When do people stop seeing their therapists? When do you go, “this is as far as we can go. Please wean me out of my meds and let’s have an amicable end to our relationship?” I’ve been with my therapist for more than a year now. My life has improved dramatically under his care, but I’m sitting here thinking, how long can I do this? How long can I be on meds? When does life become normal?
I do enjoy being able to talk my heart out to someone. And I find both his advice and the medicine very helpful. I was in a very dark place last year around February. Once in a while, I go back to that dark place, too. But our sessions have helped me cope with things and make it through just one more day. But a part of me hopes that one day I could be able to do without him be the well-adjusted individual I imagine most people my age are.
That, plus lately I’ve been hearing about the dangers of benzodiazepines. I know it’s probably not the benzos that made Jordan Peterson a lunatic, but looking at his latest rant, I wouldn’t want to be like him and would like to stray away from anything that might’ve contributed to his current state. He admitted to being addicted to benzodiazepines and struggled getting out of it. I missed a couple of days of my drugs one time, and I ended up with the worst headache ever and vivid nightmares. I take Xanax when needed and I don’t consider myself addicted to it, but I’m afraid that I’ll end up addicted to the other benzodiazepines I take regularly.
I actually keep a list of the changes in medication I’ve been taking just in case, which could be a sign of paranoia or obsession. Maybe I need more anxiety pills.
My wife wonders about my progress, but I think right now I’m in stasis. I’m in a place where I’m generally more okay than not okay. I get bad days where I really despise the person I see on the mirror, but there are more days which are more routine, peaceful, and I just go about with work and life. I’ll be going on a bit of vacation soon, and I’m hoping that it would help. But a part of me is a little anxious about it, too.
I used to see another therapist in Korea years ago, and she didn’t really care much about what I was talking about. She just prescribed me with meds and tried to drug the depression and anxiety away. I believe she over prescribed me because I found myself walking around like a zombie and needed drugs to both sleep and to function in the morning once I wake up. My doctor right now is much better, but I still wonder if I’ve been around for too long.
Or maybe being in therapy too long is more of a Korean thing. That’s still seeing depression and anxiety as a disease that can be healed completely, not a life-long condition that should be treated long-term. I’m grateful for all of the help I’ve received, but when my wife asks about my progress, I can’t help but ask myself, “why am I still not normal after all of this time? Why do I still need to see my therapist?”
I feel kinda guilty about it as well, because I mentioned to her that last week, I had a couple of depressed episodes as well as anxiety. I had to take Xanax a few times. This was a week when she did something incredibly generous, buying me a PlayStation 5, and thinking that would fuel at least a week of excitement and elation. And yet, the depression and anxiety still found a way to squeak themselves in to my life. She tried to make me happy, and yet I’m still in need of meds.
I just wish I was happier and things were better. I try, oh God, I try, but I still need help. But many things around me tell me that if I was happier and if I was content, then I would be crazy.
I guess the weather isn’t helping as well. I wish it would stop raining.
First off, covid has gone up, gone down, and gone up again in South Korea. I got my two jabs and will be ready for my booster next month. Despite the high numbers, I managed to not catch the virus. The tracing and tracking in the country as well as the treatment has been good, so the death rate has been quite low and the numbers are believable. The country also has a vaccine pass rule everywhere, and no, it’s not tyrannical. If anything, it’s liberating to know that everyone in the establishment I go to has been vaccinated and that I will be warned if anyone got covid anywhere I went to.
This year, I started regularly seeing a therapist and have been religious with my drugs. It’s helping and I do look forward to each of our sessions. I feel like I have too much control over our sessions sometimes, but I’m glad that he’s helped with my anxiety, depression, and addictive personality. I had a public nervous breakdown last summer while I was arguing with my wife, and I vowed not to revisit that bar again nor put myself in similar situations. It’s just too triggering.
I also started to study more Korean by myself. It’s difficult, but going to class has been impossible. I miss meeting people and making friends in class, but I guess that’s part of being older. Making friends is difficult.
