What do concussion, polyamory, and boundaries with Asian parents have to do with each other?
In Episode 3, I’m speaking with Lindsay, who shares how recovering from a head injury taught her how to negotiate relationships with her polyamourous Canadian family members, and her biological Asian parents.
Sen Zhan, Lindsay
Me I think I look at having multiple partners and living a polyamorous life just to be a net benefit for having more support and more community like it's just more family members taking care of you.
Sen Zhan 00:13
The third culture is what emerges at the intersection between your culture of origin and the other cultures by which you've been shaped. Beyond Asian is a place for stories of global nomads with Asian roots brought up in diversity. Together, we explore the interplay of our pasts with our presence, and our relationships with the multiple cultures we move in. These are more than conversations about Asian identity, their portraits of whole people, what keeps them up at night, what their hearts longed for, and the impact they hope to have on their communities. I'm your host Sen. JOHN, a third culture kid born in China, raised in Canada and currently based in Berlin. This series is the first step towards making peace with my own Asian background. And it's my hope that other third culture Asians will hear the themselves reflected in our stories. What do you concussion, polyamory and boundaries with Asian parents have to do with each other? And Episode Three, I'm speaking with Lindsay, who shares how recovering from a head injury taught her how to negotiate relationships with our polyamorous Canadian family members and her biological Asian parents. To get a better sense for the important players in this story, here's a brief map of Lindsay's polyamorous family, Lindsay is separated from her husband Jeff home she met nearly 20 years ago. They still own a house together, where Jeff and his partner Rachel live with everyone shared cat Sara Lindsay currently lives with our partner Jessie, home she met in 2018. Lindsay, thank you for taking the time out of your one free day in your week to speak to me and be on
the podcast. My pleasure. I was really humbled that you decided to ask me to be a guest on your podcast. So thank you for having me. Sin
Sen Zhan 02:00
Lindsay is a busy lawyer in a mid sized Canadian city. In September 2018, she was riding her bike to meet her boyfriend Jesse for coffee. When one of our handlebars clipped a flexi pool, she flew over the bike and the next thing she knew she was being assisted by bystanders looking at a pool of her own blood on the pavement and realizing she was missing pieces of teeth. After notifying both Jessie and her husband, Jeff, she was brought to the hospital and discharged with only a recommendation to follow up with dental care, but with no diagnosis of concussion.
I had inquired at that point when I was in the hospital about potential concussion and what I should do what I should look for and I was given nothing no protocol, no information, which was you know, it's I was really disappointed about that because I had this concern, why didn't you and you're the medical professional. So anyway, I kept in the back of my head is like, maybe, maybe it's not like I don't feel any kind of the class. dizziness or the like blinding lights or thought that kind of sensitivity to noise. None of that popped up right away. But anyway, so I ended up going home not thinking I had a concussion thinking that I would just rest up for a few days and be back at work on the Monday. You know, you figured you brassed from Wednesday through Friday, take the weekend, and then go to work on Monday. That should be plenty of time.
Sen Zhan 03:24
I mean, this This, to me sounds still a little bit intense. She
had like this,
Sen Zhan 03:29
this, you know, this bike accident where you nearly smashed your face in and you lost a tooth and you're like, Oh, yeah, I'm gonna be back at work on Monday.
It's like part of work culture, I guess. Like I still feel like there's this expectation. I mean, North American work culture. That's a whole different topic, but
Sen Zhan 03:47
especially given your line of work, which is, which is I'm gonna say this, but I might be wrong litigation law.
Yeah, I'm a lawyer. I live okay. I go to court.
And I mean, I get it right. Like, you have to show up for work. And I think lawyers and the legal profession in general is quite, I'm gonna say type A, for better or worse. And, you know, we don't really give ourselves the opportunity to rest even though it shows that if we all take care of ourselves a little bit and take the rest that we need, everyone's more productive, right, like, naps in the afternoon would be great. If that could be a sanctioned activity, or like, we can all closer, close our doors for 10 minutes and lay our heads down. Like I feel like that can be so much more productive than trying to get your fourth coffee of the day to make it through.
Sen Zhan 04:34
Yeah, and I think this is also something that has come up again and again, in my conversations with with other people, you know, whether they're doctors or lawyers is that there is this whether it's internally or externally enforced this drive to just keep on being productive, even though your body may be failing or your mental health maybe feel
Oh, absolutely, because we can be our own worst enemies, you know, and we expect these things of ourselves. these ideals that have shaped us society or otherwise, we're so governed by them. And I think it's that's been one of the big struggles I've had over the last period of time, especially through this recovery is redefining what, what value is. And value isn't necessarily tied to productivity. Knowing that in my head was an easier lesson to learn, but knowing it in my gut, like I'm only learning that now, to actually feel in my gut that yes, I'm taking a day off and I'm unabashedly going to do nothing, or I'm going to take myself to the spa, and that's going to be my way of healing and recovering because taking that time for myself means that I can have energy for everything else in my life, whether it's work or my friends or my community. But But yeah, are professionals not good at that and I think from a very young age, too, it's it's very, especially with how the education system is like, Oh, you want good marks and you want to do well in school and you want to excel in your athletics and extracurriculars, etc. Or at least I felt that pressure even if not overly It was kind of there in the backdrop. So yeah, taking rest is highly recommended for everyone. I think brain injury or not, I would certainly share that message.
Sen Zhan 06:14
Yeah, yeah. And it sounds like the accident as terrible as it was forced you to stop.
Sen Zhan 06:20
Yeah. And and had it not happened, you probably just would have continued working in that capacity for as long as you would have until something did happen.
Yep. Absolutely. And I'm so grateful, you know, being in my 30s and being able to have that lesson I was way better than going through the majority of my career, say hitting like a midlife crisis. Excuse me, a midlife crisis at, you know, 50 or 60 or something. And then going, Oh, shit, what have I done? You know, I've just been go, go go. Like, I don't want what I'm remembered for it to be yes. And she was a very diligent worker who was very productive.
Sen Zhan 06:57
Yes, that's right. Who never took a day off. Never. came in even after she got a brain injury. Exactly.
