Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Family

A letter to my younger self, part four

In yesterday’s post, I went off on a tangent because of course I did about how much I love tangents/side notes/footnotes/side roads. Then, because I’m me, I spent a healthy chunk of time on that instead of what I actually meant to write about.

Which, in this case, turned out to be about how much I was bashed about the head when I was in my twenties for not womanning the right way. And how it was the planting of a seed (ironic in the context of having children) for me questioning if I was a woman at all.

Side note: Here’s the thing about gender–for me. My biggest feeling about gender is that I am not a guy. I wanted to be once when I was a kid because boys clearly had more freedom and autonomy, but that’s not the same as thinking I am one. More to the point, I don’t want to be one because of the negativity associated with being male. In the general sense, I mean, not specifically. And I don’t want to have to deal with that bullshit, either. The patriarchy hurts women, yes, more than it hurts men, but it’s not great for the latter, either.

When it comes to thinking about my identity as a woman, I draw a giant blank. This is because I (still) don’t know what that means. I can think of how I’ve been treated because I was perceived as a woman, how women treat me (for better and for worse), and how that has affected me. But it doesn’t make me FEEL like a woman.

As for nonbinary, I probably would have chosen that (maybe) when I was a teen if I knew it was a possibility back then. K and I have talked about this–how we both would have went with nonbinary if it was a thing when we were teens/in our twenties. As old people now (in our early fifties), it’s not at the top of either of our important things to do.

Also, for me, there is no gender that feels right to me. I sat with ‘woman’ for a long time, and it did nothing for me. I can relate to women because we’ve had shared experiences, but when I focused on the word woman and tried to relate it to myself, I came up empty. I did not feel anything other than a vague, “Oh, yeah. I used to be called that.” I don’t hate it when others call me she, but it doesn’t really ring true with me, either.

I have explained it thusly: It’s like an ill-fitting raincoat. Yes, it’ll keep the rain out–mostly. But it’s uncomfrortable and restricting (if it’s too small), and I’ll breathe a sigh of relief once I take it off. In other words, it does the job–barely–but it isn’t the best for the job–by far.

When it’s raincoats–I don’t have to stick with the too-small coat. I can buy another one, an umbrella, or just run around in the rain (which is my personal favorite). When it comes to gender, though, they all feel weird to me in one way or the other. With that in mind….

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A letter to my younger self, part three

In yesterday’s post, I went completely off the rails  as is my wont. I’m not going to bother justifying it because it’s just how my brain works. In fact, it’s part of my neurospiciness, which I did not realize until just a few years ago. I can’t get past the thought that had I had a more accurate list of symptoms at a younger age, I would have dealt with so many things in a much better way.

Side note: I have loved side notes and footnotes in my writing ever since I was a young one. I will gleefully add them until there are more side notes than actual text. And, as I demonstrated yesterday, I will side note a side note if that’s what it takes to get my point across. I have also put a pair of parentheses in another parenthized statement within another–like nested Russian dolls.

I have learned that this is a trait of neurospicy people. So is having terrible handwriting–which I do. I have such bad handwriting that I gave up trying to make it better when I was in elementary school. I practiced and practiced and practiced–and it still looked like chicken scrawly. It’s even worse now, in part because I never write anything by hand any longer.

In fact, in looking up if this was, indeed, a sympton of autism. And the solution is making the kid do gripping exercises and other things to make their handwriting acceptable. I’m not saying they shouldn’t try to improve their gripping ability, but I do think this is one way of looking at the world through a neurotypical lens. In this day and age, what does it matter how pretty a kid’s handwriting is? It would be better to teach them to type than to waste so much energy on handwriting.

This is something I’ve been thinking of a lot lately, by the way. How the world is so very unkind to neurospicy people. And how we can reimagine a world in which this wasn’t true. I have mentioned in the recent past about my irritation at the fact night owls are now being pathologized. Which can also be a part of neurodivergency, by the way–different sleep patterns, I mean.

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A letter to my younger self, part two

In yesterday’s post, I was talking about how I had so much sympathy for Mini-Minna and all she went through. I don’t know when I went from actively hating her to feeling sympathy for her to wanting to protect her. I will say that it started with Taiji, probably, because everything good that I’ve done/thought/believed started with Taiji.

Side note: I will never stop saying how Taiji has saved my life. But, more than that, it has given me self-confidence, assurance that I deserve to live, grudging acceptance of my body, and more. It has also given me a love for Taiji weapons that I did not know existed deep within me. It has made me more comfortable in my body, and I’m better able not to hurt myself when I trip/fall/runt into things, etc.

