Why Mental Illness Is Stigmatised in Asian Cultures: My Struggle With Anxiety

Mention metal illness in Asia and chances are you’ll get odd looks. It’s a topic usually unspoken here and within many Asian cultures, it’s a topic shunned and hushed.

I was born in Australia to stereotypical Chinese-Malaysian parents. No one in my household brought up the subject of mental health when I grew up. For a long time, I thought it couldn’t exist in the family. But earlier this year, I was diagnosed with both social anxiety and panic disorders.

Mental illness is one of life's curveballs, a time when you may feel alone | Weekly Photo Challenge: Curve.

Mental illness is one of life’s curveballs, a time when you may feel alone | Weekly Photo Challenge: Curve.

Anxiety is feeling stressed or worried on an ongoing basis. There are many forms of it, just as there are many kinds of mental illnesses – depression, anorexia, substance addiction and bipolar disorder for instance. Mental illness can affect anyone, and support towards overcoming it is all around today. But for someone from an Asian background, reaching out for that support doesn’t always come easy.

Long-held traditional values play a part in the stigma towards mental illness among many Asians. Admit having depression or anxiety and one may feel as if they are a failure, losing face and pride. In Chinese culture, success is commonly measured by attaining achievements and material possessions, and expressing emotion and thus shortcomings are seen as a disgrace.

Something felt amiss on a 35’C summer’s afternoon a few years ago. I was walking home from university after my last maths tutorial for the day. My head felt dizzy. With each step, my heart pounded faster and sweat dripped down my forehead. With each step, I slowed my pace as a pins and needles sensation overcame my legs. A feeling of impending death and hot flushes washed over me. All the signs of a panic attack. When I walked through the front door, my mum yelled at me, “Why is your face so white?! This is what happens when you walk under the sun! Go shower and then study!”

Many older generation Asians worked hard (from the early days of the Han dynasty where the Chinese tirelessly performed manual labour on farms and irrigation projects) to provide our generation with the modern life we live today. According to professor Amy Chua, Chinese parents tend to emphasise developing a strong character in their children while in contrast Western parents pay more attention to their child’s psyches. In Asian cultures, there is the idea that by working hard, mental illness is a state of mind that cannot not be overcome by conditioning the mind to focus on goals and put aside emotion. Staggering through the door that afternoon, my mum essentially told me: pick yourself up, get on with life.

When we feel down, we might not know where to turn to.

When we feel down, we might not know where to turn to.

Often in Asian cultures, mental illness is also seen as an embarrassment and a burden to others. Family and the notion of togetherness is a virtue to many Asians, the notion that if we’re down, we bring others down too. Shame yourself, shame your family. After that panic attack, I had another one a few months later in a maths lecture. This time I sweated, shook and tried not to throw up over my notes for 20 minutes and did my best to sit upright as the lecturer rambled on about formulas. I didn’t tell my parents or anyone about this that day, and no one reprimanded me for feeling poorly.

Sometimes we don’t talk about mental illness because we’re afraid of it. Illness is commonly tied to the notions of death, decay and evil spirits, and in Chinese culture, talk of either is taboo and avoided as a mark of respect to ancestors. It’s no surprise then some typical Asians find it hard to talk through their state of mind.

Coming from an Asian background and living with mental illness, we might feel constrained from getting help but more importantly, constrained from being ourselves and expressing our voice. We keep quiet about mental illness and in a way we box ourselves into the quiet and passive Asian stereotype. When we continue on the path of hard work and ignore conflicting thoughts racing though our mind, we might believe that perfect is possible – that the (Asian) model minority myth is achievable for everyone.

Quite a few of us will experience mental illness in our lives. Almost 1 in 5 Australians will experience mental illness in a 12-month period. In parts of Asia, a number choose the silent way out when they feel mentally overwhelmed: 90% of suicidal victims in Korea have diagnosable psychiatric illnesses and only 15% seek treatment prior. Around 70 reportedly commit suicide daily in Japan with the majority being men unsure about expressing their emotions.

Consequently, all of us cope differently with mental illness. Some of us have a set of techniques to help us reach a more positive mindset, while some of us need professional help to get there. Sometimes it takes someone to pick at our mind for us to realise we need help. Last year, I went for a job interview and felt chuffed about my responses as I chatted to the employer…all while my legs felt tingly, my chest swelling with impending doom. At the end of the interview, she told me point blank, “You have solid experience and credentials. You are very intelligent, and sometimes intelligent people speak fast. You need to slow down.”

I felt like someone punched me in the face. But I didn’t object because she was right; I struggle to feel comfortable around most people. My mind flashed back to two years ago when I couldn’t walk into a shop without feeling the shop assistants would eat me up – and avoided shopping. To the time when a guy at university fancied me, chased me for two years and I loved it all and him but every morsel in my body screamed “Stay away, stay away!” – for fear of being suffocated by another’s touch, physically and emotionally. Didn’t get the job, didn’t get the guy.

When we reach out and speak to the world, we may see another perspective.

When we reach out and speak to the world, we may see another perspective.

Speaking up has always been alien and nerve-racking to me, and this probably stems from my constant desire to be polite and let others speak, the typical Asian trait my parents taught me…which I still believe in. There’s also not forgetting the times when my white Aussie classmates teased me when I stammered reading aloud books during reading time in pre-school. As author Shannon Alder said about our past experiences:

“Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in.”

Acknowledging having mental illness as someone of Asian background, we might question the values we were brought up with. We question those closest to us including family and the trust we’ve put in them. As hard as it may be, sometimes we simply have to swallow our cultural pride, forget where we’re from and what we’ve known in order to move forwards. Our background is just one part of us, personality another, and personality we can change.

That sentiment gave me the push to see a psychologist earlier this year. We talked about my panic attacks, how nervous I feel when responding to comments on my blog, how self-doubt puts me off writing my book again and again and ongoing health issues that anxiety has brought me. First world problems. Not once did she – or me – bring up the topic of my heritage. With the help of my therapist who seems like the non-judgmental listening ear I never had, I realised someone’s opinion is their opinion, their values are their values and not necessarily ours. With each generation, our heritage is ours to make and ours to define through our unique experiences.

A different, non-judgmental opinion often helps us look beyond our own mind. But we have to stand up and speak out first. On reaching out, Shannon Alder offers:

“Never give up on someone with a mental illness. When “I” is replaced by “We”, illness becomes wellness.”

Our stories and thoughts are meant to be shared with each another. When we do, more often than not we'll feel loved.

Our stories and thoughts are meant to be shared with each another. When we do, more often than not we’ll feel loved.

Some might say I’m a rebel for seeking help and speaking out about my anxiety based on the fact that I’m Chinese. But fact is, not all of us will fit stereotypes given we have our own strengths and talents, and we all change as people as time goes by. Today, I still have yet to land a stable job, still haven’t gotten the guy. But I’ve built this blog, connected and met you, and it’s still going. None of us are perfect; we’re all a work in progress.

No matter where we come from, perhaps we need to reach out to better ourselves mentally, emotionally. We can’t hide forever about how we feel or who we really are. We’re all meant to love each other and ourselves, and all that’s meant to be shared.

How did you cope with a low point in your life?

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293 thoughts on “Why Mental Illness Is Stigmatised in Asian Cultures: My Struggle With Anxiety

  1. This must have been a difficult post to write but I’m so glad you did. I think there is still a stigma around mental illness for anyone but I can see how hard it would be for you. Well done for seeking help (never an easy thing) and thank you for sharing your story.

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    • Admittedly, yes, this post was hard to write. Relieving my past – and even thinking about the present – was confronting. I’ve wanted to write about this topic for over a year, but the timing never felt right. It takes time for anyone with mental illness to find confidence within themselves, and then time to feel comfortable with the world around them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your blog is amazing, you are a gifted writer carving out a superb portfolio and remain super intelligent. I think your experiences of prejudice is common and hey doesn’t everyone talk fast or do something a little whackier than that at an interview !? I know I have. You know you are deeply valued here by your readers, just look at the comments. If I could say go easy on yourself would that be ok? You have enough talent that even on a not so good day you’re winning dude. You shine Mabel x

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    • You are right. In situations like interviews, we have one shot to make a good impression and some of us can’t help but feel nervous – there are so many things to get right.

      There is a saying that goes something like: sometimes the saddest people smile the brightest. No matter how down I am, I like to come on here and read blogs and interact with readers. There is something so freeing about turning to and immersing yourself in your passion and what you love. Thanks, Lita. You are such a kind soul x

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  3. Mabel, I must admit the way you have expressed yourselves out in this post is simply commendable, it needs the courage and it needs the maturity and it needs the control to present such a balanced view of oneself. We escape and skip sharing our true self and be critical to the way we deal with life and the challenge that we face. You have a very wise brain sitting on a young heart.

    We all face such situations, the degree may vary and loads of anxieties and the loudness of fear, and the way we face the challenging situations are never easy and in such cases we get folded, get crumbled in the discourse and invariably lack the gumption to fight it out. Yes, in such scenarios it is the family that matters and it is the friend circle who come to our support and we need such strong support to overcome such bouts of depression and cycle of dips in our life.

    Rightly said so Mabel, we as Asians have a different way of looking at these things and many of us avoid sharing, thinking others will not care for and we take everything onto ourselves. There is a self imposed pressure and a very critical dissection of our living and own thinking. Indeed there is a strong need for changing the perspective and in such cases fresh perspectives makes a quantum difference in the way we look and deal with our life. It is life changing provided we change our perspective…not easy to do so as it appears to others 😀

    I agree life is a work in progress and everyday we learn and every such incidences makes us appreciate life better and these small achievements is what makes life beautiful and when we do so and accept life as it is, we start seeing the brighter side and bigger things keep coming at us…you are a wonderful person and you bring so much goodness to this platform and everyone of us enjoy the way analyse a topic and present a case which is insightful and which is inspiring 😀

    Mable, the beautiful smile is what matters, I know you must be smiling and just keep smiling and enjoying the moment, the joy is here and now, and leave the worries and anxiety for the enemy to enjoy why brother when there are devils to face the agony and the angels to shower there joy on you. Cheers!!!
    Take Care!!!
    😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • “We escape and skip sharing our true self ” Very sharply put. I think that a lot of us prefer to hide when we are down as per the reasons I listed in this post, and also because due to a lack of self belief. When we are at a low point in our lives or when we feel like the world is crumbling around us, we might not know which way to turn and so stay stagnant where we are, our mind and thoughts going round in circles.

