The Mental Health Chronicles: An Introduction
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
Mental health is something that I have struggled with for most of my life. Since the beginning of high school, I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety. That doesn’t just mean that I get really sad or overwhelmed in fast-paced situations. It means that voices in my head made me believe that I was worthless. That I felt guilty that I lacked the ability to feel content with the blessings in my life. That I had anxiety attacks where I couldn’t breathe or move and was stuck in fetal position. That I constantly entertained the idea of death. That I took my frustration out on people that didn’t deserve it.
Phase one was that I didn’t want to admit that I even had a problem to begin with. I thought that every normal teenager went through these things. I thought that I was overreacting to everything. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that suppression was what amplified my anxiety.
Phase two was when I finally admitted to myself that I had a problem. This happened when I realized that I was dragging people too far into my own hole. It was unhealthy for not only me but the people around me. But this acknowledgment only made me hyper-conscious of the fact that I wasn’t normal the way that other people are. I thought that I was God’s defect of a creation. I hated myself and I constantly questioned why my brain was wired this way. I didn’t want to get help. I thought that I would be able to continue pushing through. It wasn’t the best approach, but I had gotten this far in life and had gotten used to the idea that I would always have bad days that I couldn’t do anything about. I didn’t want to be a burden to my family. My parents had enough to worry about without the weight of knowing that their daughter had mental problems. More guilt.
Phase three was when I came to terms with my problem. I accepted that there was nothing wrong with me for feeling this way and that I am not my illness. I stopped thinking that I was a defect or that I wasn’t normal like everyone else. I’m normal, I just function a lil differently sometimes.
Phase four was deciding to get help. I decided that I needed to get help after watching an episode of One Day at a Time. Season 2, episode 9. I remember it by heart because the rawness of the show’s portrayal of depression felt like a slap to the face. I rewatched that episode countless times and cried each time. I realized that I had every symptom of depression as the character in the show did: overanalyzing my flaws, feelings of worthlessness, guilt that I wasn’t enough/doing enough for my loved ones, taking out my frustration on people that didn’t deserve it, being bedridden with sadness, suicidal thoughts. The line that struck me the most in that episode was “Healthy minds don’t go to that place.” I started to do research on prescription drugs, mental disorders, and asked for advice from multiple loving, amazing people. Even after I decided, “yes, I will seek help,” it took me a long, long time to actually get help. I would come close to telling my family but would get scared and push it back. Or I would be doing better enough that I believed that I didn’t need to tell them. This happened for about a year. Finally, when I was at the lowest of lows, I had hit my breaking point. My shady boss delayed my pay for the entire summer so I was unable to provide for myself, I felt like a huge burden to my family, I felt uninspired and unmotivated to follow my artistic endeavors, my family was forced to move out of my childhood home, and one of my closest friends had to move back home in a different state. My depression had gotten really bad to a point where I was bedridden and crying for entire days. There was no hiding this from my parents; literally, because I wasn’t able to control my tears at this point. I felt physical pain from my sorrows. It was time to put my pride aside to get help.
Phase five was finally getting help. I talked to doctors and clinicians and a therapist. I was diagnosed with bi-polar II. I still wanted to convince myself that I’m fine and that nothing is wrong with me. I thought that I was making a mistake in getting help. That I was just overreacting.
And then I was prescribed with medication.
Even through all of these phases, it wasn’t until I started taking those pills that I finally really accepted that I had a disorder, because those meds have made the biggest difference in my life. This time, the acceptance didn’t feel like a weight. It felt freeing. Since I started taking meds for bi-polar, I’ve been functioning more clearly. I’ve come to terms with my past toxic tendencies. The world feels so much easier to bear. I was astounded. This is how normal people function? This is amazing. Have you ever seen those videos of deaf people being able to hear for the first time? That’s how I feel right now. I feel like the key inside of me has finally turned. I finally feel normal.
I am on day 20 on medication. So yeah... this is a very recent and new thing for me still. I started meds four days before my 20th birthday, on September 28th. It took me nearly 20 years of life to get to this point. But just because I have meds now doesn’t mean that I’ve finally met my happy ending; I am still learning how to navigate my mental health. I still have days where I get anxious, but that anxiety feels much easier to bear now.
I acknowledge that I have a certain privilege. I am lucky to have a supportive family and to have access to resources to help me. So I won’t stand here and tell you that, if you feel what I feel, that you need to seek help. Because not everyone has these privileges. I mean, by all means I do believe that the best thing that you can do for yourself is seek help, but I know that it isn't that easy for everyone. However, regardless of whether or not you are fortunate enough to have supportive parents or access to health care, it is important to share the following sentiments:
• You are not a defect. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not abnormal for feeling this way. You are not your illness. Your feelings are valid.
• The first step to healing is acceptance.
• There is hope. Don’t give up. Please, please don’t give up.
• People love you, they really do
• This journey is yours. Take all the time you need to go through these phases. It’s okay if it takes you a while to find acceptance or help. But please do have the endgame of helping yourself in one way or the other.
• You are not destined to fail or to lead a hopelessly painful life.
• Find your fuel. Whatever keeps you going, whether it be loved ones or a passion or a goal, hold onto that. Find your fuel.
• Self care comes in many forms (will make a blog post about this later). Practice them.
• If you do have access to meds, don’t be scared of them. They are here to help you. I was scared of them before, too. That fear is what mostly propelled me pushing back getting help.
• You. Deserve. Happiness.
If you have read this far, thank you. I am grateful for the platform to discuss this topic because it is something that I hold very dearly to my heart. It has taken me a long, LONG time to decide to openly share these things, but I’ve learned a lot and I feel it necessary to share out the lessons I’ve learned. I’d also like to emphasize that every body is different, and what may work for me may not work for you. But it important to find out what DOES work for you. Because everyone deserves to live a healthy life.
(promise that the next additions to these chronicles won’t be as long, lol)
Additions to these chronicles that I hope to blog about in the future:
• How to help someone having an anxiety attack
• Following your passions as a form of healing
• Forms of self care
• Reminders during depressive episodes
• The stigma of mental health in the Asian community
• Communicating mental health with the presence of intergenerational disparity
• Accessibility of mental health resources
• Coping with someone else’s loss to the mental health battle
• Able-bodied privilege: Mental health and physical health