Spotlight: Orange Polar Bear at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Hi everyone!

I have something a little different today – I wanted to share my experience seeing a play recently. I have always wanted to see more theatre – my Royal Shakespeare Company discount card and loyalty card remain unused at the moment! This was a short-notice event for me but I don’t regret a second.

Orange Polar Bear is a play made in collaboration between British and Korean acting organisations, including The REP itself, the National Theater Company of Korea, Hanyong Theatre and Birmingham City University. It ran from the 1st-10th of November, and I saw some tweets a few days in and spontaneously decided to snap up some of the last few tickets for the 9th for myself and a friend. As both of us are interested in Korean culture, it was a great opportunity to act on our interests on a local scale.

Photo from The REP Website – I wish I could get my own copy of the promotional poster. This is beautiful and I’d love a memento for my wall.

It was my first time at the theatre. It’s wedged in between the Library of Birmingham and the ICC, and sometimes you can’t see it above all of the construction happening in the Paradise Circus area at the moment. Its also connected to the Library via the ground floor, where you can kill some time before or after a show… in the daytime, anyway – it closes early, unfortunately.

From this point, this review contains spoilers, although to my knowledge this play won’t be running any more, unfortunately.

The play is about two teenagers, William and Jiyoung in the UK and Korea respectively,  who are frustrated with their current lives, trying to navigate their personal lives while taking a peek at each others’. They express their worries and fears for the future both personally and on a bigger scale throughout the play. They feel distant from their lives as they live it, demonstrated by how they speak in the third person during their monologues.

The set was quite sparse, featuring a clean white background with doors and an upper platform, and clear perspex boxes used as seats and icebergs. We loved seeing projections of microwave contents and TV screens on the white doors, and the clean set allowed the play to move seamlessly between the UK and Korea and blend the two when needed.

William and Jiyoung. Rollers in my fringe was something I began to do only recently so Jiyoung was what I’d call a *big mood*. (from @OrangePolar18 on Twitter)

I found it interesting that all the supporting cast spoke their native language no matter what scenes (Korean or English language) they were in, adding to the bilingualism of the play and allowing audiences speaking either language to understand the other through context. My friend and I were a bit nervous about whether subtitles would be provided, and the answer was both yes and no. There were sections left entirely up to the context that we understood well regardless, with the help of the emotive cast.

Photo from the promotional Twitter for Orange Polar Bear, @OrangePolar18.

I was surprised to see school groups coming to see the play. In truth, it probably is a really interesting play for teenagers to watch especially as the main characters are also teens. Sometimes I wish my school had been more interested in promoting local theatre and experimental pieces like this. Not that I regret being able to see Hamlet live, but I wasn’t fully aware of the scope of theatre back then outside of Shakespeare, musicals and historically based pieces. Smaller pieces like this one, that take a chance of me stumbling upon them… those are what I’d like to see more of. I’ll have to keep my eyes open now.

Photo from the promotional Twitter for Orange Polar Bear, @OrangePolar18.

The plot itself was quite simple, yet also unexpected in the way it twisted and built up until the peak. As William and Jiyoung are almost always present on stage, aware of each other, we see what is happening to them as well as their reactions to each other’s lives. The duality of the plot helped to make it much more interesting. On a screen, I probably would not have thought twice before losing interest but in person, I got so immersed in it.

Also… I now totally stan Minju Kim and am looking forward to her future projects. The only issue being that it’s hard to Google her because there is a member of IZ*ONE with the same name! As Jiyoung, Minju Kim was so endearing and loveable. My friend and I agreed that the Korean cast, in particular, were fantastic. Cheongim Kang’s mini dance to Power Up by Red Velvet was a little fun alongside hearing Stormzy in the previous segment, like a musical trade. She switched between the role of idol schoolgirl Taehee and Jiyoung’s grandmother, two drastically different roles, so well! Ahron Hong’s performance as Jiyoung’s father was also really touching, and made me think of my own father and how he expresses himself.

That’s not to say the British cast weren’t also great. Rasaq Kukyoki and Tahirah Sharif had the audience invested in William and Sarah’s relationship – with what I could tell from the little gasps and laughs heard from behind me. Michael Kodwiw was less present, but this was not felt when we saw him as William’s friend Arthur and Sarah’s father. I only truly realised it now as I am typing.

Photo from the promotional Twitter for Orange Polar Bear, @OrangePolar18.

Overall, this was a beautiful, curious experience worth getting up earlier for. As a British Vietnamese young adult, I saw so much of my own experiences reflected in both the Korean and British portions of the play, in a strange way, and I think many others will also be able to relate to it, too. In the future, I’d love to see more collaborations between Birmingham theatre and theatre abroad, as well as more bilingual pieces.

Until next time,

X

Lipstick & Chatter: Can We Stop With the Late Night Fireworks Now?

Everyone, can you believe its November? The German Market is just around the corner and so is the end of the year. I feel like it’s flying by quicker than I would like.

