“maybe that’s what life’s all about: there’s a lot of despair, but also the odd moments of beauty, where time is no longer the same”

Children help us to defer the painful task of confronting ourselves, and grandchildren take over from them. Television distracts us from the onerous necessity of finding projects to construct in the vacuity of our frivolous lives; by beguiling our eyes, television releases our mind from the great work of making meaning. Finally, God appeases our animal fears and the unbearable prospect that someday all our pleasures will cease.

I was in bed last night, at about 1am, reading this part from The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

I remember all that rain… The sound of it drumming on the roof, the paths running with water, the sea of mud at the gate to the farm, the black sky, the wind, the horrible feeling of endless damp weighing upon us as our life weighed upon us: neither consciousness nor revolt. We were sitting huddled together by the fire when suddenly my mother got to her feet, throwing the rest of us off balance; we watched in surprise as, driven by some obscure impulse, she headed to the door and flung it open.

All that rain, oh, all the rain… Framed in the door, motionless, her hair clinging to her face, her dress soaked through, her shoes caked with mud, staring lifelessly, stood Lisette. How did my mother know? How did this woman who, while never mistreating us, never showed us that she loved us, either by deed or word- how did this coarse women who brought her children into the world in the same way she turned over the soil or fed the hens, this illiterate woman, so exhausted by life that she never even called us by the names she had given us- to the point where I at times wondered if she even remembered them- how had she known that her daughter, half-dead, neither moving nor speaking, but merely staring at the door without even thinking of knocking, was just waiting in a relentless downpour for someone to open and bring her into the warm room?

Is this a mother’s love, this intuition of disaster in one’s heart, this spark of empathy that resists even when human beings have been reduced to living like animals? This is what Lucien said: a mother who loves her children always knows when they are in trouble. Personally, I do not care much for this interpretation. Nor do I feel any resentment toward that mother who was not a mother. Poverty is a reaper; it harvests everything inside us that might have made us capable of social intercourse with others, and leaves us empty, purged of feeling, so that we may endure all the darkness of the present day. Nor do I nurture any sturdy illusions, there was nothing of a mother’s love in my mother’s intuition, merely the translation into gesture of her certainty of misfortune. A sort of native consciousness rooted deep in the heart, which serves to remind poor wretches like us that, on a rainy night, there will always be a daughter who has lost her honour and who will come home to die.

Lisette lived just long enough to give birth to her child. The infant did what was expected of it: it died within three hours.

Reading the part about Lisette standing outside the door and then dying made me tear up. How alone she must have felt. There are many single mothers in the world, how many of them just function on survival mode hoping to give their kids a better future. Nationality, ethnicity, religion, such boundaries don’t matter when it is a bond between a mother and a child. How many people are alone in this world? Choosing to leave your family and identity behind is a difficult decision, until you have done it you will not be able to imagine what ‘never again’ means. Because you can’t return to the past. Other people will be affected.

I don’t like emotions because I always feel terrible when I have them. Shame, anger, guilt, loneliness. Sometimes, occasionally, true joy and comfort, but most a bland neutral outlook. But I have lived without the ability to feel for a long time, and I don’t want to go back to that situation when everything was the same, nothing mattered because there were no feelings involved. The same with dating- I am only comfortable going out with people I feel nothing for, because then whatever happens wouldn’t matter to me. Perhaps it is not a fear of commitment, having to stick to just one person and the feeling of novelty, but the fear of intense feelings and not knowing what to do about those feelings. How would I react, how would he feel, what can happen next, am I changing my life in a way that would matter?

“I’ll say it again to make myself perfectly clear,” says Kakuro, with the sort of infinite patience one exercises with children or, rather, the simple-minded. “Renee, you are not your sister.”

And as I go on sitting there like a moron, staring at him:

“I’ll repeat it one last time, in the hopes that this time you won’t choke on a piece of sushi that -I might mention- cost thirty euros apiece and normally require a bit more care in their consumption: you are not your sister, we can be friends. We can be anything we want to be.”

—–

Got an allergic reaction to the medication I’m on, and then intense sleepiness so I took a long nap again. I still have overdue work so I need to drink coffee and then get my shit together for a long night. I am just upset that nothing in life seems to be going right now all because of health reasons, that my panicky moments affect how I see my day. Did it go well, did it go badly, how many times did I feel like I was in a cage and couldn’t breathe? I know that I am in a good place compared to many other people, I also feel that I am in another low point in my life. No longer able to look at events retrospectively and think, “all these were my becoming”, now it’s like “fuck what the fucking fuck again??!” Sorry for vulgarities- they are necessary because that’s my mind right now.

That said, I’m pretty normal most of the day, my mood is only much lower when I am alone or when I have to take a long nap to stop the yawning and it’s really late when I wake up. There are client proposals to be done this week hence I can’t afford to continue this medication, I don’t know when the side effects will end but I would rather not risk more allergic reactions. Other parts of my life are good- children’s church went fine, it got kind of zoo-like during the story time when kids suddenly decided to stop listening, some were walking around, which is unusual because they are all quite quiet during story-telling. Then Andrew, the youngest, he always gets overshadowed by the older and louder ones, he just gave up and laid on the mat fully outstretched and I was like “what are you doing LOL”. Esther is quite sticky, I had to carry her a few times today because she wasn’t crying but she just doesn’t like to be with the other kids on her own. And Ethan and Calvin, they fight for the same things whenever they are together- will remember to separate them in the future. It’s like it doesn’t matter what toy Calvin has, Ethan wants it. Until Calvin gives up and walks away. Then depending on his mood, Ethan might follow Calvin.

Sermon was by Pastor C. Which reminded me of how I have to be careful to not make stupid choices. It’s really easy to go from friends to friends with benefits. Or maybe I am just really open to experiences, I really like to try new things. And cute guys are exciting, it can be quite fun. Like a spark of light during the rather boring day where work is impactful but not exciting all the time. Pastor C. reminded us that if we don’t call on Christ (not his surname, it means the ‘Messiah’) when we are facing temptation or while sinning, we are likely to be ‘finished’- did not clarify what finished meant, because our sins were taken away by Christ when he died for us, and also when we continually repent. I was seriously considering sinning in a rather obvious way and then repenting, and be like a life-stage Christian where I am sometimes a Christian and sometimes not, and continually tick-tocking between the two. The response is that, if that is so, salvation isn’t ensured because your repentance at the end of your life might not be genuine. And what kind of heart are you carrying to church on Sundays then. But I’m also really tired and I would like constant company.

Bible study was back to basics, we are covering Mark for the next 13 weeks. Likely to miss a few because of overseas trips but we learned basic tenets of faith today. Who is Christ, why did he come, and what are we supposed to do in response to him. It is not just to turn away from sin, but also to do good works, and learn the experience of faith- how to trust God and let God lead.

Prayer requests:

Please, that at least let one of the problems in my life become less burdensome- health, work, finances (due to health) or relationships (or the lack of feelings). I don’t think I can last the whole month if my issues don’t pick themselves up.

