A new Morning

So it’s a new day. I’ve been trying to wean myself off the night meds by slowly tapering off in the hope that it’ll leave me feeling less drugged up the next morning and less dependent on all this medication. Ideally, I’d only like to be on two at most, and of course eventually completely off them but it’s a process I can’t rush. I’m supposed to consult my psychiatrist before I start to taper off anything in order not to risk withdrawal symptoms and a setback in recovery, but these particular meds were prescribed to me on a low dosage, to begin with, and I am careful. I don’t recommend doing so of course because it’s dangerous though I acknowledge the hypocrisy of me saying that. Still, don’t do it. I’m doing it at my own risk. So it’s 9 in the morning now, and since I opted out of last night’s meds after tapering them down to almost nothing in the last few weeks, I didn’t have the most restful of nights. Still, I was determined not to take them even though every fiber of my being seemed to long for me to do so. It took a few more hours but eventually, I tired myself out and up and out the door I went to start the day at mass. I still wake up slightly afraid for how the day is going to unfold. It boggles my mind to remember how I used to plan my days weeks and even months in advance, and now I can barely think about the next day because I’m just focused on getting through this one. Anyway, I’ve come back quickly because I’ve to be out the door in a couple of hours again to make my way to college to meet a classmate and start working on another project due next week. I’m still getting used to traveling on my own again, but I’m making note of the small victories I accomplish each day. I should dedicate another post on that later, perhaps it’ll give me more confidence to reflect on my progress. So I’ve a decent hour left before I head out again and the morning itself wasn’t so bad. I let Rue, my cat, out for his morning stroll, or sprint – the cat just darts off all over the place eager to see and experience as much as he can before I tackle him and bring him back in (he doesn’t come easy – extremely reluctant). Well, I say let him but he just charged out as soon as I unlocked the door. In a way, it’s good for him as it is for me, to see him dashing around catching butterflies and just rolling around in the grass. Also, he forces me to exercise by chasing after him and crawling over and under my neighbor’s makeshift fence whenever he decides to infiltrate their field and farm.

rue staring out

(Rue basking in his newfound freedom)

rue sneaking in

(Rue sneaking into the neighbor’s…yet again)

infiltrated

(Infiltration…successful D:)

