Getting Out of the Biggest Slump Ever

Hey friends! It’s currently 1:51pm on this Thursday afternoon. I’m sitting inside Kerckhoff Coffeehouse, sipping on my raspberry Italian soda, feeling drained after my intimate relationships class.

The rest of this week is pretty chill. I’ve finished midterms for this week, and have one more on Monday. After I finish writing this blog, I will get started on studying for Monday’s abnormal psychology midterm. But, let’s no think too far ahead. What is on my mind, in the now?

I guess I’m just wondering how the hell I’ve let myself slide so far down, in every facet of life. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Psychologically. Morally. Everything seems to be slipping. I’ve completely lost touch with myself, and I’ve grown mentally weak. A part of it may be the depression talking. The larger culprit is the series of bad decisions I’ve made these past few weeks. I feel like freaking Dorian Gray, the title character of Oscar Wilde’s tale of a pure man corrupted by the evils of worldly pleasures.

Could it be delayed rebellion? Curiosity? Whatever it is that’s prompted me to choose hedonism over school, dance, writing and self-care, is beside the point. The most pressing matter at hand is to figure out how I can get out of this slump, and back into my flow.

I need to realign myself with my goals and ambitions. What matters to me, and what steps must I take each day to get there? I need to find direction once more. I mustn’t get distracted by boys… the right guy will come, naturally. In the meantime, I must focus on my own self-development.

A short post this was, but it served its purpose. I feel a dead weight lifted from my chest. I am ready to get into my study flow and attack Monday’s midterm with full force.

2/17/18: Checking In With Myself

Hi guys! Hope you all have been doing well. I haven’t posted in over a week, largely because school has been kicking my ass. I have two midterms next week and do not feel ready for them, at all. So that’s what my Lunar New Year / long weekend will be comprised of– studying, and more studying. Fun fun.

Lately, I’ve completely lost touch with myself, my morals, my discipline. I’ve stopped dancing. I’ve stopped going to skating class. I’ve been skipping lecture. Stuffing my face with whatever food I crave. Partying to oblivion. Feeling… lost. It’s interesting, because just ten days go, I was manic, riding the wave of the high, feeling on top of the world. Now, I’m coming down from that high, and the low is slowly sinking in. All of my deviant behaviors this past week have been a manifestation of my mood disorder.

This is what I’m telling you guys– bipolar is a bitch. It’s a double-edged sword. The highs are amazing and dangerously exhilarating. The lows… those are the worst. But it’s good that I’m keeping track of my mood patterns, so that I’ll have a greater sense of awareness for future bouts of extreme mood swings.

I’m planning on giving a talk about bipolar disorder at this year’s SPIEL– basically, a TED talk event for students, put on each year by UCLA’s Regents Scholar Society. Did you know that bipolar affects only 1-2% of the U.S. population? So many people are in the dark with regards to this mental illness, unaware of what this mood disorder entails. In speaking openly about my illness, I aim to bring more people into the light by being vulnerable and sharing my personal struggles with bipolar.

I don’t want my life to be governed by my illness. I must regain control of my mind. The first step is being aware of when I am sliding down the slippery slope of depression. This often happens even before the symptoms of depression manifest themselves; my lows always start with my highs. Upon realizing that I’m not okay, I harness a strong set of coping mechanisms to get me through the rollercoaster ride, until it finally stops, and I regain a transient semblance of stability and control. And then, when the rollercoaster starts back up again, as it inevitably does, I must dissect the trigger that kickstarts my mood swings, and be wary of them in the future.

Next thing on my mind I wish to discuss– hookup culture. Coming into college, I spurned the very idea of hooking up. I found the act animalistic, insensitive, and ultimately pointless. It’s true that the human sex drive is quite strong at this age, but why seek out another person to satiate your physical cravings, if you can take care of it yourself?

But, as is often the case when immersed in a culture, you get caught up in it. And soon, I found myself partaking in the very thing I had once eschewed.

These past two weeks have been, let’s just say, wilder than I’ve ever experienced. I thought long and hard about sharing the details of my private life, before ultimately realizing that the insight I’ve come to transcends the inevitable judgement I may face from many of you guys, in all my vulnerability. So, here goes.

