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.

Pride Deserving of a Gryffindor

Today, I’m proud of myself.

Now, that’s quite a rare one, isn’t it?

If you’ve been following my blog for a while now, you’d know that I have a high level of self-shame, self-hatred, and I find it hard to self-love.

Lately however, I’ve been coming to terms with how I feel about myself and learning what it means to self-love.

I said to S today, “Part of me can’t believe that I got to the realization that I need to cut off ties with my ex in order to heal in just a matter of days…” (I had come to terms with my decision early this week since having made said decision just a few days prior) and he said something that I’d known in the back of my mind but never really paid much attention to.

S said, “I want to challenge that notion that seems to undermine the amount of work you’ve done here. We’re coming up to 2 years of working together, and in that time, we’ve been dealing with the same things over and over again. You’ve worked incredibly hard!”

I thought hard as he said that and I realized that he was right.

Come April, it’ll have been 2 years of therapy. It’s almost unbelievable how long I’ve been grinding away at this, and how much I’ve worked. It still feels surreal. How could we have known each other that long?

Is that why I could just saunter into CAPS and say hi to everyone there as though I’ve been buddies with them for ages? I walk in through the doors and just casually say, “Hi D! How’s it going this week?” or “Hi K! Whatchu up to?” (K is the new receptionist that was hired to deal with the increasing demands of front desk work)

Is that why I could plop myself down in S’ client couch and just lean back like I was very comfortable? And is that why I can now ask him questions more plainly without having to ruminate over them for months before I bring anything up?

Wow. I don’t know why I am thinking like this is such a big deal – I mean, sure, I’ve been there almost 2 years now, so what, right?

That said, a part of me recognizes just how important this is – how important this journey has been thus far.

I keep undermining my efforts because I’m so short-sighted – I only see what’s immediately in front of me. S, on the other hand, had the privilege of being a third party observer who has his own informed perspective to use.

He said, “I don’t want you to sway you to my perspective but that’s how I see it. I see it as you, having put in so much time, energy, and effort into this recovery process, that it took you only a few days to come to terms with your decision because it’s been a long time coming. All those months of work have prepared you for this. You didn’t just wake up one day and decided that you were over the divorce…”

As I chewed on his words, I realized that I started to feel the warm feeling of pride inside. I started to realize how strong I’ve been – despite all the batterings I’ve endured last year, I emerged through that alive.

I started to realize that I am proud of myself for all that I’ve achieved.

I told S that. He beamed and assured me that I completely deserve to feel that way. He also told me how impressed he was with my ability to pull myself out of a suicidal thought 2 weeks ago.

It had been a rough time for me and I had reverted to the old habit of self-punishment, and suicidal tendency. I wanted to kill myself – I was triggered by my ex, and was led to believe that I was crap. That I should just die so that I didn’t have to feel the awful way that I do. I had also hurt Cherie’s feelings – something that I couldn’t believe I would do. I felt worthless.

While beating myself and telling myself that I deserve to hurt myself again, another voice chimed in. It was a different voice this time – it sounded nothing like the critical voice that I was used to hearing. It was a strong, confident, pleasant, and kind voice.

The voice said, “No! You’re not worthless. Why do you have to hurt yourself? Why do you have to die? If you do that, he wins. If you let him get to you, he wins. You’re better than that, Jules. You’re stronger than that! You’re worth more than what you’ve ever been told. You are too valuable to have to resort to self-harm, and suicide. Punishing yourself doesn’t do anything but hurt you more. You’ve already hurt enough”

When I had shared this with S last week, he had beamed so brightly, and told me several times how happy he is to hear that, and that I was able to get there. Today, he told me that he was impressed with my positive self-talk. He said that in the past, my pattern had been suicide –> self-depreciation –> worse thoughts of suicide –> visiting CAPS for emergency sessions –> have good sessions –> leave feeling better –> if lucky, the good feelings last for a couple of days –> get triggered again –> suicide –> rinse and repeat.

“So the fact that the affirmation didn’t come from me, or anyone here at CAPS, but rather, from yourself… That is very strong. It makes me happy to know that you’re reaching a stronger point”

I was already proud of myself but hearing his words made me even more proud. It added to my affirmative feelings and validated me.

This, I believe, is my first step toward breaking more bad habits, and being a stronger individual. I know that I will regress – as S kept reminding me, “Progress and recovery is not a straight line upwards. It looks more like a zig zag upwards, where there will be times when you will slip. But that’s okay. All that matters is that you keep going”.

