defragment.me

The hardest thing to do in life, is to be yourself

...Without worried about consequences, responsibilities, what others perceive of you, etc.

I had an epiphany today. I was thinking why am I perpetually feeling stressed out. I thought it was because I was trying to be myself. Being part of a minority in any given scenario is difficult. You get judged, accused, criticized, etc.

I realised a huge part of the stress doesn't come from being myself. It comes when I am actually trying to be like everyone else.

Some examples:

1. Trying to be a morning person. It actually made my insomnia worse, I had sleep anxiety, and needless to say, I woke up feeling extremely tired and eventually it resulted in me having a weakened immune system that makes me fall sick all the time. So must everybody have the same circadian rhythm? Why can't I just be one of those that is born to be nocturnal? Is it entirely impossible?

2. Trying to save up so I can buy a house and feel secure. This sets off a whole series of complications including trying to work more, or trying to convince myself to work on projects that may not be the right fit for me but was financially rewarding.

3. Being persistent. They say persistence will bring you success. Yup, but am not so sure about being persistent even if you're continually unhappy and letting your soul rot.

4. Trying to have a routine. Well, the gtd experts say establishing a routine gets things done faster. I would say it is true to a certain extent but...

Last night I read this book introduced to me by a twitter friend (I love twitter). I was lamenting how our brains shrink with age and he told me he recently read a book on the very same subject. Being curious, I bought it on ibooks and read it the very same night. It is written by a neuroscientist who is trying to find out why some people can be extraordinary – is it because their brains are wired differently?

Perhaps "wired differently" is a wrong choice of words. His research shows that certain parts of their brains respond differently to the same stimuli. The interesting thing is, he pointed out that our brain has become very energy efficient due to evolution. It is made to be the most efficient while using the least amount of energy. So, with time, our brains get trained to do the same thing very well over and over again. Which sounds nice right?

Unfortunately, it also means that the part of your brain that makes you achieve new sets of thinking (eg. ideas) becomes more and more unused. In short, you slowly become the snake that has lost its legs.

Extraordinary people somehow retain that ability to have new perceptions even they see the same thing over and over again instead of relying on the default mechanism of categorizing responses in accordance to past experiences. In order to retain this part of your brain, you have to keep exposing yourself to new things so that your brain continues to receive challenges (aka not to be lazy).

This explains why kids are actually quite imaginative and creative while people tend to lose that part of them with age. With experience, we tend to lose the ability to see things in a new light.

The book also touches on the point that people are instinctively wired to follow decisions of the group (aka groupthink). You don't want to be the black sheep or the odd one out, and you definitely don't want to risk being wrong. So in his experiments, even when individuals knew something was wrong, they would stick to the group-given answer because that is what the majority says.

Hmm.

It made me think a lot.

I love changes. I love to experience new things. People get stressed out when their routine changes or their life circumstances become different. I thrive on it. I realised, I don't get stressed out when I learn something new or try different things. I actually like it.

Yet in order to meet expectations of 'the group', I try as much as possible to stay the same.  I try to establish a routine, stay in the same job, save money, wake up early.

The stress comes from trying to please people who love me and knowing I dislike doing the things they expect me to. Trying to disown that part of me that is ironically my greatest gift and that makes me feel alive.

I am not saying that saving money is bad. But compromising on the quality of life in order to feel secure is bad. Or at least it is bad for me. I need to love everything I do. That's my greatest strength and curse. In fact at this moment, I am full of gratitude for falling sick repeatedly so I am forced to keep re-thinking my life.

On hindsight, it is of no wonder I am clinically depressed. I thrive on new experiences but for the past couple of years, I've been forcing myself to stay put because of financial worries. I force myself into things I don't want to do because it is "right and responsible". I tell myself to stick with it, that all pain is temporary and it will enable me to do the things I want to do in future. Yup, there is definitely a future if I carried on with the way I was living. A future where I see myself in a coffin.

It is one thing to try something repeatedly with continued persistence when you believe in it, but another issue altogether if it drains away your soul.

So, am I able to be true to to myself, concentrate on doing things that I love, live life the way I love? I am not sure if I am strong enough to do it. I feel a strong sense of guilt when I let people down, whether I believe I am doing the right thing or not. I go out of my way to avoid feeling that guilt, that explains the mess I am in now. I want to be someone that my loved ones do not have to worry about.

