Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Personal Life

What to do with my life

Once when I was in my twenties, my mother was probing me about my life goals. Which, that’s a mother thing to do so I can’t blame her for it. At one point, though, she was exasperated at me and snapped, “Do you not want to work?” I, being stupid, took her at face value and said, “I would prefer not to.” The disappointment in her face and tone was heavy. She made it very obvious that she thought I was a failure for admitting that.

Story of my life, though. One of the things my last therapist said to me that turned on a lightbulb was after I was lamenting about all the ways I had failed my mother. I was very much aware of my mother’s checklist of things that her daughter should be. Skinny was at the top of that list (but not skinnier than she was because that made her jealous0.

Side Note: After I came home from the hospital, eating was difficult because my father could not understand my diet. I did not eat gluten or dairy. He and my mom would eat something with one or both of those and he would offer me some. I would decline, which should have been the end of it, but half the time my father would question why I didn’t accept it. He would say, “Don’t you want any?” Not in a nasty way, but in a puzzled tone. I would explain I couldn’t eat it, and  I could see that he didn’t understand. That was fine. Annoying, but fine. It was when he conflated my hospital experience with my diet that it got frustrating. He thought my doctors had put me on the diet and would ask when I would be off it. He couldn’t understand that I had been eating that way for several years, which, again, was fine in and of itself. It just got old after some time.

Anyway, my mother wanted a skinny, feminine, perfect clone of herself. She wanted a daughter who had a career, yes, but also was a mother of two children. Someone who went to church every Sunday and was heavily involved in the church life, and someone who did not swear.

What my recent health scare had done for me was make me see with brilliant clarity that my mother does not like me. I already knew she didn’t love me as a person (I will concede that she loves me, her ‘daughter’)., but it took me longer to realize that she doesn’t like me. At all. She likes nothing about me, in fact. Not that I do Taiji (she thought it would invite the devil to dance on my spine. Which is surprisingly poetic for her, but a bunch of horseshit) nor that I am a writer. The one short story she read from me elicited the only comment of ‘there’s a lot of swearing in it’ and nothing else. She doesn’t like that I’m fat, single/unmarried, and she most definitely does not like that I don’t have children.

She doesn’t like that I don’t have a regular job (which is fair), and she doesn’t like that I have a cat. She wishes I cared more about performative femininity, even though she has a complicated relationship with it herself. Yes, she wears makeup (has eyeliner tattooed on her lids), but she does not wear skirt/dresses much, and she is much more comfortable in pants. Plus, she plays sports. Or used to, anyway. She exercises every day, too.

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Doing it my way

My brother is great at starting a project. If he wants to do something, he just  jumps in and does it. He may not finish it. He may put it in the reject pile at some point. But he will move on with ease to the next project and not think twice about it.

Me, I agonize about starting any kind of project. I will put more time into planning it than actually doing it. If I start a project, there is a high probability that I will see it to completion. I will bitch about it. There will blood, sweat, and tears–but I’ll get it done. And it will be done well because of my perfectionist tendencies.

I much prefer my brother’s way of being. He stresses way less than I do and gets way more done. It might not be as high a standard as what I do, but most of the time, that doesn’t matter. We’re not talking about bad versus great. We’re talking about great versus really fucking great. The latter just isn’t needed most of the time.

This is where my anxiety rears its ugly head. It’s where the voices in my head whisper, “You’re not good enough.” “You can’t do that,” and other nefarious thoughts. It’s my mother’s voice as she has told me how wrong I am since I was a small child. I shouldn’t laugh so loudly, climb trees, run around, sit with my legs open, eat that dessert, read so many books, or talk. Add my father to that: I should not be better than a boy in anything, think I know anything of use, or contradict what a man tells me. I should get straight As because I’m so smart, but never show a boy how smart I am. Go to college and grad school and have a stellar career. get married and have children, putting them purportedly first. Go to church and put God first. Date, but do NOT have sex before marriage. Bisexual? That’s against God, and what next? Sex with animals? Taiji? You’re allowing the devil to dance on your spine. Writing stories that have any kind of swearing is bad! Don’t eat so much.

Be less was the constant message I got and still get. I want too much. I ask for too much. I AM too much.