Taiji helped me with my personal relationships, especially with my parents. I was more able to deal with them and not blow up or want to throw myself into the ocean. Believe me when I say that this is a vast improvement from my first twenty years.

Here’s the thing about Taiji. Hopefully, I will never have to use it for its intended purpose–which is self-defense. Despite what Westerners want to believe about it, it is a martial art that can be used for combat.

Side note to the side note: When I used to frequent Twitter, I would wax rhapsodic about Taiji weapons. I would get a markedly different response from men and women (yes, this was specific to people of the binary). Men would tell me how hot it was and want to mention Kill Bill and similar films. Women, on the other hand, would recoil from it and scold me for doing something ‘violent’. The former response, sadly, was not unexpected, and it’s something I could ignore. The latter was from women I respected, so I would actually try to engage with them.

I tried to explain that it wasn’t that I was violent–at all. And that while they were weapons, it was still Taiji. It did not matter. One was so disappointed in me! I felt bad about that, but at the same time, that was more about her than about me.

Side note to the side note to the side note: One thing my teacher and I talk about is how different men and womn (yes, the binary again) are raised in this world. And how that affects their approach to Taiji. Men are taught to be alpha, aggressive, and dominant (in the real world). When they try Taiji, they have to be told to relax and go softer, as it were.

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A letter to my younger self

For the first twenty-plus years of my life, I was a deeply depressed kid who didn’t want to be alive. I wasn’t suicidal, exactly, but I would not have cared if I died. I thought I was a waste of space and a blight on humanity. There are many reasons for this, but that’s not the point of this post. Suffice to say, that was not a great time in my life. I rarely like to think of it because it was so painful.

I hated myself back then. With the fiery passion of a thousand suns. No one could have been as mean to me (and believe me, they were very mean. I was a fat, neurodivergent, unhappy Asian kid in a very white suburb in the seventies and eighties) as I was to myself.

I look back at little me and have nothing but compassion for her. She was just trying her best in a world that was actively hostile to her. She had no idea how to be normal. She did find, through trial and error, mostly, a way to pass for normal. Ish. If you squint. From a very far distance. But it never matched how she felt inside.

There is talk of masking in the neurodivergent world.

Side note: I did not even have a whiff of a hint that I might be neurodivergent until I was in my thirties. Mid-to-late thirties. This is a shame. A BIG shame.

Masking is when a neuroatypical person acts like ‘normal’ in public so in order to get along with the normies. It’s exhausting when you have to be very careful of everything you say or do in order not to raise suspicion. It’s not only things such as fidgeting and being unaware of time (I don’t have either of those, by the way), but also things like having sensory issues and not liking things that are popular. I have both of these.

It toook me some time to figure out that racism existed. Same with sexism, and then homophobia/biphobia (once I realized I was queer). This is life in that we rarely have all the revelations at one time. But. I realized that I was of a different race and gender (well, the first time) when I was in my twenties. I wish I had realized more about myself at the same time. Plus, I also wish that I didn’t have it smashed into my face over and over again that I was a weirdo and what’s more, that I was a massive loser for being such a weirdo at a young age.

I first realized I was going to die when I was seven. Simultaneously, that was when I first wanted to die. Or rather, as I’ve said before, not wanted to be alive. Here is the letter I would write to that younger me.

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Depression sucks, part four

Let’s keep talking about depression. Here is the previous post I wrote about it. I’ve had it all my life, and in the past, I had just accepted that it was part of my life. Which it was. Until I had my medical crisis and my depression went away. Not all of it, mind, but 90% of it–which is amazing. For the first year after my medical crisis, I was so grateful to be alive. I felt peace in a way that I haven’t in any other time of my life.

I would look out the window and just marvel at being alive. That’s not something I have ever done in my life before. Every cup of coffee tasted extra-strong, and every weapon form was extra-meaningful (once I could do the weapons again). I’m not being flip when I say that dying puts a different perspective on life.

However (and you knew that I was going to qualify it), that state of mind can’t last forever. It’s simply not possible to not revert to the mean over time. What I’m saying is that, even the miraculous becomes normal over time. Yes, it’s still amazing that I’m alive when I should have stayed dead. Yes, I still feel that in my bones, deeply. But it’s not on the forefront of my mind as it was for the first two years.

Now, for the first time since my medical crisis, I had the thought that maybe it would have been better if I had died for good. It was fleeting, and I was able to dismiss it, but it shook me that it’s happening at all.

Life is hard right now. And with depresion, it’s a slippery slope. For me, anyway. It starts out mild and then before you know it, I’m on the couch and can’t get off it. At least that’s how my old depression worked. Plus, my sleep gets even suckier than normal, and I’m jsut blah all over the place.