But I wish to try. To live in the now. To make sure every second is lived with complete willingness. I may not end up having a house but at least I am not in debt right? I believe life will have its own rewards (may not necessary be monetary) when you live it authentically. That to me, beats having everything and the approval of everyone but you cannot wait to die.

Depressed, for happiness

I think there is a huge misconception of depressed people. People think depressives are quiet, teary, incapable of humour, mopey all the time. Not many people believe I am clinically depressed, because if you were to meet me, I am as jovial and positive as a person can get. Do you know Robin Williams has/had depression too? Do you know Catherine Zeta Jones is bipolar? Do you know Abraham Lincoln was chronically depressed, even when he was the President of the United States of America?

I was a bit hesitant coming out publicly about my depression, because I was fearful it would make people think I was incapable of functioning. I just don't function the typical way people do. I get tired all the time, I find it hard to concentrate, I do slip into uncontrollable crying episodes, but when I am remotely well, I would like to think I am actually more productive than the average person.

Some days I feel fine, some days I can't even lift a finger. Recently it has gotten to a point whereby I was worried if I didn't do anything about it, it would eventually come to a point when I am truly incapable of functioning. It hasn't gotten there yet, but close. The days of feeling fine became far and few in between.

After a month of being on anti-depressants, I am glad to tell you that I am feeling a lot better, though still far from being well. I am also seeing my family sinseh to boost my general health, because altering your brain chemistry can only do so much. If your body is sluggish, it is just a matter of time that chronic health problems will surface no matter what western medication you can take. Recovering takes a lot of effort, patience and money. I read a depression memoir of this writer who had to run tens of kilometres everyday, practice yoga, take dozens of supplements PLUS her cocktail of anti-depressants, *just* not to feel like killing herself. She faces judgement everyday, even from a spa therapist, who thinks taking medicine is wrong and a few massages will do the trick.

I have learnt the hard way that in order to get better, it is a holistic effort. Just doing one thing alone is not going to help.

-

I have been thinking and reflecting. I have been coping with ups and downs of my moods all my life, I simply thought it was my personality for being emotional and melancholic. Until my shrink told me a medical term for it. I have been through dark periods of my life when I was literally suicidal, but I naively thought that was a thing of the past.

For the past four years ever since I turned self-employed, I have been living the life I have always wanted to lead. I was still coping with my mood swings, but I assumed that was just part of me. Until the past year, for some reason, I started getting physically sick a lot. By a lot, I mean like every month, which became a weekly thing, and then it became alternate days. How sick? I get migraines which makes me want to bang my head against the wall, I get nausea as part of the migraine, I get chest pains and of course horrible 2-week flus at some intervals.

It was affecting my work, my life and I didn't like it a single bit.

For some reason. For what reason?

Honestly till now, I have no idea. Is it because of overwork? Poor diet? No exercise? Pursuing the wrong kind of work? Wrong motivation for work? Because I wasn't living out my purpose? But what is my purpose? Am I living in the wrong country? Is Singapore energetically wrong for me? Because I have dozens of bills to pay? Perhaps the stress of having to break even every month as an independent worker? Society getting too materialistic? War for senseless reasons? The rental market in Singapore getting crazy?

I don't feel alive anymore and I hate it. I am actually getting sick and depressed because I want so desperately to be happy.

How can I truly be happy? It is about being contented? But does being contented mean I shouldn't push myself to be the change that I want?

What truly makes me happy?

Initially, I thought I was over-working myself. So I stopped, took on less work. Then, I thought, maybe I wasn't working enough on projects that I care about. I am interested in social change, so I started to meet more like-minded people, started to churn out ideas with them, how can we actually have sustainable online initiatives for social change? I wanted to use my skills to facilitate change. I built connections.sg, which in its current incarnation is not even close to 10% of my original ideal, there were a few more sites in the pipeline that I hooked up with a few precious like-minded people to work with – all for the sake of building the community and sharing knowledge.

I was very tired, but each time I meet someone who shares the same ideals, I feel inspired and alive. I thought I was on the right path. Do more of this and my sanity/health would slowly return back to me.

One day, I imploded.

Nothing exactly happened, but something in me just clicked and I was like having a blue screen of death in my brain and I was no longer able to reboot myself.

