Potential First Tattoo

So I’ve come up with a design for my first tattoo – which I really badly want, but am not sure when I’ll actually get.

Last night, my temporary tattoo kit came in the mail so I decided to test out the design, and the placement. I wanted to see what it would look like before I actually getting anything.

The tattoo ink is made from the pulp of a fruit called Genipapo, found in Panama. It is similar to henna in how it’s used – the gel-like liquid is squeezed out from a needle-point bottle the way henna is piped out like icing on a cake. I’ve used this product several times before so I’ve gotten used to drawing the tattoo freehand.

I feel like I did a pretty good job, except I got the arrow all crooked because of the angle I was drawing on. The temporary tattoo has developed overnight and it should get darker in the next half a day.

The tattoo design represents many things. Essentially, it’s the story of my life in a few symbols.

The semicolon (made from an enso, and the Fibonacci Golden Ratio), represents my lifelong recovery from mental illnesses; the enso (circle) representing “a moment when the mind is free to let the body create” which also represents strength, enlightenment and life while the Fibonacci Golden Ratio reflects my interest in art, as well as math – this I find beautiful because not only does the Golden Ratio helps artists create beautiful art, it also helps mathematicians do math. I like the intersection of the sciences, and the arts because of how much conflict there is between the two fields (especially coming from the sciences who claim that anyone who can’t do, are artists…). 

The curly brackets represents code – most codes are encapsulated with “{ }” which tells the computer to execute a function from what is in the middle of the brackets. It is a reflection of the field that I’ve chosen to put myself in.

The arrow signifies my strength and resilience because an arrow is useless unless you string it to a bow, pull it back, and let go. This reflects my life because of how all the struggle I’ve been through has caused me to grow stronger, and more resilient – like the arrow speeding forward after it’s been pulled back, I am also moving forward in my life. The arrowhead is the Star Trek TNG symbol representing my nerd/geek side.

I chose the Pi because of how despite it being an irrational number, it is also a constant. It reminds me during my dark times, that despite everything that could happen to me, that the world is still revolving, and Pi is still Pi no matter what happens. 3.14159, always.

The message “Don’t Panic” comes from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and it gives me a message to read when I’m anxious. It’s a directive, pretty simple and powerful for 2 mere words. The “42” is also from the same book, and in it, the number is considered the answer to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. I believe in the theory that the number is actually not a joke as most of us have believed, but rather an asterisk (*)  (since the ASCII value for an asterisk is 42) in programming. The asterisk is actually used by programmers as a wildcard when searching for something, deleting something etc (Example, if you type rm *.* – it means that you’re wanting every file to be deleted from your computer). This means that the answer to life, the universe, and everything is what you decide it to be. 

Lastly, the equal sign is a nod to my struggles as a queer person seeking understanding and acceptance in society. It’s a subtle enough symbol for my sexuality that anyone who knows what the equal sign means, will know how I identify. 

So far, I like the design, and if I can find a tattooist who is okay with using my design (I hear that most don’t like to do that), and who can do good black and white tattoos with clean, crisp lines, I think this might be the first tattoo I’ll ever get. And since I’ll be getting it while I’m in my thirties, I wonder how many people will think this is a mid-life crisis. Haha…

Being LGBTQ+

I was going to write a post to outline my thoughts from therapy today (the new semester just started on Monday, and thankfully, I was able to keep my Wednesday therapy session, and would still see S regularly until such a time that we both feel that I’m ready to rough life out by myself. Being able to keep the same session helps me keep some regularity to my often irregular schedule), but then new thoughts kept jumping out at me.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the LGBTQ community, and LGBTQ related topics – somehow, that and the topic of my divorce kept coming up in my mind. From today’s session, S and I learned that perhaps the reason that I keep fixating on those two topics is because these are two major issues in my life that I have yet to truly process.

I will have to write a separate post for my thoughts from therapy because in this post, I want to focus on a couple of thoughts that I have concerning LGBTQ stuff.

I was recently told by a coworker that the song “The Greatest” by Sia is actually a tribute to the victims of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL last June. I was intrigued and so I looked up the video.

What I witnessed for 5 minutes and 51 seconds shook me – the imagery was vivid and the lyrics resonated.

I then Googled for the meaning of the video – to see if I could find what other people’s interpretation sounded like. I was intrigued. I found an article that I felt was beautifully written:

Analysis of Sia’s “The Greatest”

A paragraph jumped out at me –

“As cathartic as it is for a gay person to assume their true identity, to free themselves, there will always be a bigger cage. In the modern ages, the cage takes many forms. It can manifest as an antagonistic bathroom bill or the outing of closeted gay athletes. Then, of course, there are the hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community.”

