Working Toward A Healthy Body Image: Loving My Body and Myself

Working Toward A Healthy Body Image: Loving My Body and Myself

By Phyllis Myung

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Two weeks ago, I sat in my grandmother’s kitchen as she placed piles of galbi (Korean beef ribs), ddukbokki (spicy rice cakes), three different kinds of kimchi, a various assortment of side dishes and a heaping bowl of white rice. As I put back some of the rice, she commented on how it seemed that I’ve gained some weight. Of course, she says it in her most grandmotherly and loving way, but I still winced at the comment and suck in my gut a little more while I tugged at my shirt.

Half way through the meal, my grandmother asks me if I want more food because it seems like I’m not eating enough. I shake my head no while feeling the same confusion of mixed messages about my body since childhood. Should I even be eating a second helping if I’ve gained so much weight? I know that my grandmother likes to feed me – it’s an expression of her love, so how I can say no?

I can’t remember a time where I was happy with my body. It wasn’t so much because some adult in our family was dieting (I don’t remember anyone actually dieting) or because someone was directly commenting about my body, but there was this unspoken thread of discontent that permeated my life since I was young. I used to be so scrawny that my uncle nicknamed me “chicken legs.” I still remember having to drink herbal medicines to cure the weakness of my body – I was too thin and was prone to illness frequently.

As I grew up, though, the balance of eating and staying the right type of thin was difficult. My indulgent and loving grandfather filled his pantry full of cookies, chips, soda and whatever else a kid could want to snack on. It was a child’s snack food paradise. By the time I was a teenager, my lunch consisted of Clearly Canadian sparkling water and chips. It’s safe to say that I didn’t grow up with the healthiest eating habits. But each soda can, cheeseburger or homemade donut was offered up in love wrapped heavily in equal parts guilt, a past life of not having enough and because of a lack of language. Despite learning Korean, there was still an invisible barrier of culture, language and generation between my parents as well as my grandparents. The one mainstay of overcoming that barrier was always food.

And so I was fed. But as I was fed, I was also chided for chubby cheeks, chicken legs, a round face, a lack of the second crease in my eyelid, hair without enough volume, wide calves and big feet. When I looked around, I questioned my looks and my body a lot. I hated how I looked and felt ashamed and ugly. I wanted to have blue eyes and blonde hair. I wanted to be waif-thin. My only redeeming quality was my relatively blemish-free skin that was just the right amount of pale.

I saw the popular girls, the magazines and who was voted homecoming queen. I knew it would never be me.

I wish that I could tell you that I’ve overcome all those feelings, but I still struggle with them. I hate looking in the mirror or seeing pictures of myself because I see an ugly and fat version of me and I never see the beauty. And every magazine, movie or TV show I see reminds me that the standard of beauty hasn’t changed that much since I was a teenager and I am still far from it. My love-hate relationship with food is still ever-present. I try hard to make sure that I am not equating food with love to my daughter or to my nieces and nephews. I do my best to try not to eat emotionally and to embrace my body for what it is – to recognize that this body birthed a beautiful and healthy child, is loved deeply by a partner who does his best to reassure me when I am feeling so insecure and is capable of so much more than I give it credit for.

I’ve come to realize and accept that my Asianness impacts my body image and how I see myself in the mirror. I’ve also learned that having a healthy relationship with food is possible and can be separated from the cultural web that I’ve been caught in. When I eat, I am more mindful and I will ask myself, “Why am I eating this? Am I eating this out of hunger? Am I eating this because I don’t feel good about myself? Am I eating this because I feel guilty and I want my grandmother to know that I love her and that I know she loves me? Am I eating this because I want to numb the pain I feel when I look in the mirror?” As I ask these questions, I continue to do the work of loving my body and myself.  I also continue to do the work of embracing my Asian identity and allowing it to be a part of the healthy picture of myself – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

This post first appeared on The Napkin Hoarder.

Phyllis Myung is a freelance writer, consultant and speaker. Through her personal blog, The Napkin Hoarder, she shares her experience ranging from growing up as an Asian American with immigrant parents to raising a child of her own.

Vegan Ramen

By: Yukiko Sato

With grey skies and freezing temperatures, winter is a season when we all seek comfort foods. As someone originally from Hokkaido in the northern part of Japan, ramen is one of the foods I enjoyed very much as a kid. I haven’t had it for over 10 years, ever since I made the choice not to eat meat.