I was confused. Frustrated. Angry. Upset. Annoyed. Heart-broken. I felt cheated. I looked up above (yup despite all my feelings I still believe in a religion-less God), I asked, why? All I did was to follow my heart and do what I thought was right. Instead of getting better, I got worse.

I am sick and tired of fighting a battle all the time. What is it I have to do exactly to be happy? If happiness was too much to ask for, or if I didn't recognise happiness in its purest form, then how about letting me have some proper health instead? Praying every morning I didn't wake up with a migraine is not exactly my version of health.

I lost all my drive. I looked at books that I bought, on topics I used to love so much and I felt dead. I tried watching some movies and I felt dead. I used to love watching hongkong cantonese dramas and I didn't feel like it. I turned to watching sitcoms and they didn't make me laugh like they used to.

Crying when you're depressed is a good sign. At least it shows you still have emotions and you care about how you feel. When you reach the point whereby you cannot even cry, that is the time to be worried. Or at least I was. I am a crybaby and I don't even feel remotely sad. I just felt dead.

I wondered how I was going to pay my bills if I continued waking up with a migraine everyday. Then I decided that I couldn't care less, because if I continued my migraine pattern, I was as good as dead. Bills really don't matter when you would rather die. I thought about all the projects I was going to work on, the ones I was so excited about, and I felt guilty abandoning them. Then I realised what's the point when at this rate I was not going to be alive anymore? Obviously a dead person cannot effect change no matter how much guilt I feel. I forced myself to work an hour or so on my client's projects, because I'll rather be dead than to let my clients down, but I was going through the motions. I could technically still work for my work depends on a lot of logic and reasoning which I still possessed, but I couldn't do it for more than a hour at one go without feeling my brain was going to burst into flames any second.

I felt a lot of guilt for feeling dead even though I had tons of reasons to feel alive for. There are people starving to death for god's sake. But no matter how much I tried to reason with myself, I still felt dead.

That's what depression is about I guess. When your brain decides to stop transporting chemicals correctly, whether you have reasons to live or if you're rich or famous, you're incapable of feeling happiness.

What exactly did I do for my brain to break down in such spectacular fashion? I felt cheated because to me, I have tried my darnest to live a good life. I didn't know what else I could do. It is not as if I just lived like a slob or I didn't try hard enough. I felt like I have given my all and that was not good enough. And if that is not good enough, what else can I give? I might as well be dead.

-

Today, I feel much better with the anti-depressants, the sinseh medicine, plus some supplements I take. I exercise more and I try not to work too much. It has only been weeks since I felt like I was going to die. I still think a lot. I still wonder what exactly went wrong.

I realised that it could possibly be I was trying too hard to fix things. To be better. Happier. Feel more alive. My brain shutting down was not because of the events that transpired for the past few months. It was accumulative for years. Perhaps there wasn't an exact reason what was wrong. It was a cumulation of choices I have made. Do I regret making those choices? No. I believe I made those for a reason. I still retain faith that we all learn from mistakes and failures.

I tried too hard to change myself. So that I can be the change that I want. But sometimes everyone of us has our own time and space to grow. Perhaps you may think I am making excuses for myself. That's fine. I think it is okay to be judged by others because everyone has their own beliefs and opinions. But it is not okay to be your own worst enemy.

It is okay to fail. I don't know why we're all racing against some invisible timeline. It is as though if by 30 we don't achieve 'reasonable success', we're condemned for life. But why? How many successful people now have picked themselves through multiple failures? Me trying too hard not to fail, was ironically the reason why I failed. If I have gone more with the flow, trusted my own feelings and intuition, instead of always trying to do 'the right thing', perhaps things could be better. Perhaps. I wouldn't know unless I lived through it. And even if I lived through it, it may not be the right way for everybody. Because all of us are unique. We have our own stories to tell. Your way to success does not make mine.

Life should be enjoyable no matter the circumstances. I mean, I have read a memoir of someone who was imprisoned at a Nazi camp during world war II, lost all his family, saw plenty of people being tortured and dying, and yet he found the strength and meaning to be happy.

Not everybody has to be an activist or a change-maker. If you're into past-life regression like me, you may learn that not everyone is incarnated to lead purposeful lives. Some of us take uneventful lives in between for a break. There should not be judgement.

