My relationship with food

Trying to play a character in your life isn’t a fun way to live, even if you love the theater. I’m only saying this in hindsight of course, I didn’t know that there was another way to live until very recently. I was the misfit who wanted to be normal- the girl who always did the “right” thing, the one who gets the guy, the girl who has the shiny career, the girl who doesn’t offend anyone but is rather pleasing to talk to. Some may see her as almost bland, uninteresting- but she fit into something (a stereotype). However, you can only run away from yourself for so long. And I found out again today during group that it has done me no good during a mindfulness eating exercise, of all the places.

A mindfulness eating exercise can be googled quite easily, but in a nutshell, it is an exercise where you only focus on your eating, and the food itself. You observe the color, how it looks, and how it feels inside your mouth and so on. (I have to stop here because it’s triggering.) During this exercise, I had the most unexpected panic attack that went from 1 to 9 (10 being the most severe). I usually can see my panic attacks rising gradually, and often can dig myself out of that hole using several distractions or mindfulness skills before it gets to a ten, but I was in the deep before I could search my mind for a distraction. I ran out of group to avoid further embarrassment and just bawled my eyes out without realizing what just happened.

For the exercise- every second of it was torture. Feeling the cantaloupe in my mouth, cold, soft and mushy,  and the different tastes you don’t expect from a cantaloupe (e.g. cucumber), and just the sensation itself of being aware that you had to swallow the thing after chewing it almost made me barf. And I do not dislike fruit. During feedback, everyone explained how exquisite the experience was, and how much more they appreciated food now that they have done this for the first time. This was of course, the expected response coming out of this mindfulness activity. Mine was very different. I was almost in tears, about to throw up, and very close to some unpleasant thoughts. The group leader had to sit with me for a few minutes to calm me down with some breathing techniques until I could feel like I could come back to normal. I realized after that this was how, in medical literature, they describe what PTSD feels like, when triggered.

Since I was a child, I never had a good relationship with food as far as I could remember. It was much worse than bad, it was traumatizing. I always thought (and still think,) why hasn’t someone made a pill to substitute for eating? It would be so much easier, more efficient, and less painful. Allow me to explain: back in the old country where I grew up, I went to kindergarten/daycare that provided lunch every single day. I never had a great appetite, and always felt shameful that I didn’t enjoy food more, and was shamed for eating so little all the time by my mother, and the rest of the adult population because people are very blunt where I come from. (An example: they would say hi, and comment on how scrawny I look and I should eat more as a legitimate, love-filled greeting.)  In kindergarten, I was force fed for many years because I would not eat the lunch that was provided. I would sit there with my food, while the other children ate quickly and had extra play time. When lunch was almost over, and everyone who had finished eating had gone to play except me, usually an adult came over to put the cold rice into the cold soup or stew of the day to make their job as the forcefeeder easier (which made it more disgusting than they had been when both menu items were hot), let it sit there for a while so the rice doubled in size (yuck, more food to eat), and if I really didn’t eat after they “helped” to mix the rice with the liquid thing, they would forced it down on me and punished me if I didn’t eat. Every single day. I never squeaked about this to my mother because, as a child, I was afraid of her, and thought I would be further shamed for not eating and being willful.

Since then, I grew up- found out that food and sports are the only viable topics in the workplace that doesn’t arouse suspicion (that you’re weird), or uncomfortable feelings about the people you work for, due the personal nature of opinions, and make you sound wholesome (in other words, not political or have anger management problems. This is different after the advent of Trump, obviously. Anger is a valid feeling at the workplace in modern America. Sigh.) I lied countless times about having a favorite dish. I lied about enjoying eating, and going out to eat. In my defense, I was only being polite, and I was starting to believe the lies. One lie followed another, and it was starting to become real, and I was starting to think that I was “growing out” of it. My parents saw that I improved in the eating department, and they were so happy that I was “normal” again. Why did I do this? Well, I felt like I was connecting to people in a very non racist, non culturally specific and genuinely human way by talking about food (more on this later), except, I was in disguise the whole time. I was acting as the well-adjusted, healthy and happy person with zero problems in her life, and I was so convincing that I convinced myself and everyone around me. I was faking it until I made it. Well, I made it into PTSD.

