Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: mental health

Mental health: the good, the bad, and the ugly

It’s been a rough week. Nothing big, but just little things over and over. A few nights ago, I dropped a bowl and shattered it in the wee hours of the morning. Totally my fault. I was trying to carry too many things as I normally do because I’d rather make one trip than two.

Back it up a bit. I’ve been feeling sick for nearly a week. Not ‘rona virus sick, but my usual bad cold/allergies/sinus/change of seasons sick. It’s worse than usual, though, because I’ve been getting the chills. That’s when I know I’m really sick. My sleep is for shit which is par the course when I’m sick as well. I mean, it’s normal for me in general to have disordered sleep, but it’s been slightly better since I started taiji. Still. I get six to seven hours of sleep a night, which is better than the four I used to get, but still not enough. I’m constantly exhausted, but I’ve learned to cope with it. Sort of. Basically, I’m resigned to my fate.

One of the symptoms of me getting sick is when I sleep for eight hours or more. It’s one of the few things I actually like about being sick. Ok, the only thing. It doesn’t make me feel more rested when I’m awake, though. The benefit is strictly that it knocks me out for a few hours more.

So, when I get sick, it can last anywhere from weeks to months. I haven’t been really sick since the pandemic started (one of the few benefits of never leaving the house), and I was naively hoping that I would be able to skip the colds this year. Nope.

Anyway, so that’s the background for the rest of what I’m going to write about. I dropped that bowl in the wee hours of the night a few nights ago right before I was going to bed. I was not happy about it, obviously, and I had to lock up Shadow in the guest room so he wouldn’t step on the ceramic pieces. I used treats to lure him there while I took care of the shattered pieces. When I went back to let him out, I fully expected him to yell at me for locking him up. Instead, he was cozied up on the bed and snoozing. When I opened the door, he opened one eye to blearily stare at me, but otherwise stayed put.


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Never leaving the house again

I was borderline agoraphobic when I was in my late twenties. Hold up. Wait. back up. When I was a kid (stop groaning, yes, we do need to go back that far), I had no friends. I was a fat, socially-awkward, intelligent Asian girl in a very white suburb. My home life sucked as well, and I first thought about suicide when I was eleven. But even before then, I wanted to die. I didn’t like anything about life which has continued to this day. Wait. Back up again. I don’t want it to sound like every moment of my life is terrible. It isn’t. For the most part, it’s just that everything is low-grade meh. When I’m really depressed, life is torture. There are mornings when I open my eyes, and I immediately want to close them again forever. For the most part, though, it’s just me dragging my flattish (but not as flat as before taiji) ass off the couch and going about my business.

After college, I had a period of chronic and deep depression. There were days when all I could do was brush my teeth, and I would consider that a win. Now, I brush my teeth three times a day every day (and floss three times, too), but there are several things I leave undone. I don’t do laundry until I don’t have anything else decent to wear. Many people do that, I know, but it can be a month or two before I really feel the need. Given that we’re in a pandemic, it’s not as dire at it would be otherwise, but it’s still a factor of my depression.

At that point, I didn’t leave the house except to go grocery shopping and to get my meds once a month. Even that was a struggle, but I managed to get it done. Two things helped my depression–therapy and taiji. The two Ts, as it were. I reached a point where I was going out for my taiji classes three times a week, went out with friends once a month or so in addition to my normal errands. It was enough for me, and I was less blah than before.

Fast-forward to the coronavirus and the lockdown. The last place I went to (except pharmacy and gas station) was a nearby coop. This was late February/early March. I wasn’t wearing a mask, but I kept my distance as best I could and had my sweatshirt pulled up over my hands so I didn’t have to touch anything with my bare hands. This coop is small, and the aisles were narrow. It would be hard for two carts to go through an aisle at the same time, for example. I was already feeling slightly panicky, but at least most of the workers were wearing masks and gloves.


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The disappearing thin line

In the time of this pandemic, there is one thing that has become clear to me–more information is not always better. Or rather, the constant influx of information from everyone and their mother is not helping. There is so much confusion as to what are the best practices and more to the point, why they are the best practices. Like, I knew I should wash my hands a ton, but wasn’t sure why exactly. I mean, getting Covid-19 by contact exposure is rather low on the list of how to get it. So why all the hand-washing? It’s mostly because of touching your hand to your face and protecting from it. Speaking of which….

My BFF sent me an article boiling down some of these conflicting ideas. It’s really the best thing I’ve read on the topic, and I’m pretty sure it’s not just because it confirms much of what I already thought. It addressed something that I had been confused about, but could not find a satisfactory answer in all my Googling. My question was if I self-isolated and did not leave the house for, say, three weeks (and let’s pretend I haven’t gotten any deliveries in that time). If I did not get sick in that time, would it be fine to assume that I was not going to get it? And the answer is yes.

