Unrelenting Sadness

For as long as I can remember, I have always felt sadness. This feeling of sadness is like a fog that transcends and envelops me, like a thin veil, always there, always looming, waiting to swallow me whole. Growing up, I was a tenacious kid, curious, playful, always longing for my mother’s attention and love, but never quite getting enough of it. Play with my neighbourhood friends and books, were my way of escaping the sexual abuse that was disguised as play time by my brother, and the emotional and physical abuse that I endured from my mother, every time I pushed the limits of my curfew, so that I could stay out playing with my friends, just a little bit longer. Despite knowing that I would be punished for staying out too late and breaking my curfew, I continued to stay out late because the joy and freedom I felt, for being a child, savouring each play time as though it would be my last. It was bliss before the storm – the pain endured after was worth this playful freedom.

In my teens, play time naturally ceased as my mother’s academic expectations of me skyrocketed. There was no time for play. My mother was relentless in keeping me on a strict study schedule around the house chores that was expected of me. Also, sexuality was confusing for me as a teen. Sex was to me, a form of brotherly sisterly love, and this was all I knew. I felt his love being stripped away when my brother suddenly stopped ‘playing’ with me. As my girl friends in school talked about boys with such fervour, I on the other hand, did not shared those proclivities, and because of this, I was quite the outlier that way. Books then were still my best escape from this sadness that I don’t quite understand and when I read, I felt free to explore the worlds that are so eloquently described. I devoured any book that I can get my hands on, be it in the school or public libraries or books that I rented out with food money that I saved. I hardly bought books fresh from the shelves as I never had enough money to do so. Nourishing my mind and soul with words were more important than feeding hunger. Sadness became more pronounced as I tried to numb myself from the gnawing loneliness that I felt and frequent masturbation became a substitute for the lost of brotherly ‘love’, to fill the void inside me.

When I turned 17, I flung myself into my first romantic relationship with a boy that showed me interest because I wanted to drown away the sexual attraction I had for my best friend in school, who is a girl. I wanted to cure my ‘homosexual tendencies’, per say and this boy was my get away ticket. I clung to his love like my dear life depended on it. The relationship lasted 7 years and finally, he could no longer love me, as I have put all my hopes and desires to be loved onto him and did not notice that I was suffocating him with my neediness and my need to squeeze every drop of love from him to substitute the lack of love that I never got from my parents. When our relationship ended, a part of me died with it as I was convinced that I was and never will be loveable and the sadness became all consuming.

In my twenties, I cling to any affection that I can get from anyone that showed me any flicker of romantic interest. I was open to dating any guy that wanted to date me and I would be sexual with them, if that is what it takes to feel wanted and loved. Ironically, it only left me empty and when it is all over, feeling of shame and guilt would wash over me. Paradoxically, I continued to plunge myself into these relationships, knowing fully that it would only end up hurting me even more. It was like an itch that needed scratching.

Being in my early forties now, I am just in the beginning of my journey to lick the wounds of the past. I am only just beginning to put the pieces together and make sense of my life that has passed me in a blur. It is hard not to grief the lost of time and what could have been. This sadness that resides deep inside me will always be my most loyal companion. This sadness pops it ugly head with each day that I take, totally out of my control. Because of this, I let myself ride its wave. Somehow, there is a morbid sense of relief that I know, the option of suicide is possible, it is something within my control, that I can bear to continue living in this sadness, just knowing that I have that option.

Festive Seasons – Chinese New Year

I’ve missed work again today.

I had a breakdown this morning, sobbing at the breakfast table.

Feeling utterly overwhelmed

Wounds of the past, festering

Being brought back to the past

Preparing for Chinese New Year dishes for offerings and reunion meals

I hear my mother’s taunts of my incompetence as I tried my best to do her bidding in the kitchen.

“Not like that, you’re not slicing garlic right!”

“Make sure you don’t burn the garlic!”

“Turn the fire down!”

“Hurry up!”

How I’ve buried all these hurt

It’s festering now, pulling me down

Old wounds bleeding fresh again

Paralysing me, more tears

I missed work again

I feel defeated, a failure

My mother was right, “You never do things right!”

Sins of the Father

I guess you could consider this post as a sequel to my earlier post titled Sins of the Mother . I told my mother about the abuse at the hands of my brother when I was 16, but I waited to tell my father about it until more than a decade later. I was 32 when I told him. I’m still not sure why I waited so many years before till I decided to tell my father about the abuse. Maybe, I was afraid that I would receive the same respond as my mother had given me. Maybe, I was too ashamed to tell him. Maybe, I was still in denial that the abuse ever happened. I still have not figured this out yet.

My father came for a visit in 2011. I was still living in Malaysia at that time, running a small English language centre at the state of Johor, situated in the south of Peninsular Malaysia, by the border to Singapore. We had dinner at one of my father’s favourite Chinese restaurant nearby, when he decided that he wanted to spend some time at the language centre, before heading back to my apartment.

I can’t exactly recall what we talked about before I decided at the spur of the moment to tell him about what my brother did to me as we were growing up. I tried to gauge his facial reaction as the words started stumbling out of my mouth, but I saw nothing. To be fair, I don’t even know what I was expecting to see. Deep down, I knew what was going to happen. I just knew that he would utter the same words my mother did when I was 16. And I was right. With a straight face, not looking at me, but staring straight ahead as he said, “Don’t tell anyone.”