This is a story in progress, and I am still having a hard time processing what this is, what it means, and if this is an eating disorder or not since I don’t have and never really had severe body image problems that affected my eating.

Like they say, the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. (And kick you in the face until you lose your teeth… sorry, too graphic.)

Insomnia again

It’s 1:00 am, and I’ve been trying to sleep since 9pm. I took Ativan around 8pm so that I would have ample time for it to work, and after a few unsuccessful attempts, I’ve succumbed to the most terrible anxiety- the one that seems tolerable at the beginning, but isn’t so easy to dig out of once you try and use your coping skills you’ve learned.

The anxiety manifests itself through physical pain- a sense of restlessness that overtakes the whole body, aches, like you haven’t stretched for a decade. Your breathes feel smaller because everything seems to be caving in- your lungs, especially.

So here I am. In a bath, in the middle of the night, trying to grapple with this anxiety that comes from the stress from group this week, various relationship issues I’m struggling with with a few people, and just my general situation. I don’t think a million hugs could help me right now. I’m hopeful, and feeling positive about what I’m learning at the hospital, but the anxiety is still here. I’m starting to lose my feelings (or access to them) and emotions which will be hard to get back.

I’m so tired, but I can’t sleep.

Hope renewal

Note about the blog content: I will no longer post negative material (emotions, experiences, confessions etc.) on this blog, unless it is to describe my progress on my recovery. I want to be as honest as I can, and as much as it may help someone who needs empathy for going through depression and anxiety, I feel as if I’m doing a disservice by posting repetitive stories of what goes through my head at my lowest. It’s self gratifying, not particularly artistic in any way, and I believe it doesn’t actually help anyone including myself. I don’t want to sound like the “Depressed Person” at the end of the other line in the middle of the night calling an old friend over long distance just to relieve the story out of her head. I have a community of people in real life now who are helping me vent- the other survivors of depression, who have gone through it all themselves, and I don’t feel as if these short lasting agonies belong as a fossil on the internet.  I won’t delete my past posts- the past posts reflect how badly I needed to be heard by someone who was understanding of the situation (because of the sparseness of my Support System who had some form of a mental health background who could “deal” with me – who are amazing people I am blessed to have in my life as they have saved my life multiple times.)

It’s the second day at the hospital and I’ve learned so much, and I’m so glad I found such an amazing program. It’s a lot more intense than anything I’ve ever done- the schedule is a full day 9:30am – 4pm packed with group therapy after individual therapy after psychiatrists appointments (and repeat)… when I actually need them, and not 3 weeks after I call to make an appointment. So far I’ve started “classes” on Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Exposure therapy, and group consists of topics like relationship dynamics and food & nutrition. I like to think of it as mental health school rather than an actual hospital, because I’m relearning to live, deal with distress in a manageable way. It’s like I’m learning how to walk for the second time. For those who are consider hospitalization because you need help, if you are able to do it, it might just be (let’s be real, it’s only day two here) the fastest ticket out of your misery, if you’re not getting the support you need.

Thankfully, I was able to see the psychiatrist today to discuss what the hell is going on with my memory and my grasp on reality. The answer was simple, and a relief- it was most likely a withdrawal symptom, and not my current medication. (It is common to have severe withdrawals from Cymbalta, according to my doctor.) The withdrawal is getting better day by day. The disassociation exists, but it doesn’t last for 24 hours every single day, but comes and goes in small bursts (brain zaps, as they call it) through out the day, which is difficult when I try to get my body to go from point A to B. It feels like I get awoken from a dream every few seconds, or like when your car stops in the middle of the road while you’re driving and you need to reignite every few seconds.

I’ve been struggling with the idea of relationships since I broke up with someone I care about a lot because of what I’m going through, and I stumbled upon this gem after some google searching. It’s by someone who blogs about postpartum depression (PPD), but totally applicable to any other type of depression out there that erode relationships. I’ve bolded the ideas that resonated with me the most.

I will probably never understand exactly why so many relationships end up in this cycle of blame and shame while we are already facing such an ugly mental health monster to overcome.

