Still Alive

Anyone who follows my Facebook, my blog, or knows me personally knows that I’ve been through a hellish year with processing the traumas of my life, processing a painful and messy divorce, battling suicidal thoughts and intents, battling self harming tendencies, processing my sexual orientation and what it means to be Christian despite it, dealing with the pain of intense self-shame, self-punishment, self-defeat, as well as experiencing all those feelings as I project them onto others, working two jobs while contributing as a Peer Educator, and struggling with financial issues.

At the end of the day, we’re on the cusp of the beginning of the final month of the year – I’m still here, after all that shit, I’m still fighting.

I’m going to fail all my classes – in retrospect, that shouldn’t add to more shame for me right?

Then why do I still keep feeling like I’ve wasted an entire semester doing nothing? – Even though, I’ve done more in this semester where my mental health is concerned than I’ve ever done in my life.

The critical voices in my head need to stop.

After all the shit, I should get a medal for still being here. What are 3 F’s in a transcript compared to how I’m still alive?

Grades and Achievements This Semester

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Spring 2016 Grades

My disappointing grades this semester. Yes, a lot of you are going to look at this and say that I’m crazy for thinking that this is disappointing. Hey, I can’t help how I feel about it. I know I could’ve done better. I know I could’ve gotten a 4.0. Now my Cumulative GPA has dropped to 3.839. I know it’s not the end of the world. I know it’ll go back up as I progress through the rest of my program. But like I said, I can’t help how I feel.

That said, at the same time, if I were to tell you the dozen things that I was struggling through while I was going through this semester (including reliving some past traumas, struggling to work 50-60 hours a week while going to school, struggling with my sexuality and my identity, and several other major things I am not comfortable talking about yet), I’m sure you’d say that you’re amazed that I even managed to finish the semester, let alone get this kind of a grade.

It also reminded me of what B (the psychologist who had facilitated the group therapy that I had been a part of for a better part of this semester) had told me. “Isn’t it more important at the end of this semester to see that you’re still here and managed to keep yourself alive than whatever grades you’re going to get?” Well, I’m still here, still breathing when more than a hundred times throughout this semester, I’ve been battling my own suicidal ideations. I think that counts for something too.

S tells me that I’m very resilient and that resilience has shone through while a fellow blogger, Q, has noted that I had higher than average coping skills – all of which have dragged me through these months. I’ve emerged battered and bruised; I’m still here. I know it counts for something in many people’s eyes. I guess, I just need to believe that myself. It’s such a struggle because right now, I don’t. A friend of mine, SH, told me that it’s great that people can help me through but I need to want it myself. I need to want to live. I need to fight for that myself because really, I can’t rely on anyone else to keep me alive. I know he’s right. But it’s also hard when I really don’t want it. S was concerned when I told him that I didn’t want to live.

At the end of the day, I’m my own worst critic and worst enemy.

Maybe I need to just list out some achievements and hopefully it’ll help me refocus and at least get through today.

Accomplishments this semester:

  1. Finished the semester and remained alive. Sure, I’ve added more scars to my left arm from all the self-harm but I didn’t go through with my plans to kill myself.
  2. Got an A for Computing which was a class that I thought I’d never be able to get through.
  3. Got a B- for Calculus – which according to S is “far from failure”; of course he’s right. I thought I was going to fail this, but I didn’t. And despite not studying as hard as I should have, I still managed to escape a C.
  4. Got an A+ for History of Interiors and Furniture, a class that I didn’t think I was going to enjoy when I first signed up for it but ended up really loving.
  5. Got an A- for Space Planning, a class that was extremely difficult for a 100-level class. I survived it.
  6. Helped tutor 4 different students in math. I don’t know how they did but I hope they did well.
  7. Worked 40-60 hours a week while going to school and haven’t had a nervous breakdown from it yet.
  8. Participated fully in the Peer Educator program’s Health and Wellness Leadership Academy. I expect to be promoted to Peer Educator in the Fall of 2016.
  9. Got myself a haircut that reminded me a little of who I really am. C, the other psychologist that facilitated my group therapy, told me, “It’s not just hair” and I’ll never forget that.
  10. Worked at the Math Assistance Center (MAC) and made new friends – I also learned so much from these individuals because they are not only as nerdy as I am but also so diverse in interests and skills.
  11. Self-cared by utilizing all the services that the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provided including individual psychotherapy, crisis-intervention walk-in sessions, and the Understanding-Self-And-Others group therapy.
  12. Made several HUGE breakthroughs during therapy with S this semesters – all of which really sucked because of how much it hurts to relive the traumas, how painful it is to admit some things that I’ve worked hard to brush off, and how hard it is to recover repressed memories.
  13. Finally admitted that I struggle with same sex attraction desires. I still have a long way to go to work on this but this is the first step, right?
  14. Some things didn’t work out but it’s really no one’s fault so being able to write that down is in itself an achievement.
  15. I bought a car. Sure, it’s more debt to my already huge debt but at least now I can take myself places and not burden Hubster with having him drive me around all the time.
  16. Was nominated for a Women’s Leadership Award for school. I didn’t win but getting to submit my resume for a chance to win was something!
  17. Sat down with a suicidal friend and helped comfort her – this in turn helped me comfort myself. She’s fine now and things got much better for her. Perhaps the same will be for me too.
  18. Kept up with my ADHD medication and the medication has finally stabilized in my system to actually help me instead of hindering me when I first started taking it. I’m MUCH better at paying attention and functioning like an adult now.
  19. Sat myself down and forced myself to write this list – which made me think of all the good things that have happened this semester. Sure the list of bad things is longer but this is still something! I did ALL these things and probably even more that I can’t remember. I actually feel a lot better than when I first started writing this post. Wow.

