Goals and Limitations

I’m always so tired. From when I wake up to when I go to bed, I am tired. Due to this exhaustion, it feels like I can never achieve what others can achieve in a day, so I’m hardly ever productive and I beat myself up for it. But I must remember that we all have unique limitations. My limitation is constant tiredness and a productive person’s limitation could be stress or a need to rest that they always ignore. We all need to work with what we got, because our successes are always different to others’. We also need to acknowledge that people often present only their best selves and therefore hide their true life or limitations to the public, especially on social media.

We need to accept ourselves and alter what we perceive as successful or productive. We have to change our goals to be more realistic and not judge ourselves for that. Because my disabilities mean I stay home a lot, I’ve made a change to my unrealistic to-do list. My main goal at the moment is to develop a routine in my life – wake up earlier, make the bed, eat three meals a day and go to bed earlier too. A good idea is to implement our reasonable goals in stages. When making a change in your life as a person with limitations, things are a lot harder than it seems to others. Celebrate your successes and progress, no matter how small they are. Break down the real value of each achievement without judgement or comparing to others.

A goal of mine is to go out at least once a week. That might seem ridiculously small to people with a job or those who love or need to go outside, but it’s a big deal to me due to a mix of conditions I have. For one, it drains my energy twice as much than when I’m at home. These little victories can have great benefits for your mental and physical health, and our relationships with people and the world. When I wake up early (for me) I will have more time in the day to be my kind of productive. When I read every night it will inspire me to be creative and allow me to use my brain. If I eat three meals a day (even if it is microwavable, if you can’t cook like me) I will have more energy and it will stop me from snacking. If I do some kind of art often, then it will really help with my mental health, skill improvement and journey to become a professional artist. Introduce new goals at a slow pace, because that way you will be less likely to become overwhelmed if you expect yourself to do too many things at once. Once again, don’t judge your own capabilities and your speed towards all of your goals. You are successful as you are.

What I did to work out what to do was writing in my journal all of my short term goals. Then I highlighted the goals that are reasonable to introduce now or soon. Bonus points if they are beneficial to you or others. Write down all the highlighted goals again, then repeat the highlighting and making a new list process until you have one to three reasonable goals. The hope is to not completely give up, but to also remember that it’s okay to not perfectly do everything and have a break. And celebrate starting a goal and being in the process of making it a part of your routine (if it is reoccurring) or completing it (if it’s a one off goal). And only when you are ready to add a new goal, look at your reasonable goals list again and start one to three new ones, depending on how big they are.

Be kind to yourself! Having limitations, whatever they may be, is completely normal and fully okay. Most if not all people who seem successful struggle too. Your life is yours, so comparing yourself to others is not helpful. We are all successes, just our own success is unique.

Here’s to reasonable goals!

Stepping Towards Goals

Let’s imagine you have a garden at the back of your home. (And if that’s impossible, then let’s imagine you live in a different home.) In this garden you have a world full of possibilities. You can choose what to plant, such as vegetables, fruit or flowers, or nothing at all. You can choose how often you tend to it, when you harvest it and what to do with your harvest. Or perhaps you don’t want a garden at all, so you let it go wild or change the space into something else. Even though people have an idea of a “successful” garden, there really is no right or wrong. People have different priorities and ideas of success.

A garden has no “ending” or finish line. You have little victories like when your plants grow to fruition, or when a dying flower bounces back, but a garden can always be worked on or continued. That’s a really useful way to think about your mind’s growth – there is no final goal, only immediate ones. So what are your priorities? Mine would be family, art, love, human rights, emotional intelligence, LGBTQI+ issues, platonic and romantic relationships, and mental health. My goals therefore would be:

  • Create art often and work on improving my ability
  • Earn money as an artist and one day become a professional artist
  • Keep a good relationship with my parents, sister and partner
  • Put in effort to maintain friendships (which can be hard for me)
  • Act in love as much as possible
  • Always be open to learning, especially in topics I’m passionate about (emotional intelligence, feminism, racism, LGBTQI+ issues, mental health and disability)
  • Be someone that acts in align of my values
  • Create my heART Project
  • Become an art therapist

I have used many pages in my journal to write down my goals, and I do that often. (I love lists!) By periodically writing down my goals, I refine them over time until I am certain of what is important to me and how I’d like to continuously cultivate my garden. Just like if you had a physical garden, try to visualise your dream self and life and what little steps could be taken to go in the right direction. Don’t focus too much on the “final” goal yet, because your goals will hopefully always get bigger as you go along in life. Also, if you focus on your final goal too much, it might seem too large, unattainable and overwhelming. The most important thing is to think about what path to take – what path mirrors your values and dreams? What actions can you take to step in the right direction?

The way I do it is that I write down a list of my major goals and then I write a list of the specific things I have to do to attain that goal. It’s okay if you don’t exactly know what to do, just write down a rough idea. Then, write a list on things you can do now and only focus on those, building on them as you tick things off. Here’s an example:

Major Goal

I want to become a professional artist. This means I want to support myself financially with my art and have it as my full-time job.

specific goals

  • Learn from others on how to improve my art
  • Create art I think is good enough to sell
  • Create an audience that might be interested in supporting my work
  • Save up for and buy equipment that will help my art process (for example, a paper trimmer/guillotine)
  • Create an Etsy store where I can sell originals, stickers and prints
  • Advertise that my commissions are open

SPECific goals for now

  • Try to draw or paint everyday
  • Watch YouTube videos such as art tutorials, studio vlogs, and speed paints from artists I want to be like
  • Buy sticker paper and practice printing my designs on it
  • Post your art that can be bought (like prints and commissions) on facebook for your friends
  • Invite friends over to do art together to keep motivated
  • Create and upload artworks on an art Instagram page

And there’s a lot more. You can create a list for even more specific small goals too, and you can do that as many times as you’d like. Remember to keep them realistic! The point is to start working on your garden now without being too overwhelmed by seemingly unattainable goals. If you put it off, your produce will just get rotten, so to reach our major goals, you need to maintain it now. Little steps are so important. Don’t judge your progress or compare it to others, because most likely they are doing the exact same thing, and that’s not helpful for anyone. Don’t judge your pace or your mistakes – you are doing exactly what you need to be doing.

