Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Mental Health

Mental health and video games

There is a concept in video gaming called comfort gaming. It’s pretty easy to figure out what it means–games that soothe you as you play. Well, not exactly. I mean, it can be that, but it could also just be a game that you can play without thinking. Johnny Chiodini mentions it in their series when they were with Eurogamer, Low Batteries. They call that game they play when feeling down a sadgame.

They emphasize that the game itself does not have to be sad. It’s just a game they gravitate towards when they feel sad. Yesterday, I stumbled over a much more recent video in which they participated with their old workplace (Eurogamer) about how video games helped with mental health issues. I have included that video below.

For me, it’s FromSoft games. For the longest time, it was Dark Souls III. It’s my favorite game of all time, though Elden Ring has essentially moved itself into a tie. Oftentimes, I flummoxe people by saying cheerfully that I know it’s not the best Dark Souls game, but it’s my favorite. By the way, I love being contrary like that. I mean it, though. And interestingly, I’ve had people say it actually is the best Dark Souls game overall.

I guess it’s depends on what you mean by ‘best’. I’m talking specifically of the three Dark Souls games. The first is considered a game-changer, the second is the ignored stepchild, and the third is the greatest hit album. In other words, the first was seen as a breath of fresh air and mind-bending (if you ignored Demon’s Souls) that ultimately ran out of time to be truly great.

The sequel was a disappointment to most people, but I have a fondness for it. It tried to do some things differently in order to differentiate it from the original. Did it work? Not completely. But it tried. And I have to give it credit for that. In addition, if it didn’t have ‘Dark Souls‘ in its name, I think it would have been much better received.

As for the third game, it was the most polished of the three. Plus, it took the best from the first two games and seamlessly blended it together. I’ve called it the ‘best of’ hits album by a group that has been together for twenty years. It has all the hits that the fans love and maybe one or two new originalsongs. Some people think it’s the hardest, which is probably true objectively. But because I had played both of the other games twice in the lead up to the release of this game, it felt like coming home.

I think that’s the reason it’s my favorite, by the way. That and because it’s the first From game I played in real time. Meaning as soon as it was released. Ian bought the season pass for me when it came out, and I got to be in on the discoveries this time around. I hadn’t played either of the previous games until years after they were released. Now, FromSoft games are one of the few I will buy as soon as I can. I know I will at least try to play a From game (I gave up fairly quickly on Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon).

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My time to shine

It’s finally autumn. Two weeks ago, we had 90 degree weather. It was so hot, they had to cancel the Twin Cities Marathon. It’s the hottest it’s been in October in Minnesota. That lasted for several day, but what climate change? *waves hands*

Now, it’s a balmy 46 feels like 39, and I have my fake fur throw blanket on my legs. It’s cozy, and it makes me happy to look outside and see the leaves changing colors. We had a torrential rain last night, which we needed.

I used to not appreciate autumn. I didn’t NOT like it, but it was the blah season before my favorite season ever. Seriously, winter is S tier. The rest didn’t even rate.

The reason why: I am allergic to everything. Everything. I step outside and I can’t breathe. That’s hyperbole, but not by much. I like to say that the outdoors is fine as long as there is glass between us.

I hate spring and summer. HATE. It’s the beginning of me being wheezy and/or drippy. If I get bit by a mosquito (of which there are so. damn. many), it  would swell up to the size of a grapefruit. One time, I was in Taiwan in the summer. Everyone drove scooters, and I would ride behind other people. Mosquitos love me and will ignore other people to attack me.

Side note: This was an issue between my father and me. Mosquitos left him alone, so he did not believe me when I said that I was bitten. Thanks, Dad.

Anyway, back to that summer in Taiwan. I was getting bitten all the time. At one point, I had huge, swollen bites all over my legs. It looked gross, and  Ifelt miserable. The last time I got the allergy test where they prick your leg a million times and it swells like a balloon (oh wait, just me?). There were roughly forty pricks and after ten minutes, they had all swelled into each other.  It was one, hot, throbbing (and not in a good way) massive welt.

