Posts tagged with "self-portrait"

keeping the rage tender

Fall has fallen, and I was ready. I was waiting. I was trapped for months on end, when my body wouldn’t cooperate or anxiety got the better of me. Even hearing Townes Van Zandt sing to me about snow in Raton was enough to make me miss winter again. I’d live vicariously in any form of visual media I could find, just to remember what it was like to feel the tingle of sun on my skin.

Now I can go out, but on my own terms and for the sake of it, not just therapy or a doctor’s appointment. It’s given Heather and I a chance to date — to dress up for each other, to trade secret glances about people who might be the other’s type, to hold hands and show each other off — instead of all the coping we were left doing after falling into the relationship so suddenly.

portrait of Heather and Jeff

Rachel Weisz has nothing on dem brows.

Ever since she began her career, I found it difficult to deal with how little we saw each other. It felt like we were barely connecting or having meaningful experiences when we had such limited time. Now that she has a better shift and a carpool, we have an extra hour and a half together on weekdays. Combined with Jesse committing to hangouts twice a month to play games or jam, it’s made a huge difference in the way I approach my goals and plan my time.

They’re small steps, but after so much regression, I tend to be happy with any movement in the right direction. Still, I wonder if I’ll ever find a balance that won’t leave me frantic, one that’s conducive to getting my introvert needs met while letting me feel secure in my relationships.

Continue reading “keeping the rage tender”…

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.


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.


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.