[NSPW19] the ghost in this love story (kawi, i).

there’s a scene i think about constantly.

it’s from the korean drama, my name is kim sam-soon, which was a huge hit when it aired in 2005, and i’d provide a summary were it relevant. the scene i think about, though, requires no context: the secondary character, played by jeong ryeo-won, returns to seoul after years abroad where she was being treated for stomach cancer. in this scene, she’s taken her doctor (and love interest), played by daniel henney, to eat 산낙지 (ssan-nak-ji) and 낙지볶음 (nak-ji bo-kkeum).

she’s excited to eat the foods she’s been craving while away; he’s worried because he’s new to this kind of food and because he’s a doctor—he’s concerned this will upset her stomach.

she laughs, though, tells him not to worry, and i forget how the conversation pivots (as well as the exact dialogue), but she’s still smiling as she starts to eat and says, “see, the thing is, i think i used to shine, but, somewhere along the way, with all the treatment, i think i lost all that. but i used to shine.”

he tells her in all seriousness, “you still shine,” but she shakes it off, tries to shake off the mood, and points at the food, saying they should eat, but it’s still there in her eyes, the sadness and disappointment and longing.

i think about this scene almost every day.


over the course of summer 2019, i go to kawi seven times. 

kawi is the momofuku group’s newest restaurant, situated on the fifth floor of hudson yards and helmed by a female korean american chef. the first time i go to kawi, it’s for lunch, three months after they’ve opened. i’ll go back later that same day for dinner because i’ve spent the week examining the menu, trying to decide when to go and what to eat, the problem being that there are items i want to eat on both menus.

at lunch, i go for the rice cake with chili jam, a beautiful take on 떡볶이 (ddeokbokki). the rice is imported from korea and milled in flushing—on one of my later visits, a server tells me that they’re family-owned, that the chef wanted to bring them some business—and they extrude the ddeok in the kitchen themselves. i’m not the biggest fan of 떡 (ddeok) (i’m a “bad” korean that way), but i’m a sucker for ddeok freshly made in house.

i’m a sucker for a lot of things made in-house.

typically, this kind of ddeok is called 가래떡 (ga-rae-ddeok), and it’s typically cut into long strips. at kawi, they coil and smother it with a chili sauce then smother that with a furikake that pops in your mouth. there are paper thin slices of benton ham. the whole thing comes with giant tweezers and a pair of scissors (aka kawi) for you to cut and eat.

it’s a lot of ddeok for one person, especially a person who is not the biggest fan of ddeok to begin with, but it is delicious. it’s good ddeok with that proper balance of softness and chew, and the sauce is flavorful with a light sweetness but not very much heat. it’s the kind of sauce i want to spoon over a bowl of hot rice and eat with a fried egg, which is more or less the greatest compliment i can pay any kind of sauce, to want to spoon it over rice and eat with an egg.

ddeok is not a meal, though, so i also order the mackerel set. i’ve only recently started learning the names of korean foods in english, and mackerel is one of the few fish i know (it’s 고등어 in korean). it’s also one of my favorite fish; when my mum makes it in LA, she buys it fresh, gives it a generous dusting of salt, and cooks it on a hot pan outside in the yard. we eat it hot, as soon as she brings it inside, and i love it with rice (obviously) and ripened kimchi.

the mackerel set from kawi is fascinating to me (still, weeks later) because the smell has been somehow entirely eradicated from the mackerel. it’s not that the dish lacks flavor—the mackerel is meaty, soft, oily, just the way mackerel should be, and it has a nice hit of salt. the oily smell that’s so unique to mackerel, though, so pungent and so overpowering that my parents do not cook mackerel indoors but outside in their backyard—the smell that might offend and put people off is gone.

this is one of the things that will continue to fascinate me about the chef’s food—how her food retains all the soul of traditional korean food while being its own thing, while removing some of the elements of korean food that might put people off. like strong smells.

i never know how i should approach korean words anywhere, whether it’s here, on instagram, in a piece i’m writing to pitch. when i’m in the mood, i provide all the information—the 한글 (hangul), romanization, and translation—but, most days, i just want to provide one thing, sometimes the hangul, sometimes the romanization, and leave it for readers to figure out.

today, i suppose, you’re getting the hangul and the romanization, and that’s it, though i have zero consistency in hyphenating. i’m still figuring that out.


dinner is all about 회덮밥 (hwe-duhp-bahp).

i love hwe-duhp-bahp, even if hwe-duhp-bahp in most places is a giant mound of shredded lettuce over rice, the leftover ends of sashimi tossed haphazardly over the mix. at kawi, it’s a beautiful bowl of generous cuts of 회 (hwe) arranged over rice mixed with perilla and other things scooped over finely shredded cabbage. it comes with a side of 초고추장 (chogochujang) and toasted 김 (geem),

typically, you mix the chogochujang into the rice/fish/lettuce combo, but, at kawi, i start by simply dipping the hwe directly into the chogochujang, wrapping the rice in the toasted seaweed, and, basically, eating the whole thing piecemeal. i like that the seaweed has been cut unevenly, some of the pieces large and unwieldy, others the perfect size. when i’m halfway through the hwe, i mix my remaining chogochujang into the bowl, and i always wonder, whenever there is rice to be mixed, which is the right way to do so? with a spoon or with chopsticks?

