Friday, November 7, 2014

Dear Professor...

                I meant for the first new post of my blog to be a humorous reintroduction, but… this wouldn't leave me alone and I “had” to write it.

     Because I have bipolar disorder and an anxiety disorder along with symptoms of PTSD, ADHD and OCD (I know, it looks like the whole alphabet is banging around in my head), I occasionally have “issues” that make it necessary for me to miss class.  “Issues” is the standard euphemism that everyone who lives with mental illness uses to say, “something is happening that is either too difficult or too embarrassing for me to explain to you.”  So when I have to be absent, I send my teachers an e-mail that usually looks like this:
Hi Professor,
Due to emotional/anxiety issues, I will not be able to attend your class today.
I am sorry if this causes you any inconvenience.  I believe we were going to cover topic XYZ in class today, and I will be sure to study this on my own.
I would appreciate it if you would allow me to make up any missed in-class assignments.
Once again, please forgive me for being absent.
Thanks for all your help,

            The problem that has been bothering me about this is that “issues” can mean pretty much anything, and I am not sure that I want my instructors filling in the blanks themselves.  So here are some of the e-mails that I wish I could have sent:

Dear Professor,
I will not be able to attend your class today because I lost my “everything is normal” costume.
Let me explain, sometimes I wake up naked with no skin.  I am totally vulnerable with every nerve exposed and I’m bleeding all over the place.
I have a costume for days like this.  When I put it on, I look just like “everything is normal.”  It doesn’t protect me from the pain or keep me from bleeding, but it keeps people from being able to see it.
I’ve looked for my “everything is normal” costume, but I can’t find it anywhere.  I can’t come to class without it because everyone will be able to see that I’m damaged and bleeding.
Sorry for any inconvenience, 
Dear Professor,
Due to the fact I am not worthy to interact with other human beings, I will be unable to attend your class today.
As you know, I am fat, ugly, stupid and a repugnant piece of shit.  I ruin everything and I am personally responsible for everything that is wrong in the world.
  Normally, I am so self-centered and deluded that I don’t even recognize this, but today the truth is very obvious to me.
I have prepared for class and I even made it to the bus stop, but every person I passed could see how awful I am and my shame finally overwhelmed me.  In a panic, I have run back to my house to hide which is a good thing because no one should have to be burdened with my presence.
Thank you for putting up with yet another situation in which I have failed,
Dear Professor,
I will be unable to attend your class today because I am pretty sure that I am dying.
Just a few minutes ago, my heart started flopping around in my chest like a bird with a broken wing.  I am sweating, I can’t breathe, my extremities are going numb and I have spiking pains in my head and arms.
I have packed a bag to take with me to the hospital and I have my phone in my hand ready to call the EMTs.  Before I call them though, I will chew up a few of these little yellow pills that my psychiatrist prescribed for me after the first six times I ended up in the emergency room.
The pills will probably keep me from having to call the ambulance, but I will spend the rest of the day weeping in a drug haze while my body recuperates from the shock.
Thank you for your patience,
Dear Professor,
I will be in class today!
I would like to apologize ahead of time, however, for my behavior.  I will be talking continuously and laughing too loud.  My limbs will be bouncing all over the place and I may or may not be able to stay on topic.
My brain seems to have found a hole in the drug cage that I keep it in and it is running wild.  I am able to see an exponential number of patterns and connections between subjects and I desperately want to be able to communicate it because it is amazing!
By the way, have you ever considered that if you relate the wavelengths of light to the wavelengths of sound you could create a system of  imaging that would allow the deaf to experience music in a visual format and if you simplified that system… instead of writing music as symbols on a musical staff, you could write it as lines of color where the depth of the tone is represented by the shade of the individual colors and the length of the line indicates how many beats the note is held… how softly or loudly a note is played could be represented by the thickness of the line… this would allow for more specific communication from the composer… it’s a bit more complex than that, you have to consider the other hundreds of variables that define sound… vibrato…staccatissimo… I should probably write this down, but it is all coming so fast that I am losing pieces of it.
Anyway… I will see you in class!
Dear Professor,
Due to the fact that I can’t maintain, I will not be able to be in class today.
I am vibrating and all my senses are cranked to the max.  I know you won’t quite understand this and I don’t think I can express it very well.
It’s like a low voltage electrical current is running through my blood stream.  My world is filled with floodlights and someone has cranked the volume all the way to 11.  I can feel every fiber in the clothes I am wearing and even the air is irritating my skin.  My tongue is huge and my teeth are slick and my heartbeat is way too loud in my ears.
  The world is slamming into me and I can’t stay still.  Something is desperately wrong and I need to escape, I need to get out but there is nowhere to go that is safe from this.
I need to be in the most protected and private space possible.  I need to be able to pace or curl up in a ball and rock myself.
  I can’t leave because there is too much of everything and I will drown in it all.
Thank you for your patience,
Dear Professor,
I wish I had a “real” illness.
If I had a “real” illness, the kind that everyone knows about and understands, I wouldn’t always be worried about what you think when I have to be absent.
If I had an oxygen tank or skin lesions or anything concrete that you could see, I could relax and not feel guilty whenever I have to take care of myself.
My illness is not “real” enough.  It’s an amorphous mass of enigmatic symptoms that are subject to other people’s impressions and beliefs.  The only concrete and undeniable symptom of my illness… is the one that kills you.
So yeah, I wish I had a “real” illness.
Thanks for your time,
     This is not my life every day.  These are the worst days, and they are few and far between.  I sacrificed a good portion of my intelligence and my creativity to the forces of psychopharmacology in order to keep these days to minimum.  
     I don’t need or want pity, and I am willing to work my ass off to prove it.  What I “do” want is for my instructors to know that when I miss class, they can be damn sure that my “issues” are valid.  I am not missing class because I am “sad” or “upset.”  When I am “sad” or “upset” I am right there in front of them and I am probably smiling, and I am not the only one.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Starting My Workout Again

