I signed a lease for an apartment in Cambridge last week! While I felt relieved after receiving the final confirmation email, the stress about moving itself soon sunk in: I have so much random sh*t strung about every nook and cranny of my apartment, I lack any sense of where to obtain boxes to pack this random sh*t once I get it together, and I still need to figure out how to attain furniture for my new place. I have told my friends over the past week or so that I feel stress adjacent – not stressed, because of my intensive use of emotion regulation strategies, though approaching stress, because moving blows.
On one level, I think I may feel stress adjacent because of just how much logistical effort moving entails. However, today, I made a to-do list of sorts to orient myself. Figure out where to get boxes. Ask about the parking situation at your apartment complex. Get rid of old clothes. Make a plan to procure furniture. Find a new hair stylist in the Boston area. Sacrifice your values and seduce a rich man of color to finance your life so you can afford a 1bed/1bath right on the Charles River, an apartment filled with books and far from the man himself.
When I paused to self-reflect on my stress adjacency today, I thought about the urgency I felt throughout my childhood. Continue reading →
I had stopped seeing my therapist L in 2017. After two years of therapy then, I felt I had grown a lot, such as learning to communicate more directly instead of passive aggressively, to tolerate my more intense emotions, and to process my traumatic childhood. However, elements of our work together still felt unresolved. In particular, I still questioned at times whether L cared for me. Though a skilled therapist, he had not been a particularly nurturing one – which he himself said multiple times – and I wondered what that meant for our therapeutic relationship.
When I saw him last week, I made a comment about how I write about him on this blog. Continue reading →
This week I visited my old undergraduate college. I decided to go see my little cousin who attends that school now; at one point I promised her I would, and I figured better to do it now than when I live a ten hour drive away in the Boston area. About a week prior visiting I reached out to my former therapist L to see if we could meet to catch up and talk a bit about our therapy work together.
I had talked with my current therapist about whether I should reach out to L. Some of my old concerns about L and I emerged – would this come across as too needy, will he think of me as annoying – though I also felt that as a 26-year-old with almost 900 clinical hours under my belt, I was more prepared than ever before to talk about our therapeutic relationship and to address some of my unresolved questions about it. When I reached out, he replied soon after and said that it was good to hear from me and that he would be happy to talk.
It felt surreal stepping into L’s office, the same office I had seen him in five years ago. Continue reading →
A desire I felt ashamed of: I had wanted my first long-term therapist L to attend my college graduation. When I stood on the auditorium stage receiving an award in 2017, I thought less about the work I had put into my academics over the past few years and more about the effort I had spent in my therapy with him. I felt fine that L had not attended, though I had always perceived my desire to see him there as too needy or too much in some way.
“I totally get why he couldn’t attend, because of ethics and stuff,” I said to my current therapist over Zoom a few weeks ago. I had never told anyone about wanting to see L at my college graduation before this. “I feel some shame though that I had wanted him there at all.”
“Thomas, it’s completely normal and makes sense that you wanted L to be there,” she said. “You two really cared for each other.”
Oh my goodness screaming: I matched at H*rvard Medical School for my final year of my Psychology PhD program! The email arrived in my inbox at 5:06AM yesterday, right after I rolled out of bed and brushed my teeth in my Seattle hotel room. I feel excited because this position focuses on conducting therapy and research related to serving marginalized and vulnerable populations in the Boston area, which aligns so well with my values.
In some ways this match process reminds me of when I graduated from undergrad in 2017. Continue reading →
The other day I spoke with an older Gaysian guy I respect. He first gave me some advice about my Psychology residency application process, and our conversation later turned to topics such as the political roots of queer Asian men’s romantic desires. He expressed some ideas about white supremacy and transracial adoption I hadn’t yet put into words, which I appreciated.
