I always wanted to be independent in every way since I was a teenager. I knew what I wanted to be in life, how much income I wanted, who I wanted to support and how much to give back. I fixed my eyes on the goal and never looked back. Until the time I had my first episode of Depression, life became to crumble before me. No more solid career paths, no more being able to support my grandparents when I was the one who needed the support. I could not understand the neverending struggle I was facing, falling into the deepest darkest pits of Depression when I was a teenager. But looking back, it was probably the most significant event in my teenager years, shaping and sharpening on who I was
I chose rehabilitation over staying comfortable in my family home for several reasons. The comfort of home was getting to me, sometimes triggering me to the depths of despair. I grew too comfortable in this home, living in the same environment for 26 years. Yes, I did say that, 26 years! I believe everything happens for a reason, and I did not keep on fighting with the mental health hospital system for 7 years, being hospitalised more than I needed. I needed quits for being in the hospital. Needed something else. Something that helps me step down from the mental health hospital system.
Then I found
Rehab is an amazing place, just amazing. Everything about it is amazing, but don't get me wrong. There are challenges as well, learning to maintain
Photo by Kiss Me Photography
trulyto become in my adulthood. rehab. balancebetween cooking, cleaning, exercising, socialising, relaxing is not as easy as the click of a finger. I am taught to build more resilience during these times. And here I found my independence again, with the help of some support is just, so so wonderful.
My recent check-in into the mental health ward challenged my religion and faith. For those who don't know, I am a Christian and I believe it's important to share the love of God wherever you go - practice it like a lifestyle. At times I think I am a 'bad Christian' and I don't pray for people even when I get that prompting from God. But during this admission to this ward, I have had the opportunity to pray for a few. I remember one patient who had deep wounds on her arms from self-harm - you could see she was hurting deeply. I have never self-harmed before - so I don't know what's it like to go through that - at least in that way anyway. I always asked God, "How can I help these people?" - they were so young, have so much potential, and are such beautiful human beings. I was in the all-female ward again and when I prayed for this one particular female patient who believed in God, apparently it was "powerful" and she felt a difference - in a good way. That brings me to the topic about whether I have healing powers through the power of God. I have only been through street evangelism a couple of times - I won't admit I am good at it at all - but I want to admit I am not accountable enough for these people I prayed for. I wish this Christian walk would be easier, I have been
baptisedby water and the Holy Spirit. But why do I feel so empty at times being a Christian and seeing these beautiful people in the ward who I still think about even after my discharge? But I hear God say to me, "Child, you can only help so much. As I have a plan for them."
I have been unemployed for over a
year,and been looking for a job. Since the last episode I have lost my confidence, my self-esteem is never the same again and I have a lot of time on my hands too. So I decided that for this month that a mental health month is ideal and crucial for my recovery. For those who are new to the concept of mental health month/s, it's a concept where you basically spend timeto recover, revive, rejuvenate yourself emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. You learn to touch on your creative side, your inner self, and learn to have self-compassion. It might be funny for some people to do something like this, especially when they have commitments like work, study, family etc. but everyone needs one of these one way or another I believe. Here are some of the things I did this month to help with my recovery:
Photo by Hiroko
intoan art workshop
intoa hand lettering workshop and it was so much fun! I love getting creative. I love learning new things.
Photo by Yari
2. Travelling up a mountain
If you're lucky with me who lives near mountains, seeing the city from high up is relaxing.
Photo by Brandon
3. Playing with children
There is something special about children, and playing with them brings out my inner childishness. It's healing, and you get to have fun with them.
Seek God. Ask from Him from what you want. Ask for wisdom, courage, and healing from Him.
I love painting as a creative outlet. I love getting more creative each day.
takenby Suzanne Dang unless stated otherwise
Photo by Michelle Fleur
Seeing a friend be in there with me was a whole new level of overwhelmingness. I have seen this friend on her good days, during volunteering days. Now I didn't know the severity of her condition when I first saw her on the ward, but she 'seemed ok', and was being social with everyone, talking to everyone which could have been a good thing. I was reluctant to talk to her, cause I wanted to observe what she was like first while she was in there, plus I was already having mixed emotions about how much I could help her as a friend while I was in there. It was interesting. I watched her worsen as things 'got out of control' and security was called on her and she was sent to seclusion. The only thing I could do for her at the time which I found most effective was pray for her, and stand back and let the staff be.
