The gift

Today is about mixed episodes. I’m depressed, meaning, most of my thoughts are dark and morbid, but I feel somehow elevated because of the holidays music and the presence of family- this contradiction is often confusing and tormenting rather than alleviating. Strangely, I find myself laughing at my self-deprecating thoughts from afar. I feel absolutely terrible for being alive, but kind of amused at the irony of all at the same time. Like when you get one of those invisible bruises that hurt: there is no coloration where the pain is, no plum colored dead cells to indicate anything has been damaged, but when you press down on it, it hurts. Then you start pressing on it even more to see if it’s real and to see where exactly it is. Ugh. Pretty funny.

This season is triggering for me, because I’m a meticulous gift giver. I enjoy finding the perfect gift for people in my life and spend a lot of time and money on it. I try to remember what they have said they would like to get months in advance. Or find something symbolically thoughtful- something we both share, as friends. I think I enjoy buying other people gifts more than buying things for myself. Well, after everything that’s happened this year, after a lot of broken relationships since the hospitalizations, I found a smaller number of gifts to give this year. This made me feel isolated, empty and lonely- and it’s in a sense, kind of funny- people complain about having to buy people gifts most of the time. When I walk through my favorite stores to find gifts, I remember what I was thinking about last year when I was browsing the same aisles, just with slightly different merchandise and decoration, and notice myself comparing my situation now to my situation a year ago, and the years before this year. A thought train wreck.

Out of nowhere, though, one of my friends sent me homemade fudge! I almost cried, because I was feeling especially down that day, thinking too much about what I’ve lost, and it was just the perfect gift to bring me back to thinking more positively. I wasn’t forgotten, I guess.

All I want for Christmas

All I want for Christmas is to be stable. If not for long, for just two weeks. Just until the New Year. If not for me, for my dad who is flying across the world to get to our New York home from the Old Country, (because I can’t travel across time zones at the moment- for it triggers my mood swings), despite the ten hour delay because of a stupid fog. If not for me, for my mom who had to deal with my dissociation that decided to come out while buying rotisserie chicken at the crowded grocery store today. If not for me, for those who didn’t walk away when I was at my worst.

Liebster Award

Thank you Lavender and Levity and Sunflower Treehouse for the Liebster Award! I’ve been meaning to write this up for months now, but I wasn’t really settled enough to do this quite yet! But two moves later, and many depressive and hypomanic cycles later, here I am.

liebster

Rules of the Liebster Award

The Liebster Award is a blogger award for new bloggers or those with a small following. It is a way of giving new bloggers some recognition and encouragement for their hard work.

The instructions for accepting the award and passing it on are as follows.

  • Create a new blog post on your blog thanking the person that nominated you, link to their blog, and put in a graphic of the award.
  • Answer the questions that were provided, and then share some facts about yourself.
  • Create a new set of your own questions for others to answer.
  • Nominate ten others and share your blog post with them so they can accept their award!

Questions from L&L

  • What is your Myers-Briggs type? Do you think it describes you?
    • I used to be a textbook ISTJ (Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging). I haven’t taken the test recently, so I’m sure it’s different now.
  • Which technological invention of the past 100 years could you least live without?
    • Automatically cleaning litter boxes for cats, and the iWatch.
  • If it were solely up to you (no medical, job or family demands to dictate otherwise), what time would you go to bed at night, and what time would you wake up?
    • I would sleep like the average person because I’m sensitive to noise and light. But if I had blackout curtains and soundproof walls, that would be a different story.
  • What is your favorite pizza topping?
    • I would put on all the cheese. Goat cheese, Gruyere, Gouda, Mozzarella…But I’d have to take my dairy pill.
  • What superpower would you choose if you could have only one?
    • They’re probably going to come up with flying cars soon, so I’ll go with mind reading (humans and other species)- but does this mean that I can speak all the other languages other people are speaking too? If the thoughts are in a different language, then I won’t be able to understand them right? I guess I’ll go with invisibility then.
  • Again, assuming no financial, medical, family or job demands, and that all options were available where you live, would you rather drive your car or take public transportation?
    • I would rather take public transportation because I’m terrified of cars. I’d live in Paris. I don’t like their subways though, they don’t believe in A/C, so I guess I would just walk.
  • If you could only eat stereotypically “breakfast” foods, “lunch” foods or “dinner” foods for the rest of your life, which would you pick?
    • I’m pretty ambivalent, as long as it’s something that I enjoy eating. Probably dinner. I feel like people consider different foods appropriate for different time of day. Koreans eat savory pancakes for dinner and French people basically eat dessert for breakfast (have you seen the nutella bottles?).

Questions from Sunflower Treehouse

1. Why did you start blogging?

I started the blog (as I start most things now) during a productive hypomanic episode where I just had the desire to write, vent, put the word out there, advocate for people who are going through a shitty time like I was (and basically save the world). I envisioned starting a movement, similar to Livestrong, for mental health, that would go viral. After a few more cycles of depressive episodes where I was rendered incapable to start any project other than healing myself first, I thought I’d take it easy and just write about my progress and how things are. So in a way, it’s a record of my recovery.