Basically, my home would be a safe place because no new exposure was happening. The author of the article wants people to consider their home their safe places and to do whatever they need to do in order to keep it safe. Wearing masks and gloving up when outside (but also understanding that they aren’t 100% solutions), then disposing of them (or washing them) properly before entering the safe place. Once you’re in the safe place, however, you don’t have to follow the stringent practices you do in exposure zones. In other words, you can touch your face in your safe place. You don’t have to wash your hands any more than you normally would. It confirmed my hunch that I couldn’t get it without new exposure, which makes inherent sense.

In addition, the mask is mostly for the person wearing it if they are sick in order to keep their germs to themselves. It’s helpful to other people, but to a much lesser degree. It’s more important to stay at least six feet away from others (preferably ten) at all times, and if you are wearing a mask/gloves, to wash your hands once you get home. For twenty seconds. The most important thing about the touching your face advice is to not do it when you’re in exposure zones (the author calls them danger zones). Which includes not touching your mask if you’re wearing one. If you’re wearing gloves, touch as little as possible with them and then make sure they’re off before you go into your house.

Another thing I’ve seen a lot of back and forth about is deliveries. Takeout and grocery mostly, but also just packages in general. I’ve had the habit of putting what needs to be refrigerated in the fridge straight in, but the bags are living in the garage, and if I don’t have to bring the item inside, it stays in the garage as well for several days. It’s overkill, but if I don’t need it, then it might as well live in the garage. In the article above, it says that leaving the package out in the sun for two minutes will kill off most of virus particles (grossly simplified). Also, if a package is not damp, it should be fine in general. If you store it in a cold and damp environment like the basement, it’ll be fine in 2 1/2 hours. And wash your damn hands afterwards.

But really, stay six feet away from other people.  Better yet, stay at home. That really is the best thing you can do in these trying times. If you can’t stay at home, then stay six feet away from others and don’t touch your face. If you can wear a mask and gloves, that’s good. If not, use hand sanitizer liberally. And don’t touch your face!


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Checking in on my health

drink it all up!
Staying cozy and warm.

The vaunted snowstorm netted us a whopping three to four inches of snow. I’m not mad, really, just disappointed. However, I knew it wasn’t going to be eight to ten inches because we’ve consistently gotten less than has been predicted, so I’m not crushed as I would be otherwise. It’s lightly snowing now, and we’re supposed to get more snow during the big storm next week. Only a few more inches, but I’ll take it. We haven’t had snow hardly at all this winter.

As for the cold, it’s really fucking cold. Currently, the temp is ‘feels like’ -28. There is no feeling going on at that temp. That’s cold, even for me. I did have the window slightly rolled down when I ran to Cubs this morning, but it’s only three minutes from my house.

Fun fact: Some years ago, the windchill factor formula was tweaked so that it more accurately reflects how the wind feels on your skin. As a result, there will probably never be a -100 windchill again. We used to get them when I was a kid, and about ten years ago, I started wondering why I never saw -100 again. It tuns out that a new windchill factor was established in 2001, which was comforting to discover. It wasn’t just me this time!

Anyway, now I’m back at home, and taiji classes have been canceled due to the extreme cold. I had been considering going to the new class tonight (new to me, not to my teacher. She’s taking it over for her teacher), but even if the classes hadn’t been cancelled, I wouldn’t have gone. I’m not leaving the house for the rest of the day. I have my traveling mug of tea and my comfy throw over my legs. I’m hunkering down until this cold snap passes because it’s too cold even for me.

Unfortunately, I’m fighting off the crud. I feel on the cusp of being sick, which is worse than actually being sick. When I’m sick, I’m just dealing with being sick. I don’t really think of much else. When I’m maybe about to get sick, I can’t do anything to stop it, and it makes me pissed off. I don’t go out into public that often except to the grocery store, which, come to think of it, is a terrible place to go if you’re trying not to be sick.

It actually makes me angry that I can’t stop myself from getting sick. I’m drinking all the tea, including immunity-boosting tea in addition to my usual honey, ginger, lemon tea. I’m doing my taiji routine every morning (including stretching), which is a half hour. When I first started taiji, I didn’t practice at home at all. In fact, I was resentful of the idea that I should practice. I don’t know why. I was a bitter, negative, and deeply depressed person when I started taking taiji classes. I’m still depressed and negative, but not nearly as much as I used to be.

When I first started practicing taiji at home, I did it for two minutes. The first section of the Solo Form, and even that was begrudging. I slowly started adding to my morning regime, and now, I’m up to a half hour of stretching and taiji. It doesn’t even feel like anything most of the time. My taiji teacher says an hour a day is the most I should do, and I don’t have to do it in one session. Looking back, I can’t believe how much I resented having to do even two minutes of it every day.

