Mental health problems are never easy to talk about, whether you’re experiencing it yourself or not. While mental health problems are often discussed in negative light, what most people don’t talk about are the positive outcomes that can arise from such negative experiences.
As a person who has been fighting with mental health problems, the experience has definitely had a negative impact on my life, but there were positive impacts that came along as well.
We take plenty of things in life for granted and I was no exception. Before moving to Melbourne, my family was of little value to me. I never talked to them about my problems or considered them the most important part of my life. Coming to Australia at the time felt like a big leap of freedom, as I ventured into a new life free of constraints from my parents.
Everything changed when I experienced depression and anxiety for the first time, in a country thousands of miles from home. As I felt lonely and lost, a call from my dad on a late winter night kept me going. We hadn’t spoken in two months and he was a man of few words. It was a very simple phone call, filled with trivial questions about how I was doing.
To him, it was probably just a normal check-up call. But to me, it meant so much more. It made me realise that my parents had always been the ones to love and care for me unconditionally, no matter how wrecked I would become. I burst into tears that night as I realised how much I had taken them for granted, and later realised how important they were to me. Through my dark days, I learned to appreciate my parents and their immense love for me.
What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger and I could only truly understand that statement after experiencing setbacks in my mental health. During my depressed periods, it felt like rock-bottom, and I wanted to stop trying. But the thing about hitting rock-bottom is that there is no where else to go but up.
Gradually, I learned how to cope with my negative thoughts and feelings. It was not an easy process, but through the help of friends, family and regular psychology and counselling services, I slowly became more resilient and worked constantly towards improving my mental health.
Through the process, I realised that improving one’s mental health took more than just talking to people and asking for help. It meant forcing myself out of bed to go to that 9am psychologist appointment. It meant filling out daily sheets and doing mental exercises that my psychologist had assigned me. And it also meant putting myself out there to do things that may have felt uncomfortable to me, like hitting the gym or something as simple as going for a walk.
What I learned was that all this effort had to come from inside. Only then could I really become stronger.
It can be very easy to feel lost when you’re depressed. You may lose your energy, your ambition, your motivation and your purpose in life. If you give in, you can lose yourself completely. But if you are willing to fight, the results are truly worth it, as you discover yourself in a new light.
In my journey, I fought off my negative thoughts through dance. From going to dance classes to performing on stage, dancing transformed what was a means of distraction to my absolute passion. Were it not for my darkest days, I would have never discovered my love for dance.
I also discovered different aspects of myself that I never knew existed: my quick temper, my dependence on social media, my tendency to binge-eat when I’m stressed… All of this enabled me to re-evaluate myself, to continue my journey of self-improvement. As cliche as it may sound, through experiencing depression, I managed to find parts of myself that were lost. The search, as a matter of fact, is never-ending.
Being an international student in a new country is never easy, and I know for a fact that I am not the only one suffering from depression and anxiety. Whether you’re experiencing mental health conditions or not, it’s always reassuring to know that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. Mental health problems can negatively affect our lives, but with the right help and mindset, we can still shine a positive light on it and walk out a stronger person.
Meld wishes to build a culture where mental health issues can be freely discussed and encourage all international students to seek assistance and advice, professional or personal, if they are experiencing difficulties that may be affecting their mental health.
Students who are affected by mental health issues or those who know someone who is can seek help through hotlines such as Lifeline at 13 11 14, beyondblue at 1300 22 4636, and Headspace at 1800 650 980.
For LGBTQ individuals who have specific needs, contact QLife at 1800 184 527.
Students may also seek help from in-house university counsellors or helplines.