She toughed it out. I was like, well,
I don't know.
Sen Zhan 07:07
Yeah, that's not what I want to be remembered for.
That really isn't. So, no, it's funny. Jesse had joked quite early on. This was the concussion I needed. And I kind of scratched my head a little bit and was like, Oh, yeah, yeah, I think he's right. He's totally right. It forced me to stop in ways that I wouldn't have stopped otherwise, because I am very gogogo. Mm hmm.
Sen Zhan 07:27
Yeah. And for other people, it could be the insert whatever melody you happen to have that you needed, like the burnout, that that you need, like, I've had a couple of burnouts in my life. And every time they happened, it was terrible. But as a result of it, I had to make some big changes in my life, which served me later. So it's like, you know, the, whatever, the breakdown that you needed.
No, absolutely. And sometimes it's, it's unfortunate that it takes those life events for those lessons to become clear. But, you know, I hope that if I can share my screen with others, they don't have to go through a traumatic experience to be able to recognize that maybe they should take some space for themselves and rest as well. Tell me about because you know, you had mentioned that you have two partners. You have Jeff, who's your husband, and you have Jesse, who is your boyfriend? How did that influence the way that things happened at the hospital? And what happened afterwards? Oh, that's a really good question. It has been Well, certainly it me. I think I look at having multiple partners and living a polyamorous life just to be a net benefit for having more support and more community like it's just your family members, taking care of you. And especially at a time when I was when I first realized the concussion was a concussion, and this was probably the weekend so the accident was Wednesday, weekend, Saturday, Sunday, I went for a walk in the neighborhood to grab coffee and the sunlight the way that it hit me I knew something wasn't right. And it was pretty sudden like once this happened. Were there they stuck around and I was hanging out in a dark room for at least a few weeks. I slept a lot the first few weeks. So that was kind of nice to stave off boredom in some ways. But I couldn't like I wasn't cooking. I wasn't doing laundry. I wasn't doing the day to day stuff that we all take for granted for those of us who are able bodied and able to do those things and carry out things like you know, like I said, make a meal and stuff. And Jeff was making sure that I was getting to all of my appointments and making sure I was fed. And you can imagine I wasn't eating solid foods and whatnot either. So like lots of soups and soft foods. But it was a very difficult time a I'm used to doing everything myself. So it's like really frustrating when I can't, for example, chop anything because that motion is making me nauseous, like even if I'm shopping things really slowly, making me nauseous. doing laundry was like out of the question became Again, loading the laundry machine like that moving your head up and down, we've got an up down stocked washer dryer that's making me nauseous. I'm really tired all of the time, things are just making my head pound a lot like I don't I still have the symptoms are a bit milder now but I would describe them as pressure in my head. So I know a lot of people talk about headaches that are similar to migraines when they have concussions. My manifestation of this head symptom, physical symptom was just a bunch of pressure. So it felt like someone was squeezing my brain all the time. So that's never pleasant, and really distracting and not good because that is a good litmus test to tell you that you've overexerted yourself. So anyway, all that to say he had to totally step up and do all the things for me. And it was a bit of a trying time for us. We'd been working on our own challenges and our relationship we've been together forever and that past summer, so the summer of 2018 A lot of hard work when you know we're still going to therapy, etc.
Sen Zhan 11:03
What was Jesse's role throughout all of this? Because when the accident first happened, and you were right at the hospital, you had notified both of them, right? Because Yeah, like your emergency contact writer.
Yeah. And especially because Jesse was so close, like, we were literally going to be meeting five minutes away from where the oxygen happened. He's definitely more of a partner. Now I would, I would put that label on Jesse. Now as of maybe about a year, year and a half ish ago. But around the time of the oxygen. He's very much a boyfriend, like not not a partner. He hadn't kind of adopted that rule in my life quite yet. And he and I were going through some what's the shape of our relationship? And what is a future like if there is a future and there's a lot of things that we hadn't spoken about by September of 2018. And I remember shortly after I had recovered a little bit to the point where he and Jesse and I could have a conversation about our relationship. Just because of this big question mark as to what our relationship is, and as an aside, I hate labels, labels don't help often, and especially when you're living kind of a last traditional relationship structure with multiple people. It language can become a point of contention as well. So yeah, so Jesse was in this space where, you know, if I was a really good friend, which at that point we had established, we were in each other's lives in that kind of way in a meaningful way, regardless of partner or quote unquote, being on the table or not. He came to visit me quite a bit when I was lounging about and not leaving the house and going stir crazy with cabin fever, because, again, there wasn't much I could do. So having his company there, even in parallel and like sharing space was really nice, because at that point, you know, given the context I just talked about with Jeff and my relationship and Jeff's work of making sure my needs were met from electrical altar food, getting to places perspective. I didn't feel like my emotional needs were being met. And Jeff wasn't capable of giving that to me which, you know, through no fault of anybody. It's just the context. I was having Jesse there, be there emotionally. For me it was very helpful. But knowing that I had people for me, including my partners, and then actually eventually Jeff's partner, she she came back to help take care of me as well. So to your question much earlier on about this, having having this network and being poly through this time of recovery, it's been really, really beneficial to have a big support network. So I'm very grateful for that.
Sen Zhan 13:43
But what it sounds like is that when someone is unwell, there's so many different layers of care that they need to receive, they need the medical intervention, they need the actual physical help of things like getting dressed or doing things around the house or cooking and they also need emotional support. They're not necessarily doing the dishes for you, but they're, you know, they're talking to you. You know, you're sharing stories to me this illustrates, I mean, it reinforces that one person cannot be the caregiver on all levels for another person, you know, and that's just when the person is unwell. But it also, if we translate that concept to relationships, even when people are not unwell, it makes it seem like Well, obviously, one person cannot fulfill the needs of another person on all the levels anyway, in even regular circumstances. So I'm wondering, you know, if that was clear for you before, or if it became more evident through this process of being unwell. I was really lucky
that I was pretty clear to me before. I mean, when Jeff and I opened up our relationship and talked about other partners or other people that was kind of a natural extension of how we were anyway, like we always had intimacy with who you'd characterize as platonic friends through the entirety of our romantic relationship together. And that was never a threat. But yeah, go and cuddle with your friends who you love. That's totally fine. And you know same. Same with me. And I always like describing it this way. Like there's sometimes these activity friends that you have, right? And that's the thing that you do with them. You're their tennis buddy or you're their workout buddy or Yeah, movie for that. Yeah, exactly. And they may not be who you confide in about your relationship issues or who you go to if you have questions about work, but they're no less valuable than your confidant or your colleague who you go to about work problems, etc. And nobody can wear all of those hats, right? That's ridiculous. You would never ask that of any of your friends. And so we've got this idea where, especially with a romantic partner, there's supposed to be your everything. There's supposed to be your best friend and confidant and lover, and all of these things. So I was really lucky. That was, that was an idea that I had kind of work towards debunking for My own sake, much earlier on. And so it was really natural for multiple people to be involved. And it's just so happened that near three of this primary people, especially during the early part of my care was to my two partners and my partner's partner.
