Saturday, September 17, 2016

It's serious when I can feel that it's serious

It's not often that people, especially Asians admit that they have some mental discomforts. I'm not sure if I should call them 'discomforts', but I'm definitely not calling them diseases or disorders. Calling them the latter two just makes them seem deadly, when sometimes they're not. Seeing a psychiatrist seems to be one of the taboo things that we can do, well, at least in my opinion it seems to be the case.

I feel like sometimes we're to self-critical to admit that perhaps there's something that bothers us mentally; somethings that prevent us to be the person we could've been without these discomforts. Some of us feel uncomfortable not cleaning up after themselves and double checking things, some people feel extra sensitive to their surroundings because what if the one time that you let your guard down would be the last time you'll ever walk down the street safely. Perhaps, it's a good thing; it makes us different, makes us unique. I choose to look at it in a positive light.

Sure, I don't have a psychiatrist I can consult with, but I know something is wrong when I feel my heart racing when my surroundings get loud and people started shouting, and I'd feel small all of the sudden and so powerless. I'd get tensed up and put myself on pilot mode so I could escape and protect myself from a full-blown emotional breakdown.

When places begin to get chaotic and loud, it feels like I'm standing in the middle of a very large field with no shelter and no weapon to protect myself, while all around me dark clouds are rolling in and as I take steps backwards, I can never sense any kind of wall or solid object that I could rest my back upon so I can feel at least a little bit safer because at least my back is safe, even though I'd probably suffer quite badly from the winds blowing from my north, east and west. Then it begin to seem like the thunderstorm is starting and the thunder is rumbling and everything gets dark. Then the lighting struck and I felt myself crouching down and hiding my head into my arms and shrinking into a round meatboulder, just waiting for the storm to hit and hope that the flood doesn't come and wash me away or drown me. It gets cold, and I felt alone, helpless, useless. The world in my head is crumbling, and nobody around me is noticing the catastrophe but me. Sometimes, it gets too overwhelming that I have to hide somewhere and give myself a good cry to release some of these tension in my mind.

No. I don't have a psychiatrist, but it doesn't mean that I can't say that I have anxiety. I don't have to go to the doctor and be clinically diagnosed as having 'chronic anxiety' in order to know that I'm uncomfortable in certain environments. I know myself well enough to say that loud places stress the heck out of me and I can't take it sometimes, to a point where I stopped responding to people for days before I can finally feel comfortable enough to join in to the society again. And I know that I need time for the storm to pass, so I can gather my thoughts and calm myself down enough so I can function as a proper human being once more. 

I know myself well enough that it's always going to be a little bit tough for me to meet people because I can't find the right words to say and the right things to do at the right time. I know myself well enough that part of the reason of why I'm the way I am is because I think too much about everything, and hence couldn't properly decipher anything. I'm not oblivious about it and I know the best way to solve this is to take a step back, take a deep breath and stop caring for a little bit. Textbook answer, right? So, you know, they don't usually work. Easier said than done, don't you think? If anyone can be fixed by just a simple advice, everyone would be perfect. We suffer from what we suffer because our bodies and minds just can't find the right knobs to push so logic can be interpret into actions and we'd do the right things and be functional.

So yeah, it sucks to suck at being the perfectly functioning human, but that's life, right?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Reminiscing on Form 5 essays

So last night my student showed me his SPM trials English paper, while he went on to work on his Add Math exercises. 

English Paper 1 had always gotten me excited during exams, because that's about the only paper that I can confidently sit for without worrying if I'd answered well enough, or scored enough correct answers to earn myself an A. And while I have no problem writing my opinions on whether if it is a good choice to learn Math and Science in English, or what I think can be done to reduce obesity among our youths today, what I really wanted to do was to answer the last question: the question that asks me to write a story based on a given beginning/ending.

So I read through the questions on my student's essay paper, and immediately zoomed in to the story-writing question: 'Write an essay of about 350 words. Please start your essay with "When I saw tears in his eyes, I knew he had realized his foolishness..."'

It got me excited, and immediately I pulled out a piece of foolscap paper and began writing while my student completes the exercises I've given to him. Of course, I might have exceeded 350 words a little, but I can't help it when I have so many ideas to pen down. So here's me story based on the title:

When I saw tears in his eyes, I knew he had realized his foolishness. Tom has never been the kind of person who plans ahead before deciding to do anything. Not only that, he has to be the most stubborn person that I'd known throughout my whole life. I guess this time his destructive personality has really gotten him into deep trouble. Nothing can be done to bring those lifeless little paws back to life now.

