How can we shift from a culture that stigmatizes mental health to one that openly addresses it? How can we start to end the stigma that mental health “issues” are embarrassing?
We aren’t sure of the all the steps, but a key one is having tenacious individuals come forward; brave individuals who dare to embrace and be vulnerable about their own mental health journeys.
This week, we talk to local healthy food delivery Primal Meal Prep's founder, DY Lim - an individual that ticks all the boxes of 'traditional masculinity' - entrepreneur, successful, well-built.
At the same time, there’s a side of him that not many know...
"I struggle with anxiety and bipolar disorder; and have struggled with those two things for quite some time.
For those who don’t know, having bipolar is like a pendulum of sorts; going through alternating manic episodes and depressive episodes.
During manic spells, I feel like I can conquer the world, like I can do anything and am unstoppable. While that sounds like a good thing, it can also involve things like excessive and unnecessary spending, gambling, taking extreme risks because I don’t think about the consequences of those actions."
Women or men, it’s important that we start recognizing that all of us are human beings with wounds and flaws. That we are not perfect and don’t have to pretend to be. Yes?
What does a low day look like for you?
A bad day… EVERYTHING is kind of in slow motion. It’s hard to get anything done and everything feels like a trigger; everything feels like it can set me off. It could be someone walking slowly in front of me or an unorganised fridge; things that usually don’t matter as much.
I would say that the anxiety is always there; from waking to sleeping. I can’t shake it. During bad days, though, the depressive thoughts scream; they make me question myself a lot more than normal, asking myself if I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing, telling me that I’m not worth it, telling me that I’m better off dead than alive, etc.
With bipolar disorder, it’s more about periods - periods of alternating depressive / manic days.
For example: Recently, with all the changes Primal went through (with the new menu), I struggled big time. There was a lot of anxiety.
In part because one of my triggers is not having space or time for myself. When the business goes through a change as big as that mentioned above, it’s hard to find that space.
What do you do on those days / during those periods?
I try my best to stay present.
In all honesty, though, I usually force myself to get on with the day's tasks - keeping busy really helps. I remind myself that I have this job for a reason because I know if I were not the boss, I would’ve quit a long time ago. The best thing for me is getting out of the house and getting things done; whether that is scheduling meetings, getting my hands dirty in the kitchen, or just taking care of admin work.
At the same time, it varies from individual to individual. Iit’s all about finding what works for you. I enjoy my work.
Did you ever seek help? Why or why not?
Not particularly. I was sent to school counsellors (not surprisingly) but none of that really helped. I suppose a big part was because I wasn’t really aware (at the time) of what I was struggling with and didn’t see a big need to change. Awareness is definitely key.
When was your turning point in regard to awareness?
Well, I guess I first started being aware that something was wrong when I looked around in school and realised that no one else was throwing their friends into fire hydrants or punching holes in walls.
The second was when my previous girlfriend brought me to therapy. Ironically, I was going there to accompany her; she struggled with bipolar disorder. After going to treatment for some time, she told me that she felt I should go.. Little did I know what she meant was she thought I exhibited similar symptoms.
At first, I was in denial: Me? Bipolar? Definitely not! Slowly, though, it became pretty clear that one of the reasons we got along so well (my girlfriend and I) was because we struggled with the same things and therefore, understood each other on a level that not many others did. I suppose, that was a turning point in regard to awareness.
I guess there were also phases through the years where I recognised the feelings and ways I “released” my emotions weren’t exactly normal - but I would choose to ignore the signs. I didn’t want to be on medication of any sorts.
When did you start your journey to recovery?
Before I moved to Singapore, and when I started to see that I had issues in regard to my mood, I tried making some changes. Long story short, that went well… until I moved back to Singapore, which caused a whole host of issues and a full blown relapse because of how out of control I felt when I got back here.
I would say my “Come to Jesus” moment, though, was when I was about 22. It was during one of my manic periods. I was drunk driving and got involved in a car accident… except it wasn’t my car. I spent that night in jail. Needless to say, it was a pretty horrifying experience. Ironically, the guy whose car I smashed had struggled with bipolar before so he was very understanding, but it also got me on the road to recovery. Having someone to talk to and also realising that I didn’t want my life to continue on the road I was heading down.
What are some things you do on a daily basis to ease anxieties?
As mentioned, a very big trigger is not having time for myself so meditation is a very important thing to me. Finding time to be by myself and to breathe. I can be surrounded by strangers or surrounded by those I live with (like my girlfriend)... it doesn’t matter; I just need “me” time during the day.
Running a business like Primal… there are definitely phases where it seems like it's pretty much impossible. I’m constantly on call if issues arise, have to conduct training, schedule meetings, etc. At the same time, that’s what I signed up for and what brings me fulfilment so it’s just about finding some balance and making sure to set that time aside; something I’m still learning to do.
Apart from meditation, things like basketball, where my mind can stay present doing what it’s doing at the time, really helps. Fitness has always been helpful.
What are some go-to mantras?
I like to remind myself that i’m in control of my emotions, that I’m in the driver's seat - and not the other way around. I may feel the emotions but I still have a choice in regard to how I respond to them.
What advice do you have for those struggling?
I would say find people who understand; people who you don’t feel judged by. I don’t think I would be where I am now if not for that close 2 or 3 individuals who have mentored me or who have accepted me; crazy and all.
At the same time, it can be difficult (for all sorts of reasons) to find those few; so, an alternative would be to seek help from a therapist or counsellor. They are trained to help! And there’s no shame/embarrassment in that! If you broke a leg, you wouldn’t feel shame in getting help.
You're not alone. Inspired by DY? Resonate with his story? Would you like to know more? Have something to say? Drop us a note at: [email protected].
Read more: Lindsey Larkin, an Indoor Cycling Instructor's struggle with depression