There I was, on the threshold of the big 3-0, cash in the bank, ready to set off to that dream of university. Or whatever else I wanted to do. Great, right? Fucking fantastic, amazing, incredible? Maybe.
There was a lot of house-hunting and property buying and a whole song and dance and drama about it. What is it with Chinese people and property? It is some kind of disease or what? I’m cutting it here for brevity’s sake, but the end result of it was that we finally (after a lot of drama) purchased a new place. I was still holding Mum’s hand throughout most of the process (though thankfully not as much as before) and when it was all done I heaved a sigh of relief.
Things seemed to be looking up. I quite liked the new place we were living in. It was close to some nice restaurants, a big shopping mall, and it was generally pleasant and convenient. Nothing to complain about. You’re right. There was no downside. Amazing huh? I couldn’t quite believe it myself.
My mom and I even started talking again. We had lived in the same house for most of my life but never had much by way of conversation. Which considering she was off in PhD Land made perfect sense. I did try to share some things but at that point the gulf was just too big and too much time had passed, and so I let things be – something that in the past would have been impossible. But talking was a start. Some things were still off-limits (psychology, the divorce, parents, fathers) but it was better than the Cold War of before.
After so many years and so much healing I actually began to enjoy doing housework sometimes. When no one is screaming at you to do something you generally enjoy it a lot more. Imagine telling a young kid “EAT YOUR FUCKING ICE CREAM OR YOU’LL GET IT!” – don’t think he’s gonna like ice cream when he grows up. I started cooking again (sometimes) and dishwashing became a Zen activity rather than a painful one. Same goes for grocery shopping. I remembered the times in the US when I would go get groceries after school with my Dad, and go and rent games after that. I chatted with the cashiers and the service staff and generally things were peaceful.
My sister went to Australia to study. She actually had gone two years before Sanc Ville was sold. It was a big step for her but a smaller step for me. Of course my envy got activated again, (now my sister gets to go to university instead of me!) but this time it was stopped cold in its tracks by Meimei telling me that she could only go because I was there for her. Which was very true, though I had difficulty accepting it fully at that time.
Everyone told me that she was blossoming and “coming into her own” and all that, but to be honest I didn’t think Meimei had changed that much. From my (admittedly biased) perspective, I thought that the Trial Separation years had REALLY matured her. Not to mention The Handover.
But it was really interesting and enlightening to hear her stories about university and to see how she and her friends interacted. Now I could see it first-hand (or rather, second-hand) the fabled Universitas that I had alternately so longed for and hated.
What Benjamin Qwek had told me years before really hit home – university is what you make of it. Some students decided to get the Asian Students Package and only hang out with Asians, watch anime and K-dramas and eat at the only Chinese restaurant in town. Some went full tilt into their studies, maybe because of loans to pay or scholarship demands. Others became total party animals and got drunk every day. It was interesting to watch from the sidelines, and very educational as well.
I did take a short trip there with my Dad to visit her and met her friends. It was great and some things got resolved. She told me about her professors and what they taught her and…but there’s no space for that. That’s Meimei’s story to tell.
Another thing happened during her university years which was pretty important. I stopped being her father. The Handover was a significant step but this was the last one. My mother and I had actually gone with her to Australia when she first went to help her settle in, but I still called her once every month or so to chat. I talked to her about everything as usual, gave her advice regarding her friends and teachers and studies and then at a certain point (which I can’t even recall) it happened. I wasn’t her father anymore, just her ever-loving, black-eyed and concerned older brother.
I thought I would just take a year off, chill out a bit, complete my PS3 games, (yeah I bought one after Sanc Ville was sold) watch some anime (including finally watching the second Evangelion movie) and then I would be off. Life would have (finally) changed for the better.
I’m actually not going to talk about any PS3 games (except Asura’s Wrath, Most Buddhist Game Ever…oh wait whoops that’s Ikaruga) here because…there really was no PS3 era. It was cut in half by the recurrence of that most hated of my foes, OCD. It was around 2011 when the OCD came back, this time with a vengeance.
I was miserable. It dogged me every day, and every hour. This was worse than the OCD of before – less intense than what had struck during the OCD and Exams chapter or when I was staying at my father’s house for the second time, but so much more pernicious and long-lasting. It. Wouldn’t. Go. Away. Again.
I thought about it, I analyzed it, fought it. Which I know now to be some of the worst things you can do with OCD. It consumed my world. It was there at all times, relentlessly hounding me – in the shower, on the can, when I woke, when I slept. It never went away.
All thought of university or progress stopped. I had to lick it or my life was not worth living. I didn’t even play any games. Well to be honest I played some pretty crappy games to pass the time. I didn’t want to play any of my PS3 games because I felt that the OCD would interfere with my enjoyment of them and so I should play “bad” games instead. Yeah I know it sounds really stupid as I write it but that was what I thought then.
I went back into therapy (not like I had ever really left!) with my customary will of iron. I would beat this thing, and then I would go to university, and then I would get my life back. I had come all this way and beaten all these odds and I was NOT going to back down now.
Blinded as I was at that time by so many things (including the OCD) I did not see how deep the roots ran. OCD is many things, but one of the things that it often can be is a maladaptive coping mechanism. Strange as it may seem, it often appears to help a person deal with fear, especially fear that they cannot admit to or have repressed.
You remember how during the Handover I had paid a high price to be without fear? I didn’t know it at that time, but this was probably the price that was paid.
I was so upset about it that my mother got really worried. Amazingly enough she did NOT force me to take medication but suggested I try it. Out of compassion for my mother (and a desire to try new things) I allowed myself to be persuaded into taking medicine. To be specific, Pristiq, a synthetic deriative of Effexor, which I taken some years before in OCD and exams. It worked wonders, at least at first. In fact it was so successful that my mother deemed it a miracle drug and kept stocks of it in the fridge for years afterwards.
It held off the symptoms for a while, but not the cause. The OCD was connected to many many things, some that I couldn’t see at that point in time. But I’ll get to that later.
I did what I always have done with confronted with a new problem – I learnt about it. I researched it thoroughly. I must have read at least twenty or so books on anxiety since well, OCD is obviously an anxiety disorder. Though I wouldn’t say “nothing worked” nothing worked (there, I said it) as well as I wanted it to.
I even considered “jumping ship” and seeing a therapist besides Florence, someone who specialized in treatment of the illness. I even sent out a few mails to that effect. In the end I didn’t because I had grown to trust Psycare and their integrated methodology. They weren’t by any means the only therapists in the world (and I have been helped greatly by others) but they knew me (better in many ways than I knew myself) and I knew they were as committed to their own healing and growth as I was to mine. That to my mind was more than enough reason to continue.
I was still overly rational, still in that world of facts and figures and peer-reviewed research studies. But even in those days a greater awareness was beginning to dawn upon me. I remember being completely unable to sleep one night, tossing and turning. I leapt out of bed and I wrote a single line on a sheet of paper. “I want my fear back.” Then I collapsed into the covers and slept the sleep of the dreamless.
I had more than proven my strength in the last sixteen years. I would now have to face my weaknesses, all of my dark side and grief and anger and terror that I could not face before. Not for lack of trying or courage, but because it was not safe to do then.