Through My Un-filtered Eyes

 

filtered-tattoo
same tattoo, different filters

I’ve never thought I’d have gotten a tattoo, but I did;
I got my first tattoo on 10.27.2016, completely spontaneously.
Looking at it now, I’m still mesmerized.

There’s one famous tattoo place located right next to my apartment building which I never noticed, and one day I just walked in and asked if I’d get a tattoo right away.

This past October, my 23th birthday month was one of the most painful periods to remember in this journey. One night I scratched my wrist madly with a pair of (unfortunately rough) scissors as if I lost my mind and cautiously planned on taking all of my antidepressants and sleeping pills at once in my second suicide attempt out of four so far. I decided to kill myself. The whole suicidal thought was actually only triggered by a ‘casual’ conversation with my mom, who always speaks about silly things and comments unintentionally. I couldn’t stop crying, feeling suffocated with a sharp pain in the chest, and kept hearing the voice “I must kill myself, I must kill myself…” in my head. Otherwise I didn’t think I’d have that courage and impulse to go by myself and bare the pain and stigma of getting a tattoo earlier in October. At that time I didn’t even think about how to explain to my family about me having a tattoo later because traditionally most Chinese parents tend to think of individuals with tattoos as gangsters, or at least indecent people. I just did it. Anyway, I’m glad I made it, with no single regret but a little pride. I still can see the light scars left on my left wrist now but with a beautiful tattoo alongside.

“What does your tattoo mean?” probably everyone around me has asked this question. It was all inspired by Project Semicolon which i found on Facebook accidentally. It is “a global non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury. Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love and inspire” accordingly.

A semicolon is used when an author could’ve ended a sentence but chose not to.

You are the author and the sentence is your life.” – Project Semicolon

Not gonna lie as a huge word and grammar lover, the idea of tattooing a punctuation makes the whole act even cooler. I also love that the semicolon is followed by a heartbeat ending with a heart shape, which represents that your heart’s still beating, and you’re still alive continuing your story wholeheartedly. This is my own interpretation of my own tattoo.

From time to time I can’t help thinking that I’ve changed too much and am no longer myself anymore. I’ve found myself much less fond of watching beauty videos on YouTube and dramas but reading different kinds of books. I’ve been more into ‘sophisticated’ conversations than ‘stupid’ daily chitchats. I’ve been taking things real seriously. I didn’t realize that I had’t smiled and laughed from within for so long until an old best family-friend of mine described me as a girl who smiles a lot.

I cannot believe that I started conversations with complete strangers in the bookstore and hand-passed my handmade cards to them just to promote my personal blog these two days. How brave was that. It doesn’t sound like what I’d normally dare to do.

Am I still me with all these changes?
But one of my best friends reminded me that everyone of us is changing every day, and my personality might be shaped a little differently now due to what I’ve been going through. So I guess I’ve grown to become a stronger, maturer, and experienced person.

One of the biggest changes/ realizations is that I’m getting rid of the ‘filters’ in my eyes. By filters I mean stigma, discrimination, indifference, disrespect, and so on. I was once a person with no knowledge of mental health and would associate mental illness with rude labels like weird, dangerous, insane, which was apparently inappropriate and was only reflecting how ignorant, self-centered, and uncaring about others I was.

But now I’m learning to become a kinder person because somewhere deep in my heart has an strong eager for others’ kindness and understanding as I’m fighting the battle, and I finally feel the pain and disappointment of not being understood. I’m learning to put myself into other’s shoes before acting anything that would possibly hurt others.

Thank you so much to ICE music hk, a street music band I encountered en route to home tonight. Your passion for music has truly inspired me. And now an even crazier idea has popped up. I’m thinking about setting up a small area on the street side giving free books together with my handmade cards. I have piles of re-read books and old books that I’ll no longer read. So why not make a second-hand book stall? I also do keep extra copies of my most favorite books as I’m wishing and waiting to share them with the ‘right people’. I guess this is how butterfly effect works. I was inspired by other’s music and then now I wish to inspire others. I might be a small and unimportant person compared to the whole universe, but I do believe that if I do one good act that inspires one single person, that butterfly effect can already be passed on and on. 

It’s true that most of the people with depression including I tend to have suicidal thoughts at times. I’m so extremely hypersensitive that even the tiniest thing can steal my consciousness and drag me into the forever sinking black hole. I think I’ve truly experienced death from the moment I decided to kill myself, the moment I no longer found myself feeling alive, the moment I only wanted to escape. But what I want to stress is that, even though I still don’t feel happiness, I still don’t have a job, I still don’t want to exist, I’m seriously treating every day as if I’m dying tomorrow, to a point that I think 24 hours a day is NOT enough despite my poor and little sleep, contradictorily I have passion in finding meaning in life, I desperately eager to help people learn about the importance of mental health, I wish to make people understand how the world of mental illness really is without making presumptions.