Shopping

These days, I get to come home to a great cinnamon scent in my room. I’ve been revisiting TK Maxx a lot waiting for a classically autumn scent like cinnamon or pumpkin in a reed diffuser. I own a few candles but I’m not allowed to use them upstairs for safety reasons, so the best near alternative for my room is a reed diffuser.

Now that I have my hands on a cinnamon scent, though, I think I would have preferred vanilla pumpkin or something without cinnamon as the scent is a bit strong. I’ve tucked away the reed diffuser in a corner where the scent will be less strong so hopefully, it won’t be so bad.

On the other hand, some of you may know that I love the Paper Place A4 Spiralbound notebooks from The Works. I’ve noticed that they’ve made their notebooks less pages recently although ultimately the same. I don’t know whether to be sad or happy seeing as it took me ages to get through them but now they’re less value for the same price!

University

I feel like I’m juggling so many things recently. Beyond university coursework, I’m also part of two societies, a language exchange group, a Japanese class and an extra module. I also have a gym membership and have been aiming for two days a week. I’d previously felt drained at most times during the week and at one point I started missing lectures and workshops in order to recover from my really long Tuesdays.

(This post goes out on a Tuesday, so rest assured I am probably dying at Uni as you read this.)

Until a few weeks ago, I also had two jobs. I’ve since quit the second job in order to have more time to fit all of these extra-curricular things with time to relax. The Tuesdays haven’t changed, essentially, so they’re still too long and tiring for the moment but I’m glad to have my Fridays and Sundays back – a few days where I can take time off and get ready for the next week. I feel as if I can still cramming in too much though and I’m still struggling to make it to the gym. I am hoping to change that this week.

NaNoWriMo

All this said, you’ll understand now why I’m finding it so hard to blog. You’ll be even more baffled to hear that I’m also adding NaNoWriMo to that list this year. For those of you unfamiliar, National Novel Writing Month is a writing challenge to get 50k words done throughout the month. I’ve only succeeded once in 2015 and not reached 10k in subsequent years since. So, of course, I’ve set a small goal for myself of at least reaching 10k. Right now, I’m at 1k.

On top of that, I haven’t concretely planned my novel at all, whereas I have attempted plans for most of my previous projects. This is because, in my mind, I am still in the mindset of getting to know the characters and setting and when I try to write with a plot I quickly lose the plot (pun sort of intentional).

So I am actually approaching the novel more like a plan, and hopefully all those words will help me become more familiar with my characters. Case in point is that I started this month with only three characters and simply by writing about their setting I’ve now got at least eight characters.

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Lipstick Spotlight

Recently, the lipstick I have been wearing the most is my Smashbox Be Legendary in Legendary. I know I did review this lipstick a little negatively saying that it was not fully opaque and a bit patchy at times, but it means I’ve fully embraced a messy lip look.

I want something bold this autumn and winter as well as not too drying, so I have been wearing this two ways: popping this in the centre of my lips on top of Skinfood’s tinted avocado lip serum, or using the lipstick first in the centre and using a lip brush to line my lips in lip balm and soften the lip lines. I don’t have defined lips so softening lipstick lines really improves the look in my opinion. The result is this super plushy and glossy-ish look that I like wearing on a daily basis.

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The lasting power of the lipstick is not great so depending on food type it may have to be retouched. However, with just a drink or so, it will last well and only lose some vividity, fading to a more blotted look.

I did wear a liquid lipstick or two recently but I couldn’t handle just how drying they felt so I think I am back to bullets, pigmented balmy products and glosses for life. I picked my recent gel polish to match – it’s Halo Gel Polish in Apple Red, which is slightly orangey yet not too bright. Ask your local nail salon if they offer it, and if not they’re sure to know a trade stockist that does.

And Finally…

On a random note, I find myself picking more and more vegetarian options recently when I am going out for food. I recently picked up a jar of pumpkin seed butter to try out – it’s the one option I saw that was not nut-based (my sister is allergic) so it was an impulse buy! I just look at what interests me and many times it happens to be vegetarian. I told myself in this regard that I would never force myself to eat vegan or vegetarian, and focus on what I like, and it’s interesting to see what I naturally gravitate to and what I could easily give up.

Until Next Time,

X

Autumn Media Edit 2018

Hi everyone! I think it’s been AGES since I last did an editorial like this, so I am really eager to share what I have been watching, reading and listening to over the last few months.

Netflix

First off, I have recently gotten Netflix, and by that I mean my boyfriend’s. I had a trial a year or two ago and I watched a lot but didn’t find it necessary at the time. At the moment they do have a great selection of shows, both anime and not-anime, that I am interested in watching. I’m not a binge watcher at all so I am a few episodes into many many series at once. Of course, I started with the anime but, perhaps in the next Edit, we shall see a greater variety of shows!!

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On Netflix, I recommend Aggretsuko, a Sanrio cartoon about a sweet office worker who likes to vent her stress through raging death metal. I am also working my way through Samurai Champloo, a samurai anime with a hip-hop soundtrack. I also noticed Cowboy Bebop was on Netflix, too, which is a space action with a jazz-infused soundtrack. Both are definitely worth checking out, objectively, but perhaps didn’t hit the sweet spot for my personal taste.