Flashes of better memories of time I spent with my father came flooding back. Where was the father that used to bring me to the cinema for movies? Where was the father that would carry me and place me on his lap as he moved his knees up and down to mimic a horse ride? Where was the father that used to carry me to the bedroom whenever I pretended to have fallen sleep on the sofa? At that moment, I was hoping for him to say: “I’m so sorry that happened to you. I wish I knew”. Or maybe a sign of anger or disappointment towards his only son. There was none of this. Writing this blog entry makes my heart ache and his words “don’t tell anyone”, echoes over and over again in my head.

Depressed: Don’t Feel Like Doing Anything? Do It Anyway.

I have always enjoyed participating in sporting events. Marathons are one of them. After five full marathons, a few 21km and 10km events throughout the years, I have not gotten enough of the adrenaline high that would last 24 hours. The sense of achievement and satisfaction of completing a race is akin to crack cocaine (not that I have ever use that stuff). To put simply; I just love how it feels after a completing a marathon.

This past weekend has been a weekend that filled me with dread for the past couple of weeks. The thought of driving 4 hours, socialising during dinner before and after the event, not to mention, the 42.2 km run itself felt like a mammoth task to take on in a single weekend. Gone was the enthusiasm and excitement when the ‘Enter’ button was clicked a year ago. The sense of being in a good place mentally and looking forward to running a full marathon with a friend who took up running early 2019 has since dissipated.

The week leading up to the event, I kept feeling this sense of dread and foreboding that I have to complete a 42.2km run, despite feeling depressed and physically tired. The past month of training has been a struggle, not being able to keep up with my friend. My body and mind were too exhausted and broken to run any faster. My usual pace of 5’30″/km dropped to an average of 6′-7’/km. This physical sluggishness did not help with my mood either. After every training, disappointment seeps through my pores and my mood takes a dive. The blackness of the past few months have made running more of a to-do check list to be done thrice a week. The sense of calm and joy that running usually brings has been obliterated.

My partner and I left for Queenstown on Friday (20/11/2020) in the morning and I was preparing myself for a social weekend. That night itself we were going to meet with my partner’s colleague and son who did the 10km run. Then, the night after the marathon, we were going to have dinner with my running friend, her partner and her partner’s mother and sister. I kept worrying about being overwhelmed by the social encounters that I have to deal with and thinking about it, adding to the anxiety. I have had these experiences before and I know that I always end up enjoying myself during these social interactions, but it does not stop me from feeling anxious about them when I am depressed. And…as always, I did enjoy them, like I always do.

The morning of the run, my alarm rang at 0620 hours. Groggy from restless sleep, waking up twice during the night, the throbbing headache from the night before blurred in the background, I pushed the discomfort aside as I fumbled my way to the other side of the room to grab a drink, not wanting to wake my partner, the room remained dark. It was not long before another alarm went off and my partner mumbled and reminded me to fetch the breakfast tray from the dining area downstairs. Breakfast was underwhelming; full grain bread, Nutella, a pair of hard boiled eggs and a banana.

The run itself was somewhat disappointing personally. I felt tired by the 3km and could no longer keep up with my friend and by the 13th kilometre, I wanted to quit. Quitting a race was never an option. Pushing through the screaming muscles and pain was expected, not an exception. Quitting seemed so obvious in my mind that I really entertained it for the next 15 kilometres. This just added to the grunt. Each 500m sign to the next hydration station, became a beacon that to keep running, to quickly arrive the hydration station when my legs can stop turning, so I could drink and stop running.

Passing each hydration station and seeing the kilometres melt away, focusing only on my breathing and legs, reaching the last kilometre to the finish line, I sprinted towards the finish line. A melding of cheers from strangers, friends and my partner, a glimpse of their faces from the corner of my eye as I cross the finish line, made every painful stride worthwhile. The adrenaline flooded through my veins as I soak in the surroundings of people blanketing me from every corner, a volunteer placing the finishing medal over my head broke my reverie. I smiled at my partner as she approached me and asked for a hug while my sweaty body protested as she held on tight. What a wonderful weekend!

Surrounded by the people that mean most to me during experiences like this is what I have to keep close to my heart whenever that feeling of wanting to hide away in the blackness threatens to swallow me whole.

My Anchor

Ever since I started this blog a couple of weeks ago, I have only been writing about pain, trauma, depression and hopelessness. While out for my run earlier today, I feel like it is time for me to write something more uplifting, as a reminder to myself that everything is not all bad in my life.

I’ve been with my partner for almost 10 years now. For many years, I have made things so difficult for the both of us because I did not have any insight into my mental health. I was unwilling to admit to myself that I was depressed and anxious because I thought it was a sign of weakness, a sign that I was losing control of my life, a sign that was broken.Thus, I have inadvertently been needy and emotionally dependent on her all these years without even realising it. When she distanced herself from me during the times I was overbearing, I accused her for being insensitive and for not loving me as much as I love her. She has never raised her voice at me whenever we fight, while I would fly into a rage, make accusations and gaslight her. I became the ugliest version of myself and I was oblivious that I was hurting her and pushing her away, despite flailing desperately to bring her closer to me.

I just want to dedicate this post to her for her patience, understanding, tolerance, compromise and love for a broken person like myself. She has been my unwavering anchor and support all these years and I am forever indebted to her. I want to be a better person for her and no longer hurt her the way I used to. I know now what I need to do to be the best version of me when it comes to loving her.