Psychosis 

Possible trigger warning – painful imagery, descriptions of injury

I was riding in the car with my family on our way to a Sunday lunch. As far as I can recall everything was fine. That’s when it hit me. I had never felt so ashamed and abnormal. I felt like a freak.

A thought crossed my mind, completely randomly. You know the feeling of having a papercut? I can’t describe it because that means I need to think about it – but I’m sure everyone’s experienced one. I thought about a papercut, but across my eyes. I winced and closed my eyes.

It was like intrusive thoughts on steroids. It kept attacking me. In mindfulness, we are told to accept these thoughts and let them pass, but these thoughts were different. I could actually feel it. I could sense the pain and felt the recoil and response a body would have to being cut.

The thought of cutting my face and small cuts against my eyes kept appearing in my brain and I felt every single sensation. When I closed my eyes, I felt something pierce through my eyelids into my eyes.

My dad stopped the car, and my mom took my sisters into the restaurant. I was sobbing and screaming, “make it stop, make them go away!” When the thoughts passed for a while, my dad and I joined the rest of my family. The thought would come in and I would shudder and wince very obviously. I must have looked insane. I felt insane. I was insane.

I ran back to the car early so I could curl into a ball. I screamed and yelled but it wouldn’t stop. How do you make something go away that is in your head? How do you get away? You can’t.

This went on for 3 days. That’s not very long, but it felt like an eternity. Was I ever going to be normal again? My parents didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to do. I just kept clutching and scratching at my face, trying to get the sensation of blades running across my face off. When my hands went to close to my face, I felt the sharp burning across my hands, so I recoiled. I was banging my head against walls. I was pacing in circles squeezing and hitting my head with my hands. I was humming loudly so my brain would register another sense besides pain.

All those horrible depictions of mental illness and psychosis you see on tv was my reality for those few days. You see people screaming and hitting themselves and scratching away at their face and it’s horrifying. You think it’s horrifying to watch? It’s even more horrifying to experience.

It hasn’t happened again since, but now I have a wider understanding of what others may go through. I can’t imagine going through that every single day. I don’t think anyone could.

I always say this: people with mental illnesses are having normal reactions to an abnormal situation. If any “normal” person was hearing voices, feeling sensations that weren’t there, or having visual hallucinations, I don’t think they’d fare too well either.

Fetishism isn’t flattery

I am Canadian. I was born here, my mother was born here, my entire immediate and extended family lives here. However, my ethnicity is “Asian”. I don’t need to be too specific to get my point across here. I haven’t been in too many situations where someone was outright racist to me, but there have been small jabs throughout my life. The fact that I grew up in a country that places value in a eurocentric ideal of beauty has been very apparent.

Let’s go back to junior high. A classmate of mine was asking about my race, and when I told them, they exclaimed, “I can’t believe you’re full Asian. Your eyes are so big, you look only half!” The way they said this and the way everyone around me reacted made me feel like this was the best compliment I could have gotten. Now, if I heard that, I would be far from flattered.

I really do think this classmate meant well. We were young, around 12 years old, and they were trying to tell me that they thought I fit into the widely accepted standard of beauty. And while this was a nice gesture, this also has darker implications. I would compare myself and always end up glum because although I had some features of a white girl, I wasn’t a white girl. Therefore, I figured, I would always be second, less pretty, compared to a white girl. And it’s not just me – this is such a widely held belief. For Asian males and females – we have grown up in a society that tells us white is beauty.

A year later, things took a strange sharp turn for me. This was back when MSN messenger was a thing. I was messaging with one guy who actually did think I was pretty. This was my introduction to the Asian fetish. Our conversations became less than innocent after a while. Whenever I tried to turn the conversation around and talk about something else, he would tell me not to be so frigid and relax, take a joke! Me, being young, shy, and too polite for my own good, learned that it was best to brush these things off. I started high school with these people, and the comments would come to me online and in person.

Is it true Asians are the tightest? Is it true they will do whatever their man tells them to do? They’re always loyal and submissive. Some of them pretend to be innocent but they’re actually sluts. Are you an Asian hoe? Hey my friend hooked up with an Asian girl and she let him do this and that. Would you let a guy do that to you? I’ve only been with one Asian, I need to change that. 

This is the kind of talk I would hear from the time I was 13 and lasted throughout high school. I have an old conversation from MSN saved because my friends didn’t believe me. Here’s some choice excerpts.

You can hang out with me and my friends. That is, if you don’t think they’ll rape you. 
They would rape me? Why would you say that?
Well what if they were drunk and you were acting slutty? They like Asian hoes.
Ok, but I don’t act slutty.
No, but you should. You could get so many guys. You’re Asian.

By the time I left high school, just hearing his name would make me want to throw up. I couldn’t look him in the eye and I would go out of my way to avoid him.

If you tell me you think I’m beautiful or hot or whatever, but then you mention you have “yellow fever”, I am exiting that situation so fast. It’s not flattering. You assuming that I should be flattered for your attention under any circumstance is bullshit. You can be attracted to whoever you’re attracted to – but don’t think that telling me that you have a special place in your pants for Asians is going to go over well for you.