With ramen’s deep flavors mainly coming from bones and meat of animals, is vegan ramen possible? I have experimented and came up with something that I’m pleased with. I hope you will like it too.

The chewy texture of the eggy ramen noodles is emulated by using spaghetti with baking soda added to the cooking water. (If you’re interested in the science behind how this works, check out this post by Serious Eats.)

The key to good ramen is to prepare good-quality umami-rich broth. I make my own stock using vegetable scraps but you can certainly use the ready-made version from the store. Just watch out for the sodium content and adjust the amount of soy sauce you add when preparing the soup. Also, don’t leave out the white pepper! Just a few pinches gives the soup a pleasantly spicy note.

Miso is a fermented soybean paste that contains beneficial bacteria. Along with soy sauce, it adds umami flavor to the soup.

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Serves 2

Soup
2 tsp minced ginger
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBS toasted sesame oil
4 cups vegetable broth
2 TBS ground sesame seeds
1-2 TBS soy sauce
1 TBS dark miso (barley or brown rice miso) pinches of ground white pepper

1/2 lb spaghetti (or angel hair pasta)
2 TBS baking soda
Salt

Topping
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced in half-moons
2 cups mung bean sprouts
1/2 carrot, sliced into matchsticks
2-4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
Salt and pepper

Instructions

1. To prepare the soup, sauté ginger and garlic in toasted sesame oil in a soup pot. Cook until fragrant, and then add vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, add ground sesame seeds and season with soy sauce, dark miso (mixed with some of the broth from the pot to ensure no lumps remain) and white pepper. Keep it simmering (do not boil!) so the soup stays warm until ready to serve.

2. To prepare the noodles, bring a big pot of water to boil. Make sure the pot is big enough as adding baking soda can make the boiling water fizz up. Add baking soda and salt, then add the spaghetti. Cook as directed on the package, stirring often and keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t bubble over. Drain but do not rinse.

3. To prepare the topping, sauté onion in oil until translucent. Add bean sprouts, carrots and shiitake mushrooms, and cook for a few minutes. Stir in scallions and season with salt and pepper.

4. Place the cooked noodles into two bowls and pour the soup over them. Add the toppings. Optional pan fried tofu slices make a good complement that replaces chashu pork. Enjoy while hot!

Yukiko Sato is a foodie specializing in vegan and macrobiotic foods. Interested in the relationship between health and food, she created the Berkshire Vegan blog in which she shares her many delicious creations. She is also the author of The Peaceful Dessert Book.

Grit

i Nov 6th Comments Off on Grit by

By Debbie Lyn Toomey

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Have you ever failed at something so miserably that the thought of attempting to do it again was the last thing you wanted to do?

If your answer is yes, then you just passed this pseudo-captcha test. You are “not a robot.” Unlike robots, we human beings have feelings, emotions, and dreams. We are all meant to grow and stretch despite our circumstances and our limitations. This unique trait sets us apart from other living beings. Flourishing and trying to make our dreams come true is great when life is going our way. But what happens when it’s not? What happens when you fail despite all of your hard work? Do you stay down and accept the defeat or do you get up again and again until you are satisfied? If you have a tendency to persevere and keep going then you have what experts call, grit.

Human Experience

Falling down or failing is one of the most agonizing, embarrassing, and scariest human experiences. But it is also one of the most educational, empowering, and essential parts of living a successful and fulfilling life. The old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again” pretty much sums up what we should do in order to get better and better until we get the results that we want.

Nitty Gritty of Grit
Did you know that perseverance (grit) is one of the seven qualities that have been described as the keys to personal success and betterment in society? The other six are: curiosity, gratitude, optimism, self-control, social intelligence, and zest. Studies have shown that people who follow their passion and are determined to do the hard work to get “the job” are more likely to become successful in life. Grit is studied by many researchers. One of the leading researchers is Dr. Angela Duckworth.

Passion and Perseverance
Dr. Duckworth’s study on grit showed that people who have passion and perseverance in what they do are more likely to be successful. Thomas Edison is a model for grit for trying 1,000 plus times to invent the light bulb. If you are reading this with the lights on in your room, you know darn well he succeeded. When asked why he kept going despite his hundreds of failures, he merely stated that what he had were not failures. They were hundreds of ways not to create a light bulb. This statement not only revealed his grit but also his optimism for looking at the bright side (literally!)

