23. Into the Flame

I have been addicted to a Korean drama called “Mr Sunshine” lately. The story follows a noblewomen who is secretly a part of the Righteous Army in Korea. As Joseon (Korea’s former name) is slowly taken over by the Japanese, she fights to keep her homeland free. Of course, there is a love story and other plot twists as well. No, I don’t think I can be part of any army. However, I particularly love the main character’s choice to live a life where she can say she walked “into the flame” and shone brightly. In this way, she felt she was able to live the best version of herself.

Nowadays, talking about putting your life on the line daily, might seem quite dramatic to many people. Even though there are still many wars being fought in the world, I have been lucky to not have seen war in my country. However, I think there is something to be learned from this Korean drama. Have we done things in our life where we walked the tightrope? Have we done things that in our life that risked our life just a little bit? I don’t support reckless behaviour, but have we even hovered near that “flame” at least once in our life?

I would like to think that hovered around that “flame” a little bit. My first brush with mental illness occurred after my first breakup. It took a while to recover from that, but I decided to date my husband knowing that the extra stress of relationships might be the catalyst for another bout of depression. I even attempted to have a baby knowing that it will bring on a lot of stress and possibly trigger my mental illness. I don’t know if every time I walked near the flame, I succeeded. However, I definitely felt more empowered by the fact that I even tried. Hopefully, I could look back one day and feel like I “shone” a few times in my life. 

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22. The Neurotypical Brain?

I have been loving a show lately called The Good Doctor, which is about a doctor who is on the autism spectrum. During one of the shows, they mentioned a medical term called neurotypical and my ears perked up for some reason. “What is neurotypical?” I asked myself. As someone with a mental illness, I have been told by my doctor that I am pretty much like everyone else, except I have a bit of anxiety. Was it true or was he just being nice? However, hearing words like “neurotypical” make me think the later. I will probably never be labelled neurotypical, would I?

Medically, neurotypical is actually a word used to describe individuals who are not autistic. However, in my mind, it also made me think about myself. Obviously, I figure that there is something not typical happening in my brain to cause my anxiety and depression. What would I do if I were neurotypical? Would my life be different? I sometimes I think about this and I really don’t know. If I were neurotypical, I figured I would probably go and do everything I wanted to. I hope I would be making a greater change in the world for good because I wouldn’t be held back my insecurities and fears. I think I would be like that. However, I look at many neurotypical brains around me, and I don’t see them all living their best life. Honestly, I can’t decide if being neurotypical or not has anything really to do with happiness, success, or finding the meaning in life. I guess each road we take brings its own challenges whether you are neurotypical or not.

21. Feeling Like Myself

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Our fight or flight response keeps us safe, protects us from danger, but for some of us, perhaps it keeps us too safe. It makes us not want to go anywhere or do anything for the fear of having deal with the anxiety. In the last few years, my anxiety levels have been quite stable. Over the years, I have been on and off medication. When I have not been well, it has forced me to live in survival mode. I literally trim down my life only down to the essentials. During my roughest patch, basic hygiene was all I could accomplish. As I got therapy, I was able to slowly get back to work, but I was literally still working at a bare minimum.

Over the last year, I think I am finally reached a stage where I want to resume some activities I had given up due to my illness. I am not sure if this is even the right thing to do. Should I have pushed myself earlier or is this a better time now since I feel quite stable? To be honest, I don’t even know what the right timing means? I just felt like feeling like the “old me” again and I think that looks different for everyone.

Part of my job entails me to present to groups of people. I decided not to jump in and do a ton of public speaking. I decided to just pick one situation where I had a bit of confidence in and that was presenting at a general meeting. With anxiety, sometimes you want to be over-prepared so you feel that nothing bad will happen. However, I think in order to get better and face your fears, you have to be prepared enough but not break down every second of a 5 minute presentation. So I had a vague idea of what I wanted to say and just prepped it a few times in my head. I honestly thought I would be super nervous, and I was, but I thought I would just do it. Of course, it was fine. Unfortunately, recovery sometimes will push you out of your comfort zone, but believe me, it feels amazing to make a little dent into that fear.