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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.

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The State of My Mind

It’s time to come out and say it–I am depressed. I’ve alluded to it before, but now I’ll just say it. I’ve been low-level depressed for a few months, and I don’t know why. I think it’s partly because of the anniversary of Raven’s death, partly because of being physically sick (though maybe I got physically sick because my depression lowered my immune system. It’s hard to say), and partly because it’s just how I roll.

The thing is, in the past, when I was depressed, it literally incapacitated me at times. I remember losing countless hours to depression because I simply didn’t have the energy or the wherewithal to do anything other than sit on the couch and stare into space. It was chronic, and it was serious. I honestly didn’t think I’d make it out of my twenties, and it’s still somewhat unbelievable to me that I have. There were periods of higher activity, but in general, I was barely functioning.

Now, I am doing the things I need to do. I am productive every day whereas in the past, brushing my teeth was an accomplishment. In addition, the depression isn’t a part of me, and it’s really strange to feel it coming at me from the outside. Back in the day, I felt as if I was just a ball of depression and it was the only thing that defined me. Now, it’s more like an annoyance such as an ingrown toenail. Persistently there, infected, but not paralyzing me.

In addition, when I had chronic depression, I was numb most of the time. I’ve described it as being frozen, and I couldn’t identify an emotion if my life depended on it. I was really good at pretending emotions, but it was because I’m adept at quickly reading other people’s emotions. It was a bitter irony that for many years, I felt other people’s emotions more intensely and immediately than I did my own. I had no idea what my own emotions were as they were buried under layers of depression.

Now, I have emotions, and sometimes they’re out of whack. I have anger issues, and while I normally keep an iron tight grip on it, when I blow, it’s quick and ugly. It’s difficult because I don’t know all my triggers–well, to be more accurate, I know the broad topics in which there are triggers, but I don’t know exactly what will set me off. After years of not being allowed to express my anger, I still have difficulty expressing it appropriately. It’s all or nothing, and the times it’s all are terrifying to me.

I’m also feeling a lot of sadness. There is no specific reason, but it’s there. I’m grieving, and I don’t even know why. I’m sure part of it is Raven–I’ve been missing him intensely lately, but that’s not all it is. It’s also the feeling that I’m wasting my life and if I die today, what do I have to show for it? I have put so many obstacles in my own way, I feel defeated before I even take a single step.

Also, I’m still fighting a relapse, and my sleep is shit, and everything is difficult. Here is the latest The Mazzy Show; she never fails to make me smile.

Sickness, Hypothyroidism, and Depression, Oh My!

constant criticism running through my brain.
Weighted by the world.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling depressed. I have no idea why as there is no logical reason I should be any more depressed right now than I was, say, a month ago, but depression isn’t logical. I know that having suffered from it for most of my life, but it’s still frustrating to feel it descend upon me and not be able to do anything about it. It’s also weird to actually realize it’s happening as it happens because I used to just live in it before. It was like a warm coat that suffocated me as it clung to my every curve. I didn’t know what it felt like to be depressed because I never felt anything else. Now that I’ve gone several years without being chronically and debilitatingly depressed, I know what it feels like to be depressed.

You know how it feels? It sucks. It drains all the color from the world, leaving it a drab gray. It doesn’t help that the environment around me in the physical world right now is also a drab gray, so it’s matching my interior mood. The grass is brown, and the snow has melted. This is the shit time of winter, which is my favorite season by far. I love the cold and the snow and the crisp bright air. But, I hate it when it starts warming up and everything is dead. All the bugs are flying in the air, and it’s easy to get sick during this time.

I feel as if I’m going through the motions, even with things I enjoy. I’m tired all the time, no matter how much or how little I sleep. This is how I used to feel all the time, and I don’t understand how I dealt with it at all. I hate feeling like this, and it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be. I remembered days when I had to force myself to brush my teeth, and that was the only thing I did all day long. I hated myself and my life, and I wanted nothing more than to not exist. I didn’t want to die, per se, because I was convinced that whatever existed after death was worse than life itself. However, everything in my being was telling me that life was a chore and that I shouldn’t be alive.

I’m feeling whispers of the same sentiment now as well. Why am I alive? I don’t want to be alive. I don’t want to die, but I can’t be stuffed to actually care about being alive. I have good things happening in my life and in my friends’ lives, and I know intellectually that I have a lot to be thankful for, but I. Just. Can’t. Care. I try to talk myself out of it, but to no avail. To someone who’s never suffered depression–are there any people who haven’t any longer?–it’s incomprehensible that someone can’t just shake themselves out of a bad mood. That’s why there are so many annoying pieces about Top Ten Ways to Beat Depression! and such shit.
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Forest, Trees, and Mental Health

silent tranquility.
Just breathe.