it is rare for me to find a space where i feel comfortable; i always feel either like i am too much or not enough wherever i am—like, if i am in a room of korean koreans, i am too american, not korean enough. in a room of korean americans, i am too korean, not american enough.

and then there is also the layer where i often feel like too much, like i feel too much, want too much, whatever too much. i don’t exist in the middle but on the extremes, and i am too loud, too irreverent, too effusive. i am too obsessive.

earlier today, i stop by the strand to look for YA books—or, at least, i go into the strand intending to go upstairs and look for YA books. instead, i make a beeline for the cookbooks, though i have nothing in mind, and find myself in the “asian cooking” section. i start flipping through an, then the mission chinese food cookbook, then hawker fare, and, as i stand there telling myself i can’t really afford to buy books right now, it kind of hits me.

there is an extreme intensity to the food industry. chefs and cooks are known to work brutal hours for shitty pay. they work through holidays, miss family celebrations and milestones, don’t get nearly enough sleep. cooking itself is intense physical labor, and cooks are on their feet all day, exposed to extreme temperatures, can be susceptible to injury. there’s a tendency to romanticize all of this, to package it as some kind of dedication to craft, as passion, and i suppose, yes, it is passion because passion is obsession. passion exists on the extreme, and, sometimes, the singular drive that pushes some of these chefs to the top best exemplifies the obsession and, honestly, the sacrificial ugliness that passion is.

and the thing is, i feel most comfortable in that extreme. it is only when i think about that world that i feel at ease, like i’ve maybe found the place where my “too much” is just fine. 

and yet, i also feel entirely invisible because i’m still only ever looking in—i don’t have access to the space that makes me feel okay as who i am.

i haven’t talked about the kimchi at kawi, have i? i wish they sold their kimchi by the jar. when i’m in new york, i crave good kimchi all the time because it is impossible to find, and the kimchi at kawi is, one, delicious and, two, perfect ripened.


the third time i go to kawi, it’s not exactly planned—a good friend is in town, and we decide to go for dinner because it’s been a month since i’ve last gone, and i miss it. i haven’t been so excited by one person’s cooking in … ever, i don’t think, and i want to keep coming back because i want to keep eating the chef’s food. i want to keep tasting what she serves next.

we split the fried cod with yuzu and the oxtail and brisket 찜 (jjim). the fried cod is hot and crispy without being heavy or oily, and the oxtail and brisket jjim has a really great heat to it. the spiciness is not overpowering (not for me, at least), and the oxtail is so tender, falling off the bone, the brisket soft and meaty. it’s a lot of food for the two of us, which isn’t helped by the fact that i arrived at hudson yards forty minutes early, was starving, and decided to eat a spicy chicken sandwich and waffle fries at fuku. i forget—or choose not to believe—that i can’t necessarily eat like i used to when i was younger.

we still get the blueberry 빙수 (bingsu), though. over the summer, i’ll eat the blueberry bingsu four times.

at one point, the chef makes a round of the floor, and i look up just as she approaches, make eye contact. i think i smile. my stomach goes flipping all over the place as my brain seems to short-circuit. all i want to say is, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, hi.


this post (and the one that will follow) was supposed to be about something different. i originally started drafting it for national suicide prevention week, but i admit i’ve recently become very cagey about talking openly about mental health, especially given the potential consequences of doing so. if we’re open about our mental health, we could be fired, we could be rejected, we could be written off as liabilities, not as smart, creative humans worth investing in.

that’s partly why i find myself growing more and more angry when i think about how people just don’t know how to talk to or “handle” people who are suicidal. i find myself making lists of things i’d tell people not to do if they have someone who’s suicidal in their lives. like, don’t ever imply that suicidal thinking is something we can just think our way out of. don’t insinuate that we’re not trying to “get better” because we enjoy this pain. don’t treat us like projects, like problems to fix. don’t charge in thinking that you’re going to do this and this and this; meet us where we are; ask us what we need. don’t be offended when you aren’t showered with profuse thanks.

don’t give up on us, and don’t write us off.

i go back to kawi for the fourth time a week later, and that’s not exactly pre-planned either. i’m finally able to schedule a meal with another friend, and we decide to go to kawi because i’ve been talking about it non-stop and she was supposed to go a month before but couldn’t. we talk about everything from law school to plastic surgery to growing up asian american. the server gives us a complimentary flank steak kimbap. i wonder if that means i’ve been coming here too often, if that means the chef maybe knows who i am.