If you have realised your values and goals in life, you are already successful. The hard part is to start and continue on your path. Focus on what you can do now, continuously act on your dreams as they grow and know that you can do whatever you want with your garden. Keep walking forward, even after mistakes and knock-backs, because every step is essential.

If you could get anything from this blog post, then let it be this:

“What can you do now?”

Rebuild your Life

The last few weeks I have been focusing on organising everything in my studio. I bought a second-hand chest of drawers, shelves, boxes and more. Going through the room and fitting everything in each drawer – like playing Tetris – was more overwhelming than I thought it would be. But I knew that making a huge mess was a necessary step of putting everything in its perfect spot. I was embarrassed whenever Cass checked in on me, like I was a naughty kid caught red handed. Since I seek approval from everyone including Cass, I felt like I had to reassure her that I was not finished. Looking back, I feel like the process of taking everything apart to move it to an organised and better place is something we all (should) do many times in our lives.

Just before I chose to attempt suicide, nothing fit in the box of my old life. It felt like I was cramming all the new things – depression, PTSD, anxiety, things that hurt me – in it. But there was no room. A while after my suicide attempt, I chose to stop trying to cram everything in the old box, but rather invest into something new, for the new me. It was a strange time for me in those days in a psychiatric ward. It felt like I was wandering around like a ghost, as if I was no longer attached to my old body, but when I decided I’d pursue art, I felt my heart again. Me choosing to work on me and my life was me pulling out all the trash, broken bits and priceless treasures from that old box. It’s overwhelming at first because so many things need attention. Do you throw out the trash first, or try to fix the broken objects? Or perhaps putting away the treasures is the most important thing to do? There’s no right answer.

When I got out of hospital I had a lot to deal with and I didn’t know how to face it. I was introduced into rooms like a new cat, because certain memories in a room were so strong and made me have a panic attack. I wasn’t ready to face anything yet. And that’s the way most people are when you choose or are forced to demolish and rebuild your life in its past rubble. What I did was paint, paint and paint. I painted all day, everyday and it was the most therapeutic thing I could have done for myself. I think if you are going through something similar, get some paper and draw or paint (if you haven’t already). I will die on this hill! I also watched cartoons, because they calmed me. I am a huge supporter of watching cartoons as a viable way of coping, especially with anxiety. Adventure Time has saved me from a lot of panic attacks. You just need to find something to do that soothes you too, like reading, writing, sport, gardening, music or something else, and do it as much as you can.

The first steps of rebuilding your life are usually quite painful, so don’t expect too much. As long as you are not hurting yourself or others, you are succeeding. And it’s okay to not succeed all the time too, because the important thing is to just continue to the next day. Keep living, doing things that you enjoy and that help you, and soon you’ll include more and more things. You’ll become strong enough to face more and more of your monsters until everything fits together in its right spot. That’s a lie. Well, it could be the truth, but for most people, it takes many tries until you feel like everything fits together in your new life storage. It’s hard, but it is possible, so prove to yourself that you can keep going – make it a game if you need to – because you are worth the trouble. Focus on how you can take care of yourself and if you are in need of some organising, I am sure you can do it.

Why it is Anti-feminist to be Transphobic

Dear cis-women,

It’s so disappointing when self-proclaimed “feminists” think that trans people are threatening cis-women’s validity or existence. I have decided to write this letter, as I am really disappointed that one of my childhood idols, J.K. Rowling, had recently been so publicly transphobic. She had helped a world of people accept themselves through her words and I learnt so many beautiful messages when reading her Harry Potter books as a kid. But she has used her massive platform to voice ignorance and hatred towards an already oppressed group of people, under the false guise of being a “feminist.” I find this incredibly ironic.

From J.K. Rowling’s tweets, it seemed like she felt threatened as a lady at the prospect of using inclusive language. It is hardly going out of your way to include trans inclusive language when you write and speak, and doing that is not violent towards women! If anything, it helps all of us! Actively trying to have our womanhood not defined by our sex organs actually works TOWARDS our goals. We don’t want to be constantly referred to as “walking vaginas” and our worth does not rely on people knowing that they can fuck us in a certain way. It’s none of their business!

As women, who we are is in our hearts and minds. If you think gate-keeping who is allowed to be accepted as a lady helps us and our movement, you are horribly wrong. You are taking the side of the oppressors who told us we are not equal or valid because of our genitals. Is that a valid argument? Do we want people to have to take off our clothes, get close to our genitals to look at it and then only allow us to be a woman if it looks a certain way? Because, accept it or not, the future is going a certain way. And by that I mean we are finally realising that we can express ourselves and our gender very fluidly. So in this future or current climate where people are expressing themselves authentically, how do we gate-keep who is a woman? Imagine having to check people’s genitals whenever we are unsure!

Imagine thinking that the pathway to equality is to say to oppressed women that their genitals are more important than who they say they are. Imagine muting women’s voices by saying to them, what you say doesn’t matter, only whether or not you have a vagina does! I have no time for transphobia. It is ignorance and you are not a feminist if you believe in gate-keeping what it means to be a woman. If you believe that having to say “people who menstruate” (which is the example that started J.K. Rowling’s tweets) is threatening your identity as a woman, you need to check your privilege.

I can’t fathom the idea that doing things like including your pronouns or simply using language that implies that as a woman you are not a vagina, is so horribly hard. You’d rather make your fellow human being feel like dirt than to say something that takes minimal effort. Women should band together, because cis and trans alike, we have been oppressed now and in history. Trans women deserve the benefits of our privilege – we are fighting to be equal, so the least we can do is include them in our identity! We are not fighting for our vaginas to be validated! We are fighting for who we are – women – to be equal and respected! The least we can do is respect other women – trans women – and the idea that is so terribly difficult or out of our way is stupid.

If you were born with a vagina and have ever opened your mind to gender identity, you would know what it truly means to be a woman, or any gender you identify as. Years ago I had the thought that maybe my identity was not strictly female. I was overseas away from people who knew me, so I packed, clipped my hair into a “male” hairstyle, wore boy clothes, had my partner use he/him pronouns and more. It wasn’t quite right, so then I asked for both she/he pronouns. That wasn’t right either, so I played with they/them pronouns. Over time I realised that what made me feel most comfortable and empowered was she/her pronouns. I have come on a journey and realised my woman identity does not rely on my vagina, but on who I am.

The reason I tell you this is because I wish people who are cis-gender like me would open their minds to think about what their gender truly is. This is not a threat to your gender or in this topic, your womanhood! It actually strengthens it! For me, I have never felt more confident in being a woman and that being my identity than after I entertained the idea of what it means to be trans.

If you are a cis-woman who is transphobic, ask yourself why are you a woman? If your answer is that you have a vagina, you do not feel confident in your gender. If you were confident in your gender, you wouldn’t need to remind yourself of your vagina to know that you are a woman. What makes you a woman? Your expression and identity, right? Try to question your identity to strengthen it! This is not a threat to it, it is a conversation. Having the conversation with yourself about what makes yourself a female, is the exact conversation that explains why a trans woman is a woman. I feel sad for those who truly believe a physical object such as a vagina equals the richness and beauty of being a woman.

I believe that trans women are women so very strongly, because it is a fact. Trans people’s identities are valid! This affects all trans people, but I focused on trans women in this “letter”, because people like J.K. Rowling believe that trans women’s identities are a threat to feminism. It is not! In fact, understanding that gender and sex is different, and what truly makes you a woman actually helps the world to become less sexist. This is because it teaches us to treat our fellow human being with respect and compassion, and that we should not allow others to determine our worth based on what is between our legs.

Trans women are women! Trans men are men! It is not hard to treat your fellow human being with the kind of respect you wish others to treat you with. As a feminist we want equality with everybody. If that means doing little things like changing your words to become more inclusive, just like what we have already been wanting, (think firefighter versus fireman) then bring it! It can mean everything to someone if you use their right pronouns, so isn’t it worth it? We are all worth respect, so as a feminist, please respect all women.

This is a letter to transphobic cis-women – if you do not understand, read this again and again! I don’t expect miracles, but I hope for an open mind. I hope for humanity. I do not have time for anything else. All identities are valid and you are not a feminist if you believe that women should face more inequality and discrimination. The fall of one part of our community is the fall of all of it.

Women with Autism

Most of my life I grew up not fully understanding myself and my autism. When I looked up the characteristics or symptoms, heard people talking about it or saw it represented in movies or on TV, I was confused because it did not quite fit me. It was like my hand was supposed to fit in a glove, but it was either too tight or too loose in each finger. There were some parts that did fit, so I continued to wear this glove, pretending that the rest fit as well.

I was diagnosed with aspergers or autism (and ADHD) when I was 5. I do not know if anyone properly explained to me about what ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) is, and if they did, I was too young to remember. When I grew up, I did not have a good understanding of it at all and I had a strong belief that it made me “bad.” I was ashamed of myself and how I treated people, even though I could not help the way I was and am.

It’s only in the last few years that I embraced my condition and accepted it. Before, I would keep it as a secret and tried my best to be “normal.” People wouldn’t know that I had autism, or at least I was convinced of that. I remember crying while confiding in certain people, feeling like I had to if I had a breakdown or tantrum in front of them. Those few people I told were extremely understanding and supportive, without a trace of judgement. That confused me, because did they not know that it made me bad? Did they not know how shameful it is?

The last two years I have completely owned my autism. It was no longer a secret and I would publicly talk about it, especially online, which felt so liberating. The thing is, even though I was no longer ashamed, I still was confused. Why doesn’t the glove quite fit? I can’t have autism because I can do this or that, right?

On the 6th of September of 2019 my partner and I went to a workshop that focused on women with ASD and I am truly so glad that we went. Even though the workshop was mainly for carers, teachers and parents, I found that it also really helped me to understand myself better too. It all suddenly made sense. The characteristics that women with autism have are different than men with autism, and because it is a lot more common for boys to have ASD, most media represented the characteristics that they have. I wrote as much and as fast as I could in the little book in my handbag, with all of the validating information I learnt. Here is some of it that I can actually understand from my scribbles.

Apparently women and girls with ASD are often artistic, which was a huge thing for me, because I had the idea that people with autism are mainly logic and maths focused. Not always the case! Another big thing that felt very true for me was that women often are able to analyse and become mirrors. The reason why girls are often not represented as people with ASD is because they are very good at pretending to be normal, by copying others. Girls are better with social skills, communication and imagination than some boys, so their autism can go often unseen and they are harder to diagnose.

We often like things to be even and colour can often affect mood and concentration. I remember this clearly from when I was in primary school, because classrooms were often very colour coded. I remember thinking at length why certain magazine files that were labelled for the different kinds of books, homework and more were coloured the way they were. I remember disagreeing with certain colour choices too. And as for liking things to be even, I never really thought that was a symptom, because doesn’t everyone like that?

Another thing is that for girls with autism, rules make sense to us so we often never break a rule. We try hard at school and are seen as a “good girl,” particularly in primary school. We are often passive and can’t be assertive and are unable to say “no” to friends and others. A lot of that rings very true for me and are things that I thought were examples of “not autistic behaviour.” I thought that they were examples of me pretending that I was normal! I always thought that often autistic children were very naughty at school, but in primary school, especially, I was always very well behaved. It was when I got home that my tantrums and breakdowns often came out. This was just the start of the workshop and already I was feeling so validated.

Girls with autism or ASD often withdraw or shutdown rather than be angry. We are unable to “read” other people’s minds and so we ask questions to be in control. We are visual thinkers, which is like we are watching a DVD in our head. Also, we tend to have increased anxiety, so we need to prepare before social events as to be socially successful. We are great “actors,” and we practice and learn social phrases. This is called mirroring or “social echolalia.” This leads to mental and physical exhaustion and therefore less desire to interact and an increase in anxiety.

We create personas based on people we perceive as successful. I remember watching this youtuber who played video games, for hours on end, learning how to talk like her and practising phrases she said in the mirror, because I thought she sounded cool and I wanted to be like her. I struggled with talking in my earlier years, but once I started medication and working hard at home in kindergarten, I excelled. I was really good at public speaking, debating and acting. People saw that and thought I was very socially competent, but what people don’t see is all the work I put in to be social.