Side note: When I was a kid, I had to get allergy shots every week. My mother did not explain what was happening. She just drove me to the clinic. I got the shot. Then we had to wait twenty minutes to see what happened. Inevitably, it would swell up and be hot–making me miserable. Then we would leave. After several years, I just stopped going.

It wasn’t until much later that  I realized (or rather, Googled) what was going on. In a nutshell, they were injecting me with allergens. The theory is that you desensitize someone to allergens by poisoning them with it little by little. Am I biased? Hell, yes. I also didn’t understand why my brother didn’t have to go through the torture. He told me later that he had tested as being beyond help.

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My tongue-in-cheek self-help book

I want to write a self-help book, and I want it to focus on me dying. Twice. Then coming back to life! Or maybe do a series of self-help videos. I just don’t know how funny it would be after one or two shorts. Because, basically, my advice for any situation is to die.

Really. It’s the best thing that happened to me. And I did it twice.

I have suffered from severe depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphia all my life. They all started when I was seven. Coincidentally or not, that was when I realized I was going to die. I became obsessed with death, but in a push/pull kind of way. I did not  want to die and yet, I wanted it more than anything. The idea that one day I would just be gone forever repulsed, excited, and terrified me. That’s something I thought about for the following three decades of my life.

As for the trio of mental health issues, well. They crushed me when I was a kid and during my teen years. A defining moment was when my mother put me on a diet when I was seven. When I was seven. I had to repeat that beacuse it’s only in hindsight that I realized just how fukced up that was. I see pics of me when I was that age, and while I was chunky and solid, I was not fat.

Even if I were, I was still a little kid. I was in my growing phase. Telling me I was fat and that I needed to restrict my intake was cruel. I don’t want to argue about whether my mother meant to be cruel or not because in this case, impact matters more than intent. It would have been bad enough if she had put me on a diet and then just left it at that, but, no. She had to nag me about it. She would tell me that I had such a pretty face. If only I wasn’t so fucking fat! No, she didn’t say ‘fucking’, but it was certainly implied in her tone.

We did not have sweets in the house. My mother insisted that we had fruit and veggies at every meal. I know that’s a good thing, but it made me not eat fruit or veggies for several years when I was in my thirty. I wasn’t doing it on purpose–I just could not make myself eat fruits and veggies because of being forced to do it all my life.

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Dementia, dysfunction, and depression

Dementia is brutal. I knew this, of course, but I didn’t know this until my father got it. I wrote yesterday about not knowing when it was dementia and when it was dysfunction, and let me throw depression into the mix. Depression for my father because of course the dementia is making him depressed. I’m saying that sincerely, by the way. I’m not being snarky, though it’s hard to know the difference with me sometimes. Ofcourse it would be depressing not to know who you were or what was happening or who was around you on a regular basis. It has to feel so unstable when things are constantly shifting as to what you think you know.

So, yaeh. Of course my father is depressed! And my mother isn’t helping when she tries to insist on reality. I know it has to hurt her that my father doesn’t recognize her (or thinks she’s Ecco, his wife, but not Grace, my mother. Both are her names, by the way. The former is what he calls her in Taiwanese while the latter is her American name), but her trying to correct him over and over again is just making things worse.

This is something that frustrates the hell out of me. She is a psychologist. This is Dementia 101. Don’t argue with someone with dementia. It’s not being kind–in fact, it’s actively cruel. I couldn’t believe I had to tell her this. THat is something even people without psych degrees should know. But, no. She said she could not lie to him, and I got so impatient telling her it wasn’t lying. He wasn’t going to remember it in five seconds, anyway.

