Coping Mechanisms

What is coping? Let's ask Wikipedia (I'm lazy):

"In psychology, coping means to invest own conscious effort, to solve personal and interpersonal problems, in order to try to master, minimize or tolerate stress and conflict."

Whether you suffer from depression/anxiety or not, you definitely have coping mechanisms hard-wired into your system like every other human being on this planet. 

Some are "common", like stress eating, denial, and escape.

I stress eat all the time. I also "bored eat." You know, when you're just sitting there all bored and not even hungry but start eating because there's nothing else to do.

I've definitely been in denial. I'm probably in denial about something at any given point in my life. I was definitely in denial about how bad the situation is with the Cleveland Cavaliers after we "traded" Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics. But whatever. [Cleveland] Sports, unfortunately, has brought me more stress than joy so...fuck it. (I started this post before the NBA trade deadline, which was Feb 8 @ 3pm EST and the Cavaliers made crazy trades -- net net, still in denial)

The more I read about coping mechanisms, the more I look at myself to see if I can identify what mine are. I think it's important to go back to the definition when doing this because something seemingly as innocuous as eating can be tied to an internal or external conflict.

I admit that I'm an insecure person. Not in all aspects of my life, but certainly in some areas more than others. 

I've always been insecure about my weight. Growing up I was definitely that kid wearing pants that were sized "husky". I was never obese but I was big enough to have been teased for my weight every once in a while. It wasn't until I was several years out of college that I realized that some of my eating habits were closely tied to my mental state. To be honest, I was closer to being 30 when I realized this. I think deep down I always knew. (Is it me or do we always "deep down always know" after the fact?)

I remember one time in college when my friends and I were studying for either midterms or finals, we would go to the Science and Engineering Library (aka SEL) to set up camp for the rest of the night. Literally. SEL was open 24 hours, which was why I studied here. Because I definitely wasn't in a science or engineering major. One distinct memory is when we went to get food and we walked over to Wendy's. I remember ordering no less than 50% of the entire, then $0.99, value menu. In case you can't imagine how much food that's a shit ton of food:

  • Jr. cheeseburger deluxe
  • Jr. bacon cheeseburger (the best)
  • Chicken sandwich
  • Spicy chicken nuggets
  • Chili
  • French fries
  • Frosty
  • Soda

I remember eating everything. I definitely don't remember studying, probably because I was passed out. I was never really good at school and tests always gave me anxiety. So it's not a surprise that stress eating is a means of escape for me. I'd rather fall into a catatonic state from overeating than stress out about studying, work, relationships, etc.

Even now as an adult in my 30s, my eating patterns/habits are linked to my mental state. But now I noticed there are seasonal differences. If I'm in a depressive state or super anxious, my eating habits will be different in the summer versus the winter. In the summer I might not eat anything whereas in the winter I'll eat more than my body needs/can handle. But sometimes it's the opposite, so maybe seasonality has nothing to do with it and it's just how my body wants to feel? Sorry...I'm still figuring all of this stuff out for myself!

I'm fascinated with the psychology behind coping mechanisms.

There are endless types of coping mechanisms but for simplicity sake, let's bucket them into 2 types:

  1. Adaptive coping (or Constructive coping)
  2. Maladaptive coping (or Non-coping)

Adaptive coping is positive in nature. One example of an adaptive coping strategy is anticipation. When we face certain difficult or challenging situations, we try to anticipate what those hurdles are and prepare for how we will cope with it. Another example is when we laugh things off by seeing the humor in situations. This one is a bit tricky because one could use humor to avoid dealing with another conflict, but it can be used both ways.

Maladaptive coping is negative in nature. It's behaviors like disassociation, avoidance, and escape that best describe it. 

Personally speaking, most, if not all, of my coping mechanisms are maladaptive. Whether it's stress eating, being avoidant, or wanting to escape.

Not sure if I've stated this in previous posts but I go to therapy regularly and I mostly go to talk about my issues and struggles with relationships. Not only romantic relationships but also relationships I have with my family and friends. 

Focusing on romantic relationships, there are many things that I struggle with. I used to be and still can be, very impressionable. I would get smitten very easily and before even knowing for sure if I liked someone I would already fantasize about a future with that person in my head. How could I possibly even know without getting to know them more first? But before I even get to that point, I still have to figure out if that person even wants to be in a relationship with ME.

I often times get really stressed out because I put myself in bad situations mentally. I create false expectations and when they are not met (9 times out of 10) I am devastated. It's almost as if the adaptive coping strategy of anticipation is working against me because even though my default is to always anticipate the worst case scenario, and said scenario happens, I'm just as devastated as if I didn't anticipate it, if not worse.

I had (sometimes still have) this really bad habit of letting my brain skip steps and just start thinking about a future with someone based on desires and not facts. That led to increases in anxiety because I had set up false expectations that were created in my head when in reality it was the total opposite.

Two years ago, I basically fell in love with a woman that I had been dating for a few months. We seemingly had this amazing chemistry. But after some time, things kind of fizzled between us towards the end of summer and I noticed our communication cadence was different and her tone towards me got colder. Yet every once in a while we'd have a heartfelt conversation either on the phone or in-person and I would forget about past issues. I'd be back on cloud nine. 

That became a pattern for the next few months. It got to a point where we stopped speaking for a while and then resumed again. We both agreed that at least for the time being it would be best if we simply just tried being friends at that time. This was something she said she wanted, and I wanted it too. My rationale was that it's not often I meet people that are easy to talk to and I didn't want to waste all that time to get to know someone for nothing, especially when deep down I really cared about them.

We talked a few more times, but ultimately it ended with her ghosting me. We had made plans to hang out the night of the first Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump debate. As of that morning, we were still on schedule to hang out but while I was at work she texted that she had to go see her landlord first. I am typically overly flexible for people I like and she was no exception. I said that it was cool and that I was free to meet up anytime after work. I never heard from her again. 

