Mes chéries, I know I’ve disappointed La Coterie (the B&R family) with my continuous inconsistency on the blog and YouTube channel. I always say it’s because I’m so busy (which is absolutely true), but it’s also because a lot of my down time has been dedicated to dealing with some personal issues.
I started the L’Espirit section of this blog because I don’t believe in staying silent about mental health. Whether it’s a good day or a bad day, mental well-being should not be a taboo topic to discuss. I stand by the fact that the more openly we discuss these topics, the less anxiety, depression, bipolarity, and other issues get stigmatized. It’s taken almost a year for me to be able to write this post. I wasn’t sure how to best talk about this topic as it is very sensitive and personal. The full story of my own mental health journey doesn’t belong on the internet as there are many people involved that I wish to protect. However, I do want to share a large part of the progress I’ve recently made with my anxiety in hopes of helping someone else overcome the voices in their head.
From teenage years to today, I’ve experienced mild depression/anxiety issues/crippling panic attacks, struggled to stay successful with ADHD sans medication, and dealt with some minor bipolarity. The source of all my issues stem from inner conflict about my identity. At all times of the day, there are at least 5 different voices in my head speaking at once determining what I should do, what I should say, how I should behave, and what I should believe. Each one of these voices come from someone in my life.
Like many first generation Asian-Americans, I was told to believe or think a certain way since birth. To add to the mix, my parents sent me to a very upper class and Caucasian private school, a very diverse public high school, and a university with beautifully weird minds. I didn’t realize just how badly influenced I was by all the varying voices around me until three years ago.
Today, I still struggle with these voices in my head. They tend to come out when someone close questions something I want to do OR when I am actively dating. As I struggled with identity, I struggled with seeing myself clearly and understanding what is an acceptable way to be treated. Therefore, I’ve put up with many terrible things I never deserved when it came to friendships and relationships. In the past year, I took a decent amount of time for myself. I started filtering out the outdated voices that I knew weren’t me and focusing on what my intuition told me. Slowly, I’m learning who I am and how I deserve to be treated.
Unfortunately, there are some voices that will never leave your head. As I make choices about my life or my body as an adult, I face a lot of backlash. People say things because they care, but sometimes they don’t know how to respect differences in opinions and perspectives. Words of care turn into words of manipulation that instilled fear and/or guilt in you. There is nothing worse than someone making you feel like the person you are is bad or wrong. As a result, my anxiety has made a few guest appearances in the last year. But this time around, I learned a new trick: the art of compartmentalizing.
I often joke that I have a pair of twin daughters: Logic and Emotion. For the most part, we three are on the same page. But, there are days when Emotion decides to throw a random tantrum and parkour all over the walls of my mind for no reason. In the past, I joined the tantrum and tried to control it from within. Now, I’ve learned to step outside of my mind and just observe the emotions. What may have caused me to feel this way? Is there any rationale to this emotion? Can I just let it run out of energy or is there a real issue that needs to be addressed?
People say that you can’t choose how to feel. That’s true. But you can choose how to deal with your emotions. Observing what I’m feeling instead of jumping into the emotion has stopped me from making fatal errors in judgement. I’ve learned to treat my mind like a very large mansion with many rooms. Logic lives in the west wing. Emotion and her many personalities each live in a separate room, or compartment, in the east wing. I trained myself to not run for the panic room the second something triggering occurs. Instead, I step back from the mansion and take a good look at what is happening in each room before I do something I’ll regret.
Learning how to compartmentalize the illusions my anxiety births from reality and facts has been the biggest milestone of my year. All these voices in my head and the feelings that come with it are valid, but many of them are not real. Once I figured out how to lock the nonsense in a separate part of my mind, I stopped projecting past failures onto present situations. I stopped creating terrible scenarios to break my own heart just to save myself from a possible – not even imminent, just possible – pain that someone else could maaaaybe cause me down the road. I even found myself ignoring those manipulative words and strictly listening to my own gut.
My therapist once asked me what my biggest fear in life is. I found myself saying “being undesirable and ending up alone.” Afterwards, I immediately laughed. How can someone desire me if I don’t start acting like myself! Shouldn’t I find a match that will love me for all of me, even the “undesirable” parts? I’m still trying to figure out what I really want and what I need in life, but I will say I’m about 90% there when it comes to understanding who the hell Erica Huang is. Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days (bless my friends who are there for me when I just need to let it all out). But for the most part, I’m no longer walking into the dark corner rooms of the mansion.
There’s so much more to mental health awareness than just labeling disorders or diseases. You can feel depressed even if you don’t suffer from severe depression. You can feel anxious and not have crippling anxiety or panic attacks. You can be moody or have mood swings but not be classified as bipolar. That doesn’t make it less important to talk about. For me, the biggest battle will always be my anxiety. It has taken a life of its own, practically made me act bipolar, and even immobilized me from performing normal daily functions. But since I started compartmentalizing, I stopped self-sabotaging myself.
Mes chéries, if you struggle with anything mental health related please don’t think you’re alone. Everyone does, whether they vocalize it or not. I highly recommend working with a therapist, because a trained third party perspective can be essential to sorting through the mess your mind creates. So if you ever find the voices in your mind in a screaming match, observe first, then compartmentalize and focus solely on what you know is real. Don’t allow anxiety or depression or anything else you struggle with rob you of the happiness you deserve.
When it comes to your mind, you have so much more power than you realize. You’re the head of the house. You can choose which rooms to walk into. May I suggest the sunniest?
Until next time, bisou biosu…
Shoes: Christian Louboutin