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Mental Health
  • 3 Positive Things I Learnt From Living With Bipolar

    There is still a lot of stigma around mental illnesses. Although it's getting better, we still face these challenges - for example, with everyday conversation - how easy it is to say "Good" to the typical question we see every day when meeting someone new, "How are you?", when deep down in ourselves we are not actually ok and actually need someone to listen to us. Even from a stranger at times, cause why not. How often do we find in this rushed society, it is hard to meet a stranger who actually genuinely cares about you and your mental health? And what actually would happen if we answered, "No, I am not ok." and the self-stigma we may face that prevents us from continuing that conversation? Living with Bipolar Disorder Type I has many disadvantages, I am challenged every day with myself whether to share to a stranger I meet on the streets that I have Bipolar Disorder on those "I"m-not-OK-days". I ask myself, am I putting myself up for trouble by sharing 'too much' about myself? Why am I trying to connect with this person in this way? Cause I do find I have the tendency to share more about myself than the average person, not in an egotistical way, but more like my struggles in life and so on. But in the midst of all the disadvantages of oversharing to a stranger (and perhaps the dangers in it), on the lighter side, I found five positive things I learnt since being diagnosed with Bipolar:

    Photo by Erin Smith Photography

    1. The better people stay in your life

    And the people who don't understand you won't. I have lost a lot of friends in this fight with Bipolar. But I have also found some very genuine, and authentic friends as well. I am lucky and blessed to be surrounded by positive people.

    2. Your creativity in art heightens

    I always had an appreciation for art, but it grew since being in and out the mental health ward almost eight times now that I am learning to appreciate it even more. When I think about my art, I think about my photography, my painting, my mindfulness colouring-in. It's all very therapeutic.

    3. You have more insight into yourself

    I'm becoming more self-aware with my thoughts, feelings and emotions. I act on them much sooner if I sense something unhealthy is about to come my way. When I feel suicidal, I have self-coping mechanisms like praying. If they're not working, I reach out for support such as Lifeline 13 11 14 and talk through it with a counsellor, if need be.

    All photos by Suzanne Dang unless stated otherwise

  • 5 Reasons To Look Up And Be Hopeful


    Photo by @alexatepaper

    1. Because you are loved, and cherished

    Know that no matter how much emotional and mental pain you are in, someone out there is thinking about you. They accept you for who you are, they don't care how you wore your makeup that day, what you thought you said that might have sounded 'stupid' or 'bad'. You are accepted for who you are as a beautiful, human being.

    2. Because things will get better

    Know that you have a bright future ahead of you, and every challenge and milestone; small or big, it will shape you for who you are. You may feel deflated, tired, anxious from all the noises of life, and it's dragging you down but know that when you are dragged down to the point you can't get up, you will learn to crawl, yell, or even scream through the pain and get right up where you need.

    I wouldn't be here if I didn't go through the trials and tests that life throws at me, even it means going to hospital and be admitted into the mental health ward. The mental health ward tested my willpower and I didn't go by a day thinking, "I want to give up already". So I screamed, cried and even yelled through it if I needed to, to get the help I wanted.

    3. Because every challenge will make you stronger

    They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. You are to the point you are ready to give up, you want the exit emergency door, you want to scream out and yell to the world why life has been so unfair to you and you don't understand why. 

    But you know what?

    Your 1% battery (like an iphone) lasts in the last very minute of time, you use it to get the help you want. You learn to master an episode of Depression or Bipolar. You know when you start feeling depressed and down and you seek help straight away, whether that's medical or from a family/friend. Your 1% willpower wins all. And at the end of the day, you become stronger.

    4. Because you have a story to tell

    Everyone has a story to tell, and you will inspire and empower those around you who may have gone through the same thing as you. You understand their journey of being diagnosed with mental illnesses and you empathise them and help them cause you know what it's like to be in the deepest, and darkest pits of despair. You believe in the art of story-telling and helping others.

