Together We Are Stronger is an ongoing project that candidly discusses mental health, particularly in relation to creatives in Korean music-related industries. It is hoped that artists will wish to share their perspective and experiences with mental health-related issues with a view to helping increase awareness and proving that no one is alone – Together We Are Stronger.
To ask artists to tell their story and not tell my own is to do this project an injustice.
I first realised how lonely I was when I was about 11 or 12. There were people around me that I called friends but for some reason, I didn’t connect with anyone in a way that stopped me feeling lonely. My mum had depression for all of my teenage years, but her medication made her emotionless, to the point where I didn’t realise that what I felt was the same thing she was suffering from; and because she was so numb to the world, she didn’t notice my struggle – something that is not her fault, but it certainly deterred me from speaking to her about my own problems.
At Sixth Form I went to a session with the counsellor there who told me I had to find a way to be happier – only I could stop myself from feeling lonely. I never went back.
14 days before my 22nd birthday my father died, though he was in an induced coma for a week the whole situation was unexpected. I’d had a bad relationship with my father since I was 15, because I am just like he was – stubborn. Not having a solution to our conflict is something I now always have to live with.
I pushed my grief aside to be the executor of his estate – a horrible near-two-year process that, among other things, saw my aunts tell me my father never loved me. Two years later I was numb, I was angry, I was drained. One moment saw me sat on the floor crying for thirty minutes straight because there wasn’t a clean fork in the kitchen. The solution was simple, I needed to wash one, but instead, I sat on the floor and cried because it was all my mind would let me do.
So I went to the doctor, terrified that I wouldn’t be listened to, terrified that maybe I was crazy, but I asked for help. That day I was told I was too old for NHS counselling and I would have to self-refer to an outside agency. Going to the doctor had taken everything from me, the moment she told me she couldn’t help me I knew I wouldn’t refer myself. I was 25 before I asked for help again, the doctor didn’t care how I was feeling, what my symptoms were outside of my declaration that I thought I ‘might have depression’. He wrote me a prescription and sent me out of the door in less than ten minutes. I don’t know whether it was simply my depression or a side effect of the medication but while taking them I distinctly remember being in the passenger seat of my mum’s car, wishing the car would crash and I could die. I would never, ever want anything to happen to my mum – at that moment I just wanted to not feel the way I did anymore. I am so, so grateful that I couldn’t drive then, because it terrified me that if I had been in control of that car I don’t know if I would have hurt my mum to stop how I felt. I stopped taking the medication, and knowing how little the doctor had cared I didn’t want to go back.
At the time I had a friend who I spoke to every day despite him living in Korea. When we first became friends he didn’t really understand mental health, or take it seriously, but over time even if he still didn’t truly understand he did at least care about how I was feeling and listened to me when I had no one else to talk to. I made it through to the other side of my depression because of him – he was the one person who never made me feel stupid, who never judged me. I owe a lot to Moon, and I will be forever heartbroken that we fell out last year and no longer talk.
I still struggle with my mental health, I probably always will. Though it is frustrating that there hasn’t been a point in which the Health Service has truly helped me, I have found methods of self-help that work for me. From small things such as structuring my day, to pushing myself to do things I enjoy rather than avoid them – I am able to keep some control over the way I so often feel.
If my story has any purpose, let it be proof that you don’t have to have an answer, you just need to be there, you just need to listen, because Together We Are Stronger.