Contentment.

So it’s been about two months since I got my second tattoo, and many many more months since I had been thinking of getting it. I still have the realism collage tattoo idea swimming around, but thought that I might want to wait until more of my life had passed, or some other monumental thing had happened. This one took much more time to sit on, wondering if I should ask my dad to write me a card for my birthday or ask him to rewrite the phrase in his best writing, etc. But in the end, I thought that the authenticity of the feelings and emotions behind every word at that moment back in time would be lost.

So why these words out of the whole page in my graduation gift? Why not the standard “I love you” written in his handwriting? It’s because I’ve come to realize that when I saw these words, it’s as if all the heavy stones I had placed upon my own shoulders disappeared. I had grown up hearing my dad say that all he needed from me was for me to do my “personal best”. However, the way that I interpreted those words were that I could always work harder and push those boundaries to make my “personal best” even “better”. Instead of an encouraging statement, it became the chains on my ankle, taking away my feelings of accomplishment every time something was finished. My goal in life had become “to make my parents proud”, because I had felt that in disappointing myself every time, I was also a disappointment to them. It didn’t help that all my life, we had butted heads on pretty much every single thing I chose to do.

In addition, there was my headache, which they could not understand. It wasn’t until last year when they started to see that it was more than just a headache like they would get, or a pain in their joints that come and go. That I had been living in constant, never-remitting pain in my head for the last 5 (almost 6) years. And they had finally started to understand how it added an extra level of difficulty for simple, everyday things, so how much harder was it for me to go through with my pharmacy degree and become a pharmacist with it.

So for them to acknowledge 1) my headache and all the difficulties that it challenged me with, and that 2) they were proud of me as always, made me feel that no matter what happens from now on, I could be content. It also made me feel less alone in my battles. Knowing that they were cheering me on from behind, that I was already a winner in their eyes, takes off that burden of winning the competition against myself for their sake. Contentment – a state of satisfaction. To be able to experience this emotion after a decade of working myself to pieces to strive that much further was foreign, but made all the sweat and tears worth it. It doesn’t mean that I’ll stop working hard, its just that I won’t do everything like my life depended on it. All my future successes can just be a bonus (well until I find a new goal to go crazy about…but that’s a whole other topic).

One month healed

The original copy in my graduation gift

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The shadow behind

Neurologist appointments always got me feeling depressed after. Not from the appointment itself, but the mental preparation and emotional baggage it entails. In the office, and when I tell my family about how it went, things are stated just as is…facts. To evaluate it like an outsider, to think about options and treatments, to be wholly objective. But once I’m in my room, the floodgate of tears open and I can’t help but think how taxing it is to put all the physical and emotional pain from the headache into words and numbers. I can’t help but think about how you just can’t translate into words and numbers the feeling of being in constant pain for the last 5 (reaching 6) years. And the feeling that yes, I have come to accept the fact that the pain may never go away…but the meaning of that acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m okay with it. And all the talk about more options and treatments? But when they don’t work…how do I deal with the disappointment that you can’t help but build as you wish your hardest for some….for any relief. So there goes yet another night of crying myself to sleep.

Then I can’t help but think…rather than living a long lengthy life and dying old after decades of being in constant pain, what I would give to die young (if life allows), yet still have a fulfilling life. And I guess that thought has always been there for me. I might be so impulsive at times, wanting to do everything that I can once its possible instead of waiting, because I don’t know if the opportunity will come again. And thinking that life is going to be short, I think will make me try to live it to the fullest even more. Cuz who knows? The headache might even get worse as I get older and make it even more difficult to accomplish the things that I want to do.

So I’m going to allow myself to be a lil more reckless, be a lil more impulsive, and be a lil more adventurous. I’ll keep pushing the boundaries my headache’s locked in for me, and step over the comfort zone. And so a week-long trip to Taiwan is being planned, another tattoo is being scheduled, and I just might sign up for a class at a gym to stay accountable to working exercising into my routine. Just like how I don’t want people to view my headache as a disability, I want to do everything that I can when the sun is at its highest point and the shadow of my headache is barely there. All the small victories count in this endless battle against the headache.

I’ve always been scared of the dark, and shadows are hardly any different. The darkness, the unknown. Even if the object itself is not scary, shadows just feel like there’s so much that could be there. There are so many what-ifs. There are things that we want to avoid, but they follow us like shadows. But, no matter how large the shadow is, or how large the obstacle that makes it, the shadow is proof that there is a light somewhere. A light that is beyond the limitations of the obstacle/shadow.

If you know me you know I got nothing to lose
It’s do or die but this time I’m gonna do
If you know me you know I got nothing to lose
Wake up the statues
Breathe out the dust
Shock of a heartbeat
Rush of the blood
Breaking in to my skin
Feel the burning again
I can’t escape it
It’s time to
Rise up from the shadows
– Shadows – The Afters –

Avalanche

Why is it that life always either stops at a standstill or races so that I’m hanging on for dear life? When I want to keep rushing into things, it makes me rest and slow down. When I want to just lay around doing nothing, it suddenly opens all the doors. The last month has been a downhill race, as things suddenly sped up and everything started happening. This little snowball of me having a life at home just sleeping, eating, and watching kdramas never imagined that it would end up halfway down the mountain, and picking up all sorts of things left and right as it went. It all started when an acquaintance told my mom that their pharmacy was hiring. Then I reconnected with her and met her two adorably energetic grandkids who killed me a few times, loved to dance, and always had me read each book twice. Then suddenly, I had an interview in a few days after. And voila, I had a part-time job for the next little while. And volunteering is getting set up as well to happen in the next little while too. So here I am, wondering if I had inadvertently rolled a snowball that was too big for me to handle.