Sen Zhan 16:16
Mm hmm. The way that things played out, it's, you know, you had support from both of your partners and your partner's partner. I mean, that, to me sounds a lot like how a family would function. Right? And that's how you would you would call, you know, your, your partners and your partners, right, like that is your family. Yes. How, how does that compare with your biological family and how they were involved.
So, I want to preface this, I love my family, I really do. And I'm working on building better relationships with all of them as well as I try to do a lot of work. Finding my own self, which has been an interesting journey that's catalyzed I think a lot from by the challenges I've had with Jeff and also with This recovery process, my I'm an only child. So that's also some context about my relationship with my folks.
Sen Zhan 17:08
setting boundaries with Asian parents can be tricky. Lindsay didn't want her mom to worry and so held off on informing her right away. Only a few days later, once a situation was no longer urgent did she send her mom a picture of a slightly less busted up Lindsay, with a story of what had happened and reassurances that she was fine. But, as anyone might imagine, her mom was not reassured and took matters into her own hands. Lindsay's mom and her stepdad live a five hour drive away. On the weekend after her accident, a tornado was blowing through the area. And in the middle of this raging storm, Lindsay received a text from her mom telling her they were 90 minutes away.
I'm freaking out. I'm pissed off and I am. Yeah, I'm livid at that point. And I actually think that might be at a point where I didn't necessarily know I had a concussion and you know, there's there are Symptoms afterwards from a concussion that do affect mood, right and mood control and all of that. So who knows how much of that was because of the concussion in terms of my reaction? Was it an overreaction? Probably a little bit. But I still think looking back now with, you know, kind of a lens of impartiality, that it was, at least somewhat justified, but I freaked out about this,
Sen Zhan 18:24
right, because the other thing is that she didn't tell you before she left, you know, at a point where you could have said, Oh, no, don't come, but it was 90 minutes away where it was like already, she's like, 85% of the way to you
driving down tornado.
Sen Zhan 18:35
She's driving. So now it's too late to go back.
My stepdad is driving through a tornado. Ah, okay. So, Jeff and I have a bit of a tent d'etat and I'm like, I can't do this, but obviously she's on her way and you know, like, Okay, I will make five minutes for her 10 minutes for her whatever it is, like, please, like let's just make this go away, and deal with this as best as we can.
Sen Zhan 18:59
Now, I just want To ask, like, was there anything specific about that situation? You know, aside from the fact that you weren't prepared to receive your money at that time that made it more stressful?
I was just such an intrusion. Right. So like you said, it's not I wasn't prepared for a visit, but I'm like, Well, fuck this. I don't want to deal with your anxiety right now. Like, I'm trying to manage my own shit. Like it's not. It's just not my this is an extra thing on my plate. No, stop, please die.
Sen Zhan 19:30
Yeah, and I mean, I am sure that from your perspective, right now, you can see why she as your mother felt the need to do that, right?
Absolutely right. I'm her only child. She's been told that she was in a bike accident. You're
Sen Zhan 19:44
all busted up, missing missing a tooth tooth.
The thing is with well with me, let me backtrack slightly. I really love my therapist also shout out to mental health workers out there who are amazing at their jobs. And one thing that I've been Working on for the last little while last maybe two, two years plus, is just figuring out my own boundaries. And that's part of discovering my own self and being grounded in myself and not get so absorbed in other people's worlds so much. And I think looking looking back, you know, my mom and I, we never really established those boundaries like, because like, I didn't know where my boundaries were and how to hold them with her. Right. So her visit is in not that something like this, like this acute has necessarily happened before, but I'm sure it's just, it's just a shadow of all of the other instances where boundaries were traipsed upon, you know, and, and so it's, I understand it, you know, and then I think once I had a better understanding of exactly what it was that was making me really upset and able to articulate it to her afterwards and apologize for the terrible way that I treated her You know, we're able to move from that experience and move on from that experience and also learn from it and say, hey, look, this is what I'm trying to do. I want you in my life in a way that makes both the best comfortable, but these are where I draw my lines. And so if you can help me within that framework, then we can build a better relationship. So it was a really instructive visit. She did only stay for I think, 15 minutes, Jeff, Jeff made it quite clear to her out the door, you know, that Lindsay will chat with you for 1015 minutes, you can go see her and like see for yourself that she's alive and like, touch her to make her she's on one piece. And, and yeah, so we navigated it. And when she left, you know, Jeff told me afterwards and he still chokes up when he tells me this. We were talking about this not too long ago. You know, my mom was saying to him like, well, Lindsey and I have some issues that we're working through and communication things but you know, you're a really good husband. And he's right, like she's right. It's so true. And so she can recognize the support that I am getting from my partner. And and yeah, so that was a, that was an interesting experience. Yeah, you know, I held my boundary and she respected it. And they drove back the next day. But it was probably a good while later that we talked about it, you know, when I was able to calm down a bit, and then have that conversation with her calmly and explain what had happened. I think this was the first experience I had where I actually held my boundary. You know, it wasn't the best way to do it, but I held it, and we just moved on from it afterwards. And it was that it was really instructive.
