I’m an Inconsistent Musician… oh Joy!

In the past, I found myself in many a situation where I was criticized.  It hurt when I was a child especially, on the playground with teasers and taunters galore, throwing names and jeers at me.  I was not resilient, but instead took it personally.  When dwelling on those petty words, I found my spirits diminished.

And then I studied the violin and viola.  Always at lessons, teachers would offer constructive criticism, intended to improve my playing abilities.  But again, I took it personally, and it was too much to bear.  I became sad, and avoided the instrument as much as I could.  I hated the viola, yet I enjoyed the opportunities and life it provided me.  For college, I attended a prestigious conservatory, where I played in orchestras and ensembles with top musicians.  I studied with renowned professors, and myself fell in love especially with baroque performance practice and violin pedagogy.  My academic education in lecture halls was excellent also.
Since I was in conservatory, the stakes were higher with constructive criticism, and so I felt even more depressed.  It was hard for me to detach music-making from my personhood.  Perhaps I was studying music for the wrong reasons.  When I went to lessons, I was not looking for musical guidance as much as talk therapy, if you will.  I wanted someone to care about me.  Some brilliant professor who would care about me and my potential from a sincere place, instead of someone just paying lip.  I noticed that the more “favored” students matured into better musicians, so it seemed.  As for who they selected to favor?  It seemed arbitrary and unfair.
Somehow, I had to make sense of this nonsense.  That’s just how I am, I guess.  So I coped by reasoning to myself that these professors were akin to gods.  Masters of music, paragons of spiritual enlightenment, and eternally justified in their arbitrary favoritisms.  And so every word they uttered in lessons was the bread of my life.  I contemplated on their “wisdoms.”  I aspired to be a musical master myself, so that I could join the ranks of these deities.  So that I could wield the superhuman power of musical expression and flawless physical technique.
Naturally, I was sorely disappointed in this quest.  Not to mention, my spiritual musical aspirations steered me in a direction that would not lead to gainful employment.  As I neared the end of my degree, this reality hit me.  There was no job waiting for me.  Instead, there was only the open world of networking and freelancing, and I didn’t have the energy for this.  I was too depressed and lethargic.  And for me, music wasn’t about the music.  It was merely a way for me to develop my character.

The greatest criticism I perceived was delivered unto me in July of 2006, while I was attending a ten-day masterclass in the south of France.  To explain the circumstances:  My viola professor at the time was instructing violists there, and several of my college colleagues also made the trek to the place.  Amidst the pastoral environment of the French countryside, we enjoyed leisurely music-making, excellent food and performances in a couple of medieval-aged churches.

But I was unable to enjoy any of this as a vacation.  Instead, I attempted stern discipline within myself.  My reason for attending this masterclass, was because I wanted my professor to favor me. I thought that I’d be a better musician if he favored me, in the way I had described above.
In one of my daily lessons, he delivered the bomb.
“You’re inconsistent.”   A piece of constructive criticism, yet not elaborated on further.
The most frustrating aspect of the musician personality, as I have perceived, is the lack of verbal eloquence.  A frustrating trait for me to deal with especially, because verbal eloquence is the greatest joy for me.  Of course, my professor meant well.  But his comment was like a dagger in my gut.  Here I was, playing my best, and now this criticism.  The reason why it perturbed me so, was that no solution was offered.  How could I have “fixed” this inconsistency?
And so I absorbed it to be that I, as a person, was inconsistent.  My character.  My spirit.  My mind.  My right to be alive.  I thought I was such because I lacked musical talent.  And because of lack of talent, I would never reach musical enlightenment.  The comment made me feel utterly doomed.
In retrospect, I can attribute my “inconsistency” to a couple of factors.  I was dealing with difficult, relentless mental chattering, which completely obscured my ability to practice effectively.  A year after this particular episode in France, my condition worsened, and I experienced my first psychotic break.  My mental chatter and depressions turned into schizophrenia.
But my musical woes root from another cause as well.  I now know that I have Hyperacusis, a hearing disorder.  When I listen to music loudly, as I do when playing the viola under my jaw, I become disoriented within a half hour. I feel dizzy, I get cold sweats, with anxiety and delusional thoughts galore.  Listening to music with earbuds also procures this same effect for me.  I am not sure how I developed Hyperacusis, but I know this much:  I have tiny ear canals, and I have had many many ear infections as a child.  I even venture to say that the way I hear music and sound in general is perhaps different from the norm.  The grandest frustration I still experience is when I record myself making music.  Violin, viola, singing with guitar, what have you.  What I hear in my ear is not what I hear on the tape recorder.  No matter how much I try to revise my playing, it still fails to improve.
Sometimes, I wonder if it was music that made me crazy.  I think it contributed.  Whatever physical torment it was that music inflicted upon me, was small in comparison to the emotional backup I developed in reaction to my father’s sadistic tirades.  Dare I say such.  From him, I learned that I should remain quiet and compliant.  Counter-intuitive for a musician.
As for solving my musical inconsistencies, I don’t much care now.  There is no need for me to have to “prove” or “defend” myself against a criticism hurled at me ten years ago.  It was my own overreaction that caused thatwound in the first place.
I look forward to better days now.  I look forward to the day that I am no longer afraid of the violin.  I don’t have to practice “the right way” in order to prove myself to pedagogues I used to know.  They are no longer deities to me .  Really… whose lives are they changing?  Who is changed by their art?  Sure, I can get box seats to a MET Opera performance of Mozart’s Zauberflöte, enjoy the tunes… but what else?  Have I gleaned anything profound from the musicians themselves?  Their little fingers pressing against strings, faces blowing into conical bores… The most I would gain is simply the mind of Mozart himself, for it is HIS composition!
I ramble now. I only wish to impart here… Inconsistency has become a proud badge I wear.  I’ve had a varied life due to bipolar impulsiveness and schizophrenic delusions.  Traumatic to experience, but humorous to recall.  Ha!  I had a British accent for a month!  Ha!  I maxed out a credit card to travel to Denmark for an orchestra audition, only to learn that the orchestra didn’t exist!  Mental illness is silly indeed.
Maybe it is such that I needed these failures in order to get my head out of the clouds.  Because now as a writer I am very consistent… so it seems.
Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Time Slips Away. I Want to Manage It As Best As I Can.

