Today is 30 December 2019, and as I'm reflecting on what a great year it has been for me, I am also excited about what 2020 will have installed for me. I have improved and recovering from my mental health issues, and tackling each issue at a time. I want to share why 2019 was the best year of my twenties with you:
1) I got discharged from the mental health rehab
I stayed for over a year and a half at a mental health rehabilitation place. There I found support not just for the mind (I have Bipolar Disorder Type I), but budgeting help, independent accommodation, and also advice on how to develop new coping strategies when I start hearing voices again.
2) I started driving again
I had two car accidents in my early twenties and it traumatised me to not drive for 3-4 years or so. The government paid for me to start learning and building confidence to drive again through lessons supported by my NDIS. Just last week, I drove my grandma to the shops and back to her place. I absolutely love driving, and the confidence it has given me
3) I started working, after being unemployed for almost two years
I gained employment for over the Xmas period and absolutely loved the challenges I faced, the beautiful managers and employees I met who are so kind and lovely. Having employment, even though it was mainly for over the Xmas period not only gave me a sense of purpose in the community but also build my confidence in my own skills. I absolutely love working and the joys of making hard-earnt money are just so satisfying.
4) I learnt to love myself first, before loving anyone else
This year I chose to stay single, even though I went for a few dates, but ultimately single life for me was amazing this year. I love spending time with myself, watching movies at the cinemas, and even doing some fine dining by myself. Being 28 has been an amazing year for me.
5) I found comfort and peace in God
I am a Christian, and although I am not very good at attending church at times, I find peace in Him and listening to Hillsong songs as well. I have learnt to be bolder in knowing God, and pray for people and my friends who are having a difficult time as well. I believe He heals, and He allowed all the bad things to happen in the previous years of my twenties, so I can truly obey Him and put faith and trust in Him.
6) I lived in independent accommodation for one year
This month marks one year since I moved into my studio/1 bedroom apartment. I cook, I clean and do self-care almost every night since moving in here last December. I find comfort and safeness in my home, and I love living by myself. It's just so much fun and I feel good in myself.
Photo by Michelle Fleur
Jk Couture VIP Night at The Morrison Hotel was a night to remember. Guests were welcomed into a special function room from 6.30pm. Seats were filled with goodie bags that left me smiling. There were entertainment from a magician, musical acts and platters of savoury and sweet foods. Guests were also spoilt with a full course meal while the musicians entertained everyone. Joanne Hasson's, (the person behind JK Couture) story and motive behind this charity night was based around her mother-in-law's cancer journey and experience, so Joanne decided to hold a charity night for cancer. There were plenty of raffle prizes to win, and I won a $300 Xennox Diamonds giftcard (woohoo!). The program ended at 9.30pm on the dot, and was perfect timing according to the program which was great. I can't wait to go to the next JK Couture's VIP night. They are just so much fun!
Above: Beautiful styling by Plan and Simple
Above: The program
Above: Delicious alcohol-infused cupcakes
Above: One of the guests, Martha Yuna Lay
Above: JK Couture dress
Above: Musical entertainment by Lucy Taylor Music
Above: Martha Yuna Lay and Joanne Hasson
Photography by Suzanne Dang
It wasn't your fault that you chose the wrong man to date. It wasn't your fault you got raped and abused. He was never good to you, but yet you wanted to forgive him but you couldn't. You wish you knew you were strong enough to withstand anything that would come your way. You knew it was not easy to have relapses, and you didn't want to believe something was wrong with you. But there was something wrong with you, and although you didn't see the beauty in your failure with school and university, you came through and now you are a beautiful, resilient woman. I wish you would know that every tear dropped because of a man or an event was worth it till this point - I want to let you know you wouldn't be strong like this without the help of traumatic events - no matter how painful they were. You have grown/and growing to be a resilient, empowered young woman. Every traumatic event happened was meant to be.
You believe in God, and that He is the answer to everything in life. You look for guidance and comfort in God, even though you don't do very well at attending church. You know there is more than just attending church on Sunday. You believe He will protect you and shows you guidance. You only wish to see Him as the answer in your life.
You have come so far with helping
others,if only you knew at 19 years old that you would be advocating for mental health and doing speaking roles later which you would never have imagined when you were younger. People tell you all the time that you are an inspiration, strong-minded and caring. It was just you who didn't always believed it. You didn't believe it you when you were 19. At times you even thoughtyou were a monster, for having some bad thoughts ofyourself and other people.
I want to let you know that you a warrior, a very strong female warrior who will continue to inspire people. No matter how many bad relationships you've had, you still stand strong. You are empowered through your struggles, every time you fall down, you will get back up.
