Awesomely awesome (not really) obligatory “why, hello…” post!

Yay me, I can type! I have no idea how you got here or what you’re looking for but if you’ve been held hostage in hell (and really, who hasn’t…right? or is that just me…) then maybe I can let you know you’re not alone.

What is hell? Well, for me it’s coming from an abused childhood and finding myself in an abusive marriage. To a guy that everyone agrees is a Totally Nice Fella. Hell is having two children born with conditions that make raising them in Single Parent Mode (with said husband sticking his oar in every chance he gets) a challenge. Hell is living in the most ass-backward state I’ve ever had the misfortune to stick a pin into a map and move to.* Hell is being a together, positive, beautiful being diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and not even seeing that I had it. Hell is being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Alpha-1 COPD**, Meniere’s Disease, Social Anxiety Disorder and other fun-yet-undiagnosed goodies and having to try to deal with them without a support network.

My hell may not compare to yours. I’m not a competitive person so we’ll just say, “you win” if you read my version of hell and snorted, “I’ve eaten that for breakfast and still bring on more, wimp“. And maybe you’re going through hell and you feel you could never tell anyone that you feel you’re in hell because everyone would say, “but you have a perfect life, what on earth are you complaining for??” If you feel you’re in hell then that’s what your experience is and that’s your reality. The nice thing about living in hell is that it’s okay if it’s a subjective experience.

But, hey, remember the part where I said I was a positive person? I may be chained to a wall in hell but I’ve managed to make myself a little nest. Here is where I’m going to try to acknowledge and work out the hell, share some of the good things and survival tips I’ve learnt from all the wacky stuff that’s gone on in my life and try to find more of the sparklies and rainbows to keep me going. You know, hell is a pretty cruddy place but at least it’s toasty. Some days that’s all I have to hang onto to keep me going.

*that totally didn’t really happen that way.

**Alpha-1 COPD is the kind that lets lovely never-smokers like me suffer just like I’d been a 2-pack a day for life girl.

Dreaming of America

The other day one of my friends told me that one of his dreams is to go to America. I think that is a very common dream, isn’t it? Many people want to see America.

I’m always intrigued what makes them want to see America, though? What is it about America do you want to see? What do you want to do in the US? What do you hope to take away with you when you leave?

Do you long to see the Grand Canyon?

Go shopping in New York City or Rodeo Drive?

Cheer at an American football or basketball game in person?

See the White House or Capitol up close?

My life is always full of questions, why should this be any different, right? 

The people I talk to don’t really want to see any sights. They just want to see America. Again though, I wonder where they got an idea of America as an entity? 

From television and movies?

From a book?

From watching the news or reading a magazine?

Maybe even from a music video!

Overall, my friends tell me they want to just see what America is like. Eat at McDonald’s, go to Starbuck’s or the movies. “Hang out” like Americans do. In a way I think that’s a fun idea.I think it must be very easy to get an idea of America like a movie set. 

But I have to say…America is very, very different to your hometown in some ways. Overall, it is just the same. Big cities are big cities. American people are just like the people in your town, in your country. They go to work, they think about their lives, they have fun with their friends. There isn’t really anything magical or special about America that you do not already have. It’s just a change of scenery, a different language and a few cultural differences.

Underneath our skin colour, language, religion and habits, we are all just people, right? So I guess the happiest thing for people to visit America find is that Americans are people too. 

And that’s a very happy, good thing!

New vision, new glasses

Life is crazy hectic the last week. AH has appointments every week, I have been ill and in every spare moment I’m working hard to keep up with my Coursera classes. It’s been too long since I have had my eyes examined so yesterday, I made time to get that done. 

Place suspenseful music here…

It wasn’t the best news. My eyes are healthy.

But…

The doctor had to break the news to me…I have two different prescriptions for my eyes. 

In other words…it’s Bifocal Time for ばあちゃん ゆうき!!Even though I’m not a grandma, everyone can now call me Granny Yūki!

Honestly though, it’s not so bad. It’s not really a change. But some people get upset. It doesn’t matter if we get older as long as we have gained wisdom along the way, right? 

I will have to wait for my glasses, I’ll get them in about a week. I decided not to get bifocals right away, I will have two pairs of glasses, one for reading and one for distance. We will see how that goes! 

Is this me?

In doing an assignment, I’m asked to describe myself. I have an idea of what is expected of me. But I wonder why we don’t say who we really feel we are or who we’ve been led to believe we are.  Do I say I’m wounded? Imperfect? Remembering who I was meant to be? But I don’t say I’m amazing or unique or fascinating either even though I do believe that every human is incredible and has a story worth hearing.

What I usually reply is something like this:

Asian-American, mom, wife, vegan, Sociologist, Community & Educational Liaison.

But that sounds so boring. And I’m so full of rainbows, sparkles and *tings* that it’s hard to keep myself to the rules.