When I talk to him, I agree with whatever he says. Even if I don’t like it. This is where it gets tricky for me. He has been nasty all my life about women in general and me in particular. He’s said things like ‘the common housewife can’t figure out CostCo’ and boy did I have several things to say to this. This was the last time he was here. He was not in dementia when he said it so I felt no restraint in arguing with him. I still shouldn’t have because it was pointless, but I couldn’t help it. He’s so good at pushing my buttons, mainly because he (along with my mother) installed them.

Another thing he said that was more pointed at me demonstrated the layers and levels to his manipulation. At the dinner table, he started talking about how he was not a doctor while having that look on his face. It’s hard to describe, but I know he’s going to say something spectacularly out there when he has it on his face. Something that is going to annoy/irritate/anger me because of how baseless/uninformed/mean-spirited it is. This time, it was him rambling about how germs worked. In his opinion, the pores on your skin opens up more when it’s cold.

That in itself is factually untrue. This is not something you need to be a doctor to understand. Steam opens up the pores. Steam is hot. Therefore, the converse is true as well. Cold makes your pores smaller. I said this to my father, and he just sat there with a blank look on his face. I knew the folly of what I was doing, and yet, I could not stop. This was one of my big flaws–I got sucked into arguing with my parents when I knew it didn’t make a whiff of difference. In this case, I didn’t know why he was bringing it up, anyway. The pores being bigger or smaller when you’re cold/hot, I mean. It had nothing to do with what we were talking about, and he had brought it up apropos of nothing.

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My particular brand of neurospicy

For the first twenty years of my life, I felt like I was an alien without the manual for being human. Part of that  was because I was the kid of two immigrants who did not want to be in America. Or rather, one of them did not  want to be, and he was the king of the castle. We had very little interaction with American culture as my parents spoke Taiwanese at hom (to each other, but not to my brother and me), had only Taiwnaese friends, and did not watch any American TV. We did not go to the movies or listen to the radios. My father demanded Taiwanese food, and my brother and I wanted American food. We preferred pizza, mac and cheese, and the like.

Side note: My favorite part about church was that we went to a fast food restaurant afterwards. Usually McDonald’s or Burger King, but sometimes arby’s or Wendy’s. Then, for one glorious meal, I could eat a delicious Big Mac or a chicken parm (at BK) or a roast beef sandwich without being shamed for it.

Side note II: For decades, I thought my mother liked cole slaw and always gave her mine when we went to Kentucky Fried Chicken. Turns out she did not, but she felt she had to eat it because she did not want it to go to waste.

I did not realize that I was also just…diffreent. I didn’t think of things in the way other people did, but I didn’t know why or how to correct it. For example, other girls liked to play with dolls; I never did. I like stuffed animals because you could cuddle them and they felt squicshy and comforting. I didn’t realize until much later that this was because of my sensory issues, but I always felt better after hugging a plushie.

I also felt as if other kids were talking to each other in a language I could not undrestand. I remember going through the motions and hoping that no one would notice that I did not know what the hell I was doing. I basically shut up and didn’t say anything that would make me a target.

In addition, my father had a weird idea of what was supposed to be kept ‘secret’. The example I always give is when I was a kid, he and my mother were out playing tennis with some friends. Another woman from church called and asked for my father. I said that he was playing tennis with some friends and thought nothing of it.

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Family dysfunction: the gift that keeps on giving

I have pretty much given up on Slate advice columns because I don’t like most of the columnists and, to be frak, the commentariat is….not my cup of tea in general. Or rather, I never know which way they’re going to swing, and it’s frustrating to me. For the most part, I can guess which way they are agoing to go, but every once in a while, they take me by complete surprise. Most of the time, though, I know what they are going to say. I’s usually pretty pragmatic, except when it comes to anyone who is a minority, then pragmaticism goes out the window and all kinds of isms come flying in. The only time when they actually acknowldege any ism is when it’s sexism–probably because more than half the commentariat are women.