I was shook. I sent her one last text to express my disappointment. I basically said, and I'm paraphrasing, "how can you say you want to be friends if you don't act like a friend? I hope you don't do this to anyone else because it's a shitty thing to do, and nobody deserves that."

And no, she did not respond to that either. 

I had built this person up in my head and every time something went wrong I would blame myself and it was the most miserable I had been in recent past. I am naturally someone who is very in tune with my emotions but most of the time the emotions I feel are not always physically manifested.

One day, she and I were texting and I could just sense the coldness in her messages. I was at a woodworking workshop that day and afterwards, I walked home and her place was on the way, but I didn't say anything or do anything. I continued on and when I got home, I was immediately flooded with intense anxiety and dread. It was probably one of the worst panic attacks I've experienced in my life. I remember making my way to my room and crashing on my bed, curling up into a ball with tears streaming down my face. 

It was around that time I started smoking cigarettes and getting high more often. If I was better at drinking alcohol, I 100% would have started drinking more. Luckily I am one of those Asians that just can't process alcohol and so drinking is actually more of a painful experience for me than pleasurable. 

In addition to the smoking habit and getting high frequently, my appetite basically went away and I dropped a lot of weight. I definitely wasn't healthy and I could feel that, but it felt better than being miserable thinking about her. This was my escape.

Little did I know, I wasn't really escaping from anything, I was just ignoring my problems.

I know I said earlier that I fell in love with her. It took me a while, but I realized that I just fell in love with the idea of her. An idea that I made up in my head. Once I came to that conclusion I was ready to move on and fully let go. Obviously, I am still reconciling some things internally but I'm also still reconciling things from 15 years ago. Therapy has been incredibly helpful and I don't know where I'd be without it.

My therapist helped me identify some of the self-destructive behaviors I was exhibiting during that difficult time. Knowing is half the battle. Once I changed my perspective I was able to cope with everything better. 

I was no longer making excuses for her. My therapist said that I don't get mad enough when stuff like this happens to me. She wasn't saying being mad often is good, but I just never at all got mad about certain situations where I was clearly wronged yet blamed myself. 

I'm still learning to cope better with issues for all of my relationships (romantic/family/friends). I'd like to think I've made great strides the last two years and I hope to continue.

I am stating a lot of things for the first time on this post. To be honest I feel a lot of apprehensions but I also know that once I hit "save and publish" I will feel better.

Thank you for reading.

It's Happening Again

That feeling of perpetual dread. The endless churn of negativity and baseless assumption.

That feeling of your chest wanting to literally explode.

No matter how much pranayama you practice, that drum in your chest just beats harder and harder.

"Why are you like this?" you ask yourself, to which you have no verbal response as you stare back at yourself in the dirty mirror. 

"You like the pain. You will grow from this," is what your conscience says.

But subconsciously you know you won't. 

You start to think rationally and apply simple logic to your seemingly complex problems. 

Logically you shouldn't be this upset. Logically you should just divert your time and energy to other aspects of your life.

Logically you shouldn't care this much.

But you do, and everything you do seems to defy logic. 

Here you are again, stuck in between reality and a dream.

A dream that's quickly turning into a nightmare that keeps pulling you in.

And all you can say to yourself is, it's happening again.

Why We Want What We Can't Have

Before I really start getting into this post I would like to apologize to anyone who does come to this site to read or listen. I have been taking a short break from blogging and podcasting for a number of reasons that I will get to at another time. It wasn't my intention but it just kind of happened, and then it kept happening. Anyway...back to my originally planned program.

Have you ever found yourself asking 'why you want what you can't have?'

Of course you have. You're a human being. You did it as a child, even if you didn't realize it and you (we) still do it now. 

Or maybe I should just speak for myself? Yeah that's probably best. I'm not in the business of putting words in people's mouths because it's never fun when it happens to you.

I can confidently say that I've been wanting what I can't have since I was old enough to verbally say that I wanted something. That's basically 30 years of experience right there so I'd like to think I'm kind of a pro at this point.

Remember when you were at [insert random store] with your parents and you saw something that in retrospect was dumb as fuck but at the time you really wanted it? Nay, you NEEDED it. You couldn't imagine living your life without it, at least for the 5-10 minutes you were in the store, or until you saw something else you just had to have. 

Kids generally have better imaginations and shorter attention spans. And as kids we imagine how great it would be to have that thing (usually something stupid like a candle Oh...yeah I meant that awesome toy...)

Do you remember a time when your parents actually got that thing you really (read: randomly) wanted? Well looking back now as an adult I don't blame parents for not getting their kids stupid shit. What the fuck is a 5 year old going to do with a measuring cup? They aren't tall enough to help out in the kitchen and I'm sure that household has plenty of cups to use for drinking beverages at home. Also said household probably has at least one measuring cup in the cupboard somewhere. 

You know how in the wild, new born animals naturally know what to do, like learn to walk? Well I think the equivalent for humans is learning to want what we can't have. You could argue that I'm baseless in that statement and I would 100% agree with you, but I'll take my chances.

I feel like I was born to want what I can't have. And that's not an invite for pity. I seriously mean it. When I couldn't get the Playstation 2 when it first launched in the year 2000 because a) my parents didn't want to get it for me, b) it was expensive, and c) the thing was out of stock for what seemed like 2 years, my desire for it grew exponentially every passing day I didn't own one. 

I remember being on eBay looking at auctions for the PS2 that were about to end that weren't ridiculously price gouged. I also remember being so disappointed that every PS2 on eBay was going for more than $1,000. Yeah...Sony definitely won the console war that generation.

Can you imagine a world where parents just bought kids whatever it is they wanted? The kids will quickly realize that the thing they wanted is actually pretty fucking lame and then the family would just be stuck with it, or throw it out.