Sen Zhan 22:41
Yeah. Tell me more, because I'm so fascinated by this idea of boundaries. You know, that's something that that I've been working on for a very long time. And I think something that's especially relevant for children of Asian parents, you know, whether they're third cultural or otherwise, how specifically Have you Learn to navigate boundaries with
your parents with my mom. It's just, it's just being straight with her. And you know what? It's funny because Jeff and I for a really long time and he he's met my family and like nosy nuances of everything. In fact, I'm sure you would have a fascinating conversation with him about him being like kind of an outsider, sis white male, observing, you know, the dynamics of everything. And he's like, he's told me as much it is a How do I say? Yeah, it's it's being it's being okay with my own discomfort of maybe making my mom uncomfortable, I think is the first step. Because I, you know, truly I do want a good relationship with her. One of the things I realized, like I was saying earlier, when I talked about this visit of hers is I don't want to manage her anxiety, like that's her problem and her journey and I'm happy to walk with her. And I think a good example is actually when I came out to her about being poly and then also The, you know, challenges I've been having with Jeff and oh, I have this other partner who's really lovely and wonderful and I think I'm moving in with him, etc, etc you know that that kind of conversation was scary like there's there's a part of me I think that still doesn't want to disappoint my parents and disappoint my family. And that's pretty ingrained. I think that's just you know, through upbringing through Respect your elders, etc. So I knew it was going to be uncomfortable because my lifestyle isn't going to be something that she quote unquote approves of or understands even right. So holding these boundaries with my mom is not only confronting what's uncomfortable for her, but what's uncomfortable for me, which is this fear of her reaction or, or whatnot. But then I did it, like when I came out to that or her, and it was fine. It was more than fine. And it's it's funny because when I was going to say earlier is Jeff has always kind of helped me navigate my relationship with my mom. And he's observed that she can be quite anxious. And I don't disagree with that assessment. But I think there was a lot of not giving her credit for being able to take information a certain way. And so just the way that we would interact with her, especially if the two of us were visiting my family in my hometown, or my guess, her her hometown, it it was always censoring, you know, in some ways. And I had had a conversation with Jesse kind of probably around the same time about like, what do I do with my mom? How do I come out with her, tell her etc. And he was like, She's like, she's a grown woman with her own lived experience. And she can probably handle it and just having that extra perspective of, Oh, yeah, like, Let's give her some credit. And let's all be adults here and not try to manage her. And that was a really eye opening perspective because when I actually took advantage of that, and sat down and had a conversation and not come with expectations of what she was going to say, or how she was going to react, you can actually have a connecting conversation a lot better. And Jessie's right like she has lived through it. And she's, you know, she immigrated here, she lost a child way. Like I had a sister, I was three and my sister lasted all of I think, a week or so before she succumbed to just SIDS.
Sen Zhan 26:30
So like, that's traumatic. I didn't know that I don't, maybe you told me, but I might not have remembered.
And it's not something that I think of very much because I do always say that I'm an only child. But that's not her reality, right? Like she would have been in her 30s, early 30s when she had my sister like, I can't imagine losing a child then one should never lose a child. And so I think a lot of, you know, my dynamic with her, not having known it until my therapist and I started digging Deep into some of my childhood. She has her own strength and resilience that I don't think I gave her credit for didn't see, because of my own interactions with her.
Sen Zhan 27:10
Yeah, and this is a really great point is that sometimes as, as children who are also adults, like, you know, you and I are in our 30s we start pretend to be an adult, I don't think I'm actually adult but yes, I understand is that actually mean Anyway, you know? Like you're taking care of your car and I'm taking care of my bike. So I guess you're we're both adults, you know?
Yeah, exactly. paying my bills. Okay.
Sen Zhan 27:32
Yeah, exactly. paying the bills don't owe the man nothing. So they're adults. So I think this is really important to remember is that sometimes we as as adults, we feel like we're the only ones who have ever been through any kind of shit, you know, any kind of difficult experience. And we forget that our parents, whether they were immigrants, or any other kind of, you know, people, that life is full of these kinds of crazy experiences. And even if they don't talk about it, they're full of resilience themselves, right? They wouldn't be where they are today, if not for that, and that's something that I'm trying to remember for me as well, is that I often do this, I try to manage the reactions of my family members. But it's mainly because I can't stand their anxiety. It's not because I don't think they can handle their anxiety. It's because I don't want to deal with it.
And it's challenging to come back to this as a quote unquote, adult because of all of the habits and the just the interaction patterns we've had growing up, right, like I Jeff, and I used to joke, you know, every every hundred kilometers closer back to visiting my family, I would revert five years. And so by the time I'm, you know, by the time we've arrived on my mom's doorstep, I'm 16. Again, and angsty, maybe 12 and angsty. And it's true. Like, there is that context where, you know, I've spent so much more of my adult life here away from my family, that I haven't actually continued that relationship. In a cohesive way, I think and so it's like all of a sudden I'm like, oh, oh shit, like we're all adults now. Okay, how do I, how do I reprogram the patterns that I've had of interaction from when I was younger? Because some of those were not the healthiest
Sen Zhan 29:13
back on the topic of of not taking on somebody anxiety and not doing the emotional labor for them. What do you think is the amount of reassurance that's reasonable to have with the parent child relationship? Because we can't expect that people are never anxious or fearful? That's just No, I think that that's just a normal thing.
Yeah, that's a human human thing. I think I would reframe it. I would try to reassure someone that I'm there with them, right. Like I'm happy to walk by their side through their own journey of anxiety and be there and they know that they can lean on me but that work, the actual dealing with the anxiety, the root of it, that is not for me to fix. And I I can see this from my own experience because my own fears and anxieties that I Dealing with no one else can reassure me it doesn't matter how much you or anyone else who cares about me tells me everything will be fine. I have to feel that in my gut, right? I don't think we actually do a very good job of teaching emotional intelligence to children like society generally. And so it's nice that we have more conversations about this now about mental health and, and emotional labor and all of that, but some reassurance but more of a reassurance that I will be here with you for your journey, but the work is yours.
Sen Zhan 30:32
Well, I want to ask you more about that, which is because you mentioned that the root of their anxiety is not for you to fix which i i agree with, what does it mean to be there with someone as they go through their own journey?
