How We Discuss Mental Illness

I do not typically like to make statements about anything unless I have spent some time doing my research. By research, I mean reading books, watching documentaries or shows, or literally researching on the subject I am currently trying to understand. I have just finished the second season of 13 Reasons Why and I watched these two seasons with caution, as I have struggled and still do struggle with my own mental illness. I have not actually read the book that the television series is based on, because I don’t want my stepdaughter to get ideas as she struggles with mental illness as well. Of course, she can still get the ideas from the television show, but our only TV is in the living room (next to our room), and thus makes it harder for her to watch the show without our knowing about it.

13 Reasons Why caused an uproar even before the first season was aired on Netflix. Many strongly felt the show can cause more harm than good, while others felt the television show was a great resource to start a dialogue. The intent to start a dialogue was what sparked my curiosity in the first place.

I do agree with Selena Gomez’s main idea: the dialogue about mental illness does need to take place for everyone to better understand that these are genuine diseases. Most people in countries across the world are scared to talk about this subject because these are sad and dark topics that have to be discussed. While most people are scared to talk about the subject of mental illness because they simply do not understand, think about the people who do suffer with mental illness—they are unable to cope with the emotions and/or traumas that come with their illness because they don’t understand it either and that is scary.

I do not agree with the show being the best source of starting a dialogue about mental illness. While it was not the book or the show’s intent, Hannah Baker’s use of 13 tapes can glamorize a sense of blame to be placed on others for those who are suicidal. The intent for these tapes was to emphasize that there are stories we do not get to hear from those who have succeeded in committing. That is the idea: everyone has a story. Hannah Baker struggled with depression, acceptance from her peers, was bullied harshly, and searched for love in all the wrong places. She describes every average teenager. In her tapes, she calls out thirteen people she feels held the most weight in her suffering. This is where the intent of the book and television show can easily be misconstrued. Hannah Baker’s intent was not to make those thirteen people feel awful, but to remind them that she has a story, too. Unfortunately, most teenagers (whom the book and television show was intended for) will not understand this, and suicidal teenagers will feel this is a great source to place blame on others for their pain.

The second season mostly takes place in the court room, between Olivia Baker and Liberty High School. The show highlights a good point: who will take ownership when a child is lost to suicide? Olivia Baker points her finger at the school, and the school points theirs at her. The idea here can be easily lost as well, unfortunately. Some people will say that Andrew and Olivia should have been more invested and should have done better to pick up on the signs that led to their daughter’s death. Others will say the school should have done more, such as listening the first time when Hannah called out for help (and she has done so twice). The idea here is parents, the school, the church, friends, and other people who are highly involved in that person’s life are to be on the same team. When something is not right, we all need to jump into action to keep someone struggling from falling farther away.

I became more concerned with the last half of the second season, as I easily called the direction the show took with character Tyler Downs. This choice took an uneasy journey of blending bullying, assault, and the beginnings of attempted premeditated murder. While I can see the connections on how all of this would take place, I abhorrently disagreed with how they handled this. The students have recently experienced a tragic experience of Hannah Baker committing suicide and they are within the midst of the stress and trauma that can come with court, the producers introduce Tyler as a would-be gunman that would shoot up his fellow students. I think this was done in poor taste, especially given the most recent circumstances of school shootings. While yes, students should offer help and compassion towards each other, especially when someone’s life seems to be spinning out of control. Clay’s attempt to disarm Tyler emphasizes the attempt of Walk Up not Walk Out a couple of months ago that I strongly believe would bring no change.

The last handful of gunmen who shot up the most recent school shootings do suffer from various kinds of mental illness, some of which are far different than the mental illness that Hannah Baker has struggled with. I feel the show took a giant leap towards sensationalism for the sake of television rather than really thinking through the poor message they were portraying. Tyler Downs did not suffer the same kind of mental illness as many of these gunmen from the recent school shootings—he suffered blatant bullying and isolation due to some poor decisions. This paints the picture that if kids are just nice to each other, then these kinds of things would not happen. The gunmen from the recent school shootings suffered from various illnesses such as anxiety, depression, personality disorder, and others. This is not to say that kids who experience bullying will not lash out, because the possibility is there. However, given with recent events, the production cast did a poor job in recognizing this and made Tyler out to be some monster given the situation he was in. The end of season two portrays a type of Walk Up scenario, which seems to save Tyler’s life. The problem with this in real life, had any of the previous gunmen had a friend to try to talk them down, would have most likely been killed and the results of the school shooting would have still been the same.