Tom has always pride himself for being the independent one in the family -- He could cook himself a meal when he was a mere child of 5. Then, he started earning some pocket money here and there by helping the neighborhood adults to run some small errands and help out with some house chores. Well, nobody could expect otherwise from an orphaned little boy who lives with his grandparents. Life was not easy, and every little dime and quarter helps in the small household of three.

When his grandfather died, the two remaining family members were in distraught. In fact, Tom's grandmother was so wrapped up in grief that she was bedridden within the same week his grandfather was buried and passed away soon after that, leaving the then 15-year old teenage boy to fend for his life. By then, Tom had accepted his fate that life will always be tough for him, until one day a lost little puppy discovered the boy and followed him home. 'Maybe God isn't so cruel after all,' Tom thought, as he watched the little fur-ball licking her small bowl of milk that Tom had placed on the floor in front of her. A companion was what he needed; someone he can call his family. Sunshine, he named her, and  she stayed by his side ever since that faithful day. He would even let her followed him to school. The staff at school were not happy to see a dog roaming around the school grounds at first, but eventually gave in to the little pup's friendliness and let her stay at the guardhouse while Tom went up to his class.

He took care of her like any father would take care of his child. It had become an instinct for Tom to care for others, as he had to take care of his two grandparents back when they were alive. Patient, tender and protective, nobody could have been more dedicated as an owner to Sunshine than Tom. They became each other's pillar of strength, and as Sunshine grew and matured into a loyal and faithful dog, Tom grew up to be a fiercely independent and spirited young man. There isn't anything in the world that could break his spirit, because Sunshine was always there to comfort him. She would know when Tom was stressed or when he was feeling down, and she would lay by his feet and be by his side to provide any form of help or comfort so he could feel better.

No stronger bond had been forged like the one Tom and Sunshine had. He always know what Sunshine needed and made sure to provide her the best that he could afford. However, because Sunshine was born with asthma, it's a struggle for Tom to save up enough money to treat her ailment sometimes. So over the years, Tom had researched and studied about her condition so much that he could differentiate between serious and mild asthma attacks when Sunshine had them, and even learnt up some home remedies so he could treat her himself rather than sending her to the vet.

One day, Sunshine was playing in the field outside of their home when she had an attack. My friends and I, who were on site, saw what happened and tried to coax her back home to Tom, and finally resorted to carrying her home when she refused to move as she was wheezing and struggling to breathe. Tom immediately dashed into the kitchen to get the herbal medicine he had kept in his pantry when he saw us carrying his sick dog up to his front door. He tried to coax Sunshine to take a few sips of the medicine as soon as we placed her down, which she did with much hardship. She then laid down and fell fast asleep. However, occasionally, she would twitch a little.

"Is this normal?" I asked.
"Yes, yes, she does this sometimes," he answered as he stormed off into the bedroom.
"Doesn't look normal to me. Should you bring her to the vet instead?" I asked again. She looked like she's struggling really badly to catch a breath. It seemed to me that his medicine did not work on her at all.
"No! Now get lost and let my dog rest!" he shouted furiously.

Reluctantly, we left Tom and Sunshine and returned to our respective homes. It wasn't until much later that Tom finally decided to bring her to the vet, when she was twitching profusely, as if she was having a seizure. He carried Sunshine in his arms and came banging on my door, asking for my help to drive them down to the vet.

When we arrived, he rushed into the clinic, right into the doctor's office without registering themselves first. It was only then when I found out the main reason of why Tom refused to send Sunshine here at first notice when I heard him begging the doctor to save her: He could not afford to pay for her medical bill. He was let go at work a few months ago and couldn't find any available job on the market that he could apply for. With his savings drying up faster than the desert sucking up moisture from the air, he had been struggling to pay for everything and put food on the table. 

The doctor tried his best to do whatever he could, but it was too late. With a final twitch and one last glance on her beloved owner, her eyes rolled upwards and her body fell limp. I walked up to Tom, feeling nothing but regret and disappointment on how things turned out.

"You should've told me, I would've been willing to help. Even if we're mere neighborhood acquaintances. Sunshine is my friend too," I said.

He nodded, tears streaming down his cheeks as he clung on to his lifeless companion for one last time.

For more stories I've written previously, click here.  

Friday, September 2, 2016

Journey towards Understanding

"My goodness, why is your hair so long?"

"Wow! How long did you take to grew out your hair to this length?"

"Isn't it troublesome, taking care of such long hair?"

"How long do you intend to grow your hair?"

Questions that I usually got asked when my hair was long. I wouldn't say that my hair was immensely long; many people have got longer hair than mine. But I guess people were curious mostly because they don't have many friends who have long hair, waist/butt-long hair I mean.