    5. Because we are all in this together

    Our lives are limited to less than 100 years. Only some of us have the fate and luck to live to that long, but know that while we are all still living and breathing, there will be people who will help you with what you need, your destiny will change as soon as you believe it will get better. You have the support you want and need.

    So just look up, and be hopeful.

  • How I Won A Friendship With Negative 200 Dollars


    I received a distressed phone call early in the morning. It was one of my friends, who had a bad incident and experience. I was about to head to bed, and be knocked out from my medications I take for my Bipolar Disorder. I listened out in the phone call and tried to think of how I could help. As soon as my friend said she wanted to go home, and she tried contacting her boyfriend and family, but no one could pick up, I knew it was up to me to do something. 

    I didn't hesitate for even a moment at the time to call Uber and fetch her where she was over an hour away or so. I had absolutely no money in my account, my account was already in the negative. I thought to myself, what if my friend was about to go in danger? What if something happened to her and I didn't act in time when I could have?

    I wanted to sacrifice my money, which I hold so dearly (even though I don't have much!) every day and help a friend in need. Helping a friend/saving a life is more important than money and material things in life. After all, we are all in this world of madness together. Let's help each other out, and not be selfish in our own ways. 

    Though I do think that a lot of people may think I am stupid for making this decision in my life, and my financial planning is not as planned out as everyone else's. But I have no regrets. I have won and influenced a friend in a good way, and I would give all the money in the world to help a friend in need. By the grace of God, I will be able to overcome this financial madness I put upon myself in due time too.

  • My Weight Loss and Gain Journey

    Photos of myself beginning from 2007 to 2016.

    I remember in 2007, I was a very insecure girl, not confident and always had issues with my own body. I compared my own image to other girls. I believed and told myself I had the 'worst' body in high school, no matter how much I would eat, my body seemed to never gain weight.

    Fast forward a few years, I had my first episode of Depression, and started on antidepressants. My body's metabolism started to slow down, and I (joyfully) watched as my body weight increased. As I became more sedated, and the dose's treatment for my mental illness increased, my appetite increased.

    But deep down, I was hurting and angry, and asked God why did He put me in this position? I was angry at God, and so I left my church for a while. I found myself to be in more emotional turmoil, having watched myself be admitted and discharged from hospital several times already.

    As I gained more weight, I found I wanted to battle with the modelling industry I was then in and help reshape the appropriate body image of models in the industry. And try to be a role-model for younger girls and people who were interested in modelling. I helped be a role-model and hopefully inspired those who wanted to try modelling. As of this year, I found myself started to having medication withdrawals. Withdrawals so bad that I couldn't eat, see all my friends for two months and crying almost every night, and in turn, I lost 7 kgs 'naturally'. But I ended up in hospital for a month as of recent.

    I want to reach out to especially young people, whether you are on antidepressants/pharmaceutical drugs or not, there will always be a silver lining. Bodies will always change physically, it is just inevitable. My journey has been a rollercoaster of a ride for sure, and although my memory is somewhat fragmented I feel at times due to the side effects of meds, at least I still have a story to tell.

    I try to tell myself these days that there's no such definition as a 'perfect' body. I pray to God that I will always remember these words, and I ask God for his spiritual covering and protection as my body will grow or/and shrink later on and that I don't have to be on these medications for the rest of my life, so I can live a 'natural' life.


    My current self. Taken in November 2016.

  • How I Was "Let Out" From Psychiatric Ward Without Taking Any Meds


    Photo: Tuan Thai Photography

    I was recently hospitalised down in the psychiatric ward. Again. This isn't a secret guide or anything like that if you're purely interested in how "getting out" of the Psychiatric Ward, it's just my experience and each case and person is different from each other. I just want to give a few points on how I made it out of the psychiatric ward without taking no medications at all. 

    I was suffering from short-term memory loss (I lost my wallet twice this year), hair loss, shakiness in hands, and daily constipation from the medications I was taking for the past 6 years or so. 