The counterpoint to that is, what if parents selectively bought their kids the useless stuff that they clamor for at the store? Especially the things that are really stupid that they know their kids will forget about. That could potentially teach the kids a lesson that the things they want may not be what they actually want? Or that the things they want might not be all that great?

When those kids grow up to become adults, they could have learned early on that what they don't have, isn't always something that they want. Or better yet, if they get the thing they so desired that it turns out it's not so great. I for sure could have benefited from this.

But what the hell do I know about child rearing? The closest thing is just having been a child that was being reared. (That sounded weird to me too...)

Anywho, how does this relate to me now? Well, it's basically how I still live to this day. It's basic economics. I still desire things that I can't have. Maybe not as much as a when I was a child because I know that things actually cost money. Money that I may or may not have, and even if I do have it, is it the smartest decision?

The difference between me then and now is that I know the difference between 'want' and 'need'. Or so I think I do. When it comes to goods and services, I have to actually think if I really want or need something. There are certainly times when we need to buy something. Then there are times where we just want to buy it. 

If you're financially independent, you get to make those choices for yourself. You must suffer the potential consequences of making a bad purchase. You could always return (save that receipt!) or have an awesome credit card that has a perk that lets you return stuff no questions asked (FYI I have no idea if that is an actual credit card perk that exists...).

But what happens when those wants and needs go beyond things? What happens when it comes to people such as potential friends or lovers? 

I'll tell you what happens. It gets WAY harder. We all live in our own lives, but we share the same reality. We all exist on the same plane. We (people) are not objects. You can't make someone your friend or lover without mutual desire or consent.

When I look at it this way, it makes total sense. It's logical. It's a rational approach. But because I am human, and I've lived my entire life wanting what I can't have, that natural instinct makes it so difficult for me. 

I'm no stranger to rejection. Some rejections hurt less than others. But conversely, some rejections hurt way more than others. 

Rejection sucks. How you deal with it is the difference between climbing out of a whole versus being stuck in it.

At times I am a very rational person and other times I'm a very irrational person. Most of the time it is my emotions that are the drivers of my irrationality. 

I often find myself irrationally upset. It's at those times I have to beat logic into my thoughts. I say beat because it's so easy for my emotional brain to brush off a feeble attempt at reason from it's logical other half. I need to beat my emotional side into submission. It doesn't always work, but self awareness is half the battle.

I know, I know. I'm just stating the obvious. It's the things and people that are unavailable that we want most. Have you ever stopped to think that your imagination of how great a thing or person is, is actually better than how great they actually are? Let that sink in for a second.

I've been guilty of desiring the love and affection of unavailable women. Call it a bad habit of mine. The only way I know how to get over it is to just suffer through the pain and sorrow until the glow of that person fades into nothing, or I force myself to hate them. I have to trick myself into thinking they are awful people. Sometimes they just are awful people. Other times, I just have to pretend because it's too hard for me. Which sounds really immature and stupid, and it is because it's not fair to the other person. I never want to hate anyone that I care about, but I created this bad habit out of necessity. Because I didn't know how else to deal with it. 

I get upset at myself for getting upset.

I need to start thinking that maybe that unavailable person that I have really strong feelings for just isn't that great in real-life. Maybe there's a reason why they aren't available. Not just the fact that they might not share the same feelings, they may have other shit going on in their life, and/or maybe, just maybe, they are not the right person for me.

I need to stop thinking "what if" because I often get lost in hypothetical scenarios and make decisions based on things and outcomes that I want. People often use their gut when it comes to love and romance. Nothing wrong with that. The idea of that is actually quite romantic. But if you're like me and your gut is often times wrong, maybe try the opposite of what your gut says from time to time. Easier said than done, but it's seriously worth considering.

I'll be the first to say, there is no painless way of getting rejected or getting over a rejection. What brings me peace is that I know I'm not the only one going through what I go through. Well...peace makes it seem like I'm happy that we all suffer. But that's not what I mean. What I mean is that we are all human, and it's these experiences that make us human. Also it makes me feel like less of a weirdo. My words, not yours.

*This post was originally posted on April 27, 2017 and was edited on April 28, 2017.

The Struggle Bus

I'm failing at this. Very badly. I've got a monthly pass for the struggle bus.

I had this fantasy that I would be shooting out blog posts left and right and podcasting every week. I have tried my best to podcast every week but they are so fucking boring. I talk too slow and I'm not talking with enough emotion. And these blog posts...I'm just fucking lazy.

I've been in a bit of a funk lately. I have been dealing with some anxiety and some bad habits of my depression have crept back. One of those things is lethargy.

Yesterday after work, I tried to find something to do (with a low level of effort though). I came up empty, which is quite normal. It was a Friday evening, so I sank into my couch and started dozing off around 9pm. I decided to just call it a night and went to bed. It was the earliest I had gone to bed in a very long time. 

I got about 11 hours of sleep and woke up today and did my normal morning routine, which is to feed Ruth (my cat) and then take my medication. I then proceeded to do laundry and watch old episodes of Rick and Morty. When the washer was done, I knew I had to throw my clothes in the dryer but I my body didn't want to get up. I sat there for several minutes deliberating if I should get up and put my clothes in the dryer. 

A normal person would have just gotten up and put the wet clothes in the dryer as soon as the washer was done. I sat there for about 15 minutes and forced myself to get up because I hate how clothes that stay wet for too long get that weird smell.

The simplest tasks become so difficult and daunting. When the will is there, I can be a very productive member of society, but when it's not, I'm just a heavy bag of bones and fat.

This is something I've struggled with for most of my life, but I didn't know how to put it into words growing up. And it usually is only the case when I'm by myself.

I went from someone that was very comfortable with being alone to becoming someone who is dying to get out of the house but is too lazy. It's still very difficult to explain how I feel. Obviously.

That said, I was able to muster up energy to finish two loads of laundry (clothes and sheets+duvet), take my cat out to get her nails trimmed (super sharp) and then get a cup of coffee.