Fall 2015 Grades

Full Grades

Fall 2015 grades

Not bragging but I received another 4.0 this semester and I’m extremely grateful, especially since as you all know, I’ve been struggling pretty badly emotionally and psychologically this semester.

I don’t know why exactly but this semester had been a mostly downhill rollercoaster ride and I had been more depressed than I’ve ever been in my life. I was also more anxious than I’ve ever been and more unfocused and impulsive than I’ve ever been. I don’t know if those are just a result of higher stress or whether it’s because therapy is shining a light on these issues and so I’m more aware of it – by being more aware of something, it’ll seem more severe in many cases.

I’m grateful for all the encouraging people I’ve met this semester who have had a part to play in my success in school – of course my ever faithful husband who bears the brunt of my emotional upheavals and instabilities, my patient and insightful psychologist, S, and my new friends, El, R, M and E who have been extremely encouraging have been consistently there to support me. Without them, I doubt that I would’ve achieved all A’s in all my classes.

I’m also grateful for my instructors who had been understanding about my difficulties as a non-traditional student whose English is a second language who also struggles with ADHD, Anxiety and Depression. They had been gracious – especially my Color and Design instructor who had allowed me to turn in an assignment a couple of hours later because my ADHD-addled brain couldn’t remember that I had an assignment due. I’m also grateful to my Speech instructor who encouraged me to speak my mind and allowed me to share my experiences in mental illnesses. I am grateful for the reconsideration of my grade for one of my drawings in Architectural Presentation as I felt like I could’ve definitely done better on that drawing but was allowed to make up for it anyway. And I’m definitely very thankful to have met my Algebra and Trigonometry 2 instructor because if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have applied to be a tutor for math or have even gotten the 107.69% grade and “Best in Section” title for that class. He is by far the most passionate math teacher I’ve ever met and I’m so glad to have been able to be a part of his class.

Now, I just need to calm my anxiety down because it’s already telling me that I won’t be able to keep this up for yet another semester. Hubster exclaimed, “But that’s what you said last semester remember? And see how well you did this semester!” and I countered with “Yeah, but I’ve got Calculus and Computing next semester!” to which he responded with, “Oh whatever. I know you can do it. You’ve proven that you can!” A mutual friend had also said to me, “You know Jules, you really prove that with a will, there’s a way!”. I truly believe that now. That if I want something bad enough, I will achieve it because I will work hard to do so.

I also need to remind myself that if I can do this well when I’m struggling with being emotionally unstable, what can’t I accomplish when I’m better? It’s a good reminder to keep fighting. I may have added three more scars to my arm from the self harm but I know that someday I will be able to overcome that – even if it means having to fight every single day against that impulse.

The Night I Realized Who My “Pit Guy” Was

How many of you here are fans of How I Met Your Mother?

For those of you who are, you might remember an episode in Season 8 – specifically Episode 11 – The Final Page – where Ted Mosby was so worked up over his old architecture professor who had told him that Ted will never be an architect. Ted was very upset that said professor declined to attend a momentous ceremony at the opening of a building that he had designed. He decided to confront his professor and rub it in his face that he, Ted, is now an accomplished architect. This episode brought up the concept of the “pit guy” in which there is someone in your life that you’ve obsessed over for so long that you’d throw them into a pit like in the fashion of Silence of the Lambs. In Ted’s case, his “pit guy” was Professor Vinnick, the professor who had invalidated him.

When I saw this episode a year or so ago, I was stunned. It resonated with me. It resonated with me so much that I realized how much I related to Ted. I realized that I had put a bunch of people into a pit and had locked them away there (except in my case, it’s a basement with bars like a prison).

The reason I even bring this up in this post is because after years of trying to find her, I have finally found my high school math teacher on Facebook. It was all a coincidence too. I was just scrolling through my feed on my phone when suddenly the “People You May Know” section popped up and there she was. My high school math teacher. Someone I have thought about consciously and unconsciously for the last 10 years.

I clicked on her profile and sent her a message asking her if she was indeed the teacher that I had been looking for for so long. She responded almost immediately and yes! She was the teacher!

At that point, I had thought to myself, “Good! Now I can show her just how accomplished I am now with my math skills! She was wrong to have said all those things about me and to tell me that I was lazy and hopeless! I’ll show her!!!

I was so excited to tell her that she was wrong. That I was misunderstood since no one noticed that I had ADHD and was struggling to keep up with school. That I was not lazy or hopeless. That I received an A+ for Algebra and Trigonometry 1, I’m currently receiving A’s for my quizzes and tests in Algebra and Trigonometry 2, I’m now a registered tutor who is available to teach Algebra and I’m on my way to earning a Minor in Mathematical Science (yes, that’s my goal).

After making sure she remembered who I was, I went ahead and told her of my achievements in Math. It didn’t take long for her to respond with “Wow – :thumbs up: :thumbs up: :thumbs up:” She told me that I no longer have a phobia for math and that I must have had a really good teacher to get me out of that rut. She was genuinely happy for me and we spent the rest of the conversation catching up as she was very interested to know more of what I’ve been up to.

I even told her of my ADHD diagnosis and how that had contributed to my inability to understand her when she taught me math. She then confessed that she often feels helpless to assist students like me – the ones who are clearly smart but have no motivation or interest to continue. It hit me then that I had never considered how she must have felt about my failures in math and all the bad grades I got. I had never considered that she felt bad for me and felt bad that she couldn’t help me.

I had always thought of her as the harsh teacher – the one who was strict with grading, the one who expected a lot from her students, the one who had put me down and said some mean things. I still remember the time that she had scolded me outside of the classroom and that incident had brought me to my tears. I still remember how I could never face her after that and how fearful I was of her. Suffice to say, I didn’t have many positive memories of her. I mean, I like her enough to want to keep in touch. I respect her tremendously as I had always thought that she was a strong woman with amazing math skills.

After our short conversation, I realized that she had tried her very best to help me and her harsh words to my young ears had though been perceived negatively by me were actually words from a frustrated person who was well meaning but perhaps lacked the necessary vocabulary. After all, we were both Chinese and in our culture, we often don’t praise our young.

I had been so excited to contact her to tell her of my achievements and to rub it in her face – essentially to inform her of how wrong she was of me. Instead, I came face to face with the moment in the episode of How I Met Your Mother where Ted Mosby realized that in the end, the person you threw into the pit was really yourself all along. I had taken all of my math teacher’s negative words, internalized them, convinced myself that I was bad at math and will never amount to anything in life and had replayed negative scenes in my head over and over until all these thoughts became facts of my life. So for the next 10 years, I lived my life with the strong feeling that I was bad at math and was a hopeless failure.

Ted Mosby's Wisdom To His Children

Ted Mosby’s Wisdom To His Children

I had effectively put myself into the pit of my mind to live in hopelessness and despair, to fumble in the darkness and to suffer in lonely silence. I realize that now. I realize now why that episode had resonated with me so much. It’s because at that point in time, I realized that I had put myself in a pit and I think it took an entire year and tonight’s conversation with my ex-high school math teacher to hit home.

I had expected fanfare and a tearful realization from my high school teacher that she had wronged me. I had expected to be euphoric like a boxer who had just given a knock-out punch and is now dancing around the ring like the winner deserves to. I had expected to feel good to tell my teacher that I am succeeding in math the way she had never expected me to. I had expected a sense of peace.

I don’t. Instead, I realize now just how much pain I’ve put myself through. And like Ted Mosby said, there is only one person who can let me out of the pit. And that person is me.

Perhaps now I can stop beating myself up and feeling guilty at every single thing. Perhaps now I can learn to face my shame, my anger, my frustrations, my despair…

At least one of the traumas in my life has now found its closure. Though I didn’t receive any fanfare or overwhelming sense of peace, it did bring about this epiphany which I am truly thankful for.

A Tale of Two A’s

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I can’t believe it…. I actually got an A for my first Algebra test. An A… I couldn’t quit smiling after I saw it.

My very first A!!! For the first time in my life, I got an A for a higher math test! I was very happy and relieved. I don’t know what I expected to get for the test – I mean I worked really hard on the revisions – but certainly not an A.

I just hope that I’ll continue to do well! *fingers crossed*

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I also got my first assignment for “Intro to Interior Design” back, in which I had to write a series of alphabets and phrases in architectural lettering. I got a 98%!! I’m over the moon!!

People might think I’m a nerd but I’m super stoked. I was an over achiever when I went to college 10 years ago. I guess I still am an overachiever!

I just hope I don’t lose steam and keep getting better!