      Haha, nice to see that you are Indian and consider yourself Asian. I wonder if all Indians think that…I don’t think so. Maybe I should write a post on this one day… But I digress. You nailed it when you said we have a “self-imposed pressure” and are critical about ourselves. There is only so much we can learn from one perspective. Although we might want to think our thoughts are right, sometimes that is not always the best solution.

      The best things lie in the simple and small moments. More of us need to slow down and appreciate what we have, and when we do, chances are our thoughts will stop racing so fast and we can take a moment to analyse them and see what the best solution or the best next step forward is. Step by step can be a good way to overcoming mental illness and moving on with our lives.

      You know what, Nihar, I smiled when I read the last bit of your comment. Thank you for your encouragement and for always stopping by with words of wisdom. Take care, my friend 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mabel, life is such mystical blend of good and bad, highs and lows, happiness and sadness, ups and downs, joy and sorrow, expectations and disappointments…our mind always bends towards the good part of life and detest the bad part, we all try our best to balance between the two knowing that is the rule of the game of life.

        We cannot play the game of life which is skewed or one-sided, there will be no fun and life is boring when we are always happy or when we are always sad, but also if we know the cycle of good and bad, it will be predictable and predictability brings boredom and makes things routine and we hate routine in life. Herein lies the art of change and change is what we resist but it is wind of change that opens the window to new things in life and making life exciting and meaningfully engaging with experimentation and exposure to things that we have seen or done…the joy of doing new thing, the joy of visiting new places, the joy of meeting new people, the joy of exploring the unknowns…

        Mabel, you are right all Indians may not think that way, but we are a part of the Asian and within this region there is as much diversity as is within the country India itself where things from South to North eating habits drastically varies, so is the lifestyle between the North East of the country to the bustling west of India represented by Mumbai, the financial capital of India…everything changes, the language to fashion to how we live our life.

        We need support, we need encouragement, we need the pat in the back, we need little words of appreciation to lift us from the lows of life and small change can bring big difference in our life, but it needs the biggest investment of patient and perseverance which is rare and depleting in today’s age and lifestyle we all lead.

        Smile is what makes life so beautiful and we needn’t have to have a lot of money or achieve big success to get that on our face, you did it and that can make a day and sometime sets the week, the month and year…we don’t know what is that moment, we only have to keep our eyes and ears open and have a good heart to embrace those treasures of life that come our way, only question is we just don’t know when it is going to come…

        Take care and you will have some lovely moments coming your way, when good friends wishes it comes true…good times bound to come after bad times, we can only go up when we are at the low point of our life.
        😀

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        • Life is indeed a series of ups and downs, and the good often goes with the bad and vice-versa. Without each one, we would not be able to fully experience the other. Change is the only constant in life, and life is changing every day in spite of the routines we keep. Often we will bump into a random person, or have a different conversation each day and that is what makes each day – and each moment – different. I think it is important to recognise this when we have conflicting and confusing thoughts in our minds – then we will come to realise that the world will not wait for us, but that it is up to us to stand up for ourselves and find the demons within.

          “We need support, we need encouragement….” So well said. Above all, we need positivity. A little positivity goes a long way because it is the thing that give us hope too see that there is a way out. With positivity comes hope, and with hope so often we dare to dream.

          You always share such nuggets of wisdom, Nihar. I always love our conversations and they are always so inspiring. Thank you for being so kind and humble, as always 😀

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          • Yes Mabel…Hope is indeed the force of life, in situations where we have nothing to hold and nobody to support us, we have our hope to take us through those tough times, we have never realized the power of hope which is within us and with positive thinking, it multiplies…
            Certain things in life will never change and there are other things in life that well always change…the cycle of life and death will never change, the cycle of seasons will always change, though change is constant but that change has so many facets and every such facets are fascinating to face.
            Conversation is what makes our day, there are days where we come home with a bad conversation and there are other day we come with a good conversation, and we know how we behave on good days vs. the bad days…all in the way we experience the world around us, we absorb those things and build our inner self and a pure soul is one which absorbs the good and filters the bad, it is not easy and its dedication and it needs discipline and it needs commitment and it needs the integrity to stand by what we belief and how we translates those beliefs into practice…
            I must say the same to you, finding such quality time to think through and share such profound thoughts is never easy and you do so with uncanny ease and with such beauty.
            take care!!!
            😀

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  4. Such an important topic, Mabel! You’re wise to seek help when you need it. Our background and upbringing is only one piece of the puzzle.We make the rest. Good for you for acknowledging that it’s okay to talk about mental health. I look forward to reading your book because you’re an exceptional writer. Writing is therapy! Excellent post!!

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    • Thanks for the support as always, Lisa. We all should be more open talking about mental health. The mind is a complex thing, and as complex as our physical bodies and so we should have no shame in talking about our thoughts. I’m looking forward to getting back on track with book writing at some point, and am excited by that thought.

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  5. We all hit that low point. I guess it’s all about keep moving forward, as silly as it sounds. You can’t just stop, you can’t just give up. That’s how I deal with those moments. It’s hard, it’s exhausting but you need to keep going, trying to find something good to focus on. Eventually you will be out of it.

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  6. Hi Mabel. You are so brave sharing your this experience. It is an very important topic. I can also related well to this. I have family members that have never worked in their life or fished school because of anxiety. One almost never go out of the house or dare to talk to anyone.
    I have felt anxiety on my own body as well, many times. I did not dare to talk in my class, or most people. Today it is better. I worked very hard for that. But I can still feel it sometimes.

    You are amazing and talented, Mabel. I love your writing and photos. You are clearly very intelligent and well spoken. You have nothing to worry about, dear!

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    • I am sorry to hear about your family members. I hope one day they will be brave and be who they want to be, and that they will find their way.

      So good to hear you are doing better. It sounds like you are strong mentally, having not spoken out about it. If you ever want someone to talk to, my door is always open 🙂

      I don’t know about being talented, lol. I just try my best in everything that I do 🙂

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  7. Hello Mabel 🙂

    When you use the term ‘within many Asian cultures’ I always felt, it’s something about me too, and 9/10 times, you would have addressed something I wanted to write about as well 🙂

    This is one topic, I could completely relate to and I would say, you can readily replace the term ‘Chinese’ with ‘Indian’, everywhere in this post.

    Let me quote you, ‘Admit having depression or anxiety and one may feel as if they are a failure, losing face and pride.’ I have seen it and experienced among my friends and even in my family.

    People just don’t want to address their psychological issues in public, even if they want to go and meet a ‘counselor’ so badly, top most priority is to keep the visit a secret, even with in the family.

    I am sure, the situation is slowly changing around me in this society, now a days.

    Frankly speaking, even, I felt like meeting someone and getting my mental state checked professionally, at times.

    In the last 4-5 years, I have been going through tremendous stress, and many a times I felt like, I am about to break down. I felt extremely depressed and hardly anyone to talk to, about my issues.

    But, somehow, I managed and still in a proper state of mind, I think 🙂

    There is one thing that would have worked in my case, that is, though there were many a critical issues with respect to my job, financial issues, relationship with close relatives etc; I never gave a damn to issues related to money or my career, and issues within my family got healed as a matter of time.

    As we know, we do have many inherent issues while tackling our mental health in Asian families, but there are some virtues also, right?

    They support you to the core and helps us overcome all our job/career/money related issues.

    Also, there is one more thing that is helping me to face this world boldly, that’s my recent trip to the mighty Himalayas and the time spent in trekking through some of the toughest terrain, which taught me some great life lessons for sure 🙂

    Thank you so much for sharing one more beautiful post with all of us and have a beautiful day ahead, My friend 🙂

    Sorry, I have to really appreciate the images you shared here, fitting for the these ‘Curves’ and also a perfect match for the topic been discussed, setting the perfect mood 🙂

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    • You are a very strong person, having stayed silent on your state of mind. Very glad for you that you held yourself together. Just as it takes courage to speak out about our mind and inner most feelings, it also takes courage to keep pushing on and think about others around us in our darkest times.

      And so, yes, there are virtues in the way Asian society chooses how to “tackle” mental illness. By not speaking out, sometimes we have no choice by to revel in the positivity around us that others exude and get swept up slowly by it all.

      Good to hear of your trip to the Himalayas recently, Sreejith. From what I’ve seen and heard of it on your blog so far, it sounded like quite a treat. Maybe we will see more of it in due time 🙂 Sometimes we do need to get away somewhere else in order to sort out our thoughts and feelings. Going away some place, chances are we leave behind what is bothering us and rediscover what really matters to us.

      Take care, my friend. Treat yourself when you need to, and don’t stress too much 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mabel, blogging really helped me to come out of deep stress and at times, even depression.

        This community has now become my extended home 🙂

        As you said, some times, we need to move away, physically, to find out, what’s really bothering us and what are our real problems in life.

        It gives a fresh perspectives to analyse our problems and sometimes helps us with solutions as well.

        My travel in the Himalayas over two weeks, away from my family, was truly an unforgettable experience and taught me what I really value in life.

        Thanks again for all the support and appreciation, Mabel 🙂

        Great to be in touch 🙂

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        • And I am guessing photography is also something that takes you mind off your troubles and lifts you up. Seeing someone smile at the photo you took of them, that is a once in a moment kind of thing 😉

          Hope that you get to travel again and take more photos soon, Sreejith. You certainly are very good at photography, and deserve to go places with it 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you so much form the bottom of my heart for your appreciative comments, Mabel 🙂

            Yes, you are absolutely right, there is nothing like, being able to connect with the person in front of the lens.

            Photography is something which helps me to calm down myself and gives me confidence 🙂

            Have a nice weekend 🙂

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  8. I understand what you mean. I have a feeling that in my Asian side of the family, anything to do with mental illness is labelled as a “crazy person” and can only happens to distant people, not real people close-by nor yourself. I’m glad you looked for help and hope you’re finding ways to cope. Hugs!

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    • The more we call others “crazy” for being down or having negative thoughts, the more we stigmatise mental illness. Admitting that I had a problem was hard, but that was the first step to bettering myself. Hugs right back to you x

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    • Thanks, Amy. You are so right. The more we talk about mental illness, the more it becomes known and the less foreign and scary it will seem. Support and mere presence can mean the world to someone feeling down.

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  9. It takes a great deal of mental strength to write such a post, Mabel. First of all, kudos to you for that 🙂

    You’ve rightly found out the reasons behind such hush hush with mental illness. In India, even educated people still think of it, not as an illness…they label the person as ‘mad’! They fail to understand the fact that just like our body, our mind also can get affected, can become ill…

    I don’t know when this will end. It’s a disease in itself, this attitude.

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    • Thanks, Mani. This post was a long time coming and it felt right to share now. Unfortunate to hear that mental illness is stigmatised in India too and considered a mad form of illness. You are so right and say it so well, “our mind also can get affected”. Our minds work hard to think and control the physical body, and sometimes, it gets tired.

      Always appreciate your support 🙂

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  10. Mabel,
    Such true words you speak. Someone can have an open brain surgery, but none judges them. How and why is mental illness different? People do not choose to be ill. May the minds and hearts of people learn to understand and grow.
    And may you feel happy and stress free 🙂
    Hugs and love,
    Dajena

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like how you put open brain surgery and mental illness side by side. Both of them are similar in that the person is tired, worn down, and needs time to rest and relax. So well said. I am working every day to get better. Can’t see the light yet but I can certainly feel it. Hugs and love right back at you ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      • You caught that witty girl! 🙂 Yes indeed. I feel that there are many things our society needs to work on, and this is a truly touchy subject.

        I pray that you will keep feeling the light and with patience and perseverance you will continue to heal. 🙂

        Love and hugs! ❤
        Dajena

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        • The more we talk about mental illness, we might not be comfortable with it but we might become more understanding of it.

          Thanks, Dajena. You are always such a sweetie and darling ❤

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  12. I’m glad you found the strength to understand the problem, and now I hope you get the help, support and treatment you need. Maybe your parents need to do a bit of change in traditional thinking, if they haven’t already.

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  13. Liebe Mabel ein schönen Samstag mit vielen lieben Grüßen Klaus in Freundschaft komme wenig zum schreiben muß mich um meine Frau kümmern ihr geht es nicht gut zur Zeit

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  14. Your parents’ reticence sounds similar to the part of the country where I grew up (in the US) – not so open to psychoanalysis and treatments as on the east or west coast, the part of the country that’s so often portrayed in film. You have so much to be proud of – your talents in photography and in writing spring to mind immediately. We who follow your blog appreciate you immensely, and admire your brave spirit in telling this story. Hang in there and I hope you feel better soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m guessing you are referring to the part of the States in between the west and east coast, the middle and a bit south, south western as well. Your description reminds me a bit of old Western films where everything was won mainly by use of force.

      Thanks, Sandy. I hope to feel even better soon. Writing doesn’t come naturally to me as much as I love to tell stories with words. As photography, I’m just taking it one day at a time with no expectations. Didn’t expect to still stick with it after a year 😀

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  15. You are a strong lady, Mabel! It is indeed tough to live in Asian culture when having a specific mental illness. In general, I have seen people in my country, Indonesia, are ignoring the issue and sometimes the sickness get piled up and become boomerang to themselves and people who live with them. Some are too shy to admit their illness and some do not have supports that encourage them to recover 😦

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    • “become boomerang to themselves” I really like this phrase. It makes so much sense when you talk about bottling up emotions and you only feel more confused and hurt out of this. I hope people in Indonesia feel more comfortable speaking out about their state of mind in the times to comes. There is so much more support for mental illness today 🙂

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  16. Hi M- enjoyed your share here – and the variations in each photo was so nicely paired with the changing flow of your post.

    It makes me very sad that counseling and basic coping skills are kept so under cover – and often very basic things are not taught s schools / for example / we have sex education down / but have yet to see anger management classes for middle school and have not seen any “understanding emotions” or coping skills being taught either. My point is that we need this s part of the curricula in schools – instead / 5th graders are now learning the periodic table of elements – when it used to be for science majors and then certain high school grades – now – required science for middle school – and I am all for science, math, and the arts- oh yeah – but need more life skills and emotional intelligence.

    And it seems there are many angles to come from with generations – like some studies have shown what the rigid “Hitler” child raising led to – very unhealthy individuals – and then years ago I read a really good book about “adult children of alcoholics” and it always amazes me when I see these exact people sometimes have what this book referred to – for example – some of them come down very hard on themselves – things you touch upon here for the culture aspect – and I see ither things too.

    I am glad your counseling experience was productive – from my observation of people getting counsel – I have mixed feelings about it because the results will depend on the world view and the ability or seasoning of the psychologist – and sadly – I have seen – make that “known” some counselors and psychologists over the years – and it is just like other professions – there are effective lawyers – and not so good ones – there are great chefs – and not so good cooks….

    And then we have seen folks addicted to counseling, but not really getting to root causes – I once read that one of the number one outcomes of therapy was he support system felt – However – like you note here – many times therapy or counsel can be the perspective shift that was really needed. The analogy I use is it is like trying to read a label on a bottle with the bottle pressed on your nose!

    Things are so close – too close – skewed and blurred. However – at arm’s length – the label can be brought in focus. Sometimes people have issues that are just too close and layered – all up in their grill and a bit of counselor time can give them insight and help.

