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.

Turning 30

This is the year that I finally woke up from a deep slumber and remembered to be my self.

I have struggled with myself for the past 29 years. Just being myself. I tried to disown the person who was truly me and tried to live like everyone else. I failed. Miserably.

When we were kids, everyone said the key to happiness was having a good education, so I tried to do that for a while.

After we're done with school, they said the key to happiness was to have a good job, so I tried to work towards that for a while.

Then I turned self-employed, they said the only way to be successful at business was to be mercenary like everyone else – I couldn't do that and for years I allowed people to take advantage of that – that too, stuck for a while.

I wondered helplessly at the world. Is there not a place for someone like me? Full of ideals, unwilling to be mercenary, just wanting to be happy. It seemed wrong to want to be happy. It seemed 'selfish' to be pursuing your own dreams. I was labelled unrealistic, delusional, naive.

I couldn't find my place, I couldn't find myself, I struggled to cope with society's demands. The expectations, the bills, the responsibilities. The guilt. The overwhelming guilt that I was not being filial to my parents because I have chosen an unconventional lifestyle and career. That they would have to live with their daughter never being able to 'make it'. I tried to compensate them in my own ways, but I failed miserably.

The picture of my 29 years on earth seems to be summed up in one word. Failure.

I failed to get a good education, failed to hold a good job, failed to be the model daughter my parents wanted, failed in every conventional way possible. Looking back, it was of no surprise that I was suicidal. I wasn't worth a place in society's terms. I didn't seem like I deserve anybody's respect or love. I was nothing.

I am highly emotional and sensitive. I couldn't will myself to do things I didn't want to. I thought of myself weak for being emotional and sensitive. That it upsets me so greatly when I can't work on stuff that I don't enjoy. Or that I seem to feel too much. That my moods change like the wind.

It took my 29 years to realise that, everything that I detested about myself, were actually gifts.

That these gifts allowed me to be the person I truly am. To be very persistent at doing things that I love. To be determined to alleviate my own pain, and in turn, people's pain. That being such a misfit gave me such intense empathy for other minorities. To want to be happy and not settle for anything else. I refuse to compromise. I refuse to think that it is 'okay' to settle for less.

I cannot be otherwise. I can only be me and live my life the way I want to live.

That took me 30 years, and am I blessed that I know this now. To be me and no one else. To have the beliefs I want to have, eat the way I want to, sleep with my own patterns, advocate my own causes, do the things that are meaningful to me.

Nobody can be me. You're not me. Don't tell me what gives my life meaning and purpose. Meaning and value, can only be derived internally. People can put a billion dollar value on me, but it wouldn't matter if I perceive otherwise. Don't tell me what is reality. I define my own reality. Don't bind me to your perceived reality.

I have come a long way. I wouldn't have survived if I didn't believe that happiness is possible. My current lifestyle didn't magically appear by itself. It happened because I believed in it and refused to buy other people's version of reality.

The best decisions of my life, were irrational decisions. The ones that people call crazy or unrealistic.

The best years of my life, are ahead of me. I have tons to look forward to. It took me 30 years to be entirely comfortable in my skin but once it happens, there is no turning back. I have noticed something about myself lately. The more cynicism I face, the more idealistic I want to become.

The world didn't progress because of the cynics, people. It progressed because of people who refused to accept the status quo/reality.

It is great, to be turning 30.

How to live

A simple question, with seemingly complicated answers, depending on the context.

I think the problem with me, is that I am too inquisitive. Especially towards myself. I am constantly questioning, what is the right way to live? How would I live a life full of quality and meaning? I struggle to be responsible to myself while trying to be responsible to others.

If I simply focused on being a great designer, perhaps I would be in a very different place right now. Some people have very narrow focus on their lives, they just want to be great at their work. I used to think that was my focus, until I imagined myself to be Jason Santa Maria and realised that wouldn't make me a lot happier.

I love my work, still. I just don't love it enough for it to motivate the direction of my life. If I cannot be the designer that impacts millions of people like those amazing Facebook/Twitter designers, perhaps I am better off being the designer that makes small business owners proud of their websites and products.

