Thursday, December 21, 2017

My Experience with Therapy

This is a precursor entry for a topic I've been wanting to talk about for a long time which is getting what you pay for and paying people to do jobs they're trained for. Spoilers: It's worth it. People who have years of schooling to be professionals are good at their job... What a shocker.

So I just finished my 4th session with my therapist and this entry is to kind of collect my thoughts about everything as well as share some of the things I've learned.

Two months ago I had a pretty deep and dark moment in my life. Frankly, I struggled with my identity. I wondered if I was capable of being a good human being. In my past I tried doing things on my own. In that entry I go over how I viewed depression as some kind of phony made-up thing, I tried isolating myself, and overall dismissed mental things as soft science. Previous-Andrew might have curled up in a ball and tried something like that again. Older-and-wiser-Andrew decided to seek help immediately. Over the years I have grown to have more respect for professionals, especially in the mental health fields and my latest experience has only reinforced that.

Lets get to it: It was awesome and Nancy was awesome. She was a fantastic therapist who was just very clear and thorough about everything that was happening. She was extremely professional and helpful in terms of explaining the difference between Therapists and Psychologists and answered questions I didn't even know I had. Which one goes on your medical record? What does my insurance cover? Which ones can prescribe medication? If you are ever considering help, do your research and make sure you're getting what you want out of the experience.

On top of being clear on the outset she was also fantastic when it came to knowing what I would respond to within each session. She sensed I was a practical person that wanted action items and concrete takeaways. She figured out that I would enjoy some of the scientific explanations that went on behind the emotional things.

Our four sessions went like this:

1st session was more of a super-session where we got details out of the way and explicitly stated what I wanted to get out of the situation, this was preceded by a phone call where she gathered some initial information. In person we talked about abuse in its entirety. The different forms of abuse (physical, psychological, sexual, and financial). We talked for hours over the types of abuse that exist and some weird corner case ones that I found kind of interesting. I actually didn't even know financial abuse was a thing. (It basically revolves around preventing your spouse from receiving funds or in some cases preventing them from working towards financial freedom). We talked about things like "silent treatment" actually being emotional abuse which was odd to me because I never viewed it that way. She explains the abuser creates doubt in the abused about how long the silence will last. The session ended with plenty of reading and homework which I was pretty receptive to.

2nd we talked about why people do abusive things. Is it because that's how they understand and express love? Is it learned behavior from their past? Is it something you're biologically predisposed to? This session was long as hell because I didn't like her answers. It felt really hand-wavy and inconclusive. Just tell me doc! Is it in my DNA?! Spoilers guys: science isn't conclusive on this. It's likely both genetics AND environmental influence. Awareness is key but violence is a learned behavior that can be unlearned. I'm glossing over some really deep about topics vulnerability and trust but this session started as my least favorite and turned into my favorite looking back on it.

3rd we talked about my incident. Was it abuse? Why did it happen? We went over the biology of an emotion called Rage which exists in every human in some form. Rage is expressed when you face a threat to pride, position, beliefs, etc. Most simply put: it's a "no" where a "yes" has been. In a state of Rage you experience high amounts of adrenaline and your pituitary gland goes into overdrive. In this state the release of corticosteriods can impair memory, temporal perspective (often described as experiencing things in slow-motion), tunnel vision, muffled hearing, increased heart rate, hyperventilation, vision impairment (rose-tinted or "seeing red"), and being able to only focus on the source of anger. Large amounts of adrenaline and oxygen increases strength and endurance levels, sharpens senses, and grants the ability to dull the sensation of pain. This is all stuff I kind of knew already but having her explain it was comforting in its own way. We talked about the legal things like restraining orders, trespassing, assault, domestic violence, and abuse. We agreed that calling law enforcement is the correct course of action if that were to happen again. A good instinct that I suppressed during my incident out of laziness.

4th we talked about how to handle anger. This was a process of adding more tools to my toolbox so to speak. Previously I had only one way: removing myself from the situation. When that was threatened Rage occurred. So we talked about how different types of treatment exist to deal with Rage. Mainly two treatments exist in practice: 1) A more old school method which involves recreating Rage in the patient and managing the emotions in that state. 2) A new school method known as multi-modal training which involves teaching relaxation techniques, problem solving skills, and doing things related to response disruption.

Each of these sessions involved homework and a page of takeaways. Above were just the highlights but there were other topics we discussed like love, vulnerability, and compartmentalization. It felt great having someone so knowledgeable at my disposal. It was refreshing to have someone with answers and gave me work to help me reach those answers on my own.