2. What do you love most about your writing?

There are two different questions I can think of from this. What I love about writing itself and what I love that is unique in my writing. Writing for me is a time capsule where it helps preserve a feeling, or a thought by me at a point in time, that could be read by me at another time, by “another me” and reflect that under a different light. Because my thoughts, opinions, and viewpoints vary so much hour by hour due to bipolar disorder, depending on my mood, it is sometimes a reminder that I am not just a product of a feeling, and that I am capable of thinking a different way. As for my own writing personally, I use a lot of metaphors and imagery in my writing maybe because I am also a visual artist.

3. Describe the most interesting person you’ve ever met.

When I was studying in Paris at age 17, I met someone at the language school there. He was from Finland, and spoke 7 languages, and was about to finish his PhD in economics that would go towards his conservation work in the forests in Thailand. He was a vegetarian, but ate the fish he caught. He was much older, but we became friends over our shared interest in literature (in English).

4. What don’t you get enough credit for?

For keeping things interesting.

5. What do you wish you could say?

I wish I could tell people that I have bipolar disorder without looking like a crazy. Someday.

6. Do you like pasta?

YES. So much.

7. If you could go to space, what kind of lunch would you pack?

I don’t really care about my lunch, but do I get to bring my cat up there?

8. Do you prefer movies or TV shows?

Movies. TV shows can go on and on, and I can’t stand the waiting between the episodes and seasons (especially if it’s a good one).

9. Is there a hobby you wish you would have either stuck with or picked up?

If I thought a hobby was worth picking up, I probably would have already, ha ha. But from the past, Tae Kwon Do. I started when I was little, but only got to yellow belt. That and rock climbing.

10. Do you have any scars? From what?

Not a whole lot of scars, but I do have one from when I fell flat on my face on concrete that is hardly visible on my left chin.

Other facts about me: My mother is my best friend and she is the only person in the world that has seen me in every different environment/country that I have lived in (and I’ve traveled, moved a lot). This is just a fact of life for the modern urban nomad which has it’s upsides and downsides.


 

I nominate the following blogs:

  1. Rachel’s recovery
  2. Thoughts from a female-exec
  3. Anxious Elephant
  4. Polarized Mind
  5. Bipolar, Uninvited
  6. My Life with PTSD & Bipolar
  7. The Bipolar Writer
  8. she’s a seeker
  9. Travis and the Brain
  10. dimdazedaughter

My questions for you

  1. What motivated to start your blog?
  2. Why do keep coming back to your blog?
  3. Which is your most read post to date?
  4. If you had to choose, would you rather receive a 1 billion dollars (or just a very large sum in whichever currency you prefer) and be + 30 years older, or be able to become a baby, but with all the knowledge that you have accumulated thus far, and start all over again, back in time? Why?
  5. What does mental illness mean to you? It can be general or about a specific disorder.
  6. What is the most important thing in your life?
  7. What are 3 things you are most grateful for at this moment?
  8. What color(s) is (/are) your curtain(s)?
  9. What is the last book you read?
  10. What is “being”?

Readers: Please feel free to answer any of the questions in the comments below, I’d love to hear the answers!

Thanks for reading.

Why you should choose your therapist based on your common cultural experience if you’re multicultural