Discussion about mental illness is serious, and we all need to be educated about what to expect, what we may see, and how to address the problem and/or help the situation. This was what the show meant to do, and we as a society should talk about it openly. However, the show allowed sensationalism get in the way of what is most important.

Advertisements

Little Gifts

I am overcome with a swell of emotions. A year ago, I was told the possibility of my becoming a mother was slim-to-none and here I am looking down at my month-old daughter.

A year ago, I was angry at the diagnosis I am stuck with for the rest of my life. I was angry that my Polycystic ovary syndrome affects every aspect of my life. I was angry that I was starving and have to work harder than the average person to lose weight and be extra picky over what I eat because it is that much easier to gain weight than to lose. I was angry to be crying all the time, because I needed hormone pills to regulate what I was lacking. I was angry to lose complete control of myself and I was taking it out on my husband by making him feel just as miserable as I, because my body couldn’t do the one thing it was intended to do: reproduce. For the first time in a long time, I wanted to die.

It took some time before I became numb, and some more time before I accepted that I may remain childless. I was in disbelief when my doctor’s nurse told me I was pregnant when not just three and a half months ago, I was informed of my condition. It took seven weeks of pregnancy to see the little spot on the ultrasound that there was a baby inside me, but it took twenty weeks of pregnancy before it sunk in that my husband and I were really having a child together.

The test I endured most during those three and a half months was not whether I could have children, but whether I would have children during the time frame I wanted. I was often reminded that it was on God’s time and His alone, and it took time to be wholly accepting of that. I’m still rendered speechless looking at this sleeping little baby in my arms and over the last year, and I’m reminded to hold onto faith when it feels there is none.

The Sheep and the Goats

I don’t normally speak about political issues as I do not enjoy getting into arguments with people who would rather demonize and criticize another instead of actually having a civil debate, but I’ve been feeling something put on me to speak on a subject in particular. Should the United States allow the entry of Syrian refugees? I have been absolutely disgusted by the posts I’ve seen on Facebook and that comments I have heard, especially by those who are my Christian brothers and sisters. While I don’t discuss political subjects, I am compelled to speak up about this one.

Americans are demanding a vetting process as they think people from other countries can claim the refugee status and walk right into the country. This is absolutely silly as we have a vetting process already in place and it is a stringent one. Every year, the United States accepts refugees. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. The process for refugees to enter takes 18-24 months before they are even allowed into the country. The White House even shows the process refugees must undergo before they can even enter the country. Why are we complaining about this then? It’s nonsense. People are afraid that terrorists can be disguised as refugees and enter our country to do more harm. Let’s think about this for a moment: if the process is as strenuous as it already is, and can take 18-24 months before a potential terrorist can enter, why would they go through lengths to enter the country this way? They wouldn’t. Why? It’s asinine. A terrorist would have an easier time getting a travel visa. Let’s discuss another term that comes with becoming a refugee in this country. Once a refugee has been admitted, they must now enter the process of getting a Green Card. A green card for non-American citizens allows to work in our country and to be assimilated into our culture. The background check for a green card application is also stringent. These people already have to climb multiple mountains just to be in the country and the American people are up in arms over nothing.

Americans are outraged that refugees may need some help, like the need of welfare. For refugees to receive welfare, they would have needed to be living in the country and working for at least five years. A big factor many overlook about welfare is it is not for anyone. Welfare is for children. There is also a limit to how much welfare a family could receive as well. What is upsetting is the stereotype that comes with families on welfare: they must be lazy. People often overlook that families are beyond overworked and still are not receiving enough to get by and welfare is sometimes the only option to feed their children. Of course, there are people who abuse the system, but all of the constant negativity is doing nothing but hurting those who need it the most. I am working three jobs, am now pregnant and my husband and I are barely getting by. Those negative comments hurt me and my husband while we are bending over backwards to earn an income and we’re struggling. I have a masters degree and my husband has three (nearly finished with a fourth), and we are not getting paid nearly the amount we deserve to be paid for our educational backgrounds. Surprised? You’re probably thinking that this must not be right. This is reality. People insist on judging people like us anyway. However you want to look at this, those refugees (or not) are struggling, too. My husband and I are no different from the low-income family and the refugees that are in our country right now. We are all struggling and God forbid you should extend a helping hand, even if that means helping us by giving us the food we should be able to have to survive by means of government help.