I don't know if I feel "solved" or whatever but at least I can feel better thinking the situation was an isolated incident of rage and not a pattern of abusive behavior for my future. I have been pretty open about my journey with whoever has asked and one friend who found out I was seeing a professional excitedly exclaimed, "Wow, I'm so proud of you!" To which I replied, "Um... for what? For being a decent human being? I just had a problem and I went to fix it." I view my experience as something a normal person would and should do. Do I deserve a pat on the back for paying my bills? I suppose I should just learn to take a compliment... maybe I'll see a professional about that.

Monday, December 4, 2017

AZN Pryde and Dating as an Asian Man in 2017

I've alluded to this in the past with my love for Dat Nguyen and the Dallas Cowboys but for some reason I had a really angsty phase where I felt really strongly about my Asian heritage.

Around my middle school years there were a couple songs released that were viral before "being viral" was a thing. One song was over the beat of 2Pac Changes where the Asian rapper spewed out such lyrics as "Got Rice Bitch? Got Rice?" Another song was a cover of a Jermaine Dupri song where he talked about Ferraris and Jaguars switching lanes and the same Asian rapper talked about Integras and Civics instead. Funny and catchy enough for me to latch on and help me have a sense of identity at a time where I was otherwise figuring myself out.

Image result for got rice

This led down a weird path of glorifying traditional Asian things like knowing martial arts, having strict parents, or sporting a bowl cut as a way to show our Asian Pride. Looking back it was kind of silly but dang if I didn't identify with it in a hard way.

Image result for azn drawings

Fast forward to modern day. Well I was having one of my lost-in-thought and clicking-around-on-the-internet sessions and somehow landed on dating while Asian blog post. This led me down a spiraling path where I found articles of Jeremy Lin facing racism while being a pro NBA player (really love the way Jeremy handles himself!). Further down the path I found more: Negative comments about Asian men from comedians Chris Rock and Steve Harvey (shame on you guys - you should know racism better than anyone!). Another article that points out "whitewashing" which involves casting of White actors for Asian characters.

It was a lot to take in. I haven't been staying up to date on this stuff, I felt a mixture of social injustice but at the same time I took a step back and thought about our struggle.

If the great hardship of an Asian man is to face sterotypes (that are honestly mostly positive... Oh no she thinks I'm smart or good at math!) then I can live with that. If a woman is scared to date an Asian guy because they think he eats weird food or has a small penis... then I probably don't want to date her anyways. I blogged a long time ago about how exclusion out of a persons dating pool is actually a good thing.

Maybe it's that overwhelming apathy thing coming back again. I can't get too worked up about Asian Injustice and "AzN PrYdE" when in reality our struggle is not all that bad. I might have a low response rate while dating but at least I don't fear death on a routine traffic stop. Now I know it's not healthy to fall victim to comparison based thinking but I think this is one of those times where it's good to appreciate the opportunities I have and how good my life is currently. Maybe it's a bit of that thankfulness-hangover from Thanksgiving but I had a lot of things go right and break my way recently.

I am curious about the subject as I found this topic super refreshing and am open to hearing more stuff in relation to the struggles of Asian-Americans in particular. If you have a link or viewpoint to share please let me know in the comments!

Friday, November 17, 2017

My Favorite Holiday: Thanksgiving

To be fair, Thanksgiving doesn't have much competition. Most other holidays have some sort of random thing you need to wear or buy which is kind of annoying. Things that are great about Thanksgiving:

1) Food. Now turkey isn't the best meat on the planet... but enough gravy and sides make it palatable. My favorites are actually some of the food that comes after Thanksgiving day. Turkey Soup and "Slop Plates" which are basically just everything from the meal mixed up with gravy on top.

2) No gift buying! The pressure of how much to spend and how thoughtful your gift is... causes me a lot of anxiety because I am typically a bad gift giver.

3) No stress. Everyone is happy and thankful. It's just a good atmosphere all around.

4) The Cowboy always play (and usually win)! I've been a Cowboys Fan since youth.

I have a lot of things to be grateful for this year. I've had a lot of fun with my new hobby. Got to travel to Iceland/Paris/Germany (Blog post coming soon). Work is going well (got to go to a sweet conference and got a substantial raise). My friends and family are in good health. Life is good!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

How far can an apple fall from the tree?