We all know that people are self-centered. This is a given, and not even a bad tihng. Of course you’re going to thnk about things from your own point of view–that’s what being a human is. But, the problem is when you (general you) can’t see why/how someone else would think differently. and you assume that they are wrong/weird/crazy for thinking the way they do.

I really don’t like Doyin Richards from Care and Feeding because he relates everything to himself and because he’s, well, mean to his kid.s Such as telling them that their things are not theirs because he bought them, and he’s just letting them use them. That’s not tough love, that’s just cruel.

For whatever reason, I decided to read his column today. Much to my surprise, I actually agreed with his answers for the most part. But it might be because the first two questions were just so out there, anyone could have answered them easily. It’s the second question that really grinded my gears. The mother who ‘wears her heart on her sleeve’ and doesn’t want to stifle herself for her kids. She overheard them talk about how they didn’t go to her for anything because she was so sensitive. This was what she said:

I am deeply hurt that my kids choose to believe that they have to walk on eggshells around me, but this is who I am.

Are you fucking kidding me? Wow. She went on to say more words, but this just smacked my gob. If you noticed, she was fully invested in ‘this is how I am’, but she also said that her children were choosing to walk on eggshells around her. She couldn’t help who she was, but they could, apparently. The two kids (13F and 16M, the latter is the oldest. The way it’s phrased, there are other kids, sadly) were talking about how they she would freak out over little things like no more milk. The oldest son said that he learned in elementary school that he could not go to her for anything.

Now. I am not a parent. But If I were and my kids said something like this, I would be mortified. I would take to heart what they said and work on changing it. She went on to say that she didn’t think it was fair that she be expected to change a huge part of who she was for something as silly as her children’s feelings. No, she did not phrase it taht way, but it was very evident in her attitude.

Doyin nailed this by saying while it was hard to hear, she needed to get a therapist ASAP to deal with it because she was making it unsafe for her kids. he also called bullshit on her saying that she did not ask her kids to change their own behavior. He said, “If you saw them hurting someone, you’d just stand by with your thumb up your ass and not say anything?” Paraphrased, of course, but pretty much what he said.

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Private versus personal and reasonable boundaries

When I was a kid, I was taught that there was nothing about the family that you could say to anyone not in the family. I’m not talking about big things like marital difficulties (though, that, of course, was also verboten), but about the little things. The story I tell over and over goes like this. My parents went to play tennis with their friends all the time. One time, they were out with a friend playing tennis. Another friend called and asked for my father. I said he was out playing tennis.

It didn’t seem like a big deal to me. When my parents came home, my father flipped his shit at me. He told me that I shouldn’t have said that to the other friend, which confused the hell out of me. I asked why because I truly didn’t undrestand. I wasn’t trying to be a jerk, but what was the big deal about going to play tennis with some friends. My father said that the other friend would feel left out, which didn’t make sense to me, either.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized the issue. My father was playing with his current special ladyfriend (and her husband. And my mather). My father has had a mistress since–well, probably since dating my mother. He certainly has had one since I was a little kid. My mother has been crying about it for fifty years. He always had one in the wings as well–a backup in case he got bored with the current one. Which he often did.

I wouldn’t have thought the other friend was his type because he liked really feminine women–but, on the other hand, he married my mother who was not a typically feminine woman. The other friend was more like my mother than my father’s usual type. At any rate, at some point, she cut herself off from the Taiwanese community, and I would not be surprised if my father was part of the reason why.

Anyway, he was mad that I had told his potential mistress that he was with his current mistress. He was by nature a very sly person. He kept things close to the vest and only doled out information as needed. As he deemed it to be so, I mean, not the more universal meaning of the word. It was impenetrable until you realize that it just meant what put him in the best light. That’s it.