That people in the world will not be so lonely or troubled. That even if they don’t find meaning or God, at least let their troubles be alleviated temporarily. Suffering is useful for long-term growth, but too much of it over the years can force a person to do odd things that a rational person wouldn’t normally do.

And pray that I will learn to pray more, and worry less. Be less anxious about work, about how people see me at work, about whether or not I am liked, be less anxious about the impact I’m creating and trust that a combination of prayer and sufficient sleep will work. Prayer is not just about communicating with God, for me it is trusting God.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

-Hebrews 6, ESV

A mess of feelings

I wanted to write about anxiety and going back on to medication for the second time. It feels the same, I don’t remember any of the old side effects, and I only know that it is a different part of the anxiety family tree. Which means that I might not recover as quickly as before, or that my symptoms might not be as bad, they will not last as long, I will not lose as much as before. Then I started on work, took me five hours and now I am not in the mood to talk about my troubles. I’m still making mistakes with basic formatting. 103 slides for one proposal and going. I just hope that I won’t get fired within the first two months, even though they say that the company is really kind to juniors because the turnover rate is so high.

I was thinking about my worries. You know the feeling when you are with a bunch of friends or colleagues but everyone doesn’t really know one another, and you start to feel out of place, or even wondering, “do they actually like me as a person”, or “would they talk to me if I weren’t in this company?” I would be hurt if they didn’t, although I do know that if I asked myself the same question, I can’t say that there are many people in the office I would claim as a close friend. They are all nice and good people, but I am not sure about the interest level. Like I said before, humans are still a preference. There are weeks when I’m really interested in getting to know people, and sometimes, just after getting scolded by a director, (inserts hangdog look), I just don’t want to see anyone. Not even the bus driver stopping right in front of me.

My emotions change very quickly- I was getting scolded because my buddy didn’t do the slides properly and because she was on annual leave and I had no idea what she did for that portion, so I couldn’t reply the director. I was just in a bit of shock. And then sadness, and then a little bit of anger- I wanted to say “hey, the work was done!” But that moment had passed. But my brain was in a fuddle the whole evening, I felt like I was inadequate and I also felt that I should have put in more effort, and then I started worrying about if they would fire me because we left out some slides. Now that I have bills to pay, things are looking a lot bleaker. I can understand why medical bills are a burden now, you literally cannot stop work because you have to pay your dues.

I am learning to handle my emotions by rationalizing them out, I don’t know how other people handle their emotions. The director was a bit loud (burdens of sitting at the open-space pantry, you will get judged by everyone) and quite angry, but then she switched to being nice again like five minutes afterwards, so I really don’t know how to deal with her personality. Other feelings in the past week include: meeting someone and realizing that Person A might have spoken to Person B, whom I’m not on speaking terms with, and hence Person A doesn’t like me as much anymore. Which made me feel sad, even though I only see A once every few months. It’s more of wanting to maintain that original relationship and not feel the shame of being unwanted, kind of like rejection- a hot flush, a cold chest. “Why do I bother with such pain, why can’t I just sell all my feelings away.” Sometimes I wonder if people think that I am too old for this- at the age of 23 I should have gotten all my emotions sorted out and all my reactive mechanisms sorted out, but nope. Still fumbling around in the dark.

Other feelings- that the person I like doesn’t like me anymore, conversations turning cold, no longer as enthusiastic in the mornings. I know that I’m doing the same to other people whenever I am tired but it was such a good game while it lasted. It is another odd feeling, not knowing if he cares for you, have things changed? If so, why? And feeling fulfilled when someone praises your work, but then getting scolded by someone else (my mind keeps returning to this, even though I am over it emotionally- just that I have to redo that work). Feeling slightly guilty when I am texting my colleague while she’s on her holiday and I know that she doesn’t quite like this place anymore, and she doesn’t want to answer work related enquiries, and yet I am texting her because I need the answers. Or the one that I have been struggling with, feeling lost in life and doing things that makes me …I don’t know, content? Peaceful? But not sure if I am on the right track. And feeling terrible when I make grammatical and vocabulary errors on a company-wide publication. And having to apologize when I am not really sure what I am apologizing for. It is part of growing up I guess- taking on people’s anger.

During DG last night I was wondering if it is possible for me to remain a Christian forever. The road is honestly so long I don’t know how to deal with it. During prayer session my DG leader was sharing the five ‘cannots’- you can’t smoke, pre-marital sex, alcoholism, marry a non-christian etc. Those are things that just can’t be done because they will bring you away from God. And I thought to myself, I am going to end up with the most boring person on earth, he’s going to grow a beard and we will live on fishes by the river. One step at a time I guess. I am trying to be kinder to myself because I have been really tired but unable to sleep recently.

Pats on the head for six weeks of work:

  • Being more comfortable with relationships and people at work.
  • Continuing kiddy class while having a full-time job (I honestly thought I would give up.)
  • Client deliverables and dealing with confusion, not running away and asking others to do it for me.

The slides that I got scolded on were meant to be done by my buddy, but since she’s going to Jakarta for six months I guess I’ll be handling those in the future.

I am still making mistakes, I am still tired, I am still trying. Don’t think I can say anything else that is valuable. I just need to deal with the first six weeks of medication, it’s day 3 today and I have really bad leg cramps.

 

“Actually that’s my secret — I can’t even talk about you to anybody because I don’t want any more people to know how wonderful you are.”

Hello I’m really tired. I just packed my room and cleared out all the debris that accumulated on the floor after a week of chionging work. This is a kind of collection of personal thoughts that I had over the past few days, because my brain is so scattered now it feels like I am holding on to a few strands of thoughts and a few pieces of chicken chop, and I am not sure how much longer I can hold on for. I can’t let go, if I just intentionally ‘forget’ things I know I will feel like that I have lost something. Which is why slotherious is a great platform, it is an eternal brain dump as long as I can afford the yearly domain fees. Somehow a non-personal domain just doesn’t feel right.

On DG and the church carnival:

I wrote this bit about DG two months ago. I think it was when they first announced the dates for the carnival, and I thought to myself- what did I learn about fellowship so far? Why are people so happy to stay on in the same cell group for years, and always contribute time and money to a cause that others do not understand?

We assemble every Friday at 8.20pm at Pine Grove, each of us with our individual burdens from work and our heavy hearts, minds that get progressively more solemn as the week passes. Different backgrounds, different hobbies, different habits. Some of us like to sit on the floor, some sit cross-legged on the chair, some like to stand throughout the bible study session. But we have the same belief- that regardless of how broken we are, God will find a way to mend us. No weakness or failure of character is too big for him, no flaw is too small to be overlooked. We know that to everything, the answer is Christ, and if only we can lean wholeheartedly on him, he will make our burdens lighter. If only we truly believed, steadfastly holding on to our understanding of him. Then at our last exhale, we need not be worried that we have come to the end and our lives were all for nothing. It will not just be a final goodbye.”