Now I'm back home typing this up while listening to emo music in the background while I have the Wisconsin v. Villanova game on mute. 

I often have the feeling that I'm going through an existential crisis because I often feel like I don't really have a purpose. It's not so much a source of anxiety though because I honestly don't believe anyone when they say they have a purpose in life. I won't refute anyone, but inside I'm calling bullshit. But what I think doesn't matter to anyone else. It shouldn't. Live your life.

Human beings in general. What purpose do we serve? I haven't heard a good answer yet. Is our purpose to find a way to get off this planet and find some other place to ruin...I

I don't mean to be so down. I'm just trying to find my self purpose, which to me is different than having an overall purpose. My self purpose is 100% selfish. My self purpose will never be something like, "making sure the children in 3rd world countries always have food to eat." It would be more like, "making sure that I always have food to eat."

Sometimes you gotta take care of yourself. I just don't really know how to do it.

Next stop on the struggle bus? Anywhere. I just want to get off and charge my phone cause it's about to die soon. 



That's the only utterance I have at the moment that isn't a curse word that is moderately appropriate at this very moment.

Not sure if you guys saw that solo press conference Donald Trump had the other day, but it was a complete shit show. The whole thing is just a mess, which he claims he inherited. Lets be real, it's never an easy transition from one administration to another, but to say that he inherited a mess after the shit he has done the last few weeks is a joke.

A joke that we need to take seriously.

I don't even want to type out his name anymore. From this point on, at least on this site, he will be known as the Lil' d (guys get it? I made the 'd' lowercase and it's a double entendre)

We need to take this seriously because Lil' d and fiends are master manipulators and we can't allow ourselves to be manipulated. They will continue to deflect and lie, but eventually even their own supporters will start to question their motives.

Okay, enough about politics. I have some changes that are happening to me that I want to share.

Tomorrow I will become a cat dad. Yes. I will be getting a cat. She will be my everything. Last weekend I scheduled time to meet a cat named Allie at her foster home. She was a little shy but warmed up to me pretty quickly. She loves to be pet and is just so adorable. She was found in a feral cat colony somewhere in Brooklyn, but she clearly is not feral. She's between 1-2 years old...that's what I am told.

This whole week during my spare time I've been on,, looking at pet supplies to buy. Reading blogs and reviews. I got a shipment of stuff that's been delivered today and I have some stuff coming tomorrow as well. And next week. I bought a ton of shit is what I'm basically trying to say. I'm not just getting a few small boxes either. No, I'm getting boxes that I could fit in when in fetal position. I'm taking this very seriously. AND I CAN'T WAIT.

One thing to note, I am allergic to cats. BUT I saw an allergist and I got prescription eye drops, some Zyrtec and two HEPA air purifiers. I think I should be good.

The reason I got a cat and not a dog though is for a few reasons. I love dogs, but they require more upkeep and I don't necessarily have the best lifestyle to take care of a dog. I also don't have a lot of space for a dog. I would want the dog to have green grass to run on and a lot of room to roam around at home. I have neither of those things.

I live by myself, which I'm super lucky to be able to do so in NYC, but as liberating as it is, it can be very lonely. I felt the need for a companion when I come home.

More to come once she settles in!

One more (potential) change happening. I'm considering doing a podcast for this site as well. Sometimes it's just easier to say things than to type it out. I'd want to also bring on guests to make it more interactive (for myself) and to have interesting and, hopefully, thought provoking conversations.

I've got a lot on my plate at the moment so may be some time before I can make a substantial update on here, or it might be tomorrow. Who knows, my mood changes many times a day.

I hope everyone has a great President's Day weekend. I bet Lil' d thinks it's a holiday for him, which is probably why he's golfing in Florida this weekend. I know, I know, I said "enough politics" but let me just get something off my chest.

Lil' d is hosting a campaign rally in Florida this weekend. He's campaigning for 2020. IS HE FUCKING SERIOUS?

No. Just no.

Ok, seriously, I hope everyone that has a day off on Monday enjoys the 3-day weekend and everyone else, just whatever. Enjoy your lame 2-day weekend.

Alternate Reality

I'm convinced I live in an alternate reality.

I'm sure many of you feel the same way. I think we arrived around the same time.

I wasn't aware of the change until fairly recently (within the last few years). But it's anyone's guess when it actually happened. Some suggest it happened between 1986 and 2011.

The biggest clue for me was that in this reality, the Berenstein Bears are called the Berenstain Bears. Just to clarify, the difference is in the 'stEin' and 'stAin'. I'm a Berenstein-er.

Mandela Effect or not, I was, and still am, deeply troubled by this. Really fucked with my sense of reality, my memories, and my childhood.

And now to further substantiate my theory, the President of the United States is Donald Trump.

I don't even know where to start. DAPL/KXL? Mexico? The Wall? TPP? Muslim/Immigration Ban?

Trumps visa ban also applies to citizens with dual nationalities! They are barring permanent American residents/those holding green cards from entering the US from 7 Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya).

What the fuck is going on? What is happening? What is this country turning into? We are clearly no longer the 'land of the free'.

All of this makes me uncomfortable. I am a naturalized US citizen, but I used to hold a green card. My parents immigrated to this country from South Korea in the late 80s with my sister and I. I'm Korean-American and while my identity is deeply rooted in both cultures, I find myself to be more American. But I don't share the same values of this administration and those that voted them in.

I fully admit that I am not normally into politics. I have my opinions, but in recent past didn't want to talk about it because the forums we use (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) only seem to preach to the choir, and then there are the times when you have that one friend that turns out to be a huge scum bag that uses your post to wage a war of words with another friend. It's too much.

I care a lot more about politics now because well, this shit has been keeping me up at night, among other more seemingly trivial personal issues. I get seriously anxious looking at my Facebook feed and when I watch or read the news.

