I’ve seen, heard, and read stories about people coming out to their friends and loved ones about their sexuality. Some of them are my friends. I’ve always known that there is a struggle about coming out because I was told about it. However, knowing and understanding aren’t synonymous to each other.
This isn’t a click-bait article where I tell you I’m coming out about my sexuality. I’m a straight girl. The point I’m trying to get at is that ‘Coming Out’ isn’t always about sexual orientation.
I’ve been struggling with depression, anxiety, and OCD for a very long time. It was hard to admit it at first. It was even harder to vocalize it. So there also lies the difficulty of telling it to other people. The upside is, suddenly everything makes sense but also, nothing really does. The hardest part about it is not only the struggle I have with myself, although it is the biggest. But it’s also about telling my family that I have mental illness. Some people have been diagnosed with mental illness from a very young age. I wasn’t…but it’s been with me for what feels like forever.
When I was 4 years old, my earliest memories of OCD were about lining up stones everyday according to their weight, size, etc. They had to be apart from each other in a specific distance and had to be placed in a specific part of the house at a specific time of the day. I did that everyday for years. I also wanted to wear the same clothes everyday. My mother has always been supportive of my ‘quirks’ but clothes needed to be washed. It was a nightmare. And just like clothes, one needs to bathe. I was very specific about bathing, about certain utensils I want to use and which seat I prefer in the dining table (the furthest away from my family that is haha). My family passed this off as me being weird but nothing more.
In kindergarten, I used to watch my classmates a lot while they played and I couldn’t understand why I had thoughts so differently from other 4 year-old kids and that made me extremely sad and that ended up with me playing by myself a lot. Being the only Asian kid in my class was horrible, but I didn’t think too much of it because I was a child. I didn’t even know how to read then.
I found my solace in watching Der Kleine Vampir (The Little Vampire). It was a story about a normal boy who is friends with a family of vampires. He’d go with them to vampire parties disguised as a vampire. He wore make up to look like the undead, wore their capes and funeral garbs just to fit in. His best friend was the eldest son vampire. There has never been a show I identified with the most because I related to both the struggles of the human boy and the vampire boy.
The human boy stumbled upon this vampire world he now has to protect. It was a cool and scary secret to keep. To stay in that world he has to fit in, when he’s back in his world, he has to fit in as well. However, he doesn’t fit in both those worlds. On the other hand, this young vampire had to protect his human from blood thirsty vampires who would absolutely drain his human of his blood if they found out about him but he also wants to experience the human world where they can be out in the open and just be normal.
Many years later, here I am, struggling to be normal when everyone just wants to stand out and be crazy.
It’s funny really, that I chose a path to be in a world where you MUST stand out. Where people put themselves out there, intentionally and wholeheartedly, waving banners saying “Hey! Look at me, I’m different. Different is fun. Normal is boring.”
I’ve come out to friends and I am extremely grateful because not everybody will accept nor understand you in this world of “Get over it, you’re just sad.” and “There are only two types of people – Normal and Crazy.” The crazies will only ever be crazy. No subtext. People are bored and lazy to look for and understand subtexts. But the people who know about my mental health have been beacons of support who have protected me from myself and other people and it gives me courage to just keep moving on.
One time, I wouldn’t get on the elevator because it was already packed and some of my friends even had to pull me to get me to ride with them and I know how the whole situation must’ve looked and it wasn’t my proudest moment because I just know in the back of my head, people were already forming negative opinions about me. I got off before the elevator doors closed and got on the next ride down. With significantly less people inside. Trust me, the panic attack was right there, almost excited to come out again.
It’s not for the lack of trying to tell my family about my mental health that keeps them from actually knowing about it. I’ve tested the waters here and there and hinted about it. But people can be rude and judgemental. My family isn’t like that. But not everyone is your family ergo not everyone will understand nor even try to understand. If people find out, this also immensely affects my family. They have been wonderful pillars that have kept me upright during my most difficult time. They have always ALWAYS been supportive of my endeavors or lack thereof. And this is what keeps me from breaking their hearts. However, I know the time has to come where I have to tell them everything because it’s not easy being amongst the living when you’re most of the time dead inside and the other time, you love so much it hurts. There’s really no in-between.
No one can keep lying for the rest of their lives and making up every known excuse to mankind about why you sleep 10-12 hours a day (+ napping) when they know your adrenaline is off the charts no matter how tired you’ve been throughout the day. Half the struggle of depression is trying to get up in the morning. Every night is a struggle to put yourself to bed because then you’d realize that you have to eventually get up. That’s when you get another round of anxiety. While you’re struggling with yourself to get some sleep, your OCD kicks in and tells you that you need to be asleep by this time so you can wake up at this specific time without losing 8 hours of sleep and then you realize you’ve lost 4 hours of sleep already. Isn’t it fun?
Why can’t people understand that mental illness is just like any form of disease that is curable and treatable? That people can come back from it? That they can keep their judgement and pious religious opinion to themselves? Why is there a need to judge negatively?