Friday, May 26, 2017


Today, I checked in with my counselor to stave off a panic attack. Despite her role in a department that primarily handles sexual assault, I thought it would be relevant to discuss my current state as it is similar to the situation over spring break that led to a non-consensual encounter. In anticipation of going back to San Jose this weekend, I've been incapacitated by the anxiety of interacting with my parents. I don't want to repeat the mistake of placing myself in an unsafe situation as a distraction to recover from that mental health state. Like binge eating, self harm via other people is a coping mechanism — obviously not the best one but a strategy nonetheless.

My counselor's response was that I should do what I needed to do to survive — if that means a reckless and irresponsible hookup, so be it. At first this didn't make sense to me: how would placing myself in danger help me survive? But I had an epiphany when I realized that sometimes it is easier to recover from an acute trauma than it is to resolve longstanding traumas that have built up over years, as is the case with my parents. It was a means to redirect my attention from the suicidal thoughts that emerged in the aftermath of the panic attack. The issue with the spring break incident wasn't that it felt like the fallout directly from a sexual assault, but rather, that it refreshed recurrent issues around control and affection that stem from my relationship with my parents. The hookup itself was easy to recover from, if I had to recover at all.

I called my mother at 7:30pm today to discuss the logistics of traveling back to San Jose. Seeing as it would be a hassle to drive forty minutes each way, then pick up my sister, then go to the dentist, I made plans for a friend to pick me up from the train station and drop me off at the dentist directly instead. Somehow, this change in plans irritated her. Toward the end of the call she went off on a tangent, making accusatory remarks about how I didn't ask her earlier about finding a subletter. One, I did bring it up to which she said nothing (her excuse is that she didn't know anyone at the time who was looking) and two, it's not as if she's never shoved her unwanted input at me regardless.

I can't quite identify what about this kind of behavior sets me off, but the reality is that it severely affects my mental health. It is now 9:30pm — two hours wasted lying on my bed trying to recover from a minor conversation. If anything, this conversation was the impetus for my resolve to stay with my friend over the next few days in San Jose rather than living at home. My mother will no doubt be furious, but I'd rather confront that later than to subject myself to a continuously toxic environment. ◊

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Letters to Myself

Hello to whatever future version of me reads this. For context so you don't have to do the math, I'm 19 years old and it's a few weeks into summer break. I've just gotten back from a therapist appointment and Target run to pick up some juice and cookies. I'm in a depressive trough again, likely due to anxious anticipation of having to go back to San Jose for a few days. As a result, I'm struggling with simple tasks like packing up my things to move into my new apartment and D.C. for the summer. I learned a new thing at therapy today: I've been so focused on the mental aspect of health that I've been neglecting the physiological portion, or at least it's been relegated to the bottom of my list when it's so much more important. Hence the juice and cookies.

I'm worried. About what, exactly, I'm not too sure, but that's the nature of anxiety. Another thing I learned is that it's good to remind myself that I am safe where I am right now. This is my room, in Berkeley, where I have some degree of control over my life. Ignore the feeling of impending doom about going to San Jose and focus on the upcoming excitement and novelty of D.C. In the meantime, clear that headspace up a bit. The therapist said that when I go back this weekend it's going to take a long time to recover. I'll revert back to the fifteen year old, the eleven year old, the seven year old, who is scared and doesn't know what to do. They did a good job surviving and staying alive, even if the protective mechanisms they developed in depression and dissociation sometimes hinder situations that are out of context. Tell them what they need to hear. I'm ok now and I'll be ok in the future. Write out every horrible thing the parents have done because yes it really happened and no it's not okay. It's ok to be scared, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to be done about it. I don't know if this will make any sense, but it's worth a shot to put it out there.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Three Hundred

If I don't decide to go back someday and delete any old posts, this will be my 300th blog post to date. It's astounding how long I've managed to maintain this blog and post on a somewhat regular basis. I feel like I've put off editing this draft for a long time because it does reflect on some heavier topics, but it needs to be said. I'm currently sitting in a library at UC Davis (visiting Wei-Wei!) with nothing else to do for a few hours anyway. All the events on my schedule so far have been checked off — blood work, Teach For America interview, housing, internship prep — and soon I'll start packing for my new apartment and D.C. I'm looking forward to my summer even though I was initially hesitant that I wouldn't be doing enough of a "prestigious" internship. If anything, this semester has taught me not to overcommit myself. Additionally, I have five essays to make up, and I want to enjoy and sightsee in D.C. as well. Besides, non-profit work in D.C. should be very engaging politically.