That said, my frustrations aren't just aimed at conservatives, the alt-right, neo-nazi's, racists, etc. There are issues across all sides. There is no real dialog between anyone.

Everything has become so extreme. I get that nobody wants to back down, but we have to find a middle ground. I know it's easy for me to just say all of this stuff when we have a demagogue in power, but we are all better than this. We don't deserve this reality. The children don't deserve this future.

On a lighter note, while this reality fucking blows, the number of quality TV shows the last few years has been pretty great...amirite?



*This entry was originally posted on Medium on January 6, 2017*

In my first post, I mentioned that I was testing out a text-based therapy app, Talkspace. I had briefly mentioned how I used it and in a subsequent post I decided that the app was ultimately not what I needed. Since then I had cancelled my membership and have ignored all of Talkspace’s attempts to get me to subscribe again.

I’d like to go into more detail on my experience with the app.

This past summer I decided to test out Talkspace after seeing many ads for it on the subway. I have to say, as someone that works in the advertising industry, when an ad is relevant to you it really does stick…

Once you sign in for the first time, you’re connected with someone who administers a few preliminary questions so they get a sense of what your needs are, or that’s how I understood the process to be. After you answer the questions, they invite a dedicated therapist to the chat and from that point on you have a closed chat room where you two can talk privately.

My therapist mentioned up front her schedule and said that she would, at a minimum, chat with me twice a day during the weekdays and was off on the weekends. That was fine with me given the price I was paying was a fraction of the cost of an in-person therapist.

I signed up for a 3 months subscription to start and would make my decision to continue or cancel after 3 months.

The first month and a half were decent. We had good chats and it was nice to have an outlet for me when I was feeling anxious.

I have to preface that at this point in my life, I was not seeing an in-person therapist. In my first post I had mentioned that my first therapist had to stop seeing his patients and at the time I thought I was able to manage my stress/anxiety/depression on my own. Those things started to surface up again but instead of having to hunt for a new in-person therapist, I decided to try Talkspace out.

Funny enough, around the halfway point of my time on Talkspace, my online therapist messages me saying that they have to transfer my account to another therapist because they were taking a more administrative role at Talkspace, whatever that means.

My second Talkspace therapist was…okay. I found myself repeating myself many times…on a text based app that doesn’t delete old messages. I was asked twice if I was having suicidal ideations (FYI: I have never), and there were times where I just didn’t have anything to say so I didn’t communicate anything.

It wasn’t until I decided to cancel my subscription that they reached out to me again. Nonstop. That was months ago and I still get emails.

At the end of the day, Talkspace is a business. And like all businesses, its goal is to make money. Therapists are asked to upsell to more premium live video chat packages, longer term subscriptions, etc.

If a patient is inactive, they don’t bother reaching out as long as the account is still active and subscription fees are still paid.

At first my issue with Talkspace was the service from the therapists themselves, but I realized that this kind of interaction was not what I needed.

I found myself editing my messages and making sure I was fully communicating how I was feeling, but what was missing from the interactions were my unedited gut reactions. A good in-person therapist can react to your body language, your facial expressions, your eye movement, your tone of voice. While we call it mental health, the state that we’re in mentally manifests physically.

I read this article about Talkspace on The Verge a couple weeks ago and it was actually eye opening.

I’m not going to go deep into and recap the article. I think if you’ve ever considered Talkspace, or still are, you should absolutely read this article.

The piece goes into the quality of the service, and the fine line that the company walks regarding privacy and ethics.

Personally, I will never again use the service, but I came to that conclusion prior to this article. It wasn’t what I needed. Now I know I made the right decision.

See for yourself.

These Pretzles are Making Me Thirsty!

*This entry was originally posted on Medium on December 16, 2016*

I was reading this blog post on Scientific American where the headline reads (link included):

Psychiatrists Must Face Possibility That Medications Hurt More Than They Help

12% of adult Americans take antidepressants, according to research published in Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine

“Mental health has declined as prescriptions for antidepressants and other drugs keep surging”

I feel like the current rhetoric is that antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication aren’t working. While it’s possible, I feel like many people are also misdiagnosed.

Chemically we are all very different and some people may metabolize certain medications better than others.

More pressure needs to be put on psychiatrists and doctors who can prescribe such medications. Not that I think they are prescribing haphazardly.

I take an antidepressant and I have anti-anxiety medication. I was very adverse to medication, but the nurse practitioner at my primary care clinic got me to try it. She also suggested that I take a GeneSight test.

I don’t know know the technical details behind the test but it’s a DNA test and they analyze your DNA to see which medications work best for you.

It’s amazing! They color code the medications by type (antidepressants, antipsychotics, etc) with green, yellow, and red. Green meaning it can be taken as usual, yellow meaning certain tweaks need to be made to the dosage, and red which for the most part means you shouldn’t take that medication.

Not a lot of people are aware of this test, from what I can tell.

I don’t see a psychiatrist, so my therapist didn’t say anything but I found out from my primary care.

If you have a primary care clinic that you go to and are curious, ask them.

I got the impression that prescribing medication was closer to guesswork than science. But with this test, there’s science behind it that you can generally understand.

I haven’t been on my medications for too long to come to any real conclusions but they seem to work. I don’t experience some of the problems that I had that were debilitating. I don’t feel dull and I still experience my emotions, but I can manage them better.

Medication has helped me, in conjunction with regular therapy.

There is no ‘one size fits all' solution to mental health, nor should there be. It’s incumbent on both the patient and doctor to make an effort to identify and understand what the problems and symptoms are and to come up with a plan of attack together.

I hate reading about people saying medication or therapy don’t work. Just because it doesn’t work for one person, doesn’t mean it won’t work for another.

End rant.

Sleepless in BedStuy

*This entry was originally posted on Medium on December 10, 2016*

If you tell the truth about how you’re feeling, it becomes funny.
-Larry David

So if you’ve been following my posts, you know that I’m big on mental health. It’s something that I believe needs to be talked about more openly.

