INTERVIEW WITH A CO-WORKER (Part 2) The Battles with Mental Health- Perception vs Reality /Rising Above the StrugglesFriday 31st Jul
(i) ❓: What has been people’s response (either at work or outside of work) in relation to you sharing about your mental health challenges?
😮: There has been a mixed response but mostly positive.
In my personal life, there are some older relatives or friends that don’t agree that ADHD is a real thing.
People have been very supportive at work. Some have been curious and asking questions about how the experience have been like.
(ii) ❓:What is your take on society’s view in relation to the issues surrounding mental health?
😮: Mental health issue is very much an invincible illness.
If you are limping, people would not ask you to do the kind of work that they would normally do as they could see that you are unable to.
If you have a mental illness, some people may still think you should still be able to function normally to a set standard. That attitude is still very much prevalent in Australia.
People understand that depressions is a thing but the level of understanding may not extend to the fact that there may be consequences as to what someone is actually able to do. Some people are faced with depression, which is so profound that getting out of bed is about all they can managed.
I have also been told that mental health was not considered a real thing or issues in some countries like Sri Lanka, which is mind blowing. The suicide rate in Sri Lanka is quite high in comparison to other countries.
If mental health is a more openly discussed issue, perhaps the numbers could have improved.
(iii) ❓:How do you cope with work or life when it gets stressful or challenging?
What are you doing differently now in comparison to before you received your diagnosis?
😮: The main thing is to be kind to myself.
I find it very difficult to be kind to myself. I hold myself to a much higher bar than I would to other people.
The best thing that I have done for myself is to learn and understand that I am making expectation for myself that are pretty much impossible. And, that not meeting them is not a reflection of my abilities or who I am.
(iv) ❓: Do you have any advice to people, who are experiencing symptoms mental health challenges or noticing that things are not quite as normal?
😮: The best advice I can give is for them to be open to discussing it with someone, who is willing to actively listen and support you throughout the process like a friend, a family member or some professional assistance (ie. the Employee Assistance Program (EAP)).
I have spoken to a financial counsellor of EAP to assist with financial management as this is one of the things I have struggled with throughout my adult life, which is linked to the ability to control the habit of impulse buying.
It can be embarrassing and difficult to admit that you need help. But it is my firm belief that no one gets through life without needing help occasionally. There are just so many challenges in life that it can’t possibly be done alone.
Another advice I would give is to understand that the solution or treatment is not about making one giant leap. It is a process of small steps, learning about tools and compensatory behaviours to overcome those deeply entrenched habits.
There are some studies that show that by the time someone with ADHD is of 12 years of age, they have received around 20,000 more negative reinforcement on their behaviour than other normal child (ie. Ordered to sit down; to pay attention; to try harder etc). It is then not surprising for people with ADHD to be moulded to become perfect in being our own worst critics.
(v) ❓: It is not easy but I applaud and thank you for your boldness, courage in dealing with your own challenges and sharing your experiences with others.
As you mentioned previously, we would not need an R U ok day if people are open to discussing the issues surrounding mental health challenges.
😮: Yes, I did say that. We would not need a designated period to generate awareness about mental health if people are more open to having those conversations in our day-to-day life.
This would be my eventual hope.
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INTERVIEW WITH A CO-WORKER (Part 1)- The Battles with Mental Health- A Journey of Self- DiscoveryFriday 31st Jul
(1) ❓: Hi xxx, I appreciate the time you have taken to share your experiences and views on the topic of Mental Health.
You mentioned that you were diagnosed with a mental health illness not too long ago. What mental health challenges are you currently facing or managing?
😮: No worries. I look at my daily struggles and late diagnosis this way.. If by being open and honest about my experiences could help save someone a single day of the challenges that I have had, it is worth it!
We just need to be forthcoming with this issue. It is hard enough to get to know yourself in today’s world, without having the added challenge of not understanding that you might be working a bit differently to other people.
It is a bit of a rat’s nest of issues and I’ll give you as much context as I can.
Both my parents were alcoholics as I was growing up. Since I have learnt more about mental health, I can now see that was just an effort to self-medicate and deal with issues.
I grew up thinking I have escaped the trend within the family and turned out relatively normal. Eventually, I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Depression around 3-4years ago.
I have since looked at my past through the lenses of that and realised that probably I have been struggling with depression (to varying degrees) as well as the anxiety since my early teens.
When I was younger, I had been taken to the emergency ward a few times as I thought I was having heart attack. Now that I have learnt more about it I realised those were panic attacks.
When I didn’t know what they were, it was terrifying as I thought the worst of it, especially when I had heart rate of like 120-130 and I was sweating etc.
(2) ❓: You mentioned that you were experiencing all these symptoms since your teenage years. But you had received a proper clinical diagnosis in your adult years.
What was the reason for the late diagnosis?
😮: No one mentioned to me when I was admitted to hospital in my younger days due to (what I thought was a) heart attack other than confirming that the issue was not related to my heart.
It is really interesting no one else has really thought to point out the signs to me. My family and I are not super close so I can understand that.
But I had been dating and married to the same person for 14 years of my life and she never mentioned anything to me.
In my younger years, I have found it difficult to associate with my peers or teachers would constantly tell me to put more effort in or to pay more attention. In hindsight, I was wondering how could anyone not put the two and two together.
I had a relatively successful job in my adulthood and seemed to have everything under control. Development of mental disorders put a lot of stress on the person to do something called ‘Social masking’- trying to act like a neuro-typical person when you are out in the world. I thought the way I conducted myself was normal.
One of the things that I have issues with is the stigma around talking about issues like that or calling out behaviour that may be associated with those signs.
It may just be down to the fact that people don’t know how to have those conversations or they just don’t know the signs that people might show when they are depressed or suffering from other mental health issues.
(3) ❓: Would you be able to share about the process you have gone through and efforts taken, which led to you finding out about what has been happening?
😮: From my experience, starting the conversation is very good place to be coming from even if you don’t have the knowledge to get into the technical details.
A very good example would be my GP. I have been treated for anxiety and depression for a couple of years. Before I started work with xxx, my doctor said to me “Why don’t we look at the anxiety and depression as symptoms of something and not just isolate them as problems of themselves?”.
She suggested that I get tested for ADHD. I thought that was ridiculous as I didn’t understand what ADHD was. I have the beliefs that many others have, like they are people who continually bounced off the walls and can’t sit still for 5 seconds etc.
I went home did some reading and all of a sudden it was like someone out there understood me.
(4) ❓: Based on your experience, it really highlights the importance of having a medical professional, who has the expertise and proactivity in assisting a person with his/her mental health challenges.
😮: Yes. Despite the mountain of evidence we now have that shows that ADHD is a developed mental issue and it has some fundamental differences in the way the brain works, there are still a lot of GPs, who thinks that ADHD is something that kids grow out of or some believe it doesn’t exist.
We now have evidence (like an MRI) to show that someone with ADHD- their brain functions in a different way compared to a neuro-typical person.
(5) ❓: How do you feel after receiving a proper diagnosis for the challenges you have been facing?
😮: I have a mixed emotions about it. On one hand, it’s nice to have a name in relation to ‘what is wrong with me?’ and some understanding that I do function differently from a neuro-typical person.
I do have anger and regret as well around not having anyone pointing out to me many years ago, considering what I could have achieved if I was treated for it.
What I have can be treated with medication. There is definitely some form of relief in knowing that there is something else going on and I am not just lazy etc.
It is still a struggle to keep myself organised but I am less hard on myself now. Although I am facing some challenges of my own, there are also some challenges that other neuro-typical person struggle with (which I find easy).
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Wai Leng Tang
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