Image result for apple

I've blogged in the past about my grandfather who was the single greatest influence in my life. But how about my parents? How do they influence my life?

My biological father is/was hardly around in my life. As far as I'm concerned my step-father is my dad. He raised me.

My mother could have an entire entry to herself but there's one part of her story that is relevant for this entry. She left my biological father because he was abusive. While I don't know the extent of how bad it was, (I never asked) I do know that I am proud of her for not staying in the relationship and moving on with her life. She's always done the best she could for herself and her children. A long time ago I wrote her an email about how I try to make her proud the only way I know how.

Fast forward to Wednesday night in the middle of October. My girlfriend of 2 years came over after her shift and we have a fight. Now fighting is never great but I've been in relationships with way too much fighting and I would classify the fights we had as "normal" maybe even healthy.

The issue, however, is with our fighting styles. When I get angry I like to remove myself from the situation in order to calm down and come back and talk in a clear/constructive manner. When she fought she would like to resolve things right away. Now how could this possibly go wrong?

Well we fight and I reach my limit. I had enough. The problem is I can't remove myself from the situation. We are at my house (I'm proud to own my own property in San Diego). She is not a tenant. She does not pay rent. In legalese she is a house-guest who has overstayed her welcome. It was 2 a.m. but I clearly remember my thoughts: I want to sleep. I don't want to talk. I want her to leave. I flatly say, "Stop talking and get the fuck out of my house." She did not leave.

She wanted to solve the problem, to talk through it, or at the very least deescalate it. She stubbornly sat on my bed, unwilling to move. I raise my voice, "Get. Out." She did not leave. Louder, "Do you think I'm kidding? Get the fuck out!" She sits unresponsive as if incapable of understanding the situation. I scream at the top of my lungs for her to leave. I throw her belongings out of my front door. She did not leave.

I attempt to call the police and she finally moves to stop me. (I guess I stop myself as well since I figure by the time they get to my home and by the time I'm done with paperwork I wont be asleep until 5 a.m.). I desperately want to sleep alone in my bed and to be done with this situation. "Please leave." I beg, attempting the calm and polite approach. "We will talk some other time. For tonight... Stop talking. Get out." She began her sentence - I interrupted, "Stop talking. Get out." Repeat this 15 times. She begs, "I hear what you are saying but you are not listening to what I am saying." I snap, "Yes. That's true. Now get the fuck out." She did not leave.

Frustrated I start saying any combination of words to get her to leave, "You have two choices: Leave now. We break up. It's that simple."

I did something next that I didn't think I was capable of doing.

I pushed her off of my bed. I attempted to physically drag her out of my house. It was ugly. She grabbed on to the side of my doorway. She made herself dead weight and continued to stay. I contemplated knocking her out with a frying pan. I vocalized that thought. "This is where my mind is. You are giving me no options. Get the fuck out." She did not leave.

I felt my vein protruding from the side of my head. My heart beating out of my chest. A high pitched flat beep filled my inner ear. I was gripping the pan with all my strength. I had no where to go. Nothing left to do. My mind visualized the swing of what it would take to hit her on the head with the frying pan... This was it. My primal instinct of protecting my domain. The thought of being emasculated in my own home. This has what it has come to. I am a man. This is my house. I will protect it.

I collapsed on the couch sweating from my rage.

I am a man. A man I didn't want to be. I have become my father.

I sat on my couch defeated and exhausted with my head in my hands. I am no stranger to sad and dark moments. I have lost the love of my life at an age where I was too stupid to tell her how I felt. I struggled through depression when everything I thought was important in my life came crashing down. This was worse. This was the darkest my life had ever been.

Do fathers know what they do to the children they abandon? I chose the path of apathy. If he doesn't care about me then I don't care about him. He doesn't deserve to impact my life. Any idiot can have sex without a condom. To be a real man is to do what my step-dad did. I vowed to grow up and be a great father one day. My child was going to feel loved. My child was going to be wanted by their father. I promised to never let the decisions of my biological father negatively impact my life.

Now in this moment, as hard as I tried my entire life to be different from him... I wasn't. You can't escape DNA. Blood is blood.

Maybe this is it. Maybe I'm destined to be an abuser. Maybe I'm destined to be a bad father. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

I never ended up hitting her with that pan. I don't believe in god but by some divine intervention she decided to leave. Nothing I could say or do would convince her but maybe my blank stares into space as I contemplated life was enough to scare her into leaving. I don't know how or why. Nor do I care.