We then went to what to do with these women and girls as teachers and carers. The lady taking the workshop said that we should build flexibility into rules, make clear specific rules BEFORE an event, state behaviour you want rather than you don’t want, give explanations, give clear boundaries and discuss what to do when rules are broken. I think these are excellent things to do with women like me. It really helps me to clearly understand the entire details of an event and what to do, including if things go wrong. Otherwise I can get extremely overwhelmed, upset and anxious. It really does help me to understand, because without explanations, everything become chaos.

Females on the spectrum can actually over-empathise. We don’t know what to do in situations that involve empathy, because we’re not NOT caring, we just don’t know what to do. I find I often get instantly overwhelmed when someone shares something they are going through with me, because I don’t know how to communicate or express how much I care for them and wish they were not feeling such pain. I suddenly feel inadequate in my communication skills and I overthink, thinking that I am bad and selfish for not replying in the “right” way.

Lots of girls come home from school and have meltdowns, or we rest or sleep. We recharge by being alone, or in a fantasy world. We have obsessive interests and I outlined those two words many times in my little book. God, I have obsessive interests. And it always seems to be in a cycle – I often get very invested in video games, art, video making, comics, TV, drag, writing, etc. for hours on end for days or weeks and then suddenly I move on. Then in the future, the obsessive interest comes back.

We often start a lot of projects and stop. I do this all the time and I hate it! It makes me feel like I never finish anything. Also we can have friends, but not know a lot about them or want to see them outside of school. I have some lovely friends but I hate how I just can’t seem to keep in contact with them or see them in real life. I think it’s been a year or more for a few of them. I find it very hard to keep hold of friendships. We can be aware that we are different and therefore we can be self-conscious because of this. We often have a lack of emotional talk and so we don’t open up. It’s only been recently that I have pushed myself to open up to friends, because all of my primary school and high school friendships were very one-dimensional. I felt like we didn’t really know each other at all.

We withdraw due to perceived or real lack of success in friendships, so we just give up. I am guilty of this many times, because we view things that are not “mistakes” as mistakes. We do not like to be seen as different, we can take things personally and we can take on other people’s emotions. We “marinate,” which is sitting with something and letting it process. An example is getting results from a test, being happy and then after a while thinking, “I’m bad at maths because I got 1% wrong.”

As I said before, women with ASD can have a lot of anxiety. We are uncertain about future events, so we worry about negative outcomes. We live on high alert and so things feel out of our control. We are perfectionists with high expectations and we have more anxiety triggers. We want a sense of control and for things to be predictable. We wake up with higher levels of anxiety, but we find it difficult to recognise and label anxious feelings. Lots of things that add up are not recognised, so we look for the main event when there are actually many little ones.

Women with ASD are often misdiagnosed with things like BPD or bipolar. Like I said before, autism is portrayed in a very certain way in media, which can be good for boys, but not for girls. I am so glad I went to this workshop, because now I understand myself so much better and I feel validated in my condition. Some of these things I thought were examples of me not having autism were actually traits that proved that I did have it! I hope women or AFAB people feel validated as well from reading this. It feels so good to feel proud of myself not despite, but because of who I am and my autism. I would not be me without it, so I am grateful. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you found some understanding of yourself or others as well. Understanding our condition or ourselves is a life-long journey and is always growing and changing, so validation is important and I hope we continue to find it.

I am autistic and proud!

Disability and Art

To me, disability and art goes hand in hand. When I struggled to communicate what I needed or wanted as a young child, I would draw pictures of it and then show my mum. When I felt isolated or misunderstood at school, I would walk around the playground, daydreaming about the different artworks and stories I could create. I had trouble understanding faces and emotions, so I drew them over and over to understand them better. I would go to the library and draw with my peers as a way of relating to them in ways I couldn’t with speech. I use my voice through art and I always have, because for me, art is about communication, from vague to complex ideas, for others and for myself.

Art has taught me things that I used to find hard to grasp and it bridged that gap between myself and others. My autism has informed my art in ways that I hope other neuro-divergent people would also understand. I used to be ashamed of my condition and how I believed it limited me, but now I’m proud of the unique insight of the world, its living inhabitants and complex topics that it has given me. Art has helped me to tackle the problems and trauma in my life that I hope makes others feel understood and validated too.

About a year and a half ago I went through my first psychosis episode that hospitalised me for nearly two months. A while later I was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder which is a combination of schizophrenia and a mood disorder. It completely changed my life and this new disability has brought so many new trials. But art, like always, has helped me. During those days in the psychiatric ward, I would spend my time painting and therefore processing my reality and emotions. At that time I found it hard to communicate what was happening for me, even to myself, so I would dump my thoughts, hallucinations, fears, questions and feelings onto a canvas. Just like when I was a kid, art helped me connect to others and myself in ways I couldn’t without it.

Art has the power to let us process emotions and become more brave with each stroke, which can be difficult to accomplish with those unable to voice their truth in other ways. Everyone who picks up a paint brush or a pencil or anything else to make a mark is a leader. It means having the courage to convey your being to others, communicating feelings and thoughts that can change the world and the way people think and act. People with disabilities often are incredibly insightful and wise and so their art is vital in our society that goes against emotional intelligence. We are needed.

Fear

I have accidentally stolen a bike because of my fear of embarrassment. There are lots of other things we can fear – shame, pain, failure and conflict, to list a few. We’ve all found ourselves in situations where we continue to act in fear, instead of facing the problem. This just compounds the problem, like in my bike story.

When I lived in Japan in 2016, I rode my bike everyday to the train station that took me to school. I locked it where all the others were parked and then when I came back later that day, I went to where I thought I left my bike and used my key… which didn’t unlock it!

I knew that there were plenty of other bikes that looked just like mine, but I was stubborn and adamant that this one was mine. Truthfully, I didn’t want to go to each one and try the lock, because I stood out enough in Japan – I didn’t want to cause more attention and embarrass myself. I felt like doing that would look like I was trying to break into the bikes, or something like that. Looking back, I realise that kind of embarrassment is definitely not the worst thing to happen.

