PTSD (poem)

Poetry

Experienced death but inexplicably living,

Pandora’s horrors felt all at once.

Masked delusions for protection absent,

No rosy lenses to watch film noir.


Body betrays you and invites in demons,

Terror sweats from every pore.

Pain and agony in every nerve fiber,

Proof of life is absence of death’s peace.


War cries and weapons waging,

Survival close to a sword’s edge.

Become dangerous or be killed by others,

Enemies cloaked in innocuous disguises.


Taming every system in revolt,

Untangle wires looking like hay.

Bang pushed to the end of the universe,

Come home to live in the self we created.

Waves (poem)

Poetry

Waves of depression break,

At the shores of my conscious awareness.

Oceanic mysteries drift,

Carried along by currents.


Flooding a desert reveals,

Sentiment’s intrinsic value.

Formerly disciplined by absence,

Returned to feel its presence.


Acute pain with decay,

Left to rot and fester.

Breathe in and choke on sunshine,

Learn to radiate like the stars.


Push it out and pull it in,

Cosmic light pulsing brightly.

Darkness swallowing the universe,

Become a beacon riding the waves.

Virgin (poem)

Poetry

Anticipation sends shivers,
Fated moment has arrived.
Foreign feelings to consider,
Hoping it wasn’t lies.

Uncertain of progression,
Waiting for a sign.
Impressionable susceptibility,
Playbook getting written.

Blanks beg to be filled,
Information awaiting.
Answered questions to share,
Or buried deep as a secret.

Kiss and don’t tell,
Be gentle in the night.
Set the tone for forever,
In a moment’s burning light.

Thumb (poem)

Poetry

Nails made of glass,
Pressed against bone.
Hidden in meat,
A diamond digs deeper.

Tongue the location,
Kept inside a mouth.
Place of dental safety,
Marked on the right.

Nursing the pain,
Suckling its sweetness.
Stinging cuts numbness,
Proof of inner vitality.

Draw an X on a map,
Hidden treasures lie beneath.
Violent means used to acquire,
Precious jewels stained with blood.

Letter to Another Survivor (essay)

Prose

On October 6, 2018, I wrote a thank-you email to Christine Blasey Ford for her congressional testimony. I shared intimate, vulnerable details of my life because I thought she could understand as another survivor. I share it with you all in the hopes that you can have greater empathy for us as survivors and victims.

Dear Professor Blasey Ford,

As a concerned American and fellow survivor of sexual violence, I followed Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process through the news with a good deal of interest. I thought your testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee was brave and inspiring. From the bottom of my heart, I wanted to thank you. Even though he was ultimately confirmed, your efforts meant the world to me and to survivors across the country.

His confirmation to the Supreme Court is particularly painful for me, given that I attended law school in pursuit of my belief in government institutions to create and maintain justice. Perhaps I was too naive. Perhaps not. But I know that the Senate did not give you justice with their vote today. The FBI did not do you justice with its limited and cursory investigation. And the White House did not seek justice for you with its partisan trickery and manipulations.

Disappointment is not new for me. Yet I continue to weep when such news reaches me. My father sexually abused me throughout my childhood, starting from when I was just two or three years old. When I attempted suicide during my second year of law school and sought help from Harvard (we were entitled to 10 free mental health sessions per year as students), I was told that since I was off-campus for an externship program (for which I was receiving school credit), they would not provide any resources to me. 

On my own, I exerted great efforts to transform my life and to treat myself with care and kindness, including changing my inner dialogue with myself (no tolerance for diminishing self-talk, reasoning through my beliefs, delving deeper into philosophy to structure a more positive worldview) and developing healthy habits (curbing alcohol consumption, limiting processed food intake, incorporating exercise, using stretching/mindfulness/essential oils to reduce stress, embracing arts/crafts, picking up the violin again). During this time, my dissociation was extremely difficult to manage, and I endured periods of numbness when I felt incapable of connecting to any emotion. For the first time in my life, I felt genuinely concerned that I could lose touch entirely with reality, and had nightmares reflecting that anxiety. During my third year of law school, I went into the health center to be assessed for ADHD. I got a neuropsych test that confirmed my suspicion of inattentive-type ADHD, but not before the prescriber, Dr. David Abramson, attempted to block me from getting help. 