I comfort myself that authors like J.K. Rowling and Paulo Coelho went through tons of hardship before they became famous at 40. I remain hopeful, not to be famous, but to find something that I truly care about and do. Is it social change? I don't know. I am not sure if I am strong enough. Maybe it is not time yet. Maybe it could be in the next few months. Who would know? Maybe I would only find my calling when I am 60. So be it. What's with the obsession with age anyway?

I look at the people around me and I feel useless. Why can people around me work 20 hour days, do 20 things at the same time and still remain sane? I know of people who work two jobs and still find time to do social work. But I have to understand I am not them.

I believe I have the right intentions and heart, but perhaps I need more time to find the right balance between staying sane and trying to push myself to my limits. I have experienced burnout so many times that I think there is something wrong with me. But maybe not. Maybe this is my life I was meant to lead. Maybe I will never be well, and I could experience burnouts frequently for the rest of my life. So what?

Maybe this is me living my purpose. Being so sick that I have to write and share about it. I don't know. It doesn't matter I guess. As long as I learn to enjoy the process.

We cannot change the hand we're dealt with, but we can choose how we can play the cards. All the best.

Why I decided to see a shrink

Okay, a psychiatrist. ;p

I know there will be many people who think I'm being nuts (lol, ironically) or dramatic. Plenty of people tell me I'm fine, or I'm thinking too much. But none of them can be me. Nobody will actually know (unless you go through the same) how much I struggle just to live. On a everyday basis.

I used to think it was because of my emotional or psychological issues. Low self-esteem, unable to withstand criticism, fear of confrontations, lack of support, being misunderstood, couldn't find a purpose, life had no meaning, etc, etc.

I used to cry all the time, feel despair, thoughts that life is not worth living would cloud my head.

Now, ironically, I am living as well as I have ever been and I still feel like a piece of shit. I just cannot seem to feel joy. I feel perpetually down, even though there isn't much to feel down about. Still I try. I wondered if it was my health, my work, my lack of exercise, my diet – that I am feeling like shit. It could be all of the above. But the truth is, I honestly don't know. Maybe it is not one area but a holistic problem.

Two things are facts though. 1. I have a family history. 2. I have been experiencing low moods + energy for virtually all my life.

If that is the case, is there a huge possibility that this may really be a medical problem instead of a psychological one?

I am experiencing the time of my life and it annoys me endlessly that I can't seem to sustain enough energy to actually do things. There is really a huge stash of stuff going through my head, tons of ideas spinning around but I can't work for more than 2 hours at one go. My brain starts to feel unresponsive and if I overwork, I end up with a migraine.

I have been chronically depressed all my life but I think for the first time, I have been experiencing extreme fatigue for the past three years. I have had lifelong low energy as well but it is another thing all together when I am so tired that I cannot think. Maybe it is stress-induced burnout. I don't have the luxury to stop everything and do nothing for as long as I want (I think not many people can anyway).

Last year, I took a total of 3 months off. Went to beautiful beaches, peaceful environments. Didn't have to work much or cope with stressful deadlines. I felt nothing. No joy, no enthusiasm, no sharp intake of breath when I saw my favourite ocean. That was when I knew something was very wrong.

I hoped that I would get over it, but I didn't. I have tons of exciting ideas and projects lined up. My life is great but somehow I really don't feel great.

I've been doing a lot of self-initiated research about depression as a whole. Studies have shown that there is a genetic link and people are very likely to be predisposed to it. A lot about the human brain is still undiscovered. What they know is, when the brain is unable to transmit certain chemicals properly, brain function starts to break down and it creates a whole lot of problems. You don't only get mental disorders, but a whole load of physical health issues because everything depends on chemistry.

So ultimately it comes down to this. If my brain is truly wired the wrong way since birth, and I am trying to 'cure' myself by resisting medication because the mainstream popular thinking is 'mind over matter', then I am just being an idiot, isn't it?

I was quite worried that I'll end up like David Foster Wallace, who was chronically depressed, took anti-depressants and his life become a lot better and more productive, he tried to stop, and the same medication wouldn't work for him anymore. He killed himself.

If you read about his life, there is not much reason for him to kill himself. He had a loving wife, he was a critically acclaimed writer, he was able to do what he loved - write. Yet he couldn't live with himself. Every single moment of his life he was in so much pain.