“Grrr”
Grit is very important in life. Grit makes the impossible, possible. Grit takes the “grrr” to a new level of success for those willing to work for the “It”. Maybe that is why “grit” is called grit. It takes a combination of “grrr” and having the passion for “It” to reach the goal that you’ve been working towards.

Grit and Mindfulness
Grit can be learned and developed to help you become more successful. One of the techniques that helps is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice that helps the individual stay in the moment by bringing awareness of his or her experience without judgement. This practice is a technique that many have used to quiet the noise of their fears and doubts. Through this simple practice of mindfulness, individuals have the ability to stop the self-sabotaging downward spiral of hopelessness, despair, and frustration. According the Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, mindfulness is integral in stopping the mind’s inner critic and insecurities to rule the mind.

Grit and Strengths
Another way to strengthen your grit muscle is through using your top strengths and allowing them to help you rise to the occasion. In fact, grit is one of the 24 Character Strengths in the VIA Character Strengths Classification. The 24 character strengths were studied for over 3 years by leading positive psychology researchers, Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson. They along with many other top experts found these virtues have moral and cross-cultural significance in helping people live happy and successful lives. Using your signature strengths is a wonderful way to herald your top qualities to help you get your job done. My strength-based and solutions focused approach to coaching has been extremely helpful for all my coaching clients. Top strengths can help you see things under a different lens.

How about you?
When was the last time you failed at something? What did you do to overcome the negative and self-sabotaging feelings of failure? Reflect on what you did, and try to use those same powerful resources to help you today. If you need a coach and a cheerleader to help you reach your goals, contact me at info@healthandhappinessspecialist.com today. Together we can make your dream come true.

Asian Women Don’t Get Breast Cancer

By Phyllis Myung

blogpicI truly believed that Asian women didn’t get breast cancer. I only knew of two Asian women in my life that had breast cancer. It was a rare occurrence in my mind because these women were either living in Asia or had recently immigrated. Fast forward to today where breast cancer is a common topic amongst my friends – Asian or not.

According to the Susan G. Komen Cancer Foundation, breast cancer is the most common cancer to occur in women of all racial and ethnic groups. Asian countries, typically, have a lower rate of breast cancer, but for Asian Americans, the rates of breast cancer have been steadily rising. The National Asian Breast Cancer Initiative reports that Asian women who “live in the U.S. for more than 10 years, they increase their chances of developing breast cancer by up to 80%.” The other astounding fact that they also report is that we, genetically, have dense breasts. Did you know that mammograms could miss up to 60% of cancers in women with dense breasts? In addition, The National Center for Biotechnology Information published a paper in 2012 about breast cancer subtypes that differ based on Asian ethnic groups.

Those seem like a lot of hurdles to have to overcome as an Asian American woman facing breast cancer along with potential language and cultural barriers. Creating awareness and early screening is crucial because breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in Asian American women.

So what now? Here are three things you can do right now:

  1. Get screened and do self-exams on a regular basis.
  2. Are you an Asian American that recently got diagnosed with breast cancer, going through treatment, or a survivor of breast cancer? Share your story. We need to hear it! We need to know that Asian American women get breast cancer. Share your story with us or join the National Asian Breast Cancer Initiative in bringing awareness during the month of October by using  #asianbreastcancer in your social media posts.
  3. Volunteer. You can volunteer through Asian Women for Health, National Asian Breast Cancer Initiative, or the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

We’re in this fight together and let’s make sure that cancer is not a part of the Asian American woman’s story in the future.

Phyllis Myung is a freelance writer, consultant and speaker. Through her personal blog, The Napkin Hoarder, she shares her experience ranging from growing up as an Asian American with immigrant parents to raising a child of her own.

Moms, 3 Reasons Why You Need to Stop Acting Like a Superhero

This post is written by Lisa Chin. The following post first appeared on The Healthy Aisle.

About the Author: Lisa Chin is a holistic mama on a mission to live an inspired life and help others do the same. An inspired life is one where we take care of ourselves – our health and personal development, two of Lisa’s passions. You can find more of her writing at The Healthy Aisle and Lisa for Real.

