No one’s health mental health struggles should be dismissed
Where some may see a life sentence in the dark after admitting they have a mental health challenge, I see a flicker of light. I see a window of opportunity to connect with others with shared struggles and to seek help, thereby living a much more fulfilling life than if I were to live in denial.
Mrinal has been diagnosed with social anxiety and nonverbal learning disorder. As a child, Mrinal was painfully shy and had difficulty understanding social cues. She craved human company—but only to a point. Her inability to connect with people damaged her self-esteem, and she suffered from immense loneliness.
Academically, I was smart, but the system just didn’t work for my learning style. I constantly got complaints from teachers about missing instructions, not following directions, and being a bit disorganized.
My family helped me immensely, but it would have been nice if I had that one-on-one support at school too. I think being shamed for these quirks of mine also contributed to my anxiety. Since my issues were a bit ‘invisible,’ teachers or family members never thought to seek professional help for my struggles.
In college, she finally began cognitive behavior therapy and exposure therapy to improve her social skills and to teach her to initiate contact with others. The treatment helped a lot, but she continued to have trouble when she joined the working world.
Though I improved immensely with making friends, I struggled with job settings. Five years later, I chose to revisit therapy. We worked a lot on my communication skills, my inattention, and how to educate others on my ‘differences,’ socially speaking, in both personal and professional settings.
Around this time, Mrinal began a three-year stint on antidepressant medication to help with her focusing difficulties.
I was terrified at first of using medicine due to the stigma, but it was a wonderful decision that I’m proud of. Just a few months into taking the medicine, I was told that I seemed more alert and social—plus my work performance improved.
Throughout her mental health journey, Mrinal has learned that not everyone is as lucky as she was to get high-quality treatment. She also came to realize that a few people in her South Asian community had a mental health journeys to share. So, she wrote a book, which includes 11 true stories about second-generation South Asian immigrants who deal with mental health conditions.
The book promotes intergenerational healing. Several first-generation Indian acquaintances told me that they learned a lot about what those from the second generation endure. I have two goals with the book: to bridge the gap of education and acceptance between generations, and to teach non-South Asians about what mental health looks like in our diaspora, hopefully making for more culturally competent providers.
Through her book and by telling her personal story, Mrinal wants to inspire everyone—no matter their condition, background, or culture—to put their mental health first and seek the treatment they need.
No one’s mental health struggles should be dismissed. And no one’s accomplishments and strong qualities cancel out their struggles—no matter who they are, where they come from, or how much worse they think someone else has it. I know from experience.
While others may seek to destroy ‘functioning labels’ surrounding mental health, I think a better baby step toward this is pushing the mindset that mental health is a spectrum. People with all levels of struggle are entitled to seek help, and the functioning labels should only be used to help people navigate the best support for their struggles.