A few teenagers came to help me and after a while of wiggling the key, we decided we’ll take the bike to a nearby locksmith. They all helped me carry it and the locksmith cut off the lock and put on a new one with a new key. Huzzah! After thanking everyone and riding to my host home, a month passed and a policeman came knocking.

From what I could understand, (my Japanese wasn’t very good at that point) it was normal for policemen to check if the number on your bike is the same one on its paperwork. When I heard that the number was different, my suspicion was proven to be correct. I stole someone else’s bike. I still feel terrible about it – bikes aren’t cheap, the person who owned it probably needed it to travel and I can only imagine how devastated they’d be. All because I didn’t want to embarrass myself! In fact, trying not to embarrass myself just embarrassed myself more.

At that time I was afraid of looking stupid, which is a common fear that I have. I’ve been thinking lately about what else I am afraid of. It feels like I have become more scared of things than when I was a child. I loved adventure and I had no fear of death while doing dangerous things. I felt invincible. Now I’m scared of the dark again because that’s when I hallucinate the most. I’m scared of monsters under my bed again because it always feels like the alien and monsters are close. My second time in a psychiatric ward in 2019 lasted for nearly 2 months because of my psychosis. Ever since, I’ve been so scared. A lot of that fear is trauma, disability and mental health related.

There are other fears I have, such as trusting myself, leaving the house, socialising, people judging me, being a waste of space, homophobia, letting my disabilities limit me, vulnerability, losing those I love, loneliness and failure. And the list goes on! I asked Cassandra, my partner, what are her fears. Immediately she said mediocrity, another fear that I share with her, and then said isolation, meaninglessness, people and poverty. There are so many different kinds of things you can be afraid of. Everyone’s fears are unique to them, but also many are something you share with others.

Fears are formed to protect ourselves from hurt. There are different kinds of fears – ones that are helpful and others that aren’t. An example Cassandra gave was being afraid of snakes, which is a built in “survival” way of thinking, and isn’t an important fear to conquer, as it serves us and our safety. However, overcoming a fear of people has benefits such as connecting with others, as well as combating loneliness and anxiety.

I have asked myself the question of “how do I deal with fear” and it’s made me reflect on how I experience fear in my daily life. One of my biggest achievements lately is regularly going outside. In the past, the more I stayed inside, the scarier the outside seemed and the more anxious I became. So how did I overcome (more or less) this fear?

The first thing that comes to mind is that I was compassionate and empathetic to myself. I didn’t beat myself up for not going outside, because that would compound the problem and lead to more fear. There was no rush, there was no pressure, because I find that the more I am “forced” to do something, the more I don’t end up doing it. My psychiatrist recommended to me to go outside everyday. At first that seemed impossible and the first time he told me to do that I didn’t listen.

But it’s a bit more than just being compassionate, understanding and empathetic towards myself – I also need to seize the opportunity on days when I have more energy or I am mentally in a better place than usual. In times like that, I simply took the leap and was brave. Cass said to me the opposite of fear is love and that courage means “whole heart,” which shows how love is brave. Sometimes overthinking a situation can be a barrier against facing your fears. It seems so fucking hard, but it IS possible.

Sometimes you have to put yourself in “uncomfortable” situations (or worse) as to move forward and expand your comfort zone. The first few times it exhausted me to go outside. I was constantly paranoid and anxious about seeing someone I knew, because I was so down about my appearance, as well as my current lifestyle. I was afraid of seeing those who hurt me, with how upset I would be and how having them see that I’ve put on weight would give them the satisfaction of “winning.”

All of the above is fear based on possible consequences that might not even happen. Would it really be that bad if someone saw how I currently look like? Would people that matter actually judge me for my lifestyle or my mental health? You should ask what these fears have to show you, because perhaps it will lead to growth and insight. However, the important thing to do is to distinguish what is the kind of fear we need and what fears we have convinced ourselves that we need.

Yesterday Cass and I went for a drive and we stopped at a lookout, I looked down at the road beneath us and remarked on how small a car looked. It looked like I could just pluck the car from the road with my fingers. However, the car was so big when it was close – it was scary and threatening. But when the car drove away far from me, it looked tiny. It’s still a car in both situations, but changing your perspective can help you deal with it.

Pretend that you are looking down at a fear that you have, such as failure. You remember that when it is close-by it feels like life or death. It’s loud, in your face, with passengers that yell things at you like, “You’re worthless!” or “You’ll never accomplish anything in your life!” When it drives past, it threatens to run you over, instilling more fear. However it was an empty threat and soon it has driven away.

When you see this exact same fear below you, the fear of failure seems small and quiet. You hear faint voices coming from it that you can tell aren’t nice, but it’s far away, not personal and not immediately threatening. The safety in distance allows you to look at the fear without feeling and with logic – it is not going to kill me. That fear of failure is the same as the one that’s close-up, so it’s important to not believe its lies. It can’t make you anything less than you are, because you are not your fears.

Usually, overcoming your fears doesn’t mean it’s gone forever, but rather you have it in chains – there’s still a possibility that it can bite if you let your guard down, but you also have control over it. A book called The Happiness Trap talked about the “passengers” on your boat and it’s the same thing – your fears will always be on your boat and you can’t make them disappear. However, it will hurt you less over time if you assert your boundaries AND if you make friends with it.

The “making friends with it” part is the hardest. However, if you stop fighting it and start looking behind the scary face, you just might find things that are useful and helpful. A fear of failure that is a friend may help you stay on top of your work so that you are reliable and diligent. A fear of loneliness can motivate you to go to the social events, where you can meet new people. You might be surprised what your fears may teach you.

It’s okay to be afraid. It’s not your fault and you are not bad if your fears are messing up your mind. But I hope that through reading this you have a better mindset about it. Funnily enough, you don’t need to fear fear. It can help you, it can teach you things about yourself and the world around us, and you are strong enough to overcome it, at a compassionate pace that is best for you. Remember, when you encounter fear, try not to let it be in control with full reign, because that will make the problem worse. Instead, we need to face it. Fear me, fear.

Trauma Unpacked

“I’m bad!” “I’m worthless.” “I’m a waste of space.” Do these thoughts sound familiar to you?

