Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: death

Living a charmed life

I was reading the weekend thread on Ask A Manager. Someone asked for the happiest memory you have. It was an interesting question and my mind went immediately to dying. Not because it was a happy memory, per se, but because it’s my strongest memory. Not the dying part because I don’t remember that. And I probably never will, sadly.

Side Note (is this the quickest detour I’ve taken in a post?): It’s the oddest thing–having a week and a few days missing from my  memory, I mean. My brother has told me everything he knows; K and Ian have filled in the blanks as best as possible. My Taiji teacher has added what she knows, and there are still gaps.

I remember sending an email to my Taiji teacher the Tuesday before I collapsed, saying I was exhausted and would not be in class. I remember messaging Ian the Thursday before about the Nioh 2 (Team Ninja) boss we had both just beaten. I do not remember the Wednesday between.

Then, I was unconscious for the week after I collapsed. I remember waking up, scared, angry, and ready to fight whomever needed fighting. I had a breathing tube in my nose and was pumped full of drugs.

I remember one minute not being and then the next moment, being. That was a shock to my system, I can tell you that much. That will be my most memorable memory for the rest of my life, I’m sure. But. Until reading this thread, I had forgotten about another time I had almost died.

I was in Taiwan with a group from my college–we were studying Buddhism in the Far East. About four of us women (how I identified at the time), decided to swim in the Hualien River. The current was strong, and I was not a good swimmer (still am not). The tide caught me and started carrying me away. One of the other women grabbed me and pulled me to safety. I was shaken because I knew that if she hadn’t grabbed me, I’d be dead.


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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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The last year of my life

As 2021 comes to a close, I can’t stop thinking again about how I should not be alive. I died–twice–and came back to life–twice! So much happened to me that I can’t remember and perhaps my favorite exchange of the year is one that was told to me in retrospect. It  was when I saw my heart doc for the second time outside the hospital. He mentioned again that I had cracked him up when we talked in the hospital. I had no memory of that and asked him about it. To back up a second, the first time we met outside the hospital, I told him I was pleased to meet him. He laughed and said he had met me in the hospital after I woke up. I apologized immediately for anything I might have said to offended him. He laughed and said I had cracked him up. I was intrigued, but I let it go because I was too drugged up at that point to go further into it.

The second time I saw him, which was a week ago, he mentioned it again. I was intrigued and more  in control of my brain, so I asked him about it. Actually, we were talking about how quickly and unexpectedly I had woken up. He had been gone for a day or so while I was under. The prognosis was dire. When he came back, I was awake and talking. He said that when he went in to talk to me, he did what he always did. He recapped what happened to me because he found that to be helpful when he talked to his patients–reiterating what they had experienced every time he talked to them because of memory issues.

He was saying, “So you had pneumonia which led to two cardiac arrests and a stroke.” I listened to his renumeration before saying, “So I died?” He said yes. Apparently, I looked at him and then said, “That’s so fucking cool!” That’s what cracked him up and I laughed when he retold it because it sounded exactly like me.

One thing that has pleased me during this whole ordeal is that I’ve kept my sense of humor. My brother joked that maybe the brain damage made me funnier, which made me laugh when I read it in the Caring Bridge. I never lost my sense of humor during my ordeal because that’s how I deal with bad situations. I tend to see the dark side of things and I put an even darker spin on things, but in a funny way. The fact that I died was not something to shy away from, but to embrace and explore. I mean, I was fucking alive–that was all that  mattered, right?


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I looked Death straight in the eye–twice–without blinking

We’ve all heard stories about how when people are dying, they see a bright light guiding them. Some hear the voice of a loved one telling them to go to the light. It’s all gentle, encouraging, and almost poetic.

Not me. I woke up from a week of unconsciousness with a gasp, ready to fight whomever needed fighting. I was mad as hell, scared, and disoriented. I didn’t know what the hell had happened to me, but I was furious, anyway. There was no gentle waking up. There was no coaxing into the light. It was me, instantly alert, ready to have a go at the nearest person. Fortunately, I was tied down or I probably would have started swinging, which I would have regretted later. This is actually how I sleep, come to think of it. I had a friend who loved sleep. She talked about drifting gradually into consciousness, feeling deliciously dozy as she slowly woke up. Not me. I went from sleep to instantly awake in a nanosecond, which is jarring. I don’t have any grace period between sleep and awake, much to my regret.

That’s what happened in the hospital. One minute, nothing, the next minute, awake and spitting mad. And I couldn’t stop talking. My id took over and ran with every thought that entered my mind. Because I’m aware that I tend to ramble, I keep a tight rein on my thoughts. In the hospital, however, when I was hopped up on sedatives and narcotics, and I  had just woken up, I had no control over my mouth.

I rarely think about the fact that my heart stopped twice, but it’s there in the back of my mind. It’s not something I can focus on for too long without getting a bit freaked out. Death is something I’ve been drawn to/repulsed by for my entire life. The thought of death freaked me the fuck out. But, honestly, it’s just like falling asleep forever. It’s the conscious me that is afraid of death. The unconscious me didn’t even know she was unconscious. I know that seems obvious, but I can’t stress enough how jarring it was to suddenly wake up from nothingness.

Back it up even further.


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The grass is always greener

Most of the time, I’m fine with being a weirdo. Sometimes, I take a perverse amount of pride in not being traditional. My mom once said with much irritation after I–oh, I know what it was. My cousin had gotten engaged by her husband (fiancé at the time) and my mom was relating how it happened. Or at least, we were talking about it. He had collaborated with her boss to make it appear as if she had a professional meeting in another country. Unbeknownst to her, he was flying out to the same country a day early to propose to her.

