Posts tagged with "self-portrait"

quiet revolution

Depression has added an extra cost to every­thing I do. Something as sim­ple as buy­ing gro­ceries means mak­ing sure my energy lev­els are care­fully paced for a few days before I leave the house, and being too burned out to do any form of inter­ac­tion for a few days after. If some­thing goes wrong dur­ing the process — a night of poor sleep, a sick cat, a loss of moti­va­tion, a col­i­tis flare-up — and I run out of spoons, the prob­lems cas­cade and I end up hav­ing to can­cel my plans.

That’s why I choose to spend time with peo­ple who under­stand what it truly costs me to func­tion; they hap­pen to be the ones who are con­sis­tently reli­able, very under­stand­ing if I have to can­cel, and put as much effort into main­tain­ing the rela­tion­ship as I do.1

Heather portrait

 

Heather started taper­ing off her dose of ven­lafax­ine cause she feels sta­ble enough to take the risk2, and wants to start work­ing with­out the asso­ci­ated men­tal haze. Even though music is still a joy­less expe­ri­ence, the fact that she’s get­ting excited about Halloween again is a sign that she’s finally healing.

She doesn’t mind car­ry­ing more emo­tional labour (and I remain will­fully igno­rant, for the time being), cause she knows I’m play­ing life on hard mode. My job is to make sure she feels appre­ci­ated for doing more than her fair share. The crises we’ve been weath­er­ing together since we met means our hon­ey­moon phase was cut short, but nei­ther of us mind, cause inti­macy is what we were miss­ing for so long.3

self portrait at 35

 

The fact that it takes me fewer days be to com­fort­able around any­one when my inse­cu­ri­ties get the bet­ter of me means I’m gain­ing some small form of equa­nim­ity. I still have moments when I feel too dam­aged to be happy, too worth­less to be loved, or too bro­ken to be fixed, but it takes me less time to realign my per­cep­tions with real­ity. The lows aren’t as debil­i­tat­ingly deep either.

I’ve been using the momen­tum to take small steps out of my com­fort zone; spend­ing more time in dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions, learn­ing to be emo­tion­ally vul­ner­a­ble, explor­ing new ways of express­ing myself4, pro­cess­ing parts of the past I’ve tried my best to for­get. Even though I’m anx­ious to feel nor­mal again, I’m forced to rec­og­nize my lim­i­ta­tions and keep myself paced. I know I’m not where I want to be, but I’m mov­ing in the right direc­tion. That’s enough to keep me going for now.

  1. Also, per­haps not-coincidentally, usu­ally peo­ple who have deal with some form of depres­sion or chronic ill­ness in their lives. []
  2. I still have no idea whether mine are keep­ing me afloat, but the fact that I don’t suf­fer any side-effects means I’ll be on them for the fore­see­able future. []
  3. Finding my under­wear washed and folded one day — a respon­si­bil­ity I’ve never shared with any girl­friend — gave me the weird­est boner. []
  4. The only lux­ury pur­chase for me this year has been an Impact LX-49 MIDI con­troller. []

laying low

At some point, the most I could do was sit by the win­dow and face the lawn. It’s hard to say how many hours were spent look­ing out­ward, inter­rupted every now and then by food I could barely taste or swal­low. For a per­son who needs to stay active to cul­ti­vate a sense of worth, it was a sign I was beyond her reach, and at a point where I was no longer able to help myself.

When she began to cry, I asked what was wrong. “I didn’t think you’d give up”, she explained, some­thing made appar­ent when I couldn’t man­age a veneer of pleas­ant­ness for the sake of being polite to friends or strangers alike. I once told her I would stick around for her sake, but in that moment we both under­stood it was a promise I couldn’t keep.

Self-portrait

 

I won­der if I’ll ever be able to. It’s hard to remem­ber what life was like before I was so emo­tion­ally exhausted. Even when the exter­nal sources of stress are far away and my head is above water, it still feels like I’m drown­ing. When that gener­i­cally redo­lent scent of taxi leather hit my nose, it used to mean I had a plane to catch, a flight to take me out of the coun­try, an adven­ture await­ing; now it’s a por­tent of deaf­en­ingly silent wait­ing rooms, and psy­chi­a­trists who know too lit­tle and talk too much.

