Speak Out and Ask for Help | World Mental Health Day

Speak Out and Ask for Help | World Mental Health Day

While today is “officially” World Mental Health Day,  to be frank, everyday should be so. As much as physical health has always been recognized as important, I think society today has made great strides in eliminating the stigma against mental health.

But in my perspective, I don’t see mental health and physical health as a black and white dynamic. As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, mental health and physical health go very hand in hand.

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Some people regard eating disorders as a very physical thing: in fact many insurance companies delegate which of their clients is eligible to get coverage for their recovery treatment purely based on weight. If their client maintains that they have an eating disorder, however they are a certain low weight, they will not be insured. Some people depict anorexia, bulimia, and all disordered eating in the in between with skinniness where you can see the bones and no muscle. And soon as we gain weight, we are deemed as “recovered.”

However, disordered eating carries more than the physical manifestation. Actually, I think it is more than the physical. Disordered eating takes on a whole psychological battle: internalizing your worth through food, exercise, and body image. So even if you are at a physically “healthy” weight, your thoughts are still unhealthy and damaging.

And although very depressing, sometimes these thoughts will never be gone. There isn’t necessarily something as full, complete recovery where you can live a life drastically different and with no fear of food. There will always be lingering thoughts – sometimes felt more severely than other times – and so recovery means something greater than completely eliminating those thoughts but rather, knowing how to handle them when they do pop up because they do.

Mental health is  viewed in society as something that is treated once and will never come back. No, just as much as a physical fever or cold, we get sick frequently. And that’s we have doctors and medicine because we know that we don’t just get sick once in our lifetime, but dozens and dozens of times. Very much so, mental health problems are not something that just passes by, but rather with each time, will make you a stronger person and more ready to handle it the next time it comes, because it will come again.

So on behalf of World Mental Health Day, prioritize your health: both physical and mental. And always always know asking for help does not make you any less of person, but actually brings and shows the humanity in you. We as humans require help and support to grow into stronger forms of ourselves. There is always someone out there that sincerely cares for your health. You are never alone.

xoxo,

Stephanie

life is precious

life is precious

In the wake of Kate Spade’s passing, I wanted to drop my two cents on mental health.

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Mental health has always been a delicate topic to discuss on: I’ve realized this when naive freshman me signed up to conduct a school-wide investigation on mental health for the high school newspaper. At the time, I was not familiar with mental health besides clinical depression. And even clinical depression for me was manifested in a severe way to a close family friend at my church.

After seeing depression inflict my family friend in both a mental but physical way, my freshman self  did not realize that mental health could easily be concealed. Interviewing students across campus, I was shocked that physical health did not necessarily lend itself to mental health. Indeed, to me, Kate Spade and her brand represented bright colors, happiness, bubbly designs and playful prints. But to hear of the passing of a visionary person who I assumed embodied those characteristics due to depression and anxiety revealed me that I and our society have still much to learn about on mental health.

Assuredly, I am someone who falls victim to putting up a persona despite conflicting internal conditions. The strain of having to keep up with such “performance” hit an all-time low this past winter. For a bit over a month, I was constantly downhearted and unhappy. A day wouldn’t pass without a breakdown and staring blankly at the wall. It was difficult time, made even more difficult because I couldn’t exactly place a finger as to why I was feeling the way I was. All I knew at that time was that I was unhappy, unfulfilled, and couldn’t be bothered to do anything.

The whole time I tried my hardest to keep my usual persona: bright, inquisitive, and optimistic. I tried even harder to appear resilient to not only others but to myself as well. And it worked for most, most people don’t know that I had such time this winter. Only my close friends and family are aware and I am infinitely grateful to them. I was and still thankful for those who were perceptive and realized that this Stephanie was unwell. They were all understanding, loving, and most of all patient as I slowly recovered.

While mental health, like any health in general, is a battle overcome by the individual alone, the brunt of that battle can be shared by many. The encouraging nudges and constant comforting words helped me come back to a healthier and stronger self.

To everyone, our lives are precious. Every single one. I pray that you remember and practice this truth.

There’s one quote from my mental health investigation from freshmen year that still stands out to me this day. From my Latin teacher: “Why is there a stigma attached with a psychological illness or disease—in a literal sense, ‘dis-ease,’ un-ease, or not feeling at ease—but not to the physical ailment?”

Allow yourself to come back to ease. And you are not alone – you are surrounded by so much love and support. Tell those who you trust that you are not at ease and in need of their encouragement and help. You are loved and your life is precious. Please remember that.

If you find yourself in crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

Sending much love,

Stephanie

 

 

Stubborn or Perseverant? You Choose.

Stubborn or Perseverant? You Choose.

I’m coming off full on honest: I am not fully recovered yet.

I don’t even know if I am 50% recovered.

 

While I label my eating disorder time to my late middle school and early high school years, internally and emotionally I am still very much suffering with my eating disorder.

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September 2017
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October 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

^You probably can’t tell too much of a difference here of my weight fluctuation, but to give you a rough estimate, I’ve gained around 20-25 more pounds. What’s the same in these two photos is Serena (who I am constantly grateful to have since day 1) and a Stephanie who is insecure and unhappy with herself. That’s already three years of self-hatred rather than self-love . 

 

 

Yes, physically, I am back at a healthy place. My weight is normal (more than normal actually, leaning a bit towards the heavier side), my hair no longer falls out in clumps, my hands and feet aren’t icy cold, and my period is back. But yet, there is so much noise inside my head. So much noise.

 

Whenever I eat or whenever I see myself in the mirror (let alone even taking a selfie), I see an unwelcome version of me, a version I don’t want to embrace … just yet.

 

And that’s the problem. I keep on pushing back when I’ll love myself again. And this has been going on for 3 years. And I’m sick of it.

 

At the height of my eating disorder, my parents begged me to get professional help. But I refused – partly in vain and partly because I didn’t know how serious my eating disorder was. I think part of this vain came from how I was brought up. Unlike the Korean culture of sending kids to cram-schools and loads of tutors, my parents didn’t send me to any of these cram-schools or tutors because they just didn’t believe in the value of them. They trusted and knew that I had enough self-discipline and motivation to study on my own. And I did – I attribute my academic success to myself and to the friends and teachers that have supported me, not to any other outside professional help.

 

Along the same vein, I was resolved that I didn’t need any outside professional help to treat my eating disorder. Back then, I would have called myself perseverant — taking initiative into my own hands. But looking back, I was being simply stubborn. I was too prideful and  blind from the unhealthy and restrictive actions and thoughts I’ve been doing to realize that I desperately needed help.

 

Thinking to myself better late than never, I finally told my parents this spring break that I needed and wanted help. They told me that they were suspecting I haven’t fully recovered seeing from how I acted at home and what I was writing on the blog. Without any question but more so relief than confusion, my parents and I both decided that reaching out to professional help is the first step in the right direction to ultimate recovery.

 

So to those who are perseverant stubborn like me, I understand. I know you think that you can do this all alone, but you can’t. There’s no gentle answer to that. I promise you, the agonizing days, weeks, months and years of continually failing and disappointing yourself to the verge of relapsing back is not worth it. Are you stubborn or perseverant? That’s totally up to you. But from someone who’s been there, you’re more blindly stubborn than you think.

Talk. Just start talking.

Talk. Just start talking.

If you guys have read any of my blog posts, then you know that I am quite immune and familiar that I have dealt with body image issues and not being “normal” with my eating.

And as much as I love sharing it here on the blog or writing about my experience with body image and my attitude towards food. Nevertheless, there is power and beauty in physically talking to someone. Face-to-face.

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I go to a boarding school so in my residential house, we have prefects. Prefects are seniors who serve almost in place as our parents. However, prefects tend to be so closely integrated into our house that they are our friends but our parents.

So a couple of weeks ago, I decided to go one of my prefects and just open up my whole situation. And I’ve shared this story so many times. Here on the blog. In my journal. But being able to talk to someone about this – someone who can respond and react to my story as I tell it, was powerful.

Another great thing was the prefect I told this apparently went through a similar situation. She was nodding the whole time and almost smiling to herself because she knew exactly how I was feeling. And after talking to her, she gave me a couple of tips, but what I cherished the most was that I had someone I could share my feelings and my experience with. Someone who went through something similar and understood me.

So with that, I really urge those who have something that they want to share, to just share. Go to someone you trust, trust that they’ll reserve judgement. There’s such a huge difference and power in telling someone face to face. Trust me.

Have you ever opened up about your experience regarding body image/eating disorder?

xoxo,

Stephanie