Of Being Happy and Mindful

I am happy today.

I am so happy that my anxiety, and depression are temporarily gone from my awareness. It’s different.

Something else is different too.

For the first time in my life, I am not afraid to say that I am proud of the fact that I am happy. I don’t have to make excuses and downplay my happiness, like I’ve always felt like I had to in the past. I could never tell people positive things about me because of how afraid I am of others judging me for being happy as a depressed person.

In group today, I told Jenny and Brandon that I love them so much that it hurts me tremendously to see them both in the darkness, still struggling to climb out of the pit of depression. I told them that I felt really sad that Jenny have been victim shamed so much in her life that she can’t even bring up the topic of sexual assault or even believe that women are right to talk about their survival with her significant other, and that Brandon felt that he can’t feel okay with who he is. I recognized their pain because I was just a few months ago, steeped in it. I’ve been through all the shit, and muck, and though I still visit the pit from time to time, I’ve also been spending a lot more time in the sun lately.

I told the two of them (because only 3 of us attended group today) that I didn’t want them to misunderstand me – that for a moment, I didn’t want to tell them how I felt because I was afraid that they would judge me as ‘hypocritical’. I felt hypocritical because back when I was in the thick of depression, many supportive people have told me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That there is hope. At that time, I had scoffed at every single one of them and in my mind, had resolved that none of them knew how I felt. I refused to believe them because I didn’t think that they’d understand. That no one would.

Now I’m more stable, and can cope with my difficulties better. And I suddenly realized that I now know what those well-meaning people had been saying to me. I knew now that they weren’t just saying words to make me feel better but rather they really believe it.

I said, “I decided to say what was on my mind anyway even though a part of me felt like a hypocrite but I trusted… Or at least, I hoped that you two would get what I was saying, and where I was coming from. You both have seen, and experienced me at my lowest. You know how much I’ve struggled. So I hoped that you’d hear my message and see it as coming from someone who did go through shit and who did do all the hard work to come to this sunny side. And it is my hope, I am so so hopeful that you two can feel this way too because it hurts me so much to see you two struggle. I want so much good for you guys!”

Of course, I cried. I got very emotional and I explained that I didn’t know why.

T offered an explanation, “Jules, when you said all those things to Jenny and Brandon, I could tell that it came from your heart. That you genuinely wanted good things for them. And in saying those things, telling them that their issues are valid, that they’re worthy to feel the way they do despite what others have told them, is also in the same way, self validating. You were also talking to yourself, Jules. You told yourself that you were worthy, and that you were valid…”

What he said struck me. He was right. I was validating myself too. And that’s why I got emotional. I still have trouble telling myself good things without crying. It’s so emotionally impactful for me that I can’t do it without the tears.

Later, I shared with Brandon how I’ve been able to climb out of the pit – it was that I had built a support system around me who would remind me from time to time that I’m doing well, and that I’m heading the right direction. I told him that it’s all and well to be able to self validate, but to also receive such recognition, and encouragement, is huge. I told him that I felt so much stronger now because I have recognized who my people are.

I then told him how much of a privilege it’s been for me to watch him grow, and to see how much he’s grown. He used to be high strung, philosophical, cold, distant, and so stressed out. Today, he sat there with an even temper, and was able to participate in the conversation without even once going to the philosophical arguments. He was vulnerable, and allowed himself to be, and he was accepting of all the feedback he was given. I felt so proud of him. When T asked me how I felt towards Brandon, I said, “I feel so good. I feel so privileged to have seen such a huge change. It makes me extremely happy that you are reaching that point, and are working so hard yourself. I feel so much affection for you right now. It’s almost like you’re my little brother, and you’ve done so much good work!” I wanted him to know that his hard work is being recognized. It made me feel so happy to be able to say that because not only did it impact him, it also rebounded and hit me with the fuzzies.

