Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Mental Health

Ever more bitter, rarely more sweet

When you’re in a situation that feels hopeless, it’s hard not to become bitter. There is a commentor on one of the blogs I read who is oozing in negativity. Having read about her situation, it’s understandable. Unfortunately, she’s at the place where she feels like she can do nothing about it but constantly complain.

I’ve been there. I am currently there re: my family. It’s funny because the medical trauma I recently went through* has been a boon in many ways. It feels weird to say especially because it included me dying twice But, it’s the truth. I realized a lot about myself during that time. Most of it good, some of it…sobering.

On the good tip: I fucking love my body. Decades of body issues disappeared in a flash. That’s not exactly true. They were already starting to mitigate with the help of Taiji, but when I left the hospital, you could not say shit to me about my body or my face. Not that my parents didn’t try, believe you me. They wanted to go there with my weight, which I had shut down decades ago. I explicitly told them they could not bring up my weight. Of course they moaned and groaned about it because ‘they were just worried about my health’. Uh huh. That’s straight-up bullshit, by the way.

When I was anorexic and my junior counselors in college told my mom, she had nothing to say. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. No words of concern or encouragement. The only thing she had to say was that she was jealous my waist was smaller than hers. So, health concerns? Hell, naw. That wasn’t it at all. It was purely weight and how I looked. She put me on my first diet when I was seven, saying I would have a beautiful face if I lost weight.

When I look at pics of me as a teenager, I was chunky yes, but I wasn’t grotesque as I was made to feel by my mother. I was thick in part because I have dense muscles, but I was fine. My mom monitoring every morsel that went into my mouth gave me a complex that lasted decades.

Taiji started making me feel at ease in my body. Then it helped me walk away from a minor car accident with only a big bruise on my stomach from the seatbelt. Or maybe the air bag popping. Other than that, I walked away without a scratch. I couldn’t say the same for my car, sadly.

That’s when I started to realize that my body was a wondrous machine. After waking up from my medical coma (walking pneumonia, two cardiac arrests, stroke), I was in awe how my body had taken a beating and kept on ticking. I don’t think  can overemphasize how bleak the prognosis was.


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The solution that I can never suggest

TW: Mention of suicide.

In reading my stories, I came across a letter to Ask A Manager about mentioning depression at work. It generated a lot of responses, varying in terms of what the OP (Original Poster) should do, but most of the answers were in agreement that their mention of suicide was beyond the pale. Even though they said that they weren’t actively suicidal, the mere mention of suicide was going to make most people panic.

And I get it. Suicide is serious stuff. It’s not something to take lightly. But, for those of us who have struggled with not wanting to be alive, there are levels to it.  There is actively suicidal–people who want to die and are working on it. There is passively suicidal–which is wanting to die, but not doing anything about it. Maybe not necessarily avoiding death, but not seeking it, either. Then there is what I was for a long time–not wanting to be alive, but not doing anything about it.

Antidepression meds helped–until they didn’t. Therapy helped–until it didn’t. Taiji helped, but it was very much help in small steps rather than a big boost. My depression (and anxiety, but more the former than the latter) steadily lifted, and I’m one of few people who did not go into a deep funk during the early days of the pandemic. Probably because my brain catastrophized everything on the regular, anyway, so why not throw a pandemic into the mix?

I want to stress that I don’t think the coworker did anything wrong in the AAM letter. It’s rough to have someone dump that on you, especially if you don’t have a close relationship. And when you’re chronically depressed, it’s easy to underestimate the effect it has on other people. It’s just something you live with, so it’s really not that big a deal to you. Hm. I’m not saying it right. It’s still a big deal, but it’s normal to you because you’re living it.


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Knowledge is power

I was reading my stories and one of the questions was from a parent whose daughter was clearly neurodivergent. The letter writer realized it and as soon as the daughter’s teachers suggested it, they jumped all over it. The problem was their husband. He was adamant not to do it because of the stigma of a diagnosis and because he felt it was the easy way out. Their daughter needed to buckle down and fit in, basically. And his spouse needed to accept they (the spouse) was doing parenting wrong.

My hackles went up for so many reasons. Before I get into that, however, I do want to acknowledge that stigma around neurodivergency is real. There is a lot more awareness of the issues these days, which is a good thing, but there are still plenty of people who see this awareness as coddling. The world is cold and harsh, they would say. Kids today are too soft! They need to learn the world won’t always cater to them. Which, yes, the world is, indeed, cruel and they have to know that they will be viewed as different. However, the answer is not to pretend the neurodivergency doesn’t exist and force the daughter to act ‘normal’ whatever that means.