Through my experiences, I’ve realized that the root of many people’s drive to engage in meaningless sexual activity stems from LOW SELF ESTEEM. So worthless and empty you feel within, you turn to the outside world for validation. Soon, the external validation becomes a drug– you’re constantly looking to others to bolster your self esteem, because you don’t know how to feel good about yourself intrinsically.

During sex, individuals feel wanted by their partner. Desired. At least in the act. It’s not so much about the physical pleasure of sex as it is the emotional and psychological reinforcement sex provides many people with. To be able to give your partner physical pleasure is enough for you; as long as you feel your partner wants you, you are fulfilled.

That is, until you are finished. It’s after the act is over that the cruel nature of hookup culture rears its ugly head. Your partner leaves you. Cuts off all ties with you. Pretends as if the physical intimacy that happened between you two, never happened. In the end, you’re left feeling emptier than you did before. Drowning your sorrows in alcohol is only a temporary form of relief. Eventually you’re left feeling downright shitty about yourself, longing for another means of validation.

And so, you seek out another partner. Same thing happens– ego boost in the moment, downward spiral immediately after. It’s one step forward, ten steps back. Soon, you find yourself caught in a dangerous, toxic cycle, unable to stop.

I’m grateful for my dear friends who’ve helped me cope through this emotionally tumultuous time. They’ve intervened, and I am now turning to healthier means once more– namely, writing and dancing– to cope with my low self esteem. I am slowly finding myself once more, and learning to love myself wholeheartedly. I am holding myself to a higher standard; not throwing my body to any person who shows me the slightest bit of affection and validation. My body is my temple, and I must cherish it.

Alrighty guys! This was one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written. You know I’m all about vulnerability, as my aim in sharing my story is to humanize the day-to-day struggles we all know and love. Some parts of my life are easier for me to admit than others, though, and these past two weeks have not been my proudest of moments. But, they provided me with tremendous insight and growth, and I hope those of you going through similar struggles with self-esteem could learn something from my experiences.

 

 

 

 

Love,

Belicia

 

I’m Manic Again

Hi friends! It’s currently midnight and I’m listening to “Rude Boy” by Rihanna whilst sitting at my desk, typing away this post. Tonight, I hopped on board the manic train once more, and it feels amazing… exhilarating. I can practically feel the wind blowing my hair back, catching my breath and instilling vitality into my soul.

But my feeling of euphoria is sobered by the thought of the impending depression that inevitably follows such highs.

I know this mania is the illness talking. If only I could feel like this every day of my life. For there’s nothing truly as beautiful as the view from the cloud of mania. It’s intoxicating. Addicting. This is the very reason why people suffering from bipolar disorder are so reluctant to stay on their medications, for the very drug that is saving them from going under takes away depression’s seductive twin sister. There’s a cost that comes with tempering the illness. And it’s a cost that some are not willing to pay.

My manias are always triggered by some external event. According to my abnormal psychology textbook, “a somewhat different, more positive, set of stressful life events seems to trigger mania. Specifically, experience associated with striving to achieve important goals, such as getting accepted into grad school, obtaining a new job or promotion, getting married, or any goal striving activity for popularity or financial success trigger mania in vulnerable individuals.”

In my case, the trigger was my newfound goal of pursuing psychiatry. Whether this is just another of my many whims, or a genuine long-lasting goal, has yet to be seen. The point is, once I set my mind on this new goal, I went straight into manic mode.

I thought to myself, gotta fill up my schedule with five classes a quarter. Graduate early. Get a post-bacc. Do really well in my classes to be a competitive applicant for medical school. Continue my growth as a competitive Latin dancer. Improve in hip hop. Take on a research position. Get a job. 

So many goals inundating my little brain… Sleep is out of the question. I am completely restless. My heart is racing. Palms sweating. The ambition is consuming me.

I don’t know how to get off this high, nor do I necessarily wish to. This is the side of bipolar disorder I LOVE. I am sick. I need help. But seeking help would mean sacrificing the mania. I don’t know if I am willing to give it up just yet.

 

 

 

Slipping Into the Underworld

Hi friends! Hope you all are doing well.

I wish I could say life was all good… but as of right now, I am not in the best of places. No, it’s not the depression. My mood stabilizers have effectively kept the lows at bay– and the highs, for that matter.

