Blog

Category
  • 5 Ways To Improve Your Mental Health

    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 time to 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

    1. Registering into an art workshop

    I registered into a 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. 


    4. Praying

    Seek God. Ask from Him from what you want. Ask for wisdom, courage, and healing from Him.


    5. Painting

    I love painting as a creative outlet. I love getting more creative each day. 

    Photos taken by Suzanne Dang unless stated otherwise

  • My First Experience in an All-Female Mental Health Ward


    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.

  • What I Learnt About My Mental Illness From Being Unemployed For Over A Year


    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 scared me 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.

  • How I Overcame And Prayed Against My Suicidal Thoughts


    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

  • What It's Like To Continue 'Believing' After Rape For Me


    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

  • Dating A Girl With A Mental Illness Pt III


    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. 

  • To The High School Teacher Who Told Me To Quit Changing Things


    (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. 

  • Why I Choose To Be Happy


    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.

  • My Interview with SBS Vietnamese (English Translation)


    Original Article

    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 to others 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 hospital and 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.

  • Dating A Girl With A Mental Illness pt II


    Photo by Kaitlin Maree Photography

    Hold her when she is crying, when words no longer work. Acknowledge the fact you cannot fix anything at the time, but you are there to support her. You can only do so much. Tell her of all the good qualities she has such as, she is kind. She is beautiful, and wonderful as she is. Understand and mention that you are always on this journey with her, and that God always protects her and loves her for who she is. Be active in her progress in her recovery, and cheer her on for every good step of the way. 

    Be supportive and encouraging, always.

    When things get tough, and it feels like neither of you understands each other; take a breather, and re-evaluate and see that you are not letting your emotions and feelings dictate the choices you make for each other. It's okay for both to embrace solitude, but not isolate each other. Be creative in her recovery, not just like the visual arts; but be pro-active in her journey, not overwhelming her with too much information, as it can be overwhelming. 


    Photo by Kaitlin Maree Photography