Just before group, the Director of the Office of Health and Wellness said to me,

“When you learn to love yourself, those who love you will come back around to you. You don’t have to acclimate to others. You are a square trying to fit in a round hole. You’re not meant to fit!”

The Health and Wellness Promotion Coordinator then added,

“Those who are for you can’t go. Those who are not for you, can’t stay”.

Those two things have changed my life today. The words reverberated through me and I felt the anxiety that has been holding me back all this time ebb away. I was so afraid of losing people, and losing good times, that I was willing to settle for mediocre just so that I don’t have to rely on only myself. When I heard all that, I learned that I could let go, and the world will still revolve… And somehow, that helped me let go today.

It helped me stay uplifted, and positive.

So much so that I went and watched Power Rangers at the theater by myself. I was giddy with excitement because I felt like a child again, and Power Rangers was one of the more positive aspects of my childhood. I remembered how hopeful, and strong I had felt every time I watched the show. Watching the movie today reminded me of that. I also felt that the interaction between the characters to be similar to what I’d felt for Jenny, and Brandon today. It felt good. They feel like family.

I also was able to learn that when I love myself, it makes me love my partner, Cherie, even more than I already do. It made me secure in our relationship, and I am not worried about a thing right now. I confessed to her, and to group that my relationship has been going well – despite some fights – and it’s been going on so well that I have consciously caught myself thinking, “Wow. This is going well. Now what can I screw up so that I can go back in the pit again? What can I do to make it so that I feel depressed again?” I’m so used to being in the dark that being in the light feels strange, and uncomfortable. I know that now.

Today has been one of those really mindful days for me. I’m just so aware of my life, my speech, my actions, and my feelings. I don’t know if it will last or not, but I am hopeful that even if it doesn’t, that I’ll be able to handle it and turn the negatives into good growing experiences.

Avoidance of News

Today’s session with S had been emotionally and physically exhausting. It wasn’t his fault of course. Rather, it was all of the things that I talked to him about; all the things I made myself feel all at once today. I was overwhelmed this past week and I had numbed myself through it all until I opened up and talked about it today. (I’ll have to write about the session more later when I have more time. Writing a serious blog post 20 minutes before I leave for work isn’t ideal.)

This is just a quick one to say that I avoid the news, especially those that are tragic, because I can’t handle the trauma it triggers in me and I feel so deeply for people that it affects my mental health. It may seem like I’m apathetic or maybe even like an ostrich, just burying my head in the sand but if I don’t, I think I’d probably be in tears constantly.

This past weekend was extremely difficult for me which was why when S asked me if I needed to see him one more time today, I had said that I would like to (after some hesitation). I had told him that last week had been good and bad. When I saw him today, he said to me as we sat down, “So today, we talk about the bad, huh?”

Well, the shooting in Orlando at the gay club, Pulse, has profoundly affected me because I identified to both the shooter as well as the victims. Before anyone thinks that I feel bad for the shooter, please understand that there’s a difference between relating to what he was feeling and thinking that he didn’t do anything wrong. He got what he deserved – I only wished that he was alive to explain his actions and then to be punished duly.

Anyway, I identified with the struggle he had with his identity as a gay person, his denial of that side of him, as well as his struggle with the faith that he grew up with – trying to reconcile that part of him with his faith. It’s a huge struggle. I’ve struggled with it for all my life and its only been this past year that I’m even entertaining the idea of processing it. I’ve even wrote about this at a longer length in another post: A Struggle Of Identity.

So, I speculate that his anger towards seeing the gay men kissing and his resulting shooting was his attempt to absolve himself of his “sin”. Purely speculation on my part of course but I thought about how angry I am sometimes with openly LGBT people because I, myself, struggle so deeply with being able to reconcile who I am with what I feel like God wants for me. That whenever I see openly gay people who are so confident in themselves, I feel envious which triggers the anger. I’m not really angry at them. I’m angry at myself because I am unable to cope with my own feelings of unworthiness and the pain of feeling rejected by God.