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Funhouse mirror of flaws

I’ve written about how my self-esteem has skyrocketed since my medical crisis. In general, I am happier with myself. My depression has disappeared almost completely and my anxiety is reduced by roughly 60%. Considering that I first wanted to die when I was seven, this is a massive improvement for me.

In addition, all my body issues disappeared. I can’t overemphasize what a big deal that is. My mother put on my first diet when I was seven. She made frequent comments about how fat I was and what a shame it was. But, because she was an Asian mother, she also insisted on feeding me too much food and making me finish the food on my plate. The conflicting messages did not help at all.

I dealt with two bouts of anorexia with a side helping of bulimia the first time. I’m not the usual person when it comes to eating disorders because…I don’t know how to explain it exactly. But when I decided to give it up, I  swung in the opposite direction and started overeating. It really is a matter of willpower for me and not the disordered thinking that other people get.

I’m not explaining this well. I had the disordered thinking as well, but it was more a byproduct of my willpower and not the central thing. I have read about anorexia and how difficult it is to treat. That it’s distorts a person’s thinking in a way that grooves new brain patterns.

I definitely had disordered thinking while I was dealing with anorexia (thinking I was a fat cow, even when my thighs didn’t touch), but once I stopped being anorectic, well, I stopped the thinking as well. Or rather, I swung in the opposite direction. Which is how I work in general. I swing to the extremes.

After I returned home from the hospital, my opinion of my body changed 100%. I went from being studiedly neutral about it (through many years of Taiji and I wasn’t really neutral) to being positively in love with my body. It might be the drugs talking. In fact, it probably is the reason that I felt kindly towards my body in the first place.

In those halcyonic days (daze?), I could not get enough of my body. It saw me through death–twice–without a scratch. Well, not quite, but close to it. I will sing it from the rooftop all day song. Walking non-COVID-related pneumonia, two cardiac arrests, and a stroke don’t mean shit to me! I can still walk, run, do Taiji, and drive. Presumably (and I’d like to find out soon), sex would be fine as well. I can sing and dance, and I sleep better than I ever have. Seven-and-a-half hours to eight hours a night, which is unheard of for me.

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Out on a limb

My brother is fearless. He has the mentality of ‘why not try?’ If something doesn’t work, he shrugs his shoulders and moves on. He rarely lets a failure bother him, and he takes what he has learn with him into his next venture. The downside to this is that sometimes, he wastes time, money, and effort in a project that he doesn’t take to completion, but it doesn’t bother him at all.

Now. Part of this is the  fact that he is a man and that means he has much more leeway in the two culture in which we live. Boys are heavily favored in Taiwanese culture, so much so that even he has noticed that my parents give his opinion more weight because he’s male (than mine, that of a lowly female (in their eyes). It’s one reason I have gender issues, which is not the point of this post). Ian commented that my mother would ask for my opinion, but then ask my brother without accepting mine. I actually think that’s more an anxiety thing as she’s done the opposite, too. She never accepts the first answer as correct on its own. But, yes, she does give more weight to what my brother says than to what I do.

I can’t tell you how much it means to me that my brother sees this happening, too. It’s one thing to realize it on my own, but it’s another thing to have back-up on my opinion. It’s easy for me to gaslight myself and say that they don’t mean it, it’s just their culture, etc., but when my brother says it out loud, it validates my feelings.

My mother is a Debbie Downer in general. Any idea you bring up to her, she immediately crushes down. K and I have talked about our respective upbringings. Her mom was of the mindset that everything would work out no matter what choice you made (which came with its own issues) whereas mine believed that you were fucked no matter what choice you make. Not that she would use the word fuck, but that’s her mentality. K’s mother always sees the bright side whereas my mother only sees darkness.

I take after my mother in that I can always see the flaws of something, but I’m getting better at realizing I don’t always have to bring it up. And I try to make it constructive and not just complaining. If I want to complain, I do it here!

When I told her I was bi, she asked me what’s next, animals? By the way, I have no idea how that became a thing. Going from same-gender relationships to fucking goats. When I told her I was getting a tattoo, well, let’s just say she voiced strong disapproval. The times when she doesn’t actively say she’s against whatever I’m doing, it’s clear in her tone of voice or her face. Oh, and when I told her I was practicing Taiji, she said it was a way to invite the devil to dance on my spine. And she was being earnestly sincere.