Please remember this.
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 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.
1. Your growing up journey in Australia as a Vietnamese second generation in Australia?
Growing up in Australia and of Vietnamese background, I always believed in always connecting with your roots and heritage. My grandparents raised me after my parents divorced and they played a huge role in keeping my cultural identity. Although I did not have many Vietnamese friends when I was younger, I believed with the help of my grandparents, I got to learn about the values, morals and beliefs of a Vietnamese person, as well as the language. I learnt the importance of
family,and the value of working my hardest and to never give up. Australia has such a vast variety of cultures, being a multi-cultural nation, I also got a glimpse into the food and culture presented in the Vietnamese cultural events in Australia too.
2. Your profession (your study major)?
On my third year of a Bachelor of Nursing, I was excluded from nursing for academic reasons in 2010. I felt this was one of my biggest traumatic failures in life, and although I couldn’t graduate, I did instead try to find employment to have a sense of belonging in the community. I miraculously found a job and worked as a nurse assistant specifically for people with spinal cord injuries for three years, and didn’t really enjoy that too, so I left. Although I haven’t had much luck with my tertiary studies and employment, I still love the idea of studying and making education a top priority in my life, as I believe in life-long learning. I have had the pleasure to take glimpses and enrolled into other tertiary studies such as; Fashion Design, Photography and Sociology too.
3. Why do you choose to work in the mental health field?
I never planned to be an advocate for mental health, it was always meant to be with the grace of God, and one of God’s miraculous plans for the greater good that despite through all the pain of my academic failures in life, I am able to achieve something and help others through the power of story-telling. Although being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type I, I have suffered a lot of pain, not just mentally, but emotionally too, but only through the strength of God, I can have an interest in mental health, because being in the mental health ward for almost eight times now, I have seen people from different spectrums of life and I want to see what I can do to help them through my suffering too, give them hope that they can recover from mental health issues. I believe people with mental illnesses can recover too, and I just want to set an example.
4. Why do you choose social media platforms to promote your work?
At first, it was more of a cry for help. I began using social media as a cry for help in sharing my stories
toothers and I use it to give myself a voice for those who don’t have one. From then on, I expanded out using the platforms to share safe mental health information, especially on my blog, cause not all mental health information is safe and effective to help others online.
5. Working as a mental health advocate, what are the common mental health symptoms you have often faced with, especially for young people?
I am no doctor or mental health professional, but young people have so many pressures from life these days, I have met young people in the mental health ward who are as highly functional as me, and because their symptoms get in the way, I think they are unable to recognise it soon enough and get the help they need. Something as little as getting out of bed can be the hardest thing for a young person to do, not getting enough sleep, and disconnecting with their social circles are some of the things I noticed.
6. You're also a fashion, beauty blogger. Are there any links between fashion, beauty and mental health in your work?
Again, I did not set out to be a blogger of very different interests, especially in being a mental health blogger. I think it’s important to always be open-minded to different things in life, and take what you need from it, and turn it into how you can help others. When I attend fashion events, I always introduce myself as a mental health and fashion blogger, emphasising on the mental health part and also say that through my journey of Bipolar I hope to give hope and light to those who are suffering from something similar.
7. Working in the mental health field, have you ever feel stressful?
Yes, of course. I attended a youth mental health workshop one time, and I ended up feeling so stressed that I ended up in the mental health ward a few days later. But I received a lot of support during and after the workshop, plus many follow-up calls and messages from the youth mental health organisation which was great. I learnt a lot from that experience, I learnt it’s not about how much strength you can muster up to work or volunteer in mental health, but more about knowing yourself and recognising your triggers when things go sour (for example I called the Mental Health Department at
hospitaland Lifeline that I needed help). It’s about taking baby steps to getting the help you need.
8. I heard that you were nominated for Best Bupa Blog Awards? Also you were invited for a role of 'Conference Consultant' at the 12th Biennial Asia Pacific International Mental Health Conference. Can you talk more about this?
I am blessed to have the opportunities and finding different ways of getting my work out there. I was nominated for the BUPA Blog Award “Health” category, and the conference was my first time accepting the role as a ‘Conference Consultant’, but unfortunately I could not attend the three-day event for health issues, and being in the hospital. I just helped with sharing information about the conference through the use of my social media platforms though, that’s all.
9. Do you have any plan for the near future? (For example expand your work)
I plan on recovering to the fullest. I want to heal from my mental health issues, and although I am better, I feel there’s always room for self-improvement. Learning to practice self-compassion, self-love, self-gratitude; and taking small steps in life every day, and taking it easy.