I’ve confessed over and over again that I wasn’t happy after I came back to Malaysia. A huge part of me missed the life that I have gotten used to in Vancouver. You can’t blame me. Four years in a developed country with an individualistic culture was really different from where I was brought up. It is a place with a huge emphasis on healthy lifestyle, really friendly people, super multicultural food and truly scenic city, ocean and mountain views. It’s hard not to miss Vancouver after you’ve visited the place. And I, I left my heart in the Pacific Northwest before I stepped onto the plane at YVR a year ago.
I was all set to go back to Vancouver even before I came back; I left boxes of household items in my friend’s garage; I got my work permit ready; I was always in touch with the community. Yet, I was unsure. A part of me longed to stay in Southeast Asia, to be closer to my family and to contribute to this place where I grew up. So I tried. I tried to work here, reconnect with old friends and meet new ones, explore the city and build a new life; but it’s not easy. Nothing seemed to be going my way. Despite my positive attitude at the beginning, depression found its way back to me, and it hurt me terribly no matter how hard I tried to get out of it.
I hated the fact that after 3 years, I am still suffering from depression. I hated the fact that despite having therapies, active lifestyle changes, and constant seeking of social support, I still feel the darkness creeping onto bed with me. It isn’t the same in Malaysia. Social stigma associated to mental illnesses is still huge; I didn’t want to be misunderstood; I didn’t want to lose my employment or even possibility of future employment; I didn’t know what resources I had, or if I could afford treatment without healthcare. I yearned to go back to North America even more.
The desire was huge, but the strength was minimal. My heart was swamped with so much negativities that I did nothing but work and stay home doing nothing for a long time. My laundry was piling up at the corner of my room, empty bottles and food packages by the side of my bed, I could feel dust on my feet everyday I walked around my place; yet I couldn’t do anything about it. I had greater things to be worried of – I couldn’t feel my heart. I couldn’t feel my soul. I couldn’t feel alive.
As it started affecting my physical health, social life and work performance, I knew I needed to do something about it. Somehow, in some way, I found the strength to open up and seek professional help as I did in the past. My sister was the one who helped me find out about my resources, and I decided to not worry too much about the cost and put my health first. It was my first visit to a psychiatrist instead of a counsellor or psychologist, and it was my first time being officially diagnosed by a doctor and given medication. I was well aware of the side effects of antidepressants, but I knew I needed them to get better.
Fast forward two months later, here I am, having gone through the slowly decreasing side effects of SSRIs, shocked yet understanding parents who finally knew about their baby daughter’s mental illness after three years, and a job resignation. A lot has changed, and I’m on the road of recovery again. Just this morning, my Mama told me that she’s glad to see that I’ve been bubbly and energetic again. She said that she didn’t dare to speak much to me during my past trips home worrying that I’d break down anytime (which I did) and she felt really helpless. It broke me when I picture how hurtful it must have been for her.
“A healthy self is the best form of gift in any relationship”
This was a quote that really spoke to me during one of the Sunday services I attended earlier this year, and I hung onto it dearly when I decided to seek treatment and open up to my family. The weekend that I drove home after visiting the psychiatrist was my Dad’s birthday, I promised myself when he was making his birthday wish that I’m going to give him the best he deserves – a healthy bodied, healthy minded daughter.
As for the Pacific Northwest? That can wait. As I look through the past few months that I was lost and suffering, I realize that Malaysia needed a voice for depression more so than ever. I was fortunate enough to receive my tertiary education in Canada, where mental health is given a huge emphasis and resources are readily available. I was also fortunate enough to have taken electives in Psychology to understand the basis of mental illnesses. It was natural for me to be aware of my own condition and navigate around my options, but I know many out there who don’t.
And as I look into my career path, my passion and purpose in life, I know what would truly keep my life fulfilled is to reach out to those who don’t know how to save themselves from the evil of mental illnesses. I may not be a mental health professional, but I want to start the conversation. I’ve witnessed tonnes of brave souls sharing their stories in North America (hint: Ameera, I’m looking at you ?) and I need to bring it over here. It’s not going to be easy, but I am willing to take the risk and at least try before giving up.
So here you go, this is my official farewell to Vancouver, with my heart filled in Malaysia, being the gypsy girl ready to play her part in this world. To my friends in Vancouver that I promised to see you again soon – I am sorry but I promise I’ll be back again one day! To my friends in Malaysia, hello again! If you know of anyone who might be of the same page as me and would love to be a part of a mental health awareness project, do connect us!
P/s: To my dear friend Zoey, thank you for the text you sent me (refer to blog post title) when I told you of my decision. You warmed my heart, and I can’t thank you enough for being here for me when I needed it the most. ?