Hot Damn and Hallelujah!  It has finally cooled off enough for me to start working out again.  Today is the day. I am heading to Inokashira Kouen at 9 or 10 o'clock this evening to do an hour or hour and a half of fast walking.

The last time I lived in Tokyo, I did not have to arrange to work out but this time I am a bit closer to the station and can't depend on just my commute to keep the undergraduate diet from showing up on my butt.  Plus I need some cardio to keep my head on straight (well still slightly twisted but not actually sprained).

The undergraduate diet is exactly like the rest of living in Japan compared to living in America...some parts of it are incredibly different but a lot of it is exactly the same.

Before we delve into comparisons though we need to define the undergrad diet.  First undergrads usually have no money (I am not as desperate as most undergrads, but I am under a tighter budget this time around), which means sticking to the cheapest food you can find without actually dumpster diving (not an option here as dumpsters are fewer and much farther between, as far as I can tell).  The second point that needs to be addressed with the undergrad diet is that you have no time.  I have no time because I am a compulsive study hound, most of the people I go to school with have no time due to various drinking and video game commitments (although I have to give props for my friends who are gainfully employed and my friend Yuta who is taking 8 count them 8 classes this semester, I expect him to actually die sometime before finals.) but no matter what the reason undergrads have no time to indulge in something as frivolous as the preparation of food.  These are the two conditions that define the eating habits of the student body in their native environment.  Food for students need only have two qualities: cheap and fast ( I am not talking about a quick stir fry fast either, I am talking pouring boiling water into a styrofoam cup or grabbing something wrapped in plastic fast.)

Now we can address the differences between the student diet in the US and in Japan.  If this were a competition the first point would go to Japan for having a much healthier range of fast to grab prepared foods in convenience stores and supermarkets.  This is a result of necessity, there are about 8 million people living in Tokyo (this is a lot lower than a couple decades ago, but it is still pretty impressive) and most of them live (like me) in apartments that range from closet size studios to American one bedroom size (pretty damn big by Tokyo standards) so we have most of the population in little apartments with postage stamp size kitchens.  There are a lot of people who depend on their food mostly being cooked somewhere other than their own kitchen.  America is going to get a point for having a wide array of fresh fruits and vegetables that do not require you to take out a second mortgage to buy them.  I was going to buy four apples at the grocery store a couple of days ago and realized that they came out to about a buck fifty each (US)  I don't even really like apples...I just eat them because I should...I passed.  Japan gains a health point for the fact that beef is hugely expensive here so nobody eats it very often, but they immediately lose that point because they often like to throw a random piece of pork into things and not just in Japan but a lot of Asia, pork has to have big ribbons of fat running through it (here pork is NOT the other white meat, it is in fact a lard delivery system).  Japan also loses a health point because it is an unwritten rule here that there are very few foods that cannot be improved by putting an egg on top of them.  In Tokyo we also stand fearless in the face of mayo, margarine, pastries and cream (low fat is not a concept that gains a lot of traction here.)

Ok this post has gotten out of hand and has now been designated a two parter.  In other words to be continued...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Kanji Reality Check

In my Kanji class, over the course of the semester, we have four kanji review tests.  Each of these tests makes up 10% of our overall grade. Each test covers about 60-70 kanji that we have learned recently along with a couple hundred compounds, about 10-15 radicals and some stroke order questions.  The few days before these tests are kanji hell, grinding and memorizing kanji every free second for several days.

I just got my first kanji review test of the semester back today.  I got 97% (applause, applause) and needless to say, I was feeling pretty damn good about it.