The carnival yesterday was held at Bishan, and after four hours of being in a crowd I was half-dead and ready to uber home. There was very good prata with chicken curry (made on the spot), curry puffs, ice cream, didn’t try my own DG’s bak kuh teh but I had chicken rice! There was a DG who sponsored $7000 worth of chicken rice, that works out to an average of 400-500 per person, assuming they had less people than us. Had to get work clothes so I hurriedly did my shopping at vivo. Only managed to find two outfits because I have this aversion towards colours and prints so it’s always pretty much black on black.

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/carnival-celebrates-the-spirit-of-giving

I am quite amazed at the carnival planning. The entry passes only cost $2, and it entitles you to all the games, two mains, three sides and three drinks if I’m not wrong. In other words, we did not sell tickets to raise funds, we sold tickets so that people could enjoy the carnival. The donations were done before the carnival even started.

I also went for something called Project Timothy, which made me realise that I’m not actually…I don’t know, constantly joyful in church? I feel like I should be. But I am not at the stage where I feel this joy and deep reassurance every day, it’s more like okay on most days I have this relaxed and neutral kungfu stance that borders on joy during quiet time, on other days I’m quite at peace about how things are going. Not being able to date a non-christian however, REALLY SUCKS. “Real change is possible,” said the pastor. I wrote down, “real change is possible painful.” It’s not that I am actively looking for someone, it’s just that I haven’t been so interested in a guy since bobcat circa 2013. That’s four years of “am I a lesbian?” that I dealt with. I still feel that I’m bisexual though. Or “are you going to be single forever”, said people who were my project mates. I am not intentionally going against what is being taught in the bible, which is that marriage should be a reflection of the covenant between God and his church. It’s just that I want to date casually, without people telling me that “it’s better to not date than date a non-christian or take dating lightly”.

On work:

Met old friends in the past three days, partly because it was my birthday and I didn’t want to spend my 23rd doing work. Aloha poke is nice!! Shall go there again. There’s a cheaper $9.90 salmon version somewhere too, asked a colleague out next week so I can try that. My favourite dishes in the CBD area are- beef pepper bowl from Amoy, chai tea latte from Dimbulah (I can drink enough in one day to make it a meal), fish soup from Amoy, chicken chop from Shenton House, Daily cut @RP, poke bowls in general, astons @ asia square, and this jap food place that has really good egg plant and salads but I forgot the name, it’s along Boon Tat. I budgeted 250 a month for food but with friends and all, it’s more like 400. I still miss the chendol from brickworks! It’s really good chendol.

Work has been good- things are picking up fast. It felt like we had no substantial training for one month other than basic skills (which might not be used, depending on your project team’s style), and you are left to make connections on your own. I volunteered to write for the upcoming trip and got pulled into my unit’s rec club, we are going to plan more events that won’t involve an army of tuktuks. Now the second month is here and lots of things are in the pipeline. Which is fine, but I don’t really know how to manage my bandwidth yet, so I am expecting myself to do work for the next three weeks using my weekend time. I think I am quite happy because I like my company and I really enjoy my work. I like knowing that whatever I do, it contributes towards an impact, no matter how small, on the client’s end. Which affects the lives of people in other developing countries. And I like knowing that I am a good support system to my colleagues. The only thing I dislike about working at home is that I don’t have a large desktop monitor at home, I shall get one soon to deal with calibri font 5.5 on slide decks.

On others:

I was asked this week by a well-meaning friend (not describing him as anything else, it’s difficult to pigeon-hole this person) “why are you so reserved”. To which I thought, yes I am, but how would I know why? That is like asking “why do you like being a straightforward and crazy coconut?” Hmm actually, do coconuts have genders?

I just am. I process a lot of things on the inside and I don’t reveal much unless I am asked, or if I’m in a hyper mood. Like when I had HK food with L. and then too much awfully chocolate cake, the salted caramel caused a sugar rush and I love salted caramel. Being an introvert is a different way of interacting with the world. I like books and furry animals, I like small kids who like to eat cheerios, I like to write about my feelings (so female of me HAHA), I like to hear the stories about people and their experiences. I like to touch people and I like hugs, unless the sun is really hot and I am turning into a roasted potato. I don’t care for crowds, the carnival really killed a bit of me. I didn’t realise how tired I was until I got home and I slept at 9pm, probably the first time in months. “Uncle black sauce and chilli, or plain?” “More soup?” “Consolidate ok ok.

If I had a choice I might not choose to be more extroverted, simply because I don’t know how to imagine what an extrovert’s life might feel like. I don’t know how to create value in noisy places, I don’t like to hang out with people all the time- hence I schedule lunches one to one because I don’t want my post-lunch work efficiency to go down to 20%. Perhaps to others it is a sort of half-life that I live, like how with makeup on I’m an enhanced goblin. Not experiencing what they see as fun? But to me I’m coping very well, especially with being on TCM and in a few weeks, anxiety medication again. I am just not a randomly-coughing ball of fireworks singing despacito on the highway.

What do I do for fun? I don’t know. I think I am still finding out. I don’t think my brain processes ‘fun’ in the same way as others do. It is more of fulfilment and a sense that what I am doing, it is meaningful, and that if I die the next day, it would not have been in vain. I would not have lived a half-life just for myself. And if it was entirely for myself, I would have enjoyed it and not changed myself to fit others.

I don’t have much time left to write. Or read, now I find myself just zoning out on the train in the mornings. I do want to return to meditation/yoga, which I started for only a few days. The easiest thing to do now is just to swim after work. I was wondering about heart break, I think I felt emotions most intensely a few days ago when I was reminded to keep my distance from K, and my heart was like “I DON’T WANT TO KEEP MY DISTANCE.” I don’t feel a lot on most days, but when I do I usually don’t understand why I feel that way. I am able to rationalize anger out really well, but other softer emotions like affection or sadness, it’s difficult for me to say anything other that “ok I am feeling weird. Weird feels, soft cats.”

To find a small moment of joy in a blue sky,

A long walk an early morning in December

Or a handwritten letter to an old friend simply saying, “I thought of you, I hope you are well.”

I am trying, as I always will.

I read a helpful tip to deal with my emotions. “Take short little cries every time you feel overwhelmed”. I think I feel overwhelmed most on Friday nights, when I am done with DG and I just feel unhappy because I don’t want all that responsibility and commitment that comes with being a Christian. I can’t be unorthodox, I can’t go around having sex with everyone, I can’t turn up for DG drunk or smoke (not allowed to smoke because your body has to be an acceptable living sacrifice) or date a non-Christian, I have to tithe a portion of my salary every month which I would rather spend buying books, and I have to do bible study daily. I can’t be a stumbling block to other Christians and I basically cannot do a lot of things. Lie, steal, cheat, shout- yes I am a difficult person. I wouldn’t do those things even if church wasn’t in my life- okay maybe lies, I think white lies to clients are quite common in business- but it is more of a feeling that I only know the laws, I do not yet know joy. Can I say that I love God? I think I do, but it is a feeling borne out of admiration for his grace and his temperament and how loving he can be. But on a daily basis I feel like I will feel less cooped up if he did not exist. Because it means that I can do whatever I want.

