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How I Dance with Depression and Dissociation

Trigger warning: depression, mention of self-harm and suicide

Author’s Note: My depression and dissociation comes and goes. In any given year it can happen once, multiple times, or not at all. I am not a medical professional and therefore, my advice is only a suggestion. I understand not all advice or shared practices work for everyone, but they may help someone. If it helped me, as someone who has depression and dissociation, then it may help someone else. I write this to reach out to anyone who may find this supportive of their experience. The tone is strong and I understand everyone experiences their depression and dissociation differently. As such, everyone has their own way of coping and navigating through these experiences.

Kim Chua smiling headshot

Kim Chua

It’s a brisk cold night in Las Vegas, Nevada, and I’ve tightened my sweater a little closer around me. It’s 12:12 am and I’m staring at my screen, reading a message I sent someone only a few hours ago on Slack.

I see my name. I see my words.

But it doesn’t register that it’s me…

or that it’s real.

My mind attempts to grasp the reality of it, because it is real. And yet, what it only manages to do is fill the back of my head with this hauntingly familiar fog.

This is how I dance with depression and dissociation.

Now you may be familiar with what depression holds, but you may not be familiar with the different rhythm it plays with each person who experiences it. The origin of it may no longer be the cause for why it remains or revisits the person. And the side effects may change.

In my case, as I’m sitting in this profound silence, this ache I feel at the back of my head is a side effect of depression. However, I’m not sad or stricken with negative thoughts. I’m just numb. But only at this moment. Only when dissociation reigns over to play tricks on me.

Having just settled back into my antidepressant-taking routine, my emotions no longer spiral down into a dark abyss or dissuade me from focusing on work I thoroughly enjoy. My mind is just clear enough to entertain dissociative moments, to feel what I cannot feel.

What’s keeping me in this feigned moment of floating between space and time? What’s stalling me?

The understanding that this faux experience of reality is my reality, from time to time. The separation of my mind and the physical world. How wild all of this feels. The fact that this is actually fascinating. This perception that I’m definitely different from most others. And the lonesome feeling that I may be this “failing minority” of the monolithic Asian population who face these trials head on.

But that is false (and the utterly living effect of the model minority myth).

Depression is disastrously common among Asian populations. We know this. There are alarming statistics of this. But there are (historically) no norms of addressing this.

I have to remind myself that I am not alone in feeling this. I must keep reminding myself that depression is only making me believe that I am alone. And that this absurd model minority myth is only some invalid concept cultivated by an unsympathetic model of thought.

Plagued with stigma against mental health, let alone any form of disability, there is this invisible (and unfounded) reinforcement that we must not falter from being normal. That we must produce great results and achieve even greater outcomes.

And should we suffer from something non-visible, we must do so in silence or risk any (or all) of the following: the quick jump to being defaulted as some wildly dysfunctional person, the ostracizing, the discouraging humiliation, or the shame blanketed over the family/parents.

But I reject this.

I’m tired of being tired. I’m exhausted of being exhausted. I’ve turned my waning fatigue into fuel to fight for others because it feels so much better to kick depression in its derrière. To speak of depression so more can find their footing once again and fight it. To share experiences and successes so more can reveal who they truly are.

Everyone has their own way of working with their depression/dissociation.

As someone who enjoys creative writing, I find that writing the experience as a character in a story really helps me navigate and remove myself from a darker reality consuming me. Personifying it helps detach the disillusioned self from me.

Even with these practices, I still tread back when depression quietly dawns over me without realizing it. Though I may feel defeated at times despite success, I then turn to my next mode of action: stop, pause, mentally displace myself from it (but not enter a dissociative realm), and recenter myself. This may involve breathing exercises, yoga, music, comedy shorts, or anything that will guide me back.

To those with depression:

We must not struggle with depression. We must grapple with it. We must remind it that it is only latching onto us, tricking us into thinking it is who we are.

Depression is not us. Depression relies on our pauses, our doubts, and our windows of weakness. But we do not rely on depression.

No, we are our own selves. Your true self is still there, only encompassed by the dense fog of depression.

Ignore the neon “exit” sign. It’s not for you. You’re tired, I understand. You just want it gone and over with. Trust me, I know.

But the more we speak of depression as a separate thing, the more we are able to disempower it. We regain our own regency of ourselves.

Detach depression from you. (From here on out, we will refer to it as “it”.) Kick it to the curb. Toss it over the canyon. It has no place here with you. It has no right to control you. It won’t be easy, I can attest to it.

But it’ll feel a whole lot better once you start. It’ll get easier. And there may be times when it comes back at full force. You may shuffle back in dismay, but you may also remind it of its place.

You are yourself.

Meet the Author

Kim Chua

Kim Chua is a graphic designer who is fighting to reconstruct societal perceptions to prevent others from struggling in their own depths alone. With the support of RespectAbility staff, she will strive to champion accessible design.

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