It’s so true.

I feel, at the same time, a sense of relief when I came out last October as well as a sense of fear (for how people will treat me, or that their perception of me will somehow change), and restriction because despite the fact that the world is starting to become more tolerant, there are still plenty of examples of discrimination, and hate.

As a queer person (of color, no less!), everything’s always a challenge. You always have to advocate for yourself, to share your experiences, and to find courage to just be. There will be questions in the flavor of, “So…. Are you……. A lesbian?”, “Uh… What does queer mean?”, “Are you a boy or a girl?”, or “Isn’t bisexual just another word for ‘slut’? Like, you can’t make up your mind whether you’re gay or straight, so you just sleep with everyone?” There will be some form of microagression or another in our daily lives – as someone who is misgendered daily, I know what this is like, and how stressful it can get.

There is never a period of time in my queer life where I can relax, and just be who I am. I am constantly looking over my shoulder; censoring what I say or how I say it; wondering what I should wear or how people would perceive me if I wore this outfit, or that outfit; choosing who I could and couldn’t date; answering endless LGBTQ related question because your straight friend only knows the one queer friend (me); and so on.

It’s exhausting. On top of already dealing with depression, anxiety, and ADHD, coming out for me meant that I now have another thing I need to advocate for. It gave me a lot of relief when I came out, but at the same time, it also brought on a lot of other things – some of which I’ve described above.

With this in mind, who would choose this “lifestyle”?

I ask that because recently, someone asked me through a private message on Facebook if we could still be friends despite our differences of opinions regarding my “choice” to live a bisexual “lifestyle” – quotation marks, mine.

Yes, because I chose to be persecuted. I chose to be in anguish over who I am attracted to for the last 30 years of my life. I chose to be confused about my faith, and my sexuality all my life. I chose to feel like an outcast in society. I chose to not have friends that understand me. I chose to be hated, mocked, and vilified.

And of course, the paragraph above drips with sarcasm, in case someone didn’t get it.

I just want to make it clear that no one will choose a life like this. It’s a life of pain, and suffering. That said, for someone to imply that a queer person chose their sexuality/orientation is rude, at the very least, and savage, at the worst. Those who use religion and their faith to condemn a queer person are even more savage. Speaking as someone who is a Christian and who have doubted my faith my entire life (I could never believe that God loves me enough because if he did, then why am I ‘broken’?), it’s extremely distressing to hear someone say, “God hates f*gs”, or “You’re gay because God hates you!”, or “God doesn’t hear your prayers”, or “God will never forgive you. You’re going to hell!”. It’s as though I don’t already hate myself enough – these people help me add more reasons to why I don’t feel worthy.

I’m just so tired of all the hate. I’m tired of all the hypocrisy that a lot of Christians seem to exhibit towards people like me. I’m tired of all the violence aimed at my newfound community.

That’s my rant of the day. I just thought it was time I said my little piece in this narrative and share something I’ve had on my mind for a while now.

Crawling Out of The Rut

It’s been quite a while since I’d written and I do apologize but life has been a roller coaster lately.

Since I started crawling out of my post-divorce rut, I had taken a misstep and had fallen back into another rut – the school/academic rut. As I am slowly recovering from the post-divorce rut, I realize how badly I’ve been doing in school lately.

I’m doing 3 classes officially with the fourth class being a supplemental 1-credit hour class and despite only doing 12 credit hours, I’m floundering really badly. I am failing Discrete Computational Structure (which is essentially just Discrete Math) and can’t keep up with the class. I am not doing well in Calculus despite this being the second time I’m taking the same class (the number of homework and tests/quizzes for this class is truly relentless!) and I’m also struggling really badly with Computing 2 (mainly because the midterm project has crushed all motivation that I ever had in me).

All this has led to an unfortunate amount of stress and tension. I kept backing myself into the corner again – telling myself that I am so weak, and that perhaps I need to reconsider my dream of being a computer scientist. That perhaps, I had made a mistake in thinking that I was smart enough for this venture.

Thankfully, through all this, Chérie has been steadfast in her encouragement and commitment to me. Despite all the whining I’ve been doing about school, she has been very supportive – she even sat me down (figuratively since we’re almost 400 miles apart) one day to help me reorganize my schedule. She and I both successfully helped me cut out 8 hours of work from the restaurant as well as 3 and a half extra hours from private tutoring. Just having her sit with me and discuss my plans was very useful. It calmed me down considerably. It allowed me to refocus.

