Lillian Nguyen

To begin, I have always thought I was a quiet introverted person, the kind that just listened, hung in the background, and did not speak. I have come to realize that the feeling was due to the traumas and environment I grew up in. I grew up in a household where both of my parents worked, emotions were rarely expressed and being criticized for the things I did and my looks. I was being pushed by a toxic mother to be that stereotyped Asian girl who was light skinned, skinny, dainty, who would end up in the medical field. My sibling was also abusive, physically and mentally. School life was not any better. I had bullies all throughout school, the same group that would grow in number as each level of education increased. Teachers saw and heard but did not intervene. To throw into the mix, sexual traumas occurred when I was in middle school and high school.

I feel like I have been dealing with depression since elementary school and probably anxiety. I just did not have a name for it then. I put a name to it in middle school when I developed anorexia from the pressure of being skinny, even though I was already at my ideal weight. So there was that, add to it the toxic mother, bullies and trauma. Add all that up, and you get a person who just wanted to get away from it all. At first, it was to graduate so I can get into college. That way, I can get away from my toxic mother and begin my journey to be a therapist; cliché isn’t it?

My mental health started to deteriorate when I was in my first year of college. I am the type of person who is aware of myself, after the first semester of college I could feel myself slipping into a bad depression and asked to take a semester off, but my mother said no. That semester was a whirlwind of what not to do and life lessons. I ended up underweight from anorexia, drank, did drugs, participated in other reckless activities, and attempted multiple suicide attempts. It was after a major suicide attempt where I was hospitalized, which I became to realize that I was stronger than what I thought I was. I ended up graduating with a bachelors in psychology and nursing. I currently work as a psychiatric nurse and will be starting classes to become a psychiatric mental health practitioner beginning of next year.

I have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, anorexia, and PTSD, probably should be C-PTSD. I started seeing a therapist, surprisingly, when I was sixteen after my mother found out about one of the sexual traumas that occurred. I wanted to see a therapist before that but did not know how nor want to bring that subject up with my parents. I was going to wait until college when it would be provided by the school. Unfortunately, I was not comfortable yet with speaking with the therapists about my emotions and experiences until about a year ago. I began to open up to my therapist who I have been with about ten years now about my trauma and being upfront about what I was feeling. I also started EMDR for PTSD and a nutritionist for my disordered eating. I also felt more free and happy after getting away from the toxic environment that I was in, as I was living with my abusive sibling.

I found Asian Mental health Collective where I came to realize I was not the only person dealing with experiences that I have had. I was able to have my experiences validated and not have them pushed to the side. I have the support of my boyfriend who have been there since the college years and been through it all with me. I know my mental health journey is continuous and there will be setbacks, relapses to major depression and anorexia but with the supports I have I know I will be ok. I am that type of person who sets goals, once I accomplish it; I set a new goal, whether big or small. Currently I am trying to understand my Asian identity and learn how mental health plays a role. My current goal is to practice as a nurse practitioner, providing mental health services to the Asian community and break the generational divide/stigma about mental health. My hope for the future is that although mental health is more talked about, there is still a stigma when it comes to certain mental illnesses and speaking about ones mental health in the workplace. I want people to be able to speak about mental health as if it was as common as high blood pressure. In the end, my journey has just started as I have learned I am not that shy quiet introverted girl, I am actually smart, confident and driven woman.

Asian Mental Health Collective