Super-Mom-article_final-913x560Do you lose sleep thinking about how much more you could be doing for your kids?

Do you beat yourself up when you read another mom’s Facebook post about the awesome dinner she made for her family after a long day of work and going to the gym?

Do you worry that your inadequacies are going to ruin your kids?

Well, you need to STOP.

When I was pregnant, I was determined to be the absolute best mom possible. I imagined that I’d gracefully balance work, chores, making/eating healthy meals, maintaining relationships with my husband, friends, and family, taking care of the kiddo, finding time to exercise/meditate/pursue my passion, and all the while going to bed at a normal time. Yeah, I wanted to be one of those Super Moms.

“My mom did it. Why can’t I?”

My mom is my biggest inspiration and in my eyes a true Super Mom. She was our family’s breadwinner – working full-time, oftentimes leaving at 6:00 in the morning to work an overtime shift at the factory. Then she’d come home, cook dinner in half an hour (who does that?!) and then bathe my brother and me before we went to bed. She never raised her voice at us, never let the stress and struggles she felt affect how she treated us and was able to raise two (may I say?) well-adjusted adults in a country she entered just shortly before I was born. To this day, she still amazes me. She can cook the most moist, delicious Thanksgiving turkey in under 2 hours and the rest of the holiday meal for 20 people in just about the same amount of time without breaking a sweat. She made motherhood look effortless.

But you and I know that is definitely not true.

For the past year, I tried to be like my mom and do it all. But I’m calling it quits.

I. am. D.O.N.E.

Naively, I saw Super Moms as modern day superheroes donning burp cloths instead of capes, chasing away boogie monsters instead of villains, and putting out tantrums instead of fires.

What I found is being a Super Mom is a lot like being a Superhero – it is unrelenting, unhealthy, and above all, unsatisfying.

The crimes don’t stop

The work of a Superhero never ends. While a superhero cartoon or movie ends peacefully with the main character reflecting on how good triumphs over evil, the hero has to get up the next morning and does it all over again. After one criminal is taken down, another appears. It is an unrelenting, continuous cycle of battling criminals.

Like superheroes, 21st century mothers face a constant barrage of challenges.

Externally, we are plagued with conflicting child-rearing philosophies, mommy wars, and the lack of a supportive local community.

Physically, our bodies are no longer our own. It feels like we run on autopilot. We wake up, prepare lunches, try to fit in a shower, go to work, pick up our children, get them to bed, cook dinner and ideally, do some chores before going to bed ourselves. Then we wake up, rinse and repeat.

Mentally, we face many new emotions and doubts. As a mom, I know that my mood has swung, self-confidence dipped, sense of purpose questioned, and self-identity has gone in limbo.

Continuing to try to balance all of these challenges while taking care of the daily work, chores and errands is as possible as it is for us to fly and shoot laser beams out of our eyeballs.

The challenges never end just as the enemies keep coming. The only way to cope is to take a break, because unlike superheroes our world will not end if we don’t bathe our child before bed or if we turn down a play date invitation.

Eating a healthy meal is a battle

I’ve never seen a superhero sit down to a decent meal, but if they did, I’m sure it would be interrupted by an emergency.

Superheroes are so preoccupied and consumed with helping others, they don’t have the time to take care of themselves. The cartoons hardly show them being sick but when you constantly live in a state of fight or flight and prioritize other’s needs before your own, I imagine you’d get sick often.

Due to stress, sleep deprivation, and not to mention, exposure to daycare germs, I’ve been sick more times in the past year as a mom than I have been in the last five years. Sickness is a sign that I have taken on too much and need to reevaluate and reprioritize what I am doing.

Getting the stomach virus over the winter and being forced to take a sick day was the final straw. I realized that in pursuing Super Mom-dom, I have placed my health on the back burner.

It’s a tired analogy but as moms, we have to put our oxygen masks on first. This means putting our physical and emotional health before our family’s.

Saving the world doesn’t make you happy

Despite the cool powers and killer outfits, I’ve always felt kind of bad for superheroes. They live under an extreme amount of pressure – feeling a perpetual obligation to use their powers for good while constantly feeling like an outsider in the world they are trying to save.

Because of that burden, they don’t have the time or the abilities to maintain a social life and develop true romantic relationships and friendships – the things that make life worth living.