While I think she is a good person and I wish her the best in the future... I never want to see her again. That chapter of my life is closed and now I am challenged with moving on after facing my lowest moments. Is the book already written by my DNA or do I have the power to change things?

Maybe this is it. Maybe I'm destined to be an abuser. Maybe I'm destined to be a bad father. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Fuck. That.

This apple is gonna keep rollin.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Is time together a good measure of relationship success?

Well at the very least it shows that regardless of how "good" the relationship is, there is a base level of compatibility. I've blogged about relationships in the past and how I think a successful relationship probably incorporates the notions of being healthy, happy, and productive weaved together with support and commitment.

This isn't really a blog post about if relationships are worth it (an entry for another time... spoilers: yes they are). This is more about how we can actually measure a successful relationship.

There are a lot of variables at play here: Is the person "better" because they are in a relationship? Is it because of their partner specifically? Does the length of time somehow make this more valid?

My inclination is that there must be some correlation between time together and success. That's because, as humans, we have self-preservation tendencies. Meaning if you've been with someone long enough it's generally because isn't bad for you. There are cases where relationships are toxic but they stay together or a couple stays together out of laziness/complacency - but I think those are exceptions. In general, people stay in relationships because there is value.

So my answer is Yes. It is a good measure of success but it needs to be combined with some other factors. Overall outlook on life and the ability to be pushed out of your comfort zone are important to a relationship. I blogged in the past about how going out of your comfort zone can lead to success and I think relationships function in a similar way. Individual growth is important no matter what. When in a relationship, growing together is equally important.

I know this entry isn't as satisfying as my normal analytical breakdown of things. "A successful relationship is measured by 1, 2, & 3 and here is why." That's because I don't truly know the answers. I don't think anyone knows discretely and precisely what constitutes "success" when it comes to relationships.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

This Generations Disease: Apathy

I was watching Chapelles' new stand up and he has a good bit about how he cares too much because he's older. He suggests the younger generation can't be bothered to care because there's always something new to care about. I think he has a point.

Every day something horrific or unjust is being forced down our throats in news and social media and we're all being asked to care about it.

How can I truly care about something when I am being asked to care about everything?

What if I don't actually care about LGBT Rights or the BLM hashtag. It's not that I don't recognize there's an injustice; I just separate myself from being drawn in to the hoopla. As I grow older I'm starting to lose my empathy for people. I can't decide if it's something that comes from age or something that comes from our access to information. I find that I'm not alone either. Apathy is growing in our generation and maybe that's OK.

Possibly related: I was in public and reacted to two men kissing. I winced and looked away and muttered "gross" or something within earshot of the person I was with. She immediately accosted me of being homophobic. Since I don't consider myself homophobic, I naturally got defensive, "I'm not allowed to think something is gross? Why can't I have an initial reaction to something?" She replied, "Well if it was a straight couple kissing would you have thought it was gross? I think it's brave of them!" It's not fucking brave. For fucks sake. It's just not pleasing to my eyes, my gut reaction is that I didn't like it, is that ok? Maybe I am homophobic after all.

I'm getting older and more curmudgeonly as time goes on... it wont be long before I'm telling people to get off my lawn!

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Reason I Quit Poker for 2 Years

Every poker player has a bad beat story. Here's mine.

I was in my early 20's playing poker "professionally" as any young man who consistently won at poker would claim. I was at a 10-20 table at the Aria where the action was quite good and the stacks were deep. I was sitting with around $6,000 with the dealer button (in Poker having "position" is very meaningful because you get to act with more information about what your opponent is doing) with pocket 4's. In the small blind (SB) is an old man who is a rock doing rocky things. Just solid player who has only shown monsters, bought in for $2,000 and is now at around $5,000. Under the gun (UTG) was a loose European fish who flew in for the World Series of poker with more money than sense, he's at $8,000 and the real reason we're all at this table.

UTG opens for $40 fold around to me where I decide to raise to $100 fully expecting to take the pot down or get a loose call from the European. SB makes it 300. UTG tanks and flats. At this point I can probably be talked into folding but I think it's pretty standard to call and set mine here. With position I have a lot of options on the flop. Flop comes A44 with two spades. I flop a 4 of a kind. SB checks, maybe a bit too fast. UTG insta pots making it $1,000 to go for a pot of $900. I tank for a while and I flat. SB tanks and min raises.  UTG goes all-in. I count to 20 in my head again hoping to get SB to come along and I call. SB fist pump calls and tables aces. I look at him apologetically as I flip over quads. SB says something about flush draw and saying UTG has his only out. Back to the dealer where the board runs out K on the turn and K on the river. UTG is busy on a phone call or something, tables pocket Kings giving him quad Kings to beat my quad 4's. We're at Aria where there is no bad beat jackpot.

