Fifty Four

This past month,

I have been trying to blog regularly–two posts week–to retain my ability to write and publish before I become a sketching robot for a big company. I’m following WordPress’s daily prompts, and today’s word is “subdued.” WordPress has not been the relaxed social media and blogging platform that Xanga was, but daily prompts provide some semblance of a community. So here goes:

Being subdued in American culture has a bad rap for being unimaginative and average, and I have experienced the benefits of being subdued and the hard life of not being subdued. Whenever I subdue or limit myself, I go beyond what I expected to do and end up being proud of myself. It is only when I lose control and fail to subdue my grandiose expectation for what I deserve and how I deserve to be treated that I end up a wreck and hate everything around me.

I never subdue my thoughts, but I’ve learned to subdue my behavior. When I didn’t, that is when I end up withdrawing from college, seeking new interest, and having to start over again. Even now, I have a hard time subduing my anger when getting feedback from my teachers who don’t acknowledge what I actually did right. I never know what I’m doing right, and when someone tells me I’m doing one thing wrong, my immediate reaction is that I am doing everything wrong. When that happens, I have learned to subdue myself with a wry smile and express my desperation for approval by throwing whatever I am holding in my hand on the table before I fix my mistakes. When I do subdue my expectations for how I do, I usually end up doing better than I thought.

I think I finally learned that concept when I was in Denmark for two months. Danes’ culture have The Law of Jante, where you should not expect to be better than others and set low expectations that are easy to reach. There was this feeling of people appreciating and taking advantage of what they have regardless of what they could afford. Living there would make me redefine the word “subdued” as “low-key.” Regardless of my internet temper tantrums, my mental health this semester is golden solely due to my expectation of earning no higher than a B in every class. Whenever my jealousy gets the better of me, I remind myself: Be the best “B” student there is, and everything becomes okay.

Subdued

Twenty Eight

By the end of the first week back from break,

I was not just cutting, I was cutting addictively. I threw away my blade on Sunday for the sake of telling my therapist during our phone session that afternoon that I threw away the blade like I promised at the beginning of spring break. I wrapped the knife up in two layers of paper, taped it, and hesitantly tossed it into the trash outside my room. I still regret it whenever I face my stress, anxiety, and depression and think, “Wow I would feel better if I just sliced a few on my legs.”

I cried that night. No, I sobbed. I just laid in bed and felt powerless and scared. I was scared I wasn’t going to get enough sleep and end up suffering through the next day. I was scared of the feelings that my cutting helped numb. My poor housemates must have heard me whimper, “Help me… help me…,” because I felt like I was going to die. Throwing away the knife may have affirmed my commitment to stop cutting and disturbing those around me, but suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety remain. And worse, the numbness is still here. If something wonderful or tragic happens, my emotions just draw a blank, because I don’t want to feel anything anymore.

If I can think of one comforting thought, it would be that I am almost done with my semester here. I finally found a major advisor, and not only that, this is the first teacher here who I reached out to and had a connection with. This may be the mentor I was waiting for. I know I shouldn’t wait for important things like finding a good mentor, but I learned enough about myself in the past year that I take a while to muster up the courage to form an interpersonal relationship. She also supported my dream to become an ob/gyn even though I feel less supported in that goal than my path to becoming a researcher. In fact, she was the first person other than my grandpa to believe in me like that. 

Twenty Seven

Since I hate lying,

I definitely cut again (and again and again), but I also want to say that something positive came out of this first week: I’m reaching out for help. I’m planning on calling the counseling center for group therapy recommendations, and I’m calling my therapist back in California tomorrow. She made me sign a non-suicide and non-self-harm contract when we first started our sessions, and I broke that contract multiple times. I’ve broken it, because I have moments when I’m full of self-hate and anger at my lack of control. Hurting myself physically is easier than being honest with myself and getting things done the hard way (aka controllable discipline, concentration, and other characteristics I envy in other people).

What made me stop today was a Skype call to a friend who left my school. Whenever I have an encounter with my mental disorders, my mind often wanders to her, because we are not that different. I might as well have left like her if it weren’t for my beautiful friends, and she might still be here if she had friends as wonderful as mine. She understands my addiction to hurting myself, and she told me for her it’s been a few years of doing it, stopping, and relapsing again. That’s when I gulped and saw the omens. I know I may very well be cutting for years and years if I don’t deal with it now, because I’m already hooked into this cycle of cutting myself, feeling great, getting shit done, and then crying myself to sleep at night out of guilt as I think about the possibility of people finding out.

Why do I feel guilty? If I killed myself from suicide, everyone in my school, everyone back home, and everyone I interacted with online will feel guilt. But I’m alive, and my fresh cuts are going to make people feel uncomfortable, which makes me mentally apologize, “Sorry, that you had to see this.” That’s what happened in lab this week, when I wore my short sleeve shirt, because the weather was just so beautiful that day. The teachers saw them as I acted more upfront than usual (because I developed this strange “Fuck everyone else” vibe since I started), and my friend freaked out. No more short sleeves for a while.

And just as I don’t want to bare my scars anymore, I want to end on a more optimistic note: the weather’s clearing up, I’m going to tutoring, I’m doing readings for class, I’m working in the library, I have plans for next semester. I no longer have to escape to the warm rooms of the greenhouse. I also thank myself for identifying this addiction and understand that breaking this cutting thing will be a day to day process, if not a fight. Even though the thought of staying at this school feels like a death sentence sometimes, I do have my bouts of optimism and appreciation for being here. Like today, they tossed Caesar for us and served pesto pasta for dinner. Yum.

Nineteen

Just because I’m back here after taking a medical leave,

The past few days taught me that it doesn’t mean all my mental problems are gone. Unlike physical injuries that can heal, my depression, obsessive compulsiveness, and anxiety would haunt me until I notice one day they are gone. Until then, the best things I can do are waking, waiting, and sleeping and learning a new lesson every day.

Last night, I cried myself to sleep. Like I said, this weather is overwhelming. Also, I was so homesick for California that I started to regret coming back and the thought of quitting again sulked at the back of my head. Homesickness isn’t just a feeling a child gets at a sleepover. To me, homesickness is a morbid soup of not adapting to this cold town, attachment to my hometown, and a feeling of loneliness that not even my best friends can relieve. And to be honest, I’ve been feeling this since I got here, and the weather really pushed me off the edge.

However, logistically, academically, and professionally, today was wonderful. I had two research meetings, braved the cold with no breakdown afterwards, and felt okay after lab, which usually drains me. Now, emotionally, I need to be patient with myself, which I admitted to my counselor. I need to admit to myself that I am still healing everyday through my little victories of focus, forgiveness, and optimism. Even when I make a mistake or have a small case of PMS or SAD, it doesn’t mean I am in relapse. It just means here’s an opportunity for me to see if I can breathe deeply and solve the problem with smarts, bravery, or forgiveness. When I do, I know I am healing.

Eight

Sorry about being 10 minutes late. The internet was down. 

Since I didn’t learn to drive until last-last year,

I never visited many places on my own. I was often picked up and dropped off by friends and family for outings, school, or tutoring. I also had this “I will go to New York where people are more cultured and less dependent on cars” phase in high school that quickly died when I learned that I’m not a fan of public transportation, pretentiousness, or snow. Maybe it was my lack of freedom that caused my angst, because now that I can drive, I feel in control of my decisions. I drive myself to cafes, bookstores, and libraries where I can focus. I also drive myself to the gym every other day where I can finally exercise and be in a health positive environment. I even drive myself to the mall to reward myself with small purchases that add some, well, “normal” young adult fashion to my Khols sweaters and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans (Note to self: Write a blog post in the near future about my weird wardrobe). Overall, I’m officially a southern Californian who drives more than she should and can’t go a month without visiting a fancy mall or eating decent Asian fast food.

The rush of Californian traffic is also therapeutic. In my car, I would play music with the windows always rolled up, even when it is steaming hot inside, because I own my space with sound. The travel time, the background music, and the reassurance that I am going somewhere gives me the perfect environment to sort out my thoughts. That’s why I love long drives on the highway ever since I got my first MP3 player and ear buds. I would watch the road marks appear and disappear in beat with my music while my family argued or slept in the van. Even now, I enjoy long, half hour rides to my therapist listening to songs on repeat on my perfect HTC One phone and Beats Solo headphones. Something about watching cars go by and the sun shine down on a green valley or dry, grassy hills makes me take a deep reflective breath and promise to never leave southern California again after college. The New England snow is beautiful and the trees and little houses there look like they’re from a postcard, but the glow of the Californian sun is more than precious gold, it’s also a warm, reassuring feeling that another beautiful day is waiting for me tomorrow.

Escapist Moment: Thinking about my future

 

Today was a pretty good day. I didn’t fail my calculus test and I did decently in an AP Government debate. So now, I’m just going to turn on my Spotify radio and treat myself to a stream of consciousness before cramming in my pre-med diagrams.

All I want to think about is what will happen once I get into Smith. I want to explore the nearby forest at dawn and stroll by the lake at sunset. Well, I wouldn’t see a sunset since I’d be in Massachusetts. I want to huddle with my housemates after a day of studying and classes. I want to visit the nursery and sit down at a bench somewhere and just drink my tea on a chilly day. I want those things to become a reality.

Then again, I learned from past experience not to set my mind too much on one goal. I remember crying for hours after I received a B on a test, just because I was unable to accept anything other than an A. Thankfully, I earned some B’s that allowed me to face reality and do better. Likewise, I decided that I won’t kill myself if Smith rejects me. I got Mount Holyoke, George Washington, University of Rochester, University of Michigan, and Boston University waiting for me. Of the list, a college admissions nerd would immediately assume that Boston University is my safety school. Yes, it is safe, but after I attended a conference for Boston University, it definitely isn’t my last. The conference talked about students who are extraordinary. There are BU students who talked one on one with the professors who won Nobel Peace prizes, students who travel worldwide and do a plethora of community service and research projects. I want to be one of those extraordinary students. [Right now, I’m also listening to a Iain McGilchrist’s TED talk on the divided brain, and it’s muy interesante. Check it out.] I can see myself gathering up the courage to ask the professor a question after class and, of course, studying in the grand but cozy library after trudging through snowfall.

I think… this scenarios helped me learn to love the colleges I apply to. Even if I go to community college or UC Riverside–I shudder at the thought–I will look forward to wherever I’m going with vignettes in my mind, the little moments that motivate me. Solitary coffee shop moments, that Friday feeling of relief, having complete control of where I go and what I do in a city that doesn’t operate on traffic reports — the list could go on.

With that said, I have a pre-med test tomorrow. More importantly tomorrow, I have an interview for Smith College that I really want to do well on and a George Washington University conference that I’m ready to be inspired by.