Though I must say it’s a wonder I haven’t been at least called out or reported for trespassing just yet. I’m hoping that won’t happen, though. The old lady’s been nice thus far what with offering us some of her produce and making polite conversation every now and then, but I’ve seen how she gets when the cows decide to break down her fence and munch on her grass, and it took me aback. She looks frail but that woman’s got a lot more gusto in her than it would appear. I saw her charge after the whole herd, attempting to whack them with her hoe (the tool!) and hurl rocks at them while screaming profanities. She wasn’t satisfied until they could no longer be seen except in the distance and even then, she decided to vent what was left of her rage on the ground beneath her. It’s good I’m quick on my feet, I think to myself. As soon as I see he’s in, I  hurriedly get down on all fours, scurry under, grab the cat and go. I’ve enough of a storm to deal with in my head, I could do without the wrath of an old woman, thank you. They’re not to be underestimated,  I’ve learned. Rue’s a bit of a rascal, but he’s a lovable one so I find it hard to fault him.  My dad just shakes his head whenever I give the cat leeway. He thinks I’m way too soft on him, but what can I say? I’m not meant to be a disciplinarian. So I’ve realized now I’ve spent the better of my post talking about my cat and the occasionally raging but kind (I note the contradiction) old woman next door but it’s what popped up, and I’m thankful for regular thoughts like this. My therapist insists that I stop using the word “normal” whenever I say that’s what I want to revert back to, but it’s difficult when I just don’t feel that way. Which is why I make time every now and then to watch up on a Ted Talk on mental illness to make me feel less alone in all of this. Of course the disheartening part of it is knowing that it may not entirely go away, especially in the case of pure O, and that the best I can expect is to manage and be in control of it. I’ll take it. Beats being controlled in turn, as it had done. Shivers. Yeah, I definitely need to spend some time making note of my small victories so my mind can drift to them and not simply all the horror that has transpassed and occasionally creeps in every now and then. I listen to Christian motivation videos each day to keep me alert and ready to take on the day. Right, I should probably make a move on getting ready. I’m going to have a great day today. I’ll do all the good things I want to do today. I hear my mother’s voice echo in my head as I start to prepare myself to get going. It’s what she tells me to say to myself each and every day after she’s managed to convince me to get out of bed (though I’ve been doing pretty well myself with this lately!). Occasionally she’ll get me up to join her on the balcony for a stretch and encourage me to scream out that I’m a strong woman and that the power of God resides within me. This lady is one tough cookie. We’ve always had a complicated relationship but I’ve come to admire and respect her deeply in the last few weeks. Her belief in me and her unfaltering inner strength is inspiring though she can still be kind of nuts every now and then when it comes to my dad (with all due respect to you, mom). I’ve come to learn a lot more about my family in the last few months, my parents in particular. A lot of things have come unearthed. Some things I wished I hadn’t known but it all kind of make sense how we’ve all turned out the way we have. Not that I’m blaming anyone, the past is the past. But it’s helped me understand them as much as myself, more. One of these days, they’ll go to counseling together after my constant insistence (and that of my therapist and psych’s) that they should, not just for themselves but so they can better cope with what’s happening with me. If they keep their word, that day will be next Friday. I’m rather interested to see how that goes. I don’t think I’ve ever known them to ever communicate with each other without hostility or some tension between them. The majority of the time, they don’t bother with speaking at all. Of course, recent events have mandated that they work together to support me so hey, good things come out of this too! I’m far closer to my family than ever before. Especially my mother. She’s been a lot more open about her past than she previously had been. It make sense that she’s the way she is, to be honest. She grew up in a military household, was the first of six children, and each time her dad had to go away he would bring her aside and tell her that since she was the eldest she’d have to look over the family and support her mother. He’d do as she did with me and bring her out to scream at the top of her lungs that she was a strong woman. She also finally told me the reason for her last divorce. Her last husband was a soldier as well and when he was away, had impregnated another woman. If it was just a mistress, I would have it slide, my mother told me. But to her, this was unforgivable. I would have stopped at mistress but there’s my mother for you. And maybe it wasn’t too out of the ordinary? I wouldn’t know. I don’t agree with it either way. Anyway, apparently he tried to come back and she wouldn’t have it. She got one of the guns in the house (she made a point of making it known that the one in her hand was superior to the one in his), and told me she shot at him, but missed. She wanted him to get lost, if the shooting didn’t already clarify that. As this was happening, his mother (who she said was kind because she acknowledged her son was wrong) had been begging and crying at her feet for her to please stop. He himself was hiding behind a tree. My mother tells me that the only thing that made her snap out of her rage was my step brother riding in on his tricycle. When she saw him, she quickly hid the gun behind her back. It kind of unsettled me to hear my mother recall this story cheerfully. She thought it was pretty funny, but she stopped laughing when she saw me staring with a concerned look on my face and told me that she knows what she did was bad, and that I shouldn’t do it (shoot at someone) before she continued on with her laughter. I laughed nervously in turn. I think I was right to be afraid of her growing up. I looked to my dad at this time, and could see that he looked particularly unnerved. Well, I can’t blame him. He’d just heard his wife reminisce shooting at her last husband and had received death threats from her himself in the past (though she assured us it was all bark and I believe her – though she still shouldn’t say it). After that, she said, she filed for divorce and that was that. But weren’t you afraid? That he’d come back? I asked. She scoffed at the suggestion as if to say he didn’t have the nerve to. I’m trailing off with my thoughts again, and whoops there goes the time, I’ll have to hurry if I’m to make it on time. I don’t like to rush but I always seem to need to. As this writing probably reflects again, I easily get caught up in what I’m doing or thinking. Oh, yeah, before I go, here’s the video I watched today. It helped me feel a little less alone. Surviving with a Mental Illness | Eric Walton | TEDxBoise

My Yesterday – A Trip to the Falls

yours truly 2

(Me yesterday)

falls.png

(Me on another day – climbing up to the pool)