During my last semester, I started dating Dr. Jon Einarsson (ob/gyn surgeon at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, professor at Harvard Medical School). He came to visit me December 2-3, 2017, when he transmitted chlamydia and garderella vaginalis to me. After examining our text communications and writing down all of our experiences together, I determined that he is a psychopath, and that the STI transmissions were premeditated, deliberate, and malicious.

In the aftermath of that sexual battery, I have been diagnosed with PTSD and fibromyalgia. I had to take a leave from work– a pastime that was a source of great fulfillment in my life. All of this to say that I know what it feels like to be abandoned; to appeal to power only to have your cries for help fall on deaf ears. I just want you to know that you are not alone, that you’ve never been alone. I and countless others stand with you.

Wishing you strength and love,

Ally

Chains (poem)

Poetry

Delicate filigree,
Dainty little thing.
Shine for others,
But weigh down the wearer.

Concentrated mass,
Density pulling downward.
Sinking into hell,
Looking like an angel.

Commercializing pain,
Constructing injuries for attention.
Ride the waves of trauma,
On the backs of true survivors.

Wear your burdens proudly,
Jewels burn into flesh.
Fingernails like diamonds,
Slicing up the fakers.

College Freshman Writing Assignment – Reflection

Prose

Ally Chiu                                                                                                Professor James Polchin

GLS Writing II                                                                                                         11 March 2010

Reflective Letter

This essay was a struggle for me, as I imagine it was for many people. As an adolescent in college, I feel that I am still attempting to discover myself. Although I do hold beliefs and convictions, I don’t believe they have been challenged enough because they haven’t really been exposed to the world yet. This, I believe, has made it difficult to articulate the reasons why I believe in certain things, and to further convince others that they should believe the same. If I don’t have a thorough understanding of something, how can I persuade you that it’s right and infallible? It’s just not convincing.

The lack of motivation for this assignment has made the writing process extremely tedious and painful. I found myself procrastinating for endless hours to avoid working on the draft, and after a certain point, each sentence had to be squeezed out with enormous difficulty. This may have affected the flow and readability of the essay. I find that it’s easier to formulate a cohesive and focused argument if more of it has been composed in one sitting. During the revision process, I tried to improve the flow and structure of the piece.

I chose to write this letter to my father. This presented a different challenge for me because it’s difficult for a child to criticize her parents, especially since I admire my father so much. I believe I owe much of my way of thinking to him. I feel like he’s opened up my mind about the world and encouraged an attitude that makes it possible for me to be understanding and accepting toward others. Who can fault a man like that? It feels audacious and pretentious of me to find fault with someone to whom I owe my life. And as my father’s daughter, I believe that this has made me blind to his faults for a very long time. Now that I’ve grown up a bit more and moved away from home, I can adopt a more impartial attitude in regarding my parents and their idiosyncrasies, though never entirely so. Human nature ordains that it is infinitely easier to point out the faults of others than to identify these faults within ourselves. This is why people can be unconsciously guilty of hypocrisy, and why they can belittle other individuals, races, cultures, or nationalities of something while they are just as liable to the same. 

The nature of my father’s criticisms of me was not academic. My parents did not put any pressure on me to do well in school. For the most part, my father would analyze shortcomings in my personality and urge me to correct them. Regarding this aspect, it’s difficult to determine how effective his methods were. I don’t think I’m a reliable judge to gauge this sort of improvement, but I don’t think it was the best method to approach the problem. 

It’s a fine line to tread between directed and open. Part of the difficulty of this assignment is that it must develop some sort of significance outside of the events I describe that transpired between me and my father. My father is supposed to be representative of some larger audience, some abstract group of people who I’m actually addressing, even while my father’s name is the one printed at the top of the page. In order to achieve this, I must be able to differentiate which qualities are unique to my father, and the characteristics that my father and this larger group of people share. These shared characteristics are the ones that truly need to be questioned and refuted. However, my father is a man who has been shaped by his own past and experiences. He’s been molded by the places he’s lived in and by the culture that he’s been immersed in. Part of my father’s attitude that I critique in my essay has some sort of cultural basis or foundation, but I believe it would be presumptuous to assume that it is a phenomenon unique only to the Chinese or merely to Confucian cultures. I am not simply issuing a dispute against all oppressive Asian parents, but rather refuting the idea that learning and education necessarily has to be attached to negative feedback or crippling pressure to reap profit. I wanted this essay to be less of a critique on my father’s parenting skills (because I don’t believe my siblings and I grew up to be terrible people) and more of a query about the ideas that governed his parenting. I had to learn to separate my personal narration to a specific individual, my father, to be able to open up my argument to a universal level. 