I’m still depressed.
I still don’t have enough self-compassion.
But I do have passion for life.

Let’s take off the filtered glasses and view the world from another better perspective.

Note: Please also CHECK OUT and LIKE my Facebook page if you’re interested in more of my other sharing. Thank you.

Best,
Norelle
Nearly Dawn, 12.8.2016

Kindness Does Work Magic

15271849_10154095569228302_6319022862317681712_o

This post is dedicated to every single person who’s supported me, especially to this whoever person named Hello who has left a beautiful comment on this blog. Came home exhausted, receiving such a long and warm comment has completely made my day. Thank you very much, Hello.

I’m genuinely more than moved by all the kind and supportive words I’ve received from many unexpected/ unknown people ever since I started my blog and then the Facebook page.

Everything’s happened so fast that I myself cannot even believe it.

I’m still struggling with that freaking mental illness in me, but I’ll always remember and treasure these beautiful words which lift me up a little no matter what.

I’d say ‘thank you’ sincerely for a million times.

How Living with Anxiety and Depression Feels

fullsizerender
arousal spectrum of sleep and wakefulness (photograph credit: Stahl’s Essential Psychopharmacology by Stephen Mm Stahl)

I’m not a professional in this aspect at all and find this whole arousal concept complicated to understand. But I do know that I’m always shifting in between hypervigilant/insomnia and cognitive dysfunction (overstimulation) because my doctor said so, and that explains why I’m always having recallable intense nightmares and why I’m so hypersensitive about the surroundings. My treatments are assisting me to shift back to the middle so that I can deal with everyday activities normally.

I probably should have been in panic/fear for times too as I couldn’t handle sudden happenings like having a waitress spill a tiny removable stain on my coat at all but crying in the public the night before my sister’s wedding, and that immediate made me determine that I couldn’t possibly make it to her big day due to all the unpredictable interactions. I also remember rushing off the bus at least 45 minutes/20 stops earlier than I should because too many people were getting on the bus. I felt completely suffocated and couldn’t help escaping from the area as soon as possible.

Anxiety makes you worry about everything all the time.
Depression makes you uninterested in everything as you’re trapped in the black hole and can’t see anything; there’s no glimpse of hope.

The combination of two sucks. It’s like pulling a string very hard from both ends, and there I’m, I’m the string being pulled. My life is constantly in between two extremes, being concerned about everything versus not giving shit to everything. This really makes me nuts.

All of my senses are highly on guard unintentionally, which ironically always reminds me of one of the best classic and soothing songs, “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong:

I’d gaze at the moving clouds in the sky (missing the clear blue sky and perfect weather back in LA and wondering if it’ll rain here later, hopefully not because raining can easily make me gloomy), the looks of the strangers’ passing by (wondering how they’ve been today, why do they look so unhappy? why are they all facing downward to their cellphones?, where they’re going now, or even, if they’re judging me secretly), and the bright billboards and fancy window displays everywhere (wondering who and why he/she designed in this way, and if there’s any specific meaning behind each of them).

I spontaneously played a ‘game’ with a few different friends on counting the sounds we heard from one point to another. Most of them could recall about 5 or 6 sounds as they generally categorized them, but I could count like 60 different sounds:

I’d hear the accelerating tick-tick sounds from the many traffic lights, travelers’ suitcases rolling fast on the uneven street, the children’s and babies’ screams and cries that make me anxious the most, How sarcastic that I used to swear that I must have at least 4 babies! and people’s clop-clop sounds as they all walk differently (some walk quickly, some walk slowly, some tread heavily and irregularly as if they’re drunk or really mad) For many times I’ve been completely shocked by a sudden loud noise when I’m concentrated at something.

I’d avoid going to crowded places because every inch of my skin is hypersensitive too, and I don’t want to have any body contact with anyone or anything unexpected. It’s really unpleasant to be squeezed with strangers in an enclosed area such as a lift. However, quiet places are mostly no fun. There’re no nice shopping malls or restaurants that open late enough that I’d make it willingly. If I really want to go shopping or treat my stomach, I must bare the pressure or better have someone in company.

The most comfortable place in the world is restroom. Whenever I feel anxious and suffocated, I’d always go to the restroom in the bookstore; this combination doesn’t suck. I’ve once sit on the toilet for half an hour just to let myself calm down.