My current struggles center around low self-esteem and wavering confidence, with the root cause being, presumably, my boy troubles. As I told you guys in Rejected, Yet Again., I was recently rejected by a guy I asked out. A little update on that story– shortly after I wrote that post, this guy replied my message, saying he would be down to grab coffee with me. When I clarified that I was asking him out on a date, he said that unfortunately it couldn’t be as a date, for he had a girlfriend already. Goodness… just writing those words is enough to send a cringeworthy tingle through my body, starting from the chest cavity and permeating through my being. My god, was I was embarrassed! Of course, I had no way of knowing he was off the market, but still… I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that this guy is taken. We agreed to hang out, though, but just as friends.

Besides this guy, I’ve been asking out a couple other guys on casual dates. I’m eager to start exploring the realm of dating and intimacy; I am of the age where the hormones are raging and curiosity consumes my mind. While I’m not looking for anything serious at the moment, I am eager to see where dating will take me. It’s definitely a scary thing, putting yourself out there and opening yourself to the judgement of others. Rejection becomes at once your best friend and worst enemy.

I don’t think I’ve been coping with rejection in the healthiest means possible. I feel myself sinking. Sinking into the underworld of hedonism and sin. Making bad decisions. Wasting away all that latent potential within me… What a shame, isn’t it? I’ve come so far from the innocent girl who first entered college– eyes bright and focused, discipline intact, clear goals and a burning fire of passion and drive raging within.

I feel as though my life of late has been lacking in direction. My self esteem is faltering tremendously. Every day, I look at myself in the mirror, and all I see are the glaring flaws and insecurities staring back at me. I’ve become so great at putting on a confident facade, that I’ve effectively duped everyone around me, save for my closest friends and family, into believing that I am a shining star exuding confidence and radiant energy. My confession to you all– I couldn’t be further from such, in this moment.

So, to cope with my emotional turmoil, I’ve turned to the underworld of partying, drinking, and other physical pleasures as a means of escape. I feel the motivation to pursue the myriad of goals on my plate, slowly slipping away. What happened? Who have I become?

I must get my ass back on track. I need to focus on myself, my character, my goals. I must regain the discipline and structure that I function so well under. My mind has grown weak, succumbing to temptation and instant gratification. The road to success is but a slippery slope. It is so easy to slide downward, and so difficult to pick yourself back up and continue the upward climb. But, I must have faith that I can get regain my focus and direction, morals and work ethic. It will happen, guys, if only I believe in myself.

I hope you aren’t disappointed in me. I feel as if, in sharing my current struggles, I am letting down a lot of people who look up to me and believe in me and my story. But, as I always say, my aim in sharing my story is to present to you the many contours of my life, in all its triumphs and pitfalls. No hiding behind rose-colored lenses. We all slip up and have our down times. It is the strong people who are able to rise from the ashes and continue forward.

I thank you all for continually keeping up with my journey. Sending so much love and positivity in your direction!

 

 

Love,

Belicia

Rejected, Yet Again.

Unrequited love. The worst kind there is.

This is not my first post about my experience with one-way-street infatuation, nor will it likely be my last. No matter how many times it happens, the pain of rejection will always sting, at least initially, until time closes the wound.

On Wednesday, I put myself out there by asking a guy out on a date. I had met him through one of our school’s hip hop teams, and interacted with him all but two times, before I decided to jump. I figured, I barely knew the guy, but isn’t that why I should ask him out? To get to know him better?

Well, the guy never returned my message. It’s been nearly two days now. I may as well take that as a big fat NO.

To be honest, I am so proud of myself for putting myself out there and being vulnerable to the forces of external judgment. Asking any person out on a date takes guts, and I commend all the men out there who’ve traditionally had to make the first move on the ladies. Really, it’s not an easy thing to do.

I had my friend write the actual “asking out” message, and another friend press the “send” button. I could barely fall asleep after the message was sent, anxiously waiting to hear the oh-so anticipated sound of my phone notification. No such sound played that night. Nor the next day, and the next. Eventually, I gave up hope and stopped checking my phone every ten seconds. With the help of my friends, I heaved that door shut, locked it behind me, and labeled it as yet another in my ever-growing pile of rejection.

REJECTION. Oh, what a fun word it is. The word implies that you are not good enough. Subpar. Below expectation. To be rejected is one of the worst feelings in the world, for we often take it as a signal of our lack of self worth. This, however, is a distortion. Rejection, by nature, is the outside world acting on our inner being. It is some person or force telling you that you are not enough, or not worthy. But, what really does it matter what others say or do, if you are equipped with an unshakeable pillar of self-confidence and self-worth, so assured and grounded that nothing can shake you?

