2011 Wrap: An Accelerating and Exhausting Year

 

This month of December mark one year I have been back living in Bangkok. One year is not very long but it seems there have been a lot coming through. I could say it is the progress after all those years struggling professionally, financially and mentally in Sydney. But every time you step on an accelerator, fuel is getting burned up as well. It all comes with the package. In summary, there are two main aspects that got me both progressed and exhausted:

The job

The day before I left Sydney, I got a call from the World Bank in Bangkok about the job I applied for six months earlier to inform me that I got the offer. That changed the entire packing mood from uncertainty to some level of excitement.

There are so many challenges in new the job, it does not only acquire most of my skills: web stuff, video editing, photography, digital asset management and so on, but also takes a lot of my energy. In addition to that, there are so many new things to learn. I was worried that I would lose the mojo since I haven’t made a proper single personal work this year. And this blog now seems to be the archival of my declining tweets.

However, looking back, there were a lot has been done. It comes to realisation that I actually do what I would like to do for a living, not just to fulfil the needs to express how I see the world as I did most in Sydney years. And it does make me feel worthy again.

The physique

In July, I went for an annual check up. Everything was fine except the high blood pressure and the doctor found split heartbeats. I was recommend to see a cardiologist and had my heart checked with echocardiography. It turned out that I got stage-two hypertension. It was not actually a surprise even though I am considerably young for that since there was a heart palpitation earlier.

This chronic illness certainly changed my lifestyle. I joined the gym prior to the check up but did not take it seriously until the heart condition was confirmed. The determination to lower my blood pressure kicked in. Along with the medication, I started to go to the gym every chance I got and shed hundreds of calories out of the body. The personal trainer has become my new best friend (and also an expensive one).

I turn into an anal retentive in terms of diet, for an example, asking every restaurant what kind of oil they use for cooking. The generic cooking oil in Thailand is palm oil which is high in saturated fat. And street food are unfortunately my rare treat. And I keep track of the intakes and the activities on the daily basis as much as possible.

The only bad habit I cannot change is alcohol. I did try on the first month controlling it but, unlike the gym or the diet, I just could not enjoy it at all. You only need one last crucial thing to keep your disease going. To be honest, this post won’t be done without sitting down in a pub with a bottle of Shiraz.

However, four months later, on the latest visit to the cardiologist, the blood pressure went down to normal (although it comes up again recently, well, only if I could stop drinking). Now, I lost around ten to twelve kilos and took ten centimetres out of the waist. The body mass index (BMI) is down from slightly overweight to in the middle of normal range. Such a reward!

Working out is a new territory for me. I never thought I would be having fun with this transformation, especially later in the life like this. Maybe it is just the same as you create a video or photography work but this time it is your own physique. Or maybe it is just a joy of discovering a new adventure in your life.

A year wrap, if one could wonder how far they come in a year, just see how exhausted you are at the of the year. I am very, very, very exhausted. Although it is still a long way to get to the finish line, wherever it is, for now, what I am OK with the effort I have made in the year. Just need a break to reflect it, like tonight with a cheap shiraz under a cool night in my very homecity.

The First Week in and Beyond

Dawn at Rayong Refinery

Sunrise at an oil refinery in Rayong through a back seat of my parents' car

I spent most of my first week back in Thailand with my mom and stay in Rayong where she lived for three days. On the final day, we went to the local district health clinic to have her blood checked. While we were waiting in the queue, I sat down and let my thoughts sink in and contemplated what I had learned in the past seven days in my home country.

We got to four Thai temples for different purposes: to wait for mom while she was having physiotherapy, to see an astrologer, to get a Thai massage and, finally, to make a merit as advocated by the astrologer. That was a triple dose of my religious journey in the decade.

It reminded me of the conversation with tweeter friends of mine: Tony, Jenny, Rai and Frances at a Yum Cha lunch before I left Sydney. We talked about some aspects of reincarnation and I told them I didn’t know what to believe anymore even though I had been raised as a Buddhist, however, I believed that religions and psychotherapy were designed to make sense of our lives.