I haven’t gone to the gym for two years now. I miss it. I try to work out more at home and climb stairs more, but it doesn’t compare going to the gym. But it doesn’t matter really. It’s not like I’m going to the beach anytime soon. I’ve eaten way too much Burger King this year. My favorite Subway Sandwich place has closed down, and now due to laziness and me often eating lunch at my dek, I just grab a burger from the Burger King next door. In other food news, my new favorite place for dining is this Japanese lamb place in Yeonnam-dong. Good food, good price, great Japanese ambiance, friendly staff, decent sake. One of the servers is a kickass tattoo artist as well.
I used to not be a driver, but this year I became a motorist. I can’t travel outside of the country so I might as well travel outside of the city. I got a car, it’s an Audi A4. It’s already in need of some body work, not my fault, but I’m going to ignore it for now. I think it adds some character, plus, I can sense that it won’t be the first scratch my car is going to get in the next few months. In a country filled with Hyundai Avantes, it’s a bit slicker than the average 4-door sedan. But in the words of Marv from Sin City, “Modern cars- they all look like electric shavers.”
I didn’t travel outside of the country but I did go outside of Seoul and had the worst sashimi ever. Never eat machine-sliced sashimi. Aside from a lack of TLC, it’s simply disgusting.
Artwise, I’ve been consistently producing works. It’s therapeutic and very calming. It’s been very difficult to get my work shown and I imagine it’s going to be the same next year. I didn’t apply to too many shows this year, which was disappointing, but it doesn’t make much financial sense to me to send my work overseas with the way covid has devastated postal services and made sending works exorbitantly expensive if not impossible. Sales have been dismal as well, but that’s the same throughout my art career. I don’t really care much about sales. I did publish a second book last February, a plan from 2020 which I actually followed through on. Now, I’m contemplating publishing another book next year. And no, I’m not making nor buying any NFTs. The only people who are saying NFTs are good are usually ones who are already invested and shilling NFTs. It’s rare to find NFTs actually uplifting artists. And even funnier, I found a post asking, “What is a good way to print or display NFTs on a wall?” Haha!
Unfortunately, I’ve stopped gardening. I moved to a new office and I no longer have the space to cultivate plants. I’m glad to have maintained it for a while and even given out several seedlings to people. I’m hoping at least half of them are still alive. Oh, and I also learned that cherry pits are not toxic. Not two cherry pits, not thirty, not sixty. They are simply not toxic.
Family’s been okay, but I haven’t been seeing eye to eye with my dad this year. I haven’t called that often and when I do, he often frustrates me. I really should try harder, but I keep thinking why? Why do his children have to try harder to get along better with him? Why is the effort seemingly always from our side? What about him? I don’t see him making things better for himself? This is the year I gave up caring too much.
It’s late but I think the ‘The French Dispatch’ is the best movie I’ve seen this year. Wes Anderson is a treasure. I’m still upset that my bestfriend back in the 90s couldn’t appreciate the genius of ‘Rushmore.’ Other movies I enjoyed; I was surprised with Nicolas Cage’s ‘Pig’ and delighted by “The White Tiger.” I couldn’t think of anything too remarkable on television. I’ve see quite a few Korean dramas but nothing stands out. Everyone was raving about ‘Squid Game,’ but frankly, I didn’t think it was that special. Videogame-wise, I enjoyed ‘Persona 5 Strikers’ and ‘Resident Evil: Village’ the most. Otherwise, I haven’t played too many video games this year. Also, I’ve yet to get a PS5. I wish I could read more books, but most of the books I’ve been reading are Korean learning books. No fiction this year. I’ve fallen behind on Chuck Palahniuk. Music, I’ve given up on anything new. I’ve been listening to a lot of Sparklehorse and Vic Chestnutt, which I realize is not really the best for my mental well-being.
There’s been a couple of close calls, but I almost died twice this year. Each day, I’m grateful that I’m still breathing air. Tired of living, but grateful that I am. Dying is scary. Here’s to 2022, which I suspect is going to be exactly like 2020. I’ll be moving houses, renewing my contract at work, trying to get into a Speedo before summer, get into more art shows, and hopefully improve my relationships. God help me.
My father is a cadger. There’s no denying it. When I was growing up, I remember being upset that he would always find some way to quit his job and go on unemployment. It was extremely embarrassing. While everyone’s father was out being significantly more successful and more hardworking than my father, he was out socializing with people from his hometown and occasionally trying to to steal money from his kids. Yes, that’s true. After a year of working and going to university, I was due for a huge income tax refund. My own father intercepted it and told me that I wasn’t getting any refund that year. Luckily, the guy who was doing our family’s taxes wasn’t keen on playing my father’s game once I talked to him about it.