Thoughts From Therapy #87 – Feeling Pride

Today’s session with S went relatively well – as usual we always run out of time when we start to work really hard. I say relatively because I really enjoyed his company today, but I was also just feeling raw and weepy. I like how I can feel safe enough to go to his office and be able to open up and just cry.

I haven’t cried in a week, and crying is so cathartic but it’s something that I find great difficulty doing outside of CAPS.

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National Coming Out Day 

This morning, I woke up with a sense of dread. I was dreading my decision to “come out”. 

It’s National Coming Out Day today and I had made the decision to come out. And at 7.55am, I sat down with my Chromebook, took a deep breath and started typing. I had only 5 minutes because I had to leave for school at 8am. 

Here was what I wrote (these are screenshots from my Facebook):

I’ve gotten 27 likes and 11 love reactions from my Facebook.. I’ve also gotten 12 incredibly positive comments. 

One of them that really stuck out to me and validated me was this message from someone I had never met in person before: 

“The sun and the moon is still in the right orbit, and that’s when you know coming out is as normal as it can get. You will always be you.”
I’ve not heard from any family members yet so I don’t know how that will go. I wish I had the courage to actually verbalize this through a phone so that I can call my parents and tell them “in person” but I can’t. I already have social anxiety over phone calls so this would’ve been even more nerve wracking. 

I have to say though, I’m glad I did it because I can now stop pretending. I can stop wishing that I was “normal” or fit in. I have also found through this experience who has my back! 

I’m probably going to have more emotional responses tomorrow after I speak to S (because somehow talking to S always makes me more connected to my feelings and more ready to be vulnerable whereas when I’m on my own, I can’t feel things fully) so I’ll definitely update. 

At the moment, I feel calm and like I can finally allow myself to be myself. It’s a pretty good feeling! 

The Importance of the Word “Good”

“Good”

It’s a simple word. It’s a simple word that when used properly holds so much meaning and can be extremely powerful when done positively.

“Good” is the word my therapist uses very frequently when he speaks to me with varying tones and degree of emphasis.

It’s embarrassing to admit but every time he says it, my heart leaps for joy – something I find quite hard to do when I’m in the thick of my depression. Yet, every time he says “Good” in response to either something important I’ve discovered for myself or something positive that has happened to me, I feel great. Euphoric, even.

He shows me what a positive response is like and how it feels to be rewarded with positive affirmations. Something I’m not used to. I always feel embarrassed to receive compliments because I’ve never believed myself worthy.

I was never taught that I was worthy. All my life I’ve worked hard to gain approval of the people who matter the most, my parents. And thanks to cultural conformity, as a Chinese kid growing up in a very Chinese family, I’ve never had any kind is positive affirmation that’s not a veiled compliment. Every compliment that I can remember getting from my older family members (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles etc) have always been backhanded and have often made me wonder whether I’m working hard enough.

I’ve come to the conclusion early on that I’m not. I’m never working hard enough. I’m never good enough. Back in Malaysia, as I was growing up, I realized that I wasn’t good in math or science but because I am the eldest child, I had to at least try to make my parents proud. I spent years in a disillusioned and unsatisfied state – always wondering what I can do to make them say to me, “Good”.

When I finally realized what I was good at in my pre-university years (English), I took every opportunity to be as far away from home as possible. I left for university in 2005 to study Linguistics 3 states away from my hometown. I’ve never looked back and now, I live in constant need and desire for the approval I never received but desperately want. I regret just upping and leaving but I couldn’t find it in me to say to them how I really feel. Well, sometimes I regret it. Sometimes, I feel like I’m better off being far away. Less pain to confront.

When I first began therapy about 6 months ago, my therapist had mentioned that he wanted us to discuss my parents and my family. I scoffed at him then and laughed because I thought it was absurd that we should bring up my parents whom I have not seen since December 2011. I was there to talk about me. Not them! I was somewhat indignant then but after a few months, I started to realize that the root of my problems went deep into my past with my parents being at the center of a lot of my pain.

From then onwards, I realized that my therapist is a smart guy and very wise. I realized that I needed to stop resisting him and stop saying “I don’t know” to every uncomfortable question he posed. Now every time I make a self discovery or something positive happens, he says, “Good”.

“Good” is a pleasing word to me. It is now a word that I associate with an achievement of some kind. It is a good word when used properly.

It is a word I wish that I could hear from my parents. It is a word I wish that my mother-in-law (who is now a mother figure in my life) could say to me when I express how well I’m doing in school. It isn’t hard, is it? Then why is it so hard for them to express this?

“Good” is a simple word. One syllable. Not much effort required to say it.

Yet, why is it so hard for parents (any parent, not just mine) to express this to their children? Will it kill them to express some pride in their offspring?