It’s a Saturday night, my birthday. My friends and I are out for drinks, and I’m sat here nodding my head and fake laughing but, in all honesty, I could not care nor understand what they are talking about. I’m sick and tired of listening to them discuss how to have sex quietly whilst you’re living with your in-laws (personally, I would say just go for it – they had sex to have your partner, amongst just wanting each other, so I’m sure they understand the concept – so freaking go for it!) I make an escape to the loos.
I then have that cliché moment where I’m just stood there looking at myself in the mirror. I had the sudden realisation that I was not “doing okay” – I had in actual fact spiralled and hadn’t realised I was still struggling with anxiety and depression.
How did I miss that I had dropped 10kgs with zero exercise or dieting, my hair was falling out in chunks, I constantly had a tight chest and struggled to breathe and I cried over anything – If I lost the cap to my pen, you’d find me sobbing… HARD! How did I miss that I was considering revisiting the dark side (unfortunately, not referring to Star Wars here) multiple times and wondering whether pain would make the situation any better?
I was a ticking time bomb - I tried to stay away from my family, scared that I would break down… and my elderly parents didn’t need to see that, it would crush them. I couldn’t speak to my siblings as they were busy with their own lives. Also, I was worried their response may have just been “Nina, relax and breathe and all will be okay. You’re a strong girl and can do this. Stop crying!” Well actually I don’t think it will okay as I’ve been managing to breathe (although it is a struggle at times) for all these years and if I’m correct my sh*t is getting worse. I’ve managed to not only put a face on to everyone else, but I have also managed to fool myself for the last 12 years. As for “being a strong girl” – wow, they really had no idea!
By Monday morning I’d not slept in almost 50 hours and was sweating profusely - “F*ck, I need help!”. My GP asked me to seek therapy and signed me off from work. I informed my then workplace and the reaction was a massive eye-opener; my friends were incredibly sweet and supportive. The senior managers, on the other hand, were only concerned with me providing a handover and even ghosted me when I messaged to apologise to them that I was taking time off.
I only told a couple of friends that I had been signed off. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a dirty secret, but I knew the response would have been “You know it’s because you’re always working and just not progressing with your life. When was the last date you’ve been on?” or “when you find someone and get married, things will get better” – sadly these are not just examples but direct quotes.
I attended therapy. Although my therapist was lovely, she didn’t understand some of the triggers that flared up my anxiety and depression. “Nina, firstly I just want to say, whatever you say in this room, there will be no judgement” – my first thought to this was that’s great, but what about the world behind this door? What about when I’m attending a wedding and the first thing will be asked “Have you found someone yet? No? Don’t worry because you’re next even if you’re 33!”. What about when a friend asked me not to disclose that I had been signed off work to their parents? When I asked why “well you know what it’s like, they’ll just think something’s wrong with you and don’t say that you’re going into filmmaking either, they’ll think you’re a bit nuts”. The therapist’s response was that I was overthinking this. She didn’t understand that a South Asian female has to put up with comments, looks, judgements and gossip about everything from her body image, sexual orientation, career choices, dating / marriages and divorces, parenting even hobbies and skills (!) day in, day out.
This was not the therapist’s fault – this is the design of therapy models not accounting for factors that are South Asian community based. This is my biggest plea to the NHS, the government and even mental health associations – please see outside of the white box! One size does not fit everyone in the world in general. Add community issues into the mix and you’ve got entirely new issues to consider. Being part of the Asian Woman Festival and discussing Mental Health issues within my creative projects holds a big importance in my life - I want to be part of the discussion and action in spreading the awareness of Mental Health across all communities globally. I am desperately hoping we will see a change.
Nina is the Marketing & Communications Manager for Women in Film & TV (UK) and is also a Writer and Director. Nina wrote, directed and co-produced her first short film, The Booth, last year which looked at the impact online dating has on mental wellbeing. Nina is currently working on two projects, the sequel to The Booth, Knockdown, which looks at dating during lockdown which is due to be released during Mental Health Awareness Week.
The second project is a series, The Asian Girl Enigma, which highlights the issues and scarifies South Asian females have to make when trying to meet the expectations of the Asian Community whether it’s to do with body image, dating, marriage, divorce, careers, sexual orientation or parenting.