I have learnt from these admissions that it's best to not get in the way of the staff there, no matter how much I wanted to help the other person. We are all here to recover, whatever our own definition of recovery is and helping another person as much as I wanted to as a patient, would and/or could potentially worsen the other person's condition.
Photo by Michelle Fleur
When I was younger I used to think I was on the right path before my first diagnosis of Depression. I have always been quite a positive person - so I've been told. I'm fierce and active in resolving and finding solutions for my problems, I am enthusiastic in my struggle and recovery with mental illnesses. I wasn't much of a complainer. I didn't show my personality much when I was younger, I was shy. But I was attracted to the idea of wanting to change - being always mindful and self-aware and overall interested in personal development. Which I am.
One of my first jobs was working at a fish and chips store run by a small family. I was taken advantage of and paid as little as $2 an hour. $20 for 10 hours work. It was downright illegal, I quit after a few days after when I couldn't negotiate with them - my naiveness overcame me and I could 1) Let it sabotage me and never work again or, 2) Be positive and believe not all jobs are the same. But seriously, that job did
scaredme afterwards for a good few months and I was unemployed.
Then I went on working with a high fashion retailer, the largest in Australia. I absolutely loved every moment of it. It was probably one of the first jobs I didn't cry in. I had to move on cause retail doesn't suit all my personalities. I struggled with maintaining my employment because of my illness. It affects me in every way. I may seem fine and highly functional for a few months, but I'm bound and have a very high rate of having a manic-depressive episode (I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type I) after some time.
So the next employer who employs me, I will be straight up and honest with them about my invisible disability, and I even had job interviews where I openly and vulnerably told of my Bipolar to the managers for these companies. I think the response was good. They appreciated my honesty and openness.
I have yet to be employed. It's not about choosing any job and settling into it. There's a lot to think about, and how honest I can be especially with the employer in regards to my illness and what support is available and making it work for both sides. Because the last time thing I want is having a panic attack at work, or something worse.
Photo by Suzanne Dang
If you find this triggering, and you need help:
Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service: 1800 011 046 - http://www.vvcs.gov.au/
Lifeline: 13 11 14 - http://www.lifeline.org.au
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978 - http://www.mensline.org.au/
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 - https://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au/
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36 - https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
Headspace: 1800 650 890 - https://headspace.org.au/
As a Christian, I have made the mistake of using the wrong kind of prayer for certain issues I have. From using a prayer of deliverance when I should have just asked God for something simple as peace and calmness over me when I was in the midst/road to of feeling suicidal. Either way, I think for me it's important to pray whenever I am having a problem.
Only recently I was feeling and having strong suicidal thoughts after stopping my medications, as much as I believed that God had healed me from my mental health illness. And I still believe that, to this day. I may be back on medications now, but I have already been healed. Jesus has already died on the cross for our all sins. The issue with medications is that once you start taking them for a long time, stopping them cold turkey is not physically the safest option for your body. So anyway, when I was feeling that way, I prayed for God's spiritual covering and protection - cause he is a loving God. He is never angry with the things I've done and even angry about my suicidal thoughts. He accepts me for who I am and knows my journey before I was even born. I prayed for mental and emotional strength. I prayed I will receive good flashbacks amongst the negative flashbacks after I was raped in the relationships and other reasons why I should live. Live for my family - my mum, my grandparents, my siblings. I asked God to help me see through Him and believe He has overcome it all, and I have nothing to worry about.
When I make an overcomplicated, some would say - a "fancy" prayer for myself, I always end up in tears. I believe I have done some mistakes, which let the enemy creep into my life, but I feel God's overpouring power of Love when I do these kinds of prayers against these attacks of the enemy. Actually, I think it was only a few weeks ago that this happened. I think it was a self-deliverance prayer.
Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken ~ Psalm 55:22
Photo by Suzanne Dang
There were times I was angry at God for making me this way, for putting me on this journey, where those times I idolise my wounds of the past bringing coldness to bitterness to others at times, especially to myself. The self-hatred I went through and the shame and guilt after being raped by my previous partners. I knew I did not have to understand it all, as everyone knows life is not easy. Everyone goes through and experience things in a different way. For me, I went through a lot of emotions, shame, guilt and even the thought of revenge to overcome the hurt I faced.