It is not you. It’s the monster.

So what do we do? What do they do?

If a partner is being unsupportive, they are tired of something they don’t understand. And maybe some of them do not have the ability to educate themselves and shut down their judgments. That’s so painful, but it is NOT about you. It is not about who you are or how worthy you are. If someone in your life, especially someone that close to you, cannot attempt to learn WHY you can’t get up, why you are so sad or angry or unaffectionate, etc., that is not your fault.

If that person ends up believing that you are just not trying hard enough, they are wrong.

When your partner is unsupportive, and won’t go to counseling with you to get the feedback from a professional that would educate them, you are left to keep your chin up, which is really hard to do when you can’t function the way you wish you could in any way.

This means YOU need more counseling and more support from someone other than your partner than ever before. There is no shame in needing that.Remember to think of yourself as a person healing from an illness or a terrible body trauma like a car accident. This is the same. It takes time and help.

With more counseling, with a good practitioner that knows how to lead you, you will find your way to confidence, to not looking for your worth in another person, to not trying to be affirmed by anyone other than YOU. This will be a gift for the rest of your life. It does not feel like it now, but I promise you that if you find your way to the depths of your strength aside from what anyone thinks with their messy incorrect brains, you will find a freedom to carry forward for the rest of your life.

That is a miracle that comes packaged as something ugly. That is grace.

Maybe someday your partner will get it. Maybe they will watch you walk through recovery and they will be humbled by the person that comes through the other side. Maybe they won’t. This is not in your control. Let it go.

This is a dark time and it is hard on everyone. Can two people survive it? Yes. Do some fail? Yes. You are on your own path, and you can certainly find a way to trust yourself and your partner again, as you both heal.

But if your partner has become verbally and/or emotionally abusive in response to your pain, or if you are not sure what you are experiencing is abuse, talk to a professional. Let them help you see things clearly. Let them help you make decisions about what is best for your family. This is not a time to make big decisions alone.

What I tell partners all the time is this:

You may not ever fully understand what is happening to your partner while she struggles, and you are not required to fully understand. BUT, you are required to love her unconditionally.

That doesn’t mean partners should be doormats, receiving all the negative energy that comes from this illness. But if you are getting help and allowing time to heal you, patience is required and trust, though hard to find, needs to be fought for within both of you. Both people need to fight for hope, and to remember that there is so much good still there, rising up, to begin again.

– Heather King, Post Partum Progress

I absolutely love this post above because it gives me so much strength to go on. You are always #1, and you have to remember you can’t control others, or blame yourself for what they do and don’t do.

Why I’m going back to the hospital

To the people who don’t know the details of what I’m going through, this might be a surprise. I got out of the hospital months ago- why go back now?

I was hospitalized around late February after I checked myself in the ER after a failed suicide attempt, and have been treated so far through an unstructured outpatient program with a psychiatrist and therapist, which I thought was enough, and unfortunately it hasn’t worked. I was wrong. My depression is more severe, more resistant to medication, and more deeply rooted than I/we (the medical team working with me) initially thought. I’ve never skipped the prescribed medication, I exercised when I could push myself to do so (at least three times a week), I left the house to do something physical every day, read many books on depression, went through workbooks on depression, meditated, learned about DBT, got a pet- I’m sure there are things I’ve missed, but I’ve worked my ass off, I’ve made an effort, as much as my body allowed. So, simply, I’m going to get more help from the people who know better.

