Things That Happened in January

I hadn’t been able to find the time to post about what happened in January this year. I would say though that it’s not something I’d like to think or talk about candidly because it’s one of my darkest days, and I am glad I’m over the entire episode.

So I had a crappy job last year. It only started getting crappy sometime in August 2019 because I switched bosses, and I started the job in March 2019. The crappiness came to a head sometime in January 2020. For my friends who were there for me or knew the story, I was probably a huge mess, but thanks for always being there.

My former boss (well, reporting officer would be a more appropriate term) yelled at me 7 times in a month, probably from December 2019 to January 2020. Each time she yelled I didn’t retaliate, and I mostly stayed quiet. It was not really out of fear that I did that, but I’ve never been too keen on being very dramatic in public, didn’t wanna start then, and I actually had never encountered such a situation at work so I didn’t really know how to manage.

After yelling at me for the 6th or 7th time (I would have to check my notes but frankly I’ve put most of these things to dust), I think she was summoned to the Deputy Director’s room to explain the situation. This happened the first week of January. The Deputy Director of the department I worked in is male, and after she left his room, he shot me a rather rude email about wanting to speak to me. Of course I asked what it was about. He said it’s just a follow up to some meeting we had in November 2019 (an appraisal of my work done between August and November). I’m not sure if it’s practised in the regular world, but to pit someone who’s been at a portfolio for three months against someone who’s been at the job between 1 to 5 years, I thought it was just the stupidest thing!

Promptly at 2pm the same afternoon I brought my computer and knocked on his door. He laughed nervously when he saw me with my computer, and I said in a no-nonsense tone, how else would I show evidence?

To cut a stupid story short, I explained what was wrong with my reporting officer, then things blew out of proportion after that, and the story became “Bonneka was being mean to her reporting officer”.

The head of department spoke to my reporting officer in the third week of January, and the latter exited the office after the conversation, and cried at the unfairness of it all, while I just sat there thinking “first you yelled at someone seven goddamned times, then now you cry foul??”

Contrary to what my face looks like most of the time (i.e. resting bitch face), I am not an angry person all the time. But this made me so angry! It made me so angry that I wanted to kill myself.

I wasn’t entirely honest with people. If I hadn’t off-ed myself that evening (Wednesday) I was sure I’d have come to work and murdered my reporting officer. Maybe if not murder, just beat her to a pulp? Those weren’t healthy thoughts, so I did the next best thing I could: I checked myself into the psych ward. I stayed for two days in the hospital and was given a 10-day hospitalisation leave.

The minute I stepped into the office in February 2020 after my hospitalisation leave, I sent in my resignation and was out by the following week because of all the vacation days I had.

Sometimes when I quit jobs I still feel a bit of sadness, but at this particular job I smiled from ear to ear the minute IT took away my computer. While I didn’t block anyone, I was and still am not really keen on contacting anyone from that awful workplace.

A week before I left, I made a comment to the Deputy Director regarding my successor (I did not willingly make the comment, but he forced my hand and I already could not give half a shit to be nice or professional anymore).

I told him if my reporting officer was not able to articulate properly in English (I could always see that she translated everything from Chinese to English in her head; in the first place she isn’t very bright), then they should really hire someone who could speak Chinese. Apparently my comment could qualify as a “racist” remark, so after all that crap about being methodical in my complaints, and remaining professional despite being abused at my workplace, the story concluded with “Bonneka being very controversial and confrontational”. I just smiled when someone told me that, and I told him he didn’t need to teach me how to behave in a workplace.

I have mental illness, and it so far has not impaired my judgment when it comes to work and being professional, although I must say I am still naïve and believe that everyone has good and bad.

I now understand we can’t throw caution to the wind about certain things, and if a person is a rotten apple and they have absolutely no redeeming qualities then so be it. No point debating or trying to reason!

This was frankly the only job I was overjoyed and too eager to leave, and I am glad I no longer work there. I’m not even interested in drama that comes after my departure, I don’t want to know anything, and I keep my interactions with my former colleagues to the minimum (of course I’d like to choose going NO CONTACT, but the industry is small, and so-and-so would always know some other so-and-sos).

Never in my life had I been so affected by work that I’d voluntarily check myself into the hospital, but there’s always a first for everything. Kind of like fisting and anal in sex.

That’s out of my system (woo-hoo!), and I’ll tell you more about my mental health in my next post.

Artsy Things I Like to Watch and See

Most of the activities I am up to require little physical exertion. I prefer quiet activities.

Lately, I have been obsessed with art restoration, and any day I have twenty or so minutes to spare, I watch art conservator Julian Baumgartner’s videos. You can find him and his work here, here, and here.

I didn’t receive a formal art education (something I sometimes still feel sore about!), so a lot of what I know happens by chance; I read, watch a lot of YouTube, and did a short portion in a university Humanities class analysing paintings, and that only covered the basics. In my late twenties I went to learn life drawing, and progressed to learn oil painting. It’s the medium I am most comfortable with.

I first came across the concept of art restoration in an Elementary episode. The idea still intrigues me, because good restoration is a combination of patience, good art education, some talent in painting and colour, tones, and composition, and interest to conduct research about the artwork, and a high level of expectations when it comes to outcomes and customer satisfaction.

These are some of my favourite videos:

While Baumgartner’s videos are not meant to be step-by-step instructional guides to art restoration, he explains what he does to artwork that comes through his studio’s doors. You can always expect to see how he uses different solvents and cotton swabs to first test portions on what reacts well to remove dirt, grime, varnish and other previous conservations. My favourite part of his videos is always the touching up. I would totally buy his palettes. He is also very organised and meticulous in his work, and that is something I find extremely sexy.

Other forms of art I enjoy consuming are of course music, other visual arts such as architecture (I love patterns), graphic design, ceramics (I sometimes watch people make stuff from clay, although usually the texture of the finished product makes me anxious), and applied arts such as fashion. I am not really well-informed about artists’ decisions or history behind an artwork, but if it is pleasing to my eyes and ears, I don’t really care or think much about it. I also do not read anything “literature” these days; my choice for books is self-help.

S recently introduced me to Zoe Hong, and I am very interested to learn to draw clothes, but I do not have the confidence. Gesture drawing/sketching was tough for me when I took classes years ago, so I cannot begin to imagine how spectacularly I would fail.

Museums are always my go-to when I need some inspiration (not that I do any art worth mentioning) and I like going to Asian Civilisations Museum, National Museum, and I hate to admit this, National Gallery Singapore. Thank you to all the taxpayers who contribute to nation-building, and make this possible for me. (Not sarcastic)

I would like to spend the year making a lot of art. I do not foresee sharing any of my art online, not because I am private, but because I am just so lazy to take photos nicely.

What sort of art do you like?

Mental Illness Kicks My Ass

Almost a month ago I took a shower upon reaching home from work, fed my cat, and got ready to bring myself to the hospital. I had suicidal thoughts, but I now feel I either would have killed myself then or my boss the next day (seemed like a good idea at the time, she deserved anything bad coming her way), and neither scenario was ideal, so I’d better checked into the hospital.

I cried for two hours before reaching the hospital.

What a crazy start to the decade.

I was hospitalised for two days, and received hospitalisation leave for ten days.

The day I got back to work (two weeks ago) I handed in my resignation. My job requires a month’s notice but because I had so much leave I utilised all and have been at home since a week ago.

I didn’t and still don’t feel good about checking myself into the hospital. I think it was the weakest thing I did in my life. Xanax calms me, but I hate the idea of taking it. Risperidone spikes my sugar level, but coupled with lithium I sleep better.

Then the whole concept of living with mental illness saddens me and every time I feel I’ve made some progress, I will regress in other aspects, and I feel I might as well not take my medicine. I also feel isolated and very far away from my loved ones. They try to understand, and I am not good at articulating everything to them even though I jot notes about how I am feeling. It gets frustrating.

It is a constant battle. I try to read about bipolar to understand what I am dealing with, but I also don’t relate to accounts from other people living with bipolar, so I am not sure how to move forward.

There are so many things to sort out now, starting with getting enough sleep and immersing myself in activities that actually bring me some joy, anything short of mania.

I also don’t want to hang out with people, but I met my social obligations these past two weeks, and I was truly happy spending time with family and friends.

How do you deal with your mental illness? Do you obsess about it? Or do you take your medicine, shut up and ride the waves?

My Father

If you’re looking for an inspirational story about father figures, this will not be it. Fair warning.

In real life I don’t exactly enjoy talking about people. I do talk about people and I try to do it only when there’s a good example to learn. Sometimes to attach meaning to a behaviour, especially when it’s peculiar, I would talk about people. I also like to postulate mental illnesses people have by what they post on social media, or how they behave in real life. We are after all humans. We interact with people. Sometimes we just need to bitch about people to get shit out of our system.

My dad just got home five minutes ago. He sat on the couch and started teasing my cat. As a proud and a bit indulgent cat mom, I do not believe, at all, in manhandling my cat, well, this extends to the entire animal kingdom (unless one’s life is threatened). I do not look at my cat as though he is so precious and not naughty. He has his moments, and is the chief reason my house is not immaculate. It’s like having a three-year-old. But he is generally a good cat, enjoys my company, and accompanies me do things around the house. The feelings I have about my cat are mostly of affection. I asked my dad why he would tease or even pinch my cat. He had no answer, and quickly changed the topic to some other cat dying about five minutes where we stayed. I had no interest to listen.

That sums up the relationship I have with my father. Almost non-existent, and if we talked, it would somehow lead to an argument or misunderstanding. The latter happens more than the former, and while I wouldn’t say our relationship deteriorated after my mom’s death, I would say I do not particularly care for his presence. In fact, before my mom died I had almost zero interaction with him. After her death I thought OK, this was who I had left, so maybe show some respect or filial piety. I used to wonder if he were smarter, or a good conversationalist, or a supportive father, would I have liked him more? Maybe. I wouldn’t know, and it’s not something I’d now waste my time ruminating. Why put myself through agony?