I spent most of my childhood bewildered and frightened because I was so different from other kids. Not only was I Asian, I just didn’t think the way other kids did. I tried to emulate them, but I felt as if I was trying to speak another language without having any lessons in it. I was miserable and my efforts to fit in fell flat. It didn’t help that my parents were first generation immigrants so they didn’t know the culture any better than I did. I was sensitive enough to know I was doing everything wrong, but I didn’t have the tools to make it better.

I became aware of death when I was seven. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it ever since (well, until my medical trauma). I started feeling suicidal when I was eleven. I developed eating disorders when I was eighteen. I have suffered anxiety and depression all my life as well (again, at least until my medical trauma). I hate clothing. I can see you thinking, “Wait, Minna. What does that have to do with the other stuff?” I didn’t realize until much later that I have sensory issues. Like, severe sensory issues. Bright lights bother the hell out of me as do loud sounds. It can be literal agony to have too-loud music or too-bright lights. Clothing is another issue and I have to keep it really simple and basic. I am allergic to almost every scent on the planet as well as many foods and alcohol to boot. I basically need to live in a bubble is what I’m trying to say.

In addition, my brain doesn’t think in a normal way, either. Over the years, I have found a way to make it seem like I’m a normal person, but it comes at a severe cost. It’s one of the reasons I prefer to live alone–it’s hard to keep wearing that mask all the time. I’ve known almost all my life that I’m a freak. I didn’t know why for the first thirty years. Then, I started to realize that it wasn’t that something was WRONG with me, but I was definitely different. I still couldn’t put any label on it, but I had my suspicions.


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Confidence versus arrogance

I’ve really been feeling myself lately. As I wrote in a recent post, I’m cute as fuck! Which is nothing notable, except I spent all of my life before going into the hospital either absolutely hating myself and thinking I was grotesque and ugly to determinedly neutral (but not really neutral) about it. I was able to say that I liked my hair and my eyes and maybe my smile, but that’s it.  I hated my body even when I tried to be neutral about it.

Then I ended up in the hospital and unconscious for a week. When I woke up, I was scared, confused, and freaked out. I wasn’t thinking about what I looked like, obviously. After several days awake, however, after being informed of all I went through, I felt so much gratitude towards my body for carrying me through that frightening time. It did it without a hitch. Seriously.  I have scars on my arms from all the needle pokes and a patch on my right leg that was numb for months and is now waking up with painful pins and needles. I have a bit of short-term memory loss, but it’s very little and I can compensate for it. That’s it. That’s all. I do more Taiji every day than I did before and my biceps are something to behold.

Some years ago, the change from hating myself to feeling neutral slowly started happening. I started appreciating little things like my hair, my eyes, and my smiles. Also, my biceps. And at some point, I noticed that what I had always called my flat yellow ass had gotten a bit of a curve to it. Then a bit more. At some point, I could definitely see that I had some junk in the trunk and I had to quit saying ‘My flat yellow ass’.

I still didn’t care for my body overall, though, nor my face. I was happy to reach the point of neutrality, just appreciating that my body allowed me to do most of what I wanted to do, especially concerning Taiji weapons. As for my face, well, I had to wear a mask when I went out any time in the past few years, anyway, so who cares?

I really was as neutral as I had ever been about it before I entered the hospital. I didn’t want to look at myself, but I didn’t waste any time moaning over it, either. I just pretty much ignored it and acted as if it didn’t exist. Not the best way to deal with it, but not the worst way, either, by far.

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Living my life

It’s been three days since my parents left. I can breathe freely, even though my mom is emailing me every day. Sometimes, more than once a day. That’s much more bearable than having them around, though. My shoulders are already less tense than before. Maybe 50% less tense. I didn’t realize how much tension I was holding in my shoulders until after my parents left. The first night, I had trouble falling asleep. It was because I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or for my father to start an argument with my mother while they were half-asleep. That was one of his favorite tactics, by the way. To ambush her while she was asleep to accuse her of all sorts of crazy things. And I’m using the word ‘crazy’ deliberately. I’m not one who is precious about the word because I can apply it to myself quite easily. And because in the view of the normies, I’m pretty crazy in many ways.

In this case, I mean it clinically. My father has paranoid delusions, including his most prevalent that we (my brother, my mother, and I) are trying to steal his money. He’s made my mom look for trust (their money is in a trust) papers that he swore he put  in a certain drawer (which he didn’t. I can say that with certainty). He’s also accused her of enslaving him (very bitter laugh as he does jack and shit) and various other things.

I want nothing to do with them. I’ll be honest. I can handle a phone call once a month or even every other week, but that’s about it. I feel some guilt for being so relieved, but not much. All I can think is, “I’m free.”