I’ve been having two kinds of intrusive thoughts recently, and the first ones are like what’s written above – thoughts that we latch onto so tight, despite seemingly having little to back it up with. Sometimes we have a lot of reasons though, which are either delusional or correct, but the point is that the thoughts are intrusive.
I’ve also been experiencing a different kind of intrusive thought; memory stabs – a new name that I like to call them. To me it is like a flashback, but instead of a whole scene, perhaps you see a recognisable snapshot. Or one word or sound triggers a whole event in your mind, or a feeling of pain, disgust or fear you’ve felt in the past suddenly overcomes you in the present. Whatever it is, they all usually feel like a sharp shock, which is why I call them a memory stab. At least that is what it is like for me, but I’m certain that the equivalent is different for many.

Most of everything I experienced in 2016 I considered one whole lump of bad squished together, like something that can’t go down my throat, which I usually categorised as ‘Japan.’ That is unfair of me since the country itself isn’t to blame. That’s like travelling to New Zealand, getting mugged and then saying that the whole country is bad because of it. Every country and culture has something terrible, toxic or backwards about it, some more than others, and that’s okay. It’s good, in fact. Humanity is the world’s worst relationship. If we accept that we, no matter who we are and what country we come from or live in, are free to live, then we must also accept that everything that is a product of us are free to live as well.

In a black-and-white perspective, humanity harms the earth and the life it holds and therefore we are bad and should not exist. That is an acceptable perspective, perhaps the most noble one. An optimistic perspective is that humans are needed to keep on living, because we matter – we live and so our love, art and beauty lives on too. This is true too. Pessimistically, none of this matters, we shouldn’t care because everything dies anyway. Another acceptable perspective. And finally, in a “grey” perspective; this all is true, but our flaws or negative traits do not make us less worthy and the good can only exist if there is also bad. Therefore, yes, we are destroying the world by living on it and being its worst relationship, humanity is an incredible source of love and beauty that we should treasure, everything dies so we don’t need to take everything so seriously, and it’s okay to be flawed and to have “bad” traits, because that’s the nature of all life. Should we exist or not exist because of all of that?

No matter who we are and what country we come from or live in, we were born and therefore continuing our legacy of goodness, shittiness, a mix or both, neither one and everything else that perhaps I’ve forgotten to mention. The differences between countries, cultures, groups and individuals are necessary, because nothing is categorically “bad,” or “good.” Our morals, codes and values are personal and are not universal. To create one true mindset that is “The Right One,” is to create an impossible God. Everything is flawed, including the country I am talking about, Japan, but the same experiences could happen in many other different countries. I just wanted to make that clear.

Almost every night for the last couple of weeks I’ve been having nightmares about being trapped in Japan and being unable to leave, and about an ex I had, either hurting me in the past or in new ways in my dream. I’ve been having these kind of nightmares for years now, but for some reason I’ve been having them almost every night recently. Like I said before, it is unfair of me to name the trauma I experienced as “Japan.” The reason why I use that word is because I do not want to think about the specific situations I experienced in that time of my life.

In 2016 I stayed in Japan as an exchange student for 9 months and I must admit that even though I am talking about the bad experiences I had, there were also lots of beautiful times and kind people I met during that exchange too. I am grateful for those good memories and I’ll treasure them forever.
I believe that the trauma from the whole experience was from a lot of different things, bunched together as if it was one. It was the harmful experiences I had, some of the toxic people I met, the loneliness I felt in a room filled with people, being in a culture that looks down on emotional expression, my limitations not being respected or cared for by me, my situation back home and my mental health at the time, which all tainted the whole experience.

I find it really hard to think about the details of each situation that hurt me. It feels like I’m reliving it if I try. I’m working on that. When I first came back from Japan in 2017, the year that everything changed for me, I had a lot to process. I did not want to admit to anyone that my exchange was traumatic to me, not even to myself. People asked me about it, not caring and not having the time for a truthful answer, and so I hid behind, “It was a great experience!” Which is true about some parts of my exchange. I travelled to see beautiful places, I met some wonderful people, I experienced new and exciting things and the food was fucking fantastic. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, because I truly am lucky to have those memories.

The problem is that it was too much. I have autism and I have limitations, but I did not respect that. I told myself that the only thing that mattered was that I get through the whole exchange, to prove to others and most importantly to myself that I am just as capable as anyone else. I wanted to prove that I was good enough, strong enough and normal enough. I was ashamed of being autistic, and I treated it like it was a dirty secret for my whole life. It made me feel like I was bad or dumb or like there was something terribly wrong with me.

It still feels weird accepting that my autism affects some of the things I can or cannot do, without feeling ashamed because of that. It’s okay if I need time and space to recover after situations that take energy, that I struggle socially and that my limitations of what I am able to do without falling apart is different than others. That doesn’t make me weak or bad. But in 2016 I felt like it did. It certainly didn’t help that I didn’t take my medication at the time. I’m not sure why I didn’t. Perhaps I was being unconsciously self-destructive.

Back to the memory stabs. I think that the reason why I keep getting sudden snapshots in my mind about 2016 is because my brain is trying to tell me that I need to finally start unpacking my experience in Japan. I am definitely not a detail-orientated person. I’m good at looking at the overall big picture, but when situations come that require me to look at the details, I feel not in control. It doesn’t help that I have big chunks of memory loss about 2016, which I heard could be a result of having mental health issues. And it also doesn’t help that as soon as I try to remember things my mind instantly wants to reject it and run away. It’s hard work processing memories.

I’ve had a few therapists in my life, but for most of them, I only talked about the now, such as what happened last week. I never really delved into specifics about things in my past. I really am in need of a therapist as of now, but I have a fear that being unable to articulate and communicate what exactly happened in Japan will make me feel invalidated. My mind says they won’t understand, they can’t help and that they will secretly judge me. After being hospitalised three times since 2017, (for nearly 3 months overall) I am tired of feeling like I need to prove myself. It’s like I am fighting for my life to just be validated. I have all these fears, but still I want to try to get help. I want to heal.

