Unreality

Note: This isn’t a post about my recent travels. It’s not even one filled with happy pictures or my random everyday observations on things. It’s a very lengthy piece on some of the things that I’ve kept under wraps for a very long time, and have only started to be honest with myself about. It’s definitely a verbose (six pages on Microsoft Word!) post on me, my feelings and I, and probably not what many of you have come here for, so feel free to ignore this and skip to the next update, which will definitely be about Laos, as I’ve already begun editing the pictures for it.

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I’ve never associated myself with the word “troubled”. It seemed like such an alien word to be connected to my life, or even a description of myself. I mean, angsty, rebellious, crazy, emotionally unbalanced, or the most commonly used line in my everyday life, “I’ve got issues”, yes.

But never “troubled”.

Because that is a word you associate with the problem young people you see on the telly, or read in the news, right? The ones in investigative shows. The welfare children or the police cases. I didn't feel like any of that, even though many would beg to differ.

“Troubled” was Prozac Nation’s Elizabeth Wurtzel. “Troubled” was Angelina Jolie, or Drew Barrymore, or dead famous people such as Edgar Allan Poe or Kurt Cobain or Sylvia Plath.

Somehow that word seemed more like something almost glamorous, cooked up by and made even more dramatic by Hollywood. Or strictly reserved for those who managed to off themselves after a tortured but notable life.

I don't think I'm particularly noteworthy. Me, I just thought I had a shitty existence consisting of bad decisions and things that I just don't talk about. Then again, I’ve never been able to properly identify with all the shit that has happened to me. I’ve rarely grasped the gravity of even the most terrifying situations, even as they were being inflicted upon myself.

I am perfectly serious when I say that if you stab me in the stomach today, more likely than not, my first reaction would be to laugh at you, hysterically. Then I would watch curiously at the blood beginning to pool around the entry point of the blade.

I’ve always been detached from even myself. Throughout the violence, part of me sits outside and above of the scene, watching casually, and I hear a mental narration of the events unfolding. After shit has gone down, I write it down, describing each graphic detail almost nonchalantly, but at the core of myself, it’s always the same numb nothingness.

Maybe that’s a form of self-preservation, so things never affect me so much it overwhelms and I shut down. People always wonder, how I get through some of the things I do, without seemingly being affected as much as expected. I’m my own dedicated reporter, chronicling each painful, terrifying moment, yet somehow not empathizing enough with any of it.

And then I do self-destructive shit while that impassive bit of me continues passively to observe.

Everything has always been too fucking unreal, all I have is flashes of moments in my head that don’t aversely affect me and are about as significant as the scenes from movies I’ve watched.

You know when you see someone being hacked to pieces with a chain-saw on HBO and you go, "OH MY GOD THAT IS HORRIBLE." but can't really completely experience the pain or fear of? That is exactly how I view my life, and myself.

It’s not like I’ve never really realised how things were building up inside and doing something really destructive to the inner workings of my psyche. It’s not like I’ve never had an outburst or sheer murderous rage after alcohol managed to break down some of the composure and my ability to keep things compartmentalized and locked away.

But even as I’ve taken it out on people, objects, myself, the fucked up thing is that something deep inside me automatically slams down the walls around my inner-most self, and once again I find myself looking in at my own madness, and it’s never really managed to make much of an impression in the long term.

Yeah, so "troubled” was always an adjective for other people. For every other tormented person except for me. I wasn’t troubled, no fucking way.

I don’t know how that has changed, all out of a sudden. But I guess troubled is what I am, and deeply so, despite the layers and layers of self denial and distance. And I guess it’s about time to acknowledge that something is very, VERY wrong with me, that beneath the seemingly has-issues-but-is-OK façade is something that is slowly, slowly, slowly eating away at me.

I think something connected yesterday, almost immediately after I was pretty convinced that I was fine. I don’t know how to describe it, but it felt like the reality of it all came rushing in on me, along with the firm certainty that everything I have been believing in hasn’t been real. None of the past few years have been real.  No one in my life, has been real. Because none of them have actually seen or even experienced a fraction of what my life really is, and has become.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve been so removed that even I myself have forgotten some of the most damaging portions. I don’t talk about it, not to my sisters, and I love them more than I love even myself; not to my closest friends; or my parents, of course; or anyone at all simply for the reason I do not even think about it. It’s just a blurry period of time, not so very long ago, that I’m reluctant to revisit, so I do not.

It’s strange how some of the triggers can be so ridiculously obvious, yet unexpected. I was going through some old documents yesterday, looking for something vital to some plans for my immediate future, and I stumbled across some of my older records of the worst of the things that have happened.