    Sadly, people need this wisdom and advice ongoing and because most cultures are anemic – I think it was supposed to be that small communities had older folks around and with the duty of passing down the wisdom and life skills – and problem solving – but now – we have that isolation you mention – we have that stigma – that privacy – often needed because society will spit people out – And so people do not always get the hell they need at lower levels and for small things – to then often have major things build up….

    Oh I am rambling – but hard not to with what you shared and with an area I am still pondering – but again – so glad you wee able to get the insight that helped – that is key!

    xxoo

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    • You are so right. “we have sex education down / but have yet to see anger management classes for middle school” Mental health and the way we process our thoughts need to be a bigger part of the school curriculum all around the world. Just as our body allows us to do the things we do each day, so does the mind – and both are essential parts of us that get tired every now and again. “emotional intelligence” – love how you say it. The mind is a powerful thing, yet sometimes it can be more (self destructive) than good. We all can learn and make improvements.

      You sound very well-versed in counselling and talking out about your feelings, Y. Agree with you counselling to improve one’s state of mind is not for everyone, just as is medication may not suit everyone’s palate. Each counsellor and psychologist have their own ways of approaching their patients and I think the good ones are the ones that are open to all solutions to assist their patients.

      Another important point that you bring up is the issue of layers. Often we slide into a negative state of mind as a cumulative result of a number of things not going our way. We might second guess ourselves as to what happened and the “root cause”, and it takes time to sort out our feelings and why we are reaching the way we do.

      Your ramblings are always words of wisdow, Y. Don’t stop chatting, and thank you for the support as always 🙂

      Like

  17. I absolutely love your honest and insight (and oh those great pictures). A few thoughts on this.

    1) In so many ways, your culture (Asian) and my culture (Jewish on my Dad’s side) are so much alike. But here is one way they differ in a really big way. Psychiatrists and psychologist are integral members of our ‘extended family’. When I got married, my therapist was on the guest list :-).

    2) I suffered seriously from panic attacks from the age of 22 until around the age of 28. In reality, I still suffer from them, but my coping mechanisms have strengthened over the years with lots of practice. So much so, that the attacks now go almost as quickly as they come. What worked for me was a mix of talk therapy, behavior therapy, and a meds for a period of time. Knowing that I was not alone with this challenge and that it could be managed really got me through.

    3) Love yourself. You are awesome.

    Hug!

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  18. I’m very sorry to hear about your struggles with anxiety disorder. I think you are absolutely right to reach out and seek help, though. It was interesting to read about your particular situation in Australia. Having read a number of other blogposts about the subject of mental health issues over the last year and a half, it sounds as though there is plenty of stigma to go around no matter which part of the world we are talking about. It seems clear that getting the help and support of experts has got to be the best way of dealing with things, though.

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  19. The fact that you are here, blogging about something people would rather not admit to themselves, leave aside to others is a huge step forward. I must commend you for that courage and self-belief to break through the first and in my opinion the major hurdle to healing and recovering. I find it remarkable how we are so dictated and governed by the opinions of others – even people whom we don’t know.

    Like for instance, even if I am using a pseudonym and there is no chance of another (say you) of ever knowing who exactly who I am, even then I hesitate and dither over whether it should be a long comment or short? Even if I dont wish to comment, I should because the other may be offended or unhappy about no comments – I could go on 😀

    I do wonder how, where and why this conditioning, this need to rise up to other people’s expectations started – what was the need for it and is there a need for it now? Is it doing more harm and good? Err did i digress completely from the topic at hand? Even if it is I shall quell the urge to delete all that and post it anyway 🙂

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    • “we are so dictated and governed by the opinions of others – even people whom we don’t know” You hit the nail on the head. In a way, when we are down, often that is a result of something someone said or did to us. That is, we look to others to define ourselves. Not that that is a bad thing – sometimes when we look to others we find ways to better ourselves. Then again, we need to be our own person with our own mind to be fully happy.

      I suppose in a sense that answers your question of the need to rise up to other’s expectations. Also, perhaps we don’t want to let others down and we want to be someone that makes someone else happy. And sometimes, that wears the mind down, being someone else what we are not. You didn’t digress at all, Dahlia. Thank you so much for this wonderful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I like the statement.. “Never give up on someone with a mental illness. When “I” is replaced by “We”, illness becomes wellness.”

    The key to the balance of life, might be.. to find what “I” wants and why.. and then what the “whole self” wants and why.. the crossing point in between is based on intuition or a gut feeling..

    The “I” is based on perspective of the mind, the stories behind core values, model of the world, etc..

    The “whole self” is based on perspective of the heart.. there are no stories, but pure play of life and variety of expressions..

    Keep well! Cheers from Irish summer, Swav @ PaintingsbySwav

    Like

    • The balance of life…that is always elusive to so many of us. Maybe it’s due to poor time management, or maybe it’s because there is no such thing.

      I like your interpretation on “I” and the “whole self”. We can only know who “I” and the “whole self” is if we can make sense of our thoughts and how we feel. Sometimes that takes time. You keep well, too Swav. Take care, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. “Never give up on someone with a mental illness. When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘We’, illness becomes wellness.” It’s the first time I encountered this quote, but I love it already!

    Sorry to hear about your illness. I suspect I probably have some kind of mental illness, too, or another, or maybe I am just hypochondriac. But until I earn a lot of money and can afford a psychologist, I won’t know if I do and what it is. All I gotta do is cope and deal with life. What I REALLY suspect is that a lot of people have one, but they are always undiagnosed, living with their illness has become the norm. That’s why there are a lot of misunderstandings and bad blood.