I’m not saying that we need to talk about our personal issues out in public, but if it’s normal for people to say that they “need to lose weight” or “are out of shape” then it should be just as normal or OK to say when we’re feeling sad, depressed, or anxious.


There’s a stigma to mental health. Typically a lot of judgement or perceived judgement is associated with it. There’s the “emo” stereotype. There’s the term “mental” to negatively describe someone. I’ve even read posts/articles about how people shouldn’t call others “crazy”. This last one I’ve got some issues with, but it has less to do with the mental health aspect and more to do with PC culture. Will have to dive into that another time. But even people you wouldn’t suspect actually suffer from depression.

Anxiety and depression affect more people than most realize. I am not armed with any statistics (which makes me feel very vulnerable right now…I like having good data to support any claims) but so many people don’t even admit that they might have a mental disorder.

It might just be because they don’t know. I think that’s probably the most logical reason, because education around mental health is so poor. Maybe it’s better now…I haven’t stepped inside a classroom in many years. I’m more than 10 years removed from high school and we definitely did NOT learn much about mental health.

I’ve always had trouble falling asleep because when I close my eyes when I go to bed, my brain goes into hyperdrive and a lot of thoughts just surface up. I over think and over analyze everything.

I don’t hate going to sleep, because who doesn’t like going to sleep? But I do often go to sleep with anxiety knowing that I will have difficulty falling asleep.

I know I’m not alone in this. I also don’t know how to accurately put into words what I experience. I admit I’m bad at explaining things.

Having difficulty sleeping is a physical issue, but physical and mental health is so intertwined that the state of one impacts the other.

I need to learn to chill and meditate. Headspace doesn’t work for me. Self hypnosis is very difficult to achieve (but I try). I don’t drink a lot so I don’t like to have night caps.

I am trying to embrace my hyperactive brain and overall restlessness. Maybe accepting will help me sleep. We shall see!


*This entry was originally posted on Medium on November 23, 2016*

Have you ever purposefully made yourself busy for the sole purpose of forgetting about something that bothers you?

I find myself doing that a lot these days.

Whether it’s going on long walks, reading, drowning myself in music, going to a new place, trying a new restaurant, going out every night to have a drink and play pool, or eating until I enter a food coma, etc.

I’ve been obsessed with finding new hobbies this year because I’ve been desperate to get out of my apartment when I feel trapped, which unfortunately is often. I tried to learn woodworking. I tried to pick photography back up. I tried writing. I tried music. I kept trying different things but none of them seemed to stick.

I realized that I can’t silo my life. Everything that I do, everything I know, and everyone I know, can be tied back to a single idea, person, or emotion.

I try so hard to find something new to do that seeming has no connection with something I don’t want to think about or be reminded of, yet somehow my brain finds a way to make a meaningful connection.

As soon as that happens I lose interest in that hobby. It’s my brain telling me to stop because if I continue down this path I will just be reminded of things I don’t want to think about.

At first I thought, ‘hey that’s kind of cool’. I DON’T want to think about these things. But as time passed I realized that this was happening for everything.

What was once a defense mechanism all of a sudden became a source of more anxiety.

How does one deal with that? When your own methods work against you. I was sabotaging myself and it was getting increasingly frustrating.

I don’t have an answer. I’m not asking for an answer either. I just decided that I have to deal with it head on. Meaning, choose one hobby and actively pursue it no matter what feelings, thoughts, or memories it brings up.

The past couple weeks I’ve been working closely with a friend to concept a podcast. We’ve conducted two interviews for material and we meet regularly to work on it. We both have day jobs but it’s nice to have a project to work on outside of work.

I don’t want to share too much because we still have a ton of work to do, but I’m genuinely excited to work on this project. I can’t wait to share the first episode, although timing is still very much TBD. I’ll share updates periodically on my various social channels.

Learning to Cope

*This entry was originally posted on Medium as "(Still) Learning to Cope" on October 8, 2016*

I’ve been thinking a lot about coping.

Specifically, I’ve been doing a mental audit of how I cope with various situations. I wanted to see if I could find any consistencies or irregularities in how I handle them. Knowing that there are way too many different situations to consider, I oversimplified it by creating two buckets. Work and Life.

Lets take a look…

Work: If there’s a huge deliverable at work, if something is wrong, or if there is a fire drill, my natural instinct is to just focus on getting that particular task done and ignore all non-essential tasks. One thing I think about during those times is how I’m going to deliver that work.

  Just like Panera Bread, You Pick Two

Just like Panera Bread, You Pick Two

On this chart here is a terribly illustrated version of a simplified project management triangle.

You can only choose 2 out of 3. At my old job I got alignment with my management that this is how we would handle urgent requests, but not all of my problems can be managed in this manner.

So to summarize how I cope with stress at work, I try to overcome it by working hard and focusing on the things that will help me deliver the best possible output.

Life: When life gets tough, I put my head down and I work extra hard and focu…oh wait. No I don’t. This one is a bit more complicated. Everyday I find myself in situations that I’ve faced countless times where those coping mechanisms are second nature. But I also face new situations on a regular basis as I live my life (as we all should!).

There are some situations that I find myself in regularly that I’ve been coping with but realized that my coping mechanisms just seemed to stop working. This coincided with my sudden anxiety flare ups late last year. There’s obviously a connection, and it’s been the question that I’ve been trying to answer for the last 10 months.

I find it so fascinating how we as people teach ourselves different coping mechanisms for similar situations. I’m not surprised because we’re all different and unique, but it’s just so amazing how our brains work.

I started going to therapy regularly again, different from the one I had earlier this year. My new therapist is great. I have probably already talked about her but her approach is what I need. She challenges me and provides different perspectives that I wouldn’t normally think about. Which is funny because one of my bad habits is to think about every possible negative outcome in situations.