There are flowers growing outside my window.

The coffee is warm, the air is pure.

Spending time with friends I am comfortable with, hoping for someone kind. I feel that so much of me is tied to being independent- travelling to Phuket a day earlier than others, doing whatever I want even if no one else wants to do it, serving in a meditation centre in September even though my DG leader told me to again, be careful of non-Christian teachings. I just don’t know if I will feel differently about what I do a few years from now? Maybe I will never find myself, maybe I will always be open to new experiences and I will never be settled as a Christian or even, as a human being. Maybe it will be a lifelong journey of searching and wanting more. Wanting someone gentle and kind.

If there was no chance of gaining any temporal reward for our piety, would we bother?

On mental illness; anxiety and depression. The good and the not-so-good.

I am not on anti-depressants now, but I think my anxiety has been back since November last year. I track my moods on a large calendar and the frequency of darkened boxes has been increasing. It used to be just one or two lines of ‘ribcage felt constricted today’, ‘heartbeat randomly increasing after dinner’, ‘not wanting to be in crowds’, but there are weeks with two or three days covered in washi tape. It’s kind of ironic, washi tape can be used to hold things together, to stick memorabilia onto the walls, but it can also be used to mark the loss of my mind.

There is this quote, “pay attention to what you pay attention to”. Right now I am just trying to not overstretch myself and concentrate on all the good things I have, like-

  • Being in groups and not cliques (Thai food, Burmese food, cycling tomorrow, trampoline on Monday, children’s church tomorrow too, my grandmother’s birthday lunch is this week)
  • Hand written letters, and post cards overseas.
  • Journaling, both art and random long essays
  • Mixing colours and using black ink to draw simple things, like the outline of mountains.
  • Spending time alone
  • Good food, I like bak chor mee and chendol and satay and chicken wings and pig organ soup.
  • Talking to strangers
  • Being present with friends
  • Emotional honesty
  • When people care for me.
  • Creating art, planning for tapestries and realising that I don’t have enough money to buy what I want ): FABRIC MARKERS. Fabric mediums!!
  • Nature
  • Swimming, but I now have an obvious swimsuit tan
  • Jam biscuits
  • Listening to live acoustics by the river
  • Long walks by the beach
  • Near dogs
  • Night cycles

Through my experiences in life, I narrate my life over and over again, sometimes to people who do not care, but sometimes, to people who love me, and are loved in return. We will not all play equal roles in the autobiographies of other people but we can all appreciate a warm gesture or a kind word, like being invited to a dinner even though I am not part of that clique, just so that I can get to know more people.

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Austin Kleon

During supper, it came up that a DG mate named D had depression since he was in secondary school. He only sought help recently (in his late twenties now) and he uses it as a testimony of how he came to know God. I am amazed that he is alive because if I had to go through black moods for more than a year, I would definitely not be alive right now. What more for a decade. How did he manage to cling on?

My mind went back to all the things I’ve experienced since J1. How have I changed, why is there still a stigma against mental illness, why is there little compassion even if you are deeply rooted in your own pain and everyone else can see the side effects of your life’s potential wasting away. Things and people were lost to me. They weren’t taken away, because it was my own body reacting. They were just lost.

I felt loss at every hand. The loss of self-esteem is a celebrated symptom, and my own sense of self had all but disappeared, along with any self-reliance. This loss can quickly degenerate into dependence, and from dependence into infantile dread. One dreads the loss of all things, all people close and dear. There is an acute fear of abandonment.
― William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

Too many depressive episodes have been recounted publicly and yet, not enough. With mental illness no one is sure of what they have become, and who they are, anymore, and how many people actually record their moods during their first episode? There is still a stigma against mental illness, even in this church community where a pastor has publicly spoken about his moods. Pastor John wrote a book titled ‘A Gentle Mind’. It is a very short read, but it reminds me that there are other people out there who have experienced what I did.

I remember telling my doctor that I didn’t know how to react when the medication finally started working and it took months, before I realised what was going on. The world wasn’t changing, even though it felt like there was more. More emotion, more experiences. More of life. Dr G told me that it is normal to feel that way, just be careful with how I am going about my daily life so that I will not overwhelm myself and shut down. It felt like- you know how you think the window is clean, until you wipe it down with a micro fibre cloth and then you realise that actually it was all dusty and grey? With medication, if it works, you start to see the sunlight clearly again. It is no longer being submerged in a mentally painful fog, constantly swinging between memories of what you used to experience, wanting it to be normal again, and not knowing if your fragile psyche can deal with anything more right now. All humans speak of life as if it is precious, if only we could see.

If there’s a medication that you have to be reliant on, or if there is a source of help- take it. Take whatever you can get, to where you need to be, even if where you need to be is what other ‘normal’ people take for granted on a daily basis and you feel almost childish for needing it. Take the medication to feel the sunshine and to connect to other humans, to feel happiness, however fleeting. To see the world in more than one shade of grey. Even when your natural faculties like your mind is not cooperating with you, when conversations just pass over your head and you can’t think deeply into anything, the words you read seem to be lost from your mind the moment you move on to the next sentence- take the medication. And then wait.

After three years with Dr G she told me it was a pleasure to see me going back to my old life, the happy and ambitious one, even though she did not know me before mental illness. She said I was growing up to be a young woman. I didn’t want to die anymore. And in a less melodramatic fashion, I didn’t want to cut myself anymore and go around with little coloured dinosaur plasters on my arm. I really like dinosaurs hahaha. Because it helped me feel, even for a little while. When there is physical pain the mind turns alert and you feel definitely alive. Not a cry for help, just to feel like your physical body exists.

It is stupid and irrational to a normal person, but going to that point made me understand that I had to throw away all ideas of who I used to be and all my mom’s scoldings about how I wouldn’t get a scholarship yada yada, because I had to save myself above all. Disregarding her nagging about how I just need to work harder, I went to see my first psychiatric doctor on my own. She only came around to the idea of mental illness after I was on medication from a public hospital for a while, and then she took me to private doctors.

Mental illness might leave you, at least temporarily, but the familiarity with it all- the old moods, old habits to cope- it is like an old glove. You stop trusting yourself. And lowered self-esteem. How could I be worth much, after all that I have seen and done, especially to my friends at that time. I wish I could trust my mind again. But I don’t know how to. It is a long journey- even till now when I hear about other people’s depressive episodes, I get this old fear. The fear that I will relapse. And there will be all this wasted potential again.