Yes, I’m more desirable to some, but it’s because of my race. That’s telling me that I can be easily replaced by another. That’s telling me I’m your hunting trophy or another number for your “Asian girl” count. I’m a landmark story you can tell your friends. I’m not a person to you.

Where I went wrong/ A girl on fire

Where I went wrong:

  1. I wasn’t open and honest because I was happy and didn’t want to risk losing anything. I knew there was a really good chance it would blow up in my face, but I opted to deal with the consequences later. I forgot that I don’t quietly implode. I’m a ticking time bomb and everyone around me is hit by the shrapnel. That’s really the main thing.

If Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)  was a person, I would say they are extremely clever and cunning. Really, everything just works out perfectly in their favor. (Note: I am not blaming my actions on BPD. They are still my actions. But my emotions and thought processes are due to some fucked up circuitry in my brain, and I still haven’t quite figured out how to handle them.)

I have real, valid, understandable worries and fears that are amplified beyond comprehension to others. Does anyone watch Community? There’s this one scene where Troy is brought into a secret initiation into Air Conditioning Repair school. The room includes ridiculous figures such as an astronaut cooking paninis in one corner and “black Hitler” in the other corner. This is to ensure the potential recruits don’t tell anyone about the school, and even if they did, it would be too ridiculous to believe anyway.

That’s what I feel happens to my emotions. At the seemingly smallest events, I react enormously, to the point where others think I am being childish or purposely difficult. And then the emotion dies and I’m 100% reasonable and calm. Absolutely ridiculous.

I have talked about stigma that we carry, including being ‘crazy’, ‘manipulative’, and abusive. I don’t intend to do so, but I do come across as being all those things. I hope you all don’t think that I think I’m a perfect shining example of recovery and strength. I certainly have moments of great improvement, but I’m far from perfect.

You say I’m self-centered, manipulative, controlling but I’m really not. Well, no, I suppose I technically am self-centered because I am so extremely preoccupied with my issues that I forget that people around me have problems too. Though, when we think of a self-centered person, we think of someone who doesn’t care about others and who thinks they are entitled to all your time and attention.

I hope you know in your heart that that is not me. I am not dramatically weeping and wondering why you aren’t paying attention to me like some diva. Rather, I am running around like a chicken with its head cut off because my kitchen spontaneously erupted in flames, but as I’m trying to put out the fire, my room erupts in flames, but then I realize I’ve actually been on fire the whole time.

This is why I believe it’s better to talk over the phone rather than texting: it is easy to detach yourself from the person on the other side of the screen, so their demeanor and intentions are all up for interpretation. I get the sense that you might think I’m sitting around pouting and rolling my eyes, when the reality is I’m in sheer panic mode. I am very worried about what you might say next.

It is not malicious and calculated. It is panicked and out-of-control. That doesn’t make it any more okay, I know that, but I think it’s good to understand the nature of the beast.

We can talk about mental illness and how tough it is for the people struggling, but that’s really not the whole picture. That really doesn’t fully capture the devastation that mental illness leaves in its path. I wrote a piece called Termites, in which I expressed my fear of spreading my “disease” around to my loved ones. Honestly, it is not a completely unfounded fear.

I am a girl on fire. I know that I burn everyone I come in contact with; some more severely than others. I cannot expect my loved ones to hurt just because I’m hurting. When the fire temporarily dies down, I’m left aching and raw, and as the smoke clears from my vision, I can see the damage I’ve caused. I’m sorry I burnt you, I really am. But please don’t forget that I was hurting too.

You might think I’m a manipulative, cruel, monster, but the reality is that I’m a good person who is struggling and in immense pain. The reality is I’m still hurting you, another genuinely good person, and pulling you down with me just because you cared enough to lend a helping hand. I get a sense of burning guilt and helplessness as I watch the situation unfold. I can’t ask you to stay with me or change in any way. In the end it is my struggle to deal with.

I am hurting and hurting others, but people still stick with me. This is a bittersweet realization. Thank you for burning a little bit with me. Thank you for telling me you need space. Thank you, and I’m also very sorry. This is advice I know you’d give me, so I’m going to give it back to you. Please don’t stress over me; first and foremost, take care of yourself.

We set the wrong course
and headed due North
That’s where we went wrong

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The lotus flower 

The lotus flower is sacred to many cultures and religions including Buddhism, which is what dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is heavily influenced by. We see the use of the lotus flower becoming more popular – tattoos, yoga studios, jewelry etc. Why is it such a revered plant? It has to do a lot with the context that it grows in.

Lotus seeds plant in the bottom of shallow, warm, murky waters. The plant grows upwards towards the surface, seeing nothing but the muddy waters around it. Despite being surrounded by nothing but this dark, ‘impure’ environment, the lotus plant flowers above the surface of the water, in vibrantly beautiful colors. The petals rise above the water, and are hydrophobic – meaning water slides right off of them. They bloom in the morning towards the sun. They are resistant to cold, so they don’t bloom in winter. However, they always return when the weather is warmer. 

We too can be like the lotus flower. We can grow to be beautiful and bright despite our pasts. We can interact with but still be separate from our emotions, letting them slide off our petals. We may wither in the cold, but we can be resilient enough to return in better weather.