He’s probably one of the least adapted immigrant I’ve ever met. He distrusts anyone that doesn’t share his color. He looks down on white people, black people, and Native people. He even looks down on people from his own country if they’re not from the same region he was born in. He looks down on all of them. And yet, if he could get away with not working and just sit at home collecting government benefits, he would. He’s the horrible, faineant immigrant that racists use as a caricature to scare people against foreigners coming in.
My mother kept the family above water. She had to save him a couple of times from his debts. And the day she died at the young age of 53, my father decided he would no longer work. He’s the same age as my mother. I doubt if I could ever properly retire. And looking around at my in-laws and my sisters’ in-laws and my friends’ parents, most of them still work. My poor father-in-law is 72 and he still insists on working. My father collects money from his meager pension and my mother’s pension. Our old house in Canada, he sold and used the money mostly for himself. He bought some land and built a house in the boondoks in the Philippines. He bought land from my uncle who is also much like my dad. And lucky for that uncle, he gets to spend that money and not be stuck with land that no one else wants to buy. My mother’s childhood home was sold. Our share was mostly taken by my father as well. Despite all of this, he still occasionally gets handouts from my sisters. I stopped sending him handouts.
He spends his time between Canada, California, and the Philippines. He’s been flying between these three places for over ten years now, financed by my sisters. They justify paying for his tickets because he gets to babysit his grandkids. He really doesn’t. It sounds fun to spend the year flying around the world and just hanging out with family, but he always makes it sound like a horrible chore. Summers in Canada, winters in California… sounds like heaven. But before Christmas comes, he would ditch his family and go to the Philippines. He would rather spend his whole life there. Unfortunately, his pensions are tied to Canada and he can’t be in the Philippines for the whole year. Why he would rather be there, who knows? Maybe because the Canadian dollar can go farther there? Maybe he’s got a girlfriend? Who knows? I know it’s not family. My grandmother died last year, his close cousins have their own lives or have prematurely passed away, and my dad’s siblings can’t stand him.
And what does he do when he’s with my sisters in Canada and the US? He nags at them for the way they are parenting. I understand being helpful, but it’s also another to be giving unneeded advice especially when we were mostly raised by nannies. If anything, my most significant memory of him when I was a child was his habit of embarrassing us in front of relatives for his own amusement. These days, he tries to create drama and elicit sympathy from people, trying to make himself seem like a selfless martyr when it comes to his children. When in reality, most of what he’s done is take, take, and take.
After a long while, for my own health, I haven’t called him. Then I hear from one of my sisters that he’s complaining that I haven’t contacted him in a while, totally forgetting that phone lines go both ways. So I called him last Friday and what do I get? I get more of him trying to sound like he’s suffering. Oh, boohoo! I’m flying to California soon!
Then I get the dumb questions and dumb comments:
“So are you still living in the same place?” Huh, I moved almost four year ago! In fact, my lease is almost up and now I’m super stressed with the ridiculous housing inflation crisis in Seoul.
“That’s the same everywhere, son!” No, it isn’t! What’s happening in Korea is unprecedented! Seoul is effectively becoming similar to Hong Kong or New York when it comes to housing. But of course he wouldn’t know that since he doesn’t read much about anything except news in the Philippines. Also, most newly-married couples get some money from the man’s side of the family in order to buy a house. Now, I don’t really subscribe to this tradition, but my father didn’t really offer me much help in my wedding. Heck, he didn’t help much in my education either. As I just mentioned, he sold our old house in Canada and has gone through that money all to himself. My wife married a foreigner who is significantly hobbled financially from the start compared to other married couples here despite of how much money I make now.
“Well, why don’t you move back here?” This comment pissed me off the most. What the heck am I gonna do in Canada? What’s my wife gonna do there? This is a dumb question from someone who doesn’t really care about reality, someone who doesn’t really care about my situation. If I move to Canada, is he gonna help me? No, he won’t. If anything, I probably have to help him instead!