We’ve only been together 2 weeks so far and things have been going really well for us. It’s interesting how well we’re doing and how much we’ve planned and discussed. I suppose that since we’re both in our thirties, it’s not hard for us to be mature in our outlook and steadfast in our decisions. I truly am fortunate to have found such an amazing person to share my life with.

Group therapy had been very interesting on Friday. The issue between Kyle and Brandon came up again (see: A Most Intense Group Session for context) and I pointed out that since this came up again, that the issue must be pressing enough to warrant another look.

This time, the gloves were off as both Kyle and Brandon got heated with their ideas and opinions. Brandon still didn’t understand why Kyle would not empathize with him or just show him some compassion while Kyle didn’t understand why Brandon is so “fanatical” in his beliefs. Brandon took offense to Kyle’s w0rd choice. Kyle responded that he had no idea why Brandon would so arrogantly presume that everyone should see things his way.

As the conflict got more heated, J was good to jump in and diffuse things before they escalated even more. She cut in a lot and mitigated the conflict very well. At one point she said, “Okay, the content of the disagreement is not what we’re trying to discuss here. We’re trying to discuss how we can approach each other when something like this happens!”

She was right. The content of the argument was not important at all. As both men continued to argue, I interrupted them and jumped in. I didn’t think that I would ever have the guts to do something like that but I did.

I said, “Okay guys. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way but I can really see both sides here. I can empathize with both of you and I do. Brandon, I am part of the LGBTQ community too now and I understand how you feel. I get how angry you are and how much you just want to punch everyone who even utters a tiny homophobic comment. I get it. It makes me mad when a Christian acts like total assholes. At the same time though, I see Kyle’s point – I see what he means by how the Westboro people are just lunatics – it’s because they are. No matter how much we fight them, we’ll never win because they are not only brainwashed to hate people who are different from them, they are also delusional! Doing nothing sucks but sometimes we just need to have compassion for these misguided people. That said, Kyle, I feel like you’re not really empathizing with Brandon. I mean, this is what I perceive. I perceive that you have a great reluctance to just say that you care for Brandon. There were easy outs and you refused to take any of them. J asked you if you cared to be here and your answer was ‘Well if I didn’t care I wouldn’t be here’. Brandon asked you if you could just give him some empathy while T flat-out told you that Brandon just needs to feel some connection from you. Yet you refuse all three offers to let you off the hook. It makes me wonder then if you’re just afraid to show yourself to us – that is to be vulnerable and humble. I have two theories. One it’s that you’ve invested too much into this argument between you and Brandon that if you don’t get any resolutions from it, then it would make the last year for us to be pointless. All I’m saying is that, I feel like you could also be a little less judgmental toward Brandon and just reach out to him, offer some support, and just be there!”

I felt my heart hammer in my ribcage as I spoke. I was afraid of how I was going to be perceived. This was why I didn’t like conflicts. I was afraid of the fact that Kyle and Brandon could both hate me because I was being blunt.

It turned out that what I said opened up the conflict into smaller more manageable chunks. We were able to mostly sort through our emotions and reactions toward the conflict. When asked what we learned from the experience, I talked about how fearful I was to share my opinion and how uncomfortable it was to be amidst the conflict. T pointed out that he was glad that I came to that realization and reminded me that through this experience, we’re able to see that just because we’re not directly involved in the fight, we are actually still a part of the conflict as it still affects us “bystanders”.

I learned a few things from group this week – one was that I don’t always have to follow my instincts and pick a side (I’ve always felt like I had to pick a side. Otherwise, both sides will hate me…) because chances are neither of them were right and choosing a side merely makes everything even more petty. I was able to resist my instincts this time and was able to overcome the discomfort of not knowing what to do. I was also able to sit through the discomfort of being in the middle of a conflict and not run away. I was able to do this without having a meltdown. I was also able to realize how brave I was to say my thoughts and perceptions.

At the end of the session, I called Chérie excitedly on the phone and conveyed everything that had happened in group. She was ecstatic to hear that I was able to do what I did – “Good job!” she had said.

“I actually feel kinda proud of myself,” I said, feeling the same kind of embarrassed shame creep in to my cheeks. I was proud of the fact that I was proud of myself because self-validation has never been my strong suit. I think I’m really moving forward towards a mentally healthier me with my improvement in self-validation, self-pride, and self-encouragement.

