“Do you really want to stay with all the crazy people?” Those words still echo with me to this day because I wanted to scream out, “Yes! I need help and I don’t think you can help me.” The person who said those words to me was a mentor and a church leader. It felt confusing because I didn’t feel “crazy.” I just felt a constant overwhelming sense of hopelessness, worthlessness and a deep sadness that I just couldn’t shake off. Was this what crazy felt like? I wasn’t sure. I had no name for what this was, but somewhere inside, I knew I needed help.
It was the first time that I had acted on my suicidal thoughts and it landed me in the hospital emergency room. After that, I had my first encounter with a mental health professional. I didn’t know that such people existed, but she helped me to define what depression was and how I could get help. Despite the validation and a sense that a huge weight was lifted off by naming the depression and taking the first steps to get help, I walked away from the hospital with shame and the feeling that I had to hide my mental illness.
For several years after that first instance, I struggled in silence with my depression. I continued to suffer severe migraines and not only used medication to numb the pain that was radiating in my head, but also to prevent myself from feeling. It felt like I was constantly drowning with overwhelming waves of shame pushing me further and further down. I attempted suicide two more times after that first time.
Shame constantly surrounded me, especially within myself. But without help, I knew that I would not make it. For Asian Americans aged 15-34, suicide is the second leading cause of death.
After much encouragement and support from friends and my faith community (a different one than before), I started seeing a therapist and taking medication to treat my depression. It wasn’t an easy journey – I tried several different therapists before finding one that worked for me. I also had to do the same with medication. The biggest hurdle, though, was to rise out of the shame and stigma of mental illness. After sharing my story, I was able to come along side friends to help them through their own battles with mental illness and more importantly, to speak the truth that they were valued and worthy.
I still feel the sting of shame as I continue my lifelong battle against depression, knowing that sometimes the lies will speak louder than the truth. Every day, I do my best to get up and fight against those lies and that shame because I don’t want anyone to feel the way that I did or to feel like they couldn’t get help. Are you feeling the weight of shame? Are you hearing the lies that depression tells? I’m here to fight with you. I’m here to speak the truth and remind you of your worthiness and beauty. I’m here to rise out of the shame with you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please
call this number 1 (800) 273-8255 to get help because your life is worth it.
You can also go to this website: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/