There has been some good progress on my end. First off, sleep has been the best it’s ever been since I first started to see symptoms of bipolar depression. That means I slept through the night for eight hours straight. This is a huge step forward for me (as well as a hopeful sign of improvement,) because the last time I slept through the night without some kind of a tranquilizer (Ativan mostly), consecutively for two days, was over a year ago. Every night, I was haunted by insomnia, night terror, anxiety and other bizarre sleep problems that kept my brain wide awake in the middle of the night. The second is what I’m working on in therapy. I’m starting to piece together the “why” I am this way. Why the hell im sick. If you’ve been reading since the inception of my blog, then you know how I was triggered into having my first full blown episode because of work related stress- but it’s never that simple for bipolar disorder like other brain disorders.  It wasn’t just work and it wasn’t just the stress. There are just so many reasons, contributing factors both immediate, and long term that affects the brain, that it’s impossible to pinpoint one specific event or cause. However, it’s still important to understand why, for the sake of closure, acceptance and to do things differently the next time. In short, I think my disorder came about because of my quiet, agreeable and disciplined disposition coupled by difficulties that followed the unilateral decisions made by my caregivers that are in no way ill-intentioned. More concretely, I was a quiet kid, who followed rules and who tried to do things right, without offending or angering anyone she cared about. My parents separated when I was ten years old, but rather discreetly- and the only way they kept things together was by living very far from each other. My mother and I moved to Canada, where we had no family, without speaking English. My dad and the rest of my extended family stayed back home, in Korea. I was enrolled in school, so I picked up the language pretty quickly. Soon I had to fill the role of the adult in the household because my mother wasn’t as lucky with getting assimilated into the culture. Paying bills, writing letters, making calls, filing complaints, and making informed decisions. When I was absent from school, I wrote my own letter of absence to take it to school. This is probably a common theme for first generation immigrants- you have no room for mistakes, rebellion, or misbehavior. There is no time to indulge in complaints, or laze around, be a kid. As a minority immigrant, you work double what the others do to get to where they are in society, in the new world- and that’s what I knew since I was ten years old. It doesn’t matter much if you were middle class, upper class or lower middle back in the old country, you’re on your own to establish who you are. Growing up, I never felt safe in my home with just me and my mother. I was a violinist, so every time I practiced which was everyday, an angry neighbor surreptitiously came up and kicked our door. I got hate letters from one of my so called friends who wished I went to hell- my mom and I figured she was jealous despite our temporary, shabby looking situation, I was able to go to music school. There was bullying involved, both at school and online. There are other mistreatments, racism, hatred, abuse that came with living in a foreign country with just one other adult who couldn’t really take care of you, or protect you as family should. This is in no way to blame my parents- they were doing the best they could in their given situation. It was not unusual to send your kids abroad to English speaking counties if your family was affluent. But the fact of the matter is, I’ve developed PTSD from the anxiety filled life where I cried under my blankets every night in silence to not upset my mother, and where I put on a brace face every morning. Every year, we had to make a decision to stay in Canada or go back to the old country- and that meant a) no stability, and b) living in rental apartments that were hardly furnished. I never felt tethered to a place, and I felt that I was temporary. This meant that I was always making up my back story to new people I met, and that meant that I wasn’t inviting anyone over. Family holidays were truncated to summers when I went back to my real home, where dad and the rest of the family were, and thanksgiving and Christmas were spent eating chicken because turkeys were too big for a party of two. There is much more but I’ll stop myself from getting flooded. These memories were so disturbing that I had suppressed most of it until I started psychotherapy with my current therapist. It helps that she is a first generation immigrant herself from the same country that I am from, and knows the hurdles and difficulties. Before her, people either envied the position I was in, or just had no clue what I was going through. I learned that choosing the right therapist is so very crucial, because if they don’t know where you’re coming from through experience, they won’t understand the source of the problem, and they won’t be able to help. One can read thousands of books on someone’s culture and study anthropology, but an armchair anthropologist can only know so much.

My multicultural situation is pretty unique, and I realize that when dealing with a mental disorder that is already complicated, a complicated life story makes it even harder to discuss with another person and still get all the cultural nuisances right. There is still more to dig, but I’m happy that I’m able to remember some of my so called childhood and feel validated for the first time in my life.

Rapid cycling

Note: Trigger warning.

It’s happening again, and I can sense it. The thoughts, the plans, the flashback to the old plans, the walk-throughs of such plans, the google searches. The hopelessness, numbness, the dissociations, the flatness in my tone, exhaustion. The door is coming out again from out of nowhere. It’s time to call the psychiatrist and think about my packing my bags for inpatient, yet again.

I’m exhausted from the last few days where I have been cycling much quicker than usual.  It’s like the weather. Compared to the gradually changing weather, it’s like it was sunny then a hailstorm hit, then repeat. It’s just downright confusing during the shift. It’s hard to connect back to the person that was standing there laughing at a joke a few minutes ago to someone who sees all gray, doom and gloom, thinking if it wouldn’t hurt to much to jump in front of the car, the next minute. Moreover, it’s much harder to connect yourself back to the person who was so motivated, full of life to the current version of the thing that you are a part of, somehow.

The thoughts have become so overplayed that I no longer fear them when they come up. They’re like unpleasant background noise that I don’t try to catch the lyrics to. It’s a bit sad that something so life threatening can become so mundane, but humans get used to everything right? I’m still sane enough to know that killing myself is ridiculous and not something I want to do, but once the serotonin levels get messed up again (or whatever that is not right in my brain), then my “sane” thoughts become lies, and then I start to see the other side of the argument that is devoid of any logic. I’ve survived attempts and numerous thoughts before, so I know what I need to do to keep me safe from myself, and to know what thought to listen to and what not to listen to, but it’s always so painful when you hear the thoughts saying that it’s not meant to be and that you’re living on borrowed time.

 

Gratitude

Watercolor of my cat, Olivia

Thankful that I didn’t have an episode today when I almost could have at the store. Thankful that I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. Thankful that I laughed more than once today at something stupid. Thankful that I have family that understands and supports. Thankful that there are people who can differentiate me from the illness. Thankful for modern medicine and drugs. Thankful for my curious and silly cat. Thankful for being healthy enough to be able to help others. Thankful for being able to hope. Thankful for today, despite what yesterday was and tomorrow might be.