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Learning to live again

It’s been a year since my medical crisis. Over a year. The first year, I was just adjusting to the fact that I was still alive when I should be dead.

I have no problem talking about it, by the way. I have no issue with making it clear that I should be dead. It’s not something that trips me up, but it does occasionally feel weird tripping off my tongue. It’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d say, and it’s weird to look back at what happened to me. I don’t feel like it’s me, but I know it did  happen. It doesn’t help that I was unconscious for all of it so I have no memory of it happening. I can only rely on what other people have told me about it.

I want to find the cops and EMTs who brought me back to life and rushed me to Regions Hospital. This shouldn’t be too hard because I live in a sleepy suburb where not much happens. Brain damage starts at three minutes without oxygen, so I’m pretty sure the cops came before then.

I was not breathing when they found me collapsed in my front hallway. They bagged me with oxygen and waited for the EMTs. I had a cardiac arrest when the latter arrived. They gave me CPR and rushed me to Regions Hospital, which is 20 minutes from  my house. I had another cardiac arrest on the way. They gave me CPR again. During one of these incidents, they jabbed me with an EpiPen. Before we arrived at the hospital, I had an ischemic stroke as well. I was unconscious by the time we arrived at the hospital and remained so for a week.

I write all this easily because I’ve told this story over and over again. It’s just an accepted fact for me by now, but I’m reminded how unusual it is every time I tell it to someone who doesn’t know it. When I got my booster shot at my pharmacy, I gave the pharmacist the rundown to make sure that it was ok for me to get my booster. He stopped what he was doing (typing into his computer), looked at me in amazement and said something about how incredible it was I went through that and that he  was glad I was ok.

That flummoxed me momentarily because I wasn’t expecting him to comment on it. In retrospect, that’s ridiculous because of course he’s going to say something. Every medical person I’ve talked about my experience with has had this reaction. I mean, ‘normal’ people have a similar reaction, but medical people are especially aware of how dire the situation had been.

I didn’t realize it myself until after I went home. I understood that I was very lucky to be alive, but not exactly how lucky until I got home and Googled. I could not find anyone like me. No one. I was joking with my brother that it’s difficult to find a support group for people who have had strokes because most people who survive them are not in much shape to attend a meeting, even if it’s on Zoom.

He replied that looking for one  with cardiac arrest survivors is even more difficult because they’re dead. Macabre? Yes. True? Most definitely yes as well. I’ve said this many times, but the mortality rate for a cardiac arrest is 90%. 80% if you’re already in the hospital when it happens. 70% if you get immediate and sustained CPR right after it happens. So even in the best case scenario, you have a 2 in 3 chance of dying. That’s the BEST case scenario.

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Mary, Mary, most contrary

I am not a contrarian. Not deliberately so, anyway. I know that my mother believes I do it on purpose, but I really don’t. It’s not like I wake up and choose violence. I don’t think, “Hm, what is the most contrary position I can take?” and then voice that.

My mother once said to me in exasperation, “Something isn’t bad just because it’s tradition.” To which I replied, “That doesn’t make it automatically good, either.” She did not like that. At all.

It’s true, though. Just because something is tradition, it doesn’t mean we should keep doing it. I don’t see anything wrong with questioning something in order to time-test it. If it’s good, then continue to do it. If not, then let it go. I don’t think that’s controversial, but I know it is.

The biggest examples in my life are having children and getting married. Let’s add to that being in a long-term hetero relationship. Let’s lump all that together under the umbrella of family shit. I knew since I was young that I was going to get married to a man and have children. My mother made it very clear that it was my duty as a woman to have children and to take care of my husband. In the other order, actually.

When I was 22, I was madly in love with my boyfriend at the time. We were talking about having children and I realized that I did not want them. At all. I cannot tell you how great that felt. My heart lifted and I was free! I didn’t have to have children. It’s still the best decision I’ve made in my life, by the way.