I hope that people in a similar boat as me will feel understood by reading this. I feel sad, because there was so much I loved about Japan and how beautiful it is and I want that back. I want to be in control of my hurt, to be able to live fully despite the harm. I hope that for you too. Facing the details of your trauma is incredibly hard, but whatever you are experiencing, big or small, you are always growing, even when your branches are cut short.

The Future You

At school, teachers at some point ask us, “Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?” or, “What is your dream job?” My dad and I have been preparing for my future for years. When I was little, I wanted to be a pop star like Miley Cyrus, but after realising I couldn’t sing, dad said I should go for a career that guarantees a job. At some points of my life I’d dreamt of being an author, an artist, a game creator, a script writer, or a movie director. I mainly kept these dreams hidden, because I really wanted to impress my family, others and myself. I had no doubt that I was going to finish high-school and I believed I definitely would go to university. I was going to have an impressive job like an engineer, doctor, lawyer, optometrist and the list goes on. I love my dad – I know he wanted me to have a good life without worrying about money and he believed in me so much that he thought I could get any job.

As much as I wanted to impress myself and others, my heart just wasn’t in it. I didn’t dare to try to be an artist, because people told me that art could only be a hobby. It was when I was 16 that everything changed. After my attempt I was in a psychiatric ward where I was extremely self destructive and I didn’t want a future at all. All I wanted was to die. That experience changed me – I was afraid of leaving the house, because I would be overwhelmed and have panic attacks for a long time after coming home from the ward. I knew that I couldn’t go back to school, because of fear and anxiety, so I felt crushed when I became someone I’d never guessed I’d be – a high-school dropout. I was in the Boxhill ward when when my family said they would support me if I wanted to be an artist. I was so emotional when I was given this support to be someone I always wanted to be inside .

5 years ago I would never expect that my life would be the way it is. It is so scary to think about the future. People focus so much on what career we have and not who they are as a person. When thinking about the future, you can be so obsessed with the outcome that you never end up doing it. I find this particularly hard since I’m impatient and I often have my head stuck in the clouds. I write down so many goals of what I’d like to do and because my vision is always looking at the future, I end up not doing it in the now. The thing about being in the now is that you can see our current status. Our morals, values, beliefs and identity can be pulled apart and analysed. Are you satisfied with who you are? Do your actions reflect your values or what you find important? What parts do you wish to accept? What parts need to grow or change?

I know that picking yourself apart isn’t always kind. In fact, it can be extremely hard to accept it or see it. If you are not ready to do this, that’s okay. But when people ask you, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I believe what is more important than your job, status in society or how much money you have, is who you are. Five years is a long time and people change. What kind of person do you wish to change to? Someone who is more generous? Kinder? Someone who has broken through hating yourself to loving yourself? Rather than asking, “What is your dream job?” we should ask, “What do you dream to become?” Loving yourself and who you are as of now is important, but the moment you don’t want to change at all is the moment you stop growing. Growth is so important and we should all open ourselves to it.

I ask myself, “What do you want to be in the future?” and my answer is to be more mindful and loving. What about you? What do you want to be?

Body Positivity

Here is an excerpt of something I wrote not too long ago.

I’m still wrapped in blankets, at nearly 4 pm, and I am finally ready to do something productive, which is this – writing. There are so many stories about today that I can run with, especially since it’s nearly dinner time and I have not moved an inch or done anything with my whole day. Our nasty “leaches” like to tell us that resting and recovering are not allowed for us, even when our illnesses debilitate us. But if we see someone else in the same boat, we would probably understand and recommend them to take the time they need to recover.

We are always so much harsher on ourselves than we are on others. I look at myself and want to claw out my skin and guts because I have what I deem a disgusting body. I pull and pinch and scratch at the skin under my chin, because my jawline isn’t as sharp as it used to be and now it seems like in my head that I now no longer have a chin – it’s just face rolling down to my neck. But when I stopped to think, I realised that if I saw an exact copy of myself in front of me, I would celebrate that person for the body they have. I would reassure them that they are beautiful.

I’ve always been a body positive person, but only for others. I know its not any of my business to judge others based on their appearance, and it’s not okay to assume someone’s heath. I think plus size people are absolutely gorgeous, along with any other body shape. I’ve always been attracted to body shapes like mine, or bigger or smaller. People argue that they look down on fat people because “it’s unhealthy.’ You can’t know someone’s health or background just based on their appearance, and even if they were, how is that any of your business? People that are happy and confident in their own body are not affecting you.

Even though I believe all these things, I started believing them when I was skinny. I’ve always been fairly slender growing up – my family nicknamed me ‘tweaka’ as a kid, because I had twiggy limbs. I have always been very body positive, but now that I am the heaviest weight I have ever been, I realised that maybe I am only positive towards other bodies, not mine.

4 or so years ago I had an eating disorder that involved not eating for days, throwing up as much as I could and doing exercise when I had no food or energy in my system. I had cold baths because shivering burns calories, I would subscribe to blogs that told you that you were a fat piece of shit as a way of “motivating” me, I counted the calories of everything I ate, even not allowing myself to eat fruit and vegetables sometimes, because they still had calories.

So I got to my lightest weight I’ve ever been as a teenager and still I felt fat, ugly and unsatisfied. That all was happening right before my suicide attempt, so to me, my unhappiness with my weight is connected to my suicidal tendencies. This meant that every time I put on a bit of weight since then, it played alarm bells that told me I needed to die.

So here I am, with my first stretch marks and a body that does not feel like mine. I want to tell myself that I’m beautiful just like I would tell a friend who weighed the same they are beautiful, but I can’t. I want to one day be able to be supportive of myself no matter how I look, but right now that feels a bit impossible. At least writing about this helps.

  • Looking back at this piece of writing, I have changed in certain areas and have stayed the same in others.

I recently went to Kmart and target, which are infamous for their mirrors that make you feel awful. The target dressing room had mirrors in every direction, so you could see yourself in every angle, which played alarm bells once again for me. I got so upset, but since then I have been trying to be kinder to myself.

I have been somewhat eating healthier and bike riding every second day with some walks, but it doesn’t feel the same as when I tried to “lose weight” in the past with my eating disorder. I want to be body positive, so I am learning to treat my “healthier lifestyle” as just that – a healthier lifestyle. I’m learning that the goal of me doing a bit of exercise is not to lose weight or be skinnier, but to do something that makes me feel good.

