BY RACHEL WONG
I recently had the opportunity to engage in a candid discussion with my parents about mental health. It was short and sweet and difficult to have on so many levels, but it was a step in the right direction.
They say that friends will come and go, but home is where the heart is. With that logic, I should be able to tell my family anything – not just how my day at school was or what I learned in class. I should be able to tell them about what is really bothering me instead of just saying, “It was fine.” I should be able to open up to them about my relationships and I should be able to lean on them during my times of struggle. So if home really is where the heart is, then why haven’t I been able to open up to them about my past struggles?
Why couldn’t I straight up tell them, “Hey, I’m depressed. I tried to commit suicide today and I desperately need help”?
For most of my teenage life, I have suffered from depression, panic disorder, extreme anxiety, and a host of other things like distorted body image, loneliness, and suicidal thoughts. But growing up in a conservative household meant that these issues couldn’t be discussed openly – in fact, they didn’t really exist in my house at all.
So you can imagine the sheer confusion of having all of these feelings inside me with no way to share them. There were times when I wanted to say that I was not fine and that I needed help. But how do you tell people you love that you are dying on the inside? How would I have even begun to explain the fact that everything that had happened to me until then – the bad grades, ended relationships, fights with friends, constant sickness – were all products of my mental illness?
It wasn’t until recently that I started being forthright with my issues, not only because I was sick of being sick, but also because I knew that our dialogue needed to change.
For the longest time, my depression led me to believe really irrational things thanks to the nagging voices in my head: You have no friends because you’re ugly. You’re ugly because you’re fat. You’re fat because you binge eat all the time. You can’t hold a steady boyfriend and that shows that you are a terrible human being.
In retrospect, I let those voices bully me relentlessly. Sure, people would tell me that I looked beautiful or that I was good at things, but I had conditioned myself to perceive compliments as lies. That is such a shitty way to live. We deserve to live the best life that we can: a life free from strife and self-consciousness. A life that is filled with positive thoughts and good vibes. But as many people with depression will tell you, what seems irrational to most is so rational to them. Depressive people have this amazing talent to not only act like nothing is wrong in the world but to also justify everything with skewed logic.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. If we can flip the script and have open and respectful dialogue with everyone, we can begin to knock down barriers and make taboo subjects more accessible.
For me, it began by blogging about my struggles and sharing them with others. I would receive positive feedback from friends and that would open up the floor for discussion. As much as I used to resent seeing a counsellor to talk about my issues, I am now starting to see the therapeutic value of just talking; not merely to correct the incorrect, but to explain and share different points of view.
Recently, I watched a video about Kevin Hines, a man who had attempted to commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in California. He is part of the 1% who survived the attempt and he is using his story to spread awareness around the world. Watching that video made me physically sick. I was in tears after that, not just because of how much I could relate to it, but also because Kevin’s story and my own are not unique. There are so many people that suffer in silence and that silence is filled with nagging irrational voices. It is that silence that pushes people to the extreme.
And if this still doesn’t bother you, then let me be the first to remind you that suicide comes in as one of the leading causes of death across all age groups. While suicide may be tenth on that list, it sticks out apart from the others because it is self-inflicted.
You can be the difference between someone living and dying just by lending them your ear. If we can talk about these issues with meaning and encourage those who are suffering to speak out, we can fill that void of silence with positive thoughts. So let’s talk about mental health and mental illness. Let’s flip the script and shatter the silence.
Rachel Wong is a Communications student at Simon Fraser University. She is a slam poem enthusiast, foodie, self-proclaimed music nerd and wannabe photographer. A regular contributor for Student Life Network, Rachel’s favourite thing to do in her spare time is write – anything from haikus to 6 minute long poems, posts on food or changing the world. Her goal in life is to make an impact and help to eliminate the social stigma around Depression and other mental health concerns, one word at a time. You can find more of Rachel’s work at http://rchlcwng.blogspot.com.