what else, what else: don’t approach us as people to be saved; you won’t save us. don’t tiptoe around us, afraid of saying the “wrong” thing and somehow sending us over the edge—stop centering yourself because this isn’t about you. don’t simply insist that we “get help” because, often, the best we can do is just stay alive, because therapy and medication require time, energy, and money, all of which we may not have at our easy disposal. and, by god, don’t report us to HR, especially if you don’t have a personal relationship with us.

the spicy tuna kimbap may be one of my favorite things on the kawi menu, and the kimbap, in general, maybe best exemplifies why the chef’s cooking is so damn cool. she’s not reinventing korean food; she’s not deconstructing it or trying to do something totally new, not in an obvious way, at least. she’s keeping the structures and forms of korean food intact and playing around with it from the inside—and that’s interesting if that’s something you’re interested in, but, if you’re not, that’s fine, too, because her food is delicious.

if you have someone who is suicidal in your life, just show up. let them know that you see them, that, even if they feel like they’re locked in darkness, you can see them in the light. be there and hope for them and believe in them. love them. meet them where they are, and, if they are in a place where they don’t appear to respond, let them know that’s okay—you’ll be there when they’re ready to reach out. you’ll be there, and you’ll get through this together. 

the fourth time i go to kawi, the chef’s executing. every time she calls out a dish, i feel sparks go off in the back of my head. how do you articulate to someone how much her food means to you, how much she does?

what is it like to shine?

how to live a life.

this post has proven to be inordinately difficult to write, and i’ve drafted it multiple times, then thrown away my draft every time. part of it is that i feel the need to write this well. the other part is that i am still terrified every time i talk about mental health because i can’t talk about mental health without talking about my mental health and i’m currently looking for another job (or more freelance work — either one), and i can’t help but fear that my openness about living with depression (for starters) will make me an undesirable employee, full-time or contract or freelance or otherwise.

i write against that fear, though, because that fear is responding to the very stigma i’m fighting to pull apart and eradicate. i write against that fear, too, because i know it’s stupid — i have a full-time job that i show up to every single damn day, that i do the work for, that i then go home from and do all the other work that means something to me. i work a full-time job, and, still, i create content for this site, do freelance writing and editing projects, read, cook, care for my puppy. i work a full-time job and do all that stuff, and i wrote a full-length novel-in-stories.

my mental health has never stopped me, so i don’t understand why i should shut up about it just because a hiring committee has a warped view of it. so here it is.


it was 6 am in los angeles when i learned of anthony bourdain’s death by suicide.

i was pulled to the side of the road, scarfing down a bowl of oatmeal because i was running late to soulcyle and needed to eat something so i could actually make it through the workout. as is habit, i opened up instagram, and the app opened to a black square, a new post by david chang, nothing but lyrics in the caption.

a black square means some kind of grieving. the comments said it was anthony bourdain.

the first weekend of may, my parents and i drove down to riverside to pick up a puppy. i’d been looking for a dog to adopt off-and-on for about two years now because i wanted my parents to have a dog, and i’d intensified my search last year, trawling the internet and searching for adoptable dogs that fit our criteria: small, hypoallergenic, young.

my parents wanted a bichon because my aunt has two bichons, but i didn’t want to go through a breeder because i don’t believe in the need to breed dogs unless for very specific purposes. it’s hard to find an adoptable dog when your search is so narrow, though, so the search went on. we went to see other dogs once or twice, getting closest with an abandoned litter of poodle/terrier mixes that almost passed muster, except they still shed too much.

and, then, i came across a post on craigslist for a bichon puppy. he was 8 weeks old. we didn’t know his story then, but there was a phone number, so we texted and called and arranged to go see him and bought a crate and bed and food and a toy and bowls just in case. it turned out he was with this older couple whose sister had a bichon pair who had had a puppy, and they’d been keeping him alone in the garage, this little eight-week-old floof-ball who’d only very recently been weaned and removed from his mother, who shook with fear when i first picked him up, easing into my arms as i scratched him and let him lick me.

he didn’t cry or throw up or pee the entire 2-hour ride home.

we named him 곰 (gom, with a long-O, korean for “bear”).

when i first heard of anthony bourdain’s death by suicide, the first thing i felt was sadness delivered as a punch in the gut, but then the next thing was anger. deaths by suicide make me both profoundly sad and profoundly angry, and it’s not anger directed at the one who has died by suicide — no, i can understand him, understand how acutely he must have hurt to take his own life — it’s anger at the world that allows this to happen and then sits in judgment when it does.

i firmly believe that we should not be losing lives to suicide, that we would not be losing lives to suicide if society, if people as a group could get its shit together and stop actively and willfully stigmatizing mental illness, depression, and suicide and enshrouding them in shame — and, if you’re opening your mouth to argue, but, na, it’s not fair to blame other people for people taking their lives!, let me stop you right there.