This summer has started off on an incredibly happy note. My friend Madison graduated, a year early similar to my own plan, and we went to the beach to celebrate surviving finals together. We headed out via public transport to Ocean Beach in SF. It was excessively windy, but warm. I felt like a child again as I waded through the gentle, but bitingly cold, waves. We dug around for sand crabs for a bit before moving further up the beach into warmer sands. It might have been too comfortable as I ended up falling asleep for two hours. I thought I escaped the sun unscathed but unfortunately woke up the next morning with a very angry red sunburn on the back of my legs. That was a week ago, but you can still see the purplish patches on my legs even now.

I honestly don't know if I'll ever see Madison again now that she's graduated, but something she said to me will stick for a very long time: "I don't know what you'll do in the future — it could be big things or little things — but I do know it will be good things." Coming from someone who's only known me for a semester, yet said with so much conviction, her words renew my resolve to strive to be a good person despite my habituations based in toxic defense mechanisms. Sometimes it's weird to realize that so many things in my life have been not normal. A friend offered to help me figure out my insurance and lease and bank account; in the process I realized that my parents had been neglecting to provide me healthcare except in the most extreme cases all my childhood. I didn't know how a lot of these things worked for most people. It turns out, insurance is pretty straightforward and is not as much of a hassle as my parents made it out to be.

As much as I have an idea of what I'm doing in life, I'm still working on figuring out who I am and how life works. Easy things to start with are exercise and eating right; harder still are interpersonal relationships and being a decent human being. I'm in a constant process of unlearning toxicity: my manipulative tendencies, my selfishness, my carelessness for other people's feelings. These things developed as protective mechanisms against abusive parents, but as I move into a new stage of life removed from these negative inputs, I feel ready to get help for my mental health problems via long term counseling and medication if necessary. Medication will probably depend on what happens when I go to get a diagnosis. I think that it is likely bipolar II, which is effectively treatable with lithium. Right now I feel very stable but the past few weeks have proved that things can spiral very quickly, very intensely, especially after contact with my parents. I'm seriously considering going no contact after I graduate. Maybe someday I can reconcile with them, but right now there is some need to maintain a separation. Just the other day my mother called me and started to guilt trip me, bringing up hurtful things that happened over a decade ago. My core anxiety is based in the belief that maybe they were right all along and they're wonderful people and I'm simply too sensitive and ungrateful. Of course, there is plenty of evidence otherwise, but I think therapy is necessary to help me fully accept my circumstances.

Sometimes I am frustrated by how these things outside of my control have hampered my ability to live fully. I wonder what I'd be able to accomplish if I had a different childhood, one that didn't leave a burden of mental health problems and trauma. Honestly, either way, I'm probably going to live a fairly unremarkable life. But as long as I can live a life with integrity and always work on self improvement, that seems pretty good. I'm working on accepting the in-betweens: I am not perfect, but I am not a horrible person either. I'm generally a decent human being, but I have my flaws. My environment is not perfect either, but I must accept that this is life. Sometimes my schedule isn't ideal. Sometimes I need to have time to do other things. I can't anticipate all of the things life throws at me, but I can accommodate when there is time in schedule. And yes, maybe I'll be a bit bored, but that's probably better than dying of obligations I can't handle when my mental health downswings. I need to have time for my hobbies, to go out and have fun, to be there for my friends. I have as much control of my life as to not give up on my ideals and not give up on addressing my shortcomings, and as far as I'm concerned, that's not settling.