God continued to pour His Mercy and Grace over me, despite my challenges.
He brought me to the deepest and darkest pits of Depression, so I can find him with a whole, genuine heart and seek Him. I can't remember the number of times I cried trying to seek Him, even though he didn't respond at all times, but when He did - it was loud and clear. The tears were more than anything, tears of joy.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door and will be opened to you. ~ Matthew 7:7
Photo by Kaitlin Maree Photography
If you asked me three years ago what sort of guy I was attracted to, I would tell you someone with high intelligence, had a heart for people and was overall 'stable'. If you asked me now who I would choose, I would not hesitate and confidently say someone who loves Christ as much as I do. Before becoming a Christian (I used to be a Buddhist), I didn't plan/asked/expected to be raped by my first love. The faltering of the relationship in the breakdown of our communication led me into an emotional spiral of trauma. I had no idea what was going on at the time. I did not realise that this was happening to me, and why me. I believe everything happened for a reason, and it's taken me some time to recover from these incidents.
The incidents led me to a point where I wanted revenge, I wanted to avenge on the anger, hurt and trauma that was caused by this person - the STI I contracted (and I thank God it was a curable one). Yes, before becoming a Christian, I was involved in a lot of dangerous activity of hypersexuality, even afterwards - the times my faith was weak and I did not want to seek God - I rejected God in my life and Satan came creeping in more.
I want a relationship where Christ is at the centre of it all.
A relationship where both of us can encourage each other on our devotions, on our quiet time with God and serve in the house of the Lord. I have been transformed through the love of Christ. I used to go clubbing a lot, get involved in drinking parties. But I knew deep down something wasn't right, but I thank God I have moved on from that.
(R): Photo by Neil Woodwards
Dear High School Teacher,
I clearly remember when you told me to quit changing things. To quit making extensions on assignments that were 'simple' just because I couldn't keep up with the class and preparation work of the assignment. I may have forgotten what the other things you said, but I haven't forgotten about how you made me feel. I felt my last two years of high school was a living hell. I did not understand why my other teachers were so understanding and focused on my strengths than weaknesses, but you couldn't do that. You picked out my weaknesses, and I felt you magnified them.
But thanks to you, and when you said, "Suzanne, you need to quit changing things", I believe it has more importantly impacted on my life in a positive way. Thank you for saying that. Thank you for pointing out for something that I thought was to no degree helpful at the time, has become so meaningful to me almost a decade later.
Confidence in oneself doesn't happen overnight - in one's flaws, imperfections, weaknesses. Learning to use those weaknesses, and turn it into your own strength will take days of mental training, weeks of hard work, and years of maintaining. In high school even though I felt I was the most 'unattractive' girl of all - I was shy, quiet and never learnt to disagree with anything. I wanted to be different, I wanted to change things - especially in myself, in my behaviours and my interaction with people. So I went on to pageantry, modelling, fashion to build confidence in networking as well. And it's been interesting, even though I don't participate in pageants/modelling anymore.
Photo by Erin Smith
I told in a recent interview with SBS (Vietnamese) that I didn't set out to be a mental health blogger. I never set out to be excluded from Nursing in University. If anything, I set out to become a registered nurse and help as many people as I can professionally. When I was excluded from nursing, I mentioned in the interview that it was my most traumatic experience in my life back then. I care about what others thought about me; my family, my friends. I never want to be an emotionless shell who doesn't get affected by what others think about me, especially from family and friends. I asked myself - how was I going to take care of my grandparents if I cannot take care of my career and myself? How can I be a good granddaughter which they raised me to be?
There's not much I can do in terms with the past, I have to accept the past cannot be changed. But I can change is my choice to be happy. I can choose to look at the past, and sure, it was a hard struggle, it was a good fight. I wouldn't be here today if I didn't have those negative experiences, and I choose to not let those experiences affect me negatively, and that's why I choose to be happy these days. I choose to look at my future, at the promises God has for me. What He has in store for me. I choose to respond to it in a positive way. Sure, I do get flashbacks from time to time again from my negative experiences and trauma I faced, but I cannot let it consume me. It's that simple. If anything, those experiences have made me become more resilient in life.