I believe in the theory (Malcolm Gladwell) that in order to be truly great at something, you need to invest 10,000 hours of your life. For now, I just cannot see myself sitting at my desk for 20 hours in a day. Perhaps that *are* people who work 4 hours a day and still make great stuff. Quality over quantity, isn't it?

Last week, one particular morning, I woke up feeling totally detached from the world. I suddenly felt really fatigued and wondered about life (yup, I do that really frequently). I believe in the spiritual perspective that we live to learn certain lessons. The aim is to progress so much that you rejoin the Source, the Source lives, learns and evolves through us. I'm putting this really simplistically because this is going to take thousands of words to explain. The gist is, I found myself asking, what if I am not interested in being part of the evolutionary process, whether scientifically or spiritually? If I am not motivated by money or love, neither am I motivated by rewards (spiritual progress/heaven) or punishments (bad karma/hell), then what is it in there for me to live?

It was very disturbing, this was not triggered by any particularly depressive episode. I wasn't sad. I just didn't care whether I was happy or sad. I think that's worse.

We have free will, so it seems. But the extent of this free will doesn't extend to allowing you to choose whether you want to exist or not. You can choose how you want to live, but you cannot choose whether you want to exist. For that matter, I am writing from the spiritual perspective of us having souls and multiple lifetimes.

For that day, I wanted to be nothing. I wondered if I could be nothing. This is a level that is more complex than suicide I guess. When you kill yourself, you end this life. But is there a way to kill yourself eternally?

I find the concept of existing eternally, whether surrounded by happiness or not, to be strangely claustrophobic.

Well, I woke up the next day and reminded myself that whether I like existing or not, it doesn't change the fact that I have bills to pay. If I didn't have any loved ones perhaps I could go and contemplate on my life living in a cave, but I do have people to answer to. Will I be able to live for myself one day? Maybe living for myself is that best way to live for others. I dare not take that step yet (no I don't mean killing myself but to make decisions outside the influence of anybody).

I convinced myself to put aside all my questions for now, but I know it will be something that will never go away. It has been there since the start of my life, at least for this one.

I think we all define our own meanings of life and I have no idea what is mine. The whole "live to experience" concept doesn't quite do it for me anymore. Perhaps I could find my true meaning of life if I accept that perhaps there's none.

So I no longer want to kill myself unlike my earlier angrier years. If I don't have a choice whether I can exist or not, and if I have to contemplate repeating my life lessons if I choose to end this one prematurely, then it is just pointless to end it isn't it? It is enough being trapped in an evolutionary cycle, much less to mention a vicious one.

But there have been countless moments that I truly *feel* like I don't want to live because I don't see the point except to exist in order not to create pain for others. Is this still considered having suicidal tendencies?

I don't have an definite answer. In some strange ways feeling like this allows me to feel alive. It is like having some chronic disease. It can be crippling yet strangely liberating depending on how you see it.

Today on Quora, I took the step out to follow "Suicide" as a topic. I don't know how my clients and associates would see me as a person "who was constantly suicidal in her earlier years" but I reckon being honest is the best way I want to live, for now. I don't know if my friends truly know this part of me.

I only know it means a lot to be able to connect to people like me. To provide that sort of empathy and perspective that the others can't and won't understand. You may not be able to comprehend why I struggle to live, but I celebrate the fact that I can share a virtual shoulder with millions of people like me.

I can imagine there are tons of people who feel the same way but they are afraid to be open about it. I cannot emphasize enough how meaningful it was for me to read honest accounts of other people coping with their lives, feelings and failures.

Our lives are being negatively influenced by deceit. Deceit by governments, by financial institutions, sometimes unintentionally by loved ones. We're brought up to believe in values we shouldn't. Many of us are brought up to discriminate, to look down on others, to dislike people because they're different, to chase material possessions.

If I have no idea what I want to do with my life, then at the very least I know I definitely want to be as honest as possible.

How a prolonged migraine made me count my blessings

To be able to type this sentence, in this browser window, is a blessing. Little actions that we take for granted everyday. Switching on the computer, looking at the screen, typing, creating.

For the past few days, I couldn't even bear to look at the screen, much less type. I was having a prolonged migraine attack, any form of bright lights – computer screen included – only served to intensify my pain and nausea.

