Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: depression

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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The lessons I’ve learned

It’s been almost eight months since that night. It’s something t hat is always in the back of my mind, if not the front. I don’t talk about it much, but it’s there. I was reading Ask A Manager (one of my stories) and there was a question about what to answer when someone asked why they were still wearing a mask. Ask A Manager’s response was to educate people because there’s still a goddamn pandemic going on. My immediate snap response in my head was, “I died twice last year–I would prefer not to due it a third time.” I have always had a morbid sense of humor; it’s only gotten more so since the medical trauma.

I am pleased that many of my lifelong issues have disappeared since then. First of all, how freaked out I was by the pandemic. Granted, this was before there was a vax and reasonable. I did not want to get COVID because I have a weak immune system with the tendency towards bronchial issues. I got bronchitis quite often and every winter, I had some kind of cough for several months. I was terrified of getting COVID and rarely went out because of that fear. I went to get my meds once a month and that was it. I had my Taiji classes online three times a week and had my groceries delivered to me.

When I woke up in the hospital, I did not have to wear a mask, obviously. Except when I was being transferred from room to room, which wasn’t that often. Everyone around me had a mask on, but I did not. I was tested for COVID when I was first admitted and did not have it. I DID have walking non-COVID-related pneumonia, which started the whole mess. This may sound weird, but having something that terrible and traumatic happen to me freed me from my pandemic-related anxiety. I hasten to say that I was vaxxed by that time (twice) so that did help in my assessment of my situation. But, my point is that I realized there was more to life (and death) than the pandemic.

Would I have wanted to go through what I did? Meaning walking non-COVID-related pneumonia, two cardiac arrests, and a stroke? Hell, no. It’s why I have some difficulty talking about it with people who struggle with, say, body image issues. I had those all my life. I hated my body for many reasons and spent most of my life studiously ignoring that I had a body. I hated it and would prefer to think that it didn’t exist. Taiji helped me become neutral about it, but that was the best I could do. And it was a conscious choice to deliberately work on not hating it. However, I still didn’t look in the mirror and I still didn’t like my body. I put up with it, like a long-term partner whom you did not love any longer, but were mostly comfortable with.

Then, the medical trauma happened as I mentioned above. A week of unconsciousness, followed by a week in the hospital while I was awake. One minute I wasn’t, and then the next minute, I was. I was scared, upset, and mad as hell when I woke up. I was angry and ready to fight. I didn’t know who needed fighting; I was just sure that someone did. I had a conversation with Ian the second day I was awake in which I rambled about being like the Dark Souls III ’80s video (staying true to my fandom even when I was drugged to the gills). “When you pick a fight with the devil, you better be stronger than hell.” I told him that I did it–twice–and I won twice!

I apologized to him later once I had myself under control for rambling on and on like that for hours. He laughed and said it was only two minutes and that he would have listened to me talk about anything because he was so grateful I was alive. Which, you know, I was, too. Profoundly so. I was grateful for the ice water in the hospital–repeatedly. Every day, I was thankful for the best goddamn ice water I’ve ever had.

My hospital stay was also when I completely got over my body issues. I had a team of 2-4 people watching me 24/7. No, they weren’t there every minute, but they could be there in five seconds with one press of a button. They took my vitals every four hours or so, which was the opposite of fun. But, understandable. I was hooked up to several monitors at all times. I had a shit tube literally hooked up to my ass. When I could totter off to the bathroom, I had aides literally wiping the shit from my ass.

I cannot tell you what a vulnerable position this is to be in. Being weak on my legs, shaking, as I walked to the bathroom. Having to press a button to have someone come in to wipe me. It could have been deeply humiliating, but it wasn’t. There was one guy who treated it like one of his chores that he wasn’t particularly fond of, but he was still fast and efficient about it. He wasn’t rude or disrespectful–just completely divorced from the process. He didn’t make me feel like a non-human, though, which is all I cared about. And I appreciated that he was really good at it.