Now this is nothing out of the ordinary here, I curate every horrifying bit of my hidden life, which I promptly forget about and leave the gather dust somewhere in the back of my subconscious. I am so disconnected, even when I sometimes reread them, they prompt no emotional response in me. I could be reading the evening news as far as it concerns me, so low does it register on my emotional scale.

I don’t know why that wasn’t what happened yesterday. The full horror of those moments I’d simply filed up and stored away, suddenly struck me. And it wouldn’t be shrugged off as one of my “moments”. It demanded that I live every scream, every sob, every bruisingly painful split second that felt like an aeon. The emotions and the forever scenes spun around in my head over and over and over again until I was dizzy and nauseous and overwhelmed and almost overcome with the intensity of the confusion of everything I never let myself feel.

It was such a powerful experience, it wasn't solely constrained to happening in the space between my ears. I had an equally powerful physical reaction. I got on my knees, and I threw up.

I think that was about when I started screaming to get all of that evil out of my head. I tore at my hair, I clawed at myself desperately, I reeled around crashing into walls and bumping into sharp corners, trying to shake off the thing that was suddenly occupying every corner of my mind, that devil riding my back that wouldn't let me retreat into my default aloofness.

It’s all very easy to lose yourself in the thought of suicide when you are in such a state, and start desperately thinking about an overdose of pills, or the gleam of blades, that split second before it slices smoothly into your flesh, or just something that would bring on the sweet relief of death and not having to deal with oneself. Even running into traffic was a thought that flashed through my mind.

Terrified at the fact I was actually seriously contemplating all that, I scanned my phone book for someone to call. For help. I needed help.

Not a single name turned up. I would select a person to reach out to, and hesitate, and then reject the notion of contacting them. How does someone so damaged start to describe the depths of perversion of the soul, of how far one has wandered off from knowing what is right or wrong? Would it be wrong to unload all that terrible ugliness on someone who doesn’t owe it to you to deal with YOUR shit?

Would they get mad or so affected that they would insist on dragging you to the police to lodge a report? Would they judge you for your choices, or the way you feel… and you know how you feel isn’t even close to what a normal person should be experiencing, not by a mile.

I’ve always felt responsible for all the shit I’ve gotten into, and there was this element of shame at the choices I made, even when the one that suffered the most was myself. It wasn’t any different in this case. I still maintain that I am partially to blame all that has come to pass, and how this perpetuation of psychological cancer is mostly my own doing to begin with.

However, guilt and shame aside, more than anything else, I was afraid that if the people I cried out to didn’t understand, I would not have the energy to explain. And I would retreat back into myself, even more despondent by that failed attempt to reach out.

So frantically, I looked at people I could reach out to, people who weren’t close to me. But Women’s Aid and Befrienders both require that you call in to talk. I was too choked up on tears and emotion to talk. I wasn’t sure if I could walk in and sit down with a stranger I wasn’t comfortable with. I’m an introvert that has learnt how to assimilate basic social skills at best, and my first response around people is still to clam up.

I guess, yesterday, a lot of really bad things could’ve happened. There were a lot of choices I could have made, that would have resulted in catastrophe. I’m glad I finally managed to open up to someone I thought would be logical and objective enough to help me without taxing my fragile state of mind more than I could take.

Two words were all it took. I’m very glad he took my terrified “HELP ME” on Whatsapp into stride and calmly coaxed me to a more rational state where I could manage myself and come to grips with things and start looking at all the options towards fixing everything that hasn’t been right with me, for the longest time.

I’m sure many of you have read this from the beginning to this point hoping to find out what it is that has been slowly eating at me and robbing me of my past few years. I’m sorry to disappoint by saying, it’s not something I feel ready to disclose here, or will ever really talk about candidly, but it is something that is ugly, and terrible, and unspeakable in the sheer destruction it has wrought on me, and on those who have direct involvement in it.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to really bring it up. But don’t take my word for it, I just might write a book one day and get famous and have Christina Ricci portraying me as a beautiful, brilliant, bipolar character that millions will identify with and grow to love LOL.

Anyway, back on a more serious note, to put it succinctly, I’ve kept some very dark secrets that were too much for me to bear alone, in order to protect someone, and maybe in part, myself. And I have spoken to no one about it, until now. No one at all.

I won’t pretend and say that it’s been a complete relief and I’ve no reservations about taking that first step to talk to someone about it… I’m actually paranoid and scared to death that I might have said too much, revealed too much to the wrong person who probably will never be able to fully comprehend it.

But I’m trying to be positive about it. It’s a start… and maybe I can finally get on with my life and start with the whole healing process instead of barely making by every day in this emotional stasis where I go through the motions and do everything I'm expected to, while really barely being touched by any of it.

I’m so lucky I have such good friends. It makes me cry every time I think about all the times I’ve somehow managed to get by crises with the aid of those who aren’t obliged to bother, and I ask myself over and over, what I have ever done to deserve so much kindness. I guess for that, I have to count my blessings.

Most mornings when I wake up, I feel like I must have done something good in the past, to have this bunch of crazy people around me who love me enough to keep their distance when they know I’m not willing to open up, yet stick around long enough to offer help when I finally find it in myself to ask for it. These are the same people who stay around, despite how ornery I can be, and do not judge me for all the things I have done, or take to heart my occasional disappearances or distance, as hard as it has been for them to understand my warped logic behind any of the things I do.

I think I owe these lovely, amazing people an apology for not being the easiest person to get along with. If you read this, please know that I love you all, even if I never find it in me to express that to you. I'm not a very expressive person, except via the lines and lines of text that I put so much of myself into, so forgive me if I've let you down by never saying it outright.

On the topic of friends though, there is the matter of eliminating toxic friendships. It sounds incredibly selfish, but the people who drag you down and seem to do nothing but inflict negativity upon your life, aren’t really the ones that should be the sort one interacts with on an everyday basis, especially when one is in a vulnerable state.

Today, I logged into my facebook with a better perspective on things, and was actually crazily happy about how things didn’t seem as bleak as they looked barely twenty-four hours ago, just to stumble on something that slightly dampened my positivity.

I might have misunderstood things, but one of the first updates on my feed was a status update of a friend of over twelve years, saying something about the end of a friendship. I took it to refer to me, which honestly is quite a fair bit of relief to hear.

It’s a terrible thing when you are at your lowest, and trying to keep your shit together, and not hurt yourself or anyone around you, when someone who’s supposed to know you better than most people, just comes up with a reproachful “you keep me in the dark about a lot of things”.

It is selfish and unreasonable to imply that I’ve short-changed a friendship by not opening up about a lot of things, when I’ve been there for his relationship turmoil and his family problems, as much as I could afford to without compromising my own sanity.

Maybe he will justify his words by saying that friendship is a two-way street. Indeed it is. But I also do think that a lot of things are my own issues to work with, and I have the right to remain silent on the things that I do not think is for anyone but myself to deal with. Whether that is right or wrong is another matter, but the fact the first reaction to the knowledge that not all is rosy in my world is a selfish, self-absorbed reproach really makes it clear about this person's attitude towards people.

Kind of like telling a drowning man, “Oh. You never told me you fell into the water.” instead of throwing a float or a life-jacket at him. Except in my case, I didn’t even require any assistance from him - all I needed was enough tact and consideration to be left alone to my devices until I was ready to make the baby steps towards seeking help. And there I thought I was being a pretty low-maintenance friend haha.

I’m not even privy to the inner workings of my own mind. Why would he have the privilege to something I do not?

I don’t owe this person an explanation, and I think I've rambled on unnecessarily already. I will not bother to confront him directly, as much as I am tempted to. I am glad the friendship is over, because on looking back now, it’s just been emotional vampirism that I never discouraged. I should’ve said what I did sooner, but I didn’t, because under all of my indifference, was always the sincere hope that some sort of understanding could be attained, more so with a person whom I have considered a friend for so long.

I don’t need that so-called affinity for me, unfortunate as that sounds. Should he call me at 3pm one day, telling me he needs an urgent ride to the airport because of the all the madness that occurred just prior to him contacting me, I would probably still do the right thing, and send him. But he is not my friend, as he has so sadly confirmed. And I will no longer listen him out, when all the time we were friends, it was all about him, him, him.

What I need now, is none of that bullshit; none of that “I’m just being honest about how I feel” which in actuality is nothing much more than emotional blackmail for the constant, needy reassurance he requires to temper his own insecurity; none of the self-righteous judgement of my character and my actions to mend myself, when I cannot provide him what he wants.

I quote this person, verbatim:

“Your recent choices, our interactions and conversations, to the ridiculousness of what you have been doing recently (including and not limited to; responses to verbal sparring, your treatment of others and your choice of words), indicate that it is time to just shut you out.”

His prerogative, really. In the past, that might have wounded me. On this occasion, the only thing he got right, was the bit about me not being unduly concerned about his efforts to “unfriend” me.