College Freshman Writing Assignment

Prose

I’ve been living with PTSD and fibromyalgia for over three years now, but my healing journey from my early life trauma actually started much earlier, when I got on a plane to attend my first year of college at NYU in Paris. The writing professor assigned us with an “open letter” to whomever of our choosing. I chose the person who had utterly destroyed my life and robbed me of my very identity. If I could speak to the 18-year-old girl who wrote this, I would tell her: This isn’t love. You didn’t deserve any of it and it never should have happened to you. No one has the right to treat you that way. But real love exists, and the proof is in you.

Ally Chiu

Professor James Polchin

GLS Writing II

28 February 2010

A Heartfelt Letter a Loving Father 

Dear Dad,

To even begin to articulate the incredible influence you’ve had in my life would take thousands of pages that I don’t have the resources to convey. I’m not even sure if confining these impressions to printed words and symbols could do them justice. You’ve taught me how to view the world in a larger perspective and that I should always strive to improve myself. You’ve taught me that no matter what, I can always be better, and that I should work hard to realize my full potential. I owe a lot to you, for the person I’ve become and the person I aspire to be. However, the mentality of self-improvement that you endorse can lead to a chronic dissatisfaction that can be more hindering than helpful. I realize now that criticizing me is your way of displaying your love for me, but for years, I interpreted it as disapproval. 

I remember facing your anger whenever you’d walk into a room and find me sitting on the sofa watching American television. You’d belligerently demand why I wasn’t watching programs in Chinese instead and would launch into a tiresome tirade about how I was wasting my time with my refusal to learn Mandarin. You’ve asserted many times that I would regret not learning the language properly when I got older. However, your reproof did less to make me more earnest about watching Chinese programs than it did to support my conviction that I should watch my favorite American shows in a more secretive and clandestine manner. I eventually got in the habit of either turning off the TV or switching it to a Chinese channel whenever I heard approaching footsteps. Paradoxically, while my ears grew more adept at picking up the muffled thuds of socked feet against carpet, they grew no more proficient at discerning the meanings of Chinese tonalities and phonetics.

You have a tendency to worry so much about the well-being of your children that it drives you (and often us) to insanity. You’ve invested innumerable hours with me and my siblings in an attempt to impart some sort of wisdom in us, and to change what you perceive to be our wrongful ways. However, I don’t think you ever realized that these lengthy “talks” did little besides make our bottoms numb and make us feel thoroughly unmotivated. Even if we felt enthusiastic and productive at the start of the session, this eagerness would be leeched out of us quicker than the minute hand travelling across the clock face. 

Many parents would’ve been content with the daughter that I was. I got decent grades, and I never went out to cause trouble. However, for you, this could never be enough.  Your reasons could be logically comprehended. Why should I compare myself with the worst of my generation, the kids who were scampering about participating in self-destructive behavior, often becoming involved in drugs, alcohol, and worse? The expectations for me and these kids would naturally be different.

I remember you read an article to us, called “Three: Succeed, Four: Fail.” This article was about the arduous lifestyle of college-bound students in South Korea, and the title referred to the students’ idea that if they slept for only three hours, they could pass the exam, but if they slacked off and slept for four hours, they would fail. I understand your anxiety in sending your children off into a world inhabited by these people, because undoubtedly we, your soft American-raised kids, would lose to these Korean students in any sort of competition. We don’t possess their discipline, dedication, ambition, or zeal. When you compare these sleep-deprived and persevering students to me, who likes to sleep for sixteen hours on a weekend, I’m clearly an incorrigibly lazy and indolent derelict, right? Faced with these sorts of opponents, how could I ever expect to combat them and win? If I can never be as good as them, well then, aren’t all my efforts being wasted? Wouldn’t it be much more economical if we can just cut our losses where we can? Shouldn’t I just give up now while I haven’t wasted my entire existence yet? 