All the rest of my aides were fantastic at taking care of me and making me feel like a human being. They were respectful and cheerful, warm and efficient. They kept my humanity in the forefront of their duties, which was much appreciated. I had no control over anything for the week I was in the hospital awake (and the week before, but I was unconscious then and didn’t care). They could have been nasty about it or even just disinterested, but no. They were engaged and respectful, warm and caring. Did they care about me, the person? Probably not. Did they care about me as their patient? Yes, they did.

Imagine waking up from a void, being scared and angry, not knowing where you are. Also, being drugged to the gills. Surrounded by a bunch of people you don’t know. That was my reality and having a bunch of professional, warm people doing a top-notch job of taking care of me ameliorated much of my discomfort.

Side Note: One of my favorite stories from that time is still talking to my heart doc three months after I was out of the hospital (for the second time). He mentioned for the second time that I had been funny when we met in the hospital (which I didn’t remember). I finally asked what I said that was so funny. He said that he had introduced himself and went through what happened to me as he always does because his patients don’t always remember. I interrupted him to ask if that meant I had died. He said, yes, and I said, “That’s so fucking cool!” which sounds exactly like me. He said it was hilarious, which relieved me because I’d rather be funny than offensive. But I can see how that might not be a reaction he was expecting.

That’s me, though. Morbid sense of humor that has only gotten more so since that incident. I died twice and came back twice. That’s bound to change my view on many things. I’m thrilled that I no longer have body issues. In fact, I have nothing but love for my body because of what it saw me through. My body took all that shit and acted like it was nothing. I now have nothing but mad respect for my body.

Damn. I was going to talk about family dysfunction, but I didn’t make it there. Oh well. Next post!

 

Oh the lessons I’ve learned

It’s been seven months since my medical trauma, and it’s been heavy on my mind in the last  week. Probably because of my birthday because I should not be here. I made it to the second half of my first century, which is incredible. It’s not something that I can really quantify, though, or offer to other people who are going through something.

Before my medical trauma, I hated it when people tried to chirp positive tropes at me. “Life is what you make of it!” “Live and learn!” “Mind over matter!” and the such. It still sounds trite to my ears, but I can at least understand the sentiment behind it now.

The problem is that it’s not actionable. I mean, I can tell people that they should just live their life, but that doesn’t really help. I will say that Taiji helped before I had my medical trauma. I was in a minor car crash in July of 2016. That was roughly nine or ten years into my study of Taiji, and when I saw the car hurtling at me, I thought, “I’m going to get hit” and immediately relaxed. My car was totaled, but I only sustained a large bruise on my stomach–probably from my seat belt. My body was fine other than that, despite the dire warnings that I would inevitably get whiplash. Which I did not, thank you very much.

That’s when I first realized that my body was pretty damn cool. It’s sturdy and strong, and it’s seen me through some shit. Taiji also helped me with crippling back pain and other assorted physical problems. But, again, it’s not immediate. With my back pain, it took a few months before it started easing up after my teacher showed me one specific stretch that she said I should do every day (three times to each side). After a year of doing this stretch, the back pain was completely gone.

Taiji has also helped me with navigating relationships and the emotional minefields thereof. I almost said mindfields, which, while wrong, is also apt. I’ve gotten better with being in crowds even though I still don’t like it, and I am not as hypervigilant as I used to be.

Mental health-wise, my depression and anxiety eased up little by little as I studied Taiji. Then the pandemic hit. And, honestly, for me personally, it actually lifted my depression and anxiety. Why? Because it made the outer world match my inner world. I was in mental crisis all the time, so it was weirdly comforting. And it didn’t change my day-to-day that much except Zoom Taiji classes and online grocery shopping.