(i’m going to talk specifically about depression and suicidal thinking here, but this goes for any kind of mental illness.)

depression, as it is, is a silencer. it locks you in isolation and solitude and makes you curl up inside some dark corner in your brain, and it shuts you off to the world. it shuts you off to yourself. it taps into your mental reserve of all the negative shit anyone has ever said to you, picks out the things that target your softest spots, and blares them on loop on maximum volume, so that you know you’re worthless, a failure, a loser who deserves to be alone because who would love you, want to be with you, when you’re a burden and don’t bring anything of value or worth?

then add in the condescending, judgement shaming by the people around you and by the world-at-large, and there's where why i have zero tolerance for shame.

it is not anyone’s responsibility to keep people alive, but it definitely falls on people’s shoulders if they’re benefiting from and contributing to a system or a worldview that directly harms others. you might think this is a stretch, but that’s complicity, whether we’re talking about racism or sexism or homophobia or transphobia or, hey, the shaming of mental illness — and mental illness is part of a system, and it is about power and who gets to tell their stories and the stories that get to be told because that all has to do with acceptance, with what is deemed acceptable and not.

as in pretty much every other situation involving a marginalized group, i don’t really care to hear from people with “normal” brains about mental health because no matter how many academic papers you read or how many “mentally ill” people you know or interact with, you will never know the unique hurdles and struggles the mentally ill face. on a related note, it actually really pisses me off how many narratives we have from people who have lost people to suicide, not because they’re writing about their grief but because they’re trying to tell the stories of the people who’ve died by suicide, like writing these stories will somehow answer that question “why.”

(to be blunt, you’ll never find an answer to that question.)

it pisses me off because it makes me think how much of a difference it would make if people would learn to listen to the mentally ill, the suicidal, the depressed while we’re alive. sometimes, i understand why mental illness might scare “normal”-brained people so much; mental illness, after all, feels so unknowable because brains are still so unknowable; and i kind of, sort of (not really) get that fear of the unknown. that’s all an excuse, though, and it’s one that we’ve accepted for so long, perpetuating this notion that the mentally ill should be feared, that the “crazy” should be avoided or locked away or hidden away, and look where we’ve ended up — we live a world where we’re losing lives we shouldn’t to suicide.

and don’t get me wrong — you do not have to be famous or well-known to be a life worth living and knowing and valuing. you do not have to be a public figure or influential or whatever to be a life that should not be lost. as much as i mourn the loss of public figures like anthony bourdain, choi jinsil, lee jonghyun, i also mourn and fear for the lives of “regular” people, and maybe part of me admittedly mourns for all of us more, fears for all of us because the truth is it doesn't matter how much you have or how well you're known — the loss of any single one of us to suicide is one loss too many.


going back to complicity, though: see, every time you laugh at a joke about mental illness or suicide, you reinforce shame. every time you write someone off as being crazy, you reinforce shame. every time you dramatize a situation by saying, oh, i’m so depressed, or oh, i’m so anxious, every time you conflate moodiness to bipolarity, you reinforce shame.

because, hi, words matter, and, when you render something laughable, you suck it of meaning. when you diminish something by making it banal and everyday, you suck it of meaning, and, more than that, you remove from it the seriousness with which it should be treated.

depression is not sadness. it is not the blues. it is not a mere emotion you sit with for a while and move on from with ice cream or friendly faces or whatnot. depression is a debilitating illness that totally alters the way you see the world and affects your ability to function. sometimes, on good days, it just makes living harder. other times, on bad days, it makes everything impossible — and here is where i protest the opening to this blog post, despite the fact that i wrote it: i do not need to be a high-functioning depressive in order for it to be okay for me to talk about this.

i’m going to pivot a little here to something i hear a lot about suicidal thinking because it’s connected. there’s this idea that people who are “really” suicidal won’t ever talk about it because they don’t want to be saved. sometimes, yes, it is the case that we won’t talk about how suicidal we are, though there are often a lot of reasons behind that — maybe we don't want to be talked out of it, maybe we don't want to be condescended to, maybe we're sick of being asked "why," maybe we don't want to talk, period, maybe we just don't trust you. whatever the reason, that has nothing to do with how suicidal someone “really” is; if you’re thinking about dying, if you’re thinking about ending your life, if you’re thinking about a plan and figuring out steps to achieve that end, you are suicidal, and talking about it, voicing your fears that you might take your own life does not suddenly delegitimize the fact that you are suicidal.

because, hi, i’m suicidal. i’ve been severely suicidal for the last six weeks. and i’ve been making myself talk about it. if you want to question if i’m “really” suicidal or not, then, well, fuck you.