I think that's what a what family's for. Right? Like the unconditional love that you have for someone. I can see especially with the interactions that my mom and I have had now that She doesn't foist that on me as much like she's been at least on the surface and her interactions with me more understanding of of me, my life, my decisions, etc. So I don't know if just saying that about the boundaries and drawing those lines of how I want to be with her was clear enough that it sank in or I don't know if she's like afraid to share some of her fears with me now, because I've been so strict in what I've said I would be able to tolerate. And I think in in other situations, it's like, it's not just anxiety, but it's like friends I've had in my life who are dealing with other mental health issues, depression, etc. It's just it's the once in a while reaching out and being like, Hi, I'm here I'm thinking of you. That seems to be my strategy generally. And also just being true to them to say, hey, look like I know you're reaching out right now. I don't have the spoons for this. It doesn't mean I love you any less. It's just I have a lot of My Plate right now and I can't give you my full attention. So the communication of that once I'm able to articulate it, because I'm able to understand what it is that I need, that has helped as well. And I've told my mom that like, there have been occasions where she's texted me a few times, like, I don't respond. And it's I'm not someone that responds immediately. And I've tried to train all my friends and family that eventually I will respond, but I'm not going to be there every day of my phone, in fact, to turn off all the push notifications, and it's been so much better for my mental health. And I told her, right, because like, she texted me, texted me like, back to back days or something. And then like, made a point to call me. I didn't pick up. And this was all within a span of, I would say a fairly short amount of time. So like a reasonable amount of time that would have 36 hours could have elapsed, and it's fine. I'll get back to you eventually. And I sent her a text. I was like, Mom, I love you very much. Like I just don't have the energy to talk to you right now. Please let me reach out to you when I do. I love you and we went A couple of rounds of those. And she respected it. And it was I'm sure it was hard for her. She's like, Oh, I just don't know how I feel like when you don't pick up the phone, blah, blah, blah, like,
Sen Zhan 33:09
I do. But as I've explained to you, like, I'm busy with x, y, Zed, or my brain is really tired or whatever.
Sen Zhan 33:16
Mm hmm. To me, I just had this flash of insight. Like, to me, it sounds like the boundary that you're drawing is when someone else's anxiety feels like it's trying to change the way that you behave. So and so she can have the anxiety of saying, you know, don't you know how it feels when you pick up the phone? And you're like, Yes, I do. And I'm still not going to pick up the phone just because it makes you anxious. You know, I'm not going to change the way that I'm acting because of how you're feeling.
But I think having that explanation of this is why I'm not picking up and this is why I need you to respect my boundaries. I recognize that her anxieties this like unwarranted anxiety like it I can think of another situation or plenty of situations where I'm not picking up the phone that is very concerning. But this is literally like a day to day like I haven't answered my emails or texts in 24 hours like it's not like I haven't answered in two weeks it's been two and a half weeks two weeks she's tried to reach out to Jeff she's tried to reach out to Jesse no one's responding and you just ignore I am Okay, sure. Panic might be might be warranted at that point might
Sen Zhan 34:24
not maybe not full blown panic maybe no slight slight concern or wondering
like concern and wonder. And of course if it's like deviating from your regular pattern of communication and something's triggered your mind it being you know, an aberration grade. But But yeah, like I if, if your feelings are asking me to do something unreasonable or like I wanted to reassure my mom that she can feel however she wants, like, that's totally fine. Also with the subtext, but that's probably not the healthiest way to feel if I'm not picking up the phone 24 or 48 hours, like that's just that's a lot of work. That you don't need to have on your plate. It's so great for own mental health. You know, it's like, as I'm learning to let go of things that really don't matter, kind, it's just a weight off your shoulders. So if I can help her through that, then that's fantastic as well. And then give her the explanation. And then like you say, hold that boundary, like, yes. And it makes me anxious to the first couple of times I've done that. Because in the past that just be like, okay, like, I'll have a conversation and I'm irritated on the phone. It's not a good conversation. Anyway. And so and if I'm aware of that, I can tell her be like, Look, Mom, I want to have a good conversation with you when I'm fully present, which I think is what you want as well. Like, let's wait until we're both in a space that we knew that right.
Sen Zhan 35:43
I'm learning so much.
Sen Zhan 35:48
you had talked about this idea of spoons before. Can you talk a little bit about what what the background of that term
is those explained to me by a friend who has multiple chemical sensitivities It's like, let's say your spoon ration for the days that you have 12 spoons, and you can use them however you want. And certain actions will take a certain number of spoons, but like I said, you only have so many for the day. And let's say that day, you know, you are really, really, really tired. And getting out of bed takes two spoons instead of the usual one. And then by the time you're brushing your teeth and like getting ready to get to work and like hopping on public transit, say public transit, takes three spoons instead of the usual two, because of whatever reason because you're, you're tired, you know, you've depleted your spoons from the day before. And so you then by the time you get to work, you're not, Oh, God, how many spoons if I said, anyway, it doesn't really matter. I can't do math. You have less spoons than you might usually start with at the beginning of the day. And the next thing you have to deal with your boss in this like really emotional labor intensive conversation where you're justifying some decision that you made to him or her And so you've depleted all your spoons, or sorry, you have fewer spoons and you need, let's say work depletes more than usual. Let's say by the time you get home at the end of the day, you're down to like, one spoon. Okay? Well, if it takes you three spoons to make dinner, and you only have one spoon, you're not making dinner, you're probably gonna get takeout or something, right? So it's just, it's just this idea that we've got this finite amount of energy in a day, and whether it's because dealing with anxiety or depression, or health issues, or whatever, and it might take different people different amount of spoons, it might take you a different amount of spoon to deal with your boss one day or get to work or get dressed or whatnot. But being aware of what's in your reserves and what you've used, it's been really helpful for me to visualize, because it makes me have a little more compassion towards myself when I'm like, why can't I do the dishes tonight? Like why can't I I've been looking forward to having dinner with these friends of mine who I haven't seen in forever. Why is it that I feel like I don't want to go anymore. And it doesn't it doesn't mean I won't do my dishes or won't see my friends necessarily, because I might do that. But then I also recognize that Oh shit, that means tomorrow, I'm going to be starting with nine spoons instead of 12. Because I've tapped into the bank from tomorrow.