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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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Wasting your life on regrets

I come from a long line of worriers. Or rather, one great big worrier–my mother. She is a champion worrier who can turn anything into a chance to fret. It doesn’t matter how big or small a problem is–she can inflate it into a catastrophe. For example. She and my father were at Fresh and Natural, a nearby co-op that has mostly local/organic food. They also have a variety of gluten-free/dairy-free food, which is good for me. Anyway, she called me to ask if there was anything I wanted. I said if she could find some gf/hf backed goods in the same place she got salmon and chicken, I’d be happy. Cupcakes and/or brownies. She called back saying she couldn’t find them and she sounded stress. I said it was no big deal and not to worry about it. But, of course, she had to continue to worry about it. More to the point, she had to voice her worry to me. Now I w as stressed over something that previously had no meaning to me. I told her to forget about it, but she kept ruminating over it.

The incident in and of itself is no big deal. The problem comes because she does this with every decision, big or small. K once marveled as she was taking me to the airport that I had packed for every occasion. I apparently had a roll of quarters and an umbrella and a bunch of other things I probably wouldn’t need for a short trip. I said it was the legacy of my mother. We compared our mothers’ attitudes towards life. Her mother believes that whatever you chose to do, you would be fine. My mother believes that whatever you chose to do, you’ll be fucked. There are pros and cons to both viewpoints, obviously, but growing up with a mother like mine means I’m constantly second-guessing myself. Especially around her.

She can’t just relax and take things as they come. I know it’s in part because of my father. He’s very judgmental and rigid in his view of how things should be. If you don’t follow his unspoken expectations, well , there will be hell to pay. Most of the time. Once in a while, he’ll not care, but that’s very rare. An example. One time, he was mad at my mother and wouldn’t tell her why. I think that’s bullshit in general, but especially when the reason can be as capricious as you didn’t say hi in the right tone of voice. Or more to the point, he didn’t hear you say hi because he refuses to wear his expensive hearing aids. In case he loses one. But, they run out if you don’t use them (just the same as you do) and it’s a waste, anyway. He can’t  see that.


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I am just done

One way I can tell when I’m nearly done with something is that everything gets on my last nerve. Normally, I’m good at deflecting and keeping my shit to myself. But if I’m not allowed or able to replenish my reservoir, that ability erodes until at some point it completely disappears.  for example. Talking to my parents on the phone. Normally, I just ‘uh huh’ and ‘really?’ until the phone call ends and then shake off the slight depression before going about my business. By the way. My brother and I recently compared our conversations with our parents, and they’re exactly the same except I get more bitching from my mother. Way more bitching. Most of the time, my mentality is, “Just listen to them blather, nod in agreement, and get off the phone as quickly as you can.” With an added, “Tell them you’re fine, everything is fine, yes, Covid-19 sucks, yes, this current president sucks, have a good life, goodbye.”

It doesn’t help that my parents are deeply entwined in a codependent relationship that I’m afraid will leave my mother worse for the wear. I mean, hell, it already has as most of her life revolves around my father and catering to his needs. My mother was on a kick for fifteen years to get me pregnant and then switched to getting me married after that. She would say who would take care of me when I’m old and sick if I weren’t married? It took every ounce of will I had not to snap out that her being married hadn’t helped her. Indeed, recently, she fell and hit her head, and as she felt the blood (which was pink), my father insisted it wasn’t blood. He kept asking her if she had dyed her hair recently which, first of all, she hadn’t dyed her hair in a decade or so. Second, she’s never dyed her hair pink. She said this proved she couldn’t count on him and then did a little laugh. I hate that laugh, by the way. It’s a fairly new addition and she only does it when she knows that she’s saying something unreasonable. Like having to put up with your husband being worse than useless in an emergency situation.

By the way, my mother shared that my father’s latest dementia tests show that he hasn’t deteriorated in the year. She was relieved while I was baffled. If it’s not medical, then why is he getting worse and worse with his memory, his self-absorption, and everything else? This is an age-old question with him, though. Is it medical or just his innate narcissism? I try not to get sucked into the speculation, but it’s hard not to get drawn into it because my mother is incessant about talking about my father.