I don't remember much about the next 10 minutes. I think I was stunned, angry, and in disbelief. I felt entitled to the money; I was already spending it in my head. I realized in that moment that I couldn't do it anymore. It obviously ruined my entire trip. I had a new car sitting in front of me only to have it taken away by a guy who was honestly disinterested in the hand. He was on his cell phone and didn't seem to even care that he won. I don't think he even tipped the dealer.

That single hand changed my poker life. Reality came crashing down. Good things don't happen to good people. Mathematics and a .07% chance is a cruel mistress. Happy endings are only for movies.

I quit poker and went back to playing exclusively blackjack. While I am a lifetime winner in blackjack, I now play poker casually to have fun and be social. I might consider playing poker seriously again but I'll never forget that cold day in November.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Is Diablo 3 a good game?

One of my most frequently asked questions on stream is "Should I buy Diablo 3? Is it a good game?"

Alright it needs to be said: Diablo 3 is not Diablo 2. If you are a person who has fond memories of D2 (who doesn't) then Diablo 3 might not be for you. Path of Exile is probably the closest game to Diablo 2 in terms of deep deep itemization that kept people farming for hours on end.

Now that that is out of the way: Diablo 3 is a good game. It has high production value. Artists, voice actors, story/lore writers, and the backing of a huge company that puts out quality of life changes and item tweaks every season. The game engine is excellent. Gameplay is smooth and responsive. Abilities are distinct and satisfying. Every class has it's own theme which looks and feels different.

I love D3 because if I want to mindlessly slay monsters after a tough day at work then I can do that. If I want to push myself to climb the leaderboards then I can do that too. For a game that isn't subscription based I think it has very good value. (As of today it costs $30 for game+expansion).

Monday, February 20, 2017

Stuff People Get Wrong: On Accident

The latest in the Stuff People Get Wrong series.

Prepositions mess people up a lot. You do things "on purpose" and you do things "by accident". "On accident" comes up by combining the two. This one can be avoided altogether by using the synonym "accidentally".

While digging up the root cause of this I was unsuccessful in what makes "on accident" common among children. Several theories include the parallelism to "on purpose" or the idea that children go with "what sounds right" when forming preposition use.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Twitch Streaming: My new hobby for 2017

Two Cyber Mondays ago I bought a big TV. This Cyber Monday I went and bought a gaming rig. This is the first "good computer" I've had my entire life. I've always wanted one from my days working back at a lan center but I've never had the disposable income. Before this turns into a tangent about being 30 and unmarried I want to talk about the hobby I've chose to pursue this year: Streaming!

If you know nothing about streaming or let me give you the fire-hose explanation. It's a website where people livestream the game they play and viewers watch and interact with the streamers. Think of it like Reality TV but you, the viewer, have a say in what's going on. People usually maintain a viewership by being very good at the game, having an interesting personality, showing some cleavage, or having a variety of gimmicks. Not sure where I'll land on that spectrum but being a realist I think my personality is average (I don't have a cool voice or boobs but I take a pragmatic/math approach to most games) and my gameplay is above average (I think among all players in LoL I'm in the top 20% rating wise). With my unique business background and penchant for explaining stuff in a simple/relatable way I'm hoping to get and maintain viewers.

Why would I hope for and want that? Simply put: Streaming for viewers is awesome. I first tested my setup around Christmas and streamed to a whopping 1 viewer (myself). Then I happened upon a viewer. Or should I say he/she happened upon me. For the next 3 hours we chatted about what I was doing in game and then we just started chatting about life in general. That one person made all the difference. It just clicked for me. If you've never done it, it is SUPER fun to stream to viewers.

Maybe it scratches the narcissism itch. Maybe it's a lazy way to be social. Maybe I haven't dissected all the psychological stuff about why it's fun. All I know right now is that I love it!

Is this hobby expensive? Kind of. I think it might actually be on the cheaper side considering my coworker is selling his track bike and a good friend of mine is selling a photography lens that could build my rig twice over. Either way I think it's worth it. It's one of the most enjoyable hobbies I've stumbled upon.

Come check me out if you have a chance!