Minding Mental Illness with Esmé Weijun Wang



I really wanted to be able to be seen as high functioning and I wanted to be able to be seen as normal and if people found out about my diagnoses. I wanted them to see me as like. Eah The person who had this serious diagnosis but who also graduated from Stanford with a three point nine. Gpa So it scared me that. I had these symptoms that I couldn't control ninety minute. All and welcome to One lady like they show that finds out what happens when women break the rules. I'm Kristen I'm caroline. And that was today's guest as May wage and Wang author of the New York Times bestselling essay collection. The collected Schizophrenia Carolina. I've been wanting to talk to as may for a while now. I stumbled across her a couple of years back when I was going through a scary mental health period of my own. As I mentioned before on unladylike I have generalized anxiety disorder and at that time like on paper. Everything looked good. You know but I was spiraling on the inside and it was honestly so unsettling that I didn't know how to talk about it and I didn't WanNa talk about it or not. I think I was scared. That talking about it would make it feel even more real and it felt like a burden. I didn't WanNa put on anyone else like. I just desperately wanted to figure out how to get myself back together. And that's actually how I ended up on as May's website. It's called the unexpected shape as basically all about getting your creative work done while also living with mental or physical illness and I was just so struck by how openly she talks about having a serious mental illness. Yeah in her. Mid Twenties as May was diagnosed with schizophrenia disorder which she describes as the fucked up offspring of manic depression and schizophrenia is almost like a demon that takes over a person The schizophrenia causes a person to no longer be themselves whereas depression and anxiety think are often considered to be quite awful but they are more considered to be things that are layered on top of a person. You know there's something that somebody is dealing with. they're not something that takes over or empties out a person or places. The spirit of a person in the collected schizophrenia is as may details her journey to what she calls the inappropriately crazy end of the Mental Health Spectrum Aka. A the most unladylike end and she's far from alone there an estimated one hundred thousand five. Americans live with serious mental illness or SMS. The most common ones are schizophrenia. Spectrum disorders severe bipolar disorder and Severe Major Depression. But as may also occupies a very particular space on that unladylike end of the spectrum. She doesn't fit. What we think schizophrenia. Looks like you know. She's not visibly unhinged or unkempt. She's a Yale and Stanford educated award-winning writer. Who's married her? College sweetheart has plenty of friends and frankly dresses. She gives fog. She does and I was really drawn to this idea of someone who is killing it on the outside all the same time. Her mental illness is sort of escalating on the inside. So today we're talking with asthma about navigating serious mental illness. How it shapes her ambition and why wanting to be seen as high functioning is so important to her and quick note. Y'All we're getting into serious mental health issues in this episode including psychosis in suicidal idealization. So heads up. If you're sensitive to those topics only as I grew up in Michigan and was raised by her Taiwanese immigrant parents. She started reading at two and wanted to be a writer by the time. Most kids are learning to tie. Their shoes. Baby was not messing around when she was about six as me. Sent a letter to the publisher. Little Brown asking how she could get her works in print already and they actually wrote me. Back I remember. They wrote me back the types letter typewritten letter and they said I needed an agent. So yeah I I've I've wanted to be a writer for a very long time. That's funny to tell a child that you need an like yeah. I've imagining some kind of like intern or assistant just thinking like you know. How should I respond to this kid? But alongside her big writing dreams. Sba had to deal with extreme evolving and often completely mysterious mental health issues and they also started when she was really young. When I was four or five I remember having issues where I would just filled with anxiety in compulsion. I remember this one evening where I was going to get up and get a drink and then we go to the bathroom and then I would feel like I needed to go to bed and get a drink and then go to the bathroom and I did this over and over again. Compulsively fan ended up standing at the top of the stairs and I just burst into tears and my mom said why are you crying and I just said I can't stop with puberty. Came depression anxiety and insomnia. By the time she was a teenager as me was having suicidal thoughts inserted seeing the high school counselor and at some point. She told me you're going to have to see a psychiatrist. This is getting really serious and so one morning. I told my mom before school. I've been seeing a counselor and she thinks that I need to see a psychiatrist and Mommy yelled at me. She was so upset so angry. She said we've always given you everything you've needed. You have close to where you have food. Who have a roof over your head? How could he do this to us? And I. I remember crying in the car on the way to school and crying I skipped first period and I was just crying in the art room. Eventually as May and her mom went to see the psychiatrist together he was a white man and he asked my mom in front of me. Is there any history of mental illness in the Family? Which is a very ordinary question to ask in this kind of like diagnostic meeting. And my mom said no. There's no history and I learned years later that there was quite a strong history of mental illness. My family and I asked my mom. Why did you tell that first doctor that there was no history of mental illness and she said In Chinese essentially wall? It wasn't his business and I think that kind of cultural stigma was a lingering factor throughout all of my diagnoses. Her diagnoses plural started with clinical depression and anxiety then the summer after as graduated from high school. She was exhibiting enough signs of mania that our psychiatrist diagnosed her with bipolar disorder. And my mom was just like okay. She didn't know what it meant. Really she told me years later that if she had really understood what it meant she wouldn't have let me go to school especially not across the country and not by myself as May was eighteen and a couple of months later she left home in California to start her freshman year at Yale. Now as many psychiatrists recommended that she wait to start taking her new bipolar medication until she got settled. Yale and could start working with someone there. This meant that there was a stretch of months whereas may was dealing with the stress of starting college and experiencing bipolar symptoms. That delay was the first domino to fall. That ultimately resulted in as May being hospitalized at the Yale Psychiatric Institute twice her first year there after the second time Yale sent packing then in her early twenties after she'd restarted her college career at Stanford as me began experiencing intermittent symptoms of psychosis. Psychosis is either hallucinations. So false sensory experiences hearing bang seeing things feeling things physically in the actually hearing things like you hear them as though they're actually there and then delusions are false

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