Today, it’s 10 degrees and it’s snowing. It wasn’t snowing when I woke up, but is now. I had decided to go for a little walk (not caring how far I went or if I walked farther than yesterday) and was delightfully surprised when I saw snow. And not just drizzling, either. It’s snowing big fat flakes. My brother bought me unders from Costco that are thin, sleek, and wicks away moisture while retaining heat. In black. I put those on under my clothes to brave the elements.


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PTSD but free!

I’m free! I’m elated, but also, oddly apprehensive. Or at least I was last night. I fell asleep while watching YouTube, per yooz, but this time, I slept for an hour on the couch. Which made me think maybe I could go back to sleeping on the couch. Once I woke up, though, I was completely awake. I could not fall asleep again. I reluctantly went to my bed and still could not sleep.

You see, I was tense because I was waiting to hear my father yelling at my mother. It didn’t happen every night or even most nights, but it happened enough to have me hunching my shoulders and waiting for the ire. She didn’t tell me the worst of it (but she made sure to tell me that there was a worst of it), but what I heard was plenty bad. I only know that because of what my mother tells me because they only argue in Taiwanese. One of the endless discussions with my mother and brother is about how much of what my father does is a conscious decision and how much is his dementia. My mom thinks the delusions and paranoia are part of the dementia because they’ve gotten steadily worse. I think they’re controllable because he doesn’t do it in front of outsiders and rarely does it in front of me. My mother’s response to what I said was, weirdly, relief. I was freaked out because to me, him doing it on purpose was worse. She was relieved, however, because she said it was really scary (that’s when she told me there were worse things than him just thinking we’re all trying to steal his money) and it was less scary to think he could control it. Which, I can see why she would think that, but it would make it infinitely crueler.

He’s called my by the wrong name several times and has thought that I was my niece. He’s also thought my brother was my mother’s younger brother, and he’s asked my mom what her parents were doing right now. Her parents have been dead for decades as has his.


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Keeping my mouth fucking shut

I have been practicing Taiji for roughly fifteen years. I practice for half an hour to forty-five minutes a day, which is up from five minutes, begrudgingly, several years into my practice. In fact, I started attending a second class a week (and then a third) because I couldn’t make myself practice on the daily. Once I broke the seal, so to speak, I added more and more to my daily routine until I couldn’t think of doing anything before doing my morning Taiji routine.

I bring this up for background. I wanted to learn a martial art to defend myself. I carry myself in a manner that will put off 90% of attackers. I am solid with a hard stare and a broad frame. I wear sunglasses when I am outside (and all black), which adds to the whole look. One time I was out to eat with my bestie. Afterwards, as we were walking back to the car, there was a woman tottering towards her car on heels that were making it hard for her to walk, her arms laden with shopping bags, and she was fumbling with her keys. I immediately thought, “I could take her” because she was so oblivious to her surroundings. I realized that I did not want to be like that and even though my demeanor put off most people (90% as I mentioned earlier), I needed something to back me up for that last ten percent.

I hated it for the first year. The Solo Form, I mean. It hurt my legs and my back, and it made me want to be doing anything but the Solo Form. I was frank with my teacher how I felt about it, but i knew somewhere deep inside that it would do me good. How or when, I didn’t know, but I believed that. And my teacher told me to hang in there with her; she assured me that it would eventually grow on me. I must say that that particular form never grew on me. I still don’t like it, which is too bad because her teacher brought it back after a long hiatus (with tweaks). The Medium Solo Form (that’s the Long Solo Form) is much preferable and enjoyable to me. It also doesn’t hurt me, which is a bonus. The Medium Form is the basis for the Fast Form, which is really fun.

Anyway, I didn’t really get into Taiji until–weapons. My teacher urged me to try a sword for over a year with me resisting her mightily. I was horrified at the thought of weapons because I was not a violent person. My teacher tried to convince me that doing weapons was not a signifier of being a violent person.


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Compassion fatigue is setting in

Many years ago, I did a performance piece about my bowl of compassion being empty and I feel the same way now. I was watching a news clip about a family in–I want to say Alabama, but it could have been Tennessee. Or Arkansas–somewhere south. They had a family get-together of something like ten people. None of them vaxxed. All got Covid. The pregnant 19-year-old daughter ended up in the hospital (the rest recovered). CNN interviewed the mother and she said, “We let down our guard. Like everyone in the world, we thought this pandemic wasn’t that big a deal. It hadn’t touched our family yet.” I’m paraphrasing, but that was pretty much what she said as her daughter was on a ventilator. They managed to induce the baby (who I assume is fine, but maybe not?) and the doc teared up as he was talking to CNN.