Aside from that, the news and social media has also been constantly been reporting on the Stanford rape case. Though I have never personally been raped, it still hit me close because of my own childhood traumas as well as the molestation that I had suffered. So this has been an awful week as a result.

I can’t stop feeling so deeply for people and though it’s a great thing to be able to empathize, at the moment, I feel like it’s a weakness because it constantly breaks me.

Processing a Childhood Trauma – Thoughts From Therapy #61

-Potential trigger warning: This post contains content that deal with childhood sexual trauma and self-harming thoughts. Note that this is also going to be a really long post.-

It is a strange thing that I feel that I deserve more compassion when I see myself as someone else than when I see myself in the first person. In the midst of raging thoughts of self-harm, my person, SH, messaged me on Facebook with two simple words, “You ok?”. I contemplated how to answer him.

I wanted to lie. I wanted so badly to lie so that I could go and hurt myself.

Continue reading

More Updates – Week 3 of School Complete

I can’t believe how many days it’s been since my last post. I am really unable to keep up with the demands of my school and work life this semester. Between juggling 32 hours of work (2 jobs!), my 14-credit hours of school work (including a very demanding Professor whose keeps giving us assignments to finish every 2 days or so) plus countless hours spent on assignments and homework, an online class that I can’t keep up with because I not only don’t have the attention span to sit through an entire module but the lack of face-to-face communication is difficult for me, training to be a Peer Educator (which I am severely under-performing in for my standards because I’m just too busy), helping my leadership committee for the club I helped found, private tutoring once a week and working out, I have little time for anything else.

My step-father-in-law told me that he doesn’t know where I get the energy to do everything I just listed. To be honest, I don’t know either. I think it is the mix of the restless ADHD energy as well as Ritalin – I mean, passion. Ha… I’ve been staying up a lot during school days too because if I don’t get all my thoughts out and finish my assignments quickly after I get them, I forget that I even had assignments to do.

My ADHD has been a double edged sword for me this semester – it’s both helping and hindering me (as it always does, actually). I’ve been motivated to work due to my restlessness but at the same time, a lot of the things I’m learning aren’t really processing – I am not sure if it’s just because of the lack of focus I’ve been having or whether I’m just exhausted. I can ask someone a question and 2 seconds into their explanation, I have quit listening. I’m not sure how to overcome this at this time. The fact that I haven’t been to therapy for 2 weeks now isn’t helping matters because I now realize that S keeps me on track with my thoughts. I can’t wait to see him next Wednesday – it’ll be about time, that’s for sure!

Despite the struggles, I am actually enjoying myself. I may sound like I’m complaining but I’m really not. I’ve realized how fortunate I am to have a great support system now and how much they’re helping me through things. I love that despite our own struggles, when we get together, we’re always able to help each other through the difficulties. I have less of a good time when Thursday swings around because it means I go back to my serving job but this makes me appreciate my Monday-Wednesday in school more so I’m always thankful for the shift in perspective.

Anyway, I hope that I’ll be able to write something more thoughtful and substantial soon but I really don’t think that it’ll happen very soon. School life hasn’t stabilized yet for me and until it does, it’s hard for me to find time to do anything else – unfortunately, blogging is on the back burner for now.

Why I Don’t Want To Get Better

I wake up this morning feeling a lot more emotionally stable than I was last night. I think the crying, writing and subsequent sleep really helped. Waking up this morning with awful stomach cramps put a little damper on things but with the miracle of pain killers, I’m not feeling too bad.

Anyway, I’ve been trawling the massive question archive of Quora lately and have been answering as many of the ADHD and mental health related questions that I can because I just feel the need to. I do as much as my unfocused ADHD brain would allow – with Strattera, I find myself drifting away pretty quickly. Then again, I’m still a week away from the target dose.

Earlier, I came across this question that really struck me because it’s a question that I had recently asked S, myself. I don’t remember if I even wrote about it here (I might have…) but I feel like even if I have, it’s a good thing to revisit.