Again, it’s been a while since I wrote.  Life happens, days pass and time slips away.  Even though every single day is chock full of stimulation and memories, there is also that which remains neglected.  For me at times, it is writing.  Which is very unfortunate.

Sleep takes a lot of my time.  I take Clozapine, which is a very sedating drug.  As a result, I sleep at minimum 9 hours a day, if not more.  It has improved since before, ever since my psychiatrist suggested I take 3 Clozapine pills at night and 1 in the morning.  But now I feel more tired throughout the day.  For Labor Day weekend, namely Saturday and Sunday, I took big naps.  I never take naps.  While I enjoyed the luxurious rest, I also felt angry.  I could be writing instead!

But really… if you want the bed and breakfast experience, all you have to do is take a nap.  Much cheaper.  Maybe I should change my sheets to some yellow shade with little flowers on it, if I really want to go B&B style. That actually might help me feel more rested.  I’ve found that the little things we do for ourself, when accumulated, have the ability to make us happier.  And also feel more control in our lives.  I would decide to change my sheets.  I decide what I choose to put on my walls.  I decide to allow myself to take that nap.  When I allow myself to make decisions like this, I grow more confident.

Wow, this is all over the place.  Let’s return to the main point of this post:  Not enough time in life.

For me, there has been another major change in my life.  About 2 months ago, I joined a bootcamp gym in my neighborhood.  It’s pretty expensive, but there is no comparison between this place and a regular gym.  At this place, there are hour-long bootcamp classes where you get your butt handed to you.  Finally, I feel like I have found my fitness home.  I feel that this gym has the ability to bring me to my full athletic potential.  There is always room to push harder in the workouts.

And yet that takes up a lot of time.  Precious time that I’m not sure I have.  I do the workouts, and then I have to go home.  I don’t have a car either.  Waiting for public transit, riding public transit… I wouldn’t say it’s stressful unless I’m stuck standing, although this doesn’t happen often.  But still… when I get home, I’m not in the mood to write.  I mean, sure I’ll write in my journal, pen against paper.  But this is more akin to self-care and personal introspection.  It has no professional bent to it.

I think that somehow, I have to trick my mind into thinking that work-related writing is recreational and relaxing to me.  Then again, rest is so important.  It can never be neglected.  Because when I am a workaholic, it prevents me from enjoying the little things in life.  Like enjoying the trees.  Marveling at pigeons pecking at the sidewalk.  Seeing the people around me, engaged in their work, walking down the street, going to their destinations.

A few months ago, Huffington Post allowed me to have a blog on their site, so that I can instantaneously post articles.  I am happy that I have this opportunity, and yet I’m not writing as much as I’d like.  Again… I’m tired.  I’m also working on an article about NYC Crisis Respite Centers.  I have to say, that journalistic articles are more difficult and time-consuming to write.  I learn as I go, given that I don’t specifically have a bachelors in English or Journalism or whatnot.  But I’m learning fast, nevertheless.

The problem with lack of sleep and overall fatigue of this sort, is that it serves to erase the mind of thought.  Or at least it slows thoughts down.  It also causes drowsiness, which is difficult to push through.  Pushing through can even make it worse, I fear.  It can cause headaches for me in my sinuses.

And then there is a third new component I’ve added into my life: Spirituality.  After years and years of being burned by several religious practices, ranging from conservative Christianity to meditation under a guru in India, to spending thousands of dollars on bogus psychic services, it was apparent that I was seeking.  Yet I was too mentally unwell to differentiate between the “spiritual ream” versus “reality.”  I do really believe that some of those who experience profound mental illness attribute their symptoms to be a spiritual gift that connects them with a higher world.  For me, I once was completely lost in this “realm,” to the point that I recognized everything happening to me to be “divine occurrences,” “meant to happen.”  Everything had a subliminal messages, specifically for me and no one else.

Over the years, there has been only one spiritual healer who has helped me without hurting me in any way.  He is a Reiki healer I’ve worked with since 2010.  Recently, he has been involved in this new meditation practice, and so I feel that it is safe for me to do also.  When I have setbacks, worries or fears, I talk to him about these and he helps me to become more grounded.

As drowsy as I am right now, I don’t want to give up these aspects of my life.  I’m not giving up writing.  I’m not giving up fitness.  I’m not giving up spirituality.  And it’s not the best idea for me to go off of my medications.  But how do I manage?  How do I keep going forward, without burning out?

Perhaps the pinnacle of tiredness is that which accompanies parenting.  And I am not a parent, nor will I ever be.  Taking this into consideration, “tired” is likely a natural part of life in the 21st century.  Which still is not good, but alas, Reality.  I hope I can pull through.  Faith is all I have to keep me going.  That, and friendship.

C’est la vie.

I Write To Fight Stigma

All of a sudden, I’m nervous that I’m “talking about myself too much.”  I share my story, I offer my opinions, I write about how I’m optimistic about my future… So am I being selfish here?  I hope not.  I guess I just share myself because I want to make a positive difference in this world.  I want to uplift the people I encounter, and help there to be perhaps one more little ray of sunshine out there.  Earth needs them.

With that being said, I’ll share my musings for the day.

***

I like the prospect of earning supplemental income as a freelance writer, but it’s also a lot of hustle.  And hustle is tiring!  I’m realizing over the months, that I like writing because it is a way for me to express my inner musings.  A way for me to share my personal self with the world.  And as people read what I write, they get to know me.  People who like what I write then come into my life, and I find that they are the best of friends, more compatible with me than those I even meet in real life!

For the moment, I’ve veered away from freelance writing for pay.  I currently want to focus more on discovering my personal voice through writing.  While this does not put bread on my plate, it will help me become a better writer.  Writing from the heart is what motivates me to keep going on, even when I think my writing “sucks.”  To be honest, I was getting discouraged with trying to send pitches to places for income, because I felt that my writing was not genuine.