and that’s where we loop back to the fact that i do not need to be a high-functioning depressive for it to be okay to talk about this, just like i don’t need to live past this suicidal episode for it to be okay for me to talk about it. honestly? screw survival narratives. screw this idea that we need to “survive” shit to be able to talk about how shitty it was. screw this mentality that we have to have some kind of message to share in order to talk about this shit we live with.

because honestly? sometimes, this is it. sometimes, the really cold, brutal truth is that we don’t survive. and, if anything, that is why we need to tell our stories now, in this time that we are here and we are alive.

we brought our puppy home as i was sliding back into a suicidal, depressive episode, and this puppy has been keeping me alive these last few weeks. i was talking to my therapist about him the other week, and she made the point that emotional service animals aren’t considered emotional service animals just because they make us happy — they’re emotional service animals because we need to take care of them, and taking care of them is one way of caring for ourselves.

in other words, self-care looks like a hell of a lot of things.

it’s true, though. on days when i can’t get myself to care for myself, to get out of bed or shower or eat, my puppy still needs to be taken out to potty, fed, and played with. my puppy needs to be bathed and groomed, his teeth brushed, his nails clipped. my puppy needs to be taken to the vet, and he needs to be taken on car rides to meet other people, other puppies (now that he’s vaccinated) because socializing and traveling are essential things he needs to learn.

caring for him makes me care for myself because i can’t care for him without caring for myself — and, while we’re talking about self-care, let’s talk a little about what we can do if we’re living with mental illness, whatever it is. (though, again, because depression is the topic here, i’ll specifically refer to that.)

i firmly believe that treating depression is doing everything. it’s going to therapy (if able) and taking meds (if needed). it’s learning to be honest and open about the shit that’s going on in your head — you are your best (and, sometimes, honestly, your only) advocate because what you’re feeling, how you’re hurting and despairing and giving up, those things are knowable only to you, and no one can help you unless you speak up first. it’s exercising, going outside, getting sun and fresh air and feeling the goddamn wind on your skin. it’s seeing people, even if all you can do is sit at the end of the table, nursing the same cup of coffee the whole bloody time. it’s caring for your pup, your cat, your plants. it’s doing something nice for someone, and, y’know, yeah, sometimes, it’s looking at the shit going on in the world and writing an email or donating to an organization or retweeting something to give it a boost.

trying to dismantle depression is doing everything you can that might work.

personally, i see my therapist and take meds and meet with my psychiatrist every few weeks. i take care of my puppy, and i make pasta by hand and blanche and peel a stupid amount of tomatoes to make sauces and remake the same goddamn potato brioche over and over again even as it keeps failing. i listen to a lot of moody music. i cry. i go to bed early even if i can’t sleep, and i do pilates and soul cycle, and i say yes to everyone who’s kind enough to ask if i want to get food or coffee and stop by a bookstore. i try to reach out and ask people if they want to get food or coffee and stop by a bookstore. i reply to all the DMs i get on instagram, and i go on long drives. i follow my crush on instagram and smile every time she does (or i used to, until that started making my depression worse, so i unfollowed, which is also something i do to care for myself, unfollow people who make things worse). i do everything — hell, i even go to work. i go to my shitty disposable day job that i hate because that sticking to that routine is, in itself, a form of fighting the suicidal depression i live with.

usually, i’ll draft these posts and edit them, but this is just going up before i can sit here and overthink everything. this isn’t a post i really intended to write (i’m trying to write a post breaking down the bullshit SCOTUS decision on the colorado cake case), but i don’t know — this has been weighing on me the last few weeks, and the last few weeks have been difficult.

so, hey, i’ll leave you with this: be kind to yourself, and be kind to the people around you. depression doesn’t discriminate; it doesn’t care how much you have or don’t, how much you’ve earned or haven’t, how famous you are or are not; and a little bit of kindness goes a long way. you never know what someone is going through just by observing her/him/them, and no one will ever know what you’re going through until you give voice to it, express it in words, and try to be understood.

there is no shame in living with any of this, and living with a mental illness doesn’t make you any less human. it doesn’t make your life any less valuable, and it doesn’t make you any less worthy of love or respect. you are just as human and precious and wonderful as anyone with a “normal” brain, and you’re here on this earth at this moment because you should be. i firmly believe that.

so here’s a stupid number of photos of my puppy because he's adorable and makes me smile, and here’s that thing i’ve been saying over and over again and will keep saying over and over again: stay. stay because you deserve to be here. stay because you are someone to be proud of. stay because you are fully deserving of love and kindness and generosity. stay because you are fully human. stay because only you can be who you are.

do whatever you to do to stay alive, and stay.


