A few days ago, I had to write a speech for a class. We had to give a speech about something that we really care about, so I decided to write about my own struggles over the past few weeks. Hope this is a good reminder to all of us to take care of ourselves better.
Imagine a night view of busy city traffic. Beautiful streaks of yellow light from speeding car. Shades of red, blue, white, and many other colors from lit-up buildings. We are all very familiar with those scenes. We are all living a similar life as those cars – continuously moving and speeding, an enviable life to the naked eyes, and a beautiful life portrayed by media. But if you look inside the car, it is dark, maybe empty, a bit messy, or a lot! And at times, you may find problems or broken functions. Those are our mental health…
According to the National Health Institute, 22% of professionals have experience stress, anxiety, and depression. Many other pieces of research and credible sources cited its implication on our performance, physical health, or even life expectancy. The danger is there, but the worse part is, with our busy schedules and constant exhaustion – we never have time to recognize what’s going on in our cars.
And I was one of the oblivious broken cars.
Since 2012, I have always been busy with works. I am one of those that hit the airport on Sunday evening and flying back on Thursday. I must admit, at first, it was a nice feeling to post on Facebook– Sea is going to Singapore, Hong Kong, KL, or the US. But the reality is I was constantly on the run… It was only until the recent lockdown, my life was stopped, my MBA was coming to an end, I have nothing on my calendar, no travel plan because of Covid-19. I faltered. I was blanked out. I sank so much into the state of depression, nothingness, emptiness, and many negative feelings. Those that I used to always say “I will deal with it later”. It’s like one of that trash or malfunction that eventually will smell or make your car crash. Mine has crashed big time. It was the worst two weeks of my life. This needs not to be everyone’s journey. There are ways to prevent and to deal with this.
The first is to give yourself time. Time to explore both the good and bad feelings. For high-flying professionals like us, it is very easy to bask in the glory and tell worries, fears, sadness, and negative feeling “I don’t have time to deal with you”. Just like throwing trashes in your car and leave them rotten. It’s only a matter of time, when you have free time, alone, or being triggered by circumstances, that these negative feelings will start screaming for your attention. So, give yourself some love, time, attention – both good and bad.
My most important source of life during the two horrible weeks was my friends. However, because I have not been keeping in touch with them, it took me a lot of effort to reach out and ask for help. So, on top of sparing time for yourself, keep time for your friends and loved ones. Keep the relationship close, preventing yourself from loneliness, and making sure that you know the people that you can reach out when you need to.
Now when your car started to act up, feels weird, or has a bad smell for no reason, you would seek professional help right? Mental health is the same, you need professional help. Coming from Thailand, seeing mental health professionals has such a bad stigma. It took me every ounce of energy, with some help from alcohol, to make the first appointment and stick to it. And if I can do it for myself, so can you - if and when the time comes.
Now I would like you to imagine the same night city view again:
This time, instead of a streak of light, stop your cars, give some time to yourself, switch on the light in the car, chat with your friend who is sitting next to you, clean up the mess, and call some professional to help if your car has a problem.
The beautiful and colorful lights still remain. Though this time, the hidden mental dark corner may be smaller.