Something I’ve always been passionate about is mental health. For all of my life, I’ve had friends and family struggle with emotional and mental stability due to a spectrum of external stimuli and/or cognitive chemical imbalances. And after one of my residents at Boston College committed suicide in the building my junior year, I made the conscious decision to stop hiding; because I struggle too.
People would probably be frightened, intrigued, excited, turned off, turned on, concerned, dumbfounded, and confused if they could really see what was going on in my head. My brain is just one big cluster-fuck of emotions, fantasies, and a bazillion different ideas of how I can take over the world, or at the very least, a small island.
But there’s no real way I can express myself completely with ZERO emotional or social repercussions.
That’s why I loved my therapist. A therapist is legally responsible to keep their mouth shut about whatever is discussed behind closed doors. However, there are two main exemptions from this rule:
– confidentiality can be broken if the client is believed to be a danger to him or herself or someone else.
– suspected child abuse
As a result, the secrets come spilling out like vomit after my first round of Chinese food poisoning. And at the end of our session, I knew that no matter what I said about my friends, my family, or even myself-none of it was going to leave that room. It just felt nice to really be heard without judgement.
I loved my therapist deeply and profoundly. She was a beautiful and brilliant Indian woman who understood how I ticked and why I respond to external stimuli the way I do. She was there for my family drama, when I got my heart shattered, and when one of my best friends committed suicide… all in the same month.
That woman is a saint.
The reason I choose to write on mental health this week is because, recently, China’s been sending me through the ringer. My teaching company is basically scamming me, my VISA isn’t processed correctly, my roommate is trapped in Hong Kong (week 3), an issue with the rent caused me to dump out my savings account, and I still can’t speak enough Chinese to fix any of my problems. There is also a laundry list of other small problems, but I only allot myself a certain amount of bitching every article (that’s not true).
So here’s what I would tell my therapist if she were here:
I want to give up. I am down, I am out, and I want to stay down more than I ever have before in my life.
I want to go home. I want to get a boring corporate job in a boring town just outside of a boring city. I want to find a boring boyfriend so we eventually have a boring wedding and then some boring children, whom will only speak one language and never apply for a passport.
But my fucking friends in China won’t let me give up. Even when I tell them to let me go; to let me drown.
“You can do it” has been replaced by “there’s always a way in China” because we all recognize that it doesn’t matter how strong or talented or brilliant you are, China will always smack you down and win. But it’s not about “winning,” it’s about playing the game well and efficiently. It’s about teamwork. How can we possibly keep as many people afloat as we possibly can? How can we find VISAs? How can we find stable jobs? How can we find proper western healthcare? How can we protect each other from a system that is designed for us to fail?
And how can we reassess efficiently when it inevitably doesn’t work?
A China friend explained, “If you want stability, you came to the wrong country. In exchange for all of the exciting things and people we have here, we recieve an equal amount of frustration, failure, and uncertainty.”
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. I’m not trying to discourage people from coming to teaching English in China for a year. Instead, I’m trying to provide an accurate description of what it means to create a life here for those who want to stay longer. If you’re trying to run away from something, don’t come to China. Live on a beautiful beach in Bali or Thailand. If you’re trying to “find yourself,” maybe you should backpack around America or Europe for a while.
Because China is where champions fall. Legacies end. Empires dissolve.
And this is the place I call my home.
Mental health isn’t something that you can fake or buy. At the end of the day, you have to lay in bed alone with your thoughts and maybe that’s why I, along with so many other foreigners in Beijing, struggle with sleeping so much.
Which is a shame; because we’re a community of dreamers.
If you need to be heard, take the opportunity. Seek someone out and let it out. Your feelings are legitimate, they are important, and they don’t have to take over your life.
Trust me. I live in China.