My point is that I was taught that you don’t tell anyone anything. Period. No matter how seemingly innocuous it seemed, it was an outrage to say anything to anyone about anything. It was like his penny-pinching ways. He would scrutinize every penny spent (one time he was here recently, he complained about kiwis being two for a dollar), but then he’d spend a hundred bucks on a water pick he never used. It sat unopened on a shelf for years. It wasn’t even that it was a hundred bucks (which was a lot of money, but not excessive), but that he bought it on impulse and never used it.

In the same way, he hoarded information about himself, and in general was not happy with any of it being told to anyone unless he approved it first.

On the flip side, my mother told everyone everything. Not when it came to my father, maybe, but everything else was fair game. And even with my father, she could never keep her own dicta. For her fiftieth anniversary, she really wanted to go on a cruise. She told my brother to pay for it and tell my father that he had paid for it, while she would send him (my brother) the money. I found out later from my brother that my mother told my father that she had paid for it at some point.

That’s her to the core. She can’t keep a secret for the life of her. When I had my medical crisis, she was telling everyone and their sister about it. The Uber driver. The cleaner. Probably the mailman if she talked to him. She got mad at me when I said maybe she could dial it back.

“It’s my life, too!” She said heatedly. Well, yes. But it’s primarily my life. And I think I should get to decide who gets to know the details of what happened to me (outside of the medical system, of course).

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Honing my aggression

I love Taiji. It saved my life. Both figuratively and literally. When  I was drowning in depression, Taiji gave me a meaning in life and allowed me to temporary calm my anxious mind. It helped me set boundaries with my parents–and, more importantly, it allowed me to put some distance between us. I simultaneous cared less about what they thought of me and cared more about how I felt about myself.

I became less clausterphobic. I will never like being in crowds, especially because of COVID and how susceptible I am to germs, but I no longer freak out in them. I can find spaces where there seem to be none and slither my way through. I was better able to put up boundaries, which helped with my family, and more to the point, I got more self-confidence. I was by no means perfect, but I was in a much better place than I had been before I starcted Taiji.

Then I had my medical crisis and Taiji literally saved my life. I have said more than once that the three things that brought me back to life were love, luck, and Taiji. I firmly believe that the fifteen years I studied Taiji before getting hit with non-COVID-related walking pneumonia, two cardiac arrests, and a stroke prepared my body for taking those hits. And coming back after a week of unconsciousness.

Taiji has done so much for my mental health and physical health. It has helped me relax and it has gotten rid of all my body aches. And, I don’t have to mention yet again about my love for Taiji weapons–but I will because I can and I want to. Taiji weapons are my life and my love, and I can talk about them all day long. I am currently teaching myself the left side of the Cane Form, and then I’ll move onto the Double Sabers. Probably. Still my favorite form.

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Worthwhile of life

For many years, I classified myself as a pacifist. If someone tried to kill me, I would let them. It was how I was raised–to believe that my life was not as important as other people’s. Somehow, I twisted that into believing that my life was toxic and it would be better for the world if I were dead. I felt as if I woke up each day with a negative balance, and I had to work hard all day just to get back to zero (in terms of my effect on the world).

needless to say, I was very depressed, and  this mentality was an indication of that depression. I was also wreathed in anxiety, which meant that I was a hot mess all the time. I woke up each morning, my heart sinking to the soles of my feet. It was a Sisyphean effort that I could never stop. No matter how much I did in a day, it was never enough. It didn’t help that I moved the goalposts on myself all the time, which just made everything more difficult.

This was directly related to my mother. She’s very much a product of her culture, wihch said that girls were worthless except for what they could do for others. Their biggest worth was in their baby-making abilities–nothing else mattered. That was why my mother harassed me for fifteen years to have children. She literally said that it did not matter whether I wanted them or not (I didn’t! At all! Ever! The horror!) because it was my duty as a woman to procreate.

Why yes that’s one of the reasons I currently identify as agender–why do you ask?