Now, it’s different. I’m not on the couch, but I’m not any more productive. My brain feels fracture, and my life is so gray (as I said in the last post).

In the past, depression was just a part of me. There was no rhyme or reason to it. This time, however, there are specific reasons for it. In late February, I had a major tragedy happen to me. It was expected, but still sudden. What made it weirder was that it happened the day (and the day after) the Elden Ring DLC trailer dropped. Which was…a thing. And cast a pall on something  I had been anticipating for literal years.

I dealt with the tragedy at the time surprisingly well. As I said, I was expecting it to happen–just not at that particular time and so quickly. I still don’t want to say anything publically about it, though I have written several unpublished posts about it.

I say surprisingly, but it’s not surprising at all. One, ah, positive of having PTSD is that I’m very calm and cool in a crisis. See, I’m alwayst imagining the worst-case scenario, so when I’m in one, it’s my time to shine. Nothing can be worse than my brain, you see, not even dying. Twice. It’s when the outside matches the inside of my brain, and there’s a certain quietness and solidness to it that calms the fires of my brain.

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The lying lies of depression, part three

In the last post, I talked about family dysfunction, mental health, and talked about a few more points on my list of ways I can tell I’m feeling depressed. Here’s the thing. Depression is a lying liar who lies. But, it’s also sneaky in its lies. It doesn’t just hit you in the face with its presence (at least not with me). It slowly creeps up on me bit by bit until I realize that I’m depressed.

In a way, it would be so much easier if it did just announce itself and say, “Hey, I’m here, bitch. What are you going to do about it?” But, no. It slides in a toe and wiggles it around a bit. Then, once you’re accepeted that, it shows you a knee. It keeps going until it’s fully in the room, which is when you (I) know it’s going to be a problem.

I get so frustrated when it takes me time to realize I’m depressed. And even more frustrated when I don’t do anything about it. I am glad, howeve,r that I’m more able to talk about it now than twenty years ago. I’ve been messaging with K and it occured to me and–look. It went down like this. She asked me how I was doing. I immediately started to message back–fine.

Then I stopped. I was not fine. Why was I about to lie to her? She is my oldest and dearest friend.She’s been there for me through thick and thin. We have shared the good times and the bad. She’s been by my side through so much. Why was I pretending to be ok?

I took a deep breath and wrote an honest answer. And got an equally honest answer in return that she was struggling, too. And I felt much better in the instant. Not because she was suffering, but because I was frank with her and she with me.

We have always been open with each other. Twenty years ago, though, I just would not have talked to her when I was depressed. Not in a negative way, mind, but we didn’t talk that often, and I could have shined her on if we did talk during that period.

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The face of my depression, part two

In yesterday’s post, I started listing how I knew that I was depressed. I also mentioned two incidents with my father that underlined how much disdain he had for women, but I did not actually talk about the second incident.

Backstory: We are Asian. This means that we played ping-pong. It’s the law that we had a ping-pong table in the basement and played quite frequently. My father was the best, then my mother, then me, then my brother. We played singles and doubles, depending on how we felt. My father and I were very competitive (not necessarily with each other, but in general), whereas my brother and my mother were more chill.

You know that thing where you let your kids beat you in something so that they feel good about themselves? Yeah, my parents did not adhere to that theory. At all. My mother didn’t try to beat us kids; she just played her best. Which meant she could beat us, of course, but her goal wasn’t to humiliate us. She was just playing because she loved playing.

My father, on the other hand, had every intention of showing that he was so much better than his two kids. He didn’t just play. He didn’t even just play to win. He made sure to be as sneaky as possible so he could make us look foolish in the process. So, dropping serves just over the net, spinning the ball away from the person, and slamming the ball as hard as possible when he was set up for it. All of these are legal in the game, by the way. And perfectly fine to do in a game. However, did a forty-year-old man really need to show up his kids in that fashion? I would posit that no, he did not. My father did because that was his nature, but a normal man with a modicum of empathy would not have felt the need to rub our faces in it.

I can still remember the smile/sneer on his face as he did this, clearly taking delight in making his kids look foolish. It did not feel good, I’ll tell you that for free.

We kept playing as my brother and I grew up. Of course, I got better with time. My father did not because he was already at the top of his game, and it wasn’t as if he was practicing to be competitive.

Anyway, when I was in my early twenties, I finally beat him. And then he never played against me again. Beceause that was the kind of man he was, and that showed his thinking when it came to men and women.

Back to depression and how I can tell when I’m sinking into it.

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The face of my depression

I’ve been talking about Taiji, mental health, and me for the past week-and-a-half. Today, I want to tell you how I know that my depression is deepening. In the last post, I talked more about my family dysfunction. I kinda rushed it at the end because it was very late and I was very tired. You can tell because it abruptly ended with no real conclusion as to waht I was saying.

My point of that post was that abuse twists everything. And that sometimes it’s more complicated than one person is the abuser and the other person is the abused. I have always felt that was too simplistic, along with the idea that you can’t question anything an abused person does. The latter makes me very uneasy, but that is not the point of this post. I bring it up because the uncomfortable truth is that a person who is being abused can simultaneously abuse others. Especially in the case of parents.

It’s true. My father was emotionally abusive to my mother. He was awful to her. He cheated on her and didn’t bother hiding it. It was an open secret, but no way anyone could bring it up to him. Everyone in our church knew it and covered it up. Which was a separate issue. He was mean to my mother, dismissive of her, and treated her as unpaid help. She had to work full-time (which was strange for a Taiwanese man to demand, but in keeping with my father’s fear of being poor), do all the household chores, and take care of us kids as well.

My father was openly disdainful of her as a woman and a person. It was clear that he thought women were sub-human. I mean, he didn’t think much of other men, either, but at least he treated them as human beings. To a certain extent. It’s the alpha-male thing/social class thing. If a man was above him in some way, then my father would pay him at least nominal respect.

My brotehr is not the most observant of men, but even he noticed that my father treated us differently based on our gender. Again, it wasn’t as if he showed a lot of respect for my brother, but it was at least a whit more than he showed me (which was none). And he respected that my brother had expertise in at least one area–technology. Me? No.

Here’s a two-part illustration of this. I did not date before I was sixteen. There were a lot of reasons for it, and it did a number on my already scraping-the-floor self-esteem. My father, out of nowhere and apropos of nothing, offered me the following advice. He said, “If you want to get a boyfriend–” Here, I braced myself because I knew that whatever followed was not going to be good. Remember, we were not talking about dating or anything like this when he pulled this out. “You need to raise your voice an octave or two, let a boy beat you in a sport/game, and ask him to teach you something.” I was appalled. I retorted, “If that’s what it takes to get a boyfriend, then I’ll stay single for the rest of my life.”

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Actual goals this year

In my last post, I was going to talk about my goals for this year, but mostly went on and on about what my medical crisis was like. Which is in part because it’s the most important thing that happened to me. It changed my life in many ways, even though in some ways, it didn’t change a thing.

It’s not something I talk about much or often, which is part of the problem. Someone can’t really know me if they don’t know about that experience because it has left an indelible mark on me. At the same time, I hesitate bringing it up because no one can relate to it. This is not hyperbole. I researched situtions like mine, and I could not find a single one. It’s hard to find someone who has survived one cardiac arrest and/or stroke without side effects, let alone two cardiac arrests, an ischemic stroke, and walking (non-COVID-related) pneumonia.

I could not find any groups for people like me–not even close. K suggested I go to a group for people who went through any kind of medical crisis, but I would not want to make other people feel bad. My issue is not dealing with the ramifications of the crisis itself (difficulty walking, talking, thinking, etc.), but dealing with the fact that I’m still alive when I shouldn’t be.

The chaplain I talked to in the hospital asked if I ever asked, “Why me?” about the experience. I told him candidly no because why not me? I didn’t take great care of myself, smoked a few cigarettes a day, was fairly sedentary except for my Taiji routine, and had bronchial/immune system issues. For whatever reason, I have never thught of myself as exempt from bad things happening to me the way other people seem to do.

I did mention that I hoad some survivor’s guilt. At the time, I thought there was a young woman–in her early twenties–who was on my same floor and had COVID. Her family did not believe in thevaccine and she died from it–along with her mother. I realized months later that this never happened, but at the time when I was talking with the chaplain (which I’m pretty sure did happen), it was a reality to me.

I told him that I thought she should have lived instead of me because she was young and had so much of her life ahead of her. I, on the other hand, was nearer to the end of my life than the start and hadn’t really contributed anything to the world. I wasn’t being self-deprecating; it’s true. In a global sense, I mean. Whether I live or die doesn’t really matter. Especially now.

I want to change that now. I’m in my 53rd rotation on this earth. I probably have less than that left in me. If I’m going to do anything with my life, the time is now. I have had a few ideas in my mind for writing projects, and I’m not getting any younger.