So that’s it, then. Rejection hurts. But it is by no means a definition of your own self worth. There’s only one person in the world who can define who you are, and that person is yourself. If a guy doesn’t share your sentiments, that is absolutely okay. It is in his every right to feel the way he does, for attraction is not something one can force. The chemistry is either there, or is not. However, it would be wrong of you to then morph that rejection into a label. Just because one person does not like you, doesn’t mean you are not lovable. Just because one person does not find you attractive, doesn’t mean you are not beautiful.

Rejection strengthens you. It builds character. Each rejection adds on a layer of armor to your skin.

So, in a way, I’m grateful that I’ve been rejected. Not once, not twice, but continuously, one right after the other. Slowly, I’m becoming immune to the pain of NO. I still have my insecurities. Each rejection throws me into a state of questioning. Am I pretty enough? Am I likable enough? Smart enough? Skinny enough? Am I enough?

The answer, of course, is a resounding YES. I am absolutely enough, in every sense of the word, and I don’t need a guy to validate that.

 

Social Anxiety Update 1/17/18

Hello everyone! It’s been a while since I last updated you all on how I’m doing with my battle against social anxiety. So, here goes!

Last night, I went to the Foundations Choreography orientation (you know, the hip hop team I auditioned for). Technically, I wasn’t supposed to be there, as I was placed on the waitlist for the team, but I didn’t let that stop me from attending.

At the end of the orientation, our Foundations team headed to Koala Tea for dinner. There, we shared a wholesome conversation about the stereotypical Asian parents, sex, and more sex. Lol. It’s interesting, because I seemed to be the dominant figure in the conversation. I felt completely at ease with these people I had just met, which is a sure sign of improvement. I’m sure that most people who meet me now would never have guessed that, at one point in time, I was an incredibly shy girl who couldn’t raise her hand in class without feeling like throwing up out of fear.

I had a chance to talk to the directors of our team. They all remembered my audition, and described my dancing as “spicy”. Lol. They wanted me on their team, but unfortunately, since I had submitted my application way too late, I was placed on a waitlist instead. Bummer. But that won’t stop me from attending the weekly practices, to learn hip hop in the presence of friends new and old!

Today, I attended my very first honors’ seminar, Psych 189. The class size was pretty small– around 15 students, and the professor. For some reason, I found myself very nervous when it was my turn to introduce myself. We had to state our name, hometown, current year/major, and what our future plans after graduation were.

A part of me wonders why I have seemed to regress in this aspect of my battle against social anxiety. Maybe I just haven’t done self-introductions in a group setting in a little while, and am a little bit rusty. All I know is, self-introductions for me are the hardest part. Once the ice has thawed and I’ve cozied in to my surroundings, I feel completely at ease with my peers. Some may even call me outgoing. I call myself an ambivert– introverted in the beginning, but extroverted once I’ve gotten over the initial obstacle of meeting new people.

Again, guys, I’m trying to find confidence in my social identity without the aid of my manic episodes. The manias helped me through my shyness. They gave me a false sense of courage and confidence. My mood stabilizers have significantly reduced the magnitude of such hypomanias, and thus, have grounded me to reality. I don’t know if I like this change in me or not. For without the manias, I question how confident around people I truly am. I’ve grown more insecure and less steady, in social situations, at least in the initial stages.

All of this is a process of rebuilding a pillar of my identity from scratch, and I am no stranger to such a phenomenon. I must be kind to myself as I build up my social confidence, just as I did when initially diagnosed with social anxiety disorder at age 16. Don’t judge myself too harshly when I lose my cool in social situations. Befriend the anxiety, then attack in head on.

After today’s episode, I am determined to improve my speaking skills. Bruin Toastmasters meets every Thursday at 12pm. Unfortunately, I have class at 12:30pm, but because this particular class is BruinCasted (video recorded), I can afford to skip it and simply watch the lecture online. Starting tomorrow, I will attend weekly Toastmasters meetings and chronicle my increase in social confidence. I have a good feeling about this! More than Toastmasters, I will take initiative to raise my hand more often in class, and maybe even rush a sorority– if for nothing else, to gain more exposure to meeting new people.