In recent past I was a more resistant to medication. I didn’t really have any sound reasons as to why, but it was mostly based on not knowing what it would actually do to me. I had just started a new job and wasn’t sure when the insurance was going to kick in too so I delayed the process. I was also afraid of developing dependencies, but I spoke with my doctor and we decided to ease into it and try some things out to see how I would react.

There was also a more scientific approach to it. I won’t go into too much detail but it’s this thing called a GeneSight genetic test, and it basically tells you which medications work best for you based on your genetics. It’s actually pretty cool and I’d be happy to talk more about if if you’d like. If you know me personally, ping me or just leave a comment.

Anyway…therapy, books, medication, these things are not the solution. They are supposed to help me on my journey to figure out how to cope, but that journey has been rocky. I repeatedly make the same mistakes and I have developed some bad habits the last 4–5 months.

I won’t say that I’ve regressed since my first post, but I certainly haven’t progressed as much as I would have liked.

I had a lot of ambitions this summer. I had plans to go see this thing, hang out with thatperson, explore this area, try this food, build a coffee table, donate a bunch of clothes, learn self hypnosis, run more often, read all of my half read books, go to the beach, and so on.

To summarize what actually happened in a paragraph, I turned 30, saw some things, hung out with some people, didn’t really explore, ate the same food, didn’t build a coffee table, didn’t donate clothes but did put clothes to donate in a bag (halfway there), failed to teach myself self hypnosis, ran twice, started new books that have also only been half read to add to my collection of half read books, and didn’t set foot on a beach.

depressed george.jpeg

Summer is obviously over now, and while I’ve done some of the things I wanted to do, I didn’t really enjoy summer to it’s full potential. Like Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth”. Suffice to say I was psychologically punched in the mouth this summer. I must have done something wrong, right?


According to my therapist, I tend to blame myself for a lot of things. Sometimes it really is my fault, but other times I just point the finger at myself because it’s easier and I don’t have to involve others.

She says that I don’t get upset enough. Not in the sense that I need to be upset, or she suggest that I do. She was just reinforcing the fact that I have a bad habit of putting myself at fault for most of my challenges, for lack of a better term.

I really wanted this summer to go exactly as planned. I was going to kick it off by turning 30 and start the next stage of my life. Early middle age. But I got caught up in non-sense and I chased ghosts. I exhausted so much of my time and energy, both physical and mental, to things that I shouldn’t have.

I don’t want to discount the great times I had this summer either. I don’t mean to down play or diminish the significance of who I hung out with and what I did. I mean, I got a new job outside of the agency world which is something I’ve been wanting for a while, and I did go to Amsterdam and Croatia at the beginning of September that was one of the best trips I’ve been on to-date. To all of my friends and family that spent their time with me and put up with my bullshit this summer, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

this isn’t a subject that is always broached with my family, I know they support me and are there. I’ve also got a great group of friends who are very supportive and are there for me too. Is it sad that I have to constantly remind myself of this? Probably.

All that said, I’m still learning to cope with anxiety, depression, and well…pretty much everything else. I’m still very much committed to self improvement the rest of this year and beyond. I have to come to terms with reality and just really dig in and focus on what is truly important to me, focus on what I truly care about, and let bygones be bygones.


Mental Health

*This entry was originally posted on Medium on July 5, 2016*

What is mental health? Before I go into my entry, I would like to share with you a definition and some facts from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO’s definition of mental health is:

“A state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”

Here are some random facts on mental health (from WHO):

  1. Around 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have mental disorders or problems
  2. Mental and substance use disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide
  3. Mental disorders are important risk factors for other diseases, as well as unintentional and intentional injury
  4. Stigma and discrimination against patients and families prevent people from seeking mental health care
  5. Globally, there is huge inequity in the distribution of skilled human resources for mental health

There are 5 key barriers to increasing mental health services availability (also from WHO):

  • The absence of mental health from the public health agenda and the implications for funding
  • The current organization of mental health services
  • Lack of integration within primary care
  • Inadequate human resources for mental health
  • Lack of public mental health leadership

Being someone who is seeking information on mental health, I’m shocked at the lack of attention paid to it. Sure, there is a lot of information online but there are so many opinions. Who is right? Is there a right answer? I assume no because as far as I know, nobody has truly figured out how the brain works.

Mental disorders of all kinds impact so many people. Yet it is seemingly swept under the rug. It is not viewed as a legitimate issue. People tend to shy away from the unknown and there is a lot we do not know/understand about our psyche.

The last six to seven months I have been trying to educate myself on mental health because I have reached a stage in my life where I am dealing with certain anxieties and stresses and realize that I have no real method of coping. I realize that I do not truly understand what these things are and it is really upsetting.

I have always had this baseline level of anxiety that, to me, seemed completely normal. I just assumed everyone had that same baseline, and to a degree I still think that. There is no person that is devoid of anxiety as every human being in this world goes through ups and downs. That’s just…life.

But what I did not realize growing up was that people experience anxiety in vastly different ways and in, equally, different levels of intensity. In my household, we never talked about mental health. Physical health on the other hand was discussed all the time. I was overweight as a child and remained overweight until I was about halfway done with university. My parents always wanted me to lose weight.

Maybe it’s a Korean thing, but when seeing relatives, there is always a criticism that they share with you, about you. And it’s usually based on your physical attributes. Or if you are of a certain age (18 or older) they will start asking if you have a girlfriend or boyfriend. I digress, as this alone could be a whole other topic that I can touch upon another time.

Back to physical health. Long story short, when it came to health, that is all that mattered, or at least that is all that was taught to me. Sure, in high school health class we talked about mental health, depression, anxiety, etc. But it was so out of context for me. I even joked about it.

My senior year quote was, “Depression is like trying to slay a dragon with a plastic knife.” I did not use that quote because of the content. I chose it because of who said it (a guy from the class below mine that had a penchant for saying odd/funny things), not because of what it actually meant to me. At that time of my life, it meant nothing. I was not depressed. I did not even really know what depression was at that point.

