Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: mental health

The face of my depression

I’ve been talking about Taiji, mental health, and me for the past week-and-a-half. Today, I want to tell you how I know that my depression is deepening. In the last post, I talked more about my family dysfunction. I kinda rushed it at the end because it was very late and I was very tired. You can tell because it abruptly ended with no real conclusion as to waht I was saying.

My point of that post was that abuse twists everything. And that sometimes it’s more complicated than one person is the abuser and the other person is the abused. I have always felt that was too simplistic, along with the idea that you can’t question anything an abused person does. The latter makes me very uneasy, but that is not the point of this post. I bring it up because the uncomfortable truth is that a person who is being abused can simultaneously abuse others. Especially in the case of parents.

It’s true. My father was emotionally abusive to my mother. He was awful to her. He cheated on her and didn’t bother hiding it. It was an open secret, but no way anyone could bring it up to him. Everyone in our church knew it and covered it up. Which was a separate issue. He was mean to my mother, dismissive of her, and treated her as unpaid help. She had to work full-time (which was strange for a Taiwanese man to demand, but in keeping with my father’s fear of being poor), do all the household chores, and take care of us kids as well.

My father was openly disdainful of her as a woman and a person. It was clear that he thought women were sub-human. I mean, he didn’t think much of other men, either, but at least he treated them as human beings. To a certain extent. It’s the alpha-male thing/social class thing. If a man was above him in some way, then my father would pay him at least nominal respect.

My brotehr is not the most observant of men, but even he noticed that my father treated us differently based on our gender. Again, it wasn’t as if he showed a lot of respect for my brother, but it was at least a whit more than he showed me (which was none). And he respected that my brother had expertise in at least one area–technology. Me? No.

Here’s a two-part illustration of this. I did not date before I was sixteen. There were a lot of reasons for it, and it did a number on my already scraping-the-floor self-esteem. My father, out of nowhere and apropos of nothing, offered me the following advice. He said, “If you want to get a boyfriend–” Here, I braced myself because I knew that whatever followed was not going to be good. Remember, we were not talking about dating or anything like this when he pulled this out. “You need to raise your voice an octave or two, let a boy beat you in a sport/game, and ask him to teach you something.” I was appalled. I retorted, “If that’s what it takes to get a boyfriend, then I’ll stay single for the rest of my life.”


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Taiji, me, and mental health (part nine)

Yes, I am still going to talk about mental health and Taiji. Family dysfunction as well, and perhaps therapy.This is continuing my week(s) of musings about the topics, and here is the last post in which I discussed lots of things.

I must say, therapy has been more miss than hit for me. I went to my first counselor when I was fourteen and profoundly depressed. I will give my mother credit that she got me into therapy. Hoqwever, unfortunately, she chose a therapist at a very conservative Christian college, and a man to boot. Who was white. He was not in any way equipped to deal with someone like me. Especially as I had a broken brain in so many ways.

I will say, though, that he was a very nice guy who tried his best. I do not hold it against him that he didn’t know what to do with me.

After that, I had a series of therapists/counselors who just sucked. Here’s the problem. I have a psych background. I know a lot about psychology. I am very smart. I know how to think on different levels. Which means I am a terror for some therapists. If I can run rings around someone, I will not respect them. Unfortunately, this was the case with many of the therapists/counselors I had. To be honest, it’s one reason I stopped going to non-psychologist therapists. Social workers just didn’t do it for me.

It took me forever to find a therapist who worked for me, and then I saw her for a decade or so. What I liked about her was that would suggest things that weren’t considered traditional. This included body work, tarot card readers, EFT, EMDR (before it hit mainstream), electroshock therapy, meds, and more. In her opinion, anything that worked was fine with her. She also discussed CBT and introduced DBT to me as well.


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Taiji and me, part seven

This is post seven of my weekly musings on Taiji and how it’s helped me with life. Yes, that’s it. That’s all I’m doing. Just kidding. In the last post, I was talking about life in general and how messed up I was before I started studying Taiji. I mean, more messed up than I am now. Yes, I’m still messed up, but not as much as I used to be.

I was also mentioning how my teacher has earned my trust because she has been transparent, honest, and open about what she does and doesn’t know. We’ve reached the point that if she suggests something for me to try, I will immediately try it.

Here’s another reason why: She makes sure that anything she suggests will not hurt me. It may not help, but it’s not going to hurt. The most recent example surronds my difficulty with periphery. I’ve always had an issue with it (along with spatial issues, reflex issues, and more), and it’s only gotten worse since my medical crisis. I don’t like to drive on the freeway because of this, and I restrict my driving to local roads whenever possible.