Not a bad view, huh? Well, that’s what I thought as I gazed out at the gorgeous greenery before me. It’s only a short while ago that my dad decided to bring me to this spot that had laid hidden under my nose for all these years. It’s funny, really. There’s a waterfall on my island (just a few minutes down the hill from here!) that the rest of HK flocks to and it’s nothing in comparison to this gem of a place. By that I mean it’s much smaller and there’s barely any room in the pools…if they can even qualify as that given they’re so small, but to say call them puddles would be a stretch. Not to mention, they’ve not a sight like this to lay their eyes on since it’s on lower ground. Not that I’m complaining, of course. As a matter of fact, I quite prefer it that way. I’m glad that the path to this place is hidden among the trees and that only some of the locals (and their friends) are aware of it. Call me selfish but I’d rather the crowds stay away. This spot is my little place to retreat and relax. I find my peace here, and I’m incredibly lucky to be just a walk away. I invited one of my bests, Charlie to come over for a sleepover after work on Saturday and spent the entire Sunday soaking up the sun here on Lantau. She was happy to have a day away from the hustle and bustle of the city life, and awake to the sound of birds and breakfast in our front yard, which overlooked the fields and farms nearby.  I brought her to church, this spot right here where we had an unplanned dip in the pool (yes, I did dive in with that dress) and a good read (me), and sketch (her) until we decided to pack up and grab some seafood by the beach. As I write now, I recall how magical the day was – nothing really beats doing things you love with those you love. We ended the day on a Thai massage before we parted ways. If I was better with words, I could probably convey the beauty and happiness of it all more eloquently but I’m still learning to express myself through writing. I’m building on it. Hmm…I smile to myself now as I think about how blessed I am. Yeah, shit’s been rough lately (to put it mildly) and sometimes I still feel like throwing in the towel but it’s moments like this that keep me going – moments where I realize the value of what and who I have in my life. To quote a dear friend, I have to keep on swimming. Everything is temporary, and I will get through this, far stronger and more capable than before. Much love to everyone, I hope you all have a wonderful day.

Self-help Journey: Recovering from OCD

Back in Starbucks, virtually the only place on my part of the island where I get to plug in my laptop and sit for hours doing as I please while sipping my favorite drink. I was supposed to get started on another project for college but upon finding out that the due date was far later than expected and knowing I’ve the next few days off, I’ve opted to instead finally get around to ordering those books on OCD in an effort to further help myself through this recovery process. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned before but when you’re going through it, you feel like you’re mad and you’re the only person that has this illness.  It’s terribly alienating and only contributes to a worsening of anxiety so I’m hoping that once they arrive I’ll find some relief from not only the suggestions made to manage it but from knowing that others went through it as well, some with thoughts so severe that it effectively crippled them. It would give me hope to know that those with the illness on the more extreme end of the spectrum were able to overcome it. I’ve ordered the following books as I’ve heard good things about them (well, according to self-proclaimed OCD sufferers on the internet – don’t know anyone personally on my end suffering from it) and I should be able to expect them within two weeks or if I’m lucky, in a week: Mindfulness Workbook for OCD: A Guide to Overcoming Obsessions and Compulsions Using Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy by Jon Hersfield and Tom Corboy, Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts: How to Gain Control of your OCD by David Clark and Christine Purdon, and lastly, Brain Lock by Jeffrey M. Shwartz. Now I realize that each of those books pack a ton of information in itself and so  I imagine that I’ll be working to digest and apply one at a time, so I’ll need to have a good think about which would be best to start with. If you have any suggestions and especially if you’ve suffered from pure O, I would greatly appreciate them. On another note, I really have to make an effort to manage my sugar intake. It really drives up the anxiety levels unnecessarily but occasionally, I just need something sweet to alleviate the sour mood these thoughts put me in. Anyway, I’ll be keeping track of my recovery. Every day is a brand new day, as one of my lecturers just texted me this morning to wish me a restful day and share with me an article she found useful from…I can’t remember now, let me check…a site called Bible Teachings? Well, according to the picture that she’s attached her in the chat. It’s titled God Gave You Emotions. I haven’t yet read it so I suppose I could do that now…Oh, it’s a long post. I guess I could share a bit of that later on when I’ve got through it. Definitely looks like I’ve got quite a bit to get through.

Battle in the Mind

So I’m feeling strange. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I’ve had a good morning and I’ve still the rest of the day ahead of me since it’s just 9 am right now. Since I’ve been up about two hours ago, I’ve had my tea, a good stretch on the balcony, and a ride down to have dim sum with my mother and pick up some vegetables for today’s meal from the market. So all in all, I’ve had a decent start to the day. I’m more relaxed than I have been previously but still, I can’t help but feel the ebb of those thoughts in the background of my mind. They may be further away now but their presence still unsettles me. My therapist says I can’t expect it to simply disappear so quick, and in the meantime, the best I can do is build upon my identity again. So she asked me – who are you? I paused. My mind went blank for a moment and I said I didn’t know. The last few months and especially weeks have changed me in a way that makes it difficult to recall just how I was before all of this unfolded. She said we could start with my name because I had once told her I liked it, “Jethro. My name is Jethro.” It’s a unique name, she said. What else? She gently nudged me to continue. “I don’t know”. Tell me about your qualities, she said. What kind of person are you? I started off slowly listing the qualities I believed myself to embody. “Kindness. Compassion. Wisdom. Perseverance. Resilience…” the list slowly came out of me, almost as if from nowhere. She nodded encouragingly, affirming each of these attributes. You forgot independent, she said. You’re incredibly self-reliant. I nodded, sadly. I don’t know why but it was almost as if I couldn’t believe any of the things I had just said or heard. This doubt, I thought to myself and still do now – where did it come from? Why…can’t I believe in myself? And…really, just who am I? It’s been difficult, I told her. To reestablish myself, to revert to “normal” ever since the invasion of the intrusive and disturbing thoughts tried to convince me that I was someone other than who I thought I was, and capable of doing things I would never dream of doing. I really felt that it almost destroyed my soul and as a result, had completely thrown me off. Now it’s like I’m walking blind, and I’m incredibly nervous that I’m embarking on the wrong path. I keep telling myself to trust and believe in myself but how do I do that when I can’t firmly establish who I am anymore? And I know I need to in order to fend off the negative that tries to convince me otherwise. My therapist acknowledged this struggle and again redirected my focus to reminding myself of who I am. “I don’t feel the same though. After everything, I feel different.” You can’t expect to, she said. She meant that our circumstances and experiences would undoubtedly change us but that perhaps I could look at it in the light that it has made me stronger. Because if I could overcome this, what couldn’t I overcome? I’m sad. The lack of belief in myself depresses me, especially when I compare myself to the previous confidence I use to have in myself though I try not to because the comparison isn’t fair. That was then, and this is now. She continued…so how do you feel now about your schooling? She asked. Previously, I had wanted to give it up – understandably…I was depressed. The depressive symptoms have improved since I’ve taken the medication though. I told her that I would finish it but that while I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel like it was my true passion so she prompted me to think about what it was I enjoyed. “Learning about the world”, I told her. “I’m interested in theology. I like anything to do with culture and learning about people’s belief systems.” She nodded for me to continue and asked me what other things I enjoyed doing – she said she knew reading was one of my interests but gently probed me to contemplate what else was. I thought for a time. “Speaking. I like to speak, I like to socialize. I’m always the most confident when I feel my voice is heard. Like when I do a presentation.” Ah! Suddenly an idea came to her, she had heard of this public speaking course that a young client of hers had enrolled himself in to improve his career prospects. She told me that she thought it would be perfect for me. I said I would consider it. She also told me to consider joining a reading club since I loved to read and connect with others so to be able to come together with a group and discuss a book would be ideal for me as well. I mulled the idea over, I did like it – especially the speaking group though it made me feel slightly nervous when she said I could be speaking about anything I wanted in front of a group that could range anything from 20-50 and comprised of university students and working professionals. Anyway, so that’s my task now – to reestablish my identity, my belief, trust, and confidence in myself. It’s