  1. I’ve tried everything I could get my hands on.
    1. For someone finding out about about her depression and anxiety without a psychiatry/psychology background (I majored in math and economics in college), there is only so much you can learn from books and the web- the knowledge you get is often anecdotal and surface level that isn’t individualized for my depression. Depression is so varied from one person to another, that you can’t possibly get the name of the magic pill that will cure your specific illness because it’s so interconnected to your own specific life experience, which makes it hard to diagnose. It’s been months, but I’m finding new things about myself every single day that could potentially change the doctor’s opinion about my diagnosis.
    2. I go to therapy twice a week and see my psychiatrist for medication management every 3 weeks, so I’m not learning about this depression (specific to me) fast enough from the professionals who can teach me about it. I’m not saying I haven’t learned anything about my condition over the last few months, in fact I know more about the inner workings of my mind far more than I ever imagined possible, but the speed at which this depression is taking over my thoughts is faster than I can block/escape it.
    3. I feel hopeless. I don’t believe medication will work, so I have to try something else.
  2. I need more help, but I’m having trouble asking for it.
    1. This might be another symptom of depression, but I don’t feel worthy of getting help most of the time. So I end up not calling my psychiatrist who is in the suburbs (not in the city where I live) when there is something wrong with my meds. I don’t text my friend when I need his/her support because I’m scared and I think they will get fed up with me and leave me (which has happened). I think that I’m not worthy or a relationship or a happy future within a relationship with another person and I feel essentially doomed, hopeless, and I don’t want to drag anyone down with me. I don’t think that I can ever have the normal family life I dreamed of. I keep thinking, if I were normal, and could choose someone without depression, I would, and why wouldn’t he? I can’t say what I believe is actually “true” (as my therapist would say)- but it’s due to the distorted thinking caused by depression that makes me think along these lines (also what she would say). I can ask for help more easily if the hand is reached out to me first, like say from an RN or mental health worker in a hospital setting, because it’s their job.
  3. I need more support from a community of people who already understand my condition without me having to educate them.
    1. I already mentioned this, but I don’t know how someone else can help me who isn’t a mental health professional. I don’t know how to help myself, so when someone asks how they can help, I appreciate their thought, but it puts more pressure on me to figure it out which ends up making me feel inadequate.
    2. Group therapy will help. When I was in group therapy before, I felt like I was in a safe environment where people didn’t judge me, or see that I’m three eyed or something, so I can be relaxed and open about how I was actually doing without sugarcoating the gory details. Because most people freak the f*ck out if I tell them how I imagined I would want to die and when (answer: painlessly, as soon as possible), I censor myself for their sake, and that doesn’t make me feel better, and I feel more disconnected from them.
  4. I’m scared.
    1. I used to be able to catch my thoughts drifting from sadness to suicidal, but the lines are getting hazy. I move from being sad to suicidal much quicker now. I think about death and how it would be so much easier to just wipe my existence off this planet. I think it’s good that I’ve learned how to distract myself better, but I don’t think it’s a good sign that the bad thoughts are so automatic now.
    2. My mother, my main caretaker who has been taking care of me broke down a few days ago, because it got so painful for her to watch me go through all this. She’s not the only one who broke down this way, of course. My mother has been my only rock through all this, giving me hope when all hope was lost, and pushing me when I needed pushing in the gentlest way she could imagine, feeding me when I rejected food, but she can’t take it anymore by herself. She needs help. The other day, when she was sleeping from exhaustion from keeping me safe, I had an psychotic/manic/dissociative-god-knows-what-this-is-called episode and cut all my hair. I’m becoming too much to handle for just one person.
  5. I’ve gotten worse.
    1. I’m having more frequent panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. I have statistical evidence to prove this because I’ve numerically tracked my mood and behavior daily in the past two months. Enough said.
  6. I want to get better as soon as I can. Whatever it takes.
    1. I know that the number of hours spent in therapy or the number of doctors on my case and my recovery isn’t a linear, straightforward relationship, but I’m hoping as I recruit more help, recovery will come sooner than later.

I’m writing all this at a very disassociated state, so it might not make a whole lot of sense. I will be getting admitted to the hospital tomorrow.

Live another hour

The goal is simple. Live another hour.

There’s always a little hope waking up every morning thinking that I’m waking up from this nightmare. But today was not the day. I was disoriented again- I couldn’t remember all the events that occurred before this moment. I wasn’t sure if my friend was still talking to me or we’re still not talking, or if I had broken up with my boyfriend or not. I hoped all of that was just a dream and I would be freed from the pain of living another day like yesterday. I can only be glad that I have this blog to ground me of what is real and what is not, and what has happened and what has not.

