A Few Answers To Questions You Always Wondered About

July 12, 2017 | 1 Comment » | Topics: Interesting, Answers

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What’s it like to have Schizophrenia?

Let me run you through a day in the life of my personal brand of schizophrenia:

7:00 am: Wake up and lay in bed for awhile. Although I live alone, I hear footsteps throughout my apartment. I start wondering whether someone broke in during the night, so I get up to check the lock. Not only is the dead bolt still latched, but the chain is also still in tact; however, the footsteps are still in the kitchen, and I have to check the door and whole apartment at least three more times be sure I’m alone.

7:30 am: I’m taking a nice hot bath, but, as the water is running, I hear a conversation happening just outside the door. I know no one is there because I’ve checked the door, but I can’t help but hear a few people debating about the use of leather vs. cloth seats in cars. I dip my head under the water and try to ignore what’s not there.

8:00 am: Is there something crawling on my leg? When I look down to inspect, there’s nothing. This will happen at least once every half hour throughout the day, so I won’t continue mentioning it.

9:00 am: I’m eating breakfast, and I taste metal when I’m eating my toast, so much so that I can’t finish my food.

10:00 am: I’m walking to campus, and the way gravity is pulling me goes from under my feet to slightly off-kilter to the right. I feel like I’m going to fall over because something is pulling me that way, so I need to sit down and wait out my equilibrium resetting itself with my head in my hands to keep myself from puking from the dizziness.

10:30 am: The voice in my head named Nero starts telling me, as a response to girls walking slowly in a group in front of me on the sidewalk, that I should disembowel one, choke the second with her intestines, and curb stomp the third while she cries from watching her friends die. I try my hardest to ignore him, but the voice gets louder and more demanding, even after I have already passed the girls.

11:15 am: As I sit on the toilet, the tiles of the floor start to get larger and smaller, which almost makes me sick.

12:00 pm: I’m talking to my friend who flaked on me a few weeks ago, and Nero is trying to tell me what they deserve for being a shietty friend, which just so happens to be running their face over until it is as flat as a pancake.

1:15 pm: As I’m sitting in class, the teacher’s words begin to not sound like English, and the jibberish I’m hearing makes it impossible to concentrate on the lesson and what I’m supposed to be learning.

2:00 pm: I finally have my appetite back after the metallic tasting toast, but I cannot help but think that the people behind the counter put something I’m allergic to into my food because of how insistent I am that they exclude it. After inspecting my food and taking it apart bit by bit, I’m ready to eat my mound of slop, which is getting cold.

3:00 pm: I see more of my friends, but the voice in my head just keeps screaming the worst insults at them. I can no longer concentrate on what they are saying to me, which means I cannot hold up my end of conversation, so I awkwardly excuse myself and hear the conversation roar up again once I leave. The voice in my head continues to tell me that I’m worthless and even my friends pretend to like me.

4:30 pm: I’m home once again, but I hear a tapping on my window, as if someone is trying to get my attention. Although I live on the second floor, I still need to check for other life at least four times.

6:00 pm: My foot feels like it’s on fire, which distracts me from doing the reading assignmentdue tomorrow.

7:30 pm: When I try to read again, all the words on the page float away and melt together into a black jumbled mess, so I still can’t focus on my homework.

8:00 pm: Something smells like it’s burning in the kitchen, but I have only started thinking about cooking food.

9:00 pm: I’m starting to get tired, but, because I haven’t been able to focus on my homework, I can’t sleep quite yet. The voice in my head continues to berate me and tell me how worthless I am to the human race. Suicide is brought up. Once he knows I have heard this thought, he starts detailing all the ways I could kill myself, all of which I have access to.

10:30 pm: I’ve managed to complete my homework, but it’s not my best work. I try to wind down for the night, but I feel someone standing over my bed and watching me browse the Internet. When I turn around, no one is there, and I need to check the door again to make sure it is locked.

11:30 pm: I am falling asleep, and, at the final moment before I am actually unconscious, I hear a knock at my door. When I get up to check to see if anyone is there, not even the motion detection light is on in the hallway, which makes me anxious.

12: 45 am: As I really am falling asleep this time, the voice in my head chimes in to make sure my final thoughts are ones that set me apart from everyone who actually does love me. My last thought before going to sleep is him telling me I either need to kill or be killed to be truly happy.

Because I’m schizophrenic, this is my reality; this happens every day. Just as you see your hand in front of your face, the voice in my head as well as the auditory and visual hallucinations occupy the space of my world.



What would a war between The United States and North Korea look like?

So much talk in the news has been speculation about a pre-emptive first strike on North Korea and what not. What people don’t realize, however, is that no military action against North Korea is going to be light or easy – and it certainly isn’t going to be taken that way by the military.

For one, it’s not just the US and South Korea that have been preparing for a renewal of conflict these past 64 years – North Korea has been too!

The North is well known to have built lots of fortifications, defense lines, and even miles-long infiltration tunnels to sneak massive amounts of troops under the DMZ. The defector claimed they dug over 20 of them – so far, South Korea has only found 3 (or 4, if my memory serves right)!

There are so many unknowns about North Korea’s ability or willingness to fight. What we DO know, however, is that North Korea’s government indoctrinates from a young age that it was North Korea who was invaded, and that they are the ‘true resistors’ against the Americans and their puppets in the South.

As thus, any attack by the US and/or South Korea would only validate and legitimize the North Korean government. If you weren’t sure whether they’d be willing to fight, you don’t want to help them decide to.

In addition, while the threat of artillery bombardment of Seoul is largely overblown by hearsay these days (look up the range of artillery and how far Seoul actually is), one cannot discount the chaos of any such opening episode of a war if North Korea strikes first or strikes back.

No amount of civil defense exercises in Seoul can replicate actual fire coming in and landing on the horizon. The chaos in the city alone would clog and slow down the mobilization of forces in South Korea, keeping in mind that millions of South Korean men are in the reserves there and need to reach mobilization points.

In addition, the Korean peninsula is NOT conducive to the kinds of warfare Western nations have taken advantage of. For one, Korea is very mountainous: it is poor terrain for tanks and armor, advantages the US and South Korea have. Instead, it will rely heavily on helicopters and infantry, which means the forces are a lot more balanced – and thus, warfare is bloodier.

There is no doubt the US and South Korea would gain air superiority quickly – but again, North Korea has ways to mitigate this. Underground fortifications and hidden artillery points all mitigate air forces. And air forces can’t take and hold ground – which again, necessitates infantry forces.

Think of the US island hopping campaign in WW2 and each island getting harder to take and bloodier as the Japanese dug in and reduced our technological superiority. That’s far more likely what any fighting will devolve into, assuming North Koreans stay motivated.

Korea also has extremely hot and humid summers with bitter cold winters. This will challenge and tax any military. The wide open deserts of Iraq, in contrast, were a mechanized military’s dream.

Remember, we DID fight in Korea for 3 bitter years. So this isn’t mere conjecture – it’s what happened.

All in all, any war in Korea would make any conflict since Vietnam look like child’s play. In fact, really, since Korea itself: more people died overall in Korea in 3 years than in Vietnam in a decade.

The stakes are very high, and anyone who thinks any conflict is taken lightly needs only consider that:

Long story short, nobody that would actually be involved in fighting in Korea takes it lightly, even if the outcome (US and South Korean victory) is all but assured.

The Aftermath

Here is also where uncertainty lies, and here is where the regional/global stage gets involved.

First, we must address the elephant in the room: China. What will China do?

Will they help in the reconstruction of the North? Will they advance in from the North, as some believe, and set up their own occupation zone/DMZ to keep US troops stiff-armed from China’s border?

While it’s unlikely China would aid North Korea in a war now, they’ve never officially made it known one way or another, so that uncertainty is ALWAYS a question because getting it wrong (and bringing China into the war) far outweighs any benefits of eliminating the stain on humanity that the Kim regime is.

Even the most optimistic analyses of a defeated North Korea is going to be unprecedented and have reverberations around the world.

For one, South Korea is tied to the global economy. There’s a good chance you’re using a Korean device or reading this from a Korean-designed screen (Samsung and LG come to mind). Any war would immediately disrupt all this, and ripple out from there.

Second, the aftermath of the war – even if most of South Korea largely remains unharmed – still leaves North Korea, an impoverished nation of 25 million that has diverged considerably from South Korean culture and ways.

Imagine trying to integrate people where the concept of a taxi is foreign into a society where cell phones and car ownership is ubiquitous.

Actually, you don’t need to imagine that – North Korean defectors go through a year-long course learning how to simply function in modern society, and many struggle with the adjustment – some even return to North Korea because of their frustrations.

In addition, Korean society is very Confucianist and a lot of emphasis is placed on social status. North Koreans are universally considered to be at the bottom: uncouth, uneducated, etc.

So you’d immediately add 25 million to a nation of 50 million that largely looks down on those 25 million, creating a huge underclass.

And that’s not even the toughest part: try changing people. That’s nigh on impossible and people estimate it will take 3 generations to fully change things. Even today, people notice differences between West Germans and East Germans. You will DEFINITELY notice differences between people from Mainland China and people from Taiwan/Singapore/Hong Kong.

(Which actually reminds me – one of the biggest reasons you hear so much about how ‘untrustworthy’ working with Mainland Chinese people are is that they don’t honor verbal agreements. Part of this, as explained to me, is that those who survived through the Cultural Revolution and what not learned that the only way to survive was to be willing to trust no one, even your own family – that breakdown in civil society has repercussions to the mindset of people to this day)

That being said, even with all these downsides, there ARE glimmers of hope to be found in all of this. For one, you don’t simply eliminate thousands of years of common heritage and culture just like that. Even Mao Zedong’s attempts in China were quickly cast aside after his death and there has been a revival of Chinese culture, in the interest of Chinese nationalism, there (previously atheist communist officials suddenly ‘remembered’ national religions like Confucianism, Taoism, etc. and now even encourage celebration of traditional Chinese holidays), so that’s something to consider with Korea.

Deft diplomatic moves could ease a lot of this too. Ensuring that only South Korean troops occupy the North, and that the US would never station troops north of the DMZ, would do a lot to assuage China and skeptical North Korean citizens.

The reintegration of the North would have to take time, and may even require restrictions on travel from the North to the South to prevent a mass exodus. On the other hand, South Korea has tried joint ventures with North Korea by creating factories in the North employing North Koreans – this could be replicated en masse and be used to reintegrate the societies.

A unified Korea would be a serious change to the balance of power in Asia. At over 75 million people, it would be the 20th most populous nation in the world. South Korea already has a global economy, and their potential would be huge.

Being on the doorstep with China, with historical antagonisms with both China and Japan, would mean a reunified Korea would be a major player in the looming question around China’s rise and what role they play in world affairs.

Whereas China has little issue bullying the weaker/smaller nations around the South China Sea (sans maybe Vietnam), it doesn’t have the same luxury with Japan and won’t if the Koreas are reunited successfully.

That may mean more conflict in the future, or it may mean a balance of power keeps people in check. But honestly, that’s so far off in the distance, and reunification itself would be an unprecedented challenge in human history, that those implications are too far off in the future to be certain of anything.



What is so bad about Obamacare that it needs to be completely dismantled instead of ‘fixed’?

There are two main conservative objections to Obamacare:

The first is that it’s a very strong government intervention into a market. Conservatives believe in an unregulated and free market. Because of regulations in Obamacare, people are forced to buy insurance even if they don’t want it. And the insurance they buy is required to cover a lot of things that they might not want or may never need (for example, men are required to purchase insurance policies that would cover maternity care).

Free markets can do amazing things when left alone. They do not need the guiding hand of the government in order to efficiently find a fair price that suits everyone. Government moves too slowly to address the changes that happen in the healthcare field.

The second conservative objection to Obamacare is that it strengthens the social safety net which ever since the New Deal has created a dependency among the American public. Social Security was once seen as a supplement for the elderly who are supposed to also use life savings and other financial vehicles to maintain themselves in retirement. Now Social Security is the main (or sometimes only) source of income for a huge swath of elderly Americans, and it has grown into an enormous juggernaut that threatens to bankrupt the government. And yet nothing can be done about it because so many Americans are dependent on it. Social Security is famously called the “third rail of American politics.”

The fear is that the same thing will happen to healthcare and insurance under Obamacare. It will eventually become impossible to dislodge even as Americans become dependent on it (instead of learning how to take care of themselves) and its spiraling costs could overwhelm the government’s finances.