There is time still for figuring out how to be a responsible adult. I have a year left of college but I'm already excited to graduate and live my life on my own terms. The dream is to get an apartment, get a cat, and work out all the technical details from there. The soft skills, like organization, perseverance, resilience, I have down already. Ideally there will be time and money for personal endeavors and all the things I want to do, like traveling and painting. Above all, the autonomy of living on my own will allow me to continue to develop my identity. I think it's safe to say that I spend an above average amount of time drowned in introspection, but there's so much more to understand about myself.

With this dream comes the urge to completely start afresh and isolate from everything I know now. Granted there are some people who I do need to distance myself from, but despite my insecurities, I need to remember I do have real friends who care for me, even if they don't show it all the time. Consequently, I am making an effort to appreciate my friends who are there for me even when I'm not able to be a good friend. They are so important in part because they represent positive external reinforcement to validate the internal thought processes around the good and bad aspects of my life. I am capable of validating myself but sometimes it is exhausting, and it is ok to let others help. Furthermore it is necessary to reciprocally support them too, especially during times like finals when everyone is stressed. My deficient mental health is not an excuse to hurt people, ever, and if there are inadvertent consequences, it is my responsibility to make sure that my friends are ok too, as soon as I am able.

On a final note regarding mental health, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I'm moving toward a more realistic approach to handling my mental health. I'm going to have to accept that it takes more time and energy than I'm currently allowing myself to expend. I'm trying to convince myself that it's the responsible thing to do to actively maintain my mental health instead of ignoring it, letting it fester and deteriorate to the point of crisis. When I write it out like that, it does indeed sound reasonable, but for some reason I can't help but feel like I'm being lazy or making excuses when I'm in the midst of a mental health trough. For some reason I feel like I don't deserve the extensions and accommodations; it's difficult to accept that this is my reality when I want it to be different. A part of my reality is that I need to stop and think, "Hmmm, I'm feeling vaguely suicidal, maybe something is wrong and I should stop," instead of feeling like I'm deficient for feeling that way and getting more stressed. I want to work but my brain is not able and I don't know why. I don't have an excuse, because this is not an excuse. It's time I show myself the sympathy I would show for other people. ◊

Thursday, May 11, 2017

#obsessed: Say My Name — Tove Styrke

Lately, I've been obsessed with Tove Styrke, a Swedish singer with a sound like Zara Larsson "Lush Life" meets MØ vibes. Her latest single is effervescent and makes me want to dance. ◊

Thursday, May 4, 2017


It's the home stretch — dead week, then finals, then done. But not really. I'll still have an interview for Teach for America and assignments to make up for the incomplete classes I'm taking this semester. The pre-interview process for Teach for America has been really time consuming, but once I finish that, it'll be a whole load of stress off of me for an entire year at least (presuming I get in and won't have to worry about what I'm doing after graduation). I'll have the entire summer and fall semester if I need it to finish the incomplete assignments, so I'm not terribly worried. Recovery is the main goal right now.

In the meantime, I'm doing the best I can while my ability to be productive is crippled. Despite the violent anxiety building in my chest every time I sit down to write, I'm pushing myself to work as much as I can. I'm not sure if it's depression or subconscious associations, but I'm no longer able to work in my bedroom. As a result, I've been changing it up, getting outside, seeing people I know, or going to coffee shops to work. Oftentimes, I've shut myself away in a library for hours at a time to complete an assignment that would otherwise take me a fraction of that time. Although I don't know why I'm always mentally exhausted (or I know why, but I'm not satisfied with the explanation), I am recognizing that it is a legitimate concern and I'm allowing myself to take breaks after completing a task. I know I will be able to accomplish everything I want to do, but I'll have to accept that it'll take more time than I'd like.

I keep having to remind myself that I have time, that my present self is just as worth investing in as my future self. I feel pressured to be more than I am because of some conditioned belief of inadequacy and worthlessness, but I've come to realize the problematic origins of feeling like I owe the world something. Sometimes I want to drop everything — the pressure, the stress, the academics — and become an artist. On the flip side, I know that if I took a different path as a creator, I'd have just as much stress. Creative professionals have their own set of challenges and insecurities, even if they are doing something that they love. And in spite of my concerns that I'm pursing education only because I feel like I owe the world something, it is still something that makes me incredibly happy. ◊