I didn’t recover in time to perform at my usual levels for the A levels, neither did I apply for any scholarships. My mind didn’t break, but it felt like any additional pressure could cause a relapse. I went to a local university on my parents’ dime and nothing happened, the world didn’t end, despite my mother telling me that it would. I did well in university, and she no longer cared, because it’s a local university anyway, who cares? It’s not Cambridge or Oxford. Comparison truly is the thief of joy, especially when I am comparing myself to people with much better socioeconomic backgrounds, better health, different talents, healthier parenting styles.

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Austin Kleon

I wanted to call this post ‘the lost years’ but looking back I think I gained more than I lost. In this past year, I think I have made my peace, especially having completed my bachelors and realising that there’s indeed a whole new world ahead. Of ugly watercolour dinosaurs and lots of books and friends who will feel the same way as I do. Yes I still have three ugly scars on my arm that won’t go away (the rest did) but they are small, and anyway I have a lot of scars so never mind. At least they aren’t purple like the ones on my knees ):

I am no longer in the rat race, I have found my identity, separate from others (I like groups but not cliques), I have many hobbies that I never had in JC/start of uni because these are things I could do alone and be engrossed in. I know that I am aware of my self. And because I am aware, I am able to relate to other people who have been through similar things. You know what’s rare and valuable? Going through periods of loneliness that teaches you to empathise with other people’s pain. Being able to say ‘I’ll be there for you’, because I know that I am not a judgey ass, and I can truly be there. Regardless of what it is. Even if my friends go to prison or have to go through chemotherapy, or transgender surgery, or gay marriages, I can be there.

If anything, I learned to grow into an adult human being in the past few years. Knowing that my pain and discomfort is universal, and that life is short, it helps me to curate my experiences- not huddling into a ball whenever I feel uncomfortable, because sensations are impermanent and therefore enjoyable. And spending more time on the things I enjoy. Not following the crowd.

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Austin Kleon

Learning about: befriending people who live on the margins of society.

TL;DR: How can I practice acceptance and friendship with people who live on the margins of society, and is it possible for me to go on mission trips to other countries given that I am a stunningly oblivious and unsociable sloth?

I first heard about mission trips when I joined the DG (discipleship group) in February and they were in the preparation stage to go to Davao, Phillipines. A lot of the work seemed to revolve around games and lessons to connect to the youth, and sharing of the gospel. I thought it was a hi-bye thing to people who are receptive to the Bible, and it was only until church camp (last week) that I realised how much effort was needed just to stay on in a primarily Muslim community for 7 years. The place that the missionaries are based in is a tightly-knit, strongly Muslim community. The youths who come to the camps/retreat face the difficulty of living with their family, and secretly believing in Christianity (forbidding the worship of other Gods etc) or professing their belief in Christ and then face expulsion or at least, being ostracized by their friends and family. Their parents will also be ostracized because the community will begrudge their parents for not bringing up children according to the Islamic faith.

When the short-term missionaries i.e. my DG friends were sharing about their journey, I honestly was a bit taken aback because I didn’t know that so much energy and effort were poured into an undertaking that on the surface, bears no fruit. And there is the whole issue of ‘how far will we go to convert people of other faiths’, and ‘how far will we go to get secular, non-believers to join the church’. We could stay inward-looking and only cater to those who are already within the church community, or we could go out and spend years befriending those who have not felt the hand of God in any way in their lives.

There was a sharing on the missionary experience to Taiwan too. The missionary, let’s call her S, gave up her prestigious career path as a scholar to pursue her work in Taiwan. Friends spoke about how missionaries can feel like aliens in their homeland (Singapore) after spending so long overseas, because by the time they come back, to be reintegrated into Singapore, friends and family members have moved on without them. Lives have changed, families have been built, and their missions work overseas might not have been fruitful.

https://omf.org/asia/taiwan/

The group of people that S administers to are called ‘tea shop ladies’, or prostitutes. She shared in sermon and also during church camp about how hard it was to befriend these people, because they were wary of evangelists who only wanted to preach the gospel. The mixing of social work and also gospel work took up a lot of her time- when you are a missionary, you not only preach the gospel, you do things like bring people to hospitals (because the lady was illiterate) and fill out social visas and do lots of paperwork. It was also difficult to see the ups and down of progress. The ladies had practical concerns such as how to get the next meal, or how to support themselves without prostitution. So there would be a baptism one week and the hope for a better future, trusting in God, and two weeks later they might return to working the streets because it is necessary to support a life, and also because it is habitual.

  • Literacy gap – Most working class people are not highly literate because they do not continue to read books after finishing their middle or high school education. Because reading Chinese requires you to know the individual characters that represent each word, one quickly loses the ability to recognize the characters once out of practice. Churches in Taiwan are book-heavy. When you walk in, you typically receive a bible, hymn book and the church bulletin… and spend the morning fumbling through a confusing combination of the three books.

Audrey Lin, OMF appointee

S mentioned that as a missionary you have to go to a completely foreign place and start from the bottom, integrating yourself into local life, removing all feelings of you being a superior being. A lot of people in this world are in misery because of circumstances or self-imposed expectations of the self (I fall firmly into the latter category), and we are hurt. We want to find meaning. But such meaning cannot be found by just reading a pamphlet distributed on the streets, by however well-meaning Christians. Meaning and love has to come from an experiential level.  Only when one experiences the grace of god or the warmth of the church then does one accept that Christianity has any value. This is where it becomes difficult, because friendship and acceptance cannot be forced on either party. It has to come from the heart, over a long time. And even then, the fruits of friendship might turn sour due to unexpected events.

I admit that most of the time in church, it is difficult to experience grace from other people. Singaporeans and humans in general can be nit-picky, choosy, cold, selfish, and I myself also fall into those categories. I call myself a learning Christian, because while I enjoy learning, sometimes I do not enjoy being in church. There are a lot of rules to follow and it is not like Buddhism where they teach you to observe yourself first. In Christianity you look towards God, you have to learn the basic teachings of why Christ died for us and why the biggest sin you can commit is to live without a God in your life. Even accepting that as my biggest sin took me a few months. It was when I read about grace and parables of how forgiveness is because of who God is, and not who we are, did I finally accept that while my life might not be enough for a perfect God, it is possible that he still loves me.

Going to my current church is difficult, I sometimes feel like there is a huge (cold and windy and dark and treacherous) gulf between me and my current DG mates, because of our different socio-economic backgrounds. I fall firmly into the ‘margin’ category, because I might work for the next 60 years of my life and still be unable to afford even one of the landed properties that my friends own. They are also not the friendliest of people because they have been together for a long time, but thankfully I have heard many people say that while they can be cold, it is a form of tough love, and as long as you stay on, people will grow on you and you will grow on others like a tough barnacle. But I still get anxious and a bit unhappy whenever I have to turn up for DG. Because while I am accepted by God, I am not sure if I am accepted by men.

In the movie The Last Emperor, the young child anointed as the last emperor of China lives a magical life of luxury with a thousand eunuch servants at his command. “What happens when you do wrong?” his brother asks. “When I do wrong, someone else is punished,” the boy emperor replies. To demonstrate, he breaks a jar, and one of the servants is beaten.

In Christian theology, Jesus reversed that ancient pattern: when the servants erred, the King was punished. Grace is free only because the giver himself has borne the cost.

-Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?

Returning to the point of mission trips. The role of a missionary is immensely difficult, and if we cannot accept the marginalized amongst us now- BASK (Brothers’ And Sisters’ Keepers) and the Indonesian maids etc- it is difficult to take the leap towards joining mission trips overseas. BASK is part of the mercy ministries, where they administer to ‘the sick, the dying, and the dead’. The team goes on prison visits every week and the hardest thing for ex-convicts is not just to find a job. A job is concrete, many of the business people in church can find jobs for newcomers. Acceptance, love, and kindness is not concrete, it is harder to cultivate.

Pastor J was sharing that he went on a night cycle with someone who just came out of prison, and after the ride, he thought that he had missed the chance to share the gospel because the friend was really fit and cycled so far ahead of him. But when the ride ended, the friend said that that was truly one of the best times of his life. Pastor J was able to touch a person’s heart by just being present. By just being with a person without an ulterior motive or second thoughts about how he can be somewhere else, doing other more productive things. The question remains- how can we, wholeheartedly, lay down our differences and practice being friends with people who live on them margins?

My friendship with him has strongly challenged my notion of how grace should affect my attitude toward ‘different’ people, even when those differences are serious and perhaps unresolvable.

-Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?

As for the maids in the community- a lady in the room mentioned that she once brought her Indonesian maid to the same service as her. The helper usually goes for Rhoda fellowship, and she told her employer “I shouldn’t be in the same service as you, you are my mam.” The lady shared that there should be no difference between the Indonesian colleagues she works with on a daily basis, and her Indonesian helper. And yet there is this divide between human beings because of the job they do, so much that it becomes subconscious and everyone just subsumes themselves into little pigeon-holed categories. Categories are useful because they contains stereotypes that helps us to minister to other people. Such as ‘business managers in China are very focused on relationships’, ‘the Japanese are not brutally straightforward’ etc. But categories should not be used to demean other people.

The last sharing during the workshop on the marginalized people around us. It is a story of the ups and downs of conversion to Christianity, and how sometimes, being a Christian can seem like an additional burden, on top of all the financial and physical burdens that a person already has. There was a lady, named Y, who shared about how she got to know a toilet cleaner in her office. In Singapore the line between graduates and support staff seems more clear, I remember back in my temporary job with the bank, the two teams ate separately, even though they worked side by side. Y said that she did worry about how her boss and colleagues would perceive her, “hanging around talking to a toilet cleaner”. The cleaner in question, named T, worked on the weekends as a prostitute to pay for the medical bills of her son back in China. The son had developmental issues, the husband was separated from T, and all her family members and friends were no longer willing to lend her money.

Y and a bunch of Christians from her office got together and pooled their resources (including a spare HDB flat) to help that family. Progress was good for three months, with the son making progress and the husband being willing to reconcile with T, until the family had to return to China. With the source of support starting to dwindle as it got difficult to help T remotely, things changed and at the end of a year, the husband obtained a divorce, stopped being a Christian, and the sister-in-law of T has been trying to turf her and her mother out of the house. Funds also dwindled because the salary of T decreased when she went back to China with her family. Y said that it was a time when they wondered, “why have our prayers grown cold?” What happened to the initial spurt of belief and progress?

Faith is not a straight path. It really is a mountain range. The climb upwards is long and tiring, and the dips downwards bring you closer and closer to the final destination, but you might never see the peaks if you lose faith in the middle. It is difficult to climb the mountain range on your own if you have no support, especially with an ailing son and marital problems and a lack of financial stability. Even Sunday school teachers (the mother of my camp group mate) can turn away from church completely, and renounce God. Whatever happened to their faith? Is it the gulf between reality and expectations?  If we are unable to maintain our faith in comfortable surroundings, how do we find it in us to love those who are vulnerable and much worse off than us? Love is action-oriented, it is not just words. How can one sustain love over a long period of time? These are some of the many questions I hope to find the answers to when I am older.

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.

-Mother Teresa

I really like listening to testimonies of faith and grace, because sometimes, preaching the absolute truth does nothing for me. It is like a chemistry equation for Prozac, so what if the equation is true and might one day save my life? I am used to feeling as I do and doing as I do. Why should I acknowledge your truth, something which gets most religious people riled up, if it doesn’t affect my current life?

But testimonies are different- it goes directly to the heart of a person. What are our struggles, and how can our struggles inform the way we live and work as Christians. Pain makes us more relatable as human beings, and testimonies are often about loss and emotional struggles. Why does he live as he does, how can we befriend him and shape his life.

To end off with a quote by S. ‘You might not have a family, but you will always have a church community’. It takes time to build up that church community, with generous portions of faith, hope and love. Above all, love. 😊

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

-1 Corinthians 13:13

 

Part Two: Living with eczema as an adult.

Things which helped me get through the 2.5 years of eczema/food allergies/bad health. I have zero photo-taking skills so I’m appropriating the photos from the internet, until I have more enthusiasm for photography. All photos are of the exact products that I’m using/have used.

Skin care!

Tea tree oil, my favourite kind is by Thursday Plantation but I suppose any brand of tea tree oil would work! You can mix with water or other carrier oils for a nice room scent. Just don’t spray it on laminated wood surfaces because it leaves an oily stain and my mom always complains.

Tea tree cream, for the itchy rashes at night. I leave it in the fridge because the hot weather in Singapore causes it to turn into a white/yellow liquid. Still usable, but oily. The selling price at Watsons/Guardian is really marked up, so don’t buy from there unless you can’t wait for shipping.

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Oatmeal baths! Use a sock to contain the oatmeal, fill the tub up with warm water (not hot, although I know it feels good, sigh.) and let the oatmeal goodness turn your water milky. Do remember to rinse it off and don’t clog the drain up with oatmeal bits. I got scolded a few times lol. If you don’t have a bathtub, just use a food processor and blend the oatmeal really finely. In the middle of your shower, mix it with water and leave it as a paste on your skin, and then gently rinse it off to avoid irritating your skin. It’s okay if you add too much water, after a while the oats will expand 🙂

Aloe vera gel, to cool down the skin and to calm the red patches. I reapply it whenever I wake up during the night to scratch ): I’ve tried several versions of this, I find that Lily of the Desert feels a lot harsher on my skin, although it do look more authentically aloe vera. It can turn yellow sometimes, and smells very natural. For Fruit of The Earth, the bottles retail for >SGD$25 at Watsons, but it’s about RM30 per bottle in JB.  I would recommend the Korean ones (Nature Republic and The Face Shop) for those with really sensitive skin, it is a lot less viscous i.e. easier to apply, and it dries faster too. There’s a welcome side effect of scar lightening after prolonged use. There are gels with snail mucus mixed inside but I would not recommend it if you are trying out aloe vera for the first time.