I see that many websites have a particular political slant or cultural emphasis, and they pick submissions that go along with their overall “vibe.”  The problem I have is, I question EVERYTHING.  I not only question the status quo, but I question the people (etc.) who question the status quo!  This is hard, because it somehow causes me to disagree with everyone I meet on some level.  But at the same time, this mentality has allowed for me to find compassion for even the most cantankerous of people.  I am no saint, but I attempt to live with love and happiness in my heart.

The only internet community that I seem to “fit in” with is the mental health awareness/advocacy/stigma fighting community.  When I write here from the heart, people read me how I want to be read.  I’ve also befriended some pen pals online from Germany, but again, my enthusiasm for the German language and culture is a fierce passion of mine.  I find that when I follow my passions, I find the most of fulfillment.

Fortunately, there are unpaid sites that publish my essays.  I’m glad to get my voice out there, and I’m glad to have my opinions heard.  I also have this little blog🙂  This blog is a wonderful, personal space that I have created for myself… If I am frustrated with the online cultures of big-name paid sites, then I have my own site here where I call the shots!

Although, I’m the only writer here.  No matter.  The world still turns.  Stigma must be fought.  Voices need to be heard.  Fighting for freedom needs to happen now.  And so I try.

Being a Tall Woman… Trials and Tribulations

I’ve always been tall.  From toddlerhood to adulthood, this has been my reality.  And while I have never been ashamed or regretful about my height, there are societal complications that have affected my experience of life overall.

From kindergarten through fifth grade, I was always the tallest kid in the class, and possibly even the entire grade.  My height was especially punctuated because I lived in an East Asian neighborhood, and so there were a lot of short people around me.  (Forgive the stereotype, but this was the reality I faced.)  I was a sensitive person, so these taunts really hurt my feelings.  And as much as I tried, I just got down over it.  This was how the depression first started creeping up on me.
It also did not help that my family dressed me in unisex clothing.  My hair too was unfashionably styled.  Having the potential for luscious locks of curly black hair, my hair was instead cut just at the perfect length to create a large poofy ‘fro.  All of this together, combined with my height, spelled social disaster.  The girls would not talk to me.  I suppose the were both afraid of me, and disdainful.  It is a painful reality that children are some of the most judgmental people on the planet.

Nevertheless, I coped.  At lunch every day, I sat at the boys’ table.  They’d make jokes and blow bubbles in their milk… Far more interesting than the girls table, where they would silently munch on their sandwiches, legs dangling as they sit on the too-high benches at the table.

Yet it was hard.  “You look like a boy.”  “Why do you look like a boy?”  Painful to hear, because inside I felt very feminine.  And when I went to the bathroom?
“Ew!  There’s a boy in the girls’ bathroom!”
As I entered junior high school, the children around me started to display romantic notions towards one another.  Yet I felt completely excluded from this affair.  No guy would ever look on me, and I was also hesitant.  When I asked my mother “why do no boys like me,” she’d give the response:
“They’re probably intimidated by you.  You’re tall, and you’re not smiley or flirty.”

Indeed I wasn’t.  I frowned at times, frequently deep in thought.  Also, I was heavily engaged in taking violin and viola lessons.  Classical music was more important to me than childhood romance.  I disliked school culture overall, so I hated being there… Oh, did I mention that I was now in therapy for clinical depression?

I don’t think my height is correlated to my depression.  Yet I sometimes realize I am plagued by the trivial curse of being tall.  When I go to the boot camp gym for a class, I am a head taller than about half of the women there.  I sweat a lot and make faces because I am very intense with the exercise.  (Don’t worry, I don’t make any grunting sounds.)  Maybe I’m paranoid, but I have seen a couple of scared faces in my direction, as well as a ring of space around me.  I know that I don’t smell because I check myself.  Also, my curly hair is now long and frizzy, so perhaps I have a wild look as well.
After gym class, I don’t socialize with the other women there.  Sometimes I feel lonely, but also… I just had the realization… I miss out on a lot of conversations because they happen below my level of height.  I am not a giant at all, standing at a mere 5′ 10″.  But I see women talking and I don’t care enough to slouch down and listen to them.
I suppose all is well now.  I have matured into an adult who cares less about the opinions of others.  I am satisfied with my appearance, and have no frets or fears.
This blog post is a bit all over the place, I’ll admit.  I’m trying to brainstorm ideas that can be marketable for websites that pay their writers.  This article was a failed attempt towards that.  It’s reassuring to know that I have my own blog where my “trash” can go.
But I exaggerate.  This essay is not trash.  That’s because it came from meeeeee.
🙂

The Importance of Artistic Inspiration

The source of inspiration has always intrigued me.  Where does creativity come from?  When someone creates a song that hits the heart, or when someone dances with inimitable grace upon the stage… we wonder where indeed, did that expertise come from?  Can it be credited to the person performing the miracles, or is it the hint of perhaps something greater than us?  Deity?  A life force?  What indeed is it?

 

This concept of mystery has been one I have pondered and appreciated for many years.  It began when I was a toddler.  My mother is gifted as a visual artist, and various drawings hanging on our walls were of her conception.  It was mysterious to me, seeing her works… They hearkened unto times before my birth, and served as miniscule hints into the past.  Was my mother a different person before my arrival?

 

Inspiration affected me firsthand when I realized that Christmas came with carols.  Which I sang heartily then all year.  The melodies and words were divinely inspired, in both the religious and secular way, and so I appreciated them.  I began to develop a pleasant singing voice then, and music became my ally.  At the dawn of first grade, I started playing the violin.  And that is when the inspiration truly began.

 

Hearing classical music, specifically from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, has entranced me always.  It is a style of music that is primarily driven by a melody, which is then accompanied and supported by other complex activities, including the lowest of bass rumblings and everything in between.  The whole package together is held by the chords created to suggest a certain key signature.  “Concerto for Violin in E Major, BWV 1042.”  That one’s by Johann Sebastian Bach.  “Violin Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op. 24.”  Beethoven’s famed Spring Sonata.  Each piece is comprehensive, finished and complete, akin to a painting with every stroke placed perfectly.