I’ve written about how my mother has ragged on me mercilessly for not being a good woman. The fact that I’m fat, not married, bisexual, no children, areligious, tattooed, practice Taiji, got two cats (she doesn’t like animals)–all of it upsets her. When I came out as bi, she said: What next, animals? When I told her I got a tattoo: She told me not to tell my father because he would freak out. When I told her I was going to study Taiji: She said that I was inviting the Devil in to dance on my spine. Which, you know, actually sounds kinda rad.

I can’t remember a time when I told her something about my life and she reacted positively. K and I used to joke about how any decision she made, her mother said it was going to be OK whereas any decision I made, my mother said it was going to fail. This happened when K was driving me to the airport and I was telling her what I had packed. It included a roll of quarters and stamps, which blew her mind. My mother believed in being prepared for anything to happen, but that’s impossible.

When I considered moving to the Bay Area to get my MA, I told my then-therapist all the things that could go wrong. I went on and on for fifteen minutes before she stopped me and said, “Minna, half the things you think are going to happen won’t, and you can’t imagine half of the other things that will happen.” I know that sounds trite, but it really hit me. Her basic point was thatt life happens, and there ain’t a damn thing you can do about it.

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Who the hell am I even?

When I was in my naughts, I hated life. My childhood was shit, and I thought I was shit. When I was seven, I realized I was going to die one day. That was also when I realized I wanted to die. Or rather, I did not want to be alive. That is a difference with a distinction. I did not want to die; I was afraid of death. But I hated being alive and did not realize this was not normal. I thought all kids hated getting up each day and realizing that they were still alive.

Why did I hate life so much? I couldn’t honestly tell you. Well, I colud tell you some of the reasons, but I don’t know how it started. I don’t remember most of my early years, probably because I suppressed them. So my realization of death and that I wish I were dead are two of my earliest memories, sadly. I have no happy memories of my childhood, aged 0-10. I would never want to go back again. I did not fit in at school at all as the child of two immigrants who really did not want to be in America. Or at least my father didn’t. He was Taiwanese through and through, and he only stayed, I think, beacuse of me and my brother. He left to go back to Taiwan when I graduated from college, and quite honestly, I’m surprised he waited that long.

I was also seven when my mother put me on my first diet and gave me a lifelong body dysmorphia issues. We’re Taiwanese (American), and she gained twenty pounds when she came to America. She blamed butter pecan ice cream, and she obsessed with losing ‘five pounds’ for decades. She yo-yoed up and down, and she made me feel like absolute shit because I was thick to begin with and then was chunky in my childhood. I looked at pics form my childhood through my teens. I was chubby, yes, but I wasn’t the grotesque hellbeast she heavily implied I was.

My preteen and teen years were just as bad, if not worse than my naughts. My mother made me her confidante when I was eleven and dumped all her emotions onto me, making me her therapist. This was about her marital problems and all the things wrong with my father. Don’t get me wrong. He was and is a shithead of the first order. He’s a narcissist who only thinks about himself, and he’s a raging sexist to boot. Like, he doesn’t like anyone, but he really doesn’t think much about women in general*. Their only purpose is to fluff his ego (and maybe other areas) and make him feel good. They are NPCs in his game, nameless ones to boot.

He had affairs and didn’t even bother covering them up. That’s what my mother cried to me about. I don’t remember if she actually mentioned the affairs, but she would go on and on about how he didn’t come home on time (midnight was when he often came home), how he didn’t call, and how he said it was none of her business where he was. At eleven, I didn’t know anything about relationships, but I knew she was miserable. I also knew my father was a selfish jerk, though I didn’t know the term narcissist when I was eleven. I just knew my father was mean and made my mom cry. He was never home, and when he was, he showed no interest in me at all.

I told her to divorce him. Yes, when I was eleven. She told me all the reasons she couldn’t–mostly related to culture. Which, fine. She got to make that choice (though I tohught it was a terrible one. I still do), but then she needed to STFU about him. She had no right to dump that shit on me in the first place, not when I was a child, but especially not if she was going to reject my advice.

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