The question was:

I have depression but I don’t want to get better even though I have ways of doing so. WHY?

And here was my answer:

Interesting you should ask this question because it’s a realization that I’ve come to recently that I shared with my psychologist. I told him, “You know… I’m seeing you every week but really, deep down, I don’t want to be better. I don’t want to because I think I’m addicted to my depression. I’m addicted to it because it’s the only thing in my life that has been there for a long time that I know about. Without my depression, who am I? I don’t know who I am without it. What if I’m boring when I’m healed? I think I don’t want to be better because without the depression, I don’t have a crutch anymore. It means that I’ll actually have to talk to people, I’ll actually have to engage with others and really be someone… The depression makes me not have to do that. I guess my depression is my excuse and “Get out of Jail Free” card. I can not show up for events and stuff people have planned because hey, depression. I can get bad grade because hey, depression… I think, S, I think that’s why I’m addicted to my depression. I think that’s why I don’t want to get better…”

Of course my psychologist allows me to ramble because when I do, I find the answer to the questions that I already know. He nodded and smiled.

He said, “You know Jules. You’ve come to this realization sooner than I had expected. That is a good sign to me. I know it doesn’t feel good to admit that. I know it doesn’t feel good to be depressed but it’s a good sign that you have realized that you don’t want to be better. At some point, every depressed person will come to the same realization. And as you’ve pointed out, it’s because you’re afraid of what could come next. What could come after the depression…”

“Yeah. I am afraid to live. I am afraid of what without depression really is about… I’ve never lived before. I’m afraid of that…”

“The good news is that I’ve never turned anyone boring after they’ve recovered from depression,” My psychologist said. We both then laughed. As silly as it sounds, it is a real concern in my mind but I know that it is something I can overcome with help.

I don’t know if this will help you figure things out for yourself but this little experience of mine came to be quite recently (maybe 4-5 weeks ago) and is quite a poignant discovery I have made for myself. I think ultimately, fear is what keeps us back and the fear of life can be quite an overwhelming one that will drive us back into the comforting (albeit horrible) arms of depression. At least depression is something we’ve always known. Life… Well, that’s another monster that we’ve never tackled before. Who knows what that could bring?”

I don’t know if that answer was helpful or not but I hope that the person who asked it will come back to read the answers that had been posted. I’m learning quite a bit from all the folks over at Quora. I think I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and keep answering questions to the best of my abilities. I think I’ll post them here too in case someone might benefit from seeing the answers.

Life Lesson From Star Wars

As someone struggling with mental illnesses, Star Wars actually allows me to relate to the characters pretty well. In Empire, I related to Luke’s character – it could’ve been me walking into the cave in Dagobah, it could’ve been me having all that anger in me, it could’ve been me choosing between Dark and Light.

I never thought of it that way until my psychologist pointed it out – he made me rethink my stance on the franchise and I gave it a chance a week ago. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have watched the new movie.I wouldn’t have learned so much about myself either.

The Force is like mindfulness – choosing the Light side is harder and it also means putting in a LOT of effort, energy and commitment towards change and resilience. Giving in to the Dark side is easy, just allow your anger to control you. Just let your mental illness take over and do whatever it wants. It’s so easy.

Daily, I choose the Light side – sometimes I fail and I let my anger, depression, anxiety and ADHD take over so I get the struggle Luke had to go through. I get why it’s so hard for someone to become a Jedi. Overcoming oneself is perhaps one of the greatest challenges someone can have. And I also get why Anakin became Vader. We could all be like Luke in the cave, seeing our faces under Vader’s helmet but I’m reminded that like Anakin, Luke had a choice to make and he made a choice to overcome himself.

Turns out, it’s our daily choices that shape who we really are, not our pasts.

Here’s a link to an article written by Dr Ali Mattu on mindfulness and Star Wars. It’s a very interesting read and very insightful!

Mindfulness is the Essential Psychology of the Star Wars Universe