Along with the biggies, though, there are the more medium choices that I’ve made that are weird. Like my hobbies. Taiji isn’t weird in and of itself, though it’s less popular in the States than is yoga. I had to Google that because while it feels true, I didn’t know for sure. Roughly 2.5 million people practice Taiji in America versus 37 million people and yoga. So, yeah, I was right. Taiji is way less popular, which is of no surprise to me. Hm. Another resource says 3.7 million practice Taiji in America. At any rate, it’s roughly 1/10th the amount that practices yoga or less.

I can only guess that those who study Taiji weapons is even less. This makes it a very niche hobby, which isn’t surprising to me. I did not choose it because it’s the lesser-practiced meditative practice, but it’s not surprising that I’m drawn to it in part for that reason.

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Speaking my truth (no matter how weird)

Talking about vaxxes, it often comes up that they are ‘not that bad’. Back when they were first rolled out, there was a concerted effort on the left to  exhort people into getting them. I have no problem with that. People should get vaxxed if they can. But, I didn’t like how they were saying it was no big deal and scoffing the notion that it might be anything other than a minor nuisance for people.

I have had three vaccination shots including one booster. The first one was on my birthday is 2021. It was horrible and I suffered greatly from it. I was expecting it to be terrible because I react badly to flu shots as well. In fact, I stopped getting the flu shot because of how horrible I reacted to it. My doctor snapped at me that it was better than being dead, which, true, but it still sucked.

When I got my first vaccination shot, my arm swelled up, was burning hot, and throbbed for weeks. I was exhausted, fatigued, and sore as well. Everything slowly dissipated on the daily, but my arm did not fully recover in time for the next shot. Seriously. When I went to get my second vax, I still had a bump from my first. Three weeks and a day later.

So. When I saw all the tweets making fun of people who were hesitant to get the vax, I spoke up. I tweeted my experience, emphasizing that it was worth it.

I got a response from someone who admonished me, saying we should encourage people to get their shots. He claimed that my tweet would deter people because I was very honest about the side effects I had experience f rom it–the first vax to be specific. One of my fave tweeters came to my defense, saying he would rather know the effects ahead of time so he could prepare for it. Others chimed in to agree, but I really had a moment of ‘was I wrong?’ when I received the initial scolding tweet.

Here’s the thing. I prefer to know the possible effects ahead of time. It makes it easier for me to prep myself for dealing with said effects. It’s not as if they would suddenly magically not happen if I hadn’t talked about them. And, yes, it may put off some people from getting the shot, but wouldn’t it be much worse if they went into it thinking it’d be a breeze and it knocked them on their ass? I was careful to emphasize that I was rare in my reactions and that I had a shitty immune system. I said that for most people, it would probably be ok. I just wanted people to be prepared in case they had a reaction like mine.

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The plexiglass of life

I’ve talked extensively about the many allergies I have. There was a question on Ask A Manager about giving end-of-the-year gifts to the 200 employees. The letter writer asked how to go about it and listed all the different ways they’ve had trouble with the assignment. Including people complaining about having to pay taxes on the gift cards, people not answering questions about sizes, etc.

Many helpful comments, including money. That was the biggest. And time off. But there were also suggestions of frozen cozies, different kinds of snack boxes, clothing, etc. I did not skim all the answers, but from what I saw, there were not suggestions of candles, alcoholic beverages, or flowers. Thankfully.

It seems like every time this subject is covered, people suggest alcohol, greenery, and food. Or clothing. As I commented on the post, I am gluten-free, dairy-free, and alcohol-free. I am also allergic to every flower/plant/tree under the sun. And the sun. And the air. I’m also allergic to all scents, many fabrics, and most metals. This sharply cuts down on what can be given to me. What can’t?

::deep breath::

No food, no clothing, no jewelry, no flowers, and no candles. No bath products, including soap, bath bombs, and oils. No alcohol, naturally. I am also difficult to buy any kind of media for because my tastes are so picky. That’s not an allergy situation, though.

I went to Target twice while Ian was here and got sick. I’m not saying it’s Target, but it’s Target. That also happened when I got non-COVID-related walking pneumonia. I had gone to Target the week earlier for the first time since the pandemic hit. Am I saying that’s where I got walking pneumonia? No. It might have been Cubs as that’s the one place I’ve consistently gone. I can’t help noticing, however, that I have gotten sick two of the three times I’ve gone to Target in the last three years.

There are many reasons to rue the pandemic. It wreaked havoc on the world, and many people have not recovered from it. But. Personally, it helped in one massive way–I did not get any of the bronchial stuff I got three or four times a year in the years prior. I was happy that I did not have to feel like shit for weeks at a time. Now, I’ve been feeling punk for over a week. Sinus hurts, threatening migraine, and fatigue, oh my! It’s not fun, and I hate that I have to worry about that again.

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What’s wrong with me?

I have written many times before about how most of my life is better since my revival from death (twice!). But, there are a few things that have gotten worse, and I’m not talking about the family dysfunction for once (though there is that). There are a bunch of little things that add up to irritation, but nothing serious.

One, my ability to do math in my head. One time, I was trying to figure out the Canadian kid’s age on the RKG Discord. He was saying that he was 12 in 2015 when Bloodborne came out. I kept trying to do the math and came up with him being 22. I literally could not figure it out and was embarrassed (he’s 19). I wanted to say, “I have had brain damage. That’s why I had difficulty with that simple math.”

I pride myself on my brain and my intelligence. I have always had my smarts, even when I felt I had nothing else. So to have issues with it is difficult for me. But, I can use a calculator or pen and paper to do simple math. It’s not a big deal, really. I just don’t like that when I tried to do it in my head, I literally couldn’t.

Another thing is my memory issues. That’s another thing I’m proud of–how good my memory is. I used to have to do intake for classes when I worked in the Diversity unit for the Department of Community Corrections. We had 500 employees, and I probably saw most of them throughout the year. I remembered everyone but two people, which is an amazing feat.

Now, I have a harder time remember names of people or things. I don’t always remember if I told someone something already. It can take me a few more seconds than it used to to remember a word. None of this really bothers me, honestly. I can just explain it with a smile and a ‘brain damage’ before moving along. That’s assuming that people know what happened to me.

It’s hard to feel too bad about anything when the end result is that I’m alive and in mostly fine fettle. i sleep better since my medical crisis, for sure. My norm was 6 1/2 hours before I ended up in the hospital. Now it’s 7 1/2 to 8 hours a night. I wake up once to go to the bathroom, but then quickly fall asleep again.

A bit of my anxiety has crept back. Maybe 10% or so more than before. Which was down 50% or so from before that. Whereas my depression is almost completely gone.

But! We’re talking about negatives.

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The world is my oyster

It’s been a year since I had my medical crisis/trauma, and it’s for me to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I gave myself six months to adjust to life after the hospital, which has just drifted into a year.

It was difficult when my parents were here because they wanted to push me on my life choices. Within a month of me being home, my mother was pressuring me to figure out the rest of my life. She was weirdly persistent about it even after I made it painfully clear to her that I was waiting three to six months before making any decisions.

After they went back home, I realized it was because my father was obsessed with it, but didn’t bring it up to me. Instead, he talked about it with her and she pushed it on me. That’s my parents in a nutshell. My father gets a bee in his bonnet about something, then he’s so unpleasant about it, he makes my mom have to manage his mood/emotions/behavior.

Then, she nags me about it because she can’t stand him yelling at her about it. So she was pushing me so hard about it because he was pushing her. I should have realized it, but to be fair to me, I was still out of my gourd.

I told her that I was not going to talk about it for six months. Funnily (not), she heard  my earlier three to six months comment and stuck with the short end of the stick. She kept mentioning three months, even when I said SIX months. Honestly, I just ignored her. I refused to talk about it, reminding her about my statement. She didn’t like it, but there wasn’t much she could do about it.

Now, however, I need to think about it. It’s been a year. My joke with my friends (which is not a joke) is that they get a year to talk about the major thing happening in their life, and then they had to scale it back. They’ve never pushed it because my friends are balanced and do not natter on about one thing for too long.

I found myself to be the same way. Yes, I talked about it quite a bit. Yes, there was a lot I had to unpack when it came to that situation, and, yes, it’s an important part of my life that will never go away, but…what was I saying?

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