Sen Zhan 38:21
I mean, to me, this sounds like just regular energy management doesn't absolutely doesn't require you to have any kind of mental health or physical condition.
It sounds like I'm just looking at Wikipedia, which is queuing up but it says it's a disability a metaphor for a combination of ego depletion, fatigue and other factors. Yeah, it is. It is a it's talking about mental energy and physical energy available.
Sen Zhan 38:43
Yeah. from having worked in mental health myself. I feel like there's so many tools that exist in the mental health field for people who are not mentally well, which can be so easily extrapolated into the population at large. Oh, absolutely. It's not it's just like There's there's so I don't even know why we don't talk about this idea of spoons in regular life, you know?
No, I think mental mental health systems still so siloed in many ways, and it doesn't cross over, like you say into mainstream or whatever. And it's really unfortunate, you know, the healthcare system. It's like, I can go to the doctor with a broken foot. But if I'm feeling a bit anxious or like low energy, oh, here's a book. just deal with it.
Sen Zhan 39:25
Yeah. No, that's normal. That's normal, you know?
Yeah, totally. No wonder we have burnout and all of these either.
Sen Zhan 39:32
Yeah, exactly. And it's like right now the physical health field, they've taken to things like preventative health. And yeah, I think that's a great step. And the next step that we have to take is preventative health for mental conditions. There's so many things that can be easily mitigated if you nip in the bud. And and only once it's like a full blown diagnoseable mental condition like depression, then you get the help that you need, but you could have gotten that way earlier.
Oh, my goodness. Absolutely. And I think there's actually as well. And I mean, I think honestly, everyone should see a mental health professional even for like standard checkups. So you go to the doctor for a checkup, why wouldn't you go see a counselor or a psychologist or something? And I mean, I'm really lucky in that I have benefits that can cover my sessions with my psychologist, I also have a salary that lets me go see my psychologist once said, my benefits run out and that is something I have prioritized because goodness, like stress has been the biggest impediment to recovering, right? Because it's, it's this brain cognitive processing and the the cognition that's on overdrive. That doesn't let the brain heals. So I've had to manage my stress, but I've had to double up my speed on how fast I can learn how to these coping mechanisms because of the concussion because it was driving me nuts, like the things that were, you know, just spinning in my head.
Sen Zhan 40:50
So it's been a year and a half since the concussion happened. What's been your process of recovery since then?
Oh, it has been a long one. It's been it's been a long one, like I was mentioning with stress management. That's been a very big part of it. So the early days especially I was just spending days meditating, doing nothing else, but sitting around mindfully drinking my cups of tea, hanging out with my cat. But But yeah, I had a lot of sitting quietly, right, like it was tough to keep still, but I had to, and I was forced to, like we were talking about earlier, because my brain would tell me that I had to stop when I was thinking too much or moving around too much. And prior to the concussion, I'd been, I've been off meditating for probably the better part of a decade, but a little more seriously. Three years ago or so. And an ex of mine had been a big proponent of meditation and I gave it a shot and this time it kind of stuck. So I was really lucky that I had had started building a bit of a practice. So I Wasn't too bored. Actually, when I was just recovering and sitting, still meditating for 40 minutes here drinking a mug of tea from start to finish doing nothing else but drinking that mug of tea for half an hour. And then slowly I was able to, you know, listen to some podcasts like 10 minutes at a time or read books 10 minutes at a time, like paper books because I'm not looking at screens still. And in fact, still even now To this day, I have all of the blue light folders on all of my screens, all of my devices. And that is that probably something that's gonna be sticking around for a while afterwards, probably well into my recovery because it's just better for your eyes anyway. So yes, little things became delightful. I delighted in the fact that I could write my second note to my friends and it didn't take me five days to handwrite and get Rachel to scan and email them. I was saying I was getting quite stir crazy. So going on small walks, and then eventually small, tiny jogs. And then eventually, eventually, in the fall, I had actually signed up for a pottery class prior to my accident. And I didn't know if I was going to be able to take it because I didn't know where I was going to be recovery wise. I do end up going to my first class, and was so impressed that I was able to last the two and a half hours that it was like this is my first thing. And it was really great like it was it was a lot like I remember being very, very tired the day afterwards. And then by the time spring rolled around, like late winter, early spring 2019. I had decided I really wanted to do more pottery, it was just so nice to do something that was physically grounding, because my job is so in front of a computer and so cerebral, I forget how much being in my body feels really, really good in my body and out of my brain. So my recovery has has not only been a recovery of Brain Injury recovery has been a rediscovering of who I am and what drives me and what, what I want out of life really, it really makes you think about priorities right? Like we were saying earlier, I don't really want to be known for the girl who never missed a day of work. That that's not that's not really me.
Sen Zhan 44:19
How would you like to be known?
Oh my goodness.
Just think someone who was full of life and loved life loves life and was surrounded by a lot of love and have a lot of love to give
Sen Zhan 44:37
sounds like a fun person you would like to have in your life?
I hope so. I like I really like the me that I'm becoming which is which is a challenge to you working on a lot of this self self care I would say self care self love all of the, you know, negative stories that of doubt that I've told myself through the years. It's a lot of undoing but you know, slowly We can chip away at it.
Sen Zhan 45:02
Now, you had also taken some time off of work, right? Where during your recovery, what was that, like?
