way I sound and look. Now, I know the former is pretty common because we can’t hear our voices as they sound to others. I’ve accepted that I have a voice that others find soothing and pleasant, so I can deal with it. Barely. As for the latter, I hate the way I look. A lot. For several reasons. As I’ve noted before, I don’t look in the mirror unless I actually have to, and every time I do, I cringe. I don’t know if I can get past that barrier, either for vlogging or for streaming, but I know that people respond better to face cam than when there isn’t one (for streaming), especially with women, but that brings up another issue with women and streaming–the rampant sexism that women have to face online. On the one hand, there’s the death threats, the rape threats, the ‘you don’t belong here, bitch’ threats, and such. On the other hand, there’s the stalkers, the obsessed fans, and the “I want to get in your panties” assholes. For whatever reason*, misogyny just spirals out of control online.


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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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Fake It Until You Make It, Part II

Hi. I wrote the first part of this post here. I have more things to say about it, so this is part two.

Another part of my problem is that my father has the inability to look at things from a viewpoint other than his own. He brought up an example that has been a sore point between us for many years. Rather, it was a sore point, but then it kind of got glossed over, and I eventually shrugged it off. He’s brought it up the last two times he’s visited, so obviously, it stuck with him. When I was a kid, he had a firm belief that having wet hair meant you’d catch cold. In addition, he has a lower set point for coldness than do I. And, in case I haven’t mentioned it a time or a million, he’s a narcissist. When I was a kid, I used to go outside after taking a shower. Or I would go outside without a coat on in the winter. He would say, “Put on a coat; I’m cold.” To hear him tell it, I rebelled because he didn’t ask me nicely such as, “Please put on a coat; it’s cold outside.” He’s framing it as a question of etiquette and culture. (Taiwanese culture it’s more acceptable to order your child around.) My issue isn’t because of the politeness, however. I still would have resisted because I wasn’t cold. I don’t care if he’s cold–that won’t change by me putting on a coat.

Now, I’ve come to realize that this coat thing is a power struggle between parents and children of different cultures, so it’s not strictly a Taiwanese thing, but the difference is, he told me to put on a coat because HE was cold (looking at me). Or, as he explained it, he would have been cold in that situation, so he just assumed I would be, too. Now, once, OK, I can see that. But, if the person in question tells you repeatedly that she isn’t cold, then wouldn’t you eventually believe her? The fact that I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease years later (hyperthyroidism) validated my point of view. One of the symptoms is never feeling cold, grossly simplified, and it’s one thing I can point to now when I question whether I’m right to feel a certain way. I shouldn’t *need* outside validation, but when you grow up with two parents denying the way you feel, it can be helpful. I still hate the heat to this day, though I’m now hypothyroid, and I still don’t wear a coat in the winter except on the chilliest days.


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Fear and Self-loathing in Minnesota

Have you ever looked in the metaphorical mirror and hated everything you saw? I’ve been feeling that way for the past week or so, which is both bad news and good news. It’s good news because it feels foreign to me now. There was a time when it was the way I felt all the time. During my twenties and early thirties, I hated myself to my very core. The only nice things I could say about myself was that I liked my hair and my brains. Oh, and I could write. Other than that, I was convinced that there was nothing good about me. I was toxic, and I could feel it oozing out of my pores. It’s hard to explain if you’ve never felt this way. How catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror could spiral me into a deep abyss of depression, it took weeks to claw my way out. How I felt as if I was adding negativity to the cosmos every minute I was alive, and I couldn’t do enough good things fast enough to compensate for it.

It’s one of my frustrations about post-depression–it’s fucking impossible to describe what it’s like. It’s almost claustrophobic as it swirls around me, choking out all the fresh air. Sometimes, it feels like hands are actually around my throat, closing off my air supply. Other times, it’s an incredible sense of lethargy running through my body and draining out all my energy. I’m talking about it in the present tense because even though my chronic and debilitating depression is over, I still suffer from a low-grade version of it almost every day. Now, it’s more that I’m tired more often than not, and sometimes, I don’t have any interest in anything. I tend to calibrate for inertia, and it takes a lot to push me out of my natural state.

But I digress. I’ve been feeling this way in the last week, and I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that I’m also adjusting to a new dose of my thyroid medication and that I’ve been ill with the flu or a cold for the same duration. I have a fragile immune system, and when I get sick, I get SICK. I hate it because I instantly become a big baby about it, even if it’s only in my own brain. “Why am I so tired?” “Why don’t I have any energy?” “I can’t do my full taiji routine.” “Wah, wah, wah.” I like living on my own, but I will admit that when I’m sick, I like having someone else in the house to make me tea, bring me soup, and just cluck about me in general. The other day, I went to the store to get honey, lemon, and ginger to make honey lemon ginger tea (duh). I had to run to the post office after, and by the time I got home, I was almost in tears because I was so exhausted. All I wanted was for someone else to tuck me in bed and make me my tea. It’s been over two weeks since I got the flu or whatever this is, and every time I start to feel better, I have a relapse. It’s the weirdest thing because I can feel it happening to my body, but there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I feel better today except for the bone-deep weariness, but that’s normal for me, even when I’m not ill.


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