[NSPW17] stay.


i have this tattoo on my wrist, and, when people ask what it means, the simple answer is, it’s the logo of the band i love. the more complex answer comes with a story involved, or a scene, maybe, to be more specific, and the scene is the kitchen at my parents’, at the house in which i grew up, and it’s a sunday morning in december 2009, and it’s the first time i’m really going to try to carry out one of the ideations in my head.

in the end, i won’t. i’ll spend the morning crying on the kitchen floor because, see, i’m barely in my mid-twenties then and there’s this band i love, this band i want to see live one day, and this isn’t about the band, per se, it’s not even about music necessarily — it’s about here, here is this thing you love, this thing that comforts you and makes you feel less alone, and here, here it is as a reminder of all these things you want to do, all these things you won’t get to do if you die, here is this thread being thrown at you, this tiny little thread of hope — and here, hope is a lie you cling to to get through these bad moments, and hope is that thing you’ll come to hate through your twenties, but hope is that lifeline you will hold onto to get through the next time you try dying and the time after that.

i tell my therapist i hate hope, and i tell her i spend a lot of time trying to put a damper on hope because i don’t want to raise my expectations, to have to deal with the tumble of disappointment.

i’ve been spending a lot of time these days putting a damper on hope because i’m waiting, in that weird in-between space where nothing is concrete and everything is, well, something hoped for, a job, an agent, a book deal, a move back across the country.

at time of posting, i’ll be back home in new york for a glorious four-ish days of seeing some of my favorite people, eating great meals, and spending time fully immersed in the book community. i’m doing an instagram takeover for the brooklyn book festival. i’m saying hello to a prospective agent. i’m roaming around all my old stomping grounds, eating whatever the hell i damn well please because new york is home and it’s been eight months since i’ve been home.

at the time i’m writing this, though, i’m trying to put a rein on my expectations. new york is a city that changes, and a lot could have changed in eight months. the prospective agent could still turn down my manuscript. people will have gone through cycles in their lives, and, maybe, we’ll be different people now. i tell myself these things not because i necessarily believe them to be true but so that i’ll be less hurt, less disappointed, if home doesn’t end up being what i’ve been holding onto these eight months.

i tell myself these things to brace preemptively against the sadness and loneliness that will come slamming back into me when i get back on the plane on tuesday to come back to california.

much of life, to me, feels like this — a constant balance between what’s in my head and what’s not. my therapist reminds me to take time to pause and assess situations, especially when my anxiety and/or depression threaten to bubble to the surface and explode. she tells me to pause, think about what i’m feeling, what i’m thinking, to collect evidence that supports whether or not my thinking is substantiated or not, to think of evidence that shows that i’m just freaking out.

and maybe that goes to show that it isn’t total bullshit when people say not to believe the lies depression tells you because, yes, sometimes, rarely but, still, sometimes, it is possible to remind yourself that the things you feel are indeed distortions your brain is creating. sometimes, the reminder is nothing more than a footnote because you’re too mired, too much in the darkness, for the reminder to be more than something you barely shrug at before mentally curling up.

so maybe i dislike that statement so much because i don’t like that people say not to believe the lies when i think of them as distortions because anxieties and fears and insecurities are all rooted in something — we’re often just making them so much bigger, so much more monstrous, than they actually are.

so maybe that’s a better thing to remember — that whatever is going on in your brain is a distortion, that the power of depression is distortion, that the insidious nature of it is distortion. it’s that kind of distortion that leads us down the path to consider suicide, to create plans in our brains and hold onto them, to think of dying as a viable option when considering the options laid before us.

because i don’t have the ability to say that dying is never not an option. as much as i have let go of a lot of my suicidal ideation, i can’t say i’ve completely stopped tinkering with that plan in my head. i can’t say i’ve completely let go.

and that, too, is okay.

my word of the year, apparently, is “stay,” and i feel like i’ve been using it kind of excessively recently, but i mean it every time i say it: stay.

it’s a word i tell myself, too, stay — stay in the moment, stay in the present, stay in this life. stay in whatever is here before you right now; the future will arrive when it does. stay where you are in the here and now. stay.

now that our pre-approved sessions are coming to a close, my therapist asks how i’m doing, especially on the suicidal end of things. i’d told her before that my main consistent conviction through my twenties was that i wouldn’t live past thirty, and she asks me how i’m feeling about that, about my most recent fear that i will die in california. i tell her that that hasn’t fully faded but it has softened. i tell her, yes, i still have that plan in my head, but it’s fading. i tell her it’s all something i’ve carried so closely, so tightly, for so long that i would feel odd without it.

she says that’s okay, that we don’t need to try to excise all that from our lives, our brains. all we need to do is turn away and look in another direction, to turn our backs on that plan, that ideation, that desire to die, to let it fade and ghost away on its own.

and maybe that’s one reason i feel more compelled to talk more and more about all this — the fact that i live with this, will continue to live with it — because talking about it is one way of turning away. talking about it is bringing it into light. depression and suicidal thinking are things that flourish in darkness and silence, and it’s why i won’t stop talking about it, won’t stop pointing at it, won’t consider them as things to be ashamed or afraid of.