I was really grateful that work was able to be so supportive of my recovery. I so I didn't go back on that Monday after my Wednesday accident. And it wasn't until August. So almost a full year later that I actually went back with a plan. So part of what I had to figure out was just the safety nets that were in place. So disability and insurance and that kind of stuff. I didn't even know my work had a specific dedicated HR person who deals with these things. But when I did find out about it, I was really grateful that Rachel was able to help me navigate those systems. He is again still recovering from brain injury. And so getting all that paperwork about what I needed to do and what forums I needed to fill it in when I had to submit is just again, a lot of spoons. I didn't have And with the tasks at work, like I have to take all of these breaks, which is really difficult, because, you know, when you get into the groove of doing something, you want to just keep pushing, and it's hard to stop. So I literally have to put a timer on to say, okay, it's been 15 minutes, I need to lie down or close my eyes or whatever it is meditate for five minutes. And the tasks that I have at work are really, they're either computer intensive, like all of our files are on the computer. And I'm staring at a screen or having to stare at a screen or I have to be in court, which the fluorescence in there are terrible and the sound and just like paying attention and, and tracking everything was really, really challenging. At first like I found being in a room full of people because your your attention is divided a bunch of ways. It was much easier earlier on in my recovery, even kind of last summer, to have a one on one conversation versus sitting there in court and like having to pay attention to what everyone says even when it's not my matter that's being addressed in court. I still have to kind of keep my ears open right as to what's going on. So that's a lot of filtering for your brain. And my brain became his litmus test again, it would just feel tired and pressured when it was being overworked.
Sen Zhan 47:12
And so now it's been a year and a half, do you feel like you've made a full recovery?
No, I unfortunately, don't feel like I've made a full recovery. I mean, I feel like I'm much closer to a recovery, but it's still a gradual process. You know, as I work more hours, I'm not quite full time yet. I'm about four days right now and napping those hours. I don't have spoons to do the things that I want to do. Like I haven't been to the pottery studio in a couple of months. And I limit my social activities really to kind of once a week after work, if I have anything planned, and before I was very, very on the go, and maybe a little bit too much so so I'm happy to scale back a little bit on on all of the things and curb my FOMO which is something I've worked on for the last little while as well and you Turn it into the joy of missing out instead. But I am having, like the bad days, quote unquote bad days that I have now. They're definitely much less symptomatic than the bad days I had, say three months ago or six months ago. Yeah. So I don't know how much longer it's gonna take to be honest. And learning patience has also been part of this process for me.
Sen Zhan 48:22
You know, what it sounds like is you are taking things a lot more slowly than you were before. You're seeing the value of simply being in the moment and and allowing things to unfold as they need to, and not putting yourself or this process of life under a deadline.
Absolutely. And I mean, part of this process is just enjoying it too, right? It's rediscovering things like, oh, the joy of rediscovering books was amazing. And the first time I was in court, and ran a contested matter, like that was it felt good, I was really, really tired. But, you know, there's this time when you worry you're not going to get back to what you were before. And now I'm starting to see glimpses of it. So that's really nice as well. I remember driving for the first time and that was so exhausting. And then driving in bad weather was exhausting and now is not really a problem. Right? So
Sen Zhan 49:14
what have you learned about humility and being okay with your own limits in the face of things like returning to work?
That's a great question. It has been a really humbling experience, like I was saying earlier in terms of leaning on my community and my partners, partners, partner, etc, for caretaking of me through my recovery. It's also learning to lean on my colleagues you know, at work and say, Hey, like, I can't do this. I need I need to tap out professionally, it's hard right? Like I I want to know that I can do everything myself and I have this expectation of what kind of lawyer I should be and all of the skills that I should have and what would make me a good you know, litigator, but I remember earlier on, I think it was probably in the fall sometime. And I said I would take on writing this, this written submission for court. And I realized, like, halfway through, I was like, I can't like I'm really, and I feel bad that I said yes to it, because I felt like I was disappointing everyone around me and I wish I had recognized earlier that I couldn't do it. You know, it takes it's it takes overcoming my fear to go to the wire who asked me to do it and say, Look, I'm really sorry, I thought I could, I can't. But I got over it. And I said it and we made it happen. And we made it work. And it was fine, right? Like things get done. We're all very supportive, but I have to get over my own hangups of asking for help. Mm hmm.
Sen Zhan 50:46
And to me, it sounds also like you're forced to become more communicative through the moments over the day because I think about my natural reaction to taking on something and then realizing that I maybe can't do it is to simply buckled down and tell myself okay, you're not going to sleep very much in this next little while, but you're just gonna, you're going to push through and you're not even going to tell anybody how hard it is. You're just going to do it. Yeah. And it sounds like through this process of recovery, you learned that you just cannot do that. Absolutely. Ya know what I think
work ethic is really important to me, right? And I pride myself on being able to meet deadlines and get things done and but yeah, I've always been able to before, but now what's forcing me is really my body right? So it's, it's, I have to listen to my body saying, hey, whoa, stop. Like you can't do this, your brains on fire, and then translating that to the outside support world, right of my colleagues and saying, hey, I need help. I need help. I can't do this.
Sen Zhan 51:43
Is there something that you think most people get wrong about concussion?
I think it is an invisible matter. So like all other invisible hindrances. There's a misconception that it's not as debilitating as it is I think, I mean, it depends on where you are during the recovery process. Certainly, I still catch myself feeling a bit silly. When people ask me how I'm doing. And I honestly tell them, Hey, I'm having a really shitty day, like, I'm just really, really tired. Because I'm cogent, I can talk to you, I can, you know, it looks like I can get my work done. It looks like I'm getting through the day, I'm obviously able to walk, you know, here and there. It's not physical, I don't have a cast on my head or anything. And so conveying that to people is more of a conversation than you can have, right? It's you're not really wearing a big sign that says, hey, I have a concussion, you know, when you're on transit, or wherever, or dealing with the cashier. so that it can be such a variable recovery that is invisible, is, is something that, you know, you might know, but not no one on gut level. And I'm grateful that there's more awareness about concussion now. And concussion recovery and like you said, the length of recovery can be so long and variable, people are starting to know about it. But I had shared my story with some folks and just what it feels like in terms of the actual symptoms and my day to day and they, they were surprised to hear about that.
Sen Zhan 53:17
And on the topic of these things that are invisible, it also includes any kind of like chronic fatigue or autoimmune disease, or, of course, the whole host of mental health issues. You know, these are things that you cannot tell just by looking at somebody, even if they seem perfectly functional to you on the outside.