This isn't the first time I kept it this long. In fact, growing my hair out has become a method to set milestones for myself -- a reminder of how long I've been in my present stage of life. Six years ago, I decided to cut my hair short, right before entering uni for my degree. Halfway through my studies, I'd decided to keep it long, you know, just to see how long I could keep it for. Towards the end of my studies, I figured, well since I've had it for this long already, might as well keep it until graduation. Who knows how long it will take before I'll have such long hair again.

After that, I'd decided to pursue my MSc, and one day decided to chop my hair off because my hair was getting quite heavy and it was giving me neck sores. So off it went.

Some asked me why did I cut my hair off. Some thinks that it's a shame, chopping it all off after years of growing it out till my waist. Some liked my look better when I had long hair, but some complimented how young I looked with short hair. Either way, I just did what I felt comfortable and what I think it's best for my well being. And it was time to get rid of the baggage that I was carrying: the good and bad times that is beginning to weigh myself down, memories that my hair reminded me of, memories that I'd like to let go once and for all so I can move on to better things.

I really liked my long hair though, and on contrary to what most people think, long hair is actually more manageable/low maintenance compared to short hair, at least for me it is. There's less fuss of where the ends of my hair will curve towards, because the natural wavy hair has its own 'romantic' theme going on, but a messy short hair with its ends going everywhere is an annoyance. Nevertheless, short hair saves me time and resources; I don't have to spend much time nor use much shampoo to wash it. And it's lighter on my head so no neck-sores is always a plus in my book. 

You might or might not understand it, but what I realize about something as trivial as hair, is that although it doesn't seem like a big deal, it can actually affect the way you look at your life. Subtly at first, then gradually shapes your personality. Perhaps for you, it's not hair, but something else: clothes, watches, the way you do your make up, or the one pair of shoes that you've been wearing to everywhere you go. The things that you don't realize that you've grown so attached to that a deviation from how you usually experience that one thing, would change you as a person. Long hair is great, and very manageable and versatile, but when I cut it off and settled in to my short hair, I just felt this sense of freedom and lightness. And that made me a happier person in an instant. I suddenly wanted to go out, whether if it's to a mall, or just a walk around the neighborhood with my dog; I just felt this rush of liveliness in my blood. What I needed was spirit. So spirit is exactly what I got.

You may say, it's probably in my head, and you'll probably be right. It IS in my head, and what's in my head stems from the actions I took after consulting and thinking it through in my mind. Though I do understand if you mean to say that it's probably a one-time thing, chopping off your hair and having a different perspective to life. So I repeated my experiment: I grew out my hair for two more years and watch how life goes by and how I experience it.

What I find, is that as my hair grows, I grew more and more aware of the time I spend on one thing: my MSc, and this awareness, coupled with financial struggles, wore me down. First year went fine, I was working my hardest trying to complete my studies so I can graduate as soon as possible. Then two years went by, and still I'm in the same spot, doing similar things, finding myself getting more and more lost by the day: what am I doing, why and I here, what is all this for. So I tried doing other things; tutoring, business, make up, art. But they all took time, they all took lots of effort and left me feeling helpless, because if they don't work out, how am I supposed to support myself, and pay my school fees? For a moment there I got weak; I wanted to give up. Research is not an easy line of work, and I just got to the point of finding out just how tough it is. I don't think I'm strong enough to fight this battle. I don't know how to fight this war. The neck-sores are starting again. Everything feels heavy again. 

I was about to give up; I got really close to the exit door. Then I took a step back and realized that life is not meant to be perfect, it's not meant to go the way you planned. It's okay if I can't finish my studies in 2 years, maybe I just need a little more time to do more, do better. I've also realized that whatever hurdles I came to, I've always jumped pass it when it's time to take the leap. I've never really failed. So really, what I needed is to pull myself away from everything and look at the bigger picture. Put everything into retrospect. I may not be the person who graduates and makes RM2-3k per month, like many of my friends who are already well into building their careers, but what I have nurtured and compiled over the two years is knowledge of different industries and a better understanding of myself. It's not something that I can put on the table now and say "Look mum and dad, aren't you proud of me?", but in the long run, I know I'll be one of the minority that survives the apocalypse. So I stop micro-managing and over analyzing thing. I stop over-caring. Then I chopped it off once more.

Something as trivial as the length of your hair shouldn't dictate how you live your life. But how you choose you live life is shown by how you present yourself as a person. In my case, I choose to be free, and to care just the right amount. Not too much, not too little.