Not on Netflix, we recently watched 91 Days at the University Anime Society which has been a huge hit with everyone! It’s fast-paced, dark, unexpected and a great series to watch together and talk about.

91days

Manga

In the same vein, I have been reading a lot of manga. I have recently binged a variety of series, and the ones I don’t write further about today are in bold in the list below.

  • Skip Beat (re-read)
  • Fruits Basket (re-read)
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (re-read)
  • The Ancient Magus’ Bride (a quaint, British-inspired fantasy).
  • Hajime no Ippo (a boxing manga that is surprisingly gripping).
  • Real Clothes
  • Oishii Kankei (A Delicious Life)
  • Yotsuba& (laughed out loud a LOT reading this – a definite recommendation!)

Fruits Basket is probably my very first shoujo manga. No, not even Sailor Moon!! It was in the local library, as well as the school library, and I ended up finishing it online as a young teen. I didn’t fully understand the ending and perhaps even found it boring at the time.

However, reading it now, I realise that after the first five volumes of fun, it quickly becomes sadder. The plot was much less clear-cut than I thought but I did a much better job of understanding it now I am older, and these new things made me enjoy this re-read. That said, the writing is still stretched out and overly fluffy so this plot could have been finished at least a few volumes less, and I probably won’t re-read it again… at least not for a long time.

I started reading Real Clothes and Oishii Kankei, both by the same mangaka, after a long conversation at Anime Society, weeks ago, about the greatness of the shoujo (girls’) genre.  I actually read more shounen (boys’) so I thought I needed to broaden my hoizons in this genre. I did start out after this discussion with After the Rain but that’s on hold for now.

Real Clothes and Oishii Kankei are what would be counted as more mature shoujo series, and I thoroughly enjoyed them both. The characters themselves are a bit less… dramatic (?) and the drama revolves around their life situations more. I preferred Real Clothes as I think the main character is more relatable – she’s simply a hard-working, career-focused woman who happens to find her calling and the manga does reflect that. It also implies that fashion both can and cannot be learned in interesting ways.

TV

Doctor Who is back on TV! The new 13th Doctor has really grown on me in just a few episodes and the writing is definitely getting there, wherever ‘there’ is. The older series are also on Netflix so I’ve been watching a bit of the Ninth Doctor here and there! There are some fantastic one-liners in those early episodes and I’ve missed them.

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As Doctor Who is now on a Sunday, I happen to flick over from watching Bradley Walsh as the new companion to Bradley Walsh as host of The Chase. I tend to only catch the final round or so, but it’s still a bit of fun.

Then I even stick around to watch the X Factor results(!) although I don’t see the live Saturday shows. I think the X Factor needs to die for a few years then come back for a reboot – as a singing show, it tends to favour the same types of contestants and it ends up predictable. I’m not saying bring Produce 101 over to the UK but… okay, maybe K-Pop has really spoiled me. I can’t watch performances in the UK and be genuinely impressed anymore.

Gaming

In terms of games, I’ve got Mario Party now but we won’t get its full use for another few months when my brother returns home for the holidays. Of course, I have preordered Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and I’m insanely excited for that.

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Hidden Folks, an example of a map (taken from their website).

I’ve recently bought Hidden Folks which is a very simple, black and white interactive finding game in the vein of ‘wheres wally?’ It’s best played on the touchscreen so I’ve enjoyed cosying in bed to play this for short bursts of time and finding things in their huge maps.

I’ve also been playing Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice on the 3DS, which I’m loving but finding hard to play in long stretches with my timetable. I don’t know about other fans, but I found AA: Apollo Justice to be necessary to the series, but I didn’t enjoy it as much. Now that Apollo is teamed with Athena I definitely seem to enjoy him more as a character.

Music

I’m mildly obsessed with IZ*ONE at the moment, especially Sakura and Nako. As usual, I tend to watch a couple of episodes of the latest Produce series, pick my favourites, then drop the show until the group is formed. After I.O.I, the post-show team have certainly learnt how to launch a group to success.

Below: my fellow smol Nako and my OG stan, Sakura. Both are from J-line, i.e. the AKB quarter of the group.

I was pleasantly surprised by the more mature and elegant cute theme as I was expecting a more bubblegum pop style from the lineup, and I particularly love the choreography in their debut song, La Vie En Rose. The flower motifs stand out and although the powerful pre-chorus is hit-and miss it seems, I absolutely love it. This debut also has me sold on Wonyoung, the show winner and group center, as I was unsure about her win but she seems totally at home in that position with her obvious charm.

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The shot from the MV that sold me on Wonyoung.

Recently I’ve gotten the urge to learn kpop dances, too, which is great as I’ve got two left feet and bad stage fright(!) so I’ve been learning the choruses to La Vie En Rose and Siren by Sunmi. One day I shall slay those random dance challenges but not yet.

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Siren by Sunmi. 

Here are a few more songs I have been loving:

Oh shoot, over 1400 words? I’d better wrap this up!! This is what happens when I don’t update in a while! I hope you all discover something new to watch or read through my Edit today, and keep and eye out for the next one!

Until Next Time,

X

P.S. It’s a shame blogging doesn’t count towards National Novel Writing Month, as a word count of 1400 words is really valuable! HAHA (sob)

 

[Makeup and Chatter] Back at University

Hi everyone!

Just like that, the summer is gone.

My new timetable is here, the new academic year is well on its way and for the third year in a row, I have not blogged almost all summer. I spent most of it at work and playing games… I didn’t actually wear that much makeup this summer, especially during the heatwave in July. Now that it is much cooler, I can wear foundation again without it melting off my face, but the long days at work or uni really put me off wearing makeup in case it looks horrid by the evening.

So I took these pictures ages ago but had to share. My boyfriend and I treated ourselves in September to some fancy food at Jailbird Birmingham, which replaces Nosh and Quaff where I went to a few times for their lobster. It was a nice treat after two or three weeks straight serving the back-to-school rush. We ordered the lobster at Jailbird, and we loved it. It was actually his first time eating lobster so I’m really glad he liked it. We’re slowly making our way around all the must-eat food places in the Birmingham city centre area, so if you need recommendations you can hit us up!

My new year at university started about a month ago and honestly, it’s been a little shock to the system. I took my camera with me on one Monday to share what food I ate!

I’d like to write a post about hair products at one point. I’ve recently dyed my ends a deep indigo blue. I was originally going to go green but with dubious looks from my mom when I suggested it, I thought I should go blue first to ease into it. I felt like clipping up my full fringe and showing a bit of forehead. That feeling was nice while it lasted. It’s faded a lot now as it’s only semi-permanent but the colour was so nice and I’d do it again.

I went for a more fresh faced look. No foundation or any kind of base. I was out for a good 8-9 hours, and there was no guarantee a base would have lasted on my face that long, so I didn’t bother. I had a few spots but overall this was a good skin day and nothing to worry about. It was also a good excuse to do my eyebrows which are usually hidden under my fringe. I know it looks like I’m not wearing any makeup, but that’s the point.

Products used:

  • Etude House Drawing Eye Brow in Dark Brown
  • Etude House Dr Mascara Lash Fixer
  • Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara
  • Maybelline Fit Me Powder in Soft Beige
  • Revolution Sugar and Spice Blush Palette
  • Etude Proof 10 Eye Primer
  • Kat Von D Shade and Light Contour Palette (on my eyes mostly)
  • NARS Velvet Matte Pencil in Walkyrie

That morning, I went to meet my friend AT at Damascena Coffee House. It’s my favourite of all the local cafés although as you all know I also frequent the one at Waterstones. Damascena is wonderful and often quite busy. I ordered the grilled halloumi.

I had two lectures that day with breaks in between. The workload hadn’t hit me then so I didn’t have much to do in between. I could have gone to the gym but I didn’t want to carry all that stuff around with me on such a long day, too. It’s the biggest pain when you commute, even if it’s just a twenty-minute bus rise. I’d love some sort of locker system for commuting students.

I spent that evening with one of my societies. We visited a Korean restaurant in the Chinatown area. I’ve been to Topokki a number of times already and I absolutely love it there. I ordered the Pumpkin Croquette Dupbap (i.e. with rice). I’d also recommend their kimchi jeon!

I spent the evening in bed winding down. I took some pictures on the way home to practice editing. I really love night photography and recently I’ve been totally inspired by @noealzii to try some edits on my own shots. Birmingham isn’t exactly like Seoul or Tokyo in terms of having an abundance of pretty lighting but I tried.

The first photo is the original shot, with some edits underneath.

After I did these edits, I found a way to keep the redness of the lamps whilst still having all the other edits apply. I was pretty chuffed, since it was all on Snapseed – my phone handles photo edits much better than my laptop ever will at the moment, although a new one is on the cards for much later on.

Anyway, as you might have been able to tell this post has been a long time in writing. I’m hoping that finally releasing it kicks off some sort of blogging mojo in my head. I often used this blog as an outlet for my thoughts but recently my boyfriend has, in the words of my brother, been taking one for the team!

Until next time,

X

Another Catch Up

Hi everyone!

It’s been a good month and a half since my last post. I made sure to take some time off after exams to chill then ended up diving into part-time work in a slightly drastic change to my routine that took some time to adjust to. I’ve managed to get a little bit of balance back, so here is a rambling post about some of the things I was up to recently, with some photos of other things I did.

This lil cat from The Kitty Cafe in Nottingham represents me during the summer. And maybe all the time.

You all know I have a long list of hobbies and interests I like to switch and rotate between a lot. Makeup has fully fallen out of the rotation, it seems. I haven’t touched my box of new items in MONTHS and I wear the same casual lipsticks for work all the time, although to be fair I have rarely gone out to do anything else. So, as a result, I am kind of stuck for beauty content.