The question I asked myself about a week back in Thailand became a bigger quest of soul searching—what I had learned about life in the past nine years living in the isolated continent, focusing the last three years that I started to make changes in my life: fighting depression, visiting Thailand, studying a Master degree and so on. Moreover, how I would optimise those lessons in the next chapter in my life.

First of all, I used to point my finger at the dramatic childhood that shaped my today. The depression and anxiety in I suffered while residing in Australia was a product of myself created from the past echoing the present then. It was not easy to be able to see that. Time to let go of it or got stuck with your own misery.

Secondly, when I looked at my mom, I saw a lot of me in her and could not help thinking that if I was sometime that unbearably passive. In fact, I had a despicable feeling for her for not being able to be an assertive role model. But how could you expect someone to teach you something they did not know how to and blame him or her for not doing so. Besides, as I grew up as an adult, I could now be assertive without being an aggressive person. And that was a credit to her because I also got her kind heart (which I did not realise it until the moment I wrote this paragraph). And she should have been applauded more for that.

And lastly, my mom kept telling me to make more and more merits because you would never know those good karmas would return you some favours. For her case, she did not have to wait for the next life when someone, whom she helped a long time ago, offered my parents some relief of home and work when they were about to hit the ground. They have been struggling for years and I felt guilty that I could not be much help. I have been back in Thailand now, might be able to do more merits and could start with my family.

After she finished with her blood test, we had breakfast and they dropped me off at bus stop to Bangkok. When I arrived in the city of Bangkok, it felt I now could look into the future. You definitely could not change what had happened but you could understand the relationship of the environment you grew up with. I just wanted to make sense of it so that I could be able to move on.

I’m Farking Fine

As I am writing this, RUOK day is over and I am glad. Not because I am being cynical about this campaign raising depression awareness but it is to the point that a viral campaign becomes repetitive and you feel like being brainwashed, this time not from mainstream media but from every little stream you turn. And you cannot hide from it, just like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

I have to remind myself that I still am climbing out from the hole of worth depression myself and genuine concerns from people around you play a very important role to get through it. A simple question “Are you OK?” is a powerful step to make people with depression realise that there are someone out there who cares. I have made that in my short film Memory of You | Reflection of Me.

The next short film—EXiST—as a part of DASS (Depression Anxiety Stress Scale) trilogy, tackles on anxiety. It is fascinating how our minds affect our physical body, not just our behaviours. And I have experienced it myself.

While I was rewriting the script on breakfast at my favourite café near the work, there was a feeling like a punch in my chest and my palm were sweaty. I stopped, took deep breathes and it went away. At lunchtime, the tightness in my chest was back and lasted longer. I knew it was heart palpitations. In the afternoon, I could feel my heart pounding on the fabric of my shirt. After work, I decided to check myself in and tried to stay calm on the train to the hospital.

When I got Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, the heart rate was about 100 bpm with irregular frequency. They put me on ECG monitor, traced the heart rate, had my blood tested and my chest x-rayed. The doctor examined my medical history including the depression breakdown, which I got the last major one on April-May, and told me she did not see what caused the palpitation, “You are a perfectly healthy young man.”

It was six hours in Emergency Department until I got discharged with a letter to my GP. It pinpointed to the stress I had and the only concern physically was my high blood pressure. By that time, I had enough of watching other patients, their relatives, nurses, doctors and other medical staff in the ward.

Even though the script was not finished and the project was not updated as planned, I felt energetic when I left the hospital for a number reasons. The first hand experience of the stress effect to the body was an invaluable material that could inspire the conclusion of the trilogy. It was good to find that there was nothing wrong with the test result. And most of all, I did not get carried away with panic or struggle with the attack that my own mind created.

Like a Nice Sunday Afternoon

image

This weekend I was supposed to do a heavy work on promoting EXiST. Campaign but a big self-doubt just happened to pop in my head. It was a classic question, “Why am I doing this?”