Anyway. When my mom calls, it goes like this. She asks the perfunctory ‘how are you?’ question then use it to springboard into whatever she wants to talk about. Usually her many physical problems, things my father has done to irritate her but she can’t admit it, Covid-19, the election, work issues, and then insist that I talk to my father. He’ll ask about Covid-19 and express amazement that it’s not going down. A bit about this president and the totally unfounded belief that Americans are logical and rational people and how could this happen? He says in complete seriousness that America is the best country in the world! Mind, he hasn’t actually lived here in nearly 30 years, but facts don’t matter. Then he pontificates how each individual person doesn’t matter (when it comes to the coronavirus) and we can’t do anything so we should just ignore it and move on.


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Fighting mad

I’m still feeling shitty. I’m doing another excavation as to what is causing my digestive issues. Strawberries for one. Also, berries are really frustrating in that they go bad in three days, but that’s not the point of this post. Strawberries are starting to hurt my stomach, which is a shame. Blackberries and blueberries are on the cusp.

I woke up feeling super shitty today and slammed down two migraine meds (non-prescription). I’ve been trying not to use them every day because I don’t want to blunt the usefulness, but that has meant white-knuckling a few days where I didn’t use them.

I’ve had to pare back on my taiji weapons because I just can’t do it all. I mean, it’s a lot to begin with, but my body is not up for doing the whole thing. I don’t like it, but there we are.

Mental health and gaming

This has been a shit week. Yesterday, for a brief moment, there was the exhilarating news that the remastered/remake of Demon’s Souls (by FromSoft, but the remake is being done by Bluepoint games) was going to be on PC. That brightened my entire week, and I was so stoked. I mean, look at it.

If you know anything about the game and even if you don’t, you gotta admit it looks amazing. If you look very closely at the end, you’ll see it says it’s coming to the PC. And there was much rejoicing! What a boost on an otherwise shitty day (well, the day itself wasn’t shitty, but that’s not the point).

Then, later in the evening, it all came undone. It turns out that it was NOT coming to the PC, no how, no way. Nuh uh, why would you think so never mind the text that said it would actually come to the PC? Oh, that? That was human error a rep of Sony said. Was never meant to be! Look over there. *flees*

Ok, that wasn’t exactly what happened, but it’s how my brain interpreted it. The human error comment is real but the rest is just head canon. What Sony said in the walkback  was that the text in THE ACTUAL GAMEPLAY TRAILER was human error and that the remake of Demon’s Souls was a PS5 exclusive. Period.

To which I say, bullshit. Why? For several reason. One, the push for Dark Souls on the PC played a significant role in catapulting the series to the lofty heights it enjoys today. Two, it wouldn’t have been in the text if it wasn’t a consideration. Three, because I want it to be bullshit.

Look. I know they were in a hard place when this snafu happened. The hype the PC announcement created could not be put back in the box. PC gamers (and I am one) are rabid about our PCness and our gaming. Souls fans are on another level. So, yeah. I can see how they would be cringing at this point. Let’s face it. There’s no satisfactory response except, “Why, yes, it’s coming to the PC.”

Here’s what I think happened. A Demon’s Souls remake is big. Fans have been clamoring for one for years. Screaming for it. Pleading for it. Offering their first born children for it. I don’t think it’s a leap to say that it’s one of the top two things most requested by FromSoft fans* and with the arrival of the PS5, that seemed like a perfect time for the remake to be released.

Given this as a backdrop, it makes sense that Sony would want it as a PS5 exclusive/launch game. I don’t blame them for selling their consoles however they can. My theory is that they wanted it to be an exclusive for a year or so (which is more or less the timing of exclusives) before announcing the PC launch.

At least, I hope that’s the case. If it’s not, then I guess I will not be playing Demon’s Souls for the rest of my life, which is sad. Or, I’ll do what I did for Bloodborne–buy a PS4 (PS5 in this case) years later at a ridiculously low price in order to play one game.

Anyway. Back to the shitty week part. One way I can tell how depressed I’m getting is what games I play or more importantly, don’t. Oh wait. We have to go back because that’s the way I roll. I am picky about the media I consume in any form. I’ve written about this in the past so I’m not going to rehash the details. Suffice to say it’s difficult to find things I like/click with, and I don’t gel with far more things than I do. When I do, I  play the hell out of them but it takes me forever to get there.

Actually, that’s me in general. It takes me a lot of energy to do anything even something I enjoy and if I’m not enjoying it, I abandon it pretty damn quickly. So in the case of gaming, it takes me forever to actually buy a game. Unless there’s a demo that I immediately like such as Spiritfarer.

Ah, Spiritfarer. Can we take a minute so I can reminisce about how much I adore this game? Ok, minute over.

I try to give each game a fair shake, but I know myself. If something doesn’t grab me within five or ten minutes, it’s never going to do so. You may think Dark Souls is the exception to the rule, but it’s not. While I ended up hating the game by the end of the first playthrough, it had me grabbed the entire time.

On my best days, I can try a new game and see what I think of it. On my worst days, however, I don’t have the energy for that. I know it sounds very twee and precious, but, yes, I need energy to try a new game. Just like I need energy to, say, go to the grocery store (not these days ‘coz I’m not going there no way no how) or make dinner.

On the days when I just can’t, there are games I keep in my back pocket.

Here’s another monkey in the wrench. Is that the phrase? It is now. The Souls series used to be my go-to, specifically Dark Souls III. Ever since my two non-plat runs, however, I’ve been on a break of sorts from the Souls games. Note I say that I have two of the plats. I do not have the plat for Dark Souls II for a few reasons. I started with the original game because that’s what Krupa (of RKG) was doing. Then, I moved to DS III because that’s my favorite of the three. Then, I was completely wiped out and done with it. I put aside all the games indefinitely and have only now started diving back into them again. And by them, I mean the third game.

I’m currently re-watching a few Let’s Play of the original game, and I kinda want to play again. I started up the third game again and it’s feeling good. I’m watching a playthrough of the second game and, well, it’s complicated. I want to play it again, but I know if I do, I’ll try to not-plat it. I don’t want to not-plat it, mind you, but it’s just how I am.

Anyway! The one game I can play no matter what is Binding of Isaac: Rebirth.** I’ve put so many hours into it–no, not gonna tell you how many–that I could play it in my sleep. There are a few new rooms even now which is interesting, but it’s as familiar to me as my skin. I would like to note there is going to be another update soon. I’m reaching the point of new content fatigue, but I know I’ll play it, anyway.

Here’s the time when casual games really stand out. When I can’t handle learning a new ‘hardcore’ game, I can fall back on a solitaire game or a hidden object game and still get a gaming fix without putting too much effort into it. I used think it weird that I would flip back and forth between hardcore and casual games on the regular, but I’m fine with it now. It’s a nice way to unwind on a day when I’m stressed out, anxious, or just plain distressed.

I still can’t wait for Elden Ring, though.

 

 

 

*BB II is number one. Not going to happen, my friends.

**Obligatory yes I know that’s not the current iteration of the game but it’s the one I want it to be.

When mental health issues collide with reality

In the best of times, I have to push myself to do what needs to be done. This is not the best of times, and it’s even worse now. Add to that the fact that my sleep has completely reverted, and I’m a hot(ter) mess right now. I’m discouraged because it’s a vicious cycle. I’m going to bed around four-thirty in the morning, which is not good. More to the point, it’s a rather sudden change which makes it even more difficult to deal with. It took me several months, probably half a year or so, to go from going to bed at five/six in the morning to two. now, in the course of maybe two weeks, I’ve reverted back to almost five.

Logically, there’s no reason I can’t follow that timetable. I t’s not like I have to be anywhere at any specific time (except for my taiji Zoom classes–and most of them are in the afternoon). But, I wanted to be on a more normal schedule. That seems to be but a dream now. And I’m discouraged by it. There is little I can do about sleep that I haven’t done before.

Ugh. I am so not feeling it today.