I'll like to ask, where did the pain come from? Perhaps some self-inflicted. Very likely the brain just couldn't process pain in a typical manner. If I can think happy and try my darnest to be happy, but yet I feel horribly melancholic, then maybe I can consider the possibility that something could be wrong somewhere. Just like how some people are born with a hole in the heart. How come it is so difficult to believe that people can be born with a dysfunctional brain?

If my brain cannot function normally, then no matter how much talent, how much heart or how much work I am willing to put in, I cannot be happy. Not because I don't want to, but chemically it is impossible for me to feel happiness.

If popping a pill for the rest of my life can enable me to function, I will take that chance.

In the long-term, I hope to be able to raise awareness for mental disorders. It is definitely not 'all-in-the-mind' or not something people can just 'pick themselves up with'. The lack of peer and family support can drive people to suicide. Or abuse. To be honest I am a little worried how my clients will think if they find out I am chronically depressed, but this is the kind of social stigma I want to help reduce. If someone like me can't even be honest about my condition, what sort of hope is there for other people?

I still believe being authentic is the way to empower oneself and truly heal.

The official diagnosis is Dysthymia, and when I have major depressive episodes (yup, that's when I'm always weeping), they term it Double Depression. It is actually reassuring that the psychiatrist knew exactly what I was talking about. I looked healthy, happy, could make tons of jokes and laugh, but I simply cannot feel happy or have enough energy to accomplish things. I feel very comforted that he didn't judge me based on my happy outlook and projected enthusiasm – I get very excited when I talk about my ideas but sorry, still feel like crap.

I don't know how I can have so much desire to live and contribute to this world, yet still feel like a piece of shit. It is just a disconnect that is very frustrating.

I would like to re-iterate this for you kind souls who care enough to read. Depression is real. It cannot be judged from how a person behaves. The stereotype of those staring into air sorts is not conclusive for everyone. Tons of suicide cases do not exhibit signs at all. If some of us can be born with dysfunctional organs, then why not a dysfunctional brain? Just because it is part of the brain doesn't mean you can just will it away. I don't know why most people assume depression (and other mental disorders) can go away by a lifestyle change. The choices an individual make, his/her beliefs, perspectives are important to good mental health. The brain has to play its part as well.

I have this eternal question, is it genetic brain chemistry that causes mood disorders, or is it extreme stressful conditions that cause altered brain chemistry? Chicken and egg isn't it?

I believe in holistic or alternative healing, I really do. I do believe if I can have the time and space, I have the power to heal myself simply through other healing methods like yoga, acupuncture, TCM, meditation, energy work, etc.

But I really don't. Economic demands have dictated my choices in life. I try to make the best of it, but I do have tons of bills to pay, plenty of responsibilities to fulfill, expectations to meet. Despite my positive outlook and idealism, I do have a weak stress coping mechanism. Before I can even let my body heal naturally or learn yoga for example, I am already way too anxious to even have decent sleep. Many days I wake up with panic attacks and chest pains. Coupled with perpetual fatigue, this is like a time bomb waiting to explode. I cannot sustain the clarity of thought for my work, my work cannot even meet my own expectations, or sometimes I feel too ill to even work -> not working enough equates to financial instability -> mega-stress situation.

It is just a never-ending vicious cycle, because people with depression feels like shit, they can't do anything, and the inability to accomplish only leads to more negative feelings. Sometimes it is a matter of giving the body time and space to heal – continued feelings of despair will not allow that.

I have come to a point whereby I really want to live, and by living means spending every second of my life meaningfully, not feeling ill or down. I have tried to will it away, I have. I have avoided taking medication for all my life.

If you look at material on dysthemia, most people don't even know that they have this condition. That is so because they accept it as part of their life and personality.

That they will always feel gloomy. Always. They accept that they will never feel joy.

I do not want to accept this as my life.

Ironically, it is my desire to live that I am seeking help now. It is a gamble – anti-depressants are known to cause horrible side effects to some people. But I will take that chance. I have had enough of putting up with myself. Of blaming myself that I am the sole cause of my own unhappiness. Of feelings of self-perpetuated guilt that I am not strong enough to overcome this. Of feeling so much helplessness when I have major depressive episodes. Of my partner having to witness time and time again, my stream of never-ending tears while I crawl into a corner. Of all those moments I actually thought jumping off some roof seemed tempting.