    If you're not aware, the psychiatric ward is a really different place. I have met some of the most fascinating people (patients-wise) yet "scary" as well. In my last admission, I was wrongly accused of stealing of another patients' pants/leggings and I was shocked to hear that same very day that my roommate was told by that patient who accused me to steal my pants at night time when I am sleeping. This shook and scared me, I thought the patient/s were playing psychological games with me. I did the right thing straight away and told the nurse and the nurse in charge about what had happened. I don't argue with patients, I am polite to them but distrust them in most ways I would like to add.

    Anyway I didn't take my/any prescribed medications when I was in the ward. I had the right to refuse as I was a voluntary patient mainly. I know the nurses loved and respected me as a patient, I would help the Bed Warden with some tasks such as making beds for new admissions for example. They know I was kind, respectful and wouldn't hurt anyone. But the doctors and nurses would still prescribe and administer me medications whenever I told them I was "anxious" and not "calm". 

    I remember in my first admission I would learn to say things the doctors and nurses wanted to hear, take the medications they prescribed no matter informed I thought I was in taking the medications I was prescribed. But this time, I wanted to do things differently and Suzanne's way...of what I think is best for my body, and of course being aware of what the doctors and nurses tell me about medications and taking care of myself at the back of my mind. I am a grown adult, I have a lot of support from family and friends and sometimes it feels I am treated like a child in there (especially in the first few admissions). 

    So I decided to stop my medications cold turkey and I was discharged earlier this week. I am able to sleep better, I don't feel sedated when I take the night medications as I also love to burn the midnight oil and work at night on things I'm passionate about in life. I study full-time, and work as well. I have been able to maintain employment longer than I used to. 

    Just saying people don't realise how highly functional I am as a "mentally ill" person. 

    This time during the admission, my room was the cleaniest (so I was told by the nurses) out of all the mental health patients in the ward, I dressed well enough that people told me I looked like a doctor or/and nurse. It was quite hilarious actually.

  • Confessions Of A University Disability Student



    I accepted the past and know that there was no turning back (I don't live by regrets) in telling the GP seven or eight years ago that I've been feeling "suicidal", have a loss of appetite and my sleeping pattern has been getting worse and worse. I simply diagnosed myself with "Depression" during that time when I was nineteen years old. I had been failing my University subjects for nursing, that the next year or so, I was finally excluded from the program and school. 

    A spiralling tunnel of darkness going down overwhelmed me.

    I had no hope in studying again for a few months, I did not know what to say to my grandparents who poured their hearts and soul in teaching me and supporting me the value of education. Sure, I still valued education, but I found it all too "difficult" to comprehend - the assignments and exams.

    But of course it's more than that. University life is more than...university. You need to find a way to maintain a balance of social life, family life, university life and most importantly, time for yourself to rejuvenate. Rejuvenation is the key to anything. As I am someone who wants to keep my loved ones happy, I do feel the pressure of putting on a mask sometimes and doing...things, to keep them happy. Back to being excluded from nursing, I had already failed the same nursing subject three times, and fast forward a few years; I attempted on taking Childcare then Photography then Fashion Design at TAFE Brisbane. 

    Failed all those courses too.

    It was an awful experience for me.

    My HECS debt was getting higher and higher.

    I would try and try again. But something was always wrong, and I would fail, academically.

    Until...

    ...until I found out about disability support at University/TAFE. Disability support was the most amazing discovery I have found up to date. With the disability support, you have to promise to yourself and be on the ball with things. I mean like, you have to book an appointment in early with a Disability Support Officer, include lots of medical documentations. I included my Clinical Neuropsychologist Report which cost me a fortune which I did when I was nineteen. The report and my current medications list, report from my therapist and psychiatrist helped me write a report how I am stable and managing my "illnesses" well. Also be on the ball with things in regards to updating your tutors and lecturers about how you're travelling. I did that this semester for my current University course (I am taking Korean and Sociology as majors) and I received tremendous help in regards to exam and assignmenta adjustments. Both universities I go to are very supportive. So make it clear with your tutors and lecturers about how you're going cause the only way to do well at University and graduate is to be active with your learning and know your strengths and weaknesses, which is what I did.