 

Or perhaps like Renaissance sculptures of the physical form.  I wonder with Michelangelo… where does it end where the artist sculpts… and the piece of art sculpts itself?  Indeed, if he “tried too hard” to make David “perfect,” he could have nicked too much marble off here or there… of course he was an “expert” and would have “never” done that… Perhaps I don’t understand such genius enough.

 

I suppose for myself, I am gifted at music, though I don’t find much enjoyment in it.  It seems a blasphemous statement, for me to say that I don’t enjoy a gift I have, but so it is.  I find it too simplistic in some ways.  I write a melody with my guitar, as well as accompanying lyrics.  The words come to me easily, as do the rhymes (with the glad assistance of a rhyming dictionary), as does the music.  I am no canonical composer, but I have an elementary understanding of how to create a musical work that has all of its loose ends tied.  My songs tell stories.  They evoke images that are complete.  My songs are strung together with form in the traditional sense, and are not at all abstract.

 

But music seems so boring, precisely because it comes from somewhere that is NOT ME.  There is some sort of strange disconnect.  Of course, the songs I create are very personal to me, and accurately paint my life.  But I feel as if the songs I write are so transparent, that it is as if I simply shot a photograph of myself in the mirror.  And as fond as I am of selfies, I find them to be only tools for self-reflection, intended for myself.  It’s even uncanny.  Songs I have written several years before seem to predict events in my future.  They also develop greater meaning as I age, because they describe feelings and emotions that I did not have when I wrote them, yet I then acquire them in the future.

 

It’s an absolute eerie experience, and so I prefer to refrain from music.  I honestly have no desire to be a mystic or occultist, because honestly such work is exhausting.  And it also serves no purpose.  What benefit is there, to know my future?  I’ve consulted charlatans, evangelicals and honest spiritualists alike over the years, and their counsel only served to pack my subconscious with a rich pallet of insane colors, all thrown into my face like the abstract art of Millie Brown.  She is noted for creating works of art painted with her own vomit.  I must say, that vomit is my greatest fear on earth.

 

I much prefer writing.  In general, I have a lot of questions and thoughts and ideas.  Music is too slow of a medium to express this.  You can only utter so many words at once, and the music serves to influence the words likewise.  Music alone can influence one’s mood, and I find this too be too much.  I like the silence of words.  I like how words are more personal.  The emotions evoked within the person are noiseless.

 

Regardless of what talent I dedicate myself to, I know in my bones that I will be successful… as long as I stay true to my heart, and true to the people I care about.  The challenges that I face in pursuit of this goal, lies in developing compassion for every living creature I encounter and know about.  If I care about everyone alive, I will be able to make the deepest and most positive impact on this world, that I am capable of.

 

Yet I am only one person.  That is why I care about people.  One person cannot move a mountain.

 

Artistic inspiration perhaps comes from a place unknown to common sense or science.  It may lie latent in the brain, or perhaps it is from elsewhere outside the human form.  I think it is a popular statement these days, to say that “accessing this inspiration can cause healing for the brain.”  Healing, in the mental health aspect and holistically likewise.  Yet I find it opposite.  I was unable to become intuitive and artistic, until my brain was healed with medication.

 

It is a very complicated topic.  But I will say this: The experience of accessing your intuition, whether via an artistic discipline or perhaps even through the athletic practice of developing one’s level of fitness… Accessing your intuition is an ability that you have within you.   And you have every right of experiencing this phenomenon.

 

It is a sad state of affairs, that we are inundated with instant entertainment, from computer games to television to Top 40 songs.  We are so entertained, that we neglect to find our own latent intuition within ourselves… that once served to entertain us!  Perhaps that is why there is so much mental grief these days… We are being robbed of the opportunity to develop our imaginations due to being fed entertainment.

 

It’s a complicated matter, and I’m tired for now.  I could ponder it further in my sleep, and continue from there.  Indeed, the best of intuitions follow periods of rest.

 

Good night!

Clozapine, and My Battle With Oversleeping

So frustrated.

My medication is incredibly sedating.  I have been struggling with oversleeping since I started Clozapine over three years ago, but this difficulty didn’t become marked until I started working full-time.

But all of a sudden now, it seems to have gotten worse.  I seriously am sleeping 11, 11.5 hours a day.  Last night, I went to bed at 9:30 PM, and ripped myself from bed at 8:30 AM.  I work full-time!  I don’t have a car, but instead take public transit.  2 gyms near me went out of business recently, so now I’m going to another one further from me that has only classes.  Translation: I get there whenever I do (via public transit), and then I have to wait ’til the hour to start working out.  I also am trying to keep a steady pace as a writer of essays and poetry, aiming for regular publications.
I was thinking of also getting back into playing the violin, given that the voices aren’t bothering me anymore when I play.  But alas… no time.

Fortunately, I work at an awesome agency.  And since I’m a peer specialist, my mental illness is out in the open and accepted.  There have been times when my job performance was not at its best, due to my struggling with relapse.  My bosses and coworkers showed incredible concern, and with their support was I able to pull through.

Today again, I called my boss.  I asked to do a half-day of work today, and he said that would be ok.  Thank goodness.  As soon as I could, I left home… at 9 AM.  (I usually start work at 9 AM.)  Then I went to the blood drawing center and got my blood taken.  I have to get my blood done every 4 weeks because of the Clozapine I take.  While it is a miraculous drug for me, it also can cause many complicated side effects.  It must therefore be monitored very carefully.

I’m seeing my psychiatrist next week.  I know it probably won’t do much good, but I’m going to ask her if I can lower my dose of Clozapine by a single, tiny increment.  I take 400 mg right now, and I want to try and lower it to 375 mg.  I think I can handle it.

Or maybe I should give up.  Throw in the towel.  Accept that I’ll never be fully “normal.”  I should just “learn to live with sedation without questioning it.”  Just “shut up and suck it up.”

When I attended the peer specialist training at Howie the Harp Advocacy Center, I learned that the voice of the patient actually matters.  I learned about the recovery model, which is the idea that recovery and wellness goes way beyond mere compliance with medications and a treatment plan.  It is not about “settling” for half a life.  True wellness is about living a life that is fulfilling and satisfying.  

And so now… I demand wellness.  And sleeping 11 hours a day is not my idea of wellness.
I know that my psychiatrist likely will not let me change the dose.  If this doesn’t happen, I’m not sure what to do.  She’s incredibly competent, so I am not keen on throwing her to the curb.  Many private psychiatrists will not accept me because I take Clozapine.  I’d say that most people who take this drug are profoundly disabled, so they get their psychiatric services from hospitals.  They typically don’t work full-time, so they have more time to devote to commuting via bus, more free time for appointments, etc.  

(I say this not to make assumptions about those who are disabled.  But I myself was in this position for several years, and so lived this way.  Thus, I speak from personal experience.)

I too was a patient at a specific hospital’s Clozapine clinic for 3 solid years, but I decided to leave once… things got bad.  See, my psychiatrist was always a resident.  I’d have the newbie doctor for 12 months and then, *poof!*  The doctor was gone, replaced by another doctor with again no experienced.  When I was assigned my fourth doctor, I realized… Something’s gotta change.  Especially since my circumstances had drastically changed within those 3 years.  When starting, I was unemployed and in psychiatric rehab programs.  3 years later, I was working full time.

Now I see a private psychiatrist.  It’s a miracle she puts up with me.  The Clozapine is very difficult to coordinate with the pharmacy.  See, first I have to get the blood work.  Then the results have to be faxed over to my psychiatrist.  If the levels are good, she writes me a prescription, and also fills out an extra sheet for me to give to the pharmacy.  It is illegal for me to get the Clozapine without this extra sheet.  Also, if my blood work is bad, then I have to get tested again.

It took a few months for me to adjust to this procedure.  I ran out of medication a couple of times, and had to go to the ER.  Also, I procrastinated the blood work, and so had to make some emergency appointments with my psychiatrist.  She’s truly a saint.  Most doctors would have abandoned me.

I write here now, so as to share with you the process I go through to simply remain mentally well.  I am at times envious, of those who have no need to jump through any of these hoops in order to live normal, satisfying lives.  Whereas I have suffered to get to this point.  Granted, I’m happy I’m well, but it took me a long time to get here.  I started taking medications when I was 14.  I was not stabilized on the “perfect” combination of drugs until I was 27.  And then I spent time in rehab, simply getting back on my feet.

I hope this process of figuring medications will take less time for people in the future.  So many years of my life were wasted, sitting in offices of psychiatrists who felt no guilt in offering me subpar treatment.  Watching me gain ninety pounds steadily.  Turning a deaf ear when I lamented that I wanted to work, but was too depressed to look for work.

This has to stop.  Psychiatrists need to hold a higher standard for themselves.  Because it’s not about sedating the patient into compliance.  It’s about improving the quality of life for a person.

I have faith that my future will be brighter than my days today.  And my days are already bright!  I hope that the sleep issue will be resolved soon, and that I can continue my merry way towards success and wellness.  As should everyone, for that matter.

Enter, the Music…

As much as I have written about mental health, and the necessity of its acceptance in the part of society, these writings only represent a small portion of who I am, and where I came from.

I was once a musician.  Skilled in my trade, and one of professional promise.

Training towards this career began at age five, when I started violin lessons at a local Suzuki school.  Of high caliber, to my benefit.  I had a private, one-on-one lesson once a week, and a few classes on Saturday mornings.  The latter was when I met the other students of my year.  Most were Chinese and Korean, and two years younger than me.  But it made no difference.  I loved music, and that was all there was to it.

Mental illness started to interrupt my studies though.  When I became depressed, I was too depressed to practice.  When I started experiencing voices in college, so too did the instrument start speaking to me.  The only way I could escape these disastrous situations, was to avoid music altogether.  A tragic compromise.

Indeed, for when I have tried to play even recently, my frame would shake, my brow developed an electrical sweat and my nerves, rattled.  An abstract experience to describe, but such is the irrationality of mental affliction.

But a miraculous turn has occurred.  I am now able to take up the instrument suddenly.  It has been twenty years, this former grief!

What happens to make this change?  Perhaps my reliance on the drug Clozapine, which never eases to do wonders for me.  The longer I am on it, the better it works.  I also have changed my attitude about music.  I first figured that I suffer from a phobia of the violin.  I then read that mental health professionals tackle phobias via Exposure Therapy.  Each time, one becomes gradually exposed to that which is feared, with more and more intensity, for lack of a better term.

And so… I and music.  Such is now my approach.  Such is now my cure.

I hope to get better on the instrument than ever before.  I hope to play it with the expertise of the best of professionals.

And still, my spirit of advocacy can stretch into my music making as well.  Because ever since childhood… I’ve despised pop music, and all the other genres one would hear on the radio.  As a five year old, I found tunes from the radio to be akin to baby music.  And while the masses may be entertained by it, it horrifies me that many simple tunes are more popular than that which requires more skill to create.

To create an analogy: I might enjoy a cardboard baby book as an infant, but I’m not going to read such books as an adult.

This is how I view popular music, in comparison to classical, as well as other forms that require earnest study.  Traditional musicks from cultures around the world fall into this respectable category, as does jazz.

But I think the fight against Top 40 is a battle long dead.  The war is over.  Classical music is merely something kept alive by elitists and specialist musicians.

Or is it?

I honestly think that rock music is bad for you.  See here: we always talk about organic food and being all natural with the crystals and the essential oils and the purified ionic water and crap… But what about organic sound?   Don’t you think it’s bad for the body, mind and soul to be pledging allegiance to electronic sounds, unnaturally vibrating within your head at 120 decibels?  And earbuds?  You think that’s natural?

I didn’t think so.  But I’m sure you’ll defend the honor of your favorite band, because they’re all rad and they said stuff no one else ever said before, blah blah.