Americans insist that we cannot help refugees because we have a homeless problem right here in our country. What I find rather interesting is the introduction of social programs for the homeless in our country, but the Conservative group is completely against it. What are we supposed to do about the homeless in our country then? People are up in arms about refusing refugees because of our homeless problem but they are not willing to do anything about it.

What is a refugee, by the way? Ref – u – gee, noun, is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. Let’s think in terms of a terrorist. If you were a terrorist, would you want the people you are persecuting in your country to leave? Probably not. Why? A terrorist is more likely to hold hostages in order to get what they want. The fact that these refugees are fleeing their homes hurt the terrorists. By not allowing refugees to enter the country, you are helping the terrorists. You are helping the terrorists by withholding hostages under their power. You are helping the terrorists with your xenophobia (noun, intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries). You are letting the terrorists win because you are scared.

I am going to end my blog with an excerpt from the Bible. I am not going to make any comments about the excerpt as I think it speaks for itself. I wish for you, my reader, to think about this, especially if you are Christian.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the na tons will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on the right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire pared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did to help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46, NIV).

Hormones and Fertility

My battle with PCOS has been a tug-of-war. Whenever I think pulling hard enough and that I am winning, I’m just yanked back. I’m failing.

I’m exhausted. The hormone pills prescribed to me puts me in such a rage that I am unable to control. I’m constantly hitting the acceleration pedal and then hitting the brakes. This behavior has been stressful for my husband as it has been tiresome for me. On top of that, my doctor has doubled the dose of my fertility medication, which has drastically increased my moods. My most recent episode ended with the start of hypoxia and a plea for my husband to not abandon me. He never would but the fear was so real.

I’ve found it increasing difficult to be excited for friends who have discovered news of their pregnancies. Of course, I am happy for them, but I soon wish to avoid them at all costs. Their excitement always leads to my disappointment in myself, that I am not functioning as I should as a woman. Another fear has set in that I will be barren and this has fogged up any light. I pray and try hard to be positive, but how am I supposed to stay positive when I am just falling apart? I am broken.

Unravelling

I have polycystic ovary syndrome. It started with a routine appointment, followed by a concern of my not having a period in almost a year. There were blood tests (for diabetes, my thyroid, among other things) and two ultrasounds. My blood work came back normal but my ultrasound revealed a ring of pearls that confirmed my PCOS. Dr. Chen said pregnancy was not impossible but it will be extremely difficult. “You may as well start trying now. It’s pointless to wait, seeing how long it may take.” I don’t think I’ve ever felt my heart sink so low. Dr. Chen prescribes progesterone, and so far, it’s working: my first period in nearly a year comes with force. It lasts ten days and I was already over it by day four. I have to drop a minimum of twenty pounds, immediately. My doctor also prescribed fertility medication that I am not to take until I learn whether or not I am ovulating, after I lose the required weight.

I have been on edge. One moment, I am soaring and the next, I am trying to piece myself back together through tears but am failing miserably. Robert keeps shouting that I am not broken, but I certainly feel it. I feel my body has betrayed me in such a way that I feel like giving up on everything. Robert tries to calm me down. He cups my face in his hands and tells me that everything will be all right, but I can’t see anything but his blurry outline and I can’t believe him. “Pray.”

Pray.

I am shouting. Why me? It isn’t fair. Why must life goals be much harder for me than for the friends I have? I feel punished. This has been a vicious cycle, and I’m exhausted.

I pray, and I am not praying for what I need most. I pray for children on my time, and the more I think about ‘my time’, the more I break. What I need most is peace. Not being able to know what will come in six months or even six years is scary and it’s difficult to break myself of the thought. I am doubting and I know I shouldn’t be. I am just barely hanging on.

Questioning Paths

The judgment I receive in regard to my choices in work field is incredible. The judgment has been more recognizable since accepting a job with Starbucks after graduating with my masters degree. It is so easy for those who have had a stable job for years and are currently doing financially well to say it was the choices I made that place me in my current situation or that I am not trying hard enough. It is upsetting. Surprisingly, the judgment I receive does not come from strangers but from family and close friends.

Why aren’t you using your degree? Are you looking for jobs in your field?
Isn’t working for Starbucks demeaning given your educational background?

What is interesting is why I am asked this. These are silly questions. Of course I want to use my degree, to have a career in my field. No, working with Starbucks is not demeaning given my educational background. I just want a job to pay the bills and to eat. Why aren’t you trying? What makes one assume that I haven’t tried, that I am not trying? During my masters program and shortly after graduating, I have applied to related fields in publishing and adjunct/tenure-track English composition instructor positions. None of of these jobs have selected me for hire, let alone have called me for an interview. I believed Spokane was a source of some of the problem (and it still is), as there are only three universities and two community colleges and not many career opportunities. This pushed my decision to look in Western Washington, where the universities and community colleges are plentiful. I accepted the job at Starbucks to establish my residence on this side of the state while looking for work in my field. I have since then researched and applied for any open position in the local colleges. This answer is not enough for the people questioning my decision.

It is a common thought for the generations before my own that jobs in today’s economy are plentiful. They refuse to accept that this is far from true. Some of the collegiate instructors who currently hold onto these positions which my colleagues and I are interested in, are of elderly age and insist on teaching. While there is nothing wrong with having a love for literature and wanting to teach in hopes to inspire a love for literature in a student, there is a line to allow the next generation to continue on with instilling that love for literature to the next generation as they have done for us. Most universities and community colleges also ask for experience before they are willing to hire for these positions. This is acceptable, but what is one supposed to do in the case for being inexperienced simply because of lack of instructor-type internships (or lack of time to do these internships) at the university in which they studied? This is my problem. I can teach. Granted, I have only taught one quarter at EWU, but I have other work experience that gives me an authoritative edge that is required for teaching. I can only hope the universities and community colleges I apply to will consider that.

I blame Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to some degree as well. STEM are the desired fields in today’s economy and this is also true around the world. Do not get me wrong, these fields are necessary. These fields are what have driven the world to its current state with technology, medicine, etc.. We need these fields to continue on. However, while these fields grow, society puts a stigma on the liberal arts, especially English. The general public tends to forget that we strive on language. Language is what drives STEM. They believe it is not so. If that weren’t the case, then why do these fields focus so heavily on research and write research papers, read those papers and write reviews based on that research? Language is what we also are to learn from. Language goes as far back as pictographs, the drawings on the walls left behind by cavemen. History! How are we to move forward if we cannot read and understand our past? For these reasons, it is beyond me why I am often told I have chosen a path that is wrong, lacks ‘real’ money, and has no relevance to our society. I beg to differ. We are setting ourselves up for failure if we continue to oppress the importance liberal art plays on STEM. Not only do we lose understanding of our past, present and future, but we then lack the ability to question.

As for the question as to which why I chose poetry and not money, that leaves me to question you. Why is it that you need money in order to be happy? I have everything I really need. Reading and writing poetry is just the cherry on top of my ice cream sundae. I have no regrets.

Snipping

Sometimes the hardest decisions are necessary. I have been questioning if whether I’ve made the best decision recently: cutting my mother from my life. I am neither rejoiced or saddened by the decision. What I feel by this decision is strange and I cannot quite describe it. I believe this stems from the lack of relationship my mother and I had. Blood seems to be all we share. We have never known each other as mother and child should, we’ve never bonded, and honestly, I do not think love has ever been there at all. If love has, it has never been genuine.

My decision to break ties with my mother comes from our most recent argument. She hates my husband and always has. There’s no real reason for it either, as she cannot make up her mind as to what she hates about him. She’s given me many excuses but all reveal nothing to really hate. Our recent argument came up Thanksgiving day. She texted me photos of her new husband, his son and my younger sister gathered at her dining table, followed by a message of “Just missing you here.” It seems harmless but I saw a slight against my husband, as her way of excluding him from her family. I didn’t appreciate it but I let it go and wished her a happy meal. I put my phone away and continued my Thanksgiving dinner with my husband, stepdaughter, and in-laws. It wasn’t until minutes later that my mother informs me of my (Korean) cousin’s up-coming wedding in the Spring and asks if there would be a way for me to join the ceremony. While this is exciting, and of course, I would love to be part of my cousin’s wedding day, there is absolutely no way my husband and I can afford roundtrip plane tickets, hotel and meal expenses to Korea and back. I tell her this, hoping she’d understand. She does, of course, and says she would be willing to pay for my airfare, hotel and food expenses. I thank her but told her there is still no way for my husband and I to afford the expenses for his portion. I also don’t want to make the trip without my husband. It’s not that I need him to accompany me or that I would just die if he were apart from me (again). Korea is my home as I was born and grew up there, and I miss the country terribly. As much as I would love to go back, I want my husband to go with me, to see where I come from, where I lived, and to meet the Korean-side of my family. While my mother’s offer was nice, I wasn’t looking for a handout and declined the offer.

This is upsetting to my mother and here is why: she just wants me and my sister. I will not reveal the facts about my mother’s new husband and the events that led up to her new marriage, but what bothers me about this is that I feel like she’s trying to recreate her little family, to make up for lost time. Declining her offer sent her into a mad spiral where she felt it necessary to point out that she and my younger sister are blood (and therefore, should come before my husband), that I was born a Chong (not true, as I was born bearing my American father’s surname) and that I have not visited the graves of my grandparents (Koreans are superstitious, especially about ancestry) in years (which is not entirely my fault seeing as I cannot afford to visit, and I think they would understand or perhaps they are too dead to care). This didn’t just upset my mother but my younger sister as well, which caused her to butt in where it didn’t concern her and made comments she should not have (I’ll come back to this later). It got ugly, quickly, and I was already tired of it. It makes me wonder if this is a common problem for mothers, especially Asian mothers, to learn to let go. I have tried very hard to see this from my mother’s point-of-view, but the problem I face is that it is so unreasonable and selfish that I am unable to comprehend her point-of-view. I began speaking to my mother again in May, and on multiple occasions I have had to have a conversation with her about the fact that she’s not my immediate family anymore. She refuses to accept that my husband and stepdaughter come first and have now for the last four years, and she continued to disrespect boundaries.

I often wish my relationship with my mother was better. Girls should be able to look up to, speak to, trust/rely on, etc. with their mothers, which should create an outpouring of unconditional love. It saddens me to say I wish I had that with my own mother. It saddens me more to say I do not love my mother. It’s harsh, I know, but I don’t. I often wonder if this stems as far back the first few months after my birth, as my mother sent me away to my maternal grandmother and she missed all of those vital moments with me to begin to bond. I don’t know if it even matters. As far as I can remember, much of my younger years consisted of being in the care of someone else and as I got older, my mother chose other activities apart from me, always. When we were together, it was awkward and anger-filled. Always. I often wish my relationship with her was as close as she is with my younger sister. If my mother didn’t spend her time away from us, she would always choose my younger sister. This became even more so when we were teenagers. There was no room for me. I know this can be easily mistaken for jealousy, but it’s no where close. I’m not sure what to call it, honestly. It was easier to give up and allow the trenches between us to widen.

I didn’t respond to my mother the rest of Thanksgiving night as I wasn’t going to get sucked into another argument. I thought most of the night, and it took some time until I realized what was never going to be. My sister made every attempt to try to hurt me, by calling me names, throwing insults, whatever she could to make me angry (which she failed to do so because I am done being angry). I couldn’t help but think that if I had said something (or even the things I have said to or about my sister in the past), my mother has always jumped down my throat to never speak with such hostility and condemnation against my sister. My mother refuses to do the same for me, and my sister’s out-lash that night showed that my mother will never have my back and will never treat me equally. She won’t treat me the same in regards to how my sister and I treat each other, the time she will spend with each of us and will not respect the boundaries in which I live but will give the space of galaxies for my sister. The relationship was failing all over again. Perhaps it is easier to allow the remains to settle in the trenches.