I have picked my reading back up again as well, although it seems my pace slows every time I do. I finally finished reading The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, and then I finished Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin, too. I particularly loved the latter, especially the second half. It’s very sweet and emotive, not romantic in the typical sense, and deliciously dark. I will be seeing Sarah Maria Griffin in an event in a few weeks, which I am really excited for now.

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Some terrible doodled versions of covers of the books I read.

Just a few days ago, I finished Blade Runner, or originally ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ by Philip K. Dick – It’s a shorter read compared to my last two but I am enjoying it a lot so far. I’m only two chapters in, and the worldbuilding is done really… concisely, with lots of ‘show, don’t tell’. As much as I can deal with flowery prose, I really like this about this book so far. Gotta take notes.

Anyhow, my next pick will be Sabriel by Garth Nix. I have a goal to make it through as much of my current TBR this summer as possible!

This is Zaap Thai Street Food, also in Nottingham. I thought I had stepped out onto a street on the other side of the world! The details were amazing and reminded me of a night in Ho Chi Minh City, too.

I recently acquired a Nintendo Switch, so most of my days off have consisted of wandering Hyrule semi-aimlessly. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is so OPEN and I love it – almost everything can be interacted with. At some point, I am going to have to learn and actually remember some combat controls though because simply charging into the nearest enemy flailing a Boko Bat and panicking won’t work all the time…

My favourite part of the game beyond exploring is probably gathering ingredients and cooking food, as boring as that sounds. Autosaves in this game make me feel invincible even though I’ve gotten ‘Game Over’ at least nine times. I do like to dive into new areas but you know when it’s misty and I paraglide in only to have the mist reveal a bunch of Lizalfos that kill me in one hit? Sigh, yeah that kind of sucks.

The Warehouse Cafe is a nice Veggie Only place to check out. I wasn’t into this dish (the filo parcel) personally but I’d love to go back and check out other items on their menu!

I also bought Stardew Valley, which I really like because whilst I loved Harvest Moon DS, it was… tedious, for lack of a better word. Stardew Valley feels very similar… maybe better, though! I tend to like these no-pressure games a lot more. I also bought Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles, for another open-world like BOTW, but also no-pressure kind of thing. It’s okay so far. Can’t climb things though. Can’t even enter buildings or swim, so it’s not as open, and sometimes the movement and camera controls make me dizzy, but it’s a welcome change from Guardians and Lizalfos.

I feel stuck with my drawing. I’m finding it really hard to be happy with stuff I draw at the moment making it really hard to continue. I keep thinking every line and resulting picture needs to be perfect (I finally understand the idea of ‘meaningful lines’ my art teacher kept going on about in school but it’s hard!) and it’s so frustrating that I can’t put my ideas on paper/computer yet. I think I will start experimenting with brush settings and some other digital techniques beyond just sketching. I have actually gone back to dabbling in writing too, but like… actually writing stuff instead of just planning forever and never getting words down on the page.

Anyway, I am scheduling some long-overdue beauty posts from before the hiatus, and I hope to still be chatting to myself here afterwards. If I’m not grinding for money or still dying in games.

Until next time,

X

[Chatter] At Last, Let’s Talk About Depression.

I think over the last year or two I may have attempted to draft out this post four or five times. As I wrote this very first paragraph for this working draft, it was January of 2018. I knew I wanted to put this up eventually, and I felt like it was approaching the right time to do so. I also knew that I have always struggled to express the feelings (or lack of) in a proper way that feels like it’s doing my experience justice, so in order to get my words out on time, I started early.

Do feel free to grab some tea.

If you’re a friend I have directed to this post, it’s because I’m crap at explaining this in person or even over WhatsApp, especially when I’ve been caught off-guard on a Sunday evening. All this is just me talking about things I have always wanted to talk to you all about but never got the words right for. I hope none of you mind.

Here’s a Trigger Warning for Depression, Self-Harm and Suicide.

For a long time, I didn’t quite relate to the idea of needing a trigger warning (even if I understood the reason for it) but recently I have been feeling extra sensitive towards this topic myself. It’s not particularly graphic or anything, though. If you’re not sure whether to read on, I’d err on the side of caution and not continue.


Firstly, I may as well tell you what the symptoms of depression are. We can spot them together as I back-track through my life. Here it is, the DSM-5 criteria for a diagnosis of depression:

A. Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either

  1. depressed mood or
  2. loss of interest or pleasure.

Note: Do not include symptoms that are clearly attributable to another medical condition.

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick).
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

B. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
C. The episode is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or to another medical condition.


The earliest recorded indication that I was depressed probably goes back to 2015 when I was still 17. In fact, it was on this blog because I had no other outlet. I’ve always written my honest thoughts on this blog, as bland as my life was, because it’s just not the same otherwise. To sort-of quote one of my old blog posts, pretending is draining. It’s the same reason that I love to share happy things with others and it’s for the same reason that I am a terrible liar.