First of all, who’s “everyone”, lady? Most people know that this is a big deal, especially with the Delta variant. You didn’t let down your guard; you were being fucking idiots. There was a Dear Prudence letter early in the pandemic by someone who was upset with their brother’s family for being pro-Covid is a hoax, not taking any steps to social distance, jeering at them for being cautious–and, of course, got Covid. The letter writer was infuriated that they set up a Go Fund Me and did not want to contribute. Danny (Prudence) said that no one deserved Covid, especially given how confusing the government response was to it.

Now. I will say that sixteen months ago, yes, we were in a state of confusion. But, after the first month, most of us realized that what was happening wasn’t normal or going away any time soon. More to the point, it’s a matter of degrees. At that time, anyone who had qualms and was struggling to understand things, I can sympathize with that. It’s the declaring everyone else sheeples and loudly announcing their idiotic behavior that is annoying as fuck. Did they deserve Covid? That’s not the right way to look at it. The right mindset is that Covid is the natural consequence to their behavior.

Fast-forward to this family. I felt bad for the young woman as I would for anybody in that situation, but my immediate thought was impatience. Like, what the fuck did you expect to happen and you’re damn lucky it was only one of the people who had to be hospitalized. It wasn’t that you let down your guard–it was that you have a faulty belief in the first place. I hope the young woman pulls through, but this is the natural consequence of their actions. I don’t expect people to know the ins and outs of the coronavirus, but for the love of god! We’ve been at this for sixteen months. If you don’t know the basics by now–it’s highly contagious, especially the Delta variant–then I can’t help you.


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Fuck forgiveness

I was reading my stories this morning (advice columns) and there was one that touched on the question of forgiveness. The columnist said something to the effect of saying he would forgive the person if it was him (and the situation had to do with healing a rift so it was applicable) and I inevitably flinched. He went on to say that it didn’t mean having to be BFF (and after validating that he would be angry in the situation as well. Think Covid exposure and lying), but that forgiveness can help the letter writer (LW) move on. He finished by saying it’s for the person doing the forgiveness, not the one being forgiven.

I hate that bullshit. I really do.

Let me clarify. I do believe that getting stuck in your anger isn’t good. I do believe moving on eventually is what’s best. But, and this is a huge but, I don’t like papering it over with the word forgiveness. Why? Because to me, forgiveness is often meant to hurry people past the righteous angry phase.

I was talking to my mother the other night about Covid. They had a sudden outbreak in Taiwan, but with a strict response from the government, they managed to contain it after a few months. They reached 800 cases a day at their peak and are down to less than 20 a day. It was difficult to be fully sympathetic to my mother when she complained about lockdown because we were fourteen months into our own dealing with the pandemic. So, on the one hand, I could think about the first few months of the pandemic and sympathize with her fear. On the other hand, I was so exhausted from our own situation, it was hard to be completely sympathetic to her.


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How to deal with my broken mind

I have a broken mind. This has been true since I was a kid. Or rather, I’ve always been different. I loved to read and always had my nose in a book. I devoured them rapidly, moving from one to the next the second I was done with the first. A part of the reason why was because I hated life with every fiber of my being. I can’t remember a time when I thought it was a good thing to be alive and is it nature? Is it nurture? I don’t know. Or, more to the point, it’s a complex mixture of both. By my mother’s account, I was a happy and cheerful toddler–though she is an unreliable narrator. She looks at things in the past through rose-colored glasses, mostly so she doesn’t have to deal with the negative ramifications that linger.

I am pretty sure this is one of her coping mechanisms in dealing with my father because he’s pretty unrelentingly negative. I also know that her childhood wasn’t the happiest and that she never felt like she was loved by her mother. Who, by the way, was a real piece of work. Probably shouldn’t have been a mother, but it was expected of women of her generation and culture (Taiwanese). She definitely favored her sons over her daughters and for whatever reason, my mother was her least-favorite.

All that is to say that my mother came into parenting with some faulty ideas as to what it takes to be a parent and what it meant to be a parent. More specifically, a mother. I also think one of the reasons she decided to have children was to have someone to love her unquestioningly, which was destined to fail. You don’t have kids for what they can do for you–ideally, that is. Many people do, much to their own detriment.

Ever since I can remember, I was not happy in my own skin. My mom made dresses for me, which is so not my jam. I like a long flowy skirt and I wore a dress now and again in my twenties, but it never felt right. It wasn’t a gender thing, but a sensory thing. I hate clothing and try to wear as little as possible. Dresses generally cover more than other clothing and is restrictive to boot. I liked to climb trees when I was a kid–which was also something that I was told I shouldn’t do as a girl–and that’s really hard to do in a dress. I was considered a tomboy and frowned upon for being, well, too much.


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