Growing Up With FASD

I was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. I was also born mostly deaf as one of the side effects. I went through many years of speech therapy and had many ear surgeries that went terribly wrong. I had to deal with many health problems while growing up. Despite of that, that wasn’t the hard part – being born with FASD, that is.

It’s growing up with FASD. It’s trying to make friends. It’s following orders. It’s the little tasks in everyday life. A simple phone call can put me upside down. Will the receiver be able to understand me when I talk? Will I understand them? Will I comprehend the tasks they want me to do?

It’s nerve-wracking when you can’t seem to function at the job interviews. It’s nerve-wracking when you’re told to do multiple tasks when the first one already leaves you anxious and confused. I’m always anxious. I’m anxious to do laundry in a public space, and I fall apart when the machines don’t work simply because my brain can’t function how to deal with the situation. What do you mean I have to call a number? What do I even say? They don’t even understand me!

“But you look normal to me.”

Not all disabilities is physical. When you can’t put into words what you’re feeling. It’s not laziness. It’s hard to explain to somebody who doesn’t have FASD when you’re the one who has it because it basically just leaves two very confused people even more confused than before. How am I supposed to explain this? I will try, is all.

I graduated Cosmetology with straight A’s. I was always on time and did all my work ahead of time. Yes, I graduated a month earlier than I’m supposed to. Did you know at least 90% of my classmates quit let alone don’t even graduate? Sure, people look at me weird when I’m always asking questions and still somehow managed to be confused ALL THE TIME. It doesn’t get easier.

I’m discipline. I wake up to run. I do what I can to start my goals if I managed to start them at all, even if I am not always on point. The thing is, I don’t know how to expand beyond that. I can’t begin to comprehend how to get to be B from A. I’m already confused with A in the first place, so it is a bit ignorant to tell somebody with FASD to get proof on the disability when other person is, duh, the one with the disability. It’s like telling somebody with ADHD to just “chill out.” It doesn’t solve anything.

The best way I can explain what it’s like growing up with FASD is that I feel abandoned every single day of my life. I can’t seem to catch up, and it is frustrating when somebody who is 10 steps ahead of you tells you to sprint, so to speak.

I mean, I have asthma, but that’s another story.

It wont get better. It wont get easier. I can’t stress that enough. I will never understand, and I certainly will never catch up but I can improve and learn more. I can adjust. I guess what I am trying to say is that the people around you may not seem to have disabilities that are seen in the naked eye, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have them. It is scary because that is when we don’t get the proper help we desperately need. I don’t want hand outs. I just want and need HELP.

Statics show that many people with FASD don’t live beyond 35 years old. Well, I will be 35 this Sunday. I guess you can say that is a celebration in itself.

Fire Hero 5k

22792314_541740799504440_2772251966349911713_o I attended my second 5k last weekend. This event was supposed to happen back in September if it weren’t for Hurricane Irma. Either way, I am fortunate to run for such a good cause. I just never thought I would be 2nd overall for my age group. To think this 34 asthma stricken woman with very low blood pressure without having any sort of sports background would even achieve that.22769769_541859999492520_1192546124197918169_o

To think when I was in high school, it took me over 16 minutes to run a mile. Now I can at least run 2 miles in 16 minutes. While I haven’t beaten my pr, I’m still happy with the results from the race. The perks of arriving early? I didn’t have to wait in line to get my food.

The moral of this story? Don’t let anybody define you. Ever.

I’m still alive.

yikes18I’m still alive. Barely. I moved back to South Florida from Atlanta last year. It has been a rather uncomfortable, unstable ride since I came back from the States. I don’t think I will ever feel like home here, but I tell myself that it is only temporary – just think of it as a vacation that is a completely huge let down. Either way, I have my very first 5k coming up that I am excited about. Yes, I am still running.

I’m still alive. I think. If you can call it living, honestly.

34 Reasons to Be Grateful For

Since I will be turning 34 in less than two weeks, I may as well share 34 reasons to be thankful for. While I am bummed that I wont be eating cake in Taiwan (Western cake tend to be way too sweet for me, anyway), I still have so many reasons to smile. Case in point?

1. My funky retro shoes picked out by my husband – he gets me.

2. I’m still making cute cards for loved ones. While they may be simple, I am still happy with how they turned out. Continue reading “34 Reasons to Be Grateful For”

Happy Chinese/Lunar New Year!