If we as moms were to allow our burdens to overtake us, life would be extremely unsatisfying. Fortunately, we have control over what we do and don’t do. While everything seems to be a fire drill, your to-do list will still be there if you choose to hold off on it until tomorrow. It’s not worth sacrificing your (or your family’s) happiness to check off all the boxes.

While you want to be able to do things for your family, you also want to be there for them. Adequately balancing doing vs. being is where the line between satisfaction and dissatisfaction lies. Being there for my family can only be achieved by doing less for them.

Doing less really enables us to smell the roses. As a Super Mom, I’d miss out on those fleeting moments because I chose to fold the laundry instead of play with my daughter. Everyday’s a day we’ll never get back, memories missed.

Good enough is actually Super

I always thought that I was cheating my daughter if I was not a Super Mom. Oh, how false and limiting that belief was! I’ve begun to realize that I don’t have to be, do and provide everything for my family. Being a good mom is good enough.

While my mom really did not and could not provide me with everything, she was an amazing mother, and I wouldn’t trade any part of my childhood for a house with a white picket fence and two car garage. She did the best she could with the knowledge and resources she had. You can probably say the same about your mom.

Every child automatically thinks their mom is a Super Mom. Like I thought with my mother, I know my daughter will think I am pretty super as long as I do my best. Ultimately, our children deserve “good enough” role models who show them that we don’t have to overschedule, work to the bone, and sacrifice our health to be the best version of ourselves. The rest of the world will be hammering those ideas into them soon enough.

Being a mom means being present and making memories. It means giving yourself permission to take a break once in a while and take care of your own needs so you can better be there for your family. And by doing so, you’ll truly be a Super Mom.

Are you guilty of pursuing false Super Mom-hood? Want to join me in throwing in the towel? Share your story in the comments below and join our amazing Facebook group at The Super Mom Village.

2016 State of Asian Women’s Health in MA

Thanks to everyone who joined us at our 4th annual State of Asian Women’s Health in Massachusetts conference on May 25th, 2016 at Impact Hub Boston. This year’s theme was “Technology for Asian Health and Healthcare Delivery” and brought together entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers, health advocates, and community-based organizations who identified, discussed and explored challenges and solutions for utilizing technology to improve the health and wellness of Asian women in Massachusetts. The engaging and thought-provoking presentations given during the conference are provided here for your reference:

Keynote:

Reaching a Diverse Audience with Tailored Breast Health Messages

Temeika L. Fairley, PhD
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, CDC

Expert Panel:

Using a Health and Wellness App with Young Adults with Psychiatric Conditions

Elizabeth Cella
Vinfen Corporation

When We Grow Up (Healthy aging with technology)

Leon Chen,
U-ARK America, Inc.

Engagement to Empowerment: Social media, doctors, patients

Don S. Dizon, MD
The Oncology Sexual Health Clinic
Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center

Healthy Eating at Your Fingertips

Ka Hei Karen Lau, MS RD LDN CDE
Asian American Diabetes Initiative (AADI), Joslin Diabetes Center

Community Panel

Lessons Learned: The Challenges of a Community-Based Health Assessment

Anna Leslie, MPH
Allston Brighton Health Collaborative

Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition

Mai Du
Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition

Health Needs Assessment Survey: Boston’s Chinatown

Susan Koch-Weser, ScD
Tufts University School of Medicine

3 Myths on Work/Life Balance

“Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be; your ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil.” – James Allen

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What does work/life balance mean to you? 

Does it mean a perfect work and life situation with no stress or worry?
OR
Does it mean you have more than enough time to do what you want on your schedule?

People in pursuit of this illusive idea of work/life balance are often left disillusioned, disappointed, or depressed. Frankly, it is unrealistic for us to strive for this work/life balance when life delivers so many unexpected situations that can ripple into all areas of our lives such as lay-offs, health crisis, and divorce to name a few. Work/life balance should not be a way we measure our success but rather the tool we use to check in with ourselves so that we can make the best choices.

Stillness and Happiness

What I have learned is that work/life balance begins inside of us, not outside of us. I liken it to the stillness of deep waters underneath stormy waves. Similarly, our stillness and happiness are at the depths of the oceans of our being. Knowing this can help us withstand any storms that try to sink our boat. In other words, when we are happy, we feel centered and in control. We make purposeful and powerful decisions that allow life to work for us every moment. In this basic framework, the work/life balance is not an end goal but rather a tool for us to decipher how to steer and command ourselves, maintaining our course of our living our best life.