So I was looking all the way to 2015, the first year of the blog and my first year of A-Levels (Y12), and life doesn’t seem bad. Mundane? Yes. Occasionally, I got angry, and I got stressed, but within what I thought were normal means for a student of Hell A-Levels. I went to work, I slept, I tried my best to manage everything and was failing. I was easily triggered, especially by my school reports, and I clung to my hobbies (and this blog) a lot as a means of coping.

My grades were suffering, and teachers were pulling me aside to ask me if anything was wrong. I said no because, at the time, I genuinely didn’t know. Some teachers thought I was just lazy and lacking effort (which I admit I agreed with). I mention Student Support briefly in this post from April 2015 from when I got sent there instead. They thought I was overworking myself and lacking in sleep (the latter being true). I didn’t feel this was the case as I simply was not getting anything done despite always being at my desk. I was stuck in this spiral of unproductivity, lack of sleep, and hating myself all in abundance. It was mostly hating myself, though.

For quite a while, I thought most of my issues were the fault of the school or the education system. Now, after lots of rational thinking, I don’t blame my school for my depression at all, because how could they have helped me out when I had no clue what was going on, mentally speaking, myself?

In October 2015 (the beginning of Y13 and my second year of A-Levels), I expressed a thought on this blog post about wanting to see the GP about my mental health. This means that I must have been thinking about it for quite a while, prior to that post going up. I had probably at least googled the symptoms and taken the quiz on the NHS site. Note the mental breakdowns (I think this means my negative emotions peaking and crying myself to sleep), and note the P.S. where I mention that I was finding it hard to concentrate. Yet at this point in time, I ended up not going to the GP about it.

I mentioned the breakdowns again in February 2016, talking about stupid school assessments, but this time more casually. I was getting the impression that this was a normal thing, that my feelings were not significant enough to seek help for and that this was part and parcel of being an A-Level student. My emotions were fluctuating, even then, but now it was so long ago I can’t really mention any specifics.

Later, I decided to include less of my feelings on the blog and more of what I was actually doing, so there’s not much there that shows what I was feeling until much later.

What I do remember, though, is that during that school year we studied depression as part of the abnormal psychology topic, and I distinctly remember the lesson on diagnostic criteria – looking at the list of symptoms on the board and thinking ‘all of that sounds like me.’

Anyway, I finished my last year of school, and my A-Levels went terribly (I say that, but I didn’t fail any) and I decided to take a gap year. Despite this, life was not particularly awful – in fact, it seemed like a lot of fun judging from past blog posts. Things seemed okay. I was beginning to branch out with what I was doing whilst making time for my hobbies and, well, widened my horizons a bit.


In the latter half of March 2017, I booked my first appointment with my GP for my mental health. I thought of having this post up on the 28th, a year since the date of my first appointment. It would be the first of quite a few that spring/summer. To this day I am still incredibly proud of myself for doing the adult thing and picking up the phone. I was so terrified.

At the appointment, I wanted to explain things logically to my GP, but I ended up breaking down crying, saying something like ‘I don’t know, I just… I just feel so sad all the time’. The truth was, that was the first major step I had taken to do something about my depression and I felt the impact of the moment – I didn’t know whether any of what I was doing would help, but I knew it was important that I did something.

My GP asked me why I was having the emotions that I had (as opposed to the what of early 2015) and I replied that I genuinely did not know. Where earlier I was comparing my experiences with others and not finding my situation comparable to them, this time I was on my gap year and life really did not seem bad at the time. My depression was, and still is, very irrational of me considering my circumstances.

I went to see a counsellor. It helped a little bit, but not that much. I think most of the change in mindset afterwards happened by itself.


A month and a bit later, I was a week after finishing my medication and my next GP appointment was not for another two days. On the 14th of May, I was not in a good mood, and neither was my mom. We got into a heated spat about something very minor. I broke down in the bathroom, and I saw the open cabinet door with the pair of scissors in it.

Scissors are relatively very blunt compared to other sharp objects, so all I ended up with were some very red, raised lines, and the tiniest beads of blood. It took a lot of pressure and self-hate to make those marks at all, let alone draw blood. Had that been a razor (we don’t use hand razors in this house) I might have ended up in hospital or worse. I spent a lot of time afterwards looking at the marks on my arm, ‘trying to figure out what they mean’, according to a diary entry. The lines are unnoticeable now but sometimes I wish I still had a scar to remind myself always that things were worse before and better now.

However, I wrote a private diary entry in an old notebook after my shower, and that’s enough. This is how I can write about it now because I knew it was a new low for me, and one that I needed reminding of. In hindsight, I wasn’t ready to be without the antidepressants yet, and I noticed multiple times later on that if I didn’t take my medication for a few days my mood would crash pretty badly without any other obvious cause. Needless to say, I tried not to go without them again and scheduled my appointments appropriately for the next few months.


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In September 2017, I started to evaluate my mood on a scale of +10 to -10. My average mood when I am depressed being around -3 or -4. In general, I was feeling much better. I actually hadn’t taken my medication for months at that point but I didn’t feel awful and I didn’t feel a crash as I stopped. I went out with some friends on the 9th September, and my mood was about a +7, according to my diary: “I felt so good. I can’t stress that enough, I’m so surprised by it.”

