Trigger Warning: mention of death, depression
There was never a moment I knew. I just always assumed from age 12 that something was wrong with me and that something wasn’t right in my head. I just pushed it down by throwing myself into fandom, school, work or other things that I liked. It wasn’t until I was 22, months away from turning 23, when I knew something was actually wrong with me.
Making the call to go in and see my doctor was maybe the hardest thing I have done in my 22 years on earth. Having to spend the last few days before starting junior year of high school burying my friend? That was nothing compared to this call.
“I think there’s something wrong with me.”
My doctor had someone shadowing her that day and asked if it was okay if they observed our appointment. I said yes. Why not? Maybe someone else could help me. I was diagnosed officially with anxiety and depression, but I always knew I had it since I was 12. I finally had a name for it.
Getting used to taking two types of pills was a challenge for me because I couldn’t swallow pills whole. I was afraid of choking. Over time, we found out what worked for me (the good ol’ upping my dosage to more milligrams) and I kept taking my pills. I felt normal again and like myself sometimes. Other times, I wanted all of the thoughts I had in my head to be just gone.
Then, it had to end. I had to go off my pills. It wasn’t because of insurance issues. No. It was because I was preparing to move to South Korea to be an English teacher. You see, South Korea has a very high suicide rate and a lot of it is due to the pressure one goes under at school and with work. Many people have anxiety and depression, but there is a stigma in Korea. If you have anxiety or depression, you’re viewed as weak. Only the strong survive.
I quit cold turkey, which isn’t the best way to do it. I still brought my original pills with me in case everything would go south and I needed to get back on them. I have been living in South Korea since August 2016. My last round of pills was April 2016. I knew I would have to take a health check when I arrived in South Korea. I wanted to make sure there was no trace of my pills in my system by then.
“I won’t lie and say that I am 100% better.”
I’m actually drowning or feel like I’m drowning a lot. This country is very transient. So many people come in and out that it’s hard to create a community. Some of us are here for only a short time but those of us like me who will be in South Korea indefinitely struggle with finding a family. Sometimes I am even unsure how I am surviving here.
I am entering year four and my Korean is still basic. I have had three jobs here and the first two were absolute hell. I have had people belittle me, try and break me down, try and destroy me by taking away one of the things I love doing over here, supporting my favorite boy group, by saying I focus more on work and not on them when in reality I am in South Korea for work. But I have had people in my life here in South Korea who love me, accept me, and made me part of their family as they are also living away from home. Finding that stability has helped me stay grounded.
I won’t let this illness ever beat me. Maybe in the future I will need to go back to the doctor and take pills. Maybe in the future I will feel 90% human again. Maybe in the future I will be just me, 100% not normal and that is 100% okay. If there is anyone out there who feels exactly like me, is going through what I am in a foreign country as well, you’re not alone. You are never truly alone.
Briana Michelle Meyer
A few words about me
Briana Michelle Meyer is a Wisconsinite since birth who moved to South Korea in 2016 to be an English teacher. She is in a very seriously committed relationship with her Netflix queue, loves coffee, loves hockey, loves writing, period dramas, and supports Chicago’s very own Johnny from NCT.