I created this card for my husband. While I’m saddened that I cannot celebrate Chinese New Year with his family in Taiwan, I’m fortunate to be able to have a home on the beautiful island and that is something to smile about. To those who celebrate the holiday, I wish you a fruitful, successful, happy life. Happy Lunar New Year! I still don’t know what my husband and I will be doing this weekend, but it will involve food. Till next time…

A to Z Love List


A is for amazing tofu. Most of my meals are tofu related – stinky tofu, miso soup, mao po tofu (with beef instead of pork), dao hui (Taiwanese dessert – pictured), fried tofu, steamed tofu, boiled tofu, the list goes on. I like the texture and how it tastes delicious when it’s sweet, sour, spicy or salty. I can have tofu 3 to 5 times a week and not be sick of it due to the variety of ways how to cook it. Continue reading “A to Z Love List”

Fish Out of Water

sadsadToday is a rather sad day. I’m not going to mention why, but some people who are reading this already know why. To think I came back to the States for this and due to this, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry – maybe both. Before I stepped on San Francisco’s soil, I was adventurous. I was eager to learn. I was happy. I felt like I was like everybody else. I commute like everybody else. I can relate like everybody else. I had the same mind-set, I had the same goals and we were all together – somehow I didn’t feel so alone. I was  content. Sure, I was an outsider, but I honestly felt more of an insider over there than where I am now. Sure, I made a fool out of myself with my poor Mandarin Chinese tones, but I was slowly improving. Since I arrived at the airport in San Francisco, the ringing my ears begin and since then I’ve been having this unbearable migraine that simply wont go away.

Sure, I’m a Pisces. I will be 34 years old next month, but I’m merely a fish out of water. I tell myself not to be selfish for I came here for somebody else’s happiness. I just have to continue to hold my breath, and hope for the best. Even if I turn blue. (Seriously, though, did it have to be in South Florida?) I left for a reason and now here I am back to square one…it’s enough to make a woman go mad!

I tried to pump myself up before the move. I really did. I even lied to myself, but months has passed on by, I begin to lose interest. In general. In life. I’m no longer adventurous. I just want to stay home. I no longer want to eat out. I just want to eat mediocre sandwiches. I don’t want to think about the future let alone the present because honestly, I don’t feel like I have one.

After all, I’m almost-34-year-old fish out of water who is merely holding her breath in an environment that wasn’t meant for her. I feel more of an alien here than in Shanghai. It’s one thing to be out-of-place in another country, but when you’re an outsider in your own…its a whole another story. I keep telling myself it’s temporary. I will breathe again.

I will breathe again. Maybe the noise in my head will stop ringing, but it wont be today. Now excuse me…I am going to eat another mediocre sandwich on this rather sad day.

Throwback: 5 Posts From the Past

Camera 360Dealing With Anxiety Abroad

 Panic Attack 01: I’m crossing the road when a sense of dread comes over me. I feel my heart beating faster and faster. My knees weakening. People passing all around me. My ears ringing. I see the bus and for a split second I imagine myself stepping right in front of it. My thoughts are irrational. I know this. It’s not that I want to commit suicide. I do want to live. I become so overwhelmed where I will be seeing myself in the third person not realizing this is really me. I’m really here. I pinch myself. I take a deep breath. Sometimes it works while other times I rush back home. Sometimes, though, I don’t have that luxury to return home so I hold my breath till I return to my studio apartment and I simply throw up. The entire day I felt like a fish on land.
Panic Attack 02: I’m standing on the platform waiting for the train. I’m restless. I know either somebody is going to push me or I accidentally fall onto the tracks. I’m breathing heavily. I’m shaking something awful. Once I step in the train just as the doors open, I collapse onto the seat (if I can get a seat).
Panic Attack 03: I’m sitting in the cab heading towards the airport. Did I leave my Resident card (I have one for Taiwan)? Did I leave my passport? Will they even accept it? I either keep checking my pockets nonstop or look into my purse thinking the outcome might change. My phone? Where is my phone? I’m tired. I’m terribly tired. I will probably get on the wrong plane. Will I even find the gate? I’m not dizzy due to car sickness but rather my mind is spinning like a tornado in the scenes of the Wizard of Oz.

artAlone Doesn’t Have to Mean Lonely

Despite I’m introvert, it doesn’t mean I am anti-social. I may often find small talk irritable, it sometimes kind of nice to talk to a stranger every once in a while. For an example, a nice elderly man was held the elevator door for me to get inside. I quickly said thank you, pushing the button of the floor I’m going to. He looked over at me, “Do you speak Mandarin?” I replied, “A little bit.” “Ah,” he said while he was trying to get his dog into the bag. I looked down at his dog, “I think your dog is very cute.” His smile grew big, “Thank you!” He stepped out of the elevator smiling and so did I.
Besides, I realize strangers find it easier to approach you when you’re alone. I’ve had some of the most interesting talks when I’m solo.