See… This is why I’m not a professional musician.  The musical world today is so broken.  I am it strong enough to fix it.  Nor are there enough people in the world who want to fix it in the same way I want to.

Writing about this only makes me angry.  But maybe… maybe I developed mental illness because I, a very musical person, was surrounded by inorganic sounds?  By the age of five, I physically cringed with discomfort whenever I heard “radio music,” and was convinced that it was utterly evil.  CONVINCED.

Maybe this is another reason why people develop mental illness: inorganic sound.  What do you think?

All My Local Gyms are Going Out Of Business :(

Right now, I’m “wishing” I didn’t have a job.  Of course, this is silly, given that I love my current position.  But I’ve taken a few days off recently, and I’m enjoying the freedom.

And yet there is something I’m quite down about…

It seems that all the gyms in my neighborhood are going out of business.

***

Four years ago, I was at my heaviest, at 215 lbs.  I walked into a women’s gym in my neighborhood called Lucille Roberts, and just signed up.  I had no idea what to do, so I asked the manager for advice on how to work out.  I had so many questions, and she patiently answered them all.  By week 2, she gave me a diet plan to follow.  I faithfully exercised and ate right, and in the first month I lost 12 pounds.

Unfortunately, depression hit me after that first month, and so I stopped going to the gym.  But I still maintained the diet, and so I lost 50 lbs in about 6 months.  I then joined a kickboxing fitness class and lost another 10 lbs.  After this, psychiatric disaster struck, and I was in the hospital for three months.  During this time, I gained back 20 lbs, but no matter.  When leaving, I returned to Lucille Roberts and lost the 20 lbs again.

The hardest part of weight loss is maintaining it for the rest of your life.  I was able to maintain a weight of 145 lbs for a good 2 years… but it was really torturous.  I diligently wrote down everything I ate… which is a habit I’m trying to get back into.  But also, I was just neurotic.  I’d weigh myself 20 or 30 times a day.  I went to a weight management class, and the director basically kicked me out after a year.

And yet I needed the help, perhaps.  Since then, I’ve gained about 20 pounds.  I hover between 165 and 170 these days, which is not terrible given that I am 5’10”.  I’ve also maintained this same weight for about a year, so I guess I’m “okay.”  But I want to weigh less.  And I want to be more controlled with my eating.

Because right now, I feel out of control.  I buy and eat healthy foods, but at times I’ll eat too much of a good thing.  Like cashews, or turkey meatloaf.  Maybe too many power bars… I’ve got to cut that stuff out.  I bought about 8 bars for the week last time, and I ate them all in 2 days.  I bought a little pack of peanut butter, ate that too.  When I get hummus, I usually eat the tub all at once, but this time, miraculously it’s still there.  Probably because it’s spicy.

I didn’t used to have this problem.  In fact, I was a skinny kid growing up.  I always could eat whatever I wanted with no consequence.  This all changed when I was in my mid-20s.  I ate badly still, but started to gain weight.  In 2.5 years, I gained 90 lbs.

I’m healthy now, but I’m still just scared.  I want to be in greater control.  I want to lose those 20 lbs again, and get more athletic and “ripped.”  I want to be strong, and improve in my performance with Spartan Races.  (I’ve done 3 Spartan Sprints so far, ranging between 3.5 miles – 5.2 miles.)  I want to keep going.

I’m just discouraged though.  On May 18th of this year, my beloved Lucille Roberts gym went out of business.  I remember the last Zumba class I took there, on the 16th of that month… There was such a sad feeling of farewell in my heart.  LR in Bayside had such a lovely community of women, and now that community was to be torn apart.  I went to the gym on the 18th for the last class, but I didn’t have the heart to work out.  Many of the machines were gone, and the lockers were even ripped out of the walls.  It looked horrible, and I was crestfallen.

I joined another gym in my neighborhood called Bell Plaza Sports Club.  I remember the first time I went there too… There were men in the gym, and I was nervous and scared.  I longed for Lucille Roberts, and I even had a little solitary cry.  It helped.  Once I got over that, I made myself comfortable with the weight machines.  I realize now that I like machines and the elliptical more than I like classes.  After a couple of weeks, I got pretty comfortable at Bell Plaza, and was going there perhaps 5 times a week.  I liked where this was going.

And then on June 30th, the bomb hit: Bell Plaza notified its members that it was going out of business too.

Again, such sadness in me.  Another local community, gone.  Another business, gone under.  And another gym, gone.

I’ve been trying to figure out where to go now for my fitness needs.  There’s a CrossFit gym very close to my house, but I received an email from them saying that they’re going out of business too.  Where do I go?  There are other gyms in my area, but the locations are very inconvenient given that I don’t have a car.

I am so angry also… I think to myself:  Why is this happening?  I know that the rents are going up for businesses in my neighborhood, and so places are going under.  Of course, there is hearsay and gossip amongst people I’ve spoken to, but this is truly irrelevant to me.  There is just one dismal reality for me:  These gyms are gone.

And so I’m down.  I haven’t worked out in a few days.  My eating was not great these few days.  I have to figure out what I’m going to do.  I have kept my membership with Lucille Roberts, so I can go to other branches.  I’m going to go to their Flushing branch later today, although this is further away.  There’s also a local gym near my job, so next week I will initiate the “5-day free trial” with them.  Hopefully this will work out.

And yet I’m not sure.  I’m really not.  These little businesses are going under and are being replaced with more expensive, corporate entities.  Or perhaps just ritzier businesses with higher prices.  It’s sad.  And while I appreciate that the economy in my neighborhood is booming, it also means that the community will change.  Businesses will change, current residents will leave and be replaced by new ones.  And prices will perhaps rise.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this doesn’t happen, but who knows.  :(

Regarding my fitness, I have to figure out what to do.  I love gyms, because I love the community aspect of it.  I like working out with other people present, because it keeps me on track.  It keeps me accountable.  And it’s great to get out of the house!  Nevertheless, I’ve got weights and a Total Gym at my house, so I can work out fully at home on my own.  There’s a little gym in my building too, which I can use if I pay $80 for the year.  That has a decent elliptical in it.  And again, I have the Lucille Roberts subscription.