And what angered me most about that is the total lack of self-awareness. We’ve been trying to get him to settle down and get his own apartment in Winnipeg already. This way, he’s not wasting money travelling to the Philippines and risk losing his pension. And as for why he’s not staying in Canada, who knows? Now that my poor grandmother has passed away, he has no excuses to stay in the Philippines. He can’t say, “I have to take care of your grandmother” anymore. So why not stay in Canada forever? He’s definitely got more reasons to permanently move to Canada than I do. He’s got grandkids in North America. He can make new friends in Canada or the United States, too.
When he asks how I’m doing, I always tell him I’m busy with work, I’m always hustling for extra work, and that I’m both grateful to be working and fearful that I could lose my job at any point. He goes, “well, keep up the good work. You gotta do what you gotta do.” Yes, you gotta do what you gotta do, except when you retire at 53 and choose not to do anything at all. Because really, that was his style of parenting in a nutshell. “You should do this, inspite of me not doing it at all.” Work hard! Study hard! Don’t drink too much! Ugh! The hypocrisy is unbearable.
These days, he’s another elephant in a room occupied by a herd of elephants that I would rather not talk about with my wife. I’m sure it’s the same way with my siblings as well. How does he not see this? How does he not see that in this country, I am alone and I can’t even count on my father, my only parent alive, to be there for me?
This is rather ugly and it’s truly unbecoming to be airing out all of my dirty laundry on the Internet like this. Luckily, not many people visit this Website. No one else would probably hear about this other than my therapist. So yeah, if my therapist ever reads this, just tell me you read my site, and it would save us a few minutes.
So I haven’t been very careful with my anti-depressants in the past couple of weeks. This led to me not taking them for three days, which gave me my first experience of SSRI withdrawal syndrome.
For those not taking anti-depressants, it takes a while for your brain to get used to the medication. Once it gets used to them, to suddenly cut it off can cause a wide array of symptoms. That’s not to say that anti-depressants are addictive. The symptoms can be wildly uncomfortable, but it’s nothing like getting off hard drugs. I talked to someone who suffered a similar experience as me and basically the choice is either to just continue taking anti-depressants as needed or to slowly taper off using medication, working with a doctor to do so.
So what did I experience? First, it was sudden motion sickness, which became more occasional until now. Depression is not so bad but I got a bit anxious for a prolonged period a couple of times in the past couple of days. There’s this constant headache which I first thought was caused by my stiff muscles, but now I believe is also caused by SSRI withdrawal. I’ve gone and renewed my prescription and taken my meds, but I’m not sure how long will it take before these symptoms disappear.
What’s most interesting to me though is that the nights are longer and I’ve been experiencing a series of vivid dreams. One dream apparently involves a roller coaster ride with the talking bird from Aladdin and a white, fluffy dog. I woke up and found it so interesting that I had to write a message to myself on my phone so I could recall it in the morning.
The next dream was me and an English fellow testing out medieval weapons for some reason. Then it was followed by a visit from an old artist friend and my best friend in the middle of a grammar test. Then finally, what started out in what I assumed was either a very romantic or an intimate sex dream with my partner devolved into a ghost choking me beneath the sheets. I can still remember the ghostly hands as they approached my throat. I was screaming, begging for mercy, when my partner woke me up. I don’t think I’ve ever screamed from a nightmare before. This was a first.
When I woke up, my head was hurting. But I think I was still in a confused and irrational state. The first thing I did was eat a baguette in order to get sleepy again.
And I did get sleepy and slept again for a short while. I dreamt of sending tiny white snails in an envelope to a friend.
So yeah, don’t skip on your meds, folks. Or better yet, live a happy and fulfilling life and don’t get depressed in the first place!
I was on vacation and this is me being a tad lazy and uninspired. It’s my version of my favorite Norm MacDonald material. Life is super sad. It can be tragic. But we can still smile, fake it, and move on.
Over the weekend, I had a bit of a panic attack in the middle of a public argument. Personally, I find public arguments quite immature and I really hate being a part of them. I say a part of them, but usually I’m just on the receiving end, trying to calm the situation down. Being a visible minority in Korea, you’re most likely to be seen as a villain the minute something scandalous breaks. But having been particularly anxious for days now, then having a public argument after a night of drinking, I just started getting tunnel vision, had trouble breathing, and a panic sensation rushed to me. I had to run to a convenience store for something to drink and a bit of space to breathe.
I’m not sure if the Xanax is working. It’s not smart, but I quadrupled my dose the other day, but I can’t even tell if it’s working or not.