Republican politicians will often talk in terms of premium price hikes or medical care rationing, but I think these are red herrings. There are a few Republicans who are honest enough to say that they object to Obamacare not because of the way it’s structured but because they do not believe government has any business interfering in a private market at all. Therefore there is no way to fix Obamacare because it is completely antithetical to their values and belief system.

– Ernest Thanh-Tam Le



What It’s Like To Be Cheated On By Someone You Love

Have you ever balled up your fists so tight for so long that your knuckles got all white, your nails started digging into your palms, and you were afraid you might be drawing blood? When letting your hands slowly open up feels almost unnatural after having them so tightly wound for so long? It kind of feels like that. It’s a pain which is at once deeply frustrating and oddly self-sustaining. You feed into the anger because it comforts you, in a strange way. Because to stop being angry, to stop clenching your fists, to loosen up for a minute and let go, would mean you have to feel the actual undercurrent of your anger: your pain.

Finding out, of course, is most accurately described as an unexpected punch to the stomach. There are some people who have been taken aside and told with composure and elegance that they have been betrayed in the most profound way they could be. “I made a mistake,” the culprit might say, or, “I found someone else.” Depending on the intensity of the illicit relationship, the confession could range from the deeply apologetic to the coldly indifferent. But for those who find out because they stumbled across the evidence, or found it after frantic hours of terrified searching, the punch is strong enough to force the air entirely out of the lungs.

The searching is perhaps the worst part, the breathless moments before the floor falls out from underneath you. That precarious dangling in the purgatory where you at once want to find something — anything — to justify your gnawing suspicions, and you want to be relieved with a realization that it was all in your head. In many ways, though, once that frantic searching has begun, there is no way to be satisfied that you imagined it all. If you have been driven to the point of checking through messages or looking in pockets or asking potential witnesses, if you have allowed yourself to come to the ugly, unflattering point of invading the privacy of the person you love to prove yourself right, you have already lost.

And you know it. You know you have become what you had always condescendingly looked down upon, the couple who is as untrusting and dysfunctional as they are unable to admit it. But somehow, finding that shred of evidence or hearing the confirmation which proves you right in the worst way possible is almost a triumphant moment of victory. You have won, and you have lost everything. But for at least those few precious milliseconds of “a-ha!” you have gotten exactly what you wanted. And then comes the fall, the bottomless descent into every ugly moment of self-doubt and self-loathing in an attempt to find a justification or explanation which could never exist.

What did you do wrong? What does the other person do better? Do they smell better? Taste better? Have more interesting things to say at parties which don’t involve sarcastic, ill-timed jokes? Suddenly, everything you are is wrong, every aspect of yourself is something you want to peel off and throw on the floor behind you. And the ignorant person you were before, the one blissfully unaware of all that was happening behind a turned back, is suddenly both laughable and enviable. You cringe imagining all of the things that were happening when you weren’t looking, but wish that you could return to a moment where not knowing was a possibility. But that person — the ignorant-yet-blissful person who was only so happy to be unwittingly cheated on — was ultimately not good enough to keep your love.

And that is the real pain, the idea that there was something that was yours to keep which you were unable to hold a tight enough grip on. You delude yourself into believing that there was anything you could have done to prevent it, and yet never stop to understand that it was entirely your partner’s choice. If anyone could have stopped anything, it was your partner. Somehow, placing the blame where it truly belongs when cheated on is about as futile as feeling positively towards the “other.” At the end of the day, there is always something to find fault in within yourself, something which can be identified as the true culprit in the infidelity, instead of the beloved cheater. “If only I were thinner” somehow makes more sense than “if only he wasn’t a cheater.”

As you unclench that fist, let go of all of every minor pain you’ve kept close to your chest so as to not have to see it in its full splendor, you finally exhale. You distance yourself from the betrayal and start to believe — the way a baby bird might open its wings for the first time — that not everyone must be monitored with the distrusting cunning of a fox. You accept that you may not have been able to stop it, or that you certainly didn’t deserve it. And while there will always be a part of you which longs to look twice at the inbox of a cellphone, who can’t believe that someone can be honest for uninterrupted years at a time, it is up to all of us to push those thoughts away. “If they are going to do it,” we must say, “Ruining myself in worry and doubt will not stop them.” 


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