20. Does Hearing About Suicides Affect Me?

 

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In the last few months, the news was flooded with the suicides of two celebrities. I have this habit of checking up on celebrities who have mental illness. Are they ok? And if they are, somehow it makes me feel like I will be ok too. I figured if they can do it with the burden of their celebrity status, certainly I can face my own issues as well. However, on the flip-side, I can also understand how difficult it must be to deal with their mental illness under such media scrutiny.┬áSo as someone with mental illness, do their suicides affect me? The simple answer is “yes.” After hearing the news, I felt sad and distraught. I felt like someone on my mental illness community had fallen.

Whenever I hear about a celebrity suicide, I always want to know why. Did they get help? Did they have the support of their friends and families? Certainly, with their wealth and power, they could have anything they wanted, whether it be the best psychiatrist or the best treatment. However, as many of us know, mental illness doesn’t discriminate and money doesn’t buy happiness. So I understand. As someone with mental illness, I can empathize with what they were feeling and I can understand why they did it. But why? Why did they? I was so desperate to truly understand their desperation, I even tried to conjure up those suicidal thoughts I used to have. However, I realized that when you feel more stable, those feelings can’t just be accessed like a switch anymore.

Over time, I have also found that it is better not to continually ask why. Mental illness is an illness. No can completely predict the outcome of a person’s battle with it. And that’s it.

19. How Is That Stressful?

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We are different, yet we are the same. As humans, we all have our joys and sorrows, but how we experience them may be different. A troublesome incident to one person might not seem that bad to someone else. Likewise, things that bring some people joy may seem mundane and irrelevant to others. It is these discrepancies perhaps that make life interesting. However, it can also tear people apart.

So where am I going with all this? I would consider myself a pretty open and understanding person. However, since my episodes with depression, I seem to have less empathy towards the problems of others. This realization bothers me tremendously. At my sickest, I had suicidal tendencies and was well below 100 pounds. Afterwards, I couldn’t understand how everyday stresses, like making dinner, and work difficulties, would even be considered problems.

What has helped me the most to overcome these thoughts is that I realize everyone views their world through a different lens. Everyone seems to think their own drama is the most important, including me, I realized. I seem to think since I have had it the worst, why should the problems of others be relevant? Yet, maybe my issues might be just as irrelevant to someone else. Also, like I have mentioned it previous blogposts, always seek first to understand. If you consider the person’s personality, background, and life experience, you might realize their stresses make total sense. And even if it doesn’t make sense after careful evaluation, at least, you stopped and took a moment to understand another human being more fully and that can’t be a bad thing.

18. The Highs and Lows are a Part of It

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That helpless feeling. The darkness and panic. It comes to haunt me once in a while. For the most part, I have been managing my anxiety quite well the last few years. However, I have come to realize that with a chronic illness, like anxiety, it comes in ebbs and flows. Sometimes you feel so good, it feels you have completely recovered. Then, you hit a low spot and you think that life can never be beautiful again. Instead of feeling deceived by that feeling of recovery, I have come to realize both these feelings are a part of it. It will happen to me at random times too. Everything will seem fine and then suddenly I will be blindsided with a wave of sadness for no reason. Then, I start finding it hard to breathe because I get scared that it has returned.

I guess this is an issue that anyone with a chronic illness has to deal with, which is accepting the death of their life before the illness. Being able to accept that it will be with you for the rest of your life and making peace with that. It is not easy. It took me some time to accept my diagnosis and not resent it. After I did though, I learned that not everything in my “previous” life is gone, it is just reinterpreted alongside my mental illness. It might not be what I dreamt of initially form myself, but it is the life I lead, and there have been amazing moments in my life due to my mental illness that I never could have dreamt up for the life of me.

17. Life is Like a Rollercoaster

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Sometimes, you never know when an “aha moment” will happen or when a moment will bring some solace to your soul. Last week, I was listening to one of my husband’s friends talk about his divorce. It is obviously a devastating and sad thing to go through, especially since he had children. I realize it can be a very challenging time in someone’s life, but it also made me think about how life can be quite unpredictable. To him, it might be a down time in his life, but maybe if he stepped back and looked at the big picture in the future, it might be just a small ripple in his life’s timeline.

