Hey peeps! This will be a post aiming to explain some things some or most of you didn’t know.
A friend of mine recently posted, on Facebook, an article and video about a girl (see: Molly Sandén) who was and is still bullied for her “curves”. Despite her uphill battle, she has released a music video in which she shows off her shapes and isn’t ashamed about it. This prompted me to write what I’m going to write next.
Many of my Swedish-speaking friends already know about my background and what’s happened to me in the past few years (see footnote). But now I think is a good time to explain to the rest as well, especially because it has a lot to do with why I am in Brazil. About 1.5 years ago, I was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome (TS), OCD and Social Phobia (anxiety and panic around people). The latter is what I’ve been working hard on, as well as been fighting especially hard during my previous university studies. It’s, of course, something that’s been present pretty much my whole life, but before recently not enough to hamper progress. Things totally collapsed after I fought a battle through my Bachelor’s degree, which has accounted for the 2-year gap between my studies (2012-2014).
So what’s Brazil got to do with everything? Well, for those of you who don’t know my background, I was extremely bullied (by both kids and adults alike!) all throughout primary school, secondary and even higher education for being a foreigner from Hong Kong (particularly during primary school), for my TS (no, I don’t swear uncontrollably), and introversion (and some teachers just plainly hated my guts for no reason). Slowly throughout my (pre-)teens, my self-esteem and self-confidence were torn to shreds, being a combination of bullying and the fact that I was an orphan back in the 80s. I grew up accustomed (read: forced myself) to being bossed and tossed around, and not having much of an own will, which eventually led to what was deemed social phobia. After my Bachelor’s, I went to psychologists for a year and learned to accept myself not for what others value me at, but for what I value myself at. This meant, together with my psychologists as well as ordinary (unknowing) people around me, bloating pretty much every part of my fears, shame and vulnerabilities that I had learned to cover up to avoid people’s attention.
I decided to leave my social phobia therapy and my psychologists in December last year (2013), right after I had made a decision that I had contemplated for a long time before that; BRAZIL. Now, this was a totally crazy idea I both wanted and didn’t want with all my heart. A lot of time and energy went into processing this decision and to do mental training, meaning a lot of (fighting against) anxiety and panic just by the sheer thought of having to leave my comfort zone (social phobia + OCD –> breaking with habits and environment = severe difficulties). Initially I applied for another university in Brazil (in Vitória), which I didn’t have much hope for, but I did it as an exercise and in preparation for what I really hoped would be UFV, where I am now studying. I eventually got accepted into UFV, which prompted another, maybe even worse, anxiety and all that follows. I had a hard time accepting that I had really been accepted to a university in Brazil, which took a heavy toll on me, causing me to go into survival mode (turning off any thoughts and feelings) which even caused physical changes like drastic weight reduction (-4kg and my belt suddenly needed another hole punch). A big kudos to those of you who supported me through this, though. You know who you are!
The fact that I am now here in Brazil and not hiding in a familiar corner, feels good. I know things may get progressively more difficult in social situations, but up until now, things have worked for the better, proving to myself that my (poor) self-confidence and self-esteem need not be a limiting factor. I am here on my own volition, slowly trying to work on my self-worth and everything that follows, which is an opportunity in abundance when you come (alone) to a country you’ve never been to, start speaking a language you’ve never studied before, and having to force yourself to do things which are completely uncomfortable, such as trying to communicate, finding your way around and making friends. It’s a humbling experience that, much to my surprise, has been more fun than I ever thought it would be. Fact is that I haven’t yet encountered a single freak-out, despite doing really stupid things and having totally made a fool of myself in shops, banks and restaurants. That’s probably attributed to feeling zero pressure to have to “be perfect or else…”. At least for now, I’ve not had that typical pre-anxiety-before-anything-that-involves-people feeling, which I am really happy about.
I think this is plenty of explanation for now, but feel free to ask on anything unclear or in need of further explanation!
PS. Perhaps, for those of you interested, a couple of months ago I wrote about my experiences with bullying, which was published on a Finnish news agency’s website for an anti-bullying campaign. Translation to English may not be perfect, but you get the general idea.