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!