Lu-Lu-Lucy's Rant

Picking up the mess | Living life | sans tiger-parents

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Looney bin & crazies

It’s OK to admit it. You think only “crazies” end up in the “looney bin.” That’s what I thought, too – until I landed my ass in there.

What I remember most vividly about the psych. ward is that the doors lock behind you. No one goes in or out unless you’re let in by the nurses, visitors included. There was always one or two patients who hung around the doors, trying to follow visitors or the meal-delivery staff out. At times, the nurses had to call for the help of security; and those would be the most exciting times in the ward. For the most part, the ward was drama free and quiet.

I had envisioned there to be lots of “colorful” characters, but it was quite the contrary. To my relief, most of everyone suffered from severe depression and anxiety issues. Just like me. A dad with young kids who got laid off and couldn’t find stable work, anxiety and low self esteem paralyzed him; a retired mom with grown children who was constantly anxious because her husband had a bad temper; a young man who got into a work related accident on a job site that changed his personality, then turned suicidal…. and I was diagnosed with severe depression, anxiety disorder and post traumatic stress disorder (more commonly known in short as PTSD) (thank you, mother monster!!)

The last few years, I felt too embarrassed or ashamed to even talk about this (besides the point that hardly anyone knows anything about mental health and often dished out stupid advice like “why can’t you just be happy?”) There’s simply so much misunderstanding (lack of knowledge) and bad stigma attached. Unless someone in your immediate family or you suffer from mental disorders, most of us don’t understand or care to find out about it. So, in writing and sharing my personal experience, I hope that at least the small audience here will now be a bit more aware and be able to spread the word.

Mental health illness is very much like a very bad cold which won’t go away. It can be hereditary, an imbalance of chemicals, triggered by a significant and traumatizing event, or all of the above. So, next time someone confides in you that they have depression, please don’t say stupid shits like “Well, at least you have a good job, or at least your bf is nice… ” Seriously, if it was so simple, we wouldn’t need medication. Simply say that you’re there to listen or to be supportive will suffice.

Don’t judge anyone unless you’ve walked a mile in others’ shoes. True story. I learnt this valuable lesson when I got my goodie bag of mental disorders.

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Negotiations & Forgiveness

I was strolling in the park by our condo one day and overheard this conversation between a little boy and his mom:

Mom: OK, 5 more minutes and we have to go home and prepare dinner.
Boy: Noooo.. I don’t want to go home yet!
Mom: Sorry, 5 more minutes.
Boy: 10!
Mom: No, 5.
Boy: 7!
Mom: OK, 7 minutes.
*the happy boy ran off to play*

It came as a shock that kids could negotiate at such a young age. I had never negotiated with my mother. She had never given me the opportunity. She NEVER asked what I wanted. She simply told me. I either grudgingly did what I was asked, or there would be full on yelling matches. I never felt like I had a choice. In anything.

Calm, level-headed discussions did not exist in my world. There was no talking things through. There was never “I care about you, and I want you to be happy, let’s hear what you have to say.”

As a grown ass adult, discussions are new to me. They are a challenge. Because once I feel that someone is in disagreement, I get overly defensive. I have to remind myself not to yell; to stay calm; that the other person is probably not attacking me even though I may feel that way. I have to hold back my tears; I have to remind myself not to take things personally.

It wasn’t until I went to group therapy that I realized, my mother raised me in a way that left me unable to navigate or function in this world. I had no tools to fend for myself. I only knew how to be a rag doll so other people could walk all over me and throw me around as they wished.

My mother fucked up my life. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t struggle with so many essential skills that came naturally even to children, like negotiating; I wouldn’t have wasted my prime years in and out of the psych ward – which directly affected my work, my resume, my financial stability, my plan for having a family. I felt like I was slowly sinking to the bottom of the ocean, with a ton of bricks tied to my legs but somehow, I was not suffocating. Somehow, I was kept alive when all I wanted was for life to end.

For all of this, I have not forgiven her.

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MythBusters – the Chinese Edition

Up until I graduated from university, I was under the genuine impression that everyone hates their moms. Well, at least strongly dislike. Or aim to spend as little time as possible. Because I avoided mine like a plague.

Growing up, there was never a doubt in my mind that as soon as I graduated from high school, I was getting out of the house, and as far away as possible. I thought this was the norm. I thought it was only natural that kids want to get away from their parents – who needs curfews? Who wants parents to keep tabs on them? Who can have fun while living with their parents? You see, this was my skewed and messed up view of the world.

A girlfriend at that time told me that as an undergrad graduation present, she was going on a Euro-trip with her mom. With grave concern, I asked her how devastating and awkward that was going to be: being stuck with one’s mother for weeks on end, in different countries, sharing a hotel room, having to deal with awkward silence, having one’s mother nag your ears off. That sounds like a death sentence rather than a vacation!

I guess it is usually when “kids” get into their early twenties that they truly start to appreciate their parents – all the sacrifices made, the money spent, the difficulties of raising teenagers… So I simply thought this friend was growing up, but I was pretty certain she would have a shitty time on this graduation trip. Well, she made it home alive and told me that she had so much fun, how much she loved and appreciated her mom, how they grew closer, how her mom was like her best friend.  *Alarm. Bells. Went. Off.*

You mean, it’s not just in movies that daughters actually like their moms? That they can actually be best friends?? Jebus, I hardly wanted to think of my mother as an acquaintance. She was (is) mean-spirited, evil, conniving, manipulative, fake, two-faced, thought of me as “cheaper than dirt” (a Chinese saying) and never had anything nice to say yet never kept her mouth shut.