a process but I must admit that I’ve come a long way from where I originally was. I won’t deny that I’m afraid. What if I can’t? What if I make the wrong choices? So much doubt. Focus on the light, a thought inside my head pops up. Focus on the light. I wish I wasn’t so introspective sometimes. I feel like occasionally I should just leave my head alone and stop trying to tamper with what goes up in there, but I can’t seem to relax enough to let it be on its own, especially recently so that is still a work in progress. I should be happy, I tell myself, I’ve had a good start to the day but my fear despite me knowing that it’s irrational and simply an illusion, seems to still hold me back. “Everyone has fears. Try not to let that overwhelm you and spread throughout your life” advised my therapist. I took a deep breath. It’s no wonder people throw themselves into work, into relationships, into entertainment, into any obsession that occupies their mind. It’s a scary thing, to be left alone with yourself because then it eventually dawns on you that without all these things…you have no idea who you really are. Of course, it’s totally worse when I’ve intrusive thoughts trying to answer this for me – “You’re a psychopath!” (despite virtually no evidence to support this). I heave another sigh. Fuck off, I say. But then this is why it’s so important for me to figure out just who it is that I am. I’m a child of God, I tell myself but as I’ve said my journey through faith is a recent one and as with any growth, development takes time. I’ve come a long way since I’ve accepted Christ into my life so I suppose the only thing I can do at present is just as I did write up there – focus on the light. I’m not my thoughts. Focus on carrying out positive action. Be proactive. That’s what Father said when I last went to speak with him at the church. But then a negative thought would intrude “But what if its fake? What’s the point if it’s not genuine? What if you’re forcing yourself to be someone you’re not. Maybe deep down, you’re not actually a good person.” I’ve given up arguing with these thoughts, the best I can do is let them be and reaffirm to myself that I’m a good person. Personally, I truly believe (or at least used to with conviction) that people are inherently good. That I am all the qualities I’ve listed, and have always been. Ever since I could remember. This relapse and trigger of pure O has just tried to trick me that this isn’t the case. Sometimes in these cases, I compare even though I know I shouldn’t. Why couldn’t I have something external to deal with instead of something in my head? It’s exhausting to be at war within myself because if I can’t trust myself then who and what can I? I try to come back to my breath. Focus on the light, Jethro. Believe in yourself. Trust in God and remember, He never gives you anything you aren’t capable of overcoming. You may not understand it now, but it’s to grow you and prepare you for something better. This is the internal dialogue I tell myself. Anyway, enough being in the head. Let me focus on something else. Today’s a beautiful day, I should have taken a picture. I’d love to share the beauty of the island I live on. I felt strange today, as if my eyes had been opened and I’ve started to see things in a different light. A slight shift. I noted this as I watched the happenings of all that was going on around me…the people cycling along on their bikes, smiling under the light of the sun and riding back with their baskets filled with goods they’ve picked up from the market as well – flowers, vegetables, etc. etc. I watched as the elderly sat under an enormous old tree in a line of their own with products laid out before them for sale. Jewelry, homegrown vegetables, and household items. There was much happy chatter, the sound the birds chirping in the background, and some pretty dynamic Chinese opera music playing from one of the hawker’s radios. I tried to take it all in then and as I rode back up the hill home. Everyone looked happy today. I tried to allow myself that happiness as well, and to just be. But I felt restrained due to the fear I have just relayed. Don’t be discouraged, I tell myself. Slowly, slowly. Just keep pedaling. So here I am now, just resting on the sofa before I decide to indulge myself in another book on how to live a purposeful God driven life and pray the rosary. I’ve a class to teach in the afternoon so I’ll just take it easy until then. I need more structure in my life, I tell myself. If only I could motivate myself enough to make a schedule and discipline myself to follow it. Slowly, slowly. Trying to be my own coach here, or therapist. That’s the goal of CBT – to help you become your own therapist. I need to remember that while I can be my own enemy that it’s a choice and that I can choose to be my biggest supporter as well. That’s enough for today. Till next time, JT x