Mm hmm. Absolutely. Absolutely. And I mean, how do you go on a bus when you're like, exhausted and you're super tired? And there's, you're like, you really want to sit down but you're like a healthy looking 30 something year old, right? Like, do you go and ask the little old ladies today? Please? Ma'am, can I have a seat? No, like you suck it up. But I think just in We're all a little more compassionate and give people the benefit of the doubt, then like, it doesn't matter if you have a confession or not like you can just, you know, someone's having an off day, right? If you're able to treat them and say, Hey, like, we're all part of this together, we're all part of this big circle. That's humanity, then we can all do a little bit better. So yeah, I think it's I do I definitely don't think it's concussion specific.
Sen Zhan 54:24
Well, what I have learned from from you is that there's been so many opportunities for learning and self development that you've actually, you know, you had no choice but to learn those things. And there's a lot of people who go through their lives without learning those things, or they learn them at a much later point in their lives. And you're getting all of this wisdom, all this experience now. And and I'm wondering how it's changing the way that you see your life and changing the way that you know you interact with people in the world.
It has definitely made me more mindful of what's important to me and kind of do That deep dive into what what it is? What is it? What does it mean to live a good life? And what do I want out of life, right? And I know I'm very driven by my relationships with my community. And there's certain relationships I want to work on and redevelop or develop a new, you know, I alluded to some of the challenges that I've had with my family, with my mom redeveloping that relationship in a healthy way, also rebuilding something with Jeff. And so just learning to be a little kinder and a little more compassionate with those around me, but also with myself, because if I'm not compassionate with myself, you know, and I hold myself to these ridiculous standards, well, then that frustration is not going to help in terms of my interactions with the world. So yeah, I just want to go through the world and hopefully share this wisdom with people so that they don't have to go through anything firsthand, as traumatic as a brain injury to learn some of this but To Be kind to others, and to get out in play, be in nature, do those things that make you feel alive. Because work can be fun. Like I definitely there are certain highs that I get when we've been in a hearing for multi multiple days, and you're working really hard, especially if you're, you know, working with a colleague who you really like working with. But that's not what defines me, right? It's like, I'm grateful to have a job that lets me pay my bills and, and live a life that lets me go and spend time at the pottery studio and spend time learning new skills and pay for these experiences and whatnot. But yeah, it's experiences that I'm really enjoying. I don't really care about stuff so much. I mean, that's been what I've been working on for the last little while anyway with my relationship to things and to people and prioritizing what's important and the concussion recovery has definitely highlighted the importance of all of this and that it's never too late, right? It doesn't matter if you're 50 or 60. And coming to these realizations or if I'm only coming to these now. You know, you hear people who go through these massive growth experiences, they've traveled all the all over the world in their 20s. And they've come to these insights or they've been meditating, since they're 16, etc, etc. Well, I'm just grateful. I'm, you know, coming to these lessons now as opposed to another 30 years from now. Beautiful.
Sen Zhan 57:19
So, Lindsay, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast and for sharing your life experience of this. This traumatic brain injury which turned into I guess, a blessing if we can say that, I would call it a blessing.
Definitely an opportunity. It was an opportunity.
Sen Zhan 57:35
And I hope that you keep on wearing your helmet.
I hope everyone
Sen Zhan 57:40
Yeah, if you wear your helmet people, this is like the moral of the story.
Yes, a. Exactly. Exactly, exactly. If you get anything
Sen Zhan 57:48
out of this, make sure you wear your helmet and be kind to yourself.
Sen Zhan 57:54
Thanks for listening to beyond Asian stories of a third culture. I hope you enjoyed this episode. We have a preview of our next episode coming up for you. Before we roll it, you can find any resources referenced today in the show notes. If you resonated with what you heard on the show today, follow our Facebook page to get updates and what we're working on in our Facebook group to add your voice to the conversation. Got the perfect third culture Asian guests for us get in touch on our website beyond Asian comm or simply email us at beyond Asian firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be back with another story soon. In the meantime, you can subscribe to our show on Spotify, Apple podcasts, spreaker and nearly all your regular podcast watering holes. We are a growing podcast and therefore need your support and reviews to keep bringing you more stories like this. I'd like to thank Mulan soon our creative strategist and lead designer ciccio Coppola,
Sen Zhan 58:48
designer, Remy for ash poor, our developer and Alexandra Heller, our Director of Marketing for helping to bring this podcast to life. Most importantly, I'd like to thank our growing community of courageous guests Who have generously shared their stories with us. Beyond Asian stories of a third culture is hosted and produced by me Your Chinese Canadian third culture kid in Berlin. Send john. Here's what we've got in store for you next time.
For example, I still have a little bit of panic anytime I encounter a group of Korean people because I know that they will know that I'm not Korean. I kind of feel like an imposter because German people tell me I'm Korean but Korean people know. They know I'm not Korean.
Sen Zhan 59:32
How has a Korean German woman in Berlin dealt with cultural imposter syndrome? And how did this lead her from working in the video game industry to becoming a young adult novelist. In Episode Four, I'm speaking with Sarah, whose experiences growing up in small town Germany led to her seeking the identity she always thought she wanted in Korea.
If you look at Children's Literature from the 90s most of the paintings are about blonde girls with blue eyes. You don't have people that look like me. And then I came to Korea and I realized that I could never be fully Korean but at the same time, I could also not be fully German. So it was disappointing in the sense of that I still didn't really know what I was. But at the same time, I started to see myself as just a person, apart from what I might look like or people might label me as For example I still have a little bit of panic anytime I encounter the group of Korean people because I know that they will know that I'm not Korean. I kind of feel like an imposter because German people tell me I'm Korean but Korean people know. They know I'm not Korean.
Sen Zhan 61:39
How has a Korean German woman in Berlin dealt with cultural imposter syndrome? And how did this lead her from working in the videogame industry to becoming a young adult novelist. In Episode Four, I'm speaking with Sarah, whose experiences growing up in small town Germany led to her seeking the identity she always thought she wanted in Korea.
If you look at Children's Literature from the 90s, most of the paintings are about blonde girls with blue eyes. You don't have people that look like me. And then I came to Korea and I realized that I could never be fully Korean but at the same time, I could also not be fully German. So it was disappointing in the sense of that I still didn't really know what I was. But at the same time, I started to see myself as just a person, apart from what I might look like or people might label me as