Because I think he wasn't my friend, he really wasn't, not for a long time, not ever. Thank you anyway, if you're reading this, for the few kindnesses you’ve done me. That much I really do appreciate.

And I’ve digressed enough. It’s now time to move on to a new chapter of my life. This post marks the beginning of that.

Thank you to all of you who read this far. I really needed to get all of this out, today. =)


11 comments:

David said...

Irene,

Very happy and troubled that reality has made itself apparent to you.

I am presuming you are not a religious person, because most every faith has some type of outreach program or social contact to help troubled people. Most any personal problem such counselors will help you talk about.

Even all you need is to vent, and ramble, these people will listen and offer aid or recommend a course of action. Taking the aid or following recommendations would be your decision.

Sad that you could not find a single person in your contacts to call and ask for help or at least so they would listen to your fears.

You might feel alone, but do not fear as you are only alone if that is your choice.

Why did you not want to use strangers? Womens centers and Churches have trained listeners. They have dealt with many people in distress including many who are considering suicide.

Reaching out for help show you were in touch with reality enough to know that thoughts of suicide are not normal or rational.

I trust and pray you will find the help and counseling you need to get control of your life and find a path too happiness.

I will pray for, as that as all I can do from so far away.

You are never alone!

David

CreativeBitchin said...

nope. not a religious person. never was. and even if i was, i probably wouldn't go for the outreach programme. and as i already stated, i didn't want to use strangers because i am at best a social introvert, and i didn't think i would be capable of opening up to a person i didn't know, because i probably wouldn't be comfortable with.

i did think of reaching out for women's aid, but ultimately, i couldn't see myself going to them, for various reasons, trained listeners or not.

it's hard to reach out when some things are so terrible, you cannot see yourself ever telling anyone, stranger or friend. in fact prior to this i wouldn't even have admitted it to myself.

it sounds easy enough, but it's not, not in this situation, where the violence and the damage of the situation and how horrendously fucked up it was is beyond even the ability of most people to even grasp.

i can point out one example that happened many years ago, when an ex-boyfriend demanded to know the details of the abuse i suffered prior to getting with him. when i finally found it in myself to tell him... and i didn't tell him all of it, he wouldn't have anything to do with me for days, shutting me out because he "couldn't deal with the knowledge".

it's things like this that discourage me from really wanting to say anything to anyone anymore, as close as they might be to me.

i guess i don't really have to justify why i couldn't. i'm still terrified i might have spoken to the wrong person, or said too much as it is.

but i am trying to look on the bright side. every minute, every day that i move away from day before yesterday's total meltdown is another step in the right direction, i guess.

thegeekinpink said...

I love you, Irene Chan Ai Lin! No matter what is in your past or what you have been through or what you have to do or what you had to see... I love you.

CreativeBitchin said...

thanks woman! i know i haven't really been much in contact with you but i've had so much on my mind and too much in my life. your comment made me cry... pretty touched. it's really good to know you have people who care, even if geographical distance means i can't see them in person. =)

David said...

Irene,

We all know that you were abused emotionally and likely physically as a child. That is a great tragedy.

In many parts of the world, parents such as yours would be imprisoned for the wrongs done to a child.

You my dear young women realize that there are things in your life, thought and behaviours that appear to baffle and confuse you the person they happen too.

The issue you face and will never be able to deal with is whatever it is you fear telling a professional counselor.

Unless you murdered another human, you could not have done anything unethical or so terrible that you cannot tell a dedicated counselor.

Adults who come from your circumstances grow up messed up adults. The behaviors and thougths that frighten you, confuse you and those that care for you, will not and cannot be controlled nor understood until you seek professional guidance.

The sad truth is, that you, like all of us cannot use logic or emotion to figure out why you are the way you are.

You seem to be truly afraid of something(s) in your past and your persona. Many of your confusing and what might appear as irrational behaviors are directly linked and came from the abuses that tortured you while growing up.

You are not a human damaged beyond repair. Yet like many if not most of your fellow humans, you and me are not skilled enough to put ourselves back together.

Did you operate on yourself when you damaged a leg or arm?
Of course not, you do not have the required skill or training.

Why do you think you can figure a way of what you cannot truly understand?

I pray and ask you take a chance to change your life, for something better. A chance bring some understanding to you and a chance to truly leave a tragic past behind.

You will not fail if you learn from the past. However like a skilled doctor diagnosing a patient, you should not expect that you can treat yourself.

Praying and hoping for you!!

