(Here’s a beautiful instrumental piece that has nothing whatsoever to do with Korean. Enjoy!)
I remember how I was four months ago and I tell myself that progress, while frustratingly slow, is being made. And I’m not talking about Korean.
A couple weeks ago, I made a decision that I thought would help me get back on my feet and, while I think it is helping in some sense, I also feel myself relapsing for reasons I didn’t anticipate. Getting though each day seems like a tremendous accomplishment.
It’s scary to admit that I’m going through something I arrogantly thought would never happen to me. It’s scary to admit that I need help. It’s scary to realize that I am, first and foremost, battling with myself. It’s going to take time to sort this all out and it’s scary to even think about how to take the first step.
The biggest thing I’ve accomplished in the past few months is accepting that I’m not okay and reaching out to people for help. These days, I’ve become pretty open about my struggles with clinical depression and anxiety disorder. I’m taking active steps to help myself. As a result, I’m sleeping better, going out and talking with people more, attending talks, waking up at a reasonable hour, and not spending 16+ hours in bed as I once used to. But I still struggle with emotions that are difficult to write about here.
Anxiety, especially, still runs rampant in my daily life. Naturally, I wanted to erase everything that triggered fight-or-flight, panic-attack-like symptoms in me – that meant not reading academic papers, not going to talks, not getting various academic forms signed, and cutting off communication from everything related to lab work. Even a simple text message from my labmates evoked a physical reaction from me. On two separate occasions, I went over ten days without checking my email because I just didn’t want to see or read anything from my program or related to school.
In a sudden moment of clarity, I realized what I was doing.
손바닥으로 하늘을 가리려한다.
Literally: “Covering the sky with the palm of my hand.” That is, I have been trying to deny the existence of the sky, by merely covering my eyes. In reality, the sky is always there and I’m the pretending it doesn’t because I don’t want to face it or accept it. I am ignoring the obvious.
It’s like those emails. Because I didn’t want to deal with them, I never checked my email and it was as if they didn’t exist. But in reality, they were sitting neglected in my inbox, growing in number every day. Knowing that made me feel worse. When I finally faced my inbox, it was so much more awful than it would have been had I just checked my email regularly.
In a deeper sense, I think this proverb reveals something about my life as a whole. Something that I’m afraid to acknowledge about myself. But that’s a battle to be fought on another day.
I talked once about Korean triggering my anxiety through negative associations with my academic life – it still does. It makes me sad and frustrated because I can’t listen to the Busker Busker CD my friend gifted me with without my hands shaking and feeling sick to my stomach. I feel like all the 욕심 I had for improving my Korean competency has been sucked dry. But! I’m experimenting with trying different Korean media – like I started reading more webcomics instead of novels, because I realized I didn’t have as much of a negative reaction to it. Newer Korean bands and vocalists that I listen to don’t affect me as much either. Overall, I’ve lost appeal for Korean dramas but, then again, I tentatively started 응답하라 1994 the other day and thought it was delightful.
So… I have confidence that I can go back to loving this language. I don’t think I can ever permanently erase it from my life; I just need to remember the things I loved about it in the first place and not let the rest of my life get in the way of something I was once passionate about.
Sigh. Tell me I’m not the only one suffering from a quarter-life crisis? Best wishes to all of you battling your twenties.
I’ve been going through the same thing for a couple of years now with college. Usually in the middle of the semester if I’m behind in classes or missed an assignment or test and have difficulty catching up- it happens. On vacation I’ll slowly get better, but once that time in the semester rolls around I’m deep into it. Just today I was in bed waking up every hour or two and I wouldn’t get out. There’s just so much for me to do and I haven’t been giving myself time for me. Just reading a text message from a friend about a simple homework assignment made me stay in bed even longer because I didn’t want to think about all the things I had to do in time I don’t have.
I haven’t went to a doctor or anyone to see if I have clinical depression, but I have a feeling that there’s definitely an anxiety disorder in there somewhere. There would be times when I’d be on the train to college and I’d shake and have sweaty palms or I’d be in college and feel nauseous. I’d be attempting to study or do homework and my mind is too clouded and panicky to think clearly. To go to a doctor, I’d have to get my mother to take me, but she’d probably brush it all off as nothing or regular stress and I hate hearing that. “Nothing” or “regular stress” wouldn’t recur every semester for two years at such a degree.
I really want to study Japanese more, but then I remember all the things I need to do for the class. I feel like I can’t do it because even though I understand the material, there’s not much time to really let everything sink in and fully understand. Then I end up not even trying to look at my textbook which I was so happy to have and read when I first bought it…
The twenties are definitely a difficult battle. Let’s pull through it, okay?
Thanks for sharing your story. We can get through this! /hugs/
동감. 20대는 화려한 줄 알았는데 생각보다 막막하고 때로는 힘들어요. 저도 똑같은 것을 겪고 봤기 (겪고 있기?) 때문에 잘 알아요.
It pains me to read this since I know where you’re coming from, I just had hoped it wouldn’t have gotten to this point. I’m in a similar situation with grad school drama, anxiety and it all having an effect on my love for Korean.
It seems we’re not the only ones in our twenties struggling with this, which makes me feel a bit better. The point is making it through, which is easier said than done. I think facing your problems is the hard part and working to fix them comes second. So you’ve been through the hardest. You can only go up from now on. Fighting to you~!!
And when it comes to Korean, just take it easy. You shouldn’t force yourself to do stuff but also don’t feel guilty about taking a break. Now is just not the time. Your love for the language isn’t completely gone (thank God!) so keep doing what you’re doing now. The way I see it is that you just have to work your way through this, find some peace & balance in your life so you can return to the old you.
And I’m sure you can make it, with some patience. The thing that helps me a lot is trying to stay positive throughout the day. I’ll focus on the things I did manage to do and try not to let the anxiety take over. Also setting realistic goals is a good one. I know this isn’t something that will pass in a day so keep trying, keep fighting and stay positive!
고생 끝에 낙이 온다..
Thank you for the kind words. I am much better now than I was before and I feel that things are improving everyday. Good luck to you too.
Glad it’s getting better! Fighting! :)