As I was on my commute home, I was checking out various signs and advertisements picking out words in kanji that I have learned over the last few years.  I start thinking about the number of kanji I know.  I can recognize and read about 300 hundred kanji, and I can consistently write about 100 of them correctly.  Impressive, right?  Only for a third grader.

I have been studying kanji for about 5 years and I can recognize about 300.  There are about 3,000 kanji in common use.  What this means is that I know about 10% of the kanji necessary to read a newspaper.  Sometimes it does not pay to have a sense of perspective.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Self Esteem Crisis and Dissapointed Bunnies

     Yesterday, I got socially dropped on my ass.  In the last twenty four hours I have experienced the urge to strangle half a dozen undergrads, I have considered that I am just pathetic and will never try to connect to anyone new again, and I have considered that the rest of the world is pathetic and I will never want to connect to anyone new again.  Luckily with time and a little perspective I have decided that I need to fucking let it go and not make any life choices based on being stood up by seven people in one day.  

     I have spent the last two weeks slowly trying to set up a get together in order to teach some people to play the card game "Killer Bunnies".  I wanted about four or five people to learn how to play and perhaps like it enough to make up a regular every other weekend sort of thing.  Being well versed in the dependability of college students, I went ahead and invited twice the number that I wanted to show up so half of them could flake and I would still have enough players to make up a good game.
     On Friday I started to worry because about eight people had confirmed that they were actually coming.  This was a problem.  I live in an apartment in Japan.  Having eight people in an apartment in Japan is about the equivalent of trying to seat fifteen people in your living room in the US.  It's not impossible but it takes careful planning and execution.  I had to speak with my neighbors about noise.  I had to arrange seating.  I had to MacGyver a table big enough for eight people to play cards on during which time I tried to remove part of my finger with a box cutter.  I also laid in a supply of snacks and ice.  So a bit of effort went into this on my part.

     Now I am prepared for many things to happen between Friday and Sunday afternoon so I made sure everyone had my cell number and instructions to call before hand if they could not make it.  Two of them contacted me the night before.  One of them had been sick most of the week and still wasn't feeling well, and the other had no money for train fare, these two are not on my kill list.  My friend Tony showed up to meet me at the set time in front of Kichijouji station he is on my "I owe you one" list.  The four who texted me late while I was waiting in the heat and humidity outside of Kichijouji station are on my "It's on its way and I swear to God you won't see it coming" list.

     For me the worst part of this is because of a quirk of my own mind.  When it comes to social situations I have really low self esteem.  I fake my way through pretty well but shit like this really digs in deep and twists the knife for me.  Right now I am in a really vulnerable position anyway.  Most of my friends have moved since I left, and all of a sudden I am in high school again looking for a table to sit at during lunch. 

     So after this debacle, will I try again?  Of course I will.  They are out geek unmet friends.  They are just as afraid to put themselves out there as I am.  They just need me to find them... and I will. 


Thursday, September 13, 2012

It Lives!

I am attempting a resuscitation on this pitiful blog that I let fall into a coma about two years ago. Why, I hear you asking yourself, did I let it slip away in the first place?


That's it. My simple, straightforward and unadorned confession of weakness.

 When I write, I like to use humor, I like to feel witty and amuse people. When I am stressed out or unhappy I don't write... In fact, except for some rare exceptions, when I am depressed, I communicate as little as possible (except to my hubby...and I apologize profusely for making him listen to me... and he chastises me for apologizing... we came up with this system ourselves and we are very proud of it).

 I am about to change that.

When I am unhappy, stressed out, pissed off, scared, or even just feeling maudlin I am going to let it out here. When I am happy, excited, hyper and just jacked on life in general that's going to be here too.

 I am bipolar with a severe anxiety disorder. I have friends who are also bipolar, suffer from chronic depression, have personality disorders and some of you are pretty damn near psychotic. In all honesty, when I spend any extended amount of time talking to someone who seems entirely normal, I start to worry. How fucked up do you have to be in order to hide it that well.

 So I want all my beautifully damaged peoples to hang here with me. Be prepared for all of it, ranting, laughing, crying, raging, horrifying punctuation problems, misspellings and any random weirdness that just happens to be taking a stroll through my head. I will at least try to keep it interesting.

 Oh... also a quick note about comments. You can say any damn thing you feel like saying. If I am going to lay it all out here...I will expect no less from y'all.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My New Apartment!

Hey Everyone!
I am now an official Tokyo apartment dweller. I managed to get the contract signed for my new digs and went to the ward office and changed the address on my Alien Registration Card. I got a book (in English) of the rules for garbage collection in my new ward (about 20 pages) and I even managed to figure out the bus routes near my new place.
I have posted some pictures, and there will be more to come. I am so excited I can't stand it.
When I showed Sanshiro San the pics (especially the ones of the blue double doors at the entrance, he said "ru-bu hoteru mitai" some of my geek brethren will be able to make that out, for the rest of you I will translate "It looks like a love hotel."
Now for those of you who do not know what love hotels are...They are hotels which specialize in short term stays (from a few hours to overnight) for couples. I did not take this as a bad thing. Love hotels are designed to be pretty (Sleazy but still pretty).
So I have been running constantly for the last week, finishing the contracts, changing my address, spending too much on furniture etc., but while I was returning home on the train I thought of some things that I have learned about Tokyo that I could share with y'all.

1. In Tokyo you are never more than 10 meters away from coffee. Any kind of coffee you want all you have to do is turn around and Bam! there it is. Buying hot coffee in bottles out of vending machines is definitely one of my top 10 things to love about Tokyo. Oh and along the same lines as the coffee, you are never more than 30 meters away from a bakery. Yes Tokyo is a precision engine that is fueled on espresso, lattes and cake.

2. Politeness is direly important in Japan...unless you are trying to go somewhere. People here are incredibly polite unless they are driving, taking public transportation or walking in a crowded area. Aggressive does not begin to describe the skills you need to acquire in order to get around.

3. You can pay your utility bills, national health bill, pension premium etc. at almost any convenience store. How cool is that. You slip your bill into your pocket in the morning and when you get to the station you run into the convenience store grab a coffee and a piece of cake pay for them and your gas bill and then jump on the train.

4. We always think of Japanese food as being healthy...and traditional Japanese food is healthy. As for the other 90% of the food in Tokyo...there is no such thing as lean meat...anything can be made more delicious by putting mayonnaise, butter or an egg on it...and by the way, did I mention the cake?

That's all for this post kiddies.
Love being here, but miss being home.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Where the Hell Have I Been?

I just thought I would get that question out of the way first, because I am sure that is what most of you are thinking.

Answer: Nowhere

I have been in the ditch lately. I had a nice round of depression liberally peppered with anxiety attacks, but luckily this all went on during mid-terms so I was too busy to actually do anything about it.

I am beginning to feel more like my usual genki self again, so no worries.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Sort of. Tomorrow is my birthday here. My birthday in the U S actually doesn't happen until after bed time tomorrow night. Either way, everyone should think of me and eat cake.

I am going out with some friends from school to go shopping in Shinjuku. Shinjuku has some of my favorite shops. Places where the cuteness of the merchandise and the abundance of Hello Kitty related items give off such an aura of girliness that it creates a tangible force which is able to physically repel anyone with testicles. At least I am pretty sure that is why you can't drag guys within ten feet of these places.

Ok, I have indulged myself enough in my pre-shopping fantasies.

I may have mentioned before that I get a lot of "glance and look away" here in Japan. That means that people see me and I am a tall gaijin (foreigner)with big curly hair wearing a pink tie dye so they sort of glance at me and then look away without making eye contact. If you want to imagine why, put yourself in this position. You are on a subway train and very close to you is a guy with an iguana on his head. You don't want to look like you are staring at him, but you have to look because, dammit he's got an iguana on his head. Yes, I have been walking around Tokyo with an invisible iguana on my head.

Now, the reason I bring this up is...about 10 days ago I kept getting a lot of guys actually looking directly at me. Most of them would see me look up and they would give me a smile or a nod. It totally freaked me out. After a couple months of "glance and look away" I was flipping out trying to figure out why I was getting actual visual contact of some sort. Then these two guys in about there late twenties sat across from me on the train, and one of them looked at me and then turned and said something to his friend, and then the friend looked at me and they started talking together smiling and glancing over. I was pissed. I was sure that these guys were talking smack about me, so I started listening in on what they were saying for specific words, foreigner, strange, chubby (actually I'm not that chubby anymore) and some others that I am familiar with, but they did not seem to be saying anything negative so I just got more confused. A couple of minutes later I got bored and dropped my head forward to doze a little bit (yes, like everyone else in Tokyo, I nap on the train) when I dropped my head forward I finally figured everything out...
for men in Tokyo, seeing cleavage is sort of like seeing a shooting star. They've seen it before, but it is still rare enough to be sort of amazing. This particular day I was wearing a tank under a zip up hoodie which I had not zipped all the way up and since I sit with my arms crossed in front of me while I am on the train...I was showing off the sweater puppies to their best advantage. Needless to say it does a housewife/mom/student's heart good to know the girls have still got it.

On that happy note, I'm heading for the futon.

P.S. My memory card for my camera died a horrible death, until Dave mails me my spare I am picture deficient. Next post will hopefully be about my new apartment, I put in an offer on one and I am just waiting to hear back from the real estate agent.

Until next time