Tug and Pull

As a business owner, a part-time nurse, a mother of 3 boys, and daughter of aging parents, I am mindful of the constant tug and pull of work/life balance. There are times where I purposely burn the candle from both ends in order to help my company grow. It’s a choice that I make in order to be able to make my dreams come true. It’s a choice that I happily make in order to be the change that I want to see in this world — our world.

North Star

From time to time, I have people in my life that view me as a hypocrite for teaching about harmony, health and happiness because they feel I’m not living up to my own message. I would get comments such as, “Debbie, I don’t know how you do it all?” or “I don’t think you are living up to your message” or “Your desk is not Zen at all and you teach about mindfulness.” While these hurtful comments have knocked the wind out of my sails, I have found that they have made me stronger inside. I’ve become even more determined not to let their judgment take me off course from following my inner North Star.

Life Force

What I’ve come to realize, as I’ve mentioned in my new book, The Happiness Result, is that work/life balance not only starts from within us but it is constantly occurring. Balance is the life force that is in all living things. Balance is what we living beings naturally do in order to grow and flourish. It’s no different from when we are listening and following our calling; working extra hours to make our dreams come true. I believe that resisting our calling by listening to our fears and insecurities is the primary cause of the imbalance within and the cause of the work/life imbalance that we hear about.

Balance Happens

Balance happens when there is no resistance towards growth and flourishing. Balance happens when we allow ourselves to break free from our limiting beliefs and comfort zones. Balance happens when we are happy and clear about what we want. Lastly, balance happens when we feel in control of our lives.

Here are the 3 myths on work/life balance that I have discovered:

Myth #1: Balance means 50/50 all the time. This is impossible because we spend most of our time at work and less at home.

Myth #2: Balance can’t happen when we are busy. Balance is always happening even when we are busy. It’s up to us to trust to our gut instincts when we start feeling off-balance in anyway.

Myth #3: Work/life balance means success. Work/life balance has been overrated leaving way too many people feeling like failures because they can’t get it. Work/life balance needs to be reframed not as the measurement of success, but rather a tool that we use and a habit that we must cultivate in order to give voice to the treasures in our heart. When we do this, we can make healthy, happy, and harmonious choices that will lead to a rich and fulfilling life.

This article was recently published in Huffington Post. For further learning about how you can add more of what you want to your life, get your copy of The Happiness Result — coming out early July 2016. For coaching on how to create your awesome life, contact us at info@HealthAndHappinessSpecialist.com.

This post is brought to you by Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN is a “Health & Happiness Specialist™” and founder of Ultimate Healing Journey. She is committed to helping busy women by teaching them practical knowledge and skills sets that will best guide them to the road of a balanced, healthy, and harmonious life.

Stop the Stigma

In many Asian communities, the words “mental illness” simply do not exist and if they do exist there is a negative connotation attached to them. They are considered taboo, a source of embarrassment, and shameful. If they are mentioned then they should be associated with someone outside the family, but never ever yourself, your parents, or your siblings.

Examples of mental illness can include the following:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – triggered by experiencing or seeing a terrifying, shocking event
Depression – persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest
Bipolar Disorder – episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs
Anxiety Disorder – feeling immense worry and fear that it interferes with one’s daily activities

As many continue to turn a blind eye to mental illness – suicide remains prevalent among the Asian community. Did you know that suicide is the 4th leading cause of death for Asian American men and women between the ages of 24-55 in Boston? It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Each year more than 41,000 people commit suicide. Studies have shown that 90% of individuals who die by suicide experience mental illness.

Suicide can be preventable. The first step is to get rid of the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Do not be afraid to talk openly about the subject of mental illness or suicidal thoughts. – talk to a professional or talk to someone you trust. To learn more about preventing suicide, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Join Together Empowering Asian Minds’ (TEAM) National Public Awareness Campaign to engage, educate, and empower the Asian community with resources and support to destigmatize mental illness.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or call 911 immediately.