What a Day.

Well, to be fair that’s pretty much how I’ve found myself thinking about most days in my life lately. They’ve all been jam packed with the most random of events occurring. To say no two days are the same in my respect would be a proper understatement. So how did my today go thus far? Well, seeing as it’s just 4 in the afternoon, I suppose I have still a bit more in store for me. So much activity. And today’s one of the slower, more chill days. I’m not complaining though. I seem to flourish when I’m engaged in something, rather than when I’m left alone to spiral downwards into the dark abyss of my negative thoughts. Right. Trying to be positive. Focus. Anyway, I’m giving myself a sort of break for a few moments from working with my groupmates on a project due at college tomorrow. It’s been hours that we’ve all been online communicating, the weather outside is miserable (positive – Jethro, be positive), and well…I just need a break. I’m hungry though my sister doesn’t get back with the Thai takeout for another hour or so. My fingers and mind are going a mile a minute at the moment. I can’t seem to catch up with my thoughts. I’ve missed this. So bits of me are slowly coming back. I have a love-hate relationship with being in the grind when it comes to school. Love – how ideas just come to me and seeing how all the information pieces together into one cohesive and kickass product. Hate (or that’s a rather strong word – dislike) the stress that comes along with it. I think I’ve really knocked it down with the perfectionism so the stress is a bit more toned down but I still have my habits when it comes to checking and re-checking my work over and over until I’m sure it’s solid. Which is why I love coming here to write. Free writing gives me a sense of peace and freedom. I don’t feel the need to go over anything again and perfect it. I don’t feel the need to overthink. I just write. For me. It’s wonderful. So anyway, I’ve had a day. I got sidetracked in the midst of writing this and now almost three hours later I’m still on here. I’m tired and my eyes feel heavy. It’s definitely a sign that I’ve been staring at the screen too long but what have you, group projects aren’t going to complete themselves. At least I can now breathe a sigh of relief that the bulk of the work is done. Back to my morning. I awoke with a start when I laid my eyes on the clock. 7:12 am, it read. Mass was going to start in almost 15 minutes and I had to get myself cleaned up, dressed, on my bike and down the hill to the center of town. “I’m always running late!” I called out as I whirled around the house like a tornado. Thankfully, I’ve had much practice with getting up and going (well prior the relapse), so it was off and out the door in no time. The first thing I did when I drew up to the church was to check the time and see if I was late again. 7:26am! Hallelujah! I was not late to church this time. Not again. Father doesn’t say anything when I am, but he smiles. So in I went, said my prayers and worshiped with those around me. Having renewed my faith just less than a month ago, I’m still slowly coming back to learning what I’ve drifted from all these year and I find that the more I’m exposed to, the more I learn, the more questions I have. After the mass had finished, I went to grab a bite to eat before I was to head back and have Father bless my rosary and teach me a bit more about our faith and the significance of the rosary. So straight after munching down a quick bite of mcds, I returned to the church. I pushed open the door and called out to father. He was in his little office on the right. I sat myself down and before I could get another word out of me he asked how I had been doing. So I told him. It had been a while since I had given a proper update on my life and I was in quite the state when I last (and first) did – picture distraught girl breaking down with a hopeless expression and just general demanor that conveyed this lack of faith in herself and in life. That’s another story on its own though, I feel like I say that a lot but there’s just too much to say and too much that goes on in my life. So anyway, I gave him my update – how I understood what it was that plagued me, what I’ve learned, how I’ve been coping with it, how I feel about it all at the moment, and how I really resonated with the teachings in today’s mass. With this part of scripture, in particular, 1 Peter 5:8-9 “Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in your faith and in the knowledge that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.”  That’s how I’ve been feeling with my illness, that I have to be on constant alert or it’ll overcome me. That I need to constantly equip myself with a belief that I can survive the day on top. And of course, to remember that I’m not the only one who is undergoing or has undergone this battle. “At least, he’s predictable” is what my sister said to reassure me when I told her this. By that, she means that at least I know when I should be most aware and therefore, prepared – the times when I’m weak so I do what I can to stay strong and so I’m not taken by surprise. Like I said, recovery in itself is a grueling process. I have my ups and then it may be a big down that follows before it goes up again. It’s rarely predictable but I’m trusting and believing that soon it will wane out. At least that’s what father reassured us would be the case during the mass. I can’t quite recall which part of the text he was referring to, but through it, he told us that eventually, the Lord would give us relief from our suffering after a time. We just had to persevere until that time came, and have faith. So I am doing what I can. We were together for about an hour in which I poked and prodded him with whatever questions came to mind. I couldn’t ask much for each question unpacked a landslide of answers I really had to work to keep up with and digest. Picture this: me leaning forward against the desk, ears open, and eyes completely transfixed on what was being said and shown to me. Even so, it takes time and practice. Our talk focused on the significance and use of the rosary, as I mentioned back up there. And that on its own took quite a bit of time. Even now, it has kept me thinking. There’s so much to learn. To reiterate, the more I learn, the more questions I have. I couldn’t help but wonder just how long it takes for someone to get a grip of all of this. “How long have you been a believer, Father?” I asked. “Ever since I was a baby” he answered me in turn. And he was still learning, of course. Just after our session, he was to attend one of his own courses specifically for priests. I’m not too sure on the details. Anyway, time passed quickly and I knew I had to go soon, both for him (because I knew he had a busy day ahead of him with the course he was to attend) and for myself (to work on the project due tomorrow), but I as I was about to leave I had suddenly remembered how just the other day over the weekend my best friend Charlie and I had been strolling along the beachside discussing the differences between our two faiths. I was raised a Catholic and she, a protestant. She wanted to know what differentiated us. I had a vague idea but wasn’t entirely certain. I remembered then as I was leaving that I wanted to be able to tell her the next time I saw her so I asked. Father took a seat back in his chair. Whoops, this may take some time, I thought to myself. And it did, but it was fascinating. The whole morning was. Even now as I reflect, my brain is still working to digest it all. The more I learn, the more I want to know. I keep saying this. But it’s almost as if my heart thirsts for it. And with it, I feel nourished. Of course, understanding is one thing and applying is another. I have to balance it out. I can’t cram my head with wisdom and then not carry it out so even as I thought this, Father said “I think that’s enough for you to take in today”. I couldn’t disagree. So I paid my respects, thanked him for his time, and made my way home back up the hill before getting back into the grind of my work. Now here I am feeling sort of dazed and scatterbrained, as I’m sure my writing reflects. But this is me, and I’m grateful to at least have some of my thoughts back together after the last few weeks. I feel myself returning, and I am happy. I hope tomorrow will be an even better day. JT signing out for the day.

