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
“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
The other day one of my best friends found out that if you google my full name and the word “blog,” this blog shows up as the first search result. When she messaged me this, I freaked out a little bit. Though I feel confident and secure in myself and in what I share on this blog, I still got shaken up by the notion of someone within my “professional” circle stumbling upon these posts
especially my posts that involve strikethroughs and mentions of railings, anyway.
When I sat down and started to process my slight fear, I recognized that I felt concerned about people judging my competencies as an academic based on this blog. Continue reading
content warning: explicit writing about passive suicidal ideation
I thought about killing myself* for the first time in a while earlier this June. I did not have any active plan or means to do so. At the same time, I felt a lot of pain related to my attraction to men and wanted that pain to stop.
When I noticed these emotions, I googled a DBT worksheet about the pros and cons of engaging in self-destructive behavior and filled it out on a piece of paper I found lying around in my apartment. Continue reading
The other day I encountered someone whose behavior reminded me of my mother. They engaged in love bombing and projection, using compassionate words in a way that came across as coercive. When I recognized the similarity to my mother, I felt my body tense up and a slight fear uncoil in my stomach. I remembered how much my mother terrorized me day after day as a child and how little power I had to stop her.
I feel proud of myself because I chose to disengage. Continue reading
In 2019, I started a clinical placement at a community health center in a city near where I live. This upcoming May, I will end my time there and my relationships with the clients I have worked with for over a year. Because I feel that people in helping professions should practice consistent self-reflection and because I enjoy
over-disclosing about my various emotional experiences on the internet writing, I want to process what it feels like to say goodbye from my perspective, the clinician’s perspective. When I soak in my emotions about my impending goodbyes with my clients, I first think about the goodbye I experienced four years ago, with the first therapist I saw long-term, L.
When I reflect on my goodbye with L now, I feel a sense of calmness and serenity, that even though our work together felt difficult, I processed my PTSD and grew a lot as a result. However, when I reread the post I wrote four years ago right after our relationship ended, I remember all the emotions I experienced then. Continue reading
I like to think of myself as a pretty empowered person. While I recognize the importance of collective liberation over individual empowerment, I value my empowerment in terms of defying stereotypes about submissive gay Asian men. A few weeks ago, though, I found myself struggling to integrate this idea of an empowered self with another part of my life: the abuse and hurt people have put me through, especially my mother.
My angst reached a crescendo the day after my birthday, as I sat on my couch listening to “Break Free” by Ariana Grande. Continue reading
Three years ago, I felt abandoned by my therapist L. I remember curling up into a ball on his couch, a few months before I graduated from undergrad. I muttered something about wondering if he would miss me when I graduated. I felt a tight ball of shame in my stomach, like my desire for him to miss me marked me as too needy, or disgusting.
“Of course I’ll miss you,” he said. “I’ll miss you a lot.”
I struggled to believe L: to believe that he liked me, that he cared about me, that he wasn’t abandoning me. Continue reading
About a month ago I got dinner with a friend who I have known since high school. At some point the conversation turned to what it felt like to support me when my PTSD emerged for the first time during our undergraduate years together, about six years ago.
“Yeah Thomas, it was rough,” she said. “I remember I had to set super clear boundaries with you, because if I didn’t pick up the phone when you called, you’d freak out.”
When my friend told me this, I felt mortified. Continue reading
Over the past few weeks my PTSD symptoms have flared up fierce. Thoughts about losing control of my life and relationships run around and around in my head, I play back scenarios I starred in and emails I wrote and wonder if I should have done something different, I have horrible nightmares all the time, like one about a lion chasing and eating me on the street of my childhood home.
Today, PTSD struck me hard. Continue reading
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