That was the first time I realized perhaps I needed to bust some myths of my general negative overview of mothers or Chinese parents in general. Below are the stereotypical core values of Chinese parents which make me wish I was of a different race (ha!):

1. Money = love. (despite all the beatings and put-downs, I spent all this money on you. Can’t you see how much I love you??)

2. Money = happiness. However, love does not necessarily = happiness.

3. I gave you life, I raised you. You owe me for life monetarily (see #1, 2).

4. Respect me because you have to.

5. Love me because you have to.

6. Every career other than being a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant is unworthy.

7. Success is making a shit load of money. Everything else is irrelevant (see #2).

8. I am your parent, I know what is best for you. I lay down your path so you will succeed (see #7).

9. Without a university (community college does not make the cut) education, one will never succeed (see #7).

10. Choose a program in school which will land you a job, your interest in it is secondary.

11. If you love me, you will obey and follow my advice (see #8-10).

Maybe I should rename this: “MythBusters – Lucy’s Edition.” Although, if you have a Chinese parent, it is more likely than not that he/she will at least agree with one of the points listed above…. Right?? Myth? or Myth Busted? Please enlighten me and correct my (mis-)interpretations of my own race.

To be continued….


Vanessa Mae & Tiger Moms

Tiger Mom

I grew up with one. In my 29th year of living in constant fear and dictatorship, without fore warning or premeditation, the frightened child inside of me finally broke loose. This child was paranoid and sick. This child lost the ability to carry on. She lost interest in self-care in all possible ways – she stopped eating and slept for a week straight. This child landed herself in the emergency psychiatric ward multiple times. This poor child… this was me four years ago. I was alone and so very desperate. In hide sight, there must have been an ever so tiny sliver of hope in her, that she somehow held on and survived.

It always was going to be a complete shit show before the calm.

My mother makes Amy Chua (author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) seem like an angel. After nearly 30 years of mental and physical abuse, I finally realized that I did not have to take shit from anybody – even if this somebody turns out to be my very own, biological mother. Judge me if you must, it doesn’t bother me much.

Not so many years ago, a childhood friend shared with me that she decided to cut all ties with her tiger mom, I remember precisely my response was, “Huh… You can do that?” That was my reaction, even though I knew damned well that her mother had chased after her with a kitchen knife. Yup, that’s how fucked up I was. I was trained to be so obedient, that no matter how horribly I was ridiculed, hurt physically, suffered psychologically to the point of physical pain, I did not dare defy my mother. Sure, I had stayed out later than my curfew*, had crushes on boys in my adolescence (I was to feel towards boys the way I would feel towards a wall, anything other than made me a slut), did not become a medical doctor (mind you, I was reminded of my incompetence and laziness on a daily basis anyway); but I did not steal, did not do drugs or sell drugs or engage in any illegal activities, I didn’t even drink; I didn’t hurt or bully anyone. I felt I was a good kid. I just could not make my mother happy. She was always so hurt and disappointed and embarrassed and *insert negative adjectives* of me. Like I was the disgrace of the universe.

I was a good kid. Some would even say that I was pretty darn close to being the ideal Chinese kid – made the honor roll (not that not making it was really an option. I probably would have been hit and yelled at to the point that I would have hurt myself by slamming my head against the wall, and I used to do that. I was only asked to stop because mother was afraid I was causing such a ruckus that our next door neighbors would hear us, and then God forbid, would call the police to file a complaint. I always secretly wished that they would’ve heard me. Alas, my screaming and yelling fell on deaf ears in oh-so-many ways.) I was polite, and genuinely for the most part; I was an altar server at church; I dared not dream of pursuing a “worthless” career of music or art…. I only did what I was told and what was expected of me, to the best of my ability.

In the past few years, I have finally learnt that I need not care what others think of me. The only person whose opinion and well-being that ever did matter, that will ever matter, is my own. But I digress…..

Ms. Vanessa Mae Vanakorn

The reason that I finally got my ass in gear to start this blog was because of Vanessa Mae. Through a dear friend who posted a Chinese article on her on facebook, I read about this amazing world renowned violinist turned Olympic skier. She risked it all, including her relationship with her mother, to compete at this Winter Olympics in Sochi. It’s a beautiful story that brought sad and joyful tears to my eyes. I can relate to her story. I am so proud and so elated that she finally decided to pursue skiing.  Yet I feel sorry that tiger moms exist everywhere, and they simply cannot see beyond what they believe is best for their children. It’s a mixed bag of feelings, it was strangely comforting that there are others out there who could understand me. And not just anybody, she’s a world-class musician! Surely, she gave up a lot more to walk away from her past than I did.

I feel compelled to start writing, to share my story. For several months, I did not know where or how to start my blog. It was the story of Vanessa Mae that pushed me to start writing.

So this is where my story begins. This is the story of a scared, broken child who lived to seek her parents’ approval, and in failing to do so, eventually lost the will to live. By sharing the story, the struggles, the re-learning and validating of a new me, my hope is to encourage just one more person to break free – whether it’s from a tiger mom/family; cultural expectations; the fucked up “norms”/values of our society; a shitty job that makes you wish the next day will never come; or the courage to be authentically you… I invite you to start by taking one small step towards freedom today. To live life the way you want to live it. There’s no need to feel that the grass is greener on the other side. Go on, get to the other side, and you can decide for yourself.

I look forward to sharing and discussing openly about mental health, my journey of recovery and self-discovery as I continue to pick up the broken pieces, and many rants of random topics ranging from yoga to sustainability; gelato to tiger moms. Stay tuned!

*When I was 29, due to sucky job situations, I moved in with the monsters (that is the nicest term I can label my mother and father) for about five months. My curfew was 10 pm. No jokes.

You can read about Ms. Vanessa Mae here: