Graduation, One Year On

July 2014

Non ignara mali miseris succurrere disco.
No stranger to trouble myself, I am learning to care for the unhappy.
Virgil, Aeneid¸ Book 1.

I write as a person who may (or may not) have borderline personality disorder, lived mostly as a solitary individual, perhaps orthorexia and overcame a mild bout of depression last year. I loathe these terms because, to me, they are nothing more than labels conjured by psychologists to classify diverse people of the human race. Nevertheless, for the sake of linguistic semiotics, I will use these dire terms to further explain myself.

Orthorexia and Emotional Anorexia

Childhood visits to multiple psychiatrists, psychologists and eating disorder recovery units have left indelible scars on my consciousness that I would not know will change my future in fundamental and irrevocable ways. Continuing into college and university years (you can read the first part of my story here), I sank even deeper into misanthropy, embittered and hating all people who tried to change me. As a coping mechanism to my self-imposed isolation from the world, I engaged in perfection and compulsive overactivity. I plunged all effort into school work, which provided an escape to any internal reflections or connections to emotional life. This “intentional avoidance of giving or receiving emotional care or nourishment” is what I now know as emotional anorexia. Little did I know I was starved of the joy, love and care that what actually makes us human. Emotional avoidance was really easy back then as during college and university years, classes, projects, assignments, and exams ran back-to-back and. In retrospect, you could say I was nothing more than a robot, an empty soul mechanically completing endless to-do-lists, never taking a break. The turning point was after graduation last July 2013, just a year ago.

Graduation and Reality

I was freed from the busyness and endless to-do-list of school work. After a brief honeymoon escapade to Bali, I was faced with the reality of landing my first full-time job and embarking on a career. My university transcript would be any student’s dream; decorated with a first class Honours in Life Sciences, numerous certificates from various research projects, and a list of arcane courses with elite sounding names such as “Sonic Arts and Sciences,” “Critical Thinking and Writing.” Applying to graduate school seemed like a natural step for someone of this caliber, but truly inside I was lost, like a caged bird suddenly set free, unsure of where to place my next footing. I did consider medical school but missed the deadlines. Then, despite not knowing if it was my true interest, I applied for various research assistant jobs in hospital and university labs, but I found myself indirectly and silently ostracized for my tiny appearance and perhaps, rather introvert and laconic nature. Countless interviews later and still without a job, I broke down and cried out, why does no company want to accept a first class Honours student? To make things worse, most of my acquaintances had landed full-time jobs, in big companies and fat wages to boot. Mild depression took over during those awful 6 months.

I did make some good out of those 6 free months though. I went for baptism and got baptized, and rediscovered God and his unconditional love and acceptance. In December 2013, my prayers were finally answered as I landed a job in a field that at least I had a flicker of interest for – working as a marketing and sales manager in a healthy baby food company where I get to market my love for wholesome natural foods and learn about baby feeding and nutrition as well. It may seem like a total misfit for an introverted to work in marketing, and truth be told handling customer enquiries and demands is plaintively irksome, but it has taught me to be extroverted, or at least pretend. Now, I also wonder if I had taken the alternative path of academia; what it would be like doing experiments and pipetting every day, talking in arcane language such as “CDCs,” “kinases,” “inhibitors,” “pathways” and what not. Would it really be that much more interesting?

Lessons from Instagram: The Simple Things

Just about a year ago after I had my first smartphone I discovered Instagram and the healthy eating community and its tremendous support. I had been a “clean eater” long before the word became fashionable and for the first time in my life I could share my clean eats with such a wide audience of with the typing of a few hashtags (although I am acutely aware how annoying a bombardment of hashtags may be). However what became a hobby turned into something unhealthy as I busied myself to take the most perfect picture, creating ephemeral food art and pretty eats that would impress others, yet be demolished faster than I took to photograph it. It was an alternate reality that was fun but soon realized its utter meaninglessness of it and started unfollowing certain accounts that what I felt was “triggering” and discovered new accounts. I realized those accounts that moved me were mostly minimalistic accounts without pretentiousness or materialism, of daily life, and the beauty of simple things and happenstance. To name just some of my favorite accounts at the moment:

  • highhsoul for her utter frankness and grateful heart.
  • happyplantgirl for her amazing nice creams and happy vibes.
  • silverspies for her appreciation of simple things and minimalistic style with negative space.
  • marte marie forsberg oh to be in her life for one day. Gorgeous food, dog, and spacious fields.
  • lipstickandberries for just being such a colorful girl and radiating immense love.

My Message

Today we live in a workaholic culture that prides itself so much on doing. Busyness almost seems a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be meaningless if you are so busy or in demand. The past year when I was stripped of almost all I had, I rediscovered what really mattered – emotions, states of mind, wellbeing, relationships. Busyness; this hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it (NY Times). Meals need not be elaborate and stylized, you don’t need expensive superfood powders for a healthy diet. It’s good to be creative now and then but you don’t have to force yourself to do it. Embrace the silence, appreciate the moment for what it is, smile, slow down and enjoy. It’s actually pretty easy to be happy and healthy, and for the first time in years, I feel that I am at peace. It was painful yet cathartic spilling it all out; I hope my lessons teach you well, as Virgil has spoken.

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  • Catherine - I just wanted to say that it’s really sad that we’re in the same situation in recovery – I still haven’t committed fully and I’m not sure how :(ReplyCancel

    • Sabrina Chu - Hi Catherine,
      Thank you for taking the time to drop the comment. It has been a while since I wrote that post and I am still continuously learning to widen my perspective, learning that nothing is ever black or white. As the saying goes, “change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change”. I don’t know if you are Christian, but one of my favorite verses is “Do not conform to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Recovery is mostly about a change of mindset, starting first with admission that there is a problem, then commitment to change. All these is much easier said than done, but again, you can only see the rainbow after the storm, so fight on!

      Thank you for getting in touch. We can chat further via email. Mine’s sab-06@hotmail.com :)ReplyCancel

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