I’m half excited for the upcoming months and what new connections and experiences will bring, but also half nervous to suddenly be at the doorway to so many “unknowns”. Am I ready for all this? Nope. Hardly. But again, when have I ever been ready for the things life has thrown mercilessly at me? All I can do now is admire the snowy scenery on the way and survive it. Cuz you never know if it’ll roll to a stop or crash. And the snowball you made in your palm can either become a snowman or an avalanche. Isn’t this the beauty of life?

Happy 5 years.

24/7/365 with a headache that came and just never went away since. [7/17/2013]

5 insanely long years, longer than it took me to become a pharmacist. 5 years where I lost pretty much all the people around me. 5 years where my headache became the only thing I had to remind me every second that I was as alive as I was in pain. 5 years where it would hold me back, lock me down, again and again from the things I wanted to do. 5 years where everything that I did do took an extra effort to do, enduring the unforgiving pain in the background.

I just hate the headache so much. I hate how much harder it makes life. I hate how hard I have to try to function like any other person. I hate how just going out is a full on battle, preparing and fearing for triggers that would make my headache go crazy. I hate how my mind is not like it was before, unable to think or remember things with the headache clouding my mind. I hate that I have to revolve my life around the headache with a list of things to do and things to avoid in hopes that it’ll be bearable for the day. And most of all, I hate how my biggest wish in life right now is just to live 1 day without pain, a feeling long forgotten.

It sucks having to live like this, not knowing if it’ll ever get better, if I’ll ever get some relief. It sucks that after the neurologist appointment, I didn’t even waver before running headfirst going cold turkey, no meds (since it’s difficult to differentiate between a medication overuse 24h headache vs a chronic migraine 24h headache) because I’m just that desperate hoping for a solution. And since life can’t get any worse right now, and everything else is on hold anyways, here I am. It’s been 10 days so far, and the headache is still there, still going crazy at times – so chronic migraine it probably is. Now, just onto the next hurdle lol.

At this point, I just don’t know… I don’t know what to do about my career on hold – can I even practice with this unpredictable headache? I don’t know what to do about my nonexistent social life – when I can’t keep promises or get out of the house because of bad headache days. I don’t know how to face my family – when I want to help them but I can’t even take care of myself. I don’t know if I want to try yet another medication and risk experiencing side effects like the many times before. I just don’t know how many more disappointments and difficulties I can take before it’s too much. I just don’t know if and how much longer I can coexist with this headache.

But I’m learning. Learning that it’s okay to not know. Learning that struggling through this doesn’t mean I’m weak. Learning that it’s okay to keep hoping, as long as that little spark can keep me alive. Learning that I may be living differently from everyone else, but that doesn’t mean I can’t live. Learning that even if I can’t change or get rid of this headache, I can still live a life that I can look back on with a smile.

An empty shell

This past month (more than a month, actually) has flown by without a trace. It’s like I’ve just been a rock in hibernation. And existing itself was a daily struggle. I was on sick leave from work, had an extended probation for a “demotion” because of my “lack of connection as a introvert” aka lack of customer survey comments, and my headaches. I personally dislike asking people to do the customer survey because it might make me seem like I think I did them a great service, because I wanted something in return. And it’s not like I tell them about the times people have thanked me or those who took care to note my name after I helped them, because that’s just not who I am. Yet I guess to be judged, the numbers matter at the end of the day. I’m just not a fit to be a salesperson either. And the risk of my “sick days” of headaches, when I had more sick days because of actually being sick… well, a business is a business, even in healthcare. And then the sick leave happened, and is deduced to be a physical reaction to stress/anxiety. So with all that, the life just got sucked out of me. And before I knew it, the wish to die became so strong that it was a battle everyday to do the basic necessities of living. Reading about others’ stories of suicide made me jealous, that they were able to escape. But I couldn’t. I felt so guilty to my family who does everything for me to keep me alive, literally. I wanted to relieve them of the burden for caring for a lifeless corpse, but I didn’t want punish them with the pain. And I was so void of emotions that I’d want to burst into a waterfall of tears, but it’d be dry like a desert. I’d yo-yo between sleeping too much, and not being able to sleep. I’d watch dramas and shows all day to distract myself, escape from reality. Then of course I’ll think about how I’m just wasting away and feel guilty and all those gravitational thoughts of depression. I’d want to get better, then the will just fades into darkness again just thinking about how many more days, months, years I’d have to deal with life and my headaches on the side. And it hasn’t even been 5 years (just a few more weeks to reach that anniversary). How am I going to survive and stay sane living 10, 20 years with my 24/7/365 headache. I really don’t know.

Honestly, this post took forever to write as I’d keep procrastinating, continuing my lifeless days. It was only this week when I was able to actually have the energy to reply to texts, and want to write this out. I have no idea what to do or how to fix my life. Like I just see a dull light behind my walls. There might not be a door yet, and it’ll take all that’s within me to unlock the door, much less open it. For now, I’ll just wait for the neurologist appointment and once again throw that line of hope. To crawl towards the light no matter how dim it is and reach out. Because ambition is in my shadow, greedy for a better life even if it may end up catching yet another disappointment.