Social media has created increased pressure to depict a pristine lifestyle at all times. Even though we all know that life is never all sunshine and rainbows. Here, in Singapore, there is very little light shed on mental illness or anything of that sort. We tend to believe that the brain is an organ that we have control over, that you can control your thoughts and actions. This is true to a certain extent. More often than not, we are at the mercy of our thoughts and like the heart, it is an organ that is constantly working on its own.
Many Asian households tend to instill this habit of showing your best and putting the best face on for the rest of the world. There is a tendency to sweep problems under the rug and pretend that it doesn’t exist, praying that eventually they will go away. It’s true in my family and the relationships that I have in my life. The whole mindset strikes a bad cord in me and it’s something that I fight against every day.
Why is it so wrong to admit our problems?
Singaporeans are notorious for being overly negative and complaining a lot. I have grown up in a society that is constantly in discontent. We are always very vocal about how unhappy we are with one thing or another. As frivolous as this may seem, it does impact the mindset of millennials who fixate on the negative and feel entitled to the good. You would think that this means that we are open to listening to people’s problems but this is where society draws a fine line. We love commiserating and blowing steam on shared topics, not on individual ones. It is taboo to air your “dirty laundry” or talk about them in an open manner. It is considered rude and self-centred, which boggles my mind. Who do you turn to, to discuss your own personal struggles? More often than not, you are encouraged to find a solution for yourself.
Which brings me to the point about having friends and a support system. This system is often botched by the false self-centred notions that I was talking about previously. We think our friends have their own problems to deal with. They are busy with their own lives and when we do have time to spend together, these are precious hours that you wouldn’t want to ruin with your personal problems. Thus, even with a close group of friends, ultimately we are incredibly isolated. No one knows who anyone really is. Life here is so fast paced that we often forget to check up on our friends and loved ones. Meanwhile, those friends and loved ones are too afraid to reach out and they end up feeling neglected. It’s a vicious cycle.
Being isolated, it is important to be comfortable on your own. Remind yourself that negligence is not personal, it is a way of life. We can’t solve everything on our own, but we can manage them. Finding a project or activity that is cathartic is important. When there seems to be no outlet for the negativity, find one that creates something positive for you. Be it working out, meditation or retail therapy. Writing is a cathartic experience for me and I have written journals, poetry and prose since I was 10 years old. As I grew older, I would kick it up a notch and create projects such as my self-published book, “The Unorthodox Cat Lady”, where you can clearly see instances of me releasing my negativity in the pages. Not everything that comes out of negativity is ugly, sometimes they push you to create or experience the most rewarding things.
Digging Yourself Out of It
When you are stuck in a rut, it is very easy to wallow. To prevent yourself from falling deeper into that hole, you have to acknowledge your feelings, release them in some form or other and then try to climb your way out of it. This is the most difficult step to execute on your own. Most times however, you are on your own. Realistically, it is difficult to reach out in an open manner without inciting judgement. Hence, I think it is equally important to find ways to climb out of that negative headspace by yourself. Leaving positive reminders is one way that I think helps. These reminders can come in the form of quotes, photos, even scents that evoke positive memories for you. Recently, I have started creating visual diaries of simple everyday things that to me are poignant and evoke positive feelings. They remind me of good times and I will watch them whenever things get rough.
My life is not exciting in the least, so everything is very ordinary. But I think it’s important to find joy in the ordinary. I truly enjoyed the entire process of making these videos and want to make more of them, even if they don’t turn out amazing. Sometimes, logging memories down into words is not enough. They need to be relived.