I can’t tell whether having anxiety or depression predominant feels better because none of them makes you feel good at all.

However, from my own experience, I might have to admit that depression is ‘better’ because at least I can figure a way out……,which is suicide (this isn’t the right solution at all, I know, I always know). Depression makes me feel numb and non-human. I don’t feel that intense anxiety which tingles all over my body painfully. I don’t feel alive. I’m only a breathing thing. The only thing I’d think of, or the only voice I can hear is — “Stop being a burden and making your friends and family exhausted looking after this useless and worthless piece of you just because you’re weak and selfish! Everyone’s better off living without you!” This message is so strong and ‘directional’ that I feel right to follow (again, I know it isn’t right).

How does it feel in short?
– Forever tension headaches
– Feeling of suffocation
– Irritable bowel
– Forever restless sleeps
– Intense nightmares
– Extremely dried and sore eyes due to poor sleep
– Intolerance of most of the possible sounds
– Feelings of helplessness, hopefulness, and loneliness while you’re not ‘alone’
– Unpredictable emotions due to unpredictable happenings
– Anxiety accelerating from 0 to 100 within a minute
– Self-hatred pretty much most of the time
The list can go on and on…

And yet, no matter how exhausted I’m feeling at this moment, my head is non-stop processing thousands of thoughts, and I’m always hyper-functionally reading, writing, doing housework even at 3AM while everyone’s sleeping. I truly wish there’s a button on the back of my head, and I can just click it and have one peaceful sleep.

Note: Please also check out my new Facebook page and LIKE the page if you’re interested in reading more of my stories and other Facebook shares. Thank you.

Best,
Norelle
Early Evening 12.1.2016

My Diagnosis Began with…

img_5658
a drawing of myself in cap and gown in front of Royce Hall, UCLA (doodle back in May 2016 as a means of self-healing)

I used to be extremely afraid of sleeping on my own when I was young, and I’d always crawl into my mom’s bed when she’s sound asleep. I could recall seeing many doppelgängers of my grandfather (still strong and healthy now) in the apartment I lived when I was like 6 or 7 in a repetitive nightmare. I was so frightened that all the monsters in my nightmares were real and could come catch me.

When I was a teen, I still hadn’t overcome the fear of sleeping alone completely, but I managed to listen to the radio or chat with my night-owl friends until I couldn’t help shutting my eyes. However the monsters would still visit me from time to time, especially during exam periods. I remember crashing into an infinitely giant wall of tofu (yes, tofu) in a pitch-black space alone, and was awakened shivering and almost crying from an afternoon nap after having Chinese listening and Math exams.

When I was in college, my fear of sleeping remained, with an addition of more frequent and intense nightmares. One night I couldn’t escape from seeing a doppelgänger of myself attempting to kill me with a knife in a dream within similar dreams while being consciously awake. In other words, I surreally felt the pain and shock of being killed by another self with a poker face. Ever since then even the thought of sleeping itself was a complete nightmare, and I decided to seek professional help.

I had my first therapy at the counseling and psychological services center on campus on May 12, 2015, followed by another two appointments within the same month. I also found a psychologist who speaks Cantonese in the end of May, the day my friends and I had group graduation photoshoot. All of the professionals diagnosed me with anxiety and sleep disorders, highly possibly caused by my childhood memories, the upcoming graduation, and the unknown future after college. Will I get a job? Will I be able to remain in the States or have to move back home unwillingly? What’s ahead on my path? How will my life become after college? However back then I didn’t realize that having insomnia and nightmares consistently is a real problem, and I somehow stopped having therapy soon after graduation. I managed to take doses of Melatonin and drink neuroSLEEP to get myself off to bed directly and effectively. It did work like magic AT FIRST. I found this pre-sleep behavior somewhat became an addiction because I wouldn’t go to bed without having either of them, even when it didn’t make me sleep anymore a couple months later.

Sleeping has always been a luxury to me. I have experienced sleeping for 15 minutes ONLY and went to work. I also have experienced not sleeping at all for 70 hours and going out running errands numbly. I just cannot sleep. Even when I do sleep in reality, I wake up in the dream world. So I never quite consider myself capable of sleeping normally.

I decided to visit a professional almost a year later because my anxiety symptoms were affecting me so much that my long post-study-abroad-college life was gradually hijacked. I could hardly get up at 6 in the morning for work because I couldn’t sleep and was still crying helplessly at 5. I feared that my anxiety came back again; to be accurate, it’s never gone away. I was so exhausted and desperate that I put aside my teaching job irresponsibly, made numerous phone calls while still on the bed in the morning in the hope of finding a same-day appointment urgently. Not surprisingly I failed many times because all visits must be made by appointment only. But luckily in one of the calls the nurse said that she could make time for me in the afternoon on the day, and I immediately rushed to the clinic and met my psychiatrist, Dr. L for the first time.