    In the Philippines, I don’t think it’s taboo to shun the topic, but it’s often you shun the person.

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    • I think most of us might have the symptoms of mental illness like depression or anxiety in our life, and some of us are better at dealing with it than others – and can deal with it on our own in a matter of moments. So you are probably right and if you can soldier on on your own, why not and take your money elsewhere.

      “it’s often you shun the person.” Now that is dark and it can also apply to Chinese culture.

      Like

      • Yeah. You shun the person, because you notice that something is wrong and think it’s an attitude problem and you don’t know want to deal with her/him. You shun the person ’cause you already know that there is a mental problem and you don’t know how to deal with it. Doesn’t exactly make you bad. But if the situation is not “solved” by the other party, whether he is diagnosed or not, or whether he is doing something about it or not, how can you know exactly how to help?…Just thinking out loud here.

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  22. “We’re all meant to love each other and ourselves, and all that’s meant to be shared” — How true Mabel! I think every sensitive mind deals with issues society labels as illness. But it is this sensitivity that gives one the ability to be empathetic to and affected by life around them. I think artists and people with a creative temperament in general feel life more intensely, more passionately than others. But it also makes them more vulnerable to the harshness of the world around them. It’s great you use your writing skills to such good effect. Keep writing Mabel, you are really, really good at it.

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    • ” …it is this sensitivity that gives one the ability to be empathetic to and affected by life around them.” Again, you said it so well. Even better and more straightforward and simpler than me. Though us artists like writers and photographers may be more sensitive to the world and may be more susceptible to mental illness, I think it helps us to see different perspectives more often.

      Thank you for your encouragement 🙂

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  23. I am so happy I found your blog. I just feel that I can relate to you in so many ways. I am Asian growing up in America with strict, very grounded Asian parents. Asian parents that were dysfunctional, violent and my father was an alcoholic. He only stopped drinking so much in the past 2 years due to old age. I just simply enjoy reading all your blog posts and for sharing stories with us. I am sure many other Asians are going through or struggling with mental illness without seeking professional help. I think you made the wiser choice and healthy decision to seek help on your own term. You did it! I will continue to support and read your next posts. I read you’re working on writing a book. I cannot wait to see read it and support you! We need more supporters and people with kinder intentions in this world no matter where you live, what you come from or in which part of the world you’re at. Continue to support each other! 🙂

    Like

    • I am so sorry to hear that your family was dysfunctional and your dad an alcoholic. It must be hard to come home each day. Being Asian, you might know that alcoholism is not talked much about – and many Chinese except the other to be good drinkers, especially the men.

      Coming from a strict Asian family, I am guessing you weren’t encouraged to speak out about what was happening.

      Thank you for supporting and being encouraging, Danielle. And on Twitter too. Really appreciate it. It has become challenging to keep up the blog due to work and side issues like these, but I still believe in what I do 🙂

      Your words at the end are so apt – we need more people like you. I hope things will be okay at home for you and you do what makes you happy 🙂

      Like

  24. You have a very beautiful website. I look forward to coming back and reading more. Please stop by mine and if you like, follow back.

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  25. Thanks for sharing your experience with anxiety. It takes a lot of courage to speak out about mental illness because of the stigma attached to it. The way I deal with my mental illnesses, anxiety, depression, ADHD, and PTSD, is by seeking help.

    I’m in intensive outpatient therapy. I have a very long list of physical illnesses, too, so I have a lot. I’m a hot mess. So, I have 2 different therapist’s. I see one every Monday and she mostly helps me with the pain aspects of my illnesses, and whatever else I happen to start talking about. I then see my other therapist every Friday and she gets it all, whatever I’m struggling with. I’m not ashamed.

    No one should be left alone to deal with these mental illnesses or any type of illnesses, for that matter. Those who choose to not seek help are those that suffer the most. The brain is just a body part, just like any other part of the body. The stigma is what keeps many from getting help, writing about it, etc. I think it’s important we all speak up and out about it. Society needs to be educated and learn to accept that “mental” illnesses are very real. Thanks for sharing. Peace out! 🙂

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    • “I’m not ashamed…the brain is just a body part.” Very good to hear and you said it so well. Mental illness is a part of life for many of us and we should not be made to feel like we have no self-worth because of it.

      It sounds like you are getting a lot of help and I hope it works out for you. It can take time to find help that works for you – one size does not fit all when it comes to controlling what our mind thinks. Good luck and stay strong. You are already stronger for getting the help you need 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  26. I can deeply relate to what you spoke of in your blog post. I have had social anxiety ever since I was a very young child. I too am from Chinese family, except I grew up in New York. Even to this day, I don’t talk to my parents about my anxiety, and I see a therapist without them knowing because I know they can’t understand why I need this kind of help to better myself. I remember several painful incidents where I felt intense anxiety about communicating verbally with other people, such as when my father would tell me to go call my brother for dinner. I would break into a nervous sweat just even thinking about walking upstairs to my brother’s room. I remember being openly berated by my father for being scared and basically told to “get over it” and even being questioned about how old I was to still be so timid. To him, what I felt wasn’t a mental health crisis, and I suppose he thought I was just being a brat for no reason.

