have you ever had someone
look at you and
not even see you?
look right through you
like nothing is there—
too much a waste of space.
I start to notice
that it’s not just me
who’s invisible. other
people who look like me
are sometimes invisible, too.
I have been in a crowded room
of White Americans,
and the only people they talk to
are people who look like them.
maybe I’m wrong.
I don’t want to believe the
sad truth that it’s related to my race
but when the other Asian person
gets ignored too,
what am I supposed to think?
– Excerpt from Origins by Thy Nguyen © 2020
Above is a poem I wrote during one of my darkest times, and also during a time when I started focusing on my mental health. For many years, I’ve felt inferior and invisible among White people. I went to a mostly White high school, and in college, I joined a mostly White sorority which I now have left to focus on my mental health. In my life, I have never truly felt like I belonged. I was born in Vietnam and spent my elementary school years there, and then moved to Texas in middle school. I’ve always felt like I was stuck in limbo; too Asian for the Americans here, but too American for my Vietnamese family back in Vietnam. This caused me to be very insecure with my identity, leading to feelings of alienation, feeling unsure of myself, and self-isolation.
So, when did I start to focus on my mental health?
In college, I finally felt like I found my place and started to become surer of myself with the help of friends who made me feel very accepted, and mental health counselors at the college. However, I still faced challenges that led me to spiral, become depressed and anxious.
During my sophomore year of college, I was denied an opportunity to an organization because one of its members mistook me for another girl who had bullied her. I was falsely berated, only then to later find out that they had the wrong person.
And during my junior year, I did a study abroad program. I applied for the program alone, with none of my other friends applying. I knew it was something that I wanted to do and I was willing to face any obstacles for the program. My worst fears came true in the few weeks. I had a hard time adjusting. I was lonely. I was not okay. I had left my whole life back at Babson–my friends, community, clubs and orgs, boyfriend–to go on this program, and now, I was miserable.
This was when I started taking my mental health very seriously. Over those few months, I found a local therapist who helped me through the transition period, and I started to self-reflect and build up my self worth a lot more. I started writing a lot. I wrote poetry, I journaled, I wrote all my thoughts and emotions down.
One day, I realized that I had so much writing material. I wanted to do something that would be bigger than me and be a big accomplishment that I could be proud of. The next step of my mental health journey: I started compiling all my stories into a book. I found an independent publisher, and together over the course of a year, we worked together to compile and polish up all the writing that I had done about my experiences as an Asian, woman, immigrant in the United States.
When my book finally published, I would say I was mentally healthy. I had kept up regularly going to therapy and also kept working on the thing that I loved and had passion for. So, this is the story of how I focused on my mental health :).