We are as different as night and day. He usually talks shit about me to my other siblings when I am not around to hear, so I am not surprised he doesn’t have friends. He had colleagues, I don’t know many, or any of them, and one sleazy ex-colleague of his actually texted me last week and called to “hear my voice” and ask for a selfie. I did not mention it to my dad because it’s not something I couldn’t handle. Blocking people on an app is not difficult. Even before blocking I can opt to ignore the calls and messages. I’m about to go on a rant about men being horny, but this entry is about my dad so we’ll stick to that.

I once mentioned to my sister that when he died in future I was certain it’d just be a handful of us who would turn up for the funeral (mean, I know, but it would be true).

I am saying all this because for single people (meaning not married, but maybe you’re a woman in a relationship with a man) this is important if you are considering a man to be your life partner. Maybe someday you would like to have children, too. While you can choose the person you marry, your children can’t choose their parents. There may be detrimental effects when you make wrong choices. I think when we date someone, and as the relationship progresses, it is important to talk about values, and compatibility. Most people I dated were on the same page. We were, still are, individually, and collectively, not pressured by society or whoever to give birth to a few children.

My dad was mostly absent, both physically and emotionally, when I was growing up, and I’ve already told you the story about how he married another woman while still married to my mom. When he was in Singapore (he mostly worked overseas) we would talk sometimes but they’re weird questions asked by a non-intellectual adult (which was fine, he didn’t have much education in the first place). I also don’t blame him at all for my daddy issues (thankfully, not severe!) even if he ’caused’ them. I am more comfortable dating much older men, well except for S (who is my age, but is like a dad, a mom, a lover, a brother, a business partner and above all, a best friend), and while I joke sometimes about daddy issues, they are real, I exhibit one trait strongly, and it’s not what I wish I have, but I am well aware, but not too concerned.

11 months ago I was ready to commit suicide. I picked a date. Told my best friend. She freaked out. And I still don’t know what transpired between the time I told her and the time my brother appeared at my doorstep. He cried like a child. I tersely told him mental health wasn’t a topic I felt comfortable talking to him about, and he just stayed at my house well into the evening. When my brother asked my dad if he knew anything about it, my dad got extremely defensive and went “She never tells me anything!” and behaved as though this was none of his business. (I don’t want to get into the story about suicide, because it kills the mood, but this really happened).

For months after that I was not allowed to be in a room unaccompanied, and if I wanted any privacy I could have it only with the door unlocked. People are bad at preventing other people from committing suicide. I did tell them actually I wouldn’t pick a painful death, such as slashing my wrists or jugular veins, or jumping off from a tall building, or I don’t know, run through traffic. Those aren’t my style.

Also, if you are reading this randomly, and we don’t know each other, and for some reason you are contemplating suicide, I have been there many times. Those were my darkest days. I definitely do not respond well to ‘Think of all the people you’re leaving behind’. When death seems like the only option, when you feel so lonely, so isolated, people won’t even enter your mind. In a less savoury fashion…. I meant to say ‘who gives a shit?’ I certainly didn’t all those times. I only thought about my mom when she was alive, because I knew it would have killed her to bury her child, and then my cat. I do not have sage advice, but think of whatever you are going through as temporary. I needed a lot of reminders for this over the years, S does it all the time for me, but think of the situation as temporary. My heart goes out to you, you truly matter, so just sit down for a bit, and keep telling yourself the situation is temporary. But seek help from a professional. The hospital is always willing to help. You probably would have to wait, but that’s also temporary, so just do yourself this tiny favour by going to the hospital.

If you’re not suicidal, but if your loved one exhibits harmful behaviour (mentally), it doesn’t hurt to show a lot of support by talking to them, listening, giving them a huge hug and if you know you’re not equipped to help them, it is okay to ask if they would like to see a doctor, and bring them there.

Back to my dad.

My dad has his good points. He’s not lazy about work, and I inherited that from him and my mom. He went for a lot of upgrading courses despite not having a lot of formal education. But he doesn’t give a shit about anything, or anyone else. Most people have told me most Asian men are like that. They’re composed. They’re naturally manly. They don’t show emotions. The reason they’re not loving towards their wives or female loved ones is because the minute they show ‘softness’ women will climb all over their heads. I just cannot get behind this perspective.

I think as a conclusion, all of us have good and bad points. The universe lets us have relationships with people, both good and bad, to allow us to learn lessons. By being exposed to things I do not find desirable, I indirectly learn about patience, about resilience. I am aware there are things I should avoid doing, and to be more mindful about how I behave and interact with people. My dad, despite being responsible for some of my mental illness, helps me realise that even when he mistreated me, or didn’t care, I could choose the way I react, and the way I want to live my life.