I also wish that gyms were perceived as being necessary.  More people should utilize them.  There should be a higher demand for them!  Exercise should not be a luxury.  It should be a necessity.  And indeed it is, quite frankly.  Gyms should be open galore.  They should be inviting, and people should want to go to them.  Not because “they’re fat,” or “they need it”… but gyms are genuinely nice places.  They are comprised of people within the community, and going there helps one to feel more connected to others.

My hope is that the general populace will become more motivated to exercise.  Again, not because of compulsion, but because of a sincere, positive desire to improve one’s health.  It’s a wonderful road to travel.  It’s a wonderful way to test and develop your inner character…

And it’s a great way to tap into that inner “hero” that lies dormant in our minds!  We watch movies that feature athletic heroes saving the day.  Video games of the same like.  Why not can we condition ourselves to be heroic in the same way?  I always think that the future of video gaming would be more interactive… as if a person themselves becomes the avatar they manipulate to fight evil.  That would then require one to get up off their butt and hold a game controller in the shape of a sword.  Of course… handicaps could be assigned, but I digress.

I hope today that I can start over.  Start writing down what I eat again… and keep doing it every day hereafter.  And that I can become more motivated in doing home workouts.  I know I did P90X3 at home for about 14 months straight… it improved my fitness level, but that was also when I gained the 20 lbs back.

Again… losing weight is only the beginning.  The hard part is keeping it off.

Sexuality Takes a Back Seat to Mental Illness

I have a mundane, boring fact to share about myself:

I am gay.  And most likely asexual.

I say that it is boring, because I am not suddenly gung-ho to hit the Cubbyhole bar  downtown to get me some tail.  I don’t want to go to the Gay Center in the village and join a social club dedicated to leather lesbians.  All of this is as unappealing as asbestos.

Perhaps this is my asexuality talking now.

As far as how lesbianism and asexuality intertwine… that is a complicated affair, and there are as many concepts to this as there are people.  As to my own experience, I will describe it here:  I find women attractive, but I have no desire to date anyone or go further than cordial friendship.  I also have no desire for intimacy.  Of course, for me to say “no desire” is perhaps an exaggeration of the truth.  Sexuality is a spectrum, many of us know.  We fall in between the extremes.  Sexuality also evolves.  Perhaps my own status will reveal itself further over the coming months and years.

For such a long time, it’s been so hard for me to accept my own orientation.  Since high school, I had an idea that I was a lesbian, but I was so afraid that people would know of it.  Even though I was surrounded by completely accepting people, I was still ashamed.  So ashamed, that once a fleeting thought entered my mind, I immediately squashed it like a bug.

And then I was struggling with that little thing called mental illness.

Going further back in time, to my childhood, I had perhaps innocent admirations of attractive females.  But as this emerged within me, so too did mental discord develop.  My father was a frightening person to live with, so there was trauma brewing within me.  This then “blossomed” into depression at the age of ten, and only worsened with every year.

When I started therapy, still a child… sexuality was the last thing on my mind.  I didn’t even know it was a concept at all.  It was the mid-90s, so sexuality was not a topic so prevalent among youth as it is today.  There was no internet for me to utilize as a research tool.  There was nothing except a filtered, childish world that the adults around me created.

When in therapy, the overall goal expectedly was to help me deal with my depression.  I applied in this task quite well.  I explored my thoughts and emotions, and I learned how to process the world around me.  I also developed a vocabulary to express myself to adults.  Never for one second did sexual attraction enter my mind.

I realize now, that much of my anxieties related to sexual orientation are the result of… my not talking about it to anyone!  As eloquent as I am in many things, I find myself at a loss for words when describing my sexual self.  I don’t like to think about it or talk about it much.  I even feel like there’s not much for me to say.  That’s “private stuff.”

But my attitude is old hat.  I must realize that I live in a sexually free society, mostly.  It is not old times… But why am I stuck in the past?  I have no idea.

At the age of thirty, I am now chipping away at this boulder.  One of the biggest fears I’ve had, is that I’m totally afraid that I will transform into some hulking beast with a buzz cut if I come out.  I’m afraid that I’ll transform into a person that I don’t want to be.  This is most likely the greatest fear that has kept me in denial.

Just recently, something in me clicked.  Accepting my sexuality will in no way change who I already am.  I will not magically transform into something else.  Instead… I will be exactly the same as I always was.

To describe my coming-out experience thus far, it is as mundane as a birthday.  Sure, it is celebrated at the time it arrives.  But then it passes, and one forgets about it as the year rolls along.  Our age is only a mere number, and that number doesn’t define who we are.  Granted, a low number would indicate immaturity and physical while a higher number indicates a wizened attitude and physical decrepitude.  But what does the number indicate about personality?  Absolutely nothing!  And certainly there feeble children and vigorous adults.

So too it is with sexual orientation labels. They are only markers.  Tabs on folders stowed away in a file cabinet.  The labels of “lesbian” and “asexual” only serve as a benign convenience, and nothing more.  To judge a folder by its label… such an attitude makes one not an expert of its contents, but a mere secretary at best.  (I mean not to disparage secretaries.  I attempt to draw an analogy.)

I hope to investigate my own sexual status with full confidence.  As I forge ahead, I want to become increasingly more confident and grounded.  And as for coming out to everyone in my life?  I’m not too keen on it.  I will simply write of it for now.  Those who read me will find me out, and word will spread like an internet virus.  Oh happy day.

Sexuality has become a hot topic during these early years of the 21st century.  Hopefully by the 22nd, it will have become as fully mundane as a brushing of the teeth.

I am an Overeater

It’s been a while since I wrote here.  But I realize now, that I have a new challenge that I must overcome…

I am an overeater.  And here is my story.  I tell it here, because I want to overcome it.

***

I was a thin child.  No matter what I ate, I always remained rail thin.  So it came to my surprise when I started gaining weight.  I was about 24 when it started.  I’m not sure if it was due to a psychiatric medication I was taking, or if it was just age catching up with my metabolism.  I always knew that obesity was around the corner, because my mother was obese.  One of my biggest fears was that it would happen to me.