Then I managed to crash to a -7 which I now have pegged as ‘suicidal thoughts with minor urges to actually carry it out’. I genuinely wanted to jump out of a window, and I was petrified that I would. I couldn’t sleep and ended up writing in my diary at 2:20am, two hours after getting home, after breaking all sorts of rules. It took me weeks to climb back up from that -7. I thought it might have been the alcohol, at the time, but now I don’t think that was the case. It was at least the first time that I realised how sensitive my mood could be to change even if things were good.

Again, nothing was inherently wrong with my life besides my feelings. There was no ‘why’. I had exciting events planned and I was about to start at my university. There was a complete mismatch between my situation and my mood, objectively, and I think that lead to a dysphoria, a ‘state of unease or dissatisfaction with life’ that was really hard to shake off. When people ask me what’s wrong, there’s genuinely nothing wrong, and it’s hard to explain that I can’t control my mood fully even with all my best attempts to do so.

But I did write that night about how my parents can’t be blamed for things. That they worked their butts off and always did the best they could for their kids and that I felt bad they ended up with a crap daughter like myself. It’s strange, because I’ve never felt so comfortable with myself by my own standards but the moment that the other people I love are involved I’m not worth anything anymore. 

That feeling still persists from time to time. I’m working on it.


 

20180211125525_IMG_7703-02-01.jpegSince we are on a timeline, I want to also mention Jonghyun of SHINee as I’ve been meaning to say something about him, too. Never found the right words, though. He committed suicide on the 18th December, 2017 after a long battle with depression. He was a successful performer, y’know – world at his fingertips and all, and he still felt that way. He finished all the preparations for his new album, Poet/Artist, and he even filmed some variety shows. His album was released posthumously. It’s fantastic.

I can’t claim to know what he was thinking. From what I could tell, he had been planning it for a long time, all whilst thinking of who and what he loved and was leaving behind. As a member of SHINee and as a solo artist he knew he was very, very, very well loved, and still chose to make the decision to end his life. I think the album and what he left behind were all signs of that – that he cared so deeply for his family, his friends, and his fans. I think one of the few things that kept him wanting to be alive was just that.

That’s something I relate to. For me, I think my life is small and trivial, but my friends are my world. I would not want to wish the after-effects of my death on them, and if it means staying alive for them, then sure. I think suicide, in a sense, is selfish in that way (I’m not sure how better to word that). What I’m trying to say is, I think Jonghyun chose to end his life as a final act of self-care, and still he was thinking of those he loved by planning his album and his suicide. I am sure he has found his own happiness now.

Again, I cannot pretend I know him, and I just wanted to share some thoughts on my point of view, and finally get it off my chest. I didn’t realise it would shake me so badly. I cried reading the initial announcements on the news, and even weeks later I feel tremendously sad at anything involving him, like Lee Hi’s performance of a song he wrote. I haven’t been able to listen to the final track of his posthumous album yet. It’s a piano ballad. I heard the first few notes and noped completely out.


This brings us to roughly the present day. This section is actually the hardest to write, because I never feel like I have a proper grasp of my feelings until long after the time has passed.

However, I promise you that right now, as I finish up this post before it goes out tomorrow, I’m in a good place. Maybe a little muted, but good. Depression never feels like the kind of fight that is won. 

Most days I’m good. I have things I want to do, small aspirations, almost never a plan. My modal average day is no longer a -4, but more of a 0 or -1. In fact, the week of my birthday I was consistently at +4/5. That was great, and I long for more weeks like that.

Other days, I don’t feel good, but not bad either. On those days, instead of caring a little less, which can be good for me, I don’t care at all. All my emotions seem muted or absent. Sometimes, I ‘slip’ a little, back into that old pit of sad. Sometimes, I feel without purpose or just aimless, and I have moments of sadness welling up in my chest throughout the day. Sometimes, before I know it, a bad day has become a bad week – time can really fly when you’re depressed.

However, since last year I’ve been hyper-aware of my feelings and as such, I’ve been better at spotting these kinds of days and clamping down on them ASAP. I’ve found that the best way to do that is to have all the important crap started and sorted earlier so I can take time out for myself. Then things are mostly OK.

Although sometimes, my wrists itch, and it’s frustrating.

Even now, I have times where I doubt my experiences. How serious are my symptoms now? I am constantly comparing my current mental state to that of last year and I think it might prove counteractive eventually. For example, I often think ‘this can’t be that bad of a day. I have had worse. I have survived worse.’ It sounds pretty good until I remember that I have never been able to justify my awful feelings and low mood days and I’m not about to start. In reality, it’s ‘this is not that bad of a day, but I feel like crap anyway.’

The third type of day is the worst kind. I’m having a good day, and I am happy, and I’m laughing a lot. That’s good. But beyond that feeling of happiness, there’s a pit somewhere and I am still stuck down it. Is it a crap ton of self-doubt? Is it the sense of impending doom? Is it the feeling of knowing that happiness is more temporary than sadness? I hate that I am this stubborn in my sadness.