If I were to be more honest…

The world’s happiest mom

Hippie…feminist…peacebringer…”animal mom”

Japanese + Turkish + Spanish

optimistic

whole-hearted vegan

life-learner…unschooler…knowledge seeker

music lover

believer that we are the things we have in common rather than how different we may seem

champion to underdogs

inquisitive

unafraid

poor at maths! but working to not be!

Japanese and Taiwanese drama fan

love to play with and create beautiful and tasty meals

awed by the beauty in the world and people around me

love to laugh and smile

addicted to reading

enchanted by Bollywood films

Not a bad start…maybe I’ll find a way to fit some of that in my next assignment.

Coursera

I love Coursera. One day I woke up and realised I had it all wrong. I had forgotten the truths and had lived believing things that were just illusions. I forgot I had strength and power. I forgot that love comes from within me instead of being bestowed upon me. I forgot the most important truths I had been taught. Noble Truths. Sensible Paths. And I realised I had become a sad person who had lost spirit.

So I decided it was time to change that. Among the changes I started to make, I also went to a site called Coursera that offers free university-level courses to everyone around the world. Sounded interesting. I love to learn. And I’d been feeling rather…less than intelligent. Could I learn some things to improve my life? I signed up.

And passed my first course. Okay, this is good! Now for a challenge…I’ll sign up for a course in something I’m not so good in so I can challenge myself.

So I signed up for science. And I passed that too.

I signed up for a variety of courses and enjoyed them all. I learned so much and felt that I wasn’t letting my brain rot anymore. I even made some new friends. How cool is that?

It can be easy to forget that change is up to us. I was unhappy because I started to believe illusions. I forgot that the challenges I was facing could make me stronger, but instead I let them cripple me. The choice was up to me. Today the choice is up to me.

Who knew that something so small as taking a class could help me regain my focus?

I’m still taking courses and challenging myself. I’m taking classes in fascinating things like Greek History and Economics and Human Physiology. It’s never too late to keep learning new things or to challenge yourself!

A little bit about Meniere’s

There are much better places to get your technical info on Meniere’s Disease so I’ll refer you there. You can learn all about the tests, like how they put cold water in your ear just for the fun of it, yay! So while I’m not the medical expert, I do know how miserable it is to live with Meniere’s. I don’t constantly have the worst symptoms, but frequently there’s something going on to remind me it’s there. For me, it’s a disease with “flares” so there are definitely worse times than others.

The last few days I’ve noticed a flare coming on. Some doctors compare Meniere’s with Migraine ~ a neurological condition that very little is known about. There are technically only four recognized symptoms, but if you talk to people with Meniere’s you may see a pattern with anecdotal symptoms. Headaches, fuzzy head/brain fog, eye movements/tics, etc.

Here’s what I’ve been feeling:

My brain gets woozy. I don’t think so well. Sometimes I have to re-read a sentence because simple words do not process in my brain. That’s frustrating. I also have to work harder at finding the correct words I want to use. This combo has the effect of making me feel really STUPID! 🙂

Headaches. My head tends to ache more during these events. I don’t know if it’s related to my woozy brain or not but it’s not fun!

Slight dizziness. This isn’t the full-blown vertigo that comes with the flare. This is just slight episodes of dizziness, perhaps when I focus on something too much or sometimes just sitting here.

Ear discomfort and sounds. I generally have problems with tinnitus. It sounds like static from a radio station. Low static, but when there’s nobody around and all is quiet, there’s always this sound. When I’m heading for a flare I will also notice that my ears feel “uncomfortable”…ummm, not really able to describe it, I guess I could say it’s like there’s a tiny bit of pressure in my ears or something like that.

When I hit a flare, the symptoms get much worse. I will have constant vertigo (spinning) regardless of whether I’m sitting, standing, or trying to sleep. Sometimes it’s much worse to even try to close my eyes. With the spinning, I get terrible nausea so eating is difficult. Sometimes I have to hold onto a table or chair if I try to walk.

My ears feel pressure, like when you’re flying or your ears are plugged.

I can experience a great drop in my ability to hear.

My eyes develop tics which can make reading or watching things a fun challenge!

I often have palpitations. While palpitations and eye tics are not symptoms of Meniere’s, I and many others do have these symptoms. Whether it is Meniere’s-related or we have an altogether different condition, I don’t know. But knowing that the palpitations aren’t anything apparently heart-related helps to know.

But, like with anything else, there are good challenges in living with a condition like Meniere’s. I’ve learned to balance my time better. To be more patient with myself. To give myself more time when doing my lessons. Generally, I am quick in my lessons but during flares I understand I have to take a bit more time to keep up. I’ve learned to be better prepared, don’t slack on my lessons or work that needs to be done when I’m able to do the work! Continue to keep my home tidy and things I use often within reach. I always keep foods that are easy to eat around in case of flares. Carrots (my favorite!)  Miso. Rice for rice balls. Fruits like banana, strawberries and mikans. Senbei for senbei and tea. American-style rice cakes. Tea and barley soymilk.

It’s difficult to live with a condition like Meniere’s but like the rest of life, if I choose to see it as a challenge I don’t get so distressed by it.