You want us to do well in life; I understand that. However, your means of achieving this do not do much more than wear us down and deplete our lives of meaning. Can you imagine leading the lives of those Korean students? Do you think they are happy? Your high school life was a similar experience, and you refer to those years as a nightmare. Sometimes, you tell us, you have a recurrent dream in which you are still in school and trying to get into college, and you wake up gasping in a cold sweat. While this intense academic pressure may result in very knowledgeable Korean students, I would rather enjoy learning than have my spirit broken by the school administration. This level of academic pressure, though it yields results, is clearly not the most efficient way to promote learning among students. As a matter of fact, forcing these students to study for most of their waking hours and pushing them into a state of chronic sleep-deprivation “causes irritability and learning deficits— you learn more efficiently and readily with more sleep” (Miller). 

You would constantly remind me of my little faults that would eventually lead to my downfall, if I did not correct them. Of course, satisfaction breeds contentment, which leads to stagnancy and lack of innovation and progress. A bit of dissatisfaction is necessary in order to keep improving. After all, where would we be if Thomas Edison had considered candlelight to already be good enough, or if humankind had determined that walking from place-to-place was sufficient as a means of transport? But this bleak attitude of ceaseless dissatisfaction, far from encouraging me to improve, nearly destroyed my optimism on life itself. There is no motivation to strive towards a goal. Without some sort of shining purpose, the pursuit is simply empty.

Among some of your critiques, one in particular seems to persist overall. I have a habit of letting my internal conflicts manifest themselves in my external expressions. If I’m vexed, it’s evident from my scowling face and crossed arms. You’d explain that having a cold expression distances me from other people, that I would be perceived as unapproachable, and that I would suffer in the job market as well as other areas in life. I understand this, Dad, and I agree. So why, you ask, after so many years, must you continue to point out the same fault in me? Just because I understand your concern doesn’t mean that I can easily fix it. After a stressful day at school, listening to you reprimand my sulky appearance does little to improve my mood. You want me to smile? Well, arguing with me isn’t the best way to achieve this.

You told us many stories about your childhood growing up in Taiwan. Once, in elementary school, your neighbor was strung upside-down from a tree by his ankles and then beaten by his father because his grades were too poor. In those days, it was believed that the more a teacher beat the students, the better the teacher was. When a student failed to complete his homework for the class, it was not uncommon for the student to be called up to the front to receive thrashings. You told me that you can no longer hear as well in one ear as you used to after your teacher smacked you across the face, and you were one of the top students in your class. Since this time, the Taiwanese government has seen to the passage of an amendment to their Educational Fundamental Act that prohibits all forms of corporal punishment (Editorial). Although you share my sentiment of approval and relief that education is no longer run in such a manner, I can’t help but believe that you still carry some vestiges of this outdated system. The way you view education tends to stem from a more pessimistic perspective, rather than an optimistic one. In order to do well, a student must be forced and punished; if the student is praised and encouraged, then the student is more likely to feel satisfied and therefore slack off. However, when something has been imposed on me, I am more inclined to resent it. I was alarmed to once hear a friend of mine complain about the violin, that it was a vile instrument and that she hated learning it. Upon further questioning, she revealed that her vehemence originated from the private lessons her parents forced onto her from childhood. There is no pleasure in being coerced into something.

Some of the most magical moments are created in the most leisurely conditions. I remember one time I played my violin for you, and you told me how much you enjoyed listening to me perform. You asked me if I could play certain Chinese folk songs, such as “Mo Li Hua” (Jasmine Flowers) and “Hong Dou Qu” (Song of the Red Bean). After searching together on the internet for the sheet music in vain, we decided to transcribe the notes by ear instead. You’d sing phrases of the song out loud, I’d mimic it by plucking it my violin, and then we’d write the notes on Finale Notepad. It was slow, meticulous, and tedious work, but I never once considered it laborious. Those hours spent struggling to match notes and keys were enjoyable because there was no real pressure and nothing at stake. Was the world going to end if we didn’t transcribe those two songs properly? Of course not. If it was, we wouldn’t have had as much fun with them as we did. Did you know, Dad, that your simple pleasure of hearing me play made learning the instrument that much more worthwhile to me? In addition to working on symphonies by Beethoven and Kabalevsky, I cheerfully learned these Chinese folk tunes so I could see your smile when you overheard me practicing in the living room.

I know you’re proud of me and my accomplishments, even if it took me years to realize it. As the acceptance letters from various universities came in, I overheard you happily telling our relatives about them, vaunting in delight. But Dad, you don’t have to hide this part of you from me. I would be enraptured to hear your approval, if only intermittently. You don’t need to be so troubled by the idea that I’d stop improving the instant I realize you’re pleased with me. 

Confucius told his disciples, “Do not worry because no one appreciates your abilities. Seek to be worthy of appreciation” (Confucius 74). I spent a great deal of my childhood worrying that you did not appreciate my abilities. Confucius dispels my delusion by showing that I was aiming at the wrong thing. I shouldn’t try to impress you and win your accolades; I should instead focus on ameliorating my quality as a person. Confucius is wise in saying, “If he has any energy to spare from such action, let him devote it to making himself cultivated” (Confucius 60).  Of course we can always be better than we are. But Dad, just a little bit of recognition from you can make this journey to self-advancement exponentially easier. While it’s true that I will neither perform a concerto in Carnegie Hall nor become the concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic in this lifetime, my love for music will never change— and part of that passion has been cultivated by you and your gentle encouragement.

Dad, I love you. And I know you love me. This is why you do what you do. However, I’m trying to let you understand that there are better ways to achieve more effective results. If you relax a bit more and occasionally encourage us, your children, instead of constantly chastising us, not only will we respond better, but you will have less mental turmoil. Both sides have the potential to profit from the situation. I say this not only for our sakes, but for yours as well. You know that you’ve always had a problem with high blood pressure, and that your father and his father before him had died of strokes. You must realize that by worrying so much you are simply adding unnecessary stress and anguish to your life. This can be crippling to your health. What good is a system in which both parties involved emerge from it for the worse? I am left dejected and unresponsive and you are left frustrated that I still haven’t improved. There’s no reason to maintain this attitude when the other is much more beneficial. We should be able to celebrate learning, not be encumbered by it. When the pressure’s off, both for you and for us, we can all be freer to enjoy our lives more. 

So please Dad, I’m begging you. Be happier. If you would only consider what I’ve told you, I feel confident that you would be. I urge you to consider more deeply the actual results of your actions and gauge to see if they live up to the expected results. Don’t expend all of your energy berating us when you can be supporting us with encouraging words. I hope you will consider what I’ve said to you, for yourself, your children, and everything we encounter as we face the world. 

With all my love,

Ally

Works Cited

Confucius. The Analects. New York: Penguin Classics, 1998. Print. 

Editorial. Taiwan Journal 22 Dec. 2006, Recent Issues ed., Editorial sec. Taiwan Journal. Government Information Office, 2009. Web. 11 Mar. 2010. <http://taiwanjournal.nat.gov.tw/site/Tj/ct.asp?xItem=23617&CtNode=425&gt;.

Miller, Shayna. “Sleep Deprivation Affects Students.” Miller, Shayna. “Sleep Deprivation Affects Students.” The Badger Herald. 11 Sept. 2003. Web. 11 Mar. 2010. . 11 Sept. 2003. Web. 11 Mar. 2010. <http://badgerherald.com/news/2003/09/11/sleep_deprivation_af.php&gt;. 

Resilience (poem)

Poetry

Stabbed in the trauma,
Inflicted once again.
Scar tissue rendered flexible,
Elastic armor shielding.

Walk through fire unscathed,
Witches mothering cats.
Fury rains with curses,
Gifts to bless withheld.

Healing power directed inward,
Inner strength grows within.
Pot brimming with soil,
Roots spread to prepare for bloom.

Integrate our fractures,
Accept each broken part.
Sand down, buffer, polish,
Groomed all around.

Shine (poem)

Poetry

The world tells you to shine brighter,
Share your light with all around you.
Not until you’re attacked do you realize,
You’ve been making yourself a target.

Monsters don’t just live in the shadows,
Day-walkers prowl for prey everywhere.
Jealous gazes suppress your talents,
Believe them and know you have nothing.

Major failures have failed to stop you,
Your heroes watch to catch you stumble.
This world defies your very existence,
Camouflage hides your contributions.

Death without acceptance,
But simply unacceptable for who you are.
Star unburned by the atmosphere,
Feel the fires of human contempt instead.