When taking strong painkillers for a few days didn't help much except to numb the pain to a somewhat manageable level, I sought the sinseh's help. On hindsight, perhaps I should have gone earlier. I just didn't expect to wake up with the migraine hovering around for the past few mornings. Each morning, I would expect it to have gone away, just like the previous migraine attacks I've had.

This morning, I woke up, the pain seemed to have truly gone away (after 2 doses of some strange chinese medicine mix. The wonders of TCM). I didn't want to jinx myself, so I was apprehensive in judging my state of health. A migraine attack, something that doesn't seem to endanger any part of my life, but rendered me totally useless.

I don't know whether it is a sign of age, that I am about to reach 30, that my body cannot recover the way it had before, or was it because I have abused it so badly during my younger years when sleep didn't matter much to me. The diagnosis I had yesterday – I had an irregular pulse, my circulatory system was not working properly, hence the lack of blood circulating to my brain – was it an accumulation of all those late nights?

So the sinseh's advice to me was to keep my life right now fairly routine and disciplined, no more late nights, no more stress, no more taxing my body or mind in any way. I feel like a walking time bomb, unsure of the next moment of my next attack, uncertain when will be the next period whereby I would have a downtime spanning days.

To a self-employed solo business owner, being down for more than a day is a disaster.

I thought about my peers, some running their own startups, some passionately involved their self-initiated projects, most of them seeming to run on a bottomless oil tank. I finally understood yesterday, that I would not be like them, nor can I expect myself to be like them anymore. That self-expectation that I can still carry on like my peers, is slowly killing me.

I cannot be like them, as much as I want to. I have to be myself, to count my blessings for every day of health I can possess. To be filling each and every day with meaningful actions. For me, it will no longer be about working hard. It will be about consolidating my efforts, picking and choosing my battles.

I need to learn the art of saying no, even to myself. All those times that it was me who wanted myself to stretch over the distance. I just thought I would be capable of overcoming any form of hardship. I never expected it would be my body that didn't want to give me a choice anymore. Not at this age, not as this time of my life when I should be running at full speed ahead.

All my decisions now, will affect the quality of life I have in the next few decades. I am pretty certain that my state of health or the lack of it now is due to all those times I didn't take care of myself when I was in the full pink of health during my twenties. I suddenly think of the professional footballer that keeps taking painkilling injections in order to play, only to end up losing the ability to walk when he retires. Talent or brilliance is pretty much useless if you don't have the health.

I see this as a new opportunity for myself, since I am pretty much being forced into a corner. Having limits can actually inspire progress (Think Apple ;p). It gives me the opportunity to think about what really matters to me, and if I really have a limited uptime everyday, what should I be trying to accomplish?

I have to admit that till now I am still pretty much driven by my insecurity. This bout of downtime is simply repeating a message I've been being reminded for the umpteenth time. There's no point in having that security if I am not able enough to type this blog entry. You have no idea how grateful I am now to be typing this. ;)

Action plan for change

I've been in a state of limbo for the whole of 2010 – a year which I thought will bring tons of positive developments to my life, after all the groundwork I've put in for the past couple of years. The previous year in 2009 I have been hard at work to try and curb all my personal fears and issues in order to give myself the platform that I need to pursue my various goals in life. I've took the step out to:

  • write openly about my low self-esteem
  • end my hermit-dom (aka social phobia) and meet people from my online social circles which cumulated into attending an industry event full of 200 over people I don't know
  • start travelling solo which ended up my life-long fear of sleeping in the dark & various paranoias of being alone in a foreign land
  • take various metaphysical courses which have always been an interest that I've put aside for 'proper' work

Life can only get better I thought since I'd gradually overcome the issue that was affecting me the post – myself.

This was a significant life-lesson to me, never be complacent and expect things to run smoothly within your expectations, ever. Life always has this uncanny ability to throw us curveballs when we least expect it.

Background story

So, the story of 2010 can be broken down in 3-month parts from January to September.

First 3 months was spent in anxiety and denial about the situation which transformed to a delayed reaction of anger and it ended up with myself breaking down physically, mentally and emotionally. I can't really write about the actual situation itself, except that it involved me having to shift my entire plans for this year which included a drastic breakdown of a relationship that was very dear to me. Having a fear of conflict didn't help as I tried desperately for it not to evolve into a conflict and it backfired instead for all parties involved as buried feelings and forgotten childhood hurt rose to the surface.

On the surface, the situation is not that big a deal. I think it could be difficult for people to understand why it affected me so much. I actually didn't understand it myself and it contributed to the worsening of the situation as I repeatedly asked myself whether I was over-reacting. On hindsight, I think I was just very weary of fighting similar battles in my life – I had this feeling that I've spent all my life fighting, and just when I thought the worst is long over, everything crumbled again. It drove me into feelings of helplessness, self-resentment, half wondering if I didn't try hard enough, and half wondering if the Universe was intent to make a joke out of me. I have done my best, but my best just wasn't enough. It seemed like no matter what I did was enough to earn me a period of peace and quiet.

The second 3-month period was spent cleaning up the mess as I gathered every last bit of my sanity and energy to rationally handle my responsibilities. I was blessed because most of my clients understood as I tried to make my poor health and emotions take a backseat.

It wasn't just poor health and unstable emotions though, it was a loss of something that makes me never ever want to feel that way again. I lost my enthusiasm for life. Even travelling didn't help me feel better, but what it did was to give me the space I needed to pick up the pieces, thankfully.

The final 3 months of June to September I spent trying to heal. I was able to stop working for at least a month from mid august to mid september. I went through several transformative experiences during this period and I would like to write about it in the near future.

I came back in mid-september and amusingly (it is amusing to me now) went through another stressful period house-hunting, dealing with awful property agents, feeling anxious about my housing-budget, packing and finally moving.

I am back to the physical state I was before my travels, tired. But this time it is different. I am carrying the same physical fatigue, but my mindset is totally switched. If I cannot control my external circumstances, I may at least be in the optimum state to deal with it.

I thought it would be good to share my action plan with all of you (as well as a reminder to myself). I no longer want to give myself excuses or be in denial about myself.

1. Build my fitness

I've always suffered from a chronic lack of energy and I wonder if I was predisposed to it. I guess I will only know if I actually did try to make an effort to build my fitness. I admit I don't exercise much and I should. Now with a swimming pool near me, I really have no excuses. Water calms me down as well. I forgot to mention building my fitness involves taking greater care of my diet.

2. Learn to calm my mind

I think this is closely related to the one above, I guess if I am always twitching with nervous energy from lack of exercise, then I cannot really blame my mind for going wild. Will like to try regular meditation practice as well.

3. Condition my mind

I suffer from fear and anxiety in relation to several issues that are no longer relevant to me but I still suffer the long-term effects of having to cope with (or run away) from these issues for so long. For example, I have absolute faith in the Universe's integrity yet my mind tries to make me paranoid because of the fear of lack. I know security is an illusion and yet sometimes I unconsciously strive towards it. I want to truly live in the now, make the best of each and every moment instead of worrying about some event in the future that may never happen. All things shall come to pass.

4. Practice detachment

This is also closely related to point 3. The reason why I am prone to depression, anxiety, fear (apart from possible faulty genes) is because I tend to feel emotional about anything and everything. I am proud of being emotionally sensitive, but it gets to the point whereby I don't stand up for myself or my mood gets affected feeling upset about something that I should not get upset with, if only I can put aside my emotions to gain a clearer perspective.

5. Trust

I suffer from an immense distrust in myself because of what happened in the first 3 months of 2010. I have this paranoia that my breakdown will happen again. I find it difficult to trust myself to rise from adversity. There is no reason to feel that way if I do my best to manage myself well. The worst situation can happen but I have no reason to fear if I truly believe in myself and the Universe.

At least I've tried

Despite of what had happened, one belief has never changed. I rather die trying than to never have tried before.

Adversity happens for a reason. I now look back and realise that the events were immensely beneficial to my growth. If everything went as smoothly as expected, I wouldn't have the time to reflect on what truly matters. I also wouldn't have been pushed to such a corner – to make drastic changes to my life. I wouldn't have been reminded again that never to put all your eggs in one basket, we need to constantly renew and rejuvenate ourselves in order to stay progressive in life. The pursuit of security is a tiring, endless and fruitless game. Think about it, the Universe has ways to take away your comfort, money, anything whenever it wants. The point is to make the best out of every moment. Keep the faith.