Kim Uduman

The cold, hard bathroom floor reminds Kim Uduman of her father’s tough love.

She spent a lot of time sitting on the bathroom floor when she was 11, badgered by her father whenever he could sense she was sad.

Kim’s dad would grab her by the arm, bring her to the bathroom and force her to talk about her feelings. Kim would cry on the floor until her father left her alone.

“Because that happened so often, over a long period of time, I developed this bad habit of not communicating my feelings,” says Kim as she laughs nervously recalling the memory. “It’s easier for me to shut down, sit there and cry.”

Kim lives with depression and anxiety. There are days when she can’t leave her room because she can’t stop crying. Sometimes she cries uncontrollably because she believes she isn’t good enough at her job, as a student or even a daughter.

Kim’s mom doesn’t think the fact she can’t get out of bed and cries a lot means there is anything wrong.  

“It’s something you can’t see, but it affects you just as much as any other sickness like a cold,” says Kim Uduman.

Asian parents often associate illness with physical harm, and this mentality makes it difficult for them to grasp the seriousness of mental health issues.

A study on school-based mental health services, from Springer Journals, found that Asian immigrant parents think mental illnesses are difficult to identify, because they have few visible features like physical illnesses. These parents also viewed many mood-related problems as typical adolescent development, because of physical changes and stereotypical moodiness.

Kim didn’t tell anyone about her mental illness for a long time. It was easier for her to go to the doctor without her mom’s knowledge to avoid the lectures and disapproval.

Kim tries to reach out to her mom often, but she would disregard her comment and change the topic of the conversation. She says that has left her with a disconnect when trying to reach out for help.  

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“I can’t cry in front of people or share my feelings. Whenever I try to talk to my mom about my mental illness or how I feel I make a joke out of it,” says Kim. “It’s easier to make a joke out of it because I know my mom won’t acknowledge it anyways.”

However, social media is helping cope with her illness. Seeing people share their stories, how mental illness affects them and how to cope is inspiring Kim to be more proactive about her own health.

She’s learned to put her needs first and take personal days to relax. Whenever Kim’s mental illness is at its peak she’ll take a warm bath, read a book and spend time with friends to focus on the positive things in her life.

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Social media has been a huge stepping stone in trying to open-up to her mom about mental illness. She’s realized that if people can be vulnerable to strangers online, she can try to be vulnerable with her mom to help her understand.

Despite Kim’s pressure from her dad when she was younger, she has learned the importance of communication. Her openness has made her mom more patient and considerate, which is something she wasn’t used to growing up.

“I think just by sharing about how I’m feeling more often my mom has been more curious about my life,” says Kim. “She’s been more willing to take the time to care for me because I’ve been forcing her to have these hard conversations. I want her to understand.”