I don’t know if I’m good with people anymore. An acquaintance of mine called me a raconteur the other day, but that energy… the smiles, jokes, and anecdotes… they take a lot out of me. I can’t maintain that for a long time. And that doesn’t work too well with people who really know me. I’m still convinced that I’m only good in small doses. A bit more of me and you’ll realize I’m trash. It reminds me of something I read the other day, “I don’t know you. That’s why I love you.”
I believe it was Chappelle who observed that women in relationships create folders in their head where they file every mistake a man makes, ready to pull it out for an imaginary divorce that may or may not happen. That could very well be true. But I find that I also make my own folder of my own failings, of awful things that are said to me, of all of my blunders, and that my mind accesses it every time I get anxious, or worse, randomly in importune moments. I could be peeing in the bathroom, holding my genitals, then all of a sudden I’m sad and could no longer pee. Am I alone in this? Does this happen to others? I suppose I should save these questions for Reddit.
I’m rambling, I know. But it’s been a minute. Enjoy the art.
It’s weird being emotionally numb. I try to feel more, connect more with the people around me, but it’s weird. As much as I try to be a better person, be a much better person to the people around me, especially the ones I love, I feel like doors are closed right on my face. Either that, or truly no positive feedback is coming my way. Am I reading people wrong, or am I just not feeling any joy recently? It’s really weird. Even my depression lately has not gone through any wild swings, but it’s just become this dull background noise.
I celebrated my birthday last week, and instead of being joyful or excited, I found myself being more anxious than anything. What the heck is going on? My medication and therapy has been working for a while lately, but recently, I’ve been in an odd place. I remember my birthday anxiously waiting for things to go bad. I was waiting for the evening to turn for the worse.
Work has been a good escape. My activities are automatic and I don’t have to think much while I keep busy. It’s when I have time on my hands that I get anxious or depressed. Art has been helping, and I’ve been making more art recently than usual. It’s not a good thing when I’m making more art.
The problem is, outside of my therapist, I don’t really have many people to talk to about these things. Either I feel embarrassed or guilty, or the conversation inevitably turns into the other person making the situation about them, like a suffering Olympics of sorts.
I’m a shit person.
……………………. No, I’m a shittier person.
Can we talk about me being a shit person first?
……………………. Sure, but you have to understand that I’m shittier.
Okay, fine you’re shittier.
……………………. Excellent. And my shitty life is all your fault.
It’s been a weird few days. I am extremely grateful that I don’t have it any worse. I am always grateful for the people around me and the blessings and kindness that I experience. I truly don’t deserve good things. But I’m not sure if I’m getting as much joy out of them, or maybe my joy is just being dampened by me telling myself that I’m an extremely shitty person (because I really am).
I wish my doctor would prescribe me with better medication. Either that or give me better strategies to dealing with anxiety or this state of numb joylessness. I feel like I’m just passing time. And if time passed without any major incidents, without me making things worse, then it’s a good day. How is that for an existence? Maybe I deserve that. But the people around me, especially the people I love most don’t deserve that. They don’t deserve that from me. God, please, help me get better. Help me be better,
Korea has the highest suicide rate in Asia, and depending on the year, has the highest suicide rate among the OECD countries. I didn’t really feel how significant this is until after some sad news last night and much reflection.
Last night, my friend’s mother-in-law passed away. They believe it was suicide. It’s especially tragic since my friend just got married last year, and I do remember meeting her mother-in-law in the ceremony. I noted how she doesn’t smile much even during such a happy occasion. I suspected she might not be too thrilled with the marriage at the time, but looking back now, she might just be dealing with depression. The tragic thing is, the death was days after the Korean holiday Parents’ Day. She was visited and presumably showered with love and attention by her children, and yet days later, she takes her own life.
Two years ago, someone committed suicide in my parents-in-laws’ apartment building by jumping from the 14th floor. Last year, the mayor of Seoul committed suicide by jumping off a cliff. This is the same way the former president Roh Mu-Hyun committed suicide. It’s also quite common to hear about suicide attempts among celebrities in the media. I myself have been thinking and writing about suicide more often lately, I admit, to an unhealthy amount.
