Mind HK Ambassador

Xanthe’s story

Xanthe, Mind HK Ambassador

Learner, environmentalist, sports lover, mental health advocate

How has the stigma around mental health affected your life?

I did not really tell anyone around me about what was going on when I was at my lowest. And the main reason  was because I felt like no one would ever understand my situation and could never share my pain. I also did not feel comfortable showing my “weak” side to others when I usually presented myself as someone strong. Rather than listening to others comforting or pitying me, I chose to close myself completely. I did not show up at friends’ gatherings. And the few times that I did show up, I kept more to myself. In terms of family, I tried to stay alone in my room most of the time and acted as normally as possible when talking to them. I could only imagine how they would react if they knew my situation, and I did not want to add my burden to their shoulders further.

Where/what has been important to you in your mental health journey? Why?

I do not have a specific place, but nature has always been important to me. The sunlight that wakes me up after a tearful night; the loneliness in the woods; the sea which shares my heartfelt emotions; the sand that grounds me firmly; and the breathtaking view I see after a hike that makes me feel alive. 

I have never been diagnosed officially, but I experienced a lot of depression and anxiety symptoms. Even though I have always been a nature lover, I did not always appreciate what nature offered me when I was feeling low. Nature is essential to me because it witnessed not only my fall, but also my growth. In my recovery, I have rediscovered peace with the natural world. I savoured every present moment and was in awe of enormous mountains, spectacular waterfalls and sun-drenched seascapes. I had quality time with myself when I took myself into the tranquillity of the environment and got rejuvenated from it. Nature has taught me to be resilient and patient. It is a privilege for me to witness the power of mother nature, and I enjoy it whenever I rise with the sunrise.

How has mental health affected your day to day life?

Mental health and my day-to-day life have a strong relationship. It affects my sleep, energy level and concentration. When my emotions are not at their best, I am easily distracted and find it hard to focus on the task that I should be working on. I also have  no motivation to do anything, which makes me feel even worse.

How would you describe yourself? What are your labels?

I would say I am a sentimental, optimistic and open-minded introvert. I cherish the time when I am alone. I can be highly stressed in a social setting, but at the same time, I also love meeting new people and building friendships. I love art and outdoor activities too. As a highly sensitive person, I let overwhelmed emotions get into my head quickly. My constant anxious thoughts also make me dwell on trivial matters. Some of my labels are “emotional”, “sensitive”, “timid”, “too optimistic”, “open-minded”, “artistic”, “anxious”, “quiet”, “messy”, “independent”, “nice” and “active”. These are the words that I heard people saying of me. In fact, they may indeed all represent me in some ways. Like many, I’m a person of many different sides, and it can be true of others’ impressions of me. Yet, it is crucial to remember that even though these words may somehow speak for me, they are certainly not all sides of me. I am a lot more than the words tell. Especially when I was struggling with my mental health, I wish I had also reminded myself that it did not mean my incapability in life. Isn’t this actually applicable to everyone in the world? People with mental health issues, special needs, different sexualities, different ages, different races and particularly the “normal” people. There was a slogan I saw online that has stayed in my heart — “See the able, not the label”.

What gave you hope during your recovery?

There were people who I met who really encouraged me. They showed me my good side , which I was not not paying much attention to. They loved me the way I slowly recognised  how I was worthy of. It took me a long time to be ok again, but they helped plant the seed for my recovery. Since then, whenever I feel the deep dark hole approaching me again, I try to address it fully by opening up to my loved ones and giving myself more compassion. I also seek professional help because I know I do not need to go through it all alone again.

Tell us about your life now

My everyday life now is just like everyone else’s — full of ups and downs. Understanding that every emotion is also my friend, and I have the power to deal with each of them, I feel more grounded and at ease generally. 

What would you tell someone who is going through something similar to what you have experienced? 

Don’t go to the dark alone. Ask help from professionals, friends or family, people who want the best for you. It is also important to not feel afraid to express your feelings. Either verbal or non-verbal way, there may be something that can help you. There are options like talk therapy, art therapy, dancing, drawing, journaling, meditating, etc. Find one that resonates with you and can perhaps comfort you. What you feel is valid, but try not to let it explode inside you. It is definitely not an easy journey, but I believe there will be one day that you will smile again from the bottom of your heart. You are a very important person in the world.