Who taught me to suck in my stomach,
or my cheeks?
Who told me to stand with my legs apart
and my hips thrust back
to create the illusion of a gap
between my thighs?
Who made me believe that the most beautiful part of me
is my negative space?
Originally, in the 20s and 30s, the stereotype of someone who was schizophrenic was the housewife who was sad and withdrawn, and would not do her duties as a housewife; would not do the housework. This was the typical case of schizophrenia. And then, in the 60s, something shifted. The actual criteria for schizophrenia shifted. A lot of psychiatrists and hospitals and police were encountering young, angry black men who were part of the civil rights movement. Who were part of the riots – the uprisings – in the Black Power movement. Who were angry. Who were perceiving a conspiracy of power against them, that was called paranoia. They would see it is white privilege, but it was called paranoia. And so we actually see the diagnositc criteria for schizophrenia change. So now you have anger and paranoia and hostility being included as criteria, whereas 30 years before they hadn’t been. Because the stereotype has changed. So there’s a way in which the DSM and the perspectives of the psychiatrists and the doctors who were giving these diagnoses is thoroughly politically constructed, and thoroughly dependent on the culture and context that they’re within.
for anyone interested in reading more about how schizophrenia moved from being a diagnosis assigned to white, middle-class women to one used to pathologize and institutionalize noncompliant black men in the 1960s, jonathan metzl’s the protest psychosis: how schizophrenia became a black disease is a good place to start. i have a PDF scan of it, too — just ask.
I check my Facebook page 36 times a day for the sole purpose of making sure I have not accidentally posted a nude photo of myself
I reread an email 13 times before pressing send to ensure I have not written something in the email that could convict me of a crime
Before taking a stage when asked if I allow flash photography I always want to say “No” because I’m terrified flash photography will give me epilepsy
I know it doesn’t work like that, still
I never eat nuts on an airplane out of fear of that I will suddenly develop a nut allergy and if I have to asphyxiate I don’t want it to happen at 30,000 feet
Twice in the last two years I’ve been aborted from an airplane for running screaming down the aisles as the plane was taking off
I can’t walk through San Francisco without worrying my indigestion is the beginning of an earthquake
I brace for tsunamis besides lakes in Colorado
I’m not joking
The last time I saw Niagara Falls I couldn’t take it
It was too much much
I had to plug my ears to look at it and close my eyes to listen
Generally I can’t do all my senses at the same time they are too much much
Like if you touch me without warning, whoever you are, it will take everything I have to not hate you
Imagine your hands are electrical sockets and I am constantly aware that I am 70% water
it’s not that I’ve not tried to build a dam
Ask my therapist who pays her mortgage
My cost of living went up
at five years old when I told my mother I have to stop going to birthday parties because every time I hear a balloon pop I feel like I’m gonna get murdered in the heart
Last year a balloon popped on the stage where I was performing, I started crying in front of the whole crowd
plugged my ears and kept repeating the word “LOUD LOUD LOUD LOUD” it was super sexy
That’s what I do
I do super sexy
Like when I asked the super cute barista 11 times ‘are you sure this is decaffeinated? Are you sure this is decaffeinated? Are you sure that’- yes I drink decaffeinated and still jitter like a bug running from the bright bright bright
I have spent years of my life wearing a tight rubber band hidden beneath my hair so my brain could have a hug
These days when no one’s looking I wear a fuzzy fitted winter hat that buttons tight beneath the chin
I only ever wear a tie so that when I convince myself I’m choking my senses have something they are certain they can blame
As a kid I was so certain I would die the way of meteor falling on my head
I would go whole weeks without looking at the sky ‘cause I didn’t want to witness the coming of my own death
I started tapping the kitchen sink seven times to build a shield
My mother started making lists of everything I thought would kill me in hopes that if I saw my fears they would disappear
Bless her heart but the first time I saw that list I started filling a salad bowl with bleach and soaking my shoe laces overnight so in the morning when I ironed them they would be so bright I would be certain I had control over how much dark could break into my light
how much jack hammer could break into my heart
My spine it has always been a lasso that could never catch my breath
I honestly can’t imagine how it would feel to walk into a room full of people and not feel the roof collapsing on my ‘NO NO NO I am not fine’
Fine is the suckiest word
it never tells the truth
And more than anything I have ever been afraid of I am terrified of lies
How they war the world
How they sound by our tongues
How they bone dry the marrow
How did we get through high school without being taught Dr. King spent two decades having panic attacks?
Jumped at thunder
I think we are all part flight the fight
part run for your life
Part ‘please please please like me’
Part Can’t breathe
Part scared to say you’re scared
Part say it anyway
You panic button collector
You clock of beautiful ticks
You run out the door if you need to
You flock to the front row of your own class
You feather everything until you know you can always, always shake like a leaf on my family tree and know you belong here
You belong here and everything you feel is okay
Everything you feel is okay
I lied because even though depression is so common in Asian American communities, we rarely talked about it. The message I grew up with: your mental struggles are our own; it’s up to you to find the inner strength to “ren,” to endure.
The character for “ren” 忍 is the character for “knife” over the “heart.” Endure even when there’s a knife in your heart.
In my thirties I discovered talk therapy, tried to get my parents to go. Their response was basically: “That’s for white people.” “They hook you in,” my mother said. “You can never be cured.”
I wish mental illness didn’t come with stigmas. I wish I could have told my parents that my mind had broken just as easily as if I had to tell them my arm had broken.
Okay let’s get this straight. When someone is depressed, they have no motivation. Absolute 0. They don’t sit around or sleep because they’re “lazy”. They just can’t bring themselves to do things, even if they really need to. It’s not some “weakness”. It’s like not being able to use a broken arm.