10 Reasons Why I Like Shanghai

I left Shanghai in August of 2015, and my life haven’t been the same since. To basically sum up how I feel about being back in the States: “Leaving the States is like losing your seniority from this big company and you learn to adapt to other companies only to realize you like what you see, learn the tricks of the trade and due to this, you’re no longer the same. When you return to the big company, you can’t adapt and you wind up feeling more foreign than when you lived abroad.”

Camera 360My Shanghai State of Mind

Sure, being a foreigner is a muddy thing at times. I start to see a different perspective and adapt to different norms. While I may be changing, back at my birth country somehow remains the same –  it’s as if time stood still.  People back home somehow don’t ever really get it and still ask me when I plan on moving back from a supposed extremely over-extended vacation. I thought I would only be here a short period of time and before I know it, two years has already passed. It’s as if somebody put a cloth over my head and I witness this really neat trick I cannot explain. I realize that while I will always be a foreigner here, it becomes home away from home – if not more home than home.

img_20130408_103454Guest Post: What Is It Like Being A Taiwanese in China?

When I visited China for the very first time, the very first uncomfortable situation I encountered was at the airport. When I was going through the airport immigration, there were 2 lines for me to choose, one for foreign nationals, the other for Chinese nationals. For a person who was born and raised in Taiwan and lived in the United States for almost 20 years, my first instinct was going towards the line for the foreign nationals, but shockingly, the police was yelling “Visitors from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan should go to the line for Chinese nationals.” I was like, what?! I am a Chinese now even though I had never set a foot on Chinese soil before?!

I’m Homesick (& I’m Not Talking About My Birth Country)

IMG_20141112_195607I want to be a little personal on why the island means so much to me, on a deeper level. No country is perfect but when you found a country to call home, it’s perfect to you. I wrote this in 2012:  “For the longest time I couldn’t even see the menu at the coffee shop so I say my usual and not get embarrassed. When I was at the Metro station, many times I couldn’t see the signs or the map. I would have this intense anxiety wondering if I missed my stop. Tonight was different. I just got my eyeglasses and I walked the usual roads and it was as if I was seeing a whole new world, you know? For the longest time, I was seeing a painting only in two dimension and for the first time, I can see the painting for all its glory. Being able to see the colours more vibrant, being able to navigate easier, and seeing everything in detail is such a privilege. In the past two weeks, I’ve cleaned by teeth and did a whole body check up. I usually get all tensed up when I go to the hospital but somehow in Taipei, I don’t feel as such. It’s an amazing feeling. In America, you can still go bankrupt even if you have health insurance.”

The disgusting blisters were on the other side of the hand. I will not be mean to you and show them. Although, at that time, it wasn’t that bad yet. It got much worse.

I can’t stress this enough. Taiwan’s health insurance probably saved my life. I’m blessed that if I need to see the Doctor, I don’t have to question if I can afford to (even with health insurance). I’m truly grateful.

I wrote this back in 2014: “One morning I woke up wondering why it was so hard to open my eyes. I thought I was simply just tired so I went back to sleep. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. When I went to the kitchen to get some water, my husband freaked out when he saw me. My eyes were swollen and my face was puffy. I had a terrible allergic reaction. I also had red bumps all over my hands. We immediately went to the dermatologist that morning to get treatment. Well, my eyes got better but my hands got worse. Before you know it I felt like my entire body was on fire. The itching was unbearable. My body is changing and now I no longer know what I am allergic to. I’m already lactose-intolerant – what more do you want from me?!

It was discouraging to wake up every morning and realize I was simply just getting worse. I ended up going to another dermatologist also around my neighborhood. The dermatologist said it is in fact an allergic reaction, so she have me drew blood to find out what’s exactly going on. I got more medicine and went on my way. I will find out the results on Tuesday.

Yay for affordable medicine. Now my hands look much beter (but I am still not showing you ). You know, I am a very nice person…I don’t like to give people nightmares or get anybody to recycle their meal.

I’m finally getting better, which is good because I don’t want to get on the plane to Shanghai and have everybody freak out when they look at my arm thinking I am contagious. Seriously though, my arms did look rather disgusting. Red turns turned to bubbles and the bubbles got bigger. It would freak me out too, honestly.

The allergic reaction could’ve been more dangerous; instead of my eyes, it could’ve been my throat. It seems my allergic reaction is getting worse each time, but luckily I’m taking necessary measures to find out what is my body reacting to. Thank you, Taiwan, for giving me a better quality of life I wouldn’t otherwise have in my birth country.”Camera 360There was a mini concert at the Hospital and it cheered some people up. Continue reading “I’m Homesick (& I’m Not Talking About My Birth Country)”

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