Looking Back

I tell myself as much as possible to stay in the moment but at times like this when I get up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror, I can’t help but reminisce and still feel taken aback by just how much has changed over the last year and in particular the last few months. I suppose I’m still coming to terms with it. I don’t think there’s much of another option really, as what you resists persists (or so they say – whoever they is). But as always, I try to look at the beauty amidst all the chaos. Here’s a photo of me just a year ago celebrating a friend’s birthday at the Venetian in Macau, and another taken one during our regular ladies nights out.maca.png

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I remember feeling on top of the world after having come out of a physically abusive relationship and having taken back control of my life. I had built upon my self-worth, confidence, went full on with pursuing my passions at the time, fell in love, reconnected with all my old friends whom I had avoided during the darker days and just really blossomed into who I thought I always wanted to be. I got my fire back. I got my drive. I truly thought to myself that these were the best moments of my life. But it wasn’t to last – as things do. Everything’s temporary, I have to remind myself. Not to sound down but that just goes to say that all the bad is as well. Such is life. Anyway, as I was saying, I felt invincible. I loved myself. And looking back now, I slowly see how everything just came to a head. I took on too much. I threw myself into school and work, leaving not a moment of time to myself. If I wasn’t spending hours on trying to perfect an essay or channeling all my energy into work, I was out socializing until the wee hours of the morning partying and just having a good ol’ time. Occasionally, I’d go straight from a night out to work – get back at five and straight out the door to journey out to start work. I had so much energy and a belief in myself that it didn’t affect me or my work. In fact, I felt pretty impressed with myself. Each day would be packed. I was never left with a moment where I thought to myself – I have nothing to do. Eventually, however, it became a vicious cycle. I didn’t know how to relax. I had to always be doing something. I started to feel anxious, the panic attacks returned. The perfectionist in me felt the pressure to just maintain everything at its best. To say I neglected myself would be an understatement. Of course, as is within these circumstances, it came to a head because it just wasn’t sustainable for both my mental or physical health. Of course the added pressure of the tension at home and my own stubbornness when it came to reaching out to friends or my then boyfriend (who at the time I felt couldn’t be there for me anyway given many issues and circumstances – vague here I know but that’s another story in itself and one I’d rather leave behind me), I eventually broke down under the pressure of it all on me. Growing up in the family that I did, I had always felt that I had to do everything on my own. That I could do it, and that I should be able to handle it. I couldn’t, however. And eventually, I sought further methods to escape how I felt (which is ironic considering I was already escaping dealing with the trauma my previous relationship had left on me , as well as the loneliness I felt in the emotional and physical distance of my relationship at the time by scheduling every second of my time), and made a huge mistake. Now I’m not too proud of myself for what I did or feel comfortable discussing it. I’ve made my peace with and understand why I did what I did. All that’s necessary to mention is that I violated my values, one core to my identity and this destroyed me. I couldn’t accept what I had done and even though I know I’m not the only one to blame, as I tend to – I took everything upon myself and I just…crashed…to put it mildly. A string of panic attacks followed, I lost sleep tossing and turning with guilt and regret, I cried over and over until just no more tears would come. I ended my relationship. I stopped school for a term. This is how I started on therapy, to begin with. But somehow, from somewhere, I found strength within myself. And I picked myself up and really worked towards change. I worked to find myself all over again. How did I get so lost? I thought to myself. As a child, I recall feeling so connected with the world. I would spend my days running across fields with kids in the village I grew up in, my own time on the beach with a good book, climbing up and down the rocks along the river until it led up to the small waterfall we’d occasionally have a dip in. I wanted to explore every inch of that village and felt I did.  I was happy to just be with nature despite the occasional bouts of loneliness that came with being put in a local school where I was still learning to speak the language. I was different person then, of course. Incredibly shy, withdrawn, and a bit of a loner until it slightly improved when it came to high school where the medium of instruction was taught in English. There, I made friends for life though I still didn’t yet break out of my shell yet until I started to work. Wow, this entry is all over the place but that’s free writing for you. I go where my thoughts go though I should probably backtrack now. Right. I picked myself up again. Engaged myself in new hobbies – zumba and kung fu were the favorites. Spent a lot of time exposing myself to new experiences and new people – particularly travelers who I enjoyed showing around Hong Kong, spent a lot of time back in nature at the beach and on hikes trying to connect myself. Got into meditation, regularly attended the Plum Village we had here in Hong Kong, traveled and spent a few weeks with my childhood friend in San Diego …and eventually everything fell back into place again. And I was stronger. I felt fearless.  I was happy to embrace the unexpected, enjoyed the spontaneous and really learned  to chill. No longer would I set myself up to such high expectations, it wasn’t worth it. Nothing that costs you your peace is. I made my peace a priority. Again, I was happy and proud of myself for having got myself out of that hole. Came back to school to be greeted with a scholarship I found I’d won, was with a nice guy who treated me impeccably. I was happy and at peace.

