How are you feeling about your mental health currently?
Well, winter is always a horrible time for me. SAD really affects me. I try to dose up on Vitamin D and use my SAD lamp alongside everything else but it’s tough. It also affects my OCD too.
Having said all of that, in the past couple of years, I’ve really improved my coping mechanisms and I’m super proud of how far I’ve come when it comes to dealing with my