    Because of disability support, I have been receiving good grades too.

    Photography: Tuan Thai Photography

  • Dating A Girl With A Mental Illness



    Make her feel beautiful every day you see her. Tell her that she's beautiful. Don't judge her for the cycles and seasons she goes through. Believe that part of her recovery is you being there with her through the storm. Understand and listen to her feelings and emotions. Don't be quick to judge her and tell her to snap out of it. Don't tell her to change her way of thinking. 

    She is a strong woman, for going through what she's experiencing.

    I speak from experience, and it's not an easy journey to date someone with mental health problems. Not saying you shouldn't date someone with mental health problems. A mental health problem is just like any other problem, like cancer and other physical problems. 

    My two year relationship was like an emotional rollercoaster for me, I was and still am a person who has low self-esteem. I act all confident on the outside but on the inside that is really the important part. I get jealous very easily. My partner at the time experienced many times where I approached him about him being unloyal to me. He's allowed to have female friends, as per normal. I felt I was the one to blame for being jealous. Jealousy is about you, I learnt. It's not about the other person and psychology studies shows that jealousy is exhibited from low self-esteem, and not trusting the person and among other things. 

    I would get jealous at the slightest things, my partner talking to his other female friends and when they're laughing together, I was perhaps, a bit delusional (I have been diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder) and I would think they are purposely flirting with each other. It's like little things that makes me go mad.

    I don't know where I am going with this. It's just another blogpost with ramblings.

    Photography by Vee Photography

  • Being Torn Between Two Cultures



    "Where are you from?" - someone asks me for the first time in our first meeting. I stutter for a bit at the answer, trying to quickly process in my head whether to say if I'm Australian or Vietnamese. 

    Growing up in the city of Brisbane, I've always been proud of my cultures. But sometimes I am torn between the two cultures and deciding which I feel I identify myself more as is, in fact, quite difficult and makes me feel torn between the two cultures. 

    I love Australia. I love the weather, I love the people and the vibrant cities and activities that the places has to offer. It's an amazing country to be part of and I'm proud to call myself an Australian citizen.

    For Vietnamese culture; I love the history (not saying Australia doesn't have one), the food, the people and especially visiting back to the country itself helps me get a feel of the real culture that it has to offer. 

    It just feels a bit wrong sometimes to say I am Australian, and not Vietnamese. It makes it sounds like I'm trying to say to the other person that one culture is better than the other.

    The main trouble with myself is that every time I get asked this question, "Where are you from?", I also want to sometimes explain to them all day that I am Australian by paper but I also can sometimes identify myself as Vietnamese as well. But of course, everyone is running out of time and not have all day to listen to me and ramble on about my troubles with cultural identity and the like.

    Tuan Thai Photography

  • How I Bounced Back To Normal From Suicidal Thoughts By Myself


    Michelle Fleur Photography

    Holding the aluminium sheets of medications I was about to open, I take a moment; just the slightest moment to really try to think this is what I really wanted to do: to end my life. To end it all with overdosing on medications.

    This isn't the first time I have tried to attempt suicide in my room. It's something that seem to come by as now a "normal" behaviour of mine it seemed. Knowing the fact that I'll leave everything behind: my passion for fashion, my family, my friends and my dreams and goals. The "happy" person, Suzanne, no longer wants to be part of this world.

    I am writing this at this moment where I have just overcome another hurdle for this season and which that was the suicidal attempt I experienced in my very own bedroom a couple of nights ago. I did not manage to overdose, or else I wouldn't be capable of writing this blog post for my readers. 

    It was the self-talk that saved me.

    It was not the phone call to my best friend, or to the hospital. 

    I looked at myself into the mirror and simple told myself, "You are beautiful, you are an inspiration" whilst crying my hearts out. No matter how much I didn't want to believe the positive affirmations, I still, in fact, found myself looking into the makeup mirror and whispering out those affirmations.

    Lonely nights at home seem to trigger a lot of things in my mind, as it's quiet mainly. I try to occupy myself with studies, work, seeing friends and the like to help keep my mind busy. As we all know, our own mind can be our own enemy.


  • 3 Reasons Why I Wanted To Die

    Life isn't easy. We all know that. We have to work hard towards our goals and if we have any at the time. It sometimes phases me that for someone like me who have all these problems that it can sometimes be easier to die and end it all. Yes, I have attempted suicide before. I first hit myself with a rock against my head when I was 14. Didn't pass out or anything. It hurt, and it stopped me there. And I'm glad it did. I have so much to live for now. Cause life in itself is beautiful and it is precious to have life and be able to function. I believe everyone's struggles make themselves stronger as a person and it's up to them to decide whether they want to make positive changes in their life. Though in saying that, when I was really depressed and suicidal, I had reasons why I wanted to die:

    1. Life is hard. Life isn't worth living for anymore

    When I'm in this state, I don't have any clear views of what I want to achieve in life anymore. There is an emptiness that overwhelms and overcomes me. It lasts for a long time. Sure, I do think of my family, friends, or even pets I may have that are there for me. But sometimes people don't understand that it's easier to end it all. You feel like a burden to all your loved ones, for putting them through what you've done to them or so.

    2. I feel like a big burden

    This is a big one. Being a burden is normal for those who are depressed to feel this way about their health conditions. Some may even run away from their loved ones, away from their homes when they would be better off staying with their loved ones. I haven't personally run away yet, mainly cause I'm not too game enough to. 

    3. I am worthless, I am hopeless

    Negative thoughts play a big part in my problems. The voices in my head are really important and what I tell myself each day is very vital to my mental health. Feeling worthless and hopeless in life just made me wanted to commit/attempt suicide even more. But of course some people don't understand this. They just want you to snap out of it which is ridiculous. 

  • 3 Mistakes I Made In The Psychiatric Ward

    I feel I haven't written and been keeping up to date with my mental health blogposts/videos lately. So I'm trying my best tonight to squeeze out a story for you guys. I want to say that my experiences in the psychiatric/mental health ward was definitely different to everyone else's. Everyone goes through different experiences each day and respond to it differently. There were some ways I regret of doing/thinking while I was down in the ward:

    1) I thought I was the worse patient

    This could be interpreted in different ways. I thought I was the patient with the worse condition and everyone should feel sorry for me. I don't feel that way anymore though. I believe at the beginning I was a stubborn, and bitchy patient. I didn't want to listen to what anyone said to me at the time. But of course there's more to that, I just wanted to be understood at the time. With having new diagnoses at the time years ago, I had feelings of guilt and shame and more in me.

    2) I always over-exaggerated the situation

    The patient who pushed me into the wall deserved to be put in the HDU (High Dependecy Unit - believe me, you don't want to go there) I felt. I cried so much after the patient pushed me into the wall. I didn't want the patient to get away with it. I was glad the patient was moved to HDU after the patient attacked one of the head nurse. On another note, I remember I didn't want stop washing my hands cause I wanted a new diagnosis of OCD. I was then quickly caught by one of the nurses who physically stopped me and I shrieked and yelled back at him for touching me and getting into my personal space. I was bizarre. I was not my usual self. 

    3) I seeked constant attention

    My first month of my first psychiatric hospitalisation, I was put on something called "Constance" where a nurse was there to care for me, watch me eat, drink, use the bathroom etc. Everywhere I go I basically had a nurse following me around. After I was put off it, I felt the urge or/and the need for my life to have that constant attention/care again from the nurses. 

  • 3 Things My Good Friends Say When I'm In A Manic Episode

    Understanding someone with a mental illness/es is a hard one. It takes a lifetime for someone to understand someone else's condition I would say. You don't just meet someone and the person with the condition tells you about their struggles and you say you understand what they're going through. Unless you've been in similar situations such as hospital admissions and similar diagnoses but even that there's not full understanding in my opinion. My normal friends got it tough. But I'm going to say I have it tougher. I have been through a lot, and although there's no point in dwelling in the past, the past has been journeyed and there's no way I can change that. What I can change is the way I think and the way I react to certain things. Like when someone tells me to 'Chin up' and 'Snap out of it', especially when I'm in an episode, it simply doesn't help. On normal days I just shrug it off and don't care about explaining my situation. But on those terrible days I just want to be understood and not be told those unhelpful statements said above. So what do my good friends say when I'm in an manic episode?

    1. "We'll go through this hell together"

    No one wants to be alone. No one wants to be misunderstood and for me having mental illnesses it's easy to feel lonely in your own mind and time. I learnt that recovering from mental illnesses has nothing to do with strength but it includes having a good routine of sleep, a good diet, exercise, and a healthy support network such as love from family and friends.

    2. "I love you. I care about you."

    How often have I have been in an episode and received a lot of love and care from my support network? A lot. Whether that's in a form of written text on card or over Facebook msg, it can mean a lot to me. For someone to just say that, it touches me on a very deep level. I think it's something that gets missed telling to loved ones everyday and it can be taken for granted for.

    3. "Are you ok? What happened?"

    Instead of jumping to quick assumptions about what happened, good friends ask these questions to confirm everything is ok and they truly want to know what actually happened. People can normally be quick to judge (even I can be a victim of this).

    So there you have it. I have compiled three not-so-detailed points about what good friends say when I'm in a manic episode. I can think of more but I'll leave it to next time.

  • 4 Signs That I'm In A Manic Episode

    Friends, this post is to help you understand me better maybe, and perhaps help you recognise when I'm in an episode. It is also for me to document a bit of what's happened in the last couple of days as a reflection as well as it being therapeutic for me. In the above video, I mentioned that I have been diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia and bipolar. Sometimes it's difficult to understand when each illness is present. Today my therapist who I have been seeing for almost a year now told me that I don't have schizophrenia. It's just depression and bipolar. I'm still getting my head around this. I don't always have to get it, cause it's tough. After each episode, I learn more about my condition even though it feels like I've taken a big step back. When I have a manic episode, I notice that:

    1. I lose hope 

    Hopelessness is a big factor to notice when my mental health is deteriorating. It can be accompanied by worthlessness and losing interest in things for the future. Hope is something I need everyday to help me survive. Without hope, there is no future. But how does one have hope when everything around them seems to be crumbling down? This is something I tell myself when I lose hope. 

    2. I think people are out to harm me

    Not just emotionally, but physically, mentally and spiritually. Sure, it's normal to check your back if someone is following you when you're walking home late at night. But spiritually? What about the pastor who I thought tried to speak to me and make me feel guilty for what I have done in life? Those sort of things, if that makes sense. Sometimes when I am in an episode I think people are out to harm me. 

    3. I engage in risky behaviour/s

    This is a big one and it can mean in so many levels. It could mean from myself going out clubbing and exposing myself in a dangerous environment where there's drugs, alcohol etc are involved. I am a spiritual person I tell you that, and I know for sure clubbing is not the most spiritual place to be for someone like me. Saying I want to quit clubbing will not work, especially if you have done it in the last 2 months and going out every weekend. 

    4. My mood flutuates like crazy

    I have bipolar depression. I can get hypomania. Or even hypermania. Google it if you don't know the meanings to these words. So when I'm in a really low mood, it can be very lethal to my well-being, to the point sometimes I have suicidal thoughts. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, just the feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness arises.

    This isn't all of the signs I tell you, there are more. But maybe I'll give it a rest now. This post is written from a very personal level but I want to share it with you all.