    The ironic thing is he treats mental health like something that doesn’t really exist in his world, but honestly, I have seen instances where he’s experienced some things, such as feeling depressed, but it seems he either doesn’t want to acknowledge it or he just deals with it in a way with the assumption it’s a temporary thing that comes and goes. I feel my mother is going through something similar as well. There are times when she barely talks and is not very responsive when my father asks her questions, and she just sits there scrolling through her phone. She kinda has a history of retreating into silence or being very withdrawn when she’s in a “mood”, as my father puts it, and he’s told me about periods early in their marriage when she basically wouldn’t talk or would not respond if he tried speaking to her and it would take until he actually directly asked her what is wrong in order for her to open up.

    Like

    • “they can’t understand why I need this kind of help to better myself.” This is such a brave thing to say. Being alone is not something to be ashamed about. For some of us, that is the way we cope and so glad that you recognise what works to help you feel better. I hope communicating with others is better for you these days. Up until today I find talking with people face to face challenging. Over the years I’ve worked in phone and front-facing customer service jobs and that has helped, but I don’t think I’ll ever feel 100% okay being social. And I’m okay with that.

      Maybe it is a typical Asian, Chinese thing, (elderly) parents not admitting their emotions. Maybe your mum retreats because she feels like that is the role of women, to be quiet unless spoken too. Or maybe it is just in her personality.

      Wishing you well, Nat 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Therapy has definitely helped me. I feel a little bad about not telling my parents about this part of my life, but I also am relieved I have gotten help for myself. Communicating verbally with others nowadays is still a challenge. I saw one of my cousins (whom I grew up very close to) for the first time in like 2-3 years last Friday for the eve of the lunar new year. There was so much more I wanted to talk to her about, but I felt uncomfortable being outgoing because my brother was there. He’s the only one out of my immediate family who knows I have social anxiety, though I don’t think he gets it completely. My brother and I have never been close. I also felt left out a little because both my brother and cousin are working individuals and have eaten out at lots of places, while I am unemployed and more the type to have a simple meal at home and call it a day lol.

        I do think some in the older Asian generation are more unwilling to show their emotions or outright express their pain. I would say my mom definitely comes from a more traditional family than my dad.

        I’m not sure I’ll ever feel ok with being social. I left my last job while I was still in the training period because my anxiety was off the charts. I knew I was running away, but I just didn’t know how to deal with it at the time. Ever since then I struggle with guilt and shame for not being able to push through and endure that job.

        Like

        • I hope you still managed to have a good start to the Lunar New Year 🙂 Social anxiety or any form of mental illness is different for each and every one of us. We may have the same symptoms but will have different coping mechanisms, so it is hard for anyone to exactly understand what each of us are going through. While I am employed, like you I just want to retreat home after work and just sit at home for the rest of the night. While I like eating outside food, it is not something I go out of my way to do.

          Hope things work out better on the job front at well. Sometimes you just can’t control anxiety – it hits when it hits. There have been times when I sat in the toilet at work due to panic attacks. Ironically, my first real job was in customer service. My work still revolves around customer service each day today, but on bad anxiety days I will be a bit more slower dealing with clients. I don’t know if they do notice anything aloof with me, though.

          Liked by 1 person

  27. You are NOT your mental disorder 

    You are not your mental disorder. You are not your inability to read and write. You are not the social anxiety that leaves you feeling isolated and a product of alienation in a world where couples is the new norm. You are not the depression that cripples you and leaves you crying and thinking obsessively of self harm at three in the morning on the bathroom floor. You are not the voices you hear telling you to destroy. You are not the anger , the betrayal, the bitterness and the drowning. You are not a replay button of all the horrifying experiences and painful memories you’ve ever had. You are not your molest- you are instead a survivor of it.You are a Beautiful warm sunshine in a world full of dark dreary gloomy days. You are a rainbow , a paradox ,a haiku ,the moonlight shining on a still lake. You are the books you read , the music you listen , the love you give and deserve , the movies you watch . You are the things you eat, the air you breathe and the places you travel to. You are the photos you take and the poems you write. You are the smile you bring on other people’s faces, the masterpieces you create 

    So repeat after me and believe me when I say

    YOU. ARE. NOT. YOUR. MENTAL. DISORDER

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    • Very inspiring, and this is so true. Mental illness can play a big part of our lives. It can shape the way we view the world. But we are also so much more than that. As you said, we are the choices that we make each day and the things that we do from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed again. The more we do what we like and learn not to take everyone’s opinion about us too seriously, the more positive we will become a stronger, confident person. We are each our own masterpiece, and it is up to us to define ourselves each and every day.

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  29. Hey! I could relate so much to this! My best friend went through the same thing and I can understand your situation! Just letting you know, as a fellow Asian (Indian), I know that feeling, we’re all here.

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  30. Yes that’s true! I’m an Indian and in our family too mental well-being isn’t really that important as the physical well-being. People are more likely to think that u are crazy if u talk about being depressed or want therapy sessions. They just don’t understand!

    Like

    • Definitely agree with you in Asian or Indian cultures, crazy is associated when we are down. You are right, they don’t understand. The worst part is…we’re all unique and a lot of the the time we are on our own.

      Liked by 1 person

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