And it did.  It got to the point where I gained 90 lbs.  At 5′ 10″, I went from 125 lbs to 215.  Same numbers, rearranged.  Cheeky.

My life was pretty low then too, bluntly stated.  I was on disability for Schizoaffective disorder, unable to work.  My grandmother was drastically afflicted with dementia, so I committed myself to caring for her full time.  It was very stressful.  She was constantly fearful, and rarely slept.  It was also sad.  A once-lucid woman, suffering terribly.  No one should live like this.

It was also strange then too though.

In October of 2011, as my weight steadily increased, I also began to fall into psychiatric relapse.  Always at these times, I voraciously watch YouTube videos, trying to make sense of the piecemeal logic in my head.  I stumbled upon a video of a woman getting a Christian exorcism, and suddenly I converted to Christianity.  I found a fundamental church, and began attending thrice a week.  I abandoned my hobby of songwriting, now deemed evil.  This I switched for skirts and a King James Version bible.

In March of 2012, I suddenly had a desire to exercise.  I trekked over to my local Lucille Roberts, a women’s gym, and joined.  While I deemed Zumba to be of the devil, I developed a friendship with the elliptical.  I also went on a diet plan, and gave up all candy and sweets.

6 months later, I lost 50 lbs.  At my lowest, I lost 70 lbs.  But now?  I’ve gained about 20 back.

I had maintained a lower weight before, because I approached my eating with an iron fist.  I would weigh myself 20 times a day.  I wrote down what I ate, which I still do now… but I was so hard on myself.  I hated myself, and that was the motivation for torturing myself with the strict eating.  It was a way for me to punish myself.

But now that I more loving towards myself, and am more accepting and forgiving of my flaws, the bad eating is coming out again.  With a vengeance.  This morning, I had about… 3000 calories worth of cheese.  I am admitting this, and I feel terrible.  The morning before, it was 5 chicken sausages.

I somehow compensate, by eating little throughout the day except for vegetables from my lunch box. People see me eating that way, and they think I don’t have a problem.  But when I’m alone… that’s when I eat badly.  I’ll be in the kitchen eating, and when my brother shows up I hide the food quickly.

I’m scared that now I’ve joined Overeaters Anonymous, I’ve become WORSE.  But have I?  I know my family has been aware of my overeating for a while.  They hide food from me.  I tell my mother not to buy certain things because it tempts me, but she doesn’t do it.  She says it’s for her, but then when she leaves for the week, she doesn’t take it with her.  So it’s just THERE.  Looking at me.  Tempting me.

I have attended 2 OA meetings so far.  I want to get a sponsor, but people tell me I should wait at least a month before doing so.  I understand.  A sponsor is someone that you really have to get along with and know well.  Typically, you report to your sponsor every day what you eat, etc.  I have gotten back into the habit of writing what I eat, so that’s good.  I don’t like what I write, but I do it anyway.

I need help.  This is clear.

I had actually been contemplating joining OA for a few years.  Around 2013, I met a woman who did OA and had successfully lost 100 lbs, which is quite a feat given her short stature.  Her encouragement was what gave me the discipline to write my food intake and calories down.  But now?  The discipline to “stick to what I plan to eat” has disappeared.

One good thing: I have a lot of good habits that are still sticking around.  I still work out at least 4 days a week, if not 5 or more.  Those workouts are intense, and are always at least 1 hour long.  I am getting into Spartan Races too.  I did one in April at CitiField, and I’m doing one this weekend in Tuxedo, NY.  In 2014, I did one at Mohegan Sun.  I’m thinking of doing another one in Philly in September this year.  My mother and I can trek out there and visit her friend for the weekend, and I’ll knock that one while we’re there.

And then I don’t eat chocolate or sugar or candy.  I eat vegetables and fruit, etc.  Sometimes my bad eating is also because I eat too much of a good thing.  Too much grilled turkey.  Too much coconut shrimp, 500 calories worth… that’s not good either.

A part of me worries that if I join OA, I will just “learn tactics” and get worse because others are influencing me.  But… I have to do something about myself.

I know 3 people who have benefited from 12-Step programs.  And all of these people… they are warriors.  Not in an overwhelming way, but rather… they are mindful, healthy and strong people.  They are self-aware.  They are positive influences wherever they go.  They are grounded.  Two of them have told me thus:

“With 12-Step programs… you don’t have to agree with everything you hear.  Take what works for you.  This is how you work the steps.

A setback for me also is that I don’t feel comfortable with embracing a Higher Power.  For years, I have had delusions and psychosis in reaction to adopting spiritual practices.  With every religion I pursued, from Christianity to following an Indian guru to Nichiren Buddhist chanting… everything exploded in my face and led to relapse and hospitalizations.  To go to an OA meeting and hear people talking about their Higher Power nonstop… It didn’t seem like a good time.

But now things are different.  I’ve been stabilized on Clozapine for over 3 years.  No longer am I triggered by people talking about a Higher Power.  Instead… I can figure out my own.  While I’m an atheist, or perhaps agnostic, I have devised another way:

My Higher Power is Artistic Expression.

Indeed, when I write, or compose songs, or perform… I feel that I tap into a part of my brain, or even a sort of “energy” outside of myself.  People call it Intuition, or the Muse.  All I know is… I am a creative person, and sometimes I feel a sense of wonder about how a song writes itself.  Or an essay.  A poem.  Sometimes I look at performers, and I am in awe of how they ply their craft.  How do they do that?

Overall, since joining OA, I’m listening to music more.  I’m realizing that the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan are my … bible?  Dare I say?  I just love that stuff.  I listen to it now while working out, and I am entranced.  I am physically stronger suddenly!  I’ll likely tire of the melodies soon, given that they’ve been the stuff of my life since high school.  Perhaps I’ll investigate other theatrical works composed by Sullivan, or else I’ll find his instrumental works.  Eventually I want to get into Shakespeare.

One day at a time.