Looking back to my life in Canada, it’s very hard to think of anyone who has committed or has flirted with suicidal thoughts. Honestly, as of this time, I can only think of one person. But here in Korea, it’s scary how commonplace it is, not just cases of suicide, but reminders of it. Bridges have messages of encouragement and affirmations in order to prevent people from jumping. There’s a law that makes the victim’s family responsible for paying for the recovery of their body in the Han River, making it seem like the family is at fault for the victim’s actions and perhaps adding a burden of guilt to people in order to dissuade them. Train platforms in the country have full suicide prevention barriers, not like other countries where there are sometimes none or only a waist high fence prevents accidental jumpers. Despite all of these preventative measures however, the rate is still high, and even higher in the past year due to the pandemic.
According to a report by the OECD, Koreans complain more often about “relative deprivation” than other countries. This means people compare their lives more with other people and end up being dissatisfied with their current situation. This is not unique among South Koreans, but I can honestly attest that I’ve seen this several times, and instead of viewing this as petty or just thinking “be happy with what you have,” people view this as legitimate reactions or good conversation. “Did you know he drives a BMW?” “Did you hear that his house is all paid for?” “I think he earns more money than his friends.” It all sounds extremely shallow. And of course it’s a neverending struggle. Someone will always be more successful than you.
This, compounded with financial stresses, societal expectations, relationship problems, and a negative attitude towards seeking mental help, no wonder the suicide rate is so high in the country.
Suicide is like a constant grim specter that haunts the country. It was shocking last night, and I feel like it won’t be the first time I’ll be hearing about similar deaths or attempts in the future. Get some help, everyone. Talk to someone. And be happy with what you have. There’s a heaven and a star for you.
It’s weird to actually have a perfectly good and normal day. Looking back, it’s rare to have an objectively good day, a day I could just repeat over and over again. Maybe my medication is finally working, but I genuinely felt that last Sunday was a good day. I wish I took more pictures of that day. The sun was out, people were nice, no depression or anxiety, things were great.
Then Monday came along and I have to deal with new problems at work. Good-bye, serotonins! It was nice knowing ya!
Thinking back, it’s hard to remember many pure, perfect days… perfect holidays that I just want to re-live over and over again. I think I’m not alone here. People have a few perfect days that they re-live in their minds. Last Sunday wasn’t particularly special, but it was just a good, anxiety-free time. And in this day and age, at this stage of my life, that’s a big deal, I guess.
Been suffering from artist’s block lately. It’s been a week now and I haven’t been inspired to draw anything. I hate this. I hate this as much as the nagging need I have to draw or make art when I’m inspired by an idea. It’s always nice to finish a piece and finally be able to walk away from it, admire it from a distance. But afterwards, there’s the gaping hole where art-making should be.
I’ve tried to force myself to make art before, to basically just power through and make something until it looks like something inspiring, but I’ve never been happy with the results. They end up looking like something that cringes me out months afterwards, which is far less time than my regular art makes me cringe afterwards. Usually, it takes two years.
Anyway, I hope the art gods are kind to me and bless me with inspiration soon. I want to make art. I have so much time I could be filling with art that no one will buy.
So therapy is going well. It’s going slowly, but well. I feel for my therapist who has to put up with my drama and listen to how much I hate myself. It feels good to just have someone there to vent my woes to, someone who just happens to able to prescribe me anti-depressants.
It’s going to be a long crawl to wellness however. After each session, I feel more and more awful about myself. I KNOW he’s supposed to help me, and we’re coming up with strategies with how to cope with my awfulness, but most of the negative things I see about myself is reinforced in my head after every session. So how he is helping? He’s listening, giving me advice, telling me that I might be right about my scum-of-the-earth nature, then prescribing me medication. God bless him for that. God bless that it’s covered by my insurance as well.
One thing I gotta say though, the most important skill for psychiatrists, and really for anyone during a conversation, is the ability to let someone speak until they are finished. Too many people are not really listening and are just really waiting for their turn to speak. I can see it in their heads sometimes, probably because I do the same thing, too. Halfway through their point, I’m already rehearsing my response in my head. This is why writing about my problems or making art are such convenient outlets for me. Neither talk back. However, neither give me advice or provide me drugs either.
Anyway, everyone needs to talk to a therapist. Everyone. It’s been a while since I’ve talked to a therapist and yeah, I could think of a couple of times when I did without therapy when I really shouldn’t have.