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South Asian Heritage Month: "We are raised to hide any negativity away from the community in fear of being judged."

Solent Mind peer specialist Jasmine shares her story for South Asian Heritage Month.

As part South Asian Heritage Month, peer specialist Jasmine has shared her story with us... 

I grew up in a Sikh Punjabi family.  

Growing up I was always inquisitive and curious. I liked to solve puzzles and find a solution to things. I was very sporty and loved to spend my time outdoors. I was very shy and around Year 4 (school year), I became very isolated and lost my confidence – I was falling behind school and we found out that I have dyslexia and dyspraxia. 

That same academic year I moved to a specialist school with about 20 children in total – there I was able to learn in a way that made sense in my head, and I was brought up to speed so that I was ready for secondary school. 

 My contentment and confidence grew, I had a fire inside of me that kept me motivated and I was really loving studying. I made a bunch of friends despite knowing no one in that school. I embraced every day, and I had a great sleep and eat routine.  

My journey was smooth sailing for a couple years until I reached the age of 13/14 years – I remember the exact day when everything went pitch black for me within.  I felt low, and I just wanted to lock myself away and hide under the bedsheets. I struggled to manage my mood and had fluctuations in my lows and highs. It was always dismissed as puberty, depression, and anxiety but I knew it was something deeper than that.  

I tried everything I could to press on and push to achieve and feel better, but it would never last. I felt hopeless, lonely even though I wasn’t alone, invalidated, misunderstood. I used to hate the fluctuations and unpredictability of my mood. The one thing that did keep me going was my dance classes, so I started my own classes back in 2017. 

I lost my grandad in 2018 and my world fell apart. My mental health took a turn, and I was experiencing mania but it was never something I looked into as I really enjoyed the high feeling. Only a couple years later I was treated for psychosis and then privately diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and Panic Disorder. 

 In the community I was raised in, ailments and illnesses are very rarely spoken of. Only recently have the new generation been able to stand up and raise awareness on these taboo topics and issues. Just because they weren’t being spoken of didn’t mean they weren’t real.  

We are raised to hide any negativity away from the community in fear of being judged, or looked at in a weird way. I know that this was the case with my grandparents however, I always felt like something wasn’t right in this approach.  

I dealt with this by making sure I kept my avenues of communication open with my parents so that they knew what was going on with me – I did not feel shame in doing so and this is one thing I do not regret. At times no one really understood me or where I was coming from, but I had hope that if I stay honest and vocal about my mental health, maybe someone out there would stand up and say ‘hey I understand what you’re going through/talking about’. I thank my parents wholeheartedly for raising me and my siblings on how to be strong and independent because this allowed me to be fearless is the things I felt were the right things.  

Often, I would feel an urge to help those who were struggling, no matter what the severity of the situation was. This was always the case since I was little – I just always had a great sense of empathy towards others which was different to most others around me. I felt this sense of wholeness when I felt others could be themselves and have a space to talk and open up about things that they were struggling with.  

This helped me to come to terms with what was going on with me and encouraged me to speak up about my own struggles and issues. I always thought that if we started to be vocal about what is going on with ourselves, there might be just 1 person out there who would benefit from knowing they are not the only one feeling the same. 

 They would find hope and faith in the fact that someone else has been through something similar who has managed or found a way forward. I knew that this could help save lives because one upon a time, someone stood up and told their story which changed my trajectory towards recovery.  

 Having studied law and spent most of my career within the legal and financial sector, I felt like I was swimming against the current. It’s like something felt off and I didn’t belong or thrive as a person. The environment was cutthroat and competitive and I just didn’t like the idea of being stuck in an office job 9-5 when I could be out there doing a job that didn’t feel like ‘work’.  

Having struggled with my mental health for 15 years, I knew it couldn’t be all for nothing. Despite the suicidal thoughts and ideation, I knew that if I had to live this life, I want to live it making sure I can help even just 1 person – knowing that I have made a difference in my lifetime.  

Please don’t give up. You are doing so well and it’s so important that you reach out for help when you need it. There are so many ways to grow your support cushion and there are people who ready to help you through. I know it doesn’t seem like it right now, but there is a world out there where you will meet lovely and supportive people.  

You will be heard and understood. You will be validated. Happiness is more of a journey rather than a destination; something to experience along the way rather than the end goal – you can find happiness as and when you would like, you just need to look. Sometimes, things happen for a reason, and we can’t see it clearly right now, but soon enough, you will look back and realise why those doors closed and that special door opened for you. 

Life is up and down, ebbing and flowing, sometimes it'll be up and down, and we never know what's around the corner. I lost my dad this February and my grandma 3 months before. This has completely broken our hearts and to be honest, I don't know where I would be right now without my medication and the support of my loved ones.

Half the family I grew up with have been taken away from me, but I find peace knowing that they would want me and my family to be living the best life possible, to be happy. That's what drove me to change my career and work in mental health because that's where I feel I can give back the most, that's where I feel at peace. 

Don't wait for things to get to crisis level, please reach out for support when you need it. There are lots of resources and people to turn to, let's break the stigma, let's support each other.

For now, take it one step at a time. You don’t need to have everything figured out all at once, just know how well you are doing and keep plodding on. 

To read more of Jasmine’s story, and how dance helped her, read her Energise Me blog here. 

To read more about Solent Mind’s work with the South Asian Community, read an update from our Outreach & Inclusion team here

If you would like to reach out for support, but don’t know where to start, read more about finding support. 

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