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Lavender room mist. I get mine from Mt Sapola. I think it’s really pricey for a normal lavender room spray, but hey I like their packaging HAHAH. Cheap- okay not cheap- thrills. It’s a conditioning exercise for my brain, whenever I smell the mist I know it’s time to sleep.

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Vaseline. No one told me that Vaseline heals open wounds! When the rash has scabbed over, and there’s no more pus, make sure the area is clean (no dried blood etc), and then apply a thick coat of Vaseline. The wound will heal A LOT FASTER. Dude I was so mad when I tried it out by accident and I realised that it healed my rashes really quickly, I was like “you mean I could have avoided my scars?!” It’s something to do with keeping the wound protected and moist, like how tattoo artists will wrap the tattoo with cling wrap and tell you to heal it that way.

Okay but word of caution if you like to sit on floors like I do. It can be difficult to clean because of the oily texture. Also, try out a thin layer before slathering it on, just in case your skin suffocates and reacts badly to it.

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Hiruscar – for the tonne of scars I have from chicken pox, falling down, eczema, heat rash etc etc. My skin is very sensitive, a blood donation bruise can take two weeks to fade. Bleurgh. I don’t think they work, or maybe that’s because I heal very slowly in general. Tofu once asked if I was diabetic lol.

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Lucas papaw ointment – I think I just like the packaging lol. Does it work better than Vaseline? I don’t think so. But the texture is a bit sticky, so you don’t require as much because the coat stays on for very long. However it is also a lot more expensive than Vaseline.

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Crocodile oil – I started using this for my chicken pox scars, and then my mom bought an extra bottle (about $80-100 per bottle, depending on the brand you buy) so I thought why not apply it to my rashes too. I hate the smell, it is really authentically crocodile and fishy. But it works well on large patches, it has this calming effect on my skin so it doesn’t itch as much. One thing about the bottle is that my first bottle had a faulty pump, it got really messy towards the end when I had to tilt the bottle to get out the remaining oil. And the bottle is quite heavy.

By the way- TCM has medicine to stop the itch. It’s all plant derived, although it’s really disgusting in terms of aesthetic and taste. No one ever instagrams Chinese medicine, lol. My arms are healing really well now that I have only maybe one or two spots of itchiness per night, and I don’t scratch as much. That said, I don’t trust my body, so my nails are always clipped super short.

Hair care!

I don’t know if my hair is related to my health, but I used to have pretty nice hair up till year 1 of university when it got really dry and frizzy. I also bleached it twice, but I did like 3-4 Olaplex treatments and regular Aveda treatments so I don’t know why it’s still dry ): Anyway, these are the hair care products that doesn’t cause my scalp to overproduce oil/dandruff.

Right now I am just trying to finish all my hair care products- the only one that I would repurchase is the Secret De Nuit, I think it is my third or fourth bottle. Cause it has a lovely scent haha. But the bottle is really heavy ): It retails for $78+ at Robinsons I think, sometimes there are discounts at Watsons if you buy multiple Phyto products. For Klorane, I love the chamomile scent!! I started using it when I was blonde/yellow but I’m still using the same brand now 🙂

Good foods!

I bought all my food off iherb- I used to shop at Brown Rice Paradise and other similar nature food stores, but it was all really expensive. Plus, iherb delivers free to your house. I stopped shopping there when I could eat most foods, roughly around September 2016? I forgot what my iherb discount code was already, go find your own lol. They usually have a minimum expenditure for shipping but I normally buy in bulk, so shipping costs weren’t a problem.

 

Enjoy life chocolate is sold at cold storage and various organic stores, but it can go up to $3.50 at some places. Not the best chocolate, but it was allergen free so I ate a lot. That’s where I spent my pocket money ): I considered buying a box off iherb but they don’t ship chocolate to some countries/certain months, so I had to queue up at cold storage, sigh.

The gluten free soy sauce– redmart or the supermarket at Kallang Wave mall! It’s about $5, good buy haha because it pairs well with salmon and potatoes. I couldn’t eat condiments for a long time, this soy sauce saved my life.

Brown rice pasta– it is my favourite brand! I used to buy 5-6 packs and eat it daily, because I couldn’t eat noodles. Even sushi rice (had vinegar, which had gluten) was an issue for me. It is exactly as it says- it doesn’t turn mushy even after over-boiling it. But as I am typing this I’m eating char siew pau lol.

P.S. Eczema is a life-long journey, because I know that I will never completely recover. I know that I have to be more careful around dusty areas (construction sites etc) and watch what I eat (no shellfish!!). And monitor my periods and stress levels. There are a lot of triggers, but I am just keeping it cool and doing what I can to maintain my skin for now.

Love,

Slothy

Part One: Living with eczema as an adult

I had eczema as a child, on the areas of my neck, inner elbows and the knee bend areas. I remember I used to scratch at my skin until it bled, and then I would ice it, and wrap a pink, non-woolly scarf around the ice. And I would put a towel below my legs so that the water will not drip directly onto the floor. It was a feeling of bliss when I finally scratched, then changing to irritation and anger at myself, “you have stupid itchy hands!!”, and shame, because I hated the look of eczema. Numbness when the cold ice touched my skin, but the fear that it would start again. Sometimes it was so cold that I wanted to scream, but at least the cold would last for a good ten minutes, and I would not be bothered (except mentally) for another 30 minutes or so.

Singapore is a really bad place to have eczema in because the humidity causes the sweat to stay on the skin, and it irritates the folds of the skin. The sunlight during physical education lessons were always a pain. The itch isn’t the bearable itch of a mosquito bite, because when rashes appears it’s usually a big patch, at least palm sized. It doesn’t appear as a single dot. Plus, there are the comments from friends at school. They say that eczema and skin disorders are common, in one out of ten adults, but when you have it you are hyper-conscious of everyone who has beautiful, unblemished skin. It did a great job of ruining my self-esteem in my primary school days.

But at least I didn’t have it all over my body. I remember my mom telling me that she had a friend with two boys, the younger one was in the same primary school as me and he had ezecma all over his body. It was so bad he would knock his head against the wall so that he would stop scratching. When my mom told me I remember feeling really glad that it wasn’t me, but also sad that he had to go through that alone. Because I can understand how he felt- pain distracts from the itch, but it also hurts you. Which is the main reason why I don’t want to have kids because my genes are really not good. I don’t want my kids to have bad eczema. Mild cases are okay, especially when most kids grow out of it, but how can you know before the child is born? My parents have it, and then now me, as an adult, I really don’t want to risk it.

I started having signs of eczema again in early 2015. It started as dust mite and grass pollen allergies which I knew after I got tested by the allergist, so I avoided the park and I got my mom to change the bedsheets and the detergent. I would have tiny brown scabs all over my body that would stain my shirts and it was mentally exhausting because I didn’t know what was causing it. I spent a lot of time reading about steroid cream withdrawals, even though I haven’t used steroids in over 10 years.