mental health is like any other paper tiger, frightening in the shadow it casts when the reality is not, does not have to be, nowhere near as frightening as we think it is based on its shadow. it’s a challenge, yes, and it’s difficult and painful, and all of us don’t “make it through.” we don’t all “survive,” but “surviving” isn’t the point.

the point is trying to live the fullest lives we can. the point is trying to do better by each other, for each other. the point is to learn to live our lives in light, not in the shadows, because, god damn it, we deserve it. we deserve to live our lives in the open, not hiding, and we deserve to be seen, to be understood, instead of shunned and cast aside.

we deserve to be loved.

so, yes, maybe i’ve said this word so many times that it seems to have lost all meaning, but i’ll say it again anyway — stay.

you are meant to be here, and your life is worth living, and you are a human being worth knowing. stay. and demand to be seen. stay, and fight together for a better world. stay, and make all those things you want, all those dreams you wish you could accomplish — make them into reality.

because you are stronger than you think you are and you have something to offer the world that others don’t and your life has value, even if you can’t see it right now. just put your head down, count the days, and let time pass.



[NSPW17] cuddle a monster, eat a monster, be a monster.


if i had a cat, i’d snuggle that, but i don’t have a cat, but i have this stitch that’s been with me for fifteen years.

something i hate to hear is, most people who live on don’t regret not having killed themselves. most people don’t regret surviving. here’s where i’d typically add an it’s not that i don’t appreciate the sentiment behind it, but …, except i’m not adding that because i don’t appreciate the sentiment behind it — it’s a statement that does me no good when i’m locked in that darkness.

i also hate when people talk about the lies depression tells you, the lies suicidal thinking tells you. it doesn’t matter how often or how forcefully people tell you you’re not alone when you feel so totally alone. when you’re in that dark, terrifying place, you’re not exactly sitting there debating what’s true and what’s a lie your brain is telling you.

sometimes, i think it’s just as crucial to change the ways we approach the suicidal as it is to take away the shame and guilt and stigma that cloak suicide. sometimes, when i hear the catchy phrases, the platitudes, i think, wow, here are great ways to skirt the issue, to let fear render people so freaking ineffective because they’re afraid of saying the “wrong” thing, they’re afraid of putting the idea of suicide in our heads, because of this, because of that, blah blah blah, here are some talking points instead.

because, when i hear that most people don’t regret “surviving,” i think, well, bully for them (screw survival narratives). when i hear that my depression and/or my suicidal mind is lying to me, i think, well, what do you know? are you in my head right now?

and i wonder, okay, then, how do we talk to the suicidal? how would i want someone to talk to me when i’m going through one of those episodes? what are the things that help me? — and i think that it’s not even about what people say, it’s what they do. it’s saying, hey, how’s it going? wanna get some pie or food or coffee? i’d love to see you. it’s saying, hey, it’s beautiful out; wanna go for a loop around the park?

it’s not saying anything at all, simply being there with hugs (and/or ice cream) and a solid, warm, physical, living, breathing presence that says i’m here. i’m here; you’re not alone; and you can cry or just sit there or whatever you’re feeling — i’m here, and i’m not letting go.

because, yes, i’m a writer, and i believe in words, but words never do much for me when i’m hurtling down the abyss — the people who show up, in whatever shape or form, do.

that’s not to put the burden of “saving” us on other people. i think that’s bullshit, too, even just the fundamental notion of “saving” someone. savior/messiah complexes piss me off because of the sheer ego involved.

it is not on anyone to “save” us. that is not anyone’s burden to bear. we are not someone’s responsibility. (that kind of thinking does more damage than good.)

however, i do believe that we should all be here for each other because life is a communal experience — humans are relational, social beings after all, and we all need people in our lives. we need interpersonal connections to thrive, to be our best selves, and we need to talk to people, to confide in them, to be soothed and comforted and reassured by them.

though, sometimes, there are limits to that.

this might sound crazy, but i admit i sometimes talk to my stitch. when i hurt too much, too deeply, i talk to him; i confide in him the things i can’t tell another human because that kind of confession frightens me too much, requires too much vulnerability or self-defense, and i don’t have the strength or ability to help someone understand the pain i’m trying to diffuse.

because, yes, there are things that are impossible to say to another human thing because it’s too personal or because we’ve been hurt when we’ve tried to reach out in the past or because to give some feelings the strength of words feels like too much. there are things that just need to said out loud into nothingness to get them out of our heads but things that don’t need to be heard or known by another human being.

there are things that other people shouldn’t have to bear.