My worth is not equal to how healthy I am either – I am allowed to love my body in any state. Showing self-love when you don’t have the “ideal” body is not a criminal act, and in fact, I think it’s pretty bad-ass. I and I’m sure many others, will continue to be on our journey of self-acceptance of every part of who we are. I am happy and proud that I’m trying my best, despite the leaches and illnesses that try to tell me otherwise.

Everyone is going to have step-backs. Some days it might feel like you have gone backwards, but that’s okay. Be gentle, be understanding. We are allowed to take up space and fight for our right to love ourselves, however long it takes. You are doing a great job and perhaps I am too.

Thank you for reading.

Art is Therapy

  • Below is an excerpt from my book! It’s a first draft, so the final version of my book may or may not have this in it. Even so, I like this topic, so I wanted to make it a blog post!

I’ve said it already and I’ll say it again; art is therapy. However, it is also frustrating, crushing and disheartening. It builds up my being as well as it destroys it. If the process of every artwork always went my way and therefore was easy, then that would not make it truly and wholly therapeutic. The times when an artwork goes awfully awry and all I want to do is angrily paint a big blob over it, throw it or just simply cry, are just as much a part of the therapy.

Art challenges you, or more so it should, for if you do not push outside your comfort zone, whether in your art practice or in life, you will simply stay stagnant. Each piece is an adventure of emotions and processing, whether you do it consciously or subconsciously. So I try to embrace the challenges, see the importance and value of each “mistake,” and learn to love being an imperfect creator. I do not remember this all the time and so I sometimes question the validity of calling myself a true artist. But what does that title even mean?


Something I really dislike is that there are a lot of people who believe that to be a “true artist,” you must do or be X, Y, or Z. Anybody can be an artist, or practice art, and anybody should. When it comes down to it, especially when it is utilised as a form of therapy, it simply does not matter if you have the skills or talent. You can be as emotional and messy or precise and detailed as you want. If you open yourself up to it, it can be therapeutic for anybody and it does not matter if you claim to only be able to draw stick figures, for that is art too.

The more you indulge yourself in the beauty that it can bring, the more the process deepens. I really do truly believe that anyone can create and that everybody should. We can always try to implement creation into our lives, as long as we let go of fear and expectation.

It’s nearing the end of December now and this month I have tried my best to create as much as I could. However, the one thing I started the month with – what I called the eye painting – has been sitting on an easel, waiting for me to continue it all month. I do not have any idea how to keep working on it, because right now it seems finished to me. And it very well may be finished, but it was just too easy.

Therapy can be easy. That kind of therapy – the nice, relaxing and soft kind – has so many positive benefits, because it is safe, and for a lot of people, safety is what they need. But when therapy is challenging, it can uproot some heavy and painful topics or memories, which can also be therapeutic if done right. There is so much to say about how facing things that are difficult or uncomfortable can break ground on the real issues that need healing. Ignoring these issues, intentionally or not, can lead to the behaviour of falling on the ‘off switch’ when things get hard or uncomfortable.

It seems so dangerous to face your trauma, mental health or difficulties head on, and it is, in some way or form. But this facing of situations that seem dangerous is necessary to growth, understanding and moving forward. That is why choosing to do something that challenges you is so helpful for your improvement. It allows you to learn through experience and mistakes.

It is important to remember that challenging yourself should not lead to pushing your limits in an unhealthy and damaging manner. This is where emotional intelligence comes in; there are times when everyone needs to accept their own limitations and take part in self-compassion and forgiveness. It is about knowing when to stop, allowing yourself a break and the kind of understanding and love that helps you to continue with the trials of life.

Sometimes you need to put the paintbrush down or do what is easiest or kindest for you. There is absolutely no shame in that – in fact, it is necessary to look after yourself. Challenging yourself will not be effective if it would be unwise or unkind to do so. The balance of challenge and self-compassion leads to a good life and powerful artworks.

  • If you want to read more, the draft of my book is here. Thank you for reading!

The heART Project

Hear, read, watch, play.

Those four words embody the massive project that I am creating called The heART Project – an experience that is a wholesome and honest blend of art and mental health. It will be expressed through many different mediums, creating a whole experience that you can hear, read, watch and play. It’s a love letter to art, a hand that reaches out to support people with mental illnesses and an experience that I am putting my whole heart into.

It will be an art book, show, game and soundtrack.

  • The book is filled with words, comics, poetry, short stories, art, puzzles, mindful and grounding exercises and more.
  • The show has episodes featuring animated stories, drag performances, short films, artwork tutorials, original theatre productions, etc.
  • The project will have a game that involves different kinds of gameplay such as a 2D adventure game, 3D puzzles, a RPG, therapeutic point and click, real choices that influence the story and more.
  • And lastly, the soundtrack will have songs about mental health and art, a podcast featuring different kinds of artists and activists, an audio book of The heART Book, grounding exercises, spoken word, meditative music and the list goes on.

This is not a tiny task. This is going to be worked on and created over many years as I grow as a person and artist. It will face scary walls, bumps on the road and many obstacles, but that will make it all the more valuable – at least to me. I really hope that someone will get something out of this project – my goal is to give my heart to those who need it, because two years ago I really needed someone to do that for me.

I want you to be part of this process, so I have put up the current first-draft version of my book here. You can read it, give me some feedback or just look at the pictures and layout concepts that I will gradually add more of over time. On The heART Project page you can see all updates about the project’s progress. After some thinking, I’ve also decided that I will create mini magazines that will feature the growth of the project, including things like concept sketches and journal notes. I am not sure if anyone would actually be interested in reading the magazine, but it will serve as an in-depth art journal for me and will be published digitally. (I might make physical copies one day)
I think it would be really valuable to see how the heART project progresses from the ground up! If you’d like to actually read these mini magazines, email me and I’ll let you know when a new magazine issue is out.

There is so much to say about this project and how much it means to me. I want to make it as spectacular as possible, but I also have to be realistic. This is going to be a fuck load amount of work and an incredibly massive challenge, but I need to do it. I hope you want to join me in the making of The heART Project, because I truly believe that one day it will be something important.