I keep my fret­ting fin­gers trim but the cal­luses keep heal­ing over, cause I can’t con­cen­trate long enough to improve (also why it’s taken me so many months to write this). The house is a barely con­tained mess. My phone is over­flow­ing with notes, texts, voice mails, things I can’t keep on top of. It’s been for­ever since I talked to Darren, even longer since I made a trip out of town. I’ve grown sen­si­tive to loud noises. I barely rec­og­nize my own face.

That’s how I know I’m not ready to process parts of the past yet. Going so many years with­out a reprieve has left me drained of cop­ing resources, and when I’m barely man­ag­ing my needs for safety and sur­vival, there isn’t any room left for growth or improve­ment. I need more time to heal, to replace upset­ting mem­o­ries with new expe­ri­ences, to be in a sta­ble place before revis­it­ing the most trau­matic parts.

Heather by the window

 

For the moment, that means work­ing with my nat­ural energy pat­terns and momen­tum as I try to develop healthy habits. It’s left me up at odd hours, eat­ing irreg­u­lar meals, and largely house-bound. Heather tends to my needs and never leaves my side for more than 15 min­utes. I’m for­tu­nate to have a small sup­port group help­ing me look after things — drop­ping off gro­ceries, bring­ing my car for main­te­nance, pay­ing the bills, dri­ving me to appoint­ments — small tasks that seem daunt­ing when so unsure of myself. Misun even offered to help sell the house and fly me to France so I could live under her care indef­i­nitely; if only one could be car­ried by the love of one’s friends alone.

It pains me to be here wait­ing, feel­ing like I’m miss­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for hap­pi­ness every day, but I’ve learned that progress can’t be rushed. Not just cause I have to tread so care­fully through the past, but because I’ve been down for so long that it feels like it’ll never be up again. That’s why I have to trust her when she tells me things will even­tu­ally be okay. Until then, I spend my time lost in the Dark Tower, appre­ci­at­ing a sobri­ety I wasn’t pre­pared for, look­ing for duels in the bor­der­lands, try­ing to feel nor­mal again.

i'm okay

I can say that now.

It’s hard to tell exactly when every­thing became too much for me to han­dle, but I knew I reached sta­ble ground when Marie said it was nice to see me smile. It seems like she’s only seen me at my worse — when I’m not cop­ing and try­ing to ratio­nal­ize all the wrong things — but she still wel­comes me every time with­out any expec­ta­tions, and that’s the kind of accep­tance I need at this point in my journey.

self-portrait

This is my okay face.

Not to say there aren’t strug­gles, espe­cially months like this, when I’m deal­ing with col­i­tis flare-ups on a daily basis and the con­stant feel­ing of being over­whelmed. Between the time I spend to nour­ish myself, find­ing peace with so much of my past, and this love that found me, I’ve started to under­stand how life can catch up to a per­son with­out warn­ing. There’s barely a chance to process the devel­op­ments in my head, let alone record curves and colours with a camera.

I’m anx­ious to get to the point where I can start grow­ing instead of heal­ing, and liv­ing instead of sur­viv­ing. Being okay means it’s eas­ier to deal with the inse­cu­ri­ties and moments of weak­nesses I face on my way there.

frame of mine

I’ve made peace with this body. It hasn’t been an easy peace to come by, as I seem to get con­stant reminders about the diminu­tive size of my stature. Most recently, I met an older Chinese woman who admit­ted that she thought I looked sick and weak only after she dis­cov­ered I had col­i­tis. It was as if she thought col­i­tis caused some kind of mal­nu­tri­tion that stunted my growth, and she didn’t want to bring up the fact that I was this size because it would have been too embar­rass­ing unless it was caused by a med­ical condition.

Asian male self portrait

 

I’ve been deal­ing with all kinds of sim­i­lar com­ments since I was a kid, so when a girl­friend would say that she liked a par­tic­u­lar part or por­tion of my body, I always thought they were just blinded by love. Eventually I real­ized that if they could come to love this body, then I could too. It will never look right in any­thing but slim-fit extra smalls from Mexx. It will never be good enough for my par­ents. But it will always be who I am, and I’ve learned to accept that.

UK Detour, Day 11: London

Mike was between jobs, so I got to shadow him with­out being too intru­sive. That not only meant I got to check out his favourite haunts, but meet more impor­tant peo­ple in his life.

At one point, I had to with­draw some cash (since Mike had pre­vi­ously lied to me about my credit card not work­ing), and it was strange to sud­denly find three dif­fer­ent kinds of cur­rency in my wallet.

men on benches

So close yet so alone.

Continue read­ing “UK Detour, Day 11: London”…