So that’s been my week so far. I hadn’t had time to really write any Thoughts From Therapy posts either but as assignments pile up, I barely have any time to be online anymore, much less spend time writing blog posts. I hope to be able to post more thoughtful posts when things start to cool off for me. Until then, I’m just grateful that I still have people I trust here in the blogverse and people who care enough to come back and check to see if I have new posts.

 

What I’ve Learned From 2015

I’ve stopped making New Year’s Resolutions years ago because I realized that if I want to change something about my life, I shouldn’t have to wait until the new year to do so. So now, whenever I’m unhappy with something and I make the decision to change, I change it then and there.

What I have started doing since last year though was write down all the things I’ve learned from the year that I could look back at and reread in the coming year. I have found that that exercise not only helps me be more grateful for everything that has happened but also allows me to refocus my energy on the things that did work and dump the things that didn’t.

Here are some things that I’ve learned this year – I’m bolding words to make it easier to follow the main points. Also, they’re not listed in any order. I’m just typing as I go:

  1. When someone (almost always, it’s not a person I’m very close to) asks me for my opinion on something, they don’t really want to hear it. All they really wanted was for me to agree with them and if I don’t, then they get upset and will try to defend their choices and the reasons they decided on those choices. So, the next time someone asks me for my opinion, unless I can trust that they want my opinion, then I’m not going to share it. It’s a waste of time and energy. I’ve spent countless late nights talking to some people who had asked me for my help and opinion to be shot down every single time. Not only was that an exercise in futility, it also hurt my feelings and sense of self-confidence.
  2. Writing and Drawing (or any other creative pursuits) saved me from myself and my depressive episodes. Just a few days ago, writing on this blog helped me overcome my desire to self-harm. So I’m going to keep doing this as much as I can.
  3. I am not bad at math as I’ve been led to believe all my life. In fact, I’ve fallen in love with it. Though I still don’t understand a lot of it, I do like it enough now to want to stir up the same love in others. I also like it enough to pursue a Minor in Mathematical Science! I learned that math isn’t all that hard as long as you work hard at it and have good teachers. I was thankful that I did have good teachers.
  4. Depression and Anxiety lies because they want to keep me in the dark with them. They tell me that I’m not worthy, that nothing I do is ever enough and that I will never be better. The worst part is, I’ve learned that I not only believe them, I’m also addicted to their abuse.
  5. I’ve learned to overcome my own misconceptions about people with disabilities and mental illnesses because I myself became a part of that community of people. I learned that everything I knew about this community were false and that I had been blinded by what the media tells me to believe about this community. In fact, I’ve learned that I’ve not found a more supportive and kinder group of people than those who have mental illnesses and disabilities!
  6. If I don’t speak up and advocate for mental health, people will continue to be ignorant. I hear many ignorant statements about mental illnesses daily – especially when people find out that I’m mentally ill. It has spurred me on to want to keep talking and writing about it. I’ve recently also realized my purpose in life – that is to share my life and experiences to others so that they may also be helped.
  7. I learned who my real friends are and made some new friends that I hope I’ll always be able to depend on and trust.
  8. I’ve learned what empathy really means and am still learning how to show empathy towards others as well as speak emphatically towards others when they are in need of a shoulder to lean on.
  9. I’ve learned that psychotherapy works and I’ve learned to put my trust in my psychologist. I’m still resisting him because of point #4 where I’m still addicted to my depression but I know that he’s there to help me. I’ve overcome my skepticism about therapy and how talking can really help a lot.
  10. I learned that my expertise in art seems to be skyline drawings and working with ink. I’ve produced some pieces that I’m really proud of and that’s saying something because I’m usually never proud of my own work.
  11. I am stronger than I ever thought I was. I slipped into a major depressive episode sometime in the end of August and am now crawling out of it. It had been 4 months of pain and suffering in which I had started self-harming and my suicidal thoughts went to extremes, but now that I’m starting to come out of it, I realize that despite it all, I’m still here. It proves that I can go through the same pain and suffering again and still emerge on the other side. I realize that it all sucks but despite the pain, I’ve learned so much about myself and my own resilience.
  12. Resilience can be learned and cultivated. Practicing resilience is a daily affair and the more I do it, the easier it is for me to accept other people’s differences and to not allow myself to get too worked up over things that I can’t control.
  13. Going to see the on-call psychologist is not a reason to feel ashamed and that asking for help when I need it is not a reason to feel like I’m a burden to others. It’s something I need to continue to affirm – that it’s ok to ask for help.
  14. I can physically relocate but unless I process and deal with the issues that made me relocate in the first place, the memories and thoughts will always continue to haunt me wherever I go.
  15. It’s never too late to change. It’s never too late to learn new things. It’s never too late to change my career trajectory. It’s never too late to go back to school. Going back to school has made the hugest difference in my life!
  16. I have an amazingly loyal, loving and kind husband who is always there for me despite how shitty I am towards him some days. He has told me yesterday that my happiness is the only thing that matters to him and that he’ll do whatever it takes to make me happy.
  17. Quitting sugar isn’t as hard as I thought it would be – it is possible to cut down on the amount I consume and still feel okay. In fact, it feels better than ok because I’ve lost almost 30 pounds since I started cutting out sugar and physically, I feel better than I have months ago!
  18. Star Wars isn’t a bad franchise when JJ Abrams rebooted it and it is actually a franchise that has characters that I really relate to. The Force is like a metaphor for my own life and I’m blown away by how mindfulness is a prevalent theme in the series. I’ve since watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens 6 times now!
  19. I still need to figure out how to overcome myself and slow down my thoughts when I’m overwhelmed because I’ve learned that nothing really seems to help. I thought that having temporary tattoos or bracelets or visible reminders of my struggles would help but they really don’t. Not even the self harm wounds and scars help me slow down. It must be the ADHD impulsivity overcoming my more rational mind.
  20. Every day is a new day to try again. If I fail the first time, I get up and I try again.

I’m sure there’s more and if you let me, I’m gong to keep writing so I’m going to stop at 20. These are 20 things that I’ve learned about myself this year and I hope that I will not only carry all these lessons forward but also learn new ones!

If you’ve read this far, wow, that’s amazing. I usually don’t have the attention span to be able to read long posts and I admire those of you who do and are able to get this far through my ramblings. You have my gratitude for your attention!

Happy 2016 and may this year bring you lots of new opportunities and lessons!

Why I Write

So over on The Mighty‘s closed group for contributors, people are writing short passages on why they write what they write – be it all the articles for The Mighty, other media outlets or their own blogs. I started to read the dozens of responses but as I continued, I started feeling really pained and burdened – not by what they were saying but by how many people suffer and struggle daily.

As I read the entries, I slowly discovered that we all suffer and struggle in some capacity or other. It’s painful and difficult to talk about and yet, these people have decided to talk about it. Many of them would not want to be called “brave” just because they’re speaking up but brave is what they are and should be described as.

I don’t know if I, myself, can accept the adjective “brave” to describe my own pieces and my own writing as it is a difficult word to accept for ourselves. It is much easier to call others “heroes”, “courageous” and “brave” but to call ourselves such seems – at least to me – quite arrogant and boastful. I can’t say that writing and speaking about mental health issues is a particularly brave thing to do because I feel like advocating for mental health issues is what I’m supposed to do.

I asked S weeks ago what my purpose in life was and why I’m still alive – he had reminded me to seek the answer within myself. When I searched for the answer, I recognized that my purpose in this life is to share with others my life and my experiences – because who knows, maybe someone someday can benefit from it.

So I realize now, as I read everyone else’s reasons as to why they write, that the reason I write about my ADHD, depression, anxiety, self-harming tendencies and suicidal ideations is because I want to reach out to those who are afraid and ashamed of who they are and what they struggle with. I write because it not only empowers myself but also empowers others. I write because I learned this year that “When you share your story, others will too”. I write because after I started to do so, I started meeting wonderful people who struggle with other mental health issues in some way or other. I started to learn more about other people as well as myself. I started to understand my own capabilities and limitations and how to overcome said limitations.

I also write so that I can represent – at least in some minor way – those who can’t do so for themselves. It is my hope that through my writings, drawings and speeches that I will be able to contribute to the abolition of the stigma of mental illnesses.

I have found now that to keep silent is to give up my rights to be recognized as a functioning member of society worthy of being heard. To keep silent would mean allowing shame to consume me and to define who I am.

Instead, I now know that I need to continue this work. I only started a few months ago but the amount of times I’ve had comments from people who’ve been helped have been heart warming. I never set out to reach people – yet, somehow, I did. And that has made the biggest difference to me. It is now the force that will continue to propel me forward and to continue my path of advocacy. Knowing that my writings, drawings and speeches can help even one person – even if that one person is myself – is more than enough to be a purpose for me to persevere.