I became a political junkie in 2008 because I was excited by having a black candidate for president and a female candidate for president (both Dems). It’s not the most noble of reasons, but I don’t think it’s a bad selfish reason. I’ve been a Democrat since I’ve been able to vote*, but it was more de facto than with any enthusiasm.  I knew the Republicans didn’t have anything to offer me, and what’s more, they actively didn’t want me in their party. I chose the Dems by default because at least nominally, they gave lip service to diversity and caring about the underdog. Mind you, I knew it was mostly cosmetic and superficial, but it was better than being told I was an abomination on a daily basis.

In other words, I wasn’t enthusiastic about being a Democrat, but I knew it was the better of the two unappealing options. My first vote for president was for Nader in 1996 (NOT 2000), and it was a protest vote. Even then, I didn’t like the fact that we had two parties, and I really didn’t like Bill Clinton for several reasons. So, I waited until I was sure he’d won Minnesota before voting for Nader. My next presidential candidates were Al Gore and John Kerry, two of the most boring, non-charismatic candidates to win the primary. Listening to them speak was painfully dull, but I knew I wasn’t voting for the Republican candidate (W. both times), so I didn’t pay any attention as I voted straight D. Both Gore and Kerry were good men, but they were very much quintessential politicians who didn’t excite me at all.

Side note: I understand why people want to vote third party. As I noted, my first presidential vote was for a third party candidate. I do think there are problems that come with being long-term establishment politicians. Most politicians who have been in their positions for decades have been changed by the job, rather than them changing the job, even if that was their intent to begin with. I remember how idealistic Paul Wellstone was when he was first elected. He vowed he would only serve for two terms because he had the same reservations about lifelong politicians. Near the end of his second term, however, he changed his mind and said he was running again because he was still needed. Now, I don’t necessarily disagree with his change of mind because he did a lot of good for Minnesotans** and has been one of our most progressive congresspeople, I just shook my head at the time because it’s easy to see how seductive a life in politics can be–even for someone as idealistic as Wellstone. Again, he did it for lofty reasons, but there was still a sense of ego that only he could do the work. Regardless, I would have voted from him again in a heartbeat if he hadn’t died in a tragic plane crash.  He was a politician whom I believed was doing what he truly thought was best, even when I disagreed with him.

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Taiji Demystified, But Not Defanged

strike a pose!
Not kung-fu fighting.

I was at the bank the other day to straighten out a snafu. As the banker and I waited for the person he was calling to help us, the banker began chitchatting with me. He asked me what I did in my spare time, and I told him I practiced tai chi. He got a strange look on his face, a mixture of bemusement, bewilderment, and intrigue, and I waited to hear what he had to say to my proclamation. After a few seconds, he said, “You mean, the martial art? Like karate?” and did the breaking boards with his hands movements (the stereotypical karate chop) that you see in corny martial arts movies. I could have said, “No, tai chi is an internal martial arts style, and we have no interest in breaking boards with our hands.” I could have said, “Tai chi is good for your mental health as well as your physical health.” I could have said, “Tai chi is excellent for meditation and attaining a peaceful attitude.” I could have said any one of those things, but I didn’t. It’s difficult to adequately explain what it is in five minutes or less. So, I simply nodded and said, “Yes, it’s like that.” He asked what rank I was, and I said we didn’t have ranks or belts. I’ll give him credit. He persisted. He asked if I was an expert or a beginner. I said I was somewhere in between. Then, because I was highly amused by the conversation, I added that I was studying the Sword Form and the Sabre Form. I emphasized that weapons were my thing, and I snickered to myself at the look in the banker’s eyes.

After I left the bank, I thought more about the conversation. I want to emphasize that the banker did an excellent job in helping me with my problem. He was friendly, yet professional, and I’m not upset at his ignorance. I appreciate that he showed an interest when I mentioned taiji, even if it was beyond his ken. However, it underscored how esoteric taiji is to people who don’t practice it. I know, that’s not very insightful because anyone who has a niche hobby knows that people who don’t share the interest won’t know the ins and outs of the hobby. It’s too easy to forget that when you’re surrounded by other practitioners. I go to taiji classes three times a week and have been studying it for eight or nine years, so it’s as natural to me as breathing. The interaction with my banker reminded me that I’m an ambassador for taiji, which is pretty sad as I was the worst student ever for the longest time. One of the reason I started going to class three times a week was so that I’d actually practice on those three days. I didn’t practice at all outside of those classes for more years than I care to admit. I’ve changed that recently, but it’s still a fairly new habit. It’s also not what this post is about.

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