My mom thought this was the most romantic thing I had ever heard. I, on the other hand, was horrified by it, as I would be by any flamboyant/public proposal. Sad to say, I went on a rant about it because I hated the whole idea and thought it was a way of one-upping other people. I also hate people having secrets about me so everything about this proposal hit me in the worst way possible.

Now, decades later, I can see that it was more about me than the actual proposal. To be clear, I would still hate it, but it wasn’t about me. It was about my cousin and what she would like–and she loved it. It made her feel loved and cherished, and it was a great proposal story she could share with people.

Just because my idea of the ideal proposal if I were into getting married, which I’m not, is for me or my lover to roll over in bed and say, ‘Hey, wanna get married?’ before hoofing it for the JoP, there’s no reason to rain on other people’s parades. Fortunately, I never said any of this to my cousin because I had a higher EQ than that.

My point is that I’m weird. I’ve always been weird. When I was younger, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t think the way other people did and I was miserable all the time. I got picked on all the time for being Asian, fat, and smart. I didn’t really have any friends and I didn’t know how to go about making them. I didn’t watch TV or go to the movies. I ate mostly Taiwanese/Chinese food before it was chic and took a lot of teasing about it at school.

I first learned about death when I was seven, which freaked me out. But, at the same time, I became inexplicitly drawn to it. It became my boon companion, both lover and bogeyman. I used to sit up in bed, my heart pounding in terror at the idea of simply not existing forever. And yet, I looked for death wherever I went because it was calling to me. I wanted to kill myself as early as eleven and that lasted…well, it’s still around in a lesser form. And it’s not that I want to kill myself, but rather than I don’t want to live. It’s hard to explain the difference. I’m not actively seeking to die and haven’t been for decades. However, I’m not sold on this life thing, either.


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Spiritfarer is the game I need right now

a predatory raccoon, you say....
Are you sure your name isn’t Tom?

I’ve been floundering for a new game ever since I completed the Dark Souls III platinum. The problem is that my taste in games is very eclectic, quixotic, and random. They span different genres from roguue-like-lite to story-rich indies to Dark Souls. Not ARPGs. Not Soulslikes, but Souls games themselves. Games I used to love (Torchlight and Borderlands) are doing nothing for me in their current iterations, even though I desperately want to like them, I just….don’t. I was looking forward to Mortal Shell, which released on August 18th. I was going to buy it, but then Ian told me that Spiritfarer by Thunder Lotus Games had released on the same day, and my interest suddenly pivoted.

I had heard of it ages ago, and I was immediately drawn to the gorgeous hand-drawn art. The artstyle is simply lovely, and looking at it was a balm to my beleaguered soul. And, the premise of the game was intriguing. You play as Stella, a young, dark-skinned woman, the titular spiritfarer, who takes over for the fabled Charon in ferrying the dead to the next world. While wearing a big, floppy hat with a star-shaped hat (get it?). And your cat, Daffodil. Whom you can pet, cuddle, and swim with.

When I went to check it out on Steam, I saw there was a demo. I tried the demo which was relatively short, and I was hooked. I bought the game, installed it, and fired it up.

It calls itself a cozy management game, and it is. But, it is so much more than that. I tried Stardew Valley after watching someone play it on YouTube, but it just didn’t hit the mark for me. It felt tedious and repetitive, and I put it away after an hour. I wanted to try Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but I didn’t have a Switch and couldn’t get one.  It seemed to me that Spiritfarer could be my ACNH, and after five hours playing it, I can say that it definitely has that kind of vibe.

In the demo, it was further into the game when you help one of your passengers finish their earthly business so they can leave this mortal coil. Starting a new game, I wondered how long it would be until I had to do this for someone. It was in the back of my mind, but not pressing because there were so many other things to do.


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Live like you’re going to die tomorrow

 

fork in the road.
It could go either way.

Many moons ago when I was mired in a deep and chronic depression, I was contemplating suicide. I didn’t talk about it much, but I did mention it to my BFF. I’ll never forget what she said, though I haven’t quite followed her advice in the meantime. She said, “Don’t kill yourself yet. Give yourself a year to do whatever the hell you want and then see how you feel about it.”

Of course, she wasn’t advocating that I kill myself–far from it. She was trying to reframe the depression that had me feeling like complete and utter crap on a daily basis. Her point was that if I was going to kill myself (and, again, emphasizing that she was not advocating for it in any way), I should go out with no regrets. Her suggestion was that I make a list of all the things I wanted to do, do them for a year, and then see how I felt then.

Unfortunately, I was too far into my depression at the time to actually follow her advice, but I find it on my mind now that I’m in the midst of another depression. It isn’t as severe as the last one, and I’m very aware that it’s external rather than internal, but it’s still rather debilitating. There are several small things I need to do (new glasses, tire change, get a new insurance card), and I keep saying I’ll do it tomorrow, next Monday, etc. Rationally, I know that each one is no big deal, but they seem almost insurmountable in my mind.

I’ve written before how much energy it takes to do anything, let alone anything outside of my comfort zone. It’s easy to think someone with depression is lazy, but that’s because it’s hard to gauge the energy depleted from the outside. When I go to taiji, for example, I start thinking about it the night before. I remind myself when I’m leaving after running through my agenda for the day in my mind. Then, the next day, I have it in the back of my mind the entire time I’m doing whatever else leads up to the actual departure. Then, I get up at the assigned time, go out for a quick smoke, get dressed/shower/brush my teeth/go to the bathroom/do what needs to be done before leaving. I grab my weapons bag, my water container, my canvas bag (for the co-op), and my purse. Then, I place everything in the car just so, pull on my sunglasses, put on some lip goo, before finally opening the garage door.

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