We always hear that life is like a roller coaster. There are ups and downs. However, no one can fortune-tell what ups and downs they will encounter in the future. So even if you feel like you are hitting a major down in your life, you might actually be on the path to a super high time in your life. You just don’t know it at the time. I find this thought super comforting somehow. There is always hope and sometimes the downturns in your life can be just a break to let you reroute for amazing things to come. And maybe the dips are what make you stronger so you can make the next climb easier. Although, once in a while, it would also be nice to go on a train instead and enjoy the scenery.

16. Anxiety Crutches

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From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a crutch is “a source or means of support or assistance that is relied on heavily or excessively.” As someone with anxiety, I have had my fair share of crutches, from relying on family to take care of me to always carrying a few Clonazepam in my purse. When you are anxious, all you want to do is not feel anxious. You might go exercise or anxiously try to distract your brain by watching TV all day. Sometimes it will work, but when it doesn’t, the search to bury the anxiety becomes a source of anxiety itself.

This thought came about after watching one of my favourite Youtubers talk about how she deals with travel anxiety. She made a 20 minute video dealing with this topic since she also suffered from anxiety. In the video, she gives some solid advice about how she deals with travel anxiety. This included bringing books to read on the plane for distraction and downloading some relaxation apps. It was all good advice, but I couldn’t get through the whole video because I actually got more anxious watching it.

It made me reflect on why I felt this way. It is healing and helpful to have a list of strategies to deal with your anxiety. However, can these anxiety-combating strategies become a crutch sometimes? I remember that a part of my treatment for anxiety was to slowly face my fears. I think it is good, and even necessary to use these crutches initially to face the anxiety, but it is important to think of ways to slowly diminish your reliance on them slowly. I know it is hard, and I still carry a few Clonazepam in my purse. What are your thoughts?

15. I Am Obsessed With Happiness

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I am obsessed with happiness.

Learning about it. Living it. Figuring it out.

I know it is probably a fruitless endeavour, but I can’t stop. I just find it too interesting to stop. Many people probably never even think about why they are here or wonder what is the meaning of life? I am not one of those people. Although, I wish I was sometimes.

Recently, I was reading the Instagram posting of a celebrity who talked about how he felt he hasn’t been happy since he was 10 years old. This idea really got me thinking. Is true happiness the kind we can only find when we were children? When we were carefree without a single worry in the world. When we greeted everything new with excitement and sense of wonder. If we don’t find that form of childish happiness again, is our life unhappy?

I guess it is easy to romanticize our childhood joy because we can never replicate it again. I’d like to think every time we get the thrill of a new experience, like visiting a new country, we get to almost replicate that joy again in a small way. However, this time around we might actually be able to realize how precious it is and to savour the moment.

But I don’t really like thinking that we have reached our peak of happiness when we were 5 years old or something. I think we still experience happiness. It is just a different type of happiness and there shouldn’t be a measure of which type of happiness is the best. I mean, being happy is usually a good thing.

14. Choose To Be Kind

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In my last blogpost, I talked about how I think it is more important to be kind than right. I wanted to expand on that idea is this blogpost. I find that as we get older, our viewpoints and personality become more distinct and solidified. For example, we know where we stand with certain issues and how far we can be pushed into a corner before we will say something. It is all a part of growing up and helps us feel more confident and well-adjusted as an adult. However, I find that as our opinions get stronger, sometimes our tolerance for other opinions lessens. We like being right. We want to feel good about ourselves and who we are. Sometimes, it is easy to dislike or criticize those that think differently from us without any consideration of someone’s feelings.

Over the years, I have learned that it is much better to seek to understand before you make judgement. Of course, everyone gets upset in the heat of the situation. However, if you try to step and look at a situation from afar, you’ll realize that it might not be as polarizing as you think. If you try to understand that person’s actions in light of their background and personality, you might be able to dial back your anger at least a little bit. Even if you don’t agree with them, you might at least be able to understand where their thinking might be coming from. I also find that many preconceptions are easily cleared up through communication and understanding. I know there will be times where being kind won’t work, and that is ok, because we are all human. However, I find that choosing to be kind, not only often helps a difficult situation, but also makes me happier too because it creates more harmony around me.