The doubt could kick in so easily especially for the people who are climbing out of depression. And I have been putting myself very exposed to this very self-doubt by asking people to help and support the project.

It was an exhausting battle in my mind and I ended up playing online games and doing some housework, and almost lost it and let myself into the loop of depression—low-self-esteem>anxiety>worthlessness and so on.

However, with the help of a couple of beer by the window in a dark and gritty Sly Fox, I could let my thoughts flow into a decent afternoon light outside on Enmore Road. I told myself that this could be a nice to share this to someone you care and that could make my life more meaningful.

That was it, the answer.

Although making film, in every process from funding to distribution, is not as easy as sitting in a pub on Sunday afternoon but in the end, to me, they somehow lead to a catharsis process. I am doing this to realise this project not just to overcome my own anxiety but also to use my best ability to tell a story that would help others.

I am writing this as a reminder of this discovery. Hopefully, whenever I have this doubt of where I am standing in the world—which I doubt I won’t—the thought and the feeling of sharing a nice Sunday afternoon in spring will come up in my head as it is as meaningful as making this film for people to see it.

Photo credit: Stilgherrian’s Weekly Wrap 13 and 14

The Lemon Association

Ass Sew See Asian

Imagine you are holding a lemon in your hand, you can see its bright yellow colour and feel its shiny, holey skin. Then you cut it in half and it bursts with juice. Finally, you pick one half and squeeze it. The fluid comes out of its flesh and the citric scent is extracted from its rind. While I am writing about this lemon, my mouth starts to water.

That was the exercise I had in a psychology session last week about how our experiences associated with our behaviours.

We always have a voice to stop or encourage us to take actions of something. Either an angel or a devil, it is the product of our minds. And it is so powerful that could become an enticement or an obstruction to our goals.

To me, making film is about making understanding to predominately improve myself and hopefully to make an impact to others. And it is more about the process that the result. And I am in the process of getting over those fears in my mind, which have been blocking my path to the destination.

This is where the EXiST campaign comes in place. I want to overcome the fears I have in terms of getting out there and realising the project. The most vicious product of my mind that stands between the human connection and I is the association of the threats I experienced in my childhood with how I perceive the world.

My own big brother who, today, would, be diagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder abused me psychologically, sometimes, physically. And one of his best friends secretly had a sexual relationship with me. Living as victim of your own family had shaped perspective even though I managed to stand up for myself and moved on after the years of adolescence. I fought back against my brother and ended that casual affair I felt I was being taken advantage of.

My life turned upside down from a shy and reserved boy that was a target of bullying to energetic head of the cheerleaders in high school sport day that lived a double life with cool kids outside school and sneaked out at night for clubbing. Then I surprised everyone with the result that I got into one of the best universities in communication study in Thailand. I was very proud of the transition and the direction I paved it myself. However, I did not realise there was a sleeper deep down there.

That experience of being targeted by people around you was suppressed until I moved to Sydney. The first years of living in an estranging culture was a rough period. I was not able to create works because I could not use my writing skills and my visual expression was not rediscovered until later and it needed, still does, to be developed. The sense of worthlessness gradually grew on me as I tried to make a living in the overly expensive metro with the job I hated in hospitality.

At that point, the sleeper had been woken up and dominated my view that the world was not to be trusted. They would humiliate me like my brother had assaulted me, exploit me like his friend had molested me, and most of all, desert me like my parents had overlooked me. In the recent years, I blamed that on the people I loved and on myself like I had taken that on those people in my earlier life. It went down in the whirlpool of depression, anxiety, denial, irritation and recreational activities.

And that is the homework from the session—to identify those fears that stop me from making an attempt to promote the project and make it exist. It is a good exercise. It is not very easy to bare your soul to world but every time when the project gets a supporter, it is not just one little step closer to make the film EXiST for a good cause but it also makes me believe that those humiliation, exploitation and desertion are just the association of my mind produced from scraps of the past.

Image credit: