Hi... I'm Oli
I'm a mental health advocate and a later skater, I picked up skateboarding at 38, about 6 months after the first lockdown in 2020. A Photographer + Creative Director by trade running a creative studio, my work slowed down greatly right before I picked up skating. I'm healing from my C-PTSD, PMDD, and managing my lupus condition (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) since I was 12. All of these things have challenged me with both mental + physical limitations throughout my life and my skating practice. Skating became an important factor in my mental health journey through observation, research, and reflection. Along with other methods that I've been practicing alongside it, it was all working together to help heal my mind, body, and spirit. After practicing those methods consistently for 6 months, I came up with the MNSTR Skate Initiative… a project born out of curiosity and desire to help others, hoping that my thoughts and practices could help others to help themselves with their mental health. Skating has given me so much in such a short time. My lifelong interests are in the areas of psychology, skating, graphic design, photography, nutrition, physical health, and most recently mental health management.
This is the first project in which I'm sharing details of my life, something that is really out of my comfort zone. The following are events that affected and shaped my mental health states throughout my life to explain what drives me to be the way I am today. A lot has happened and I will try to keep it concise. Originally from Indonesia, I've moved around since I was 6... lived in Singapore, New Zealand, the US, Australia, and currently Canada. I moved to 4 countries during my formative years, and as a young person, I dealt with many changes internally and externally. As I adapted to different cultures and environments, I had countless experiences of discrimination and harassment due to my race, gender, and even my medical condition. Recently I've discovered that I'm both an empath and a highly sensitive person (HSP), which has intensified my life experiences, especially the adversities I faced.
SYMPTOMS OF MY C-PTSD (COMPLEX POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER)
Listed here are the mental challenges I've been working through, with the symptoms underlined I have healed from... Hyperarousal, difficulty sleeping + concentrating, depression, intense feelings of shame, perfectionism, scopophobia, negative self-view, social anxiety, emotional regulation difficulties, lack of self-worth, low confidence, hypervigilance, dissociation, chronic feelings of emptiness, splitting, self-harm, substance use, avoidance & eating disorders.
WHAT CONTRIBUTED TO MY C-PTSD?
Emotional Abuse - I grew up in an oppressive environment where my main caretaker displayed symptoms of someone with a narcissistic personality disorder. I realized this about 2 years ago when I started to work on my mental health and have learned to take steps to move forward. It took me a while to heal from the decades of narcissistic abuse where methods such as excessive shaming, criticism, manipulation, gaslighting, neglect, isolation (from the other parent, people + my interests), and religious abuse were used daily. This 'style' of parenting affected me by distorting my perception of the world and my own identity contributing to feelings of alienation, along with internal troubles like constant self-doubt, the need for external validation, and much more. I had to learn a lot about life on my own as there was no parental guidance that took place besides the provision of basic needs, but it forced me to rely on myself more.
Racial + Gender Discrimination - Throughout my life, I have experienced racism in just about every place I've lived, looking racially ambiguous in my aesthetic has led to unsolicited commentary about my appearance, and it has led certain people to believe they could say something to me based on their associations about what my heritage is. I experienced this the most in Singapore where these comments came from strangers regularly, some were curious and some were more racist than others. Needless to say, this type of attention was unwanted and made me very uncomfortable as I already had a lot on my plate to deal with. When my family moved to New Zealand from Singapore in the mid-90s. Most of the racism I experienced was in school, it was an unofficial alternative school where bullies make up more than half of the student body as most of them were kicked out of their previous schools. There wasn't a day when there wasn't some sort of racially charged fights and name-calling between students, I've been called all the racist labels (several inaccurate ones, it’s where I learned of all profanities directed at different types of Asians). Just to name a few incidents, some of the students have spat on me, splashed mud, shoved, and thrown objects at me including a large rock that hit my spine at recess... during this time is when my hypervigilance began. I was threatened with beatdowns several times for little to no reason besides being Asian. Thankfully, I had a group of friends who helped me cope with that school environment. The time spent there was traumatic and it was my normal for a couple of years, it was around the same time I fell ill with an autoimmune disorder. In terms of gender discrimination, I have experienced it in every setting, particularly in some Asian countries where being treated equally to a man is not the norm. While gender inequality exists everywhere on different levels, I felt a distinct difference when I was in Asia where it was more overt compared to western countries.