[NSPW17] for every day we live.


last year, when i was in the worst of my suicidal depression, the only thing that often got me out of bed was my hunger.

i don’t mean anything deep or existential by that hunger; i mean a physical, stomach-growling-please-feed-me hunger because the truth is that we need to eat to survive, that we must physically sustain ourselves and nourish our bodies to live. that meant that, oftentimes, the only thing that would get me out of bed was my body rebelling, screaming, FEED ME! FEED ME! FEED ME!, so i’d force myself up and to the kitchen, pour myself a bowl of cereal, eat it, and try to get on with my day.

sometimes, i think this is the thing that maybe puts people off the most about depression and suicidal thinking — that they seem to put us out of commission, that we’re high-maintenance and/or overly sensitive and/or emotionally immature and fragile and pathetic, that we’re consequently not worth investing in whether as potential employees or potential partners or potential whatevers. we’re a drag on productivity, and we’re legal risks and liabilities. we’re lazy and failures and undisciplined. we’d bring bad energy into a space.

do i sound defensive? maybe it’s because i am, just a little.

because no one asks for this — i certainly didn’t — and we learn to live with it, managing better some days and worse on others but, still, managing and surviving and, sometimes, i dare say, thriving. my therapist asked me the other day how i felt, getting my diagnosis for the first time after years of avoiding it, and i know there are a range of personal responses to that.

some people feel like their suffering made them unique, that it’s somehow made them less special, having something that seems so commonplace and ordinary as depression. others feel comforted and hopeful because a diagnosis is somewhere to start, something somewhat more concrete than just being inside their head. others, too, are afraid, afraid of what a diagnosis means, how people might perceive them because of it, the ruin a diagnosis might bring, none of which is a dramatic reaction if you’re wont to view it that way.

i’ve been asked, too, if i somehow take comfort in my depression, and i told my therapist that, no, i didn’t feel like i lost something that made me special when i got that sheet of paper from kaiser with my diagnoses written on it. i didn’t feel that comforted or hopeful either, not then because it was too soon then — seeking professional help was still too new and alarming. i didn’t feel much fear, either, not really, maybe, again, because seeking help was too new at the time, and i’ve since moved on to a combination of indifference and defensiveness and mild irritation.

one of the things i have been learning over the last few years, though, is that i am not that unique. none of us is. we are individual people with differing personalities and characteristics and details, but, on the larger scale of things, we are not all that different, you and i. we worry about similar things — being able to take care of ourselves, of the people we love, loving someone and being loved back, living a life that means something — and, yes, maybe it all looks different to each of us, but, fundamentally, our wants and hopes and fears are not so alien from each other’s.

we don’t want to be alone. we don’t want to fail. we don’t want to fall behind.

we all need to eat to survive.

things i’d eat at the worst of times when i couldn't find the energy to cook "proper" food:

  1. rice topped with hot dogs and a fried egg and a lot of ketchup
  2. cereal
  3. eggs soft-scrambled in butter
  4. milk toast from paris baguette, straight out of the bag when fresh, toasted when a day or two old
  5. ramyeon from different brands, all spicy
  6. pepperidge farm chessmen
  7. eggs, a lot of eggs, just a lot of eggs

i confess that i can be pretty rotten at physical self-care. as a type 2 diabetic, i shouldn’t be eating a lot of things — namely, sugar or anything that turns to sugar quickly in my body. for a few months after my diagnosis this february, i did fairly well at following my restrictions, resentfully, yes, but following them for the most part, cheating a little here and there but generally being pretty good. my fasting glucose levels came down; my headaches went away; and trader joe’s started making a lot of money off me buying boxes and boxes of their nut bars.

i went to iceland in june, though, hiked a shit-ton and ate whatever the hell i wanted and suffered zero consequences for it because we were constantly on the move, scrambling up and down waterfalls, running across glaciers, hiking, hiking, hiking. i got back to california itching to leave again, to travel more, to get back out into the world, away from a city and state that unfortunately bore me and feel like a cage, and i couldn’t get myself to get back to those restrictions, not when food was the one comfort i had.

the thing with my body, though, is that it feels the crappy eating, and it hits back. it makes me suffer. i feel like shit all the time, and my head starts pounding, and i feel sluggish, lethargic, even less focused than i already am on my good days — and i have an attention disorder. my stomach goes haywire, and my blood sugar spikes and plummets haphazardly, and, as my body continues to rail at me, i rage at it in my head.

when i was first diagnosed, my first thought was, i hope this kills me, and, yes, it could eventually, though that will take years, but, also, it doesn’t have to. type 2 can be reversed, and, if not, it can be managed with the help of medication, a good diet, and exercise. type 2 isn’t a death sentence; one just has to be open and able to make changes.

it sounds stupid simple, doesn’t it?

and, yet, tell that to a suicidal depressive who’s barely made it through a year-and-a-half depending on her body’s need to eat, on the fact that food is the one thing that lights up parts of the self she thought had died long ago, and see the devastation a little diagnosis wreaks.

this is why nothing is simple and nothing is easy and why reductive thinking does no one any favors. we all come with baggage, and we all come with history, and, if we want to help each other, we have to learn to take all that into account and go from there, not disregard it and pretend it has no impact or should have less meaning than it actually does.