I cut half of my hair yesterday with a pair of scissors my mother was hiding from me during only what I could describe as psychosis or manic moment. She was too tired so she napped through when it happened. They said I was unipolar, but what the hell. Anything is fair game at this severity of my depression. I had this terrible impulsive urge for two days to raze it all off. I never thought of it before but there is so much itchiness that goes along with having any amounts of hair at all. It was bothering me so much. I used to love how it looked but I hated it now. I didn’t think about how it would look afterwards. I just wanted to chop it off with my own hands. To me it represented non-attachment. Because I want so badly to be free right now. The dissociation didn’t go away as I half heartily hoped. There was still a stranger in my mirror starring back at me, and I didn’t care much for her. She was ugly with terrible skin, and now with terrible hair.

The hospital needs to do another assessment before I can get admitted so they can place me in either partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient. My assessment is today, so as long as I can get through today, through this dissociative muck of a reality that doesn’t seem to be mine, I will be safe. I don’t feel safe right now being by myself, so I am on 24 hour watch by my mother. I just don’t know whether or not if my impulsive self will try to cut anything else off another than my hair because it doesn’t like it. I watched out the window to see if I fell out of my apartment building I would successfully crack my head open and kill myself. I stepped away from that window and the desire. I’m really scared. I feel like I’m walking on the edge of a cliff, and one missed step will plunge me into my death. I’m scared to let my head think anything so I’m chain watching mindless TV, or crocheting something that requires fastidious counting. In my mind, anyone who cares about me, other than my mother will leave me at any second, so I already accepted that they will go.

Writing all this down isn’t really helpful for anyone but myself I guess, but it helps me to concentrate on anything that isn’t potentially fatal. So I continue to write on this blog. To live another hour and live another day. I don’t want to check into the ER. I hated all the waiting and checking of my vitals every second and the hospital food.

I’m not religious, but I religiously believe that this will end. Everything has a beginning and an end.

I start on my starting dose of Prozac (medication #3, ugh) today at 10 mg. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but it’s all I have right now.


For two days I’ve been struggling with what I’m newly discovering as “dissociation,” not disorientation as I have called for what I felt. Sleeping alleviates the severity of it, it turns out, and ironically, when I have it, I feel better because I’m not in as much pain if I felt anything or had negative thoughts. People on the internet call it a defense mechanism for severe stress, and shouldn’t be rejected.

Dissociation is a common defense/reaction to stressful or traumatic situations. Severe isolated traumas or repeated traumas may result in a person developing a dissociative disorder. A dissociative disorder impairs the normal state of awareness and limits or alters one’s sense of identity, memory or consciousness. Once considered rare, recent research indicates that dissociative symptoms are as common as anxiety and depression, and that individuals with dissociative disorders (particularly Dissociative Identity Disorder and Depersonalization Disorder) are frequently misdiagnosed for many years, delaying effective treatmentIn fact, persons suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder often seek treatment for a variety of other problems including depression, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, alcohol or drug abuse, temper outbursts, and even hearing voices, or psychotic symptoms.  People with dissociation often also seek treatment for a variety of medical problems including headaches, unexplained pains, and memory problems. Many people have symptoms that have gone undetected or untreated simply because they were unable to identify their problem, or were not asked the right questions about their symptoms.

-from Understanding Dissociative disorders

For about a few days, I fell into deep anhedonia (more severe than before) and I was trying fend it off by doing things I used to like, but except for a few moments, like when I was watching a movie I liked for the first time, I went back to it again. My mother helped me to go outside in the last few days, and we walk down Magnificent Mile to get coffee and go shopping, but all I did was standing still in the middle of a store staring up ahead without looking at anything in the store because nothing interested me. I didn’t realize I was doing this until my mother came up an saw my face- apparently I looked like I saw someone die. I told her that I actually didn’t feel all that bad, because I couldn’t feel anything. The whole store, it looked like scraps of fabric like food looks like scraps of dead animal and cut up weed to me now.

