By Kayla Wang
Discussed: Death, Mental illness
Welcome to deconstructed. — fostering a community that draws attention to mental health through creative writing and art & resources for marginalized groups.
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I watched as my house was in utter disarray and apprehension. The red police lights glared through my bedroom window as muffled murmurs in the living room buzzed in my ear like the crisp sound of waves bouncing off a seashell. The police officer’s overarching figure, commanding authority, towered over my cousin’s petite body. The static of his walkie-talkie interrupted their conversation while she attempted to explain to him my uncle’s last traceable location. I froze. I stared in disbelief as I watched my family try to dismantle my uncle’s closet door to find clues of where he might have gone: tickets, receipts, cash. I turned to my cell phone, following the same motions that became muscle memory. Clicking on the contact name, I knew I would be facing my loathed enemy—an automated, robotic machine that would read me back the same 10 digits I had already engraved into my brain.
I never quite understood why my family quickly dismissed me when I would ask why my uncle would take medication from copious pill bottles in every color and size, why they told me to stay vigilant about what I said because he could get angry easily, or why he was persistently restless. It wasn’t until the night he was reported missing during one of his episodes that I found out he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia at the age of 15.
In my household, mental health is highly stigmatized; to them, the world consists of only two types of people: those that were ill and those that were “normal.” My family rationalized my uncle’s condition with old Chinese superstitions because they could barely comprehend the terms social workers used in their explanations. They could only feel confused, worried and concerned. In their eyes, and in the eyes of the parents who raised them, health and wellness were always handled in the traditional way and people could be “cured” with Eastern herbs. The men were the breadwinners, women married early to raise children, and there was nothing else to provide other than financial and physical needs.
When I transferred schools in my freshman year, I had to overcome my own adversities in defining my self-worth through academic validation, anxiety and imposter syndrome. I had never been so cognizant of this implicit sense of shame regarding mental health. People could automatically detect a blemish. I was a dented cereal box. I spent time staring blankly at a mahogany desk, shifting uncomfortably in a physician’s chair awkwardly trying to explain why I thought I was a failure as a 15-year-old girl. I wore these sky blue, grippy, psychiatric ward socks as I could see the tears well up in the corners of my mom’s eyes, feeling completely helpless.
I’m lucky to have grown up in a generation that has been increasingly candid and vulnerable, and I’m even more lucky to have loved ones in my life who cherish me enough to deconstruct cultural stigma to learn how to better support me. As I continue to grow, I can recognize that peace in the form of silence or ignorance is not the answer. Instead, mental health should rightfully be loud, raw and unapologetic.
Web design and making infographics have always been very enticing for me as a creative outlet. One issue that I’m incredibly passionate about has always been mental health awareness, and I’ve carried over my interest in my attention to various social justice works throughout my high school career and beyond. I was inspired to develop “deconstructed.” to showcase my personal experience with mental illness in my family and in my own life. Through resources catering to people of color, immigrants and individuals of varying identities, I aimed to provide for all. Moreover, I’m able to demonstrate my appreciation for subjective and informative art. In order to make this happen, I utilized Canva, Wix, Social Media and what I learned during my mentor/mentee meetings and Girls Write Now workshops to put together a one-stop mental health awareness shop!
Kayla Wang is a current senior in high school in Queens, New York City. Her interests lie in STEM, Asian American representation, the climate crisis and mental health awareness. She has the ability to utilize her voice as a staff writer and digital media strategist for Politically Invisible Asians. This newsletter amplifies Gen Z Asian American identities through analysis of current events, cultural experiences and creative writing. Kayla is a self-proclaimed bubble tea connoisseur and in her free time, she enjoys binge-watching Korean dramas.