:)

David

CreativeBitchin said...

it sounds really terrible, but asian parents have decidedly different attitudes towards raising children. spare the rod, spoil the child; tough love... to some extent, i understand that mine didn't think they were wrong. my mother in particular, was just echoing the way she was brought up herself.

and while i'm often in denial, i don't really think that i do not have an idea what is going on with my life, or what should rationally be the thing to do. figuring that out is the easy bit. actually getting to the bits where you mend things is the harder part.

i guess i'm more terrified to have to face up to things, probably. and more than unwilling to have to rely on someone else.

i live in a relatively small city, where people still live by a certain measure of small town mentality. people talk. people judge. and sadly, most people can't be trusted, especially those who opt get close to you just to indulge in a little entertainment from watching you screw up. or boyfriends who go AWOL on catching a glimpse of how fucked up things are, inside my head.

all that said, i think you misunderstood me, or maybe i didn't write it clearly enough. i don't think i was that ambiguous though.

i never said i wasn't going to seek help. i said it was hard for me to do make that first step, which i already have. if shrugging everything off again was what i intended to do, this post wouldn't even be up. i was just speaking out for the first time on this topic, and acknowledging that it's come to the point that shit cannot be ignored anymore.

i did say this post marked the beginning of a new chapter in life =)

David said...

Irene,

Thank you for clarifying so much!

You have taken a very important step.

You also pointed out social/cultural norms that are cause many, like yourself, problems.

I am married to a lovely women who was born in the Philippines.


Much of what you said about small town mentality reflects an Asian attitude towards emotional and mental health issues.

Most Asian cultures are typically quite stoic. Families can be one area where most Asians are more emotive.

My wife has related many times that when she was growing up in the Philippines during the 1970s, there was little talk of mental health or abusive behaviours.

The attitude of the day was poor regarding those with phychological problems. Most adults during the 1970s would simply call anyone who was in therapy of any sort phycholigic or emotional problem - insane or a lunatic.

The terms are neither accurate nor fair.

Like you know, and unfortunatley many in your small town do not know or acknowledge, is that emotional, physcholic problems range from simple to severe.

The treatment of such issues is well developed, but not used evenly around the world.

Social and cultural norms often lead to misunderstanding individuals who have problems.

You are not insane, no where close to that. Yet I suspect you fear being labled such.

You have a long way to go to understand why behaviours, nigtmares and troubleing thoughts you experience occur.

Much, perhaps most of your young adult problems have origins from your forming years as a child.

The body of knowledge of how verbal abuse, such as threats of harm, and frequently being called derisive names can damage a growing child is well documented.

Treating the long term damage in those young adults whose growth is messed up from such upbringin can be accomplished. This takes time, understanding and a dedicated and knowledgealbe counselor or therapist.

Perhaps someday, when this is behind you and you live a happier life, knowing why recent years to date have been so troubling, you might become an advocate by informing the public through writing, which you have a gift for, and maybe appearances in media, where sharing events from your growing years will help others understand that we are very often shaped by events we cannot control as a child.

You are brave for writing as much on this topic.

Courgae will be required for you grow into a happy and succesful young women.

I look forward to your success and growth.

David

Mrs Yellow said...

I am looking forward to some pictures from Loas.
Someone will always want to sell you a pill or religion. A plastic Jesus or a copper Buddha....
Looking around at all the wars, conflicts, politics.. mostly started by religious men in fancy robes.. I doubt anyone has any answers.

David said...

Mrs. Yellow,

I would contest your assertion that religous men have started most wars.

The worst wars and much brutal countries have been accomplished by godless tryrants. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and even Sadam Hussien, (he claimed to be a member of Islam only), collectivley are responsible for the deaths of nearly 100 million humans, perhaps more.

David

Anonymous said...

Dear Irene,

It takes great courage to be able to spill it all on your little blogosphere here, all the way to hitting the post button and not deleting this entry.

Believe it or not, u've taken the very first step into healing yourself and allowing help to come in your way.

Slowly but surely. You're a beautiful woman and i believe the people around you couldn't wait just enough to watch you grow and illuminate the world.

Just hang in there with some positivity that no matter what's the odds, hope is still in the air.

Anonymous said...

Dear Irene,

It takes great courage to be able to spill it all on your little blogosphere here, all the way to hitting the post button and not deleting this entry.

Believe it or not, u've taken the very first step into healing yourself and allowing help to come in your way.

Slowly but surely. You're a beautiful woman and i believe the people around you couldn't wait just enough to watch you grow and illuminate the world.

Just hang in there with some positivity that no matter what's the odds, hope is still in the air.