She is a beautiful and friendly lady whose voice can already make you calm. During the first visit, I was so nervous and stuttered to describe my feelings toward not sleeping well and having terrifying nightmares all the time, and explain my physical symptoms like endless headache and diarrhea. I was soon diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. At first I was only on a small amount of medication treating anxiety. But as months went by, many depression symptoms appeared and the addition of Depression to my medical record horrified me.

My depression is partly genetic and mostly environmental. By environmental I’m referring to my surrounding family members and relatives, friends, things to do, and places to go. My parents especially my father didn’t quite believe or accept that I’m mentally ill in the beginning. Their actions of telling me I’m totally spoiled to be not working and making excuses for my ‘so-called anxiety,’ and financially stopped supporting my medical fees had worsened the whole situation, tremendously. They didn’t see how desperate I wanted to get back my own life too. And that was when my depression began to grow significantly. But thanks to my sister’s understanding and her long and constant explanations to the family over the months, they’re now barely accepting it and coping with me. But I’m strongly unsure whether they’ll put me in that kind of situation again.Words are very powerful weapons; they come out from one’s mouth quickly, easily, and perhaps mindlessly, and the bloody truth is what’s been said cannot be erased. What’s happened during my journey can hardly be forgotten. Everything counts in my world, fortunately yet unfortunately.

Every support is sincerely appreciated. But almost all of my family’s and friends’ reactions only reflect that they have no understanding of what’s going on and knowledge of mental illness. Sayings like “you don’t look sick at all,” “oh god you look so fat and swelling now,” “pull yourself together,” “I’ve been worse than you,” “go volunteer and realize how lucky and grateful you already are,” or “your medication is only poisoning you” disappoint and hurt me; they’re like verbal attacks. Not knowing since when exactly then, I’ve been having numerous avoidance behaviors; it’s like locking all of your feelings and building walls and walls of self-protection.

To make it short, my depression is unstable despite the huge amount of prescription that even my doctor doesn’t want to increase anymore, and I’ve had three well-planned suicide attempts and countless uncontrollable racing thoughts to a point that my doctor suggested I’d be hospitalized (This suggestion still freaks me out and will do forever I believe). Anyway, I promised my doctor I’ll try my best to stay alive and embrace self-compassion. I’m now battling day after day, and being alive for each more day is already so rewarding. However when the demons do show up, I feel like waiting to be executed willingly with open arms. My anxiety is now OKAY, but I’m still avoiding meeting people and going out on my own unless necessary. I couldn’t even pull myself together for once and attend my sister’s big wedding day. My sleeping problem will probably never be solved forever. Nightmares are always here with me even during a very short nap, and I’d recall 3-5 dreams or nightmares each morning when I wake up. And headache and diarrhea won’t seem to go away. I still cannot sleep. I’m beyond exhausted, but I’m hyper-functioning all the time.

Having experienced all these, I’m now a strong believer that anything is possible, just as everything is unpredictable. I’ll never say that I must win this time because nothing can ever be guaranteed. But I’m not giving up. I’m still here, still jobless, still anxious and depressed, and yes I’m still blogging (Yay! which I consider a self-unemployed job).

Do what you want now, for you’ll never know whether you’ll have the chance to do it later.

Thank you very much.

Best,
Norelle
Late Afternoon 11.28.2016

First Things First – A Thank You Note

my-notebook
the notebook I carry 24/7 to write down my bits and pieces

If you’re reading this, I’m sending a huge and heartfelt THANK YOU to you for coming to my little world and reading my messy words. You’re now then one of the reasons to encourage me to continue this journey.

I didn’t quite know how I gathered the courage and determination to start a blog, although I’ve been planning on writing a book; I simply googled ‘how to write a book’ as soon as I woke up from nightmares per usual today. And here is it — my very first personal blog, featuring my drafted book title “I Messed Up My Color Plate,” and the idea of living in different shades of the mixture of black and white.

Knowing that I have anxiety and depression is cruel.

Not knowing when the demons’ll hit me is terrifying.
And when they do hit me, I feel devastated.

But hey, I’m still here typing these words as they pop up on my mind now. I’ll continue to share more of my thoughts very soon.

Again, thank you very much.

Best,
Norelle
Afternoon 11.26.2016