At one point, though, as we talked about how internalized racism may motivate fellow Gaysian men to date white men, he said something along the lines of: “well, if gay Asian men don’t have any other options around them, is it their fault to be with a white man even if he’s basic or a fetishizer? It’s like Peeta and Katniss from The Hunger Games, it’s not like they had a choice to kill other people. I’m not saying it’s the ideal scenario, but if gay Asian men don’t have other options, I’m not sure I blame them.”
I want to make it clear that I do not think this older Gaysian himself endorsed the idea of Gaysian men settling for white men (just in case this Gaysian somehow happens to stumble upon this blog post, I think you’re rad and cool and otherwise wouldn’t have reached out to you!) However, I felt struck by the logic underlying this analogy, that not having any romantic prospects removes you of your agency to the same extent as being forced to kill other people against your will by a totalitarian police state. And yet, I have heard the same sentiment uttered by a less rad older queer Asian man who is now engaged to a white man who couldn’t hold a conversation on his own when I met him, uh yikes, that it’s not about if you’ll settle, it’s about who you’ll eventually settle for.
What strikes me as most bizarre about this idea that you have to settle for the romantic prospects in your geographic area, is the implicit notion that you have to settle for a romantic prospect at all. Continue reading →
Growing up, I always felt scared of what my mother. One moment I would walk by her as she leaned against the kitchen counter, eating tiramisu with a smile on her face, and the next I would hear her screaming my name in anger because she didn’t like the way I set my shoulders. Throughout my childhood I prepared myself all the time for her to berate or yell at me for hours.
“Your accomplishments are pretty amazing,” my former therapist L told me, a few years after I had left my childhood home for my undergraduate studies. “It’s kind of like pillars. For a lot of people, when one pillar gets knocked down, a lot of their other pillars fall too. But not for you.”
L said this to me when I told him I maintained a 4.0 GPA, at the end of the semester that my PTSD obliterated my mental health. I think he wanted me to take some pride in my academic performance even though a bunch of my friendships had fallen apart a few months ago and I had just finally managed to get ahold of my panic attacks. I probably shrugged, saying something like yeah, well, school’s kinda always been whatever for me, so.
My most recent year or two of therapy has helped me see this past conversation from a different, or at least deeper perspective. Continue reading →
“Sometimes you see the world in black and white,” my former therapist L said to me, in our last session together way back in May of 2017. We had already reviewed the ways I had grown in our two years of seeing each other, and he stated this black and white comment as an area for me to maybe explore further after our final session. At the time, I thought something like hm, that’s interesting. It’s not that I disregarded L’s feedback – in fact, I valued it quite highly – it’s just that this one comment didn’t resonate much with me in that final session four years ago.
Several nights ago I had a dream in which one of my former professors from undergrad told me that she had started seeing my old therapist, L. When I interacted with this professor in real life several years ago, I could sense that she possessed unaddressed mental health issues. So when she told me in the dream about seeing my former therapist L, I felt happy for her, though a bit confused that we spoke about this topic while standing in one of the large, open bathrooms of my childhood home. The dream then shifted to me standing alone in an empty hallway with blue carpeting. A single showerhead jutted out of the wall, and I washed my blonde hair and saw it turn purple. As water continued to pour onto my scalp, purple hair dye ran through my fingers, the original black and the newer blonde strands nowhere in sight.
When I woke up, I knew right away that my former professor represented my mother. Continue reading →
“You can name your emotion as an emotion,” my therapist L told me, in one of our first sessions six years ago. I showed up in his office beat up and bruised, at least on the inside: a close college friend and I had broken up a few months prior, my friendships with a few folks from high school had imploded, and I was experiencing mental breakdowns in several different buildings on campus. I asked L how to cope with emotions that felt overwhelming, and he directed me to an exercise called cognitive defusion, which I started to enact alongside mindfulness meditation on a daily basis. I practiced these mental health techniques rigorously, often multiple times a day, and in conjunction with weekly sessions with L, my PTSD symptoms started to dissipate.
Flash forward six years later to now: I have spent over 800 hours in L’s position, as the clinician sitting across from the client. Continue reading →