Side note: I’m a very good writer. I am shitty at editing and holdinwg myself accountable. I said this yesterday. I have never had a problem with NaNoWriMo because 50,000 words a month is a sneevze to me. I can do that in my sleep. Again, that’s not a humblebrag or a brag–it just is.

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Squad goals for a new year

Yesterday was my birthday. I have been on this earth for 53 years, and I should have died for good 2 1/2 years ago. I don’t really consider my birthday my birthday any longer beacuse I was reborn on another day. That wouldbe September 3rd, 2021. More pragmatically, it should be a week later when I woeke up for good, but I preferred to mark it as the day I had my two cardiac arrests and a stroke. Not to mention walking (non-COVID-related) pneumonia.

I died twice that night and slipped into a coma. I was not expected to wake up, and my brother was told that he probably should start planning for my funeral. Also, he was told to start thinking about whether to pull the plug or not, which still haunts me to this day. That’s a decision that no one should have to make, and i hated the idea that he had to think about it at all.

We had talked about it before. Not  directly about pulling the plug, but about Whether or not we’d want to live without any brain activity. I was emahatic that I did not want to because Terry Schiavo was one of my worst night mares. Her body being kept alive for nearly two deacdes (I believe) because her parents wanted it still haunts me. I would not want that, plus it’s a waste of time, energy, and resources.

I will admit that I was surprised they were talking about it that soon (less than a week after I was rushed to the hospital), but it was probably because I was so far gone and was not expected to live. Recentlry, my mother told me about the scale they used to determine how bad it was with a person in a coma (Glasgow Coma Scale). It’s a point system, and they assign diffrenet points to how alert you are.

My mother brought it up because someone in her church was in a coma. 3 was the lowest you could get and still be alive. There were three categories, so it was 1 per category. She couldn’t remember what my score was, but she was pretty sure it was very low. I was not responding to external stimuli, and my medical team was very worried about me.

Side note:  I am very sensitive to meds because I’m Asian. This is a thing, but doctors don’t seem to know it. My brother tried to tell my doctors that might be part of the issue, but they were not paying attention.

Trulyy, I should have stayed dead. My medical team were diplomatic about it, but they basically told my brother there was no hope. this still messes with my brain sometimes.

I used up all my luck in that one event. I don’t deserve any more because it was a huge ask. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want a little luck in other ways. Sometimes I get it and sometimes I don’t. With my latest personal tragedy, I would have given up several years of my life not to have to go through it–yet. It would have happened at some point, but my god. I just can’t deal with it.

I was very lucky in that I have not had many negative effects from my medical crisis. What has been impacted, I chalk up as a fair trade-off. My peripheral vision, which has never been good, is almost nonexistent now. My refelxes are worse than before–and they were never great. My memory which used to be stellar went haywire with the medical crisis. Part of that was probably the drugs, too. Now, my memory is better than it was was when I first got out of the hospital, but not as good as it used to be back in my youth.

The last point could also partly be because of age. Memory gets worse as you get older, obviously.

The one thing I’m worried about is my ability to write fiction. I can still write posts, obviously, but I’m struggling with the fiction. I can picture what I want to write about, but it just doesn’t flow the way it used to. Before my medical crisis, I had stories in my head all the time. Now, I don’t have them at all. I have ideas, but not the full stories.

I have two ideas that  Iwould like to write. One is based on my experience in the hospital which was wild. I was high as a kite and everything  ithought I was happening probably didn’t. I have tales about that time that would curl your hair–if they actually happneed.

Of course, I did not realize at the time that it was me being delusional. I didn’t figure that out until months after  Ireturned home. Some of it like the testing happneed, but others such as two cabals did not.

I hope I can write fiction at some point. I have tried and gotten about fifty pages in more than once before giving up. I had two different ideas, and now I have threee in part beacuse of my personal tragedy. I ‘m wornderiing if  Ican combine the three and see if it makes any coherent sense. I would be really unhappy if my ability to write fiction was gone completely.

Is it worth it? Well, yes, of course. I mean, I’m alive. There really isn’t a better alternative to that. But I’m frustrated beacuse I used to write fiction with ease. I’ve written dozen of novels in the past. Writing is easy for me; it’s editing that is my weak point.

Swear to god, I’m not humblebragging or bragging when I say that. I have always been able to write prolifically and easily. my rule was to write a thousand to two thousand word post a day and two thousand words of fiction. that’s thee thousand a words a day, and it was never a problem.

When I started doing NaNoWriMo, I met the goal with ease. It was never a problem so I started setting other goals for myself. Then, NaNo Rebels started, which was what I was doing from the beginning.

I’m done for now. More tomorrow.