Part 13: Waking From the Dark

It was October 2005. I was out with four friends celebrating my god brother’s birthday. I remember it being an exhausting day; a lot of running around and getting to places on time after a stressful day at my volunteer job. Finally, we finished dinner and were off to a bar for drinks. I had my usual – a Heineken, and everything was fine until something very unusual happened.

Half way through my drink, I started feeling nauseous. I thought maybe the flashing lights on the dance floor was making me feel sick, so I told my god brother I was going outside to get some fresh air. I climbed a long flight of stairs and eventually found my way to the outside of the bar. As I leaned onto a pillar, I heard my god brother’s voice asking if I was okay. My response was, “You’re yellow.” I could tell by the expression on his face that he thought I was joking with him. After all, people often joke about Asians being yellow in skin colour. I repeated myself in my most serious tone of voice. I wasn’t joking. He was indeed yellow.

Not only was my god brother a pale shade of yellow, everything around him seemed to have lost colour. The buildings, the cars, the street signs. Everything that was part of this vibrant street on a Friday night suddenly lost all of its colours. Besides the pale yellow colour that represented skin, everything else was greyscale. The rest of my friends came to see how I was doing, but by then the yellow had faded. Everything I saw were in various shades of grey. As I was trying to make sense of what was going on, I found my vision becoming more and more distorted. By the next minute, I was seeing everything as a blurry film negative. Then as though darkness started to flood, it grew dimmer and dimmer. I recall asking my friends if the lights were being turned off. I think we all knew at that point that something was very wrong with my vision. It must have been no more than a minute after I asked my friends that question when I put my hand in front of my face and realized I couldn’t even see my hand there. Everything was pitch black.

It lasted for no more than ten minutes, but losing my vision for minutes felt like an eternity. To this day I am thankful for having those great friends who stood by me, comforted me and took care of me in, literally, my darkest hour. I am also extremely thankful that whatever happened was only temporary and that eventually I was able to regain my vision. Perhaps what I am most thankful for is that awakening. Even though the doctors were never able to give me a definite answer as to why I temporarily lost my vision that night, I was thoroughly convinced that my body and mind were not happy with the way I was treating them. And if I was to continue my life that way, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would lay in darkness forever.

 

Part 12: How Monsters Are Created

In the wake of all the murders that have stirred up a lot of buzz recently in our city and country, many have posed the question: how does one become such a blood-thirsty monster? Although I am no expert in criminal psychology, nor do I know enough about each of those individuals to fully understand them, there are indeed moments when I feel as though I can understand where they are coming from because there was a time when I found myself in a very similar place.

The incident with the knife in the kitchen triggered a series of thoughts in my head. Even though I had no intentions of hurting anyone other than myself, I could not deny that I was slowly turning into a monster – a self-destructive one. It had become clear to me that something was awfully wrong about the way I was thinking, reacting and responding to the emotions I was feeling, and I knew it would only get worse.

It is often said that the first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging the fact that there is a problem. I had not fully identified what the problem was at that point, but the fact that I knew there was a problem I had to deal with meant I was taking a step in the right direction, and that encouraged me to seek out the true source of my inner torment. I knew that I had to dig much deeper within myself to understand what was going on. The question was, where would I start?

Around that time, I came across a book called “When the Body Says No: The Hidden Cost of Stress.” Initially, I was interested in this book simply because I was always stressed and thought it would be beneficial to learn more about it. Upon reading the book, I learned that stress is as much a physical condition as it is a psychological condition that affects people, and it is much more complicated than what it is widely known to be. The author, Dr. Gabor Maté, used many case studies throughout his book to show how stress is associated with a vast number of illnesses. The cases in the book also talked about how a person’s childhood greatly impacts a person’s life and, in turn, how it affects the way a person responds to stress as an adult. It inspired me to review my own childhood, which slowly allowed me to realize where my misery was coming from. Perhaps the most important lesson of all was understanding that for every cause there would be an effect, and that everything we do today will affect how we are tomorrow.

Many years of neglect, fear, anger and repression created the monster inside me. It would be years later before I could realize that the only way to destroy that monster is by understanding, forgiving and healing.