The thing with social anxiety is, it never truly goes away. You always have to do the heavy-work of keeping the anxiety at bay, by continually challenging and exposing yourself to situations that may make you nervous. It’s called maintenance. Just as one with diabetes must be attentive to diet and exercise, so should those with anxiety take measures to exorcise those demons, on a daily basis.

Stay tuned for more tomorrow!

 

 

 

Best,

Belicia

Work-Life Balance As The Key to Long-term Happiness

Hello friends! It is currently 2:31pm on this Monday afternoon– MLK day– as I begin this post.

This past week has been such a fun one, in so many ways! As you may know, I auditioned for a hip hop team last Wednesday. It’s been nearly a week since the event passed, but I’m still reeling over the fun my friends and I had auditioning in front of– and effectively shocking– the directors of the team. Performing is my element. I simply love it. Every time I get out on the dance floor, I feel such an indescribable exchange of energy between me and the audience… it’s unreal. I think that’s why I love going out to clubs or dance parties so much. I get to show off my moves in the center of the dance circle, driven by the whoops and cheers of hyped-up watchers. On Saturday night, my friends and I headed out to frat row, where we went frat hopping. There was one frat house that had a pole in the middle of the room. Courageously, I hopped on top of the platform, where I performed a completely improvised pole dance amidst the cheers and flashing phone cameras of entertained partygoers. What fun. If, in high school, you told me that I’d one day be the life of the party, I would have shaken my head in disbelief. It’s funny how a little bit of confidence can change a person.

Beyond dancing and partying, I had a great time with friends last night, when we headed to downtown Santa Monica for outdoor ice skating. I enjoyed showing off my very, very limited arsenal of skating tricks, including the “lunge”, and my very own move– the “fall into middle splits gracefully”. After skating, we went to Sloan’s for ice cream sundaes. I had the “Flower Pot” sundae– three scoops of ice cream, topped with whipped cream, Oreo bits and a cherry on the top.

I guess you could say I am enjoying my college life thoroughly. This– sharing memories and conversations with dear friends– is what I will remember most, after my college days have long passed. I’ve definitely changed from the hardcore pre-med student I was at the start of my college journey. I was highly disciplined and focused, yes. But also very limited in my scope of life’s wonders. Then, grades were my only form of validation. Without good grades, I was nothing. My hopes and dreams depended on a perfect GPA. Failure was not an option, because to underperform was a direct reflection of my self worth. I had placed the weight of the world on my shoulders, as a naive freshman. Now, though, I realize that there is so, so much more to life than earning good grades. Don’t get me wrong– I still strongly value academics, and I will always try my best in school. The difference now is, I no longer view my grades, and any external achievement, for that matter, as a direct reflection of my worth as a person. I think this mindset shift has been one of the most formative of my life. As I no longer view each test or evaluation as a measure of who I am as a person, I am freed from the prison of perfection. Life is now so much richer… so much happier.

My mother doesn’t necessarily agree that my shift has been a positive one. She wonders why I am no longer as “disciplined” as I was in my youth, as a competitive athlete. Sometimes I wonder the same thing myself. Discipline is the key to achieving success, and in my youth, discipline was my very being. It was all I ever knew, since age five. Prided on this endearing quality, I equated my self worth solely with the intensity and drive with which I tackled my goals.

Now, I’ve discovered many other positive qualities about myself, beyond my good work ethic. I’ve developed a more balanced, well-rounded identity, one supported by many pillars, rather than a single precarious one, threatening to crack under the immense self-imposed pressure.

I once carried myself with an “all work no play” mindset. By some twisted mode of thinking, I found inherent meaning in suffering and pushing myself to the breaking point. This hard discipline sucked all joy and color out of life, leaving me lonely and self-pitying. Of course, I could only know this in retrospect, as then, I had no mode of comparison to my unhealthy, unbalanced way of living. It was only recently, when I switched to a major I thoroughly enjoyed, whilst fearlessly pursuing my many passions, did I truly realize how limited the scope of my life had been, during my days of intense discipline.

I still live life with ambition and drive as my predominant themes. However, I’ve also learned the beauty of balance, and instead of spurning this so-called “noncommittal”, “lazy” way of living, I’ve learned to embrace it wholeheartedly. I’ve learned the importance of nursing friendships and finding joy in life beyond work and goals. I hope my mother can understand that, what may seem to be a softening of the will, is indeed one of the greatest, most gratifying mindset changes I’ve experienced thus far, in my two decades of life.