Today for my daily walk, which my mother administers when I can’t get myself to go, we went down to River North to get coffee. The coffee was just an excuse for me to do something active. I suddenly had  the strangest urge to cut my hair. Not just cut it, but raze it all off. I used to think it was one of my favorite parts of my physical self, but I wanted it gone. Somehow it tickled my forehead and neck in ways I hated. And I hated it for making me look normal. If I shaved it off, people would know that I was sick inside. This made me so sad once we got to the place for coffee, I shut down- disassociation set in and everything went blank- all my emotions (anger, annoyance, irritability) just got wiped off and felt a sense of calm- but in a scary way like when you hear ghostly church hymns. The place was crowded with rude people who pushed to get into the few seats they had, so I must have gotten overwhelmed. I didn’t feel like I was there. I was just going through the motions of ordering coffee, saying thanks with a smile and paying for it. My mother saw me and said I didn’t look good, so we walked back home. I didn’t feel anything until I came home, but collapsed, crying because my emotions came back when I reached my door. My mother as she watched me go through yet another breakdown and had another breakdown herself, saying that it was her fault for not catching me have this disease as a child, and just pushing me to do better, when I quietly got through life, suffering, not making mistakes and doing everything right. I told her she didn’t know and it wasn’t her fault. I shut down again because I couldn’t get sadder than seeing my mother face defeat over something we both can’t control. I felt worse seeing her this way. I felt more broken than ever. She said that the worst part is that she can’t tell anyone else about this because of the stigma, and my dad doesn’t understand because he’s so far away. No one understands. Everyone leaves. All my family is in Korea and my mother can’t help me here because she doesn’t speak English well. It’s always been like this since we left Korea, but I no longer had the strength to keep her safe, which I’ve done since I was ten. In a nutshell, I used to a be high functioning depressive. Not anymore.

I broke up with my boyfriend because I wasn’t strong enough to heal myself, carry my mother’s hope, and a relationship. There’s only so much effort I can manage to put forth, and it wasn’t fair to him or to my family or myself. I should be sad, and I probably am if I could access my emotions, but I’m still feeling disassociated from myself and my situation to know what is going on, so instead I feel nothing.

I’ve decided to go back to the hospital this week.


I’m not going to lie, the last few years of my life (when I suspect I started falling into depression) has been pretty darn confusing. Confusing because I was starting to dip my feet in the real world and starting to make my own observations and judgments about it, and because I lost myself in the process. Ask me what my favorite anything is. Favorite ice cream, movie, hobbies… I don’t know, and I can’t remember. If I don’t have preferences, do I qualify as a real human being?

I sometimes have to think a little to remember where I am, what I’m doing with these people around me, and where I’m headed and I start to panic because I’m lost. Disoriented.

These last few months have been extra confusing because of the frequent changes in my mood due to frequent changes in my medication and, following it, my worldview and how I see myself in it. One day, I am absolutely mortified of a result of a phone call for changing psychiatrists (which is in no way my fault, by the way), and the next day everything and everyone looks so calm and inviting. One day I’m afraid to look strangers in the eye and end up walking with my head down because I’m ashamed (of something) and another day, I feel beautiful and I feel like I deserve to be recognized (for something.) I would love to be less existential on a day to day basis, but I happen to have a lot of time on my hands right now.

I’m starting to trust these “feelings” and “moods” a little less. In Buddhism, which is the religion I’m most closely affiliated with so far (try to convert me, if you want- proselytizers are always welcome), we meditate to observe and analyze these passing emotions/thoughts/feelings to gain insight to the “truth.” Once you’ve done this enough, not to spoil the ending or anything, you begin to see that these emotions are simply our reactions- which are sometimes far from the truth.

I’ve been thinking about separating myself from depression, and how to do it more effectively, and I figured thinking, as I would during a mediation might help. It’s a bit tiring to do it every time but you get used to it. What you do is, whenever you feel your emotion changing (let’s say from good to angry,) question that emotion. Why do you feel that emotion? Is there a basis for that emotion? Is this just another chemical reaction in your head? Is what you’re feeling helpful in your life? Is the emotion “real?” If not, the emotion is not coming from you. It’s coming from your depression.

Same thing goes for your physical state. When you feel tired, think back to why. Have you over exerted yourself? Sleep enough? If not, and you still feel fatigue, that is not you feeling how tired you are. That is the depression.