StigMa, Ta!

Unlike a holiday to Disney, those of us who visit AbuseLand aren’t in a hurry to brag about our experiences. We don’t get wacky hats. We don’t even get a cute t-shirt. *sadface*. What we do get is a bucketload of shame and fear when it comes to talking about our experiences. Being abused means there is something inherently wrong with you that makes you deserving of the abuse. It means you probably come from a low-class, uneducated, trashy family. It means that you’re not the kind of person anyone should trust.

As an adult, admitting you’re in an abusive relationship is akin to admitting you’re defective. Stupid. Possibly lying (at worst) or attention-seeking (at best). Co-dependent. Masochistic. For some people, all they see about you forevermore is that you’ve been abused. No other status matters. No matter what I wear, how many additional letters I earn after my name, how awesome my kids turn out or how big my bank account is, to some people I will always be “that abused chick”.

Being open about being abused means being vulnerable. And most of us survivors hate feeling vulnerable. It’s not a comfortable place…and we thought we left it behind. But, and this is the tough part, it’s important to talk about it. There are a lot of us out there. Abused children. Abused spouses. Abused children who stumbled into abusive marriages.

We weren’t “looking for it”.

We weren’t “asking” to be abused.

And despite being the ones who are acted upon in this dynamic, we feel the shame so much that it can cripple us.

And that’s why I’m writing about my abuse. Because there’s maybe someone else out there who needs to hear that s/he’s okay. That there’s nothing to be ashamed of. That it’s time to get rid of the stigma. The more we open up and talk about abuse, people will see just how common this problem is.

To some people I’ll always be “that abused chick”, that’s true, the person I became as I grew up navigating abuse is still very much “that abused chick”. But I’m trying to learn to gather all the shards of me and form them into one person.

Survival Kit (part 1 of ???)

Oh but you never thought I started a blog to wail and howl about life, now did you? Rainbows and glitter are no fun on your own, I enjoy things best when I share. And…if you also are an experienced hell-dweller, then I know you have your down and no-energy days too. Anything that may bring a little smile to your face or help you make it through the day, I’ll try to share things that make me happy or help me survive too.

The first, easiest thing I can share is Veronica Walsh’s CBT Blog. Cognitive Behavior Therapy or Dialectic Behavior Therapy are extremely helpful for anyone who has suffered abuse. The negative talk and thoughts just become so much a part of you that you may not even notice it. Just becoming aware of the negative way you see yourself and talk to yourself can make a difference. It’s not easy, but it can be a lifeline. When I first realized that AH didn’t/couldn’t love me or take care of me it hit like a brick that the only person who could take care of me was…me. Trying to learn to take care of myself while thinking I was useless, stupid, worthless was kinda counter-productive. Not sayin’ that Veronica Walsh has all the answers, but it’s one very good resource to begin to change ingrained thought and language patterns.

Probably the biggest rainbow in helping me survive any day is music. I probably couldn’t express here exactly how much music means to me and how it has repeatedly saved my life. My taste is varied ~ some genres I have near encyclopedic knowledge of, others I simply enjoy what floats into my ears. There are few styles of music that I’m not keen on, but my mind is always open so anyone with serious suggestions, I’ll be happy to have a listen! My motor runs primarily on:

  1. Japanese pop ~ with a huge weak spot for idol pop~, rock & visual kei. Idol-wise, verything from Candies, Pink Lady, HikaGen, SMAP, News, Kis-My-Ft2 to AKB48 and Momoiro Clover Z. Everything else…too many to mention but let’s say Yuzu, Mr Children, SID, LM.C, Golden Bomber, BREAKERZ, Angela Aki, B’z, Fukuyama Masaharu and World Order keep my planet spinning.
  2. Late 1970’s – 1980’s (primarily) British new wave/alternative (but I also like US groups like Talking Heads and Blondie)
  3. Spanish-language pop & rock (Juanes, Gustavo Cerati/Soda Stereo, Julieta Venegas, Aleks Syntek..)
  4. Turkish folk & pop (Barış Manço, Sertab Erener, Mustafa Sandal, Ebru Gündeş..)
  5. Celticy, mostly Scottish Celtic like Capercaillie, Silly Wizard and Tannahill Weavers but Ashley MacIssac has also been known to get me to groove. Irish Celtic has its place too.
  6. Enka!
  7. A teensy weensy part of me has a very embarrassed Inner Disco Queen who thinks that ABBA were kind of cool. She only comes out when the moon is waxing gibbous though, so we’re mostly safe.
  8. Michael Jackson. I think it’s a Japanese thing?

So with all that music love, depending on the day there is always something playing in the background keeping me sane. My kids love karaoke games and I do love singing with them too. It often takes a lot to get past my shyness and sing into the microphone…why is it so different singing along to the stereo and singing into a karaoke mic??? Mostly I find that I feel a lot better when I sing too though.

Just a few tools in my Survival Kit, having a variety makes it easier to get through assorted days.