I realise that many of my posts don’t reveal much about my daily life and I remain somewhat detached from my own reality. Today I bring you something a little different. I will share with you my very first testimony on mental health which took place yesterday afternoon.
One of the positions I hold is that of a certified trainer with mental health speciality. It is through this position that I deliver training to a wide range of programs, courses, corporate as well as private clients and organisations. The range of delegates vary, on some occasions I encounter people who are really moved by my story whereas on others they can be resistant to accepting some of the concepts within mental health. In all honesty, I truly sympathise with such individuals because its disheartening to see that despite this large array of knowledge base and information they refuse to appreciate the difficulties people like myself have been through.
Being there in the capacity of a person sharing their personal experience of mental health, I, at first felt a little nervous. Several questions ran through my mind, what kind of audience will I face? How many people will be there? Would they believe my story? The nervously was related more towards not knowing what sort of audience I was facing. I was confident that I could delivery my story, I was confident that I would have no issues with public speaking. This nervousness felt totally normal, nothing that was too overwhelming. It disappeared as soon as I got in the room.
The audience were mainly women, teachers or those in a position where they came into contact with children and teenagers. My story was from the angle of a teenager and the many difficulties that I faced pretty much alone. My time slot: 45mins. Never had I been given so much time to talk freely to an audience who I may never see again. I spoke. Without self doubt, without fear and without self stigma or discrimination. I spoke my truth, honestly, openly and reflectively. I informed the audience that the story I was about to embark upon was fairly intense so those who felt overwhelmed where well within their right to leave the room should the feel the need to. No one left.
I spoke about when my mental health issues first started which was at about the age of 11. As a victim of bullying for approximately 3 yrs at high school, I developed anxieties about my physical disability. I was frightened to continue living a normal life as a high school teenager. The mere act of walking into a classroom was one in which I broke out in a sweat. Being one of the only Asian girls in a school where the majority were Caucasian was not an easy situation to be a teenage who was timid and withdrawn. I stood out, like a sore thumb. I was different in all ways that you can possibly think of, physically as well as socially. It was easy for my peers to pick up on the fact that I had a disability even though I told no one. They’d pick on me during lessons and it all started purely from name calling. Those of you who have experience of childhood bullying at school and college will relate when I say that such name calling can stay with you for a long time after the ordeal is over. I was excluded from groups, I became a target for all sorts of pranks. One incident I remember clearly to this day is that of a science class when we were studying ecology outside at the school pond. At the end of the lesson we were all walking back to class to go home and as usual was on my own walking back. Totally by surprise one of my peers ran past and pushed me while saying “don’t fall”. I lost my balance, slipped and landed on a brick on my back. The excruciating pain shot through me like lightening at double its normal speed. I screamed. My teachers at the time came to my rescue, but were unable to do anything so an ambulance was called. The wait between the fall and the arrival of the ambulance lasted decades. I cried, at the pain, at my loneliness and at my myself. I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. My diagnosis: heavy internal bruising of the spine with a recovery time of at least 6 weeks! After I had been discharged from hospital, my parents and I went to see the year head. Stupidly I thought she would be on my side, she would see that I was the victim and I needed comfort and support at this stage. How wrong was I! Her words were, “Im sorry this has happened to you today and I wish you a speedy recovery but after speaking to the girls, I have to say that you did push them first. Its unreasonable to expect they receive punishment when it was you all along who started it.” My world collapsed. I didn’t say a word, I had nothing to say. My parents were powerless to do anything as they received brick walls where ever they turned. They tried very hard. Such incidents became the norm, and slowly but surely I stopped telling people, I slowly withdraw from everything. I started feeling ashamed of who I was, my disability and my own skin colour. I doubted my abilities in everything I did and although I didn’t fail school I certainly know today that my performance was not to the standard it could’ve been. My childhood had been taken away from me and this was only the beginning.
My story will continue in future posts but I hope this post inspires you to tell your story too. There is no shame in actually talking and sharing your hurt and pain. It is in fact very liberating and yesterday when I told my story in front of strangers, I realised that Im liberating myself even more by telling my story. I know today that despite this hardship I was not wrong, I was the victim and not the culprit. There is no need for me to continue blaming myself for the unspeakable doings of others, I no longer need to fear my past. I’ve accepted it and by accepting it I’ve achieved liberation.