I cannot be proud of anything much, but I am definitely proud that I want to live my life with purpose. I don't wallow in self-pity anymore (I used to when I was younger) and I am hugely positive about life (you can read my previous blogposts). If I am full of ideals, hopes and dreams and yet I cannot control my feelings of jumping down some roof...

Then I think that gamble is worth it.

And I really rather spend all that time coping with this, on something more productive. I am intrigued actually, that intellectually I am really fine, but somehow my brain is constantly trying to sabotage me. I have read plenty of suicide notes or personal accounts of depression, it is always heartbreaking to know that there are just so many people constantly fighting with themselves and the amount of despair that they feel. That they can never win their brains. You would never wish that upon your worst enemy.

I know things can go horribly wrong. But well, plenty of decisions I have made in my life could go horribly wrong as well. A 50% chance of experiencing life as a proper human being, is better than none.

I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.

Abraham Lincoln, discovered on an interview with Paul Albert on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Restarting from the bottom

I went through a series of events from the beginning of this year that made me ponder very hard about my existing life/lifestyle. I wondered about plenty of things that have been at the back of my mind all this while.

I wondered if it would make me happy if I didn't have to worry about money anymore.

I wondered if I would be happier if I was doing the best work.

I wondered about myself being emotional – I feel so much that it really makes me depressed sometimes – is this a weakness or a gift?

If everyone of us is truly unique and all of us have something to give to this world, what would mine be?

I believe I am emotional for a reason, I am the way I am for a reason.

During the past few months I have been through times when I cannot seem to pull myself up, even with all that I have known and learnt about life, I was just drowning and I couldn't keep my head above the water.

I think, all I wanted was to know, was that it was okay to be myself. To be weak, to cry, to crumble, to be unable to cope.

I think I have a split personality, the one that wants to live life in comfort and prove her worth through her work, the other who just wants to live life simply, be happy, be free, and give.

The gulf between the two has been causing me a lot of struggle lately.

Finding true freedom

I have worked very hard and I realise I have grown attached to what I have gained through working hard. I am afraid to lose it all and ironically I have stopped being free – when the original intention to be a solo worker was to be free.

There is no point in being financially free when the soul is not free. Mine is starting to wither and I know it.

I want to do something for people who are like me. Two main groups I guess – people who lead unconventional lives in our materialistic society, and people who struggle to cope with their own minds.

It upsets me when I get to know of people who have chosen to end their lives or lose sight of hope, because they are unable to cope with their minds. Whatever that is eating them up from inside. Empathy truly exists when you're one of them and you know what it exactly means by having issues with your own existence.

Our society doesn't readily accept people who refuse to conform to the mainstream and it is getting increasingly difficult (in some ways easier, though) for our younger generation. I think they too, just want to know that it is okay being different.

Coping with our own existence

And there are many of us who are struggling to cope with ourselves everyday, and they too, just want to know, that there are others like us out there who are struggling too, and will empathise. More importantly, there are many of us who continue to struggle and yet not losing sight of hope, or give up pursuing our dreams.

I know how it feels like to cope with my own existence. It is ironically a double-edged sword that has given me strength and the will to pursue my dreams, and yet sometimes it becomes so difficult that I truly feel like giving it all up.

A chance for a restart; if only you see it

Many times, it is eerily rewarding, because it pushes me right to the bottom and allows me to regain perspective of my priorities. Rising from the ashes, they say. Each time I come out of it, it makes me stronger, it allows me the courage to follow my heart, because if you get to the point when you realise you're about to lose yourself, all that fight for financial security or to gain approval (whether by family or society) becomes meaningless.

But what about the others who never managed to come out of it? One moment of desperation, one split second of despair, is enough. Not everyone has the chance to restart. Or know that they can restart.

I won't end my own existence, primarily because my personal spiritual beliefs tell me that I would have to repeat my lessons again anyway, but it doesn't make coping easier. And there's still tons of us who are not fortunate enough to be spiritually aware, or to have family support, or to find empathy.

I want them to know that they are truly not alone. I have some vague plans forming in my head, nothing concrete yet, but it is a start.

If doing the best work is not something that will make me happy, perhaps doing the best I can to aid a cause I am personally involved in, will make a difference.

Because I know, it is through helping others when you are helping oneself.

I won't seek to make a difference to tons of people, even if I find/provide empathy from/to one soul out there, I would have answered to myself.

Additional reading:
The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace

Quantum Touched

It is funny how life turns out sometimes. It is just not easy to see the humour in it when you're going through the process yourself.

A lot of stuff has been going on since I've last written over here. Most of it has been internal – within me. My intention when I first started this blog was to share how I had gotten over the darkest periods of my life. I have honestly believed that I have left those days behind me.
On the front, it seems like I have almost all I've ever wanted. I have a fairly stable solo business that enables me the freedom to work from anywhere I want (technically), I have a partner who loves me to bits and shares the same life goals, family issues that have plagued me during my youth were no longer existent.

I was not earning big bucks or that I can afford to relax and be stress free, but come on, it is not as if I have some life-threatening situation or like I am working to cover a mountain of debt.

But I just was not happy.

And I simply grew increasingly unhappy. So unhappy that I kept having mental and emotional meltdowns on a frequent basis. The scary part was that I do not even know why exactly am I so unhappy.

I still feel blessed and grateful for all that I have, but somehow, something is just wrong somewhere. Perhaps I knew what was wrong, but I was just in denial. I had written about what could be wrong on this blog before, but somehow I thought that I may just fix it with sheer bull will.

Burning out for a reason

I wrote a post a while ago after falling into a drain, that I had felt strongly about pursuing 'the other path'. I remember back then that I decided that I should let my current work take a backseat and go all out to pursue what they call 'lightwork'.

That decision somehow fizzled out because I had to relocate my residence plus I went to Tokyo and all the expenses did not allow me to feel like I can simply stop working and just be a student.

Apart from financial reasons, I thought I may be burnt out due to other reasons: overworking myself, undercharging, taking the wrong mix of work, etc.

I just did not think I can simply say goodbye to a career and passion that my life has revolved around for the past decade.

Design was something that could make or break me.

I was slowly growing in realisation that it may not be simply due to fatigue. I was not working during the ten days I spent in Tokyo and it did not help a single bit. I no longer feel excited about my projects and I have been feeling this way for the past six months to a year? Our emotions are a good indicator of whether we are fulfilling our purposes or if we are on the paths intended for us. My increasing bouts of depression started from gentle reminders to rude alarm bells – I am not doing what I should be doing. Whatever that I am doing now is obviously not making me happy. And I may have exhausted my best effort.

I feel like I am wasting precious time on earth. Getting eaten up slowly everyday.

Maybe my thought process has been too extreme. I did not need to think that one has to go in order for one to come in. I just need to acknowledge the other is growing in strength and I no longer loved the original one as much as I did. If we should spend time on things in order of how much we feel towards them, then it is simply put out to me that I have to spend more time on my 'other path' and let design work take a backseat.

No matter how financially difficult it could be. No matter how difficult it is for me to admit that I no longer want to revolve my life around a passion that I have built my life around.

Remembering how passion feels like

I remember how it all used to be for me. The excitement of opening a design program, drawing pixels and letting everything fall into space intuitively. Now, in order to be the true professional I want to be, every design decision is thought through really hard – will this confuse users? Will something else work better? Am I breaking new ground here? I don't want this website to end up looking like the last one, or like other typical gradient-laden websites. Or the worst case scenario – will this look like crap in IE?

Sometimes I feel, the field of web design takes out the joy of creating. At least for me. It can be upsetting to realise that being good at something doesn't equate to liking that something.

I miss designing for the fun of it. Not for the client, not for the users, not for the money. Just for fun. It had been something difficult to do because I so much wanted to excel at it that the process has been over-rationalised. The beauty of the web is ironically what kills it for me – the transience, the dynamism, the technology.

I miss laying out words and pictures meant for paper. It is altogether a different set of problems for print. Is this legible? Will this look good in black and white? Can I use special inks or varnishes for this? How about different paper or cuts? They are problems that I miss. I miss seeing my work printed, I miss feeling my work in my hands.

Earlier today, or rather, yesterday evening, I caught a whiff of how it feels like to be passionate about something. I have long forgotten how it feels like until just now.

Serendipity

I enrolled in a course shortly after I moved residence in June. Despite feeling tired after the move, despite having tons of work to do, despite many other factors, I somehow signed up for it anyway. It was not something I looked for. Serendipity works in the most amazing ways. Do you know how it came about?

It came about because I was (along with some other volunteers) searching for a missing rescued dog some when in May. To be really honest, I did not even feel like it when the call came in on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I was looking forward to resting during the weekend and searching aimlessly under the hot sun was not my idea of rest. However, the rescued dog was deeply insecure and afraid of humans, it would require every effort to be found again for the sake of its own safety. The thought of it getting knocked down by cars during possible confusion, getting caught by the authorities, or getting cooked for a good meal by foreign workers, overcame any hesitation.

It turned out that the fosterer who was taking care of the dog is a dog trainer. We had a chance to converse when we were waiting to lure the dog out from some forest foliage. She, was one of the very few humans in Singapore, who did not stare at me with *that* look when I mentioned that I have taken a animal communication course before. In fact, her eyes lighted up and was very interested to find out more. Don't you think it is amazing how you somehow 'stumble' into people with similar 'out of this world' interests when you start pursuing them?

With the knowledge that my partner and I were both interested in animals and alternative modalities, she asked if we were interested to form a small group to learn Quantum Touch.

Keeping the faith

I have already went through an Angels Miracles workshop and also an animal communication workshop last year with very limited results on my side because despite my deep beliefs regarding the magic of the Universe, I have a rather rational side to me as well as a mind that doesn't really like to quieten down (a focused mind with good visualization powers is essential for most spiritual work).

Somehow, I just kept the faith. If I feel it in my heart that I want to do it, I may not get it for now but it will eventually come to me.

I thought it would be nice for our animal volunteer work if I could learn some healing modalities (and eventually learn how to talk to them). Our animal communication teacher told us that we may want to consider learning Reiki but which I did do some research into but it just did not fall into place or feel right. When the dog trainer brought up Quantum Touch, I was like, why not? The method or technique does not matter as long as allows the subject to feel better.

Energy works

And just now, I felt it with my own hands – Energy.

It was our first workshop and within a couple of hours, we were trying out on one another. I took it with a pinch of salt since the previous other workshops were not too successful for me. Yet, it was there for me to feel. Light pulses at my fingertips. My partner's backache went away after I tried it on her. I felt the accumulated pain due to sitting for long hours in my back seemingly lighten. I saw bones aligning in the training video, stuff that professional chiropractors deemed impossible.

I just knew it in my heart there and then. This is the work I truly want to do. Not just Quantum Touch, but I want to keep on learning, marry all the modalities and experiences I have accumulated and be able to touch people and animals in my own unique way.

I may not be successful at getting my dog to talk to me right now, but I believe once I get over the stage of taking control over my mind, it will come to me. I have to take care of a fearful, aggressive dog right now, and can you imagine what difference it will make to its life and its people if I am able to rehabilitate it?

Finding my way (repeatedly but consistently)

Just the thought of it makes me happy. And I hope I will be able to do it not only for mine, but for those poor rescued animals who had been traumatized in one way or another.

The added bonus is – my partner is on the same path as me (you have no idea how rare this can be). Apart from the mutual support (imagine a partner that goes, ya...right.), it is that synergy, the common beliefs and shared vision; and in future, the partnership. I feel that she is clairvoyant and clairaudient wheras I am more clairsentient and claircognizant, so we should make a good partnership.

At this point if you're not yet rolling your eyes, thank you. To my business associates and clients, no I am not giving up on my design work, I just need to recalibrate it a bit. I would like to be able to think of work as fun.

I just finished reading "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert (will post a review soon) and she gave me a ray of hope in trying to get my mind to quieten. I never thought my mind would ever shut up, but after reading her experience (her mind sounds like mine), I have renewed hope for mine.

I plan to really cut down on design work (time to be really selective), pack up my new place (it has been 2 months and it still looks horrible because I am just either working or moping and my poor partner is doing it on her own), continue my Soul Realignment course (it has been put on hold because my place is in a mess and I can't be in a state of mind to do such work), try out Quantum Touch on myself and my immediate family (dogs and partner first), and see where it all brings me.

Getting the little aggressive dog in my household to calm down will be a good testimonial and start.

Let me have the strength to continue my journey with not too many detours. I know some are inevitable, so I am just asking for less. That is not too much to ask for, right? :)

I have been self-sabotaging my own decisions for quite a while now and I would like the courage to be able to stick to them.