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(Me celebrating CNY in Plum Village HK)

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(Me in San Diego)

But then just two months later, it all came crashing down again. And I lost it. I almost lost myself. And I mean that in a sense more than simply in terms of a loss of identity. Explained it a bit in one of my previous posts – think the words journey through hell were in the title of that one. I don’t really want to relive it right now. It’s still very raw and recent. To put it simply, I relapsed, triggered by a very stressful situation I wasn’t yet ready to handle at the time. Medication was no longer an option, but a necessity. Intensive CBT treatment is now needed for me to overcome this. I can’t even consider being in a relationship at this time. Phew. Taking a deep breath now. Yup, really don’t want to relive it. I’m still having to deal with the residue (can I say that?) right now. Basically, it got worse. Far worse than I could have ever imagined and I’m still trying to regain mental stability and feel safe in my head again. Because if I’m not my thoughts – then who am I? It’s confusing. I’ll dedicate myself another post on this next time. Messy entry, but hey, at least I’m keeping up with the assignments for my CBT (regularly journalling is a part of it and I’ll admit it’s rather therapeutic). I think I’ll stop here. Abrupt, I know. But I think that’s enough for today. I need to recharge. On my way to college at the moment, still adjusting to being back. Always have to take deep breaths when I think about it. Anyway, good luck to me. I can do this. One day at a time, one step at a time. At least I have hope now, thanks to my family, a team of medical professionals, my lecturers, friends, the church, and especially God (who I just recently accepted back into my life after having drifted away for many years – but again another story on its own). I’ll get myself back. And I’ll return stronger than ever. I have to.

Attempting to get back on my feet

So it’s been goodness knows how long since I’ve been well enough to tackle an assignment – I must admit the idea of starting the task in itself is rather daunting. Where I used to relish in challenges, I now retreat almost instinctively as a reflex. It stresses me out and makes me feel anxious. I view it as if it’s some mountain towering above me, even though I know that isn’t the case. In actuality, this particular tasks is just a few slides as a part of a group presentation. That’s all it is. Just a few slides. Got to take it step by step. Funny, huh? How anxiety can blow something seemingly simple into something that leaves me feeling rather overwhelmed. Gotta breathe a bit before I continue this post. In a very fragile state at the moment, not a big fan of it but still I’m grateful for having survived the first few weeks of side effects the medication had on me. I really don’t have any other word for it than it having felt like utter hell, as mentioned in my last post. But here exactly a week later, I’ve still got air in my lungs and although I may have a bit of a brain fog, I slowly feel myself balancing out again. It’s in times like this that I have to look for the light in all the dark. There’s a quote I particularly like in regards to this though I’m not sure where it’s from “No matter how many times we burst into flames, we can always rise from the ashes”. I can only try to tell myself to look at it from the perspective of how much this strengthens me so early on in life, and to allow it to grow me into someone who can “be the change [I] wish to see in the world”. This quote I know for sure is from Gandhi. Life’s funny huh. With all its ups and downs, and sudden upheavals out of nowhere that come in the form of the most unexpected circumstances. Can really knock you off, but as I’ve come to realize especially in the recent weeks we all have our battles to fight. We’re not alone. People have been through what we’re going through. People have gotten through it. And those that do, tell you it’s worth it. To press on. Those still in it, tell me to keep pushing for both our sakes. My mother likes to refers to any challenge that comes my way as a test and to trust that God doesn’t give me anything I can’t handle, so I must believe in myself. All I can say is I’m doing what I can. With what I’ve got. And I’m thankful that despite the illness, I have had much goodness surrounding me. As a friend put it to me yesterday, I am incredibly lucky to have the care of the family that I do in this difficult time. I can’t imagine how one would get through it without such a constant support in place. They’re a large part of the reason why I’m still here till this day. We’ve had our conflicts. We’ve had our sore beginnings, but ultimately I’ve learned through this crisis that my family can be depended upon. Alright, time to attempt this assignment. Breathe. I can do this.