To my beloved Kimchi Mamas,
Please do me and our community a favor by reading this short article on self-harm and violence in the Korean American community
I know this seems like a big bummer to post this during the holiday season, but 'tis also the season for a spike in suicides, suicide attempts, and domestic violence.
Does this ring a bell for you at all? It definitely did for me:
Grace Yoon, executive director of the Korean American Family Service Center in New York, told The Huffington Post that Koreans come to America with high hopes of acquiring wealth and providing a good education for their children. When their expectations are not met, some feel like they have let their families down. Yoon commented that the problem has gotten worse since the recession, "especially with Korean fathers and heads of households whose small businesses are not doing well."
The article goes on to say that the intergenerational language barrier as well as the cultural taboo against seeking mental health services may contribute to the higher-than-average suicide rate in Korean Americans.
If this helps anyone at all, I'll just put myself out there as someone who did try to kill herself when she was in the throes of what she now recognizes as a major depressive episode.
I was 21, feeling exhausted and beaten down, not doing well in school, but instead of seeking help, I just ignored my health and soldiered on, terrified of delaying my graduation by yet another quarter or year. It got to the point where I stopped talking to my friends and stopped checking in with my parents, unable to keep up the lies when I claimed I was okay. As I got more and more insular, my whole world consisted of my classes and my inability to attend them, my lack of focus, my inevitable failure. So a few days before my first finals, hating myself for letting my parents down, they who worked so hard and sacrificed so much so that I could go to a top-notch school, and I couldn't even repay them with simply succeeding, I tried to take my own life. I honestly thought I was doing them a favor, relieving a burden.
I was so, so lucky that my attempt was feeble at best, and my roommate was in the apartment.
After that, I was hospitalized for a week. For some reason, I had this stereotype against psychiatry and didn't consider it a fully-valid field of medicine. I could not have been more wrong. Thanks to the medication, counseling, and support I received then and afterwards, I finally graduated from university. My grade point average was barely enough to scrape past, and my department might or might not have overlooked a single missing requirement, but I did it. And my life instantly became easier once I stepped foot outside that damn campus and moved on with my life.
Did I at 21 have even the tiniest correct inkling about how life after college would be like? Absolutely not! My instincts and intuition that I relied on so heavily turned out to be completely off; I think it was because I was completely biased to see only the negative. That's what depression does; it skews your outlook on everything to just remember the negative and completely ignore the positive, and that small shift in perspective is what makes depression so dangerous. It was actually quite a relief to discover that my "lenses" were off and needed readjusting.
The turning point for me was my dad tearfully telling me that he would rather have a non-college-graduate daughter than no daughter at all. That he would have let me crash at home for as long as I needed in order to get back on my feet again. And that he was truly sorry that it had to come to this for him to tell me that, that this was completely uncharted territory for him, that we would get through this together. My mom was too overcome with emotion to speak to me then, but as time went on, I came to realize that she felt the same way. And believe me when I tell you that my parents made the Tiger Mom look like a kitten; that I was pushed very hard all my childhood; and if you had asked me before all this if I truly believed they loved me, I would have a hearty laugh at the mere notion.
But it turned out that my Korean parents, as stoic and strict and cruel and physically punitive as they were, were still parents. And now they are very demonstrative, nurturing, giving, loving grandparents.
And now, daily I think to myself, "I'm so relieved I'm not dead. All the fun I would have missed out on!"
If you at any point feel as hopeless as I did that summer, please know that you aren't "crazy," that you are struggling alongside countless others, that there are other solutions besides death, that people love you and are rooting for you, that honest-to-goodness there is light at the end of the tunnel. Or at the very least, there are enough points of light inside the tunnel to make it worth sticking around to observe. DO NOT MISS OUT ON THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.
Call a friend and tell them you need help, call 1-800-273-8255, go to the emergency room, connect with people online, just don't leave yourself alone with the thoughts you are thinking, the same way you would try to save your friend who is trapped in a house with someone who is trying to kill them.
If you got this far, thanks so much for reading. This was difficult to write.