After the sheets and mattress were changed, the house vacuumed and sprayed with anti-dust mite solutions, I still had the same spots on my body. I still woke up in the middle of the night with large raised patches. The Chinese call it ‘feng mo’, but to me it was just ‘fucking shitty skin issues’. I was angry that no one knew what was causing it and no one knew how to cure it (western doctors, sigh.) I had trouble sleeping and bought a box of tea cream creams and oils from iherb.com, and also calming teas and sleep scents, none of which helped. My attendance in school was affected because I couldn’t sleep at night, and couldn’t wake up for the 8.30am classes in the morning. Towards the end of the semester I just started skipping statistics classes because I didn’t have the energy anymore to deal with life.

After sleeping on the couch for a few weeks (because I avoided my bedroom completely), I thought I had a gut bacterial imbalance, and so I started taking probiotics and all sorts of supplements. And then I had chicken pox in the later half of 2015, which brought my immune system down, and my skin got worse. I had boils on my butt and I remember asking the doctor if I was going to have random boils forever. 2015 was the year of jeans because I had too many scars and open scabs on my skin, especially near my elbows, so there were days when I wore long-sleeved shirts and jeans. Fucking hot in Singapore, seriously. Looking back, I don’t know how I tolerated it. My marketing prof even asked if I was better, he said “thankfully it’s not on the face” which by the way, I had a groupmate right next to me with a serious case of acne scars. I felt so bad for him ): And also bad for myself, because my skin then would bleed whenever I wore jeans. The chafing was terrible ):

I started to monitor my own symptoms and diligently avoided all the foods that made my skin worse (gluten, dairy, nuts and seafood) and only ate basic rice/vegetables/meat/black coffee. And a lot of Mr Bean soy milk and MacDonalds french fries, because I don’t react to them. But I realised that I wasn’t getting better. Other symptoms developed that wasn’t about my skin- I had a terribly bloated stomach and I stopped wearing tight dresses or skirts, I had random nosebleeds in school and also at home. My quality of sleep was still terrible, and my overall health was shit, I had my hair falling out and then growing back within a few weeks. The only thing that was good about stopping gluten is that I stopped having sinus infections.

It really didn’t help that my mom kept saying that it is psychosomatic, and that I should eat seafood so that I can recover. Her mantra is that we shouldn’t avoid the things that we are allergic to, which is 100% not what the doctor said. The doctor said that if I keep on doing that, one day I will reach the tipping point and go into anaphylaxis mode. After the chicken pox my mom bought me a small jar of pearl powder, though I am allergic to shellfish, but she said it was expensive and will help with the scarring. I tried it once and I started having hives, and I took an antihistamine to deal with all the fuckery that my body was giving me. I just felt that she didn’t understand any of what I was going through, even though she is the ones who gave me the eczema genes.

The strange thing is that I am not the only one with food allergies/eczema. There is a girl in christian union, I forgot her name, but her list of allergies is longer than mine, and she was doing a daily dose of antihistamines. What antihistamines do is that they prevent your body from reacting to things you are allergic to, like grass pollen or peaches or chocolate. It sounds OK because a daily dose is about $1 if you get the branded sort, and the generic sort I think it’s slightly cheaper, at about $0.80. Which is a small price to pay for peace of mind. But I didn’t have peace of mind, I hate being reliant on medication (partly because I was on long-term medication in JC). I felt like a chained dog. I didn’t want to rely on antihistamines, but I had to, or I wouldn’t be able to go to school.

In late 2015, like around December or January of 2016 even, I tried out traditional chinese medicine. I went through three main treatment methods- boiled medicine for about nine months, then liquid medicine/pills and also boiled medicine interspersed for a while, and mainly acupuncture, cupping (heated glass bottles), and liquid medicine for the past few months. The treatment methods vary based on my condition. I had to take boiled medication because my skin was so bad, the doctor said I needed to get the dampness out of my body, and only use liquid and pills when my condition stabilises. The fastest way to get the dampness out is through diarrhea and flus. In other words, I had roughly nine months of pure stomachaches and toilet visits and I hated it. The medicine isn’t tasty by the way. That’s an understatement of the century, like how people say “oh it’s nothing” when they secretly want to murder you. I once wished that I would poop blood, because then I can legitly tell my doctor “can we please stop, I think I am dying.” Energy wise, I felt better as the months wore on, because I was reacting less to food. My skin was still terrible because dampness is also expelled through the body in small fluid vesicles, if you can imagine the back of my thighs being filled with acne like spots.

When I couldn’t take the diarrhea anymore I told the doctor to remove the diarrhea inducing medication, and she told me ok, the treatment can be taken down a few notches. So I started moderating the amount of leaves I would put in my boiling pot. By the way TCM is not cheap, it’s at least SGD$150/2 weeks worth of medication, and by that I mean about 8 days because I have to rest my stomach between periods. Not including the fees for consultation and other treatments. Plus, you can’t control the side effects you get with medication, I was on a part-time internship in late 2016 and I remember running to the toilet twice before the interviewee arrived (we were doing a design thinking project) and my boss was giving me a very worried look, I think she was scared that I would ruin the interview. The constant diarrhea honestly exhausted my body, although I didn’t lose weight, because I ate a lot of potato chips and chocolate. I figured that I am supposed to eat dairy and gluten, so I might as well go for the most calorific options to keep my weight stable.

Fast forward past a year of horrible symptoms, I finally can eat everything I want, including seafood (in small amounts). However, I still have to go for cupping treatments every two weeks, the bruising and needle holes will last for a week at least. Needle holes because the heated cup will draw blood out from under my skin. But it is a relief to be free of eczema (mostly), food allergies, low energy levels, and best of all, I can attend social outings without worrying about how am I going to explain to my friends that I can’t eat 99.9% of what’s on the menu. I just felt so whiney and naggy when I was sick because I had to explain my condition to so many people, until I just gave up, and took an antihistamine, which made me feel bad because the doctor told me that if I take antihistamines then she can’t see the effects of medicine on my body. No way to win, lol. Now my quality of life is 3x better HAHAH.

There are two good things that I learned from being on TCM. Firstly, it takes a lot of patience and persistence to follow through with the treatment. And ironically, I am using that patience and persistence on church, going for DG every week and making sure I don’t fall behind. Secondly, health is very, very important. Money cannot buy health, and when I am ill I know that other parts of my life will fall apart too. Mentally it was a drain because I was physically wrung out all the time, like I was a rag doll spinning around in the washing machine and then getting stretched out on the clothes line, but I still had to keep up a pretence in other parts of my life. I also felt really unattractive because of the scars (plus I fell down and got four huge scars on my legs in mid 2016) and I just wanted to dig a hole and hide inside until my body was well again.

Now that my skin is well again (no before or after pictures because I deleted everything from my phone, sorry!), I want to record the current skincare that I’m using. Which is in Part 2 🙂