I have slowly become more accustomed to talking about my depression to my friends, especially the few I love the most because I know they worry about me and appreciate that they do, even if I don’t want them to. Whilst it’s so easy to let a bad day pass and pretend to my friends that it never happened, these days I can just tell them it’s a bad day.

Not all the time, though. I actually tend to rotate and tell one person each time, so they’re not all worrying about me at once.


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On top of that… I’m twenty now. It feels like a happy little miracle. As I told someone one time, ‘my mental health got to a point where I genuinely did not think about being alive for this long. Like I wanted to get better but didn’t know what I wanted to live for.’

As a result of this, I didn’t keep any aspirations over the last few years beyond ‘I want to make it to the end of the day having smiled at least once’.

When I was 13 I had my heart set on writing. I still do, as it’s my Plan A (Plan Ambitious). That said, I wish I felt the urge to be writing regularly and this blog is the closest I am getting to my daily quota of creative writing. My Plan B (Plan Believable) is something more akin to teaching languages, working abroad or working in a field of psychology after I graduate. Perhaps even all three. My short term goals are to study well, save money, and successfully get a study placement in Korea. Heck, guys, I have GOALS. I have things I want to aim for! That’s pretty amazing!

I finally see that I have a life ahead of me. Isn’t that the most terrifying thing?

Thank you for reading this far.

Until next time,

X

[Chatter] A Quiet Evening

I’m sure it happens to a lot of us.

I’ve noticed recently that I go through these phases of being very talkative, oversharing and social, then feeling very very quiet and reserved, and wanting to keep to myself as much as possible. Even now, I don’t feel like writing a lot. I don’t particularly feel like doing anything, actually.

Last night, I was having a bit of an ‘off’ evening where my mood was really low for no reason. I was struggling to take care of myself and had finally pushed myself into the shower, and forced myself to do my skincare and brush my teeth. As a bonus I even body-buttered myself. But on these days I also feel this strong urge of not wanting to sleep, and it was past midnight at this point.

This is a rather regular occurrence for me, by the way. I usually just try not to work against it and take some ‘me’ time without guilt and, when sleep takes over, the feeling lessens in the morning and I can take things from there. These phases pass. I am working on a long post about my depression, for later this month. In writing it, I realised how much this blog helped to track my emotions, so I do want to be talking more about my own emotions here.

Anyway.

I took out my deck of tarot cards. I was partly inspired by Alice’s post here, where she had her cards read, because it got me thinking, and reminded me that I have a set of cards. Do check out her blog – I find it very fascinating to read about her experiences living in Japan as someone who wants to live there one day or at least study abroad in Korea.

I’m not a heavy believer of tarot and I am obviously not a skilled reader. If anything, the cards present more questions than answers. However, I like to use them as a source of ideas and reflection, and they sometimes offer a new perspective on a problem I have.

I’ve been meaning to invest in a Rider-Waite deck and may actually get around to it soon. My current deck is just a small introductory one my friends picked out for a birthday once, but I really like the small size and its design.

A card that represents a part of my past that may be influencing my present

10 of Wands

Wands represent energy, growth and personal enterprise. The picture on this card depicts a man carrying a lot of sticks. I think it suggests a heavy workload. It brings to mind the idea of taking on too many new challenges and not being able to handle them all. Also, as you all know, I keep a lot of hobbies although I am not active with all of them at the moment, and this card is also making me think of that.

A card that represents the present situation –

Temperance, reversed

The image depicts a woman pouring something from jar to jar, amongst vines and a tortoise and a hare. It reminds me of how I like to be busy (the hare) but also need time to take it slow, like with my talkative and quiet periods (the tortoise).

Temperance means self-restraint. In particular, voluntary restraint or self-moderation. Mine is upside down, which could mean the opposite, or it could emphasise the normal meaning. To me, it means something is abnormal here. Am I too controlled or too uncontrolled right now?

I’m not fully sure what it could be referring to as there isn’t anything, in particular, I have been practising extra restraint or freedom in. Perhaps it could be about my mood, which is often out of my control and definitely was last night… but I find that to be too convenient of an interpretation, perhaps.

A card that represents an issue of the future

the King of Swords.

The picture depicts a king with grapes and a fox.

This card represents independent judgement and rationality, two things I can lack at times. Swords represent interaction, communication as well as intellectual pursuits, so I usually take the meaning in the context of work and study. This card suggests that I might improve in these aspects or that opportunites will arise in which I can, and this will be something that challenges me in the future.

A card that represents what can be done in the present to prepare for the future

2 of cups, reversed

The picture depicts a boy and girl holding a wine on which cups rest. SIGH. Cups in general represent the emotional and relationship side of life. I assume this card means relying on others for emotional support. This card could also be advising me to keep things light-hearted with a focus on relieving tension.

So, these were just a few things for me to think about and pass the time with. I’m always a little surprised at how applicable these can be and what I can learn from these despite not reading seriously.

Have you ever had a look at tarot card reading?

Until next time,

X