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Can We Talk About Mental Health?

Even as I am writing this, I must confess that I alternate between writing to “sound authoritarian and give good info to readers” and writing to “process my own thoughts and reflections” on this blog. If you enjoy and/or prefer one over the other, you should feel free to email me or contact me to let me know. I can assure you that at this point in time, you might be 100% of my reader base, and therefore have great influence on how I continue to post on this blog…

For the sake of this post, let’s go with the latter. I had a really bad last couple of days. How bad? I just didn’t feel myself. I felt physically tired. I didn’t feel motivated to do anything—not my work, not participation in church, not the usual interactions I might have with roommates or friends or my girlfriend. I didn’t even have motivation to write—something that I usually crave and try to make time especially for. I even woke up earlier than usual yesterday so that I could have some quiet time journaling and praying before I started the day yesterday.

But things just felt… off. First off, it was hard to even get out of bed a couple of mornings. Secondly, I had no joy for anything during the day—I felt gross because I reached for my two biggest coping mechanisms: food and YouTube. Those activities, munching on snacks or binging on YouTube videos… just left me feeling even more tired and hollow. And thirdly, I had no grace for anyone, including myself. I found myself becoming annoyed at people I needed to have meetings with, or feeling disappointed or let down. I invented narratives that always emphasized the negative over the positive. I beat myself up at the end of a YouTube binge session for being stupid enough to fall into the same trap—I was in the same mental space as before when I went looking for distraction, now just marginally MORE tired and also short two more hours in my day. Anything that I thought about drifted into the negative space of things: you’re wasting company time by pretending to “work from home” but actually goofing off. You’re always lazy and doing church things at the last possible second. You’re only thinking about yourself and not really caring for your girlfriend. Humans are horrible and flaky. No one really understands you—you think they’re close, until you realize your relationship hasn’t really been tested yet. Maybe you are on the cusp of an eating disorder.

For someone who is usually pretty positive, who almost always resets after a good night’s sleep, who relies on good routine in his life… this was probably the lowest I’ve felt in a while, for the longest duration of time (3-4 continuous days). I’m still not quite sure if I’m completely out of it, but the fact that I’m sitting here able to type out some thoughts means that I’ve recovered some from yesterday, at least.

So I want to talk about it.

Asian Americans have always had a harder time talking about mental health. Perhaps it’s because many of us have parents who have stifled or never developed expressing the full range of emotion in a healthy way. Maybe there’s a stigma against it in a lot of Eastern cultures. Or maybe it’s less an Asian American issue so much as a generational one. Regardless, I think our mental health has a LOT to do with how we’re able to commune with God, so as a church, we had better be talking about it. It was crazy to me how unmotivated I felt: cognitively, I knew that I enjoyed reading and writing, but the thought of it felt overwhelming. I knew that I wanted true rest that usually comes from centering myself in prayer, or trying to hear from Scripture, but that was the last thing I could get myself to do. If it weren’t for my girlfriend, who managed to lift me out of my despair slightly, I think I would’ve shunned everyone and wallowed in self-pity. I recognized in my brain that it would probably be good to talk it out and share with a trusted friend, but in the moment, it was impossible.

So hopefully this might become a topic I’ll revisit from time to time on my blog. Mental health is very related to the Asian American community, because we have a long way to go to de-stigmatize it. Mental health is very related to Christianity, because if mental health has such a big impact on relationships in your life, and Christianity focuses on your relationship to God, then I would say that God cares about your mental health. And for myself personally, sharing openly (about anything) usually has tremendous power to get me out of the negative headspace I’m trapped in prior to sharing.

Question: when’s the last time you felt “off,” struggled with mental health, and how long did it last?

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Published in#reflection

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