Medical Traumas - While navigating through those environments at home + school, I was diagnosed with lupus (SLE) at 12 years old, a medical trauma that took a long time to get used to as the chronic illness lifestyle was intense. I had a couple of kidney biopsies, took about a dozen medications daily, had frequent doctor visits, went through various treatments that included chemo, and according to the doctors, it was going to be that way for the rest of my life. Throughout all of these changes, my mental health was never addressed throughout this period, especially with my family. There was an episode where I had a blood clot in my leg and was rushed to the hospital. The week after, the clot that had broken off and deposited itself into my lung, was a life-ending situation if I had not gotten treated in time. A kidney malfunctioned on me during Uni due to gross negligence, my rheumatologist messed up my medication dosage which caused me to gain 20 lbs of water weight in a week. The clinic cut off all further treatment to limit their liability but left me critically ill and very confused. I had to leave school and my life in the US abruptly to go to Singapore where an experienced rheumatologist treated me at the hospital upon arrival. I had to grow up quickly to face these complicated feelings alone. However, my medical experiences taught me that impermanence is a part of life, that I must adapt to situations and be resourceful regardless of the cards dealt to me. I felt stuck and helpless for a long time until I learned to take control and advocate for myself and my health.
My chronic illness lifestyle and how I've managed to get out of that entirely in the most natural way - At that point, I have been living with my lupus for 11 years, I just had enough of everything that came with the chronic illness lifestyle to manage my health and just blindly follow the doctor's orders. I felt sicker from the side effects of the cocktail of pills that I was taking more than the actual condition. I took the initiative to learn more about nutrition (as the doctor had minimal advice on the matter) and more about my body by taking up a personal trainer course which also helped to create a healthier version of myself. Since I adopted a healthier lifestyle, I noticed an overall improvement in my mental and physical wellness which led me to a decision to taper off my medications. It was a considerable risk that I was willing to take, I did it cautiously while still being monitored by my doctor (without her knowledge of the decision) and my lab tests kept improving with each visit. My doctor eventually found out that I stopped getting the prescriptions from the pharmacy at the 6-month mark so I was put on the spot on my last visit and decided to not go back to the rheumatologist anymore to continue with my "experiment". I have not looked back since then, have not been not taking any medications, and no more doctors or treatments... my lupus has been in remission for 17 years now. This was my first solid experience with self-reliance, it was a lot of hard work consisting of self-discipline, practice, self-awareness, close observations, and an emotional journey that turned out very positively for me. As a result, I have trained my mind to accept situations for what they are and to always be on the lookout for solutions whenever obstacles arise. Since learning was an activity I enjoyed doing, it felt natural for me to apply that process to the challenges in my life and keep working at it. With all the adversities that I have experienced in my life, it came down to two choices for me "Do I change my mindset or change my environment?" I can do either of them depending on the situation and it's a decision that is mine to make.
The time I picked up skateboarding and how it has healed me so far - I started working on managing my mental health around the same time I picked up skating, mentally I wasn't at a good place at the time. I love my work and wasn't able to say yes to any projects for fear of this new virus and how it would affect an immunocompromised person like myself. I was also still grieving about my father that passed away back in 2019, that grief lasted over a year and I felt like I lost him every morning when I woke up. When I started skating, I had to keep mentally present on my board... learning, and not falling off my board (some good slams at the beginning). Within a month of skating, I started to process my grief and accepted that it was okay that my dad is not with me anymore. I was curious about how it did that and it gave me the desire to study it closer approaching it like a scientific experiment with the subject being myself. It has helped me figure out my performance anxiety + scopophobia where I froze when people walked by when I skated, that took a while to figure out, and I'm still working through it with exposure therapy... I couldn't have identified all of those things without my skating practice, it has increased my self-awareness off the board. The focus required in skating itself has meditative qualities, revealing traumas that needed to be addressed outside the practice, it helped me with my hypervigilance as a person healing from my C-PTSD (I was always scanning my environment for dangers due to past experiences) which is something that I continue to work on today. Skating also helped me realize what I wanted to do with my lived experiences on how it can be healing for an individual, whatever their background and mental health state may be.
Why I created this project & why the MNSTR method - The main driving force was that I wanted to share my mental health journey, some practical info that could help others, and have a platform that contributes to the mental health discussion within the skate community. The project grew day by day, carefully assembling together the content with the intent to share the acquired knowledge and empower the individual to manage their own mental health first before anything else. I'm not opposed to seeking external help, I went through the therapy route but it didn't work out with the previous therapist as I was seeking a different way to heal. I'm open to seeing another therapist that is right for me and continue to work on myself using the methods mentioned in this project, therapy is just one facet of managing our mental health... there's so much that we can do on our own to contribute to a better mental health state. Sharing some things that have worked for me so far, I bring you this project created with love and mindfulness.