This means that I have stayed with online classes rather than driving to them because I live north and she teaches in south. Before the pandemic, I would go to class in person and had to take two (or three? I don’t quite remember) freeways during rush hour in order to do so.

I never liked driving. I want to make that clear. I am bad at it, and I do it as little as possible. I failed the driving test three times and would have not taken the test at all if my mother hadn’t pushed me to do so. It’s good that I can drive, but it’s something I will avoid doing when at all possible.

I have been in all kind of scrapes with a car. As a driver, I mean. In part beacuse being a nervous driver was not good, but it also occurred to me MUCH later that I had periphery issues. I can’t see things to the side of me then I’m driving. Is this because of something physical? Or is it psychological? I don’t know, but it kept happening. And by ‘kept’, I mean once every few years, I would hit something with my car. Not at high speeds and not with much damage, but it wasn’t great. Obviously.I thought it was just me being a terrible driver. Which, let me hasten to add–I am. But there may actually be reasons for it other than just I’m a terrible driver.


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Taiji and how it’s changed my life, part six

I’m continuing to muse about Taiji and me for the sixth post. In the last post, I talked about how I learned to trust my Taiji teacher over time beacuse she was consistent, transparent, and steady in her response to my barrage of questions. It’s one of her best qualities in my eyes. I could expect honesty from her no matter what question I asked her, so now, a decade-and-a-half later, I don’t even queestion it when she tells me something about Taiji. She has earned that trust.

Then, six months ago or so, I wanted to learn the Swimming Dragon Form with the deerhorn knives in Bagua, a different martial art. I love the deerhorn knives. They are probably my favorite weapons overall (double sabers are myi favorite taiji weapons) beacuse they are so vicious. Did I say that out loud?

Many many moons ago, I was having difficulty with meditation. I kept having flashbacks, which was highly unpleasant. My teacher brought in a pair of her pratice deerhorn knives and handed them to me. She taught me how to walk the circle with them, and that wsa what I did in the corner while the rest of the class was doing meditation.

It was during this time and while I was walknig the circle that I had a life-changing realization. I used to proclaim that I was a pacifist and  that if someone tried to kill me, I would let them. This was married with my belief that my life didn’t matter in and of itself. That wasn’t something I just thought up myself, by the way. My mother drummed it into my head ever since I could remember, and when I was eleven, she started pouring out all her problems (especially with her marriage) to me.

I got to hear about how unhappy she was and how depressed. She comlained about my father incessantly and how he had done her wrong. Which, she wasn’t lying, but it wasn’t something you should be telling your eleven-year-old child. She did not do this to my brother, by the way, in case you were wondering. There are a few reasons for this. One, I was AFAB, and my mother has very rigid ideas about gender. Women were for nurturing, cleaning, cooking, sewing, and birthing babies–not necessarily in that order. Funnily, though, even though she liked to say that being a parent was the most important thing to her (and she said it all the time), she focused all her attention on my father.

It makes sense now because he has dementia that is getting worse and worse. It started when he was in his sixties, and he’s mid-eighties now.

When my mother complained about my father, I just shut down. There was nothing I could do about it, and she would have not handled it well if I walked away. I was a hostage to her complaints, though there were no physical chains restraining me.


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More about Taiji, part five

This is part five about my discourse on Taiji (and how it’s been a boon for me). In the last post, I talked about….well, lots of stuff. I wanted to talk about trust and my teacher, but then wandered into my past and why my family dysfunction made me unlikely to trust.

It turns out thaht I can trust–when someone is worthy of that trust. And, yes, it did not happen immediately, but took quite some time. It’s good not to be too trusting, but I think I took it to the extreme. Hell, I kow I took it to extreme, and I would say I still have a hard time calibrating my ability to trust (especially in my romantic life). It’s either too much or too little, but rarely just enough.

In the case of my Taiji teacher, she earned it by being transparent, honest, and open about what she knows and doesn’t about Taiji. It’s the last one especially that really made me trust her.

Side note: I have a hard time admitting when I don’t know something, especially if it’s an area that I consider myself an expert. The fact that my teacher can do it with ease is a plus in my book. She doesn’t seem worried about undermining herself by doing so, which I admire.

Anyway, I learned over time that she would be honest with me no matter what. She accepted me where I was and did not push me–wait. That’s not what I want to say. Because she absolutely did push me, but in a way that was positive. I think it’s better to say that she encouraged me to go outside my comfort zone.

I’m stubborn, though, so I would often push back. That’s my nature. I’m not proud of it, but I have to be real. It’s a fear response, but it’s also a way for me to guard my boundaries. That was necessary in my family, but it was not as necessary in Taiji with my teacher.

What helped me with that? Sit back and listen to a little story I have for you. I started learning Taiji beacuse I wanted to be able to defend myself, but I was rabidly anti-violence. In other words, I was a pacifist. About a year or two after I started studying with my teacher, she wanted me to start studying the Sword Form. I reacted strongly against it because I did not want to do weapons. That was violent! Not like the Solo Form, which was without weapons and so gentle.

My teacher brought it up every few months, and I  was adamant that I would never, ever do the weapons. After a year or so of this, she pressed a wooden practice sword into my hand and told me to just hold it. I tried to pull my hand back, but she would not let me. She wasn’t mean about it, but she made sure I closed my hand on the hilt of the sword.


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Taiji and me, part four

This is part four of my weeklong treatise on the unexpected benefits of Taiji and other things related. In the last post, I meandered here and there, but was ostensibly talking about my teacher and how I grew to trust her. Because it’s me, I had to give background as to why I have a hard time trusting people.

In addition, my prior Taiji teacher was terrible and did not engender trust. He was skanky, sleazy, and a bad teacher. He was way up his own ass and thought much too highly of himself.

Side note: I find this to be a problem with cis white dudes who position themselves as gurus, whether consciously or unconsciously. They already have an unearned authority about them just because they are cis white dudes, and then they surround themselves with people who agree with their assessment, which means they usually don’t get told off when they are crossing the line. In other words, it becomes like a cult.

One of the first things I did when I was looking for a new teacher was look for women (now, I would expand that non-men). That meant drastically reducing the number of studios available to me, but I was fine with that. It was that important to me, and I stand by that.

It took time for my teacher to earn my trust, which is as how it should be. Just because someone is an expert in something, it doesn’t mean they are immediately trustworthy. Also, someone can be an expert in something and still a lousy teacher.

One thing my teacher excels at is teaching each student in the way they will best learn. With me, it’s giving explanations for things until I have reached the point where explanations are not necsessary any longer. With a classmate of mine, it’s scolding her lightly. Another ex-classmate of mine had MS and with her, it was adapting to doing the forms in a wheelchair.

I have reached the point where I don’t need the explanations any longer, but I do appreciate when she tells me what the applications for the movements are for. She knows what I need in order to accept what she’s saying, and she has no problems providing that. It’s what makes her a good teacher, and I have heard it from other students as well.


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Taiji and me, part three

I have written two posts about the unexpected long-term (and slow-to-realize) benefits of Taiji. I was going to write a third (this post), and while that is still the nominal plan, I want to focus moe on my teacher in this post. Or rather, how  I got to the point where I trust her implicitly when it comes to Taiji.

When I was in my twenties, I was a hot mess. I make no bones about it or try to hide it in any way. Nor do I sugarcoat it. I was deeply depressed by the time I was seven, and I didn’t see the point in living. College was a pivotal time for me in many ways, both bad and good. That’s when I realized that I had several isms to deal with (racism ‘coz Taiwanese, sexism ‘coz woman, and homophobia ‘coz I was bi, but that was after I realized I was bi–which took some time in and of itself), not to mention family dysfunction.

It’s the latter along with undiagnosed mential health issues that really fucked with my head. I was disassociative when I was in my early twenties, but didn’t realize what was happening. I’m pretty damn lucky I didn’t seriously hurt myself or anyone else during that time because it happened as I drove on the freeway, too, which was the worst.

I had many arguments with my mother because I stubbornly insisted on actually telling her important things to me while I was in my twenties. I believed the trope that mothers were all-loving and cared deeply about their children. It took me many decades to deprogram myself, and I’m not quite there yet.

I’m telling you all this because it was Taiji that helped me with the family dysfunction. My teacher has said more than once that she hopes that we never get into a fight. I do, too. But she always added that it’s beneficial for real life, too. She said that while we may neve have to fight off an enemy, we probably will have to fight through a crowd.

I have difficulty with my temper. I can keep it under control for the most part, which is better than me not realizing I had a temper in my youth. Because I had it drummed into me that I was not allowed to show any negative emotions as a kid, I stuffed my anger waaaaaaay down deep inside.


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Bagua is my bag (for real)–bait and switched again

Yesterday, I was going to write about Bagua and then went completely off the rails. Well, not completely. It was tangential to what I was talking about, but it did relate. I was writing about my mother’s ability to gaslight me about past events, but with utter sincerity on her part.

Because of this, I question everything. This is both a good and a bad thing, sometimes at the same time. There is that meme about the ‘well, actually’ guy, but that is me. I know enough not to say it out loud all the time, but it’s constantly in my mind. I recognize that it’s not a trait that other people find endearing. Hell, I find it annoying sometimes. But I also find the lack of nuance irritating. Also, I said this to an online friend, I was raised to not voice my opinion by parents who were deeply sexist. Their culture in general was sexist at the time (Taiwanese) as was American culture. My parents were reactionaries, even in their own culture.

When I started Taiji, I had a million questions for my teacher. And I was clearly skeptical about everything she had to say. She remained cheerful and would answer my questions endlessly. If she did not know the answer, she would say that she would find out for me. I really appreciated that she didn’t try to shine me on or bluff her way through an answer.

My first Taiji teacher was…terrible. I won’t get into why because I’ve talked about it before, but one thing I really disliked about him as a teacher was that he put on this ‘I am the wise master who knows everything’ attitude that he had not earned. His Taiji was solid, but he as a person was not. He was scum, quite honestly, and I should have quit a lot sooner than I did.

His personal issues aside, he was not a good teacher, either. He would never say that he did not know something or that something was beyond him. In addition, I was in the beginners class and never learned the whole form. Why? Beacause the teacher would keep starting from the beginning. He said that since it was the beginner’s class, it was for beginners. In restrospect, maybe I should have moved to a different class, but at the same time, you would think that a beginners class would actually show the whole form

That was the least of my issues, though. The biggest issue was that he wsa a sexist asshole. And his tutor was also a sexist asshole. Or rather, did not think of things from the female point of view. I have huge boobs. Like, in my way huge. Don’t get me wrong. I love my boobs. They are amazing! Who doesn’t like boobs? But if a movement calls for me to put my arm straight across my chest, well, we’re going to have to discuss some accommodations. I once asked the tutor about it, and he got all flustered and had some flippant response.


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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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Bagua > baguette

I have OCD traits/tendencies. Plus, I have aspects of ADHD in that I have that hyperfocus when I’m interested in something. I’m savvy enough to know when I’m obsessing, but I’m not always able to cut it short. I try my best, but sometimes, I’m just going to have to blab on and on about it.

It’s interesting. I have ADHD traits as well as autism traits, but I also have off-the-charts EQ. I used to have depression and anxiety as well. It made for a poorly-shaken cocktail of flaws. So I can talk for ages about something I’m obsessed with, but I’m aware enough to know that I’m probably boring people to death. Sometimes, I have the discipline to shut the fuck up, but sometimes, I need to keep talking about the beauty of the Double Saber Form. That is just where I’m at, and I will stay happy there for my whole life.

I have been putting on a song I like (on YouTube) and then letting it just play the playlist it has curated for my entire weapons forms pracitice. I will also do my own curation, meaning, I’ll put on a new video each time an old one ends.

I joked with my teacher that I’m going to do a booty-themed playlist. Why? I mentioned it in a past post that Taiji has given me a booty. It’s not a JLo booty, but it’s definitely firm and squeezable. Thousands of repetitions of Golden Roosters have made my booty pop, and I could not be happier.

Because of this, I want to make a booty-based playlist to do my weapons forms to. Anaconda by Nicki Minaj. Booty by JLo, featuring Iggy Azalea. Rump Shaker by Wreckx-N-Effect, and, of course, the glorious Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot, especially the version with the Seattle Symphony. I want to work Lizzo in there, but she doesn’t have a song specifically about her ass, I don’t think.

I want to glorify a part of me I previously hated. I am Asian. I cannot tell you how flat my ass was before I took Taiji. It was almost concave, much to my embarrassment, shame, and sorrow. I had tits for days, but was sadly lacking in the ass department. It’s like

Side note: I was looking at Dance Ten, Looks Three from A Chorus Line. None of them had big boobs. None. Talking about getting a boob job when they had maybe B cups. Asses, yes. Those looked nice. But their boobs were still small. Seriously!

Anyway, back to my lack of ass. It made me so sad because I loved a nice, juicy ass. More cushion for the pushin’! So, after ten years of Taiji, I was ecstatic to see that I ACTUALLY HAD AN ASS. It wasn’t huge, but it was noticeable. And firm. But still squooshy. This was years of different signle posture drills, especially the Golden Roosters.


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