This post is written by Lan Nguyen

Mental Health Awareness Month: Rising Out of Shame

“Do you really want to stay with all the crazy people?” Those words still echo with me to this day because I wanted to scream out, “Yes! I need help and I don’t think you can help me.” The person who said those words to me was a mentor and a church leader. It felt confusing because I didn’t feel “crazy.” I just felt a constant overwhelming sense of hopelessness, worthlessness and a deep sadness that I just couldn’t shake off. Was this what crazy felt like? I wasn’t sure. I had no name for what this was, but somewhere inside, I knew I needed help.

It was the first time that I had acted on my suicidal thoughts and it landed me in the hospital emergency room. After that, I had my first encounter with a mental health professional. I didn’t know that such people existed, but she helped me to define what depression was and how I could get help. Despite the validation and a sense that a huge weight was lifted off by naming the depression and taking the first steps to get help, I walked away from the hospital with shame and the feeling that I had to hide my mental illness.

For several years after that first instance, I struggled in silence with my depression. I continued to suffer severe migraines and not only used medication to numb the pain that was radiating in my head, but also to prevent myself from feeling. It felt like I was constantly drowning with overwhelming waves of shame pushing me further and further down. I attempted suicide two more times after that first time.

Mental Health

Shame constantly surrounded me, especially within myself. But without help, I knew that I would not make it. For Asian Americans aged 15-34, suicide is the second leading cause of death.

After much encouragement and support from friends and my faith community (a different one than before), I started seeing a therapist and taking medication to treat my depression. It wasn’t an easy journey – I tried several different therapists before finding one that worked for me. I also had to do the same with medication. The biggest hurdle, though, was to rise out of the shame and stigma of mental illness. After sharing my story, I was able to come along side friends to help them through their own battles with mental illness and more importantly, to speak the truth that they were valued and worthy.

I still feel the sting of shame as I continue my lifelong battle against depression, knowing that sometimes the lies will speak louder than the truth. Every day, I do my best to get up and fight against those lies and that shame because I don’t want anyone to feel the way that I did or to feel like they couldn’t get help. Are you feeling the weight of shame? Are you hearing the lies that depression tells? I’m here to fight with you. I’m here to speak the truth and remind you of your worthiness and beauty. I’m here to rise out of the shame with you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please
call this number 1 (800) 273-8255 to get help because your life is worth it.
You can also go to this website: Suicide Prevention Lifeline

This post is brought to you by Phyllis Myung. Phyllis Myung is a freelance writer, consultant and speaker. Through her personal blog, The Napkin Hoarder, she shares her experience ranging from growing up as an Asian American with immigrant parents to raising a child of her own.

‘Achieving Whole Health’ for Young Asian American Women

“Model minority” is a term coined generations ago to describe Asian Americans, who supposedly “are all successful, smart and hard-working.”

Despite many studies debunking the term, the myth persists and represents a significant barrier for young Asian American women. “Pressure from parents, some of whom retain traditional cultural beliefs, can be overwhelming,” said Chien-Chi Huang, Executive Director of Asian Women for Health. “Anything less than an A grade in classes is unacceptable. Young girls are expected to stay home, study, and not go out with their friends.”

Combining pressure from home with peer pressure, bullying, racism, gender discrimination and many other 21st century factors, it’s no wonder that young Asian American women have the second-highest suicide rate among all racial groups in the U.S.

The new “Achieving Whole Health” program offers 9th and 10th grade Asian American young women a safe and supportive environment to build coping skills, discuss personal issues, set individual health goals and address physical and behavioral health issues before they become problems. A grant from the Boston Children’s Hospital Community Partnership Fund enabled the program to recruit participants, staff certified facilitators, and provide supplies.

The program was piloted this winter at the Teen Center at Roxbury Tenants of Harvard in the Mission Park neighborhood of Boston and recently “graduated” its first class. With parental permission, the young women attended eight weeks of after-school sessions using a curriculum developed by the National Asian Pacific Islander Mental Health Association.

“The first half is more didactic, giving students an overview of healthy living – body, mind and spirit,” said Huang. “The last half is highly interactive, involving discussion and role-playing and covering everything from meditation to journaling. Each young woman also made a ‘life box’ using craft supplies, then filled it with items that have personal, pleasant associations and the names of three people she can count on for support. The boxes became a visual reminder of what they cherish and what and who makes them happy.”

Asian Women for Health hopes to expand the program by adopting a train-the-trainer model to certify 20 additional Asian American women to lead more groups and train recent program graduates to become peer leaders.