Fast forward twelve years and here I am, a week into my thirties and am almost as clueless about mental health as I was back in high school. The main difference between now and then is that I have experienced more in life and seemingly have more self awareness than my younger self.

In the last year and a half I have experienced more significant change in my personal life since I graduated from university. My relationship with my girlfriend ended, I left the company where I started my career and worked for six years, and I realized that I experience and possibly suffer from several forms of anxiety.

I had mentioned before that I always felt that I had a baseline level of anxiety that was considered normal. Normal in the sense that it is something everyone has and experiences. I couldn’t tell you exactly when but, as if some mysterious force flicked a switch in my brain, my anxiety levels elevated and have not come back down.

Sure, I have good days (even weeks) where I am completely happy and feel on top of the world. But I more often feel the complete opposite.

For illustrative purposes

Six to seven months ago I decided it was time for me to seek professional help in the form of therapy. The problem was, I did not know where to look. How does someone that essentially knows nothing about mental health find the right help? Do I need a psychiatrist or a psychologist? What is the difference? What kind of therapy do I need? I had so many questions.

I was lucky enough to meet a new friend who shared with me their experiences and they were actually the catalyst for me to start going to therapy. Without going into too much detail, having someone to talk to that has also has gone through or is going through similar things is eye opening.

I logged onto ZocDoc and found a place that took my insurance and I set up an appointment. I had my first session on December 30, 2015.

For four and a half months I saw my therapist once every week. At the time I could not say whether he was good or not because he was my first therapist. I had zero expectations.

I would go into the sessions and he would ask things like, “how are you feeling?” or “what has been bothering you?”

Therapy cannot work if you are not honest with yourself and your therapist. I thought it was going to be really difficult to open up but I surprisingly found it easy to just talk freely and openly. Maybe because I knew it was a complete stranger who’s purpose in my life was to listen and help resolve my issues.

I learned a few things. I learned some breathing exercises to help calm myself down and relax. I learned that I need to not use my phone late at night before I go to bed. I learned that I need to be honest with myself.

Unfortunately my time with this particular therapist ended abruptly. I received a call from the owner of the practice saying that my therapist could no longer see his patients. The woman on the phone was actually quite rude and then asked if I wanted to see another therapist from the practice. I declined. I decided to take a little break and see if I could apply the things I learned to my daily routine (as I had been practicing) and see if I could deal with things on my own.

I lasted two months. My anxiety level shot up and I was having a really hard time coping. I was having panic attacks on a regular basis and I actually went backwards. I reverted to bad habits. I put strains on relationships and I was the most miserable as I had ever been.

To be honest, I don’t know why I’m typing in the past tense. This is happening to me now. In the present.

I am at a point in my life where I am open to trying new things that have the potential to improve my quality of life such as online therapy via Talkspace.


If you are not familiar with Talkspace, it is an online/mobile therapy app. You chat with a consultation therapist and answer some questions. You are then assigned a dedicated therapist whom you speak with in a private chat. The service of course is not free, there is a monthly or quarterly subscription model.

My experiences with Talkspace, to-date, have been okay at best. I signed up for a quarterly subscription so am committing to 3 months. It is a place for me to just type away how I am feeling at any given moment. The therapist will then respond back to you. What I really like is that it logs the conversations and you can just go back to see what was discussed as reference.

The challenge is that I find myself editing what I type. It is not the same as if I was just talking with a therapist in person. It is also hard because you do not get instant feedback. I never know exactly when my therapist will respond, but usually within 24 hours during weekdays. Weekends they log off but I can message them freely at anytime.

Time will tell if Talkspace is effective.

I started seeing an in-person therapist again as of two weeks ago although they don’t take insurance (another barrier to treatment). I entered the session with at least some expectations having gone to therapy in recent past. I realized that my last therapist did not really challenge me. I talked and talked and he offered up some suggestions, but never really dug deep. This new therapist is incredibly engaging and she really digs into the things I say, which I enjoy. It is uncomfortable at first, but is that not the point? To get away from our normal habits and really challenge ourselves…

I have also tried hypnotherapy. Now I cannot tell you what hypnotherapy is exactly but I really enjoyed my single experience. I ended up feeling extremely relaxed and had the best night of sleep in over a year. The idea is to train yourself to self-induce hypnosis. I have not gotten to that point yet though.

 Source: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight

Source: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight

Throughout the last few months I have come to realize that I take some things really personally. Things that I did not take personally in the past. I keep asking myself why? Why do I let certain things bother me so much? Why do I care so much about X/Y/Z?

I realize that I need to develop a new way of thinking and learn new ways to cope with my anxieties. This requires immense effort because I essentially have to create new neural pathways in my brain.

I am quickly figuring out that this journey I am on does not have an end. I do not mean that in an ominous way. I mean it in the sense that we are always changing and we need to be mentally fit to adapt.

I want to share my journey because one of the problems within our society is the overall lack of conversation around mental health, yet people talk about their weight-loss journeys all the time or their daily CrossFit workouts. I recognize there is a stigma with mental health but I genuinely feel that we need to be more open about it.

I am not spilling my guts to you. I am not giving you the details that I would otherwise only share with my therapist. That said, I am not in a place to talk about mental health objectively because it is so personal to me.

I admit that this entry has been in my draft box for almost a month now. It has been edited so many times because I was not sure if I was sharing too much, or not enough. I cared too much about how people would perceive me based on assumptions that I made up in my head. That is a really dangerous thing to do.

At the end of the day I know that there are many others that are going through similar experiences, and many more that have it way worse than I do.

My goal is to share the things that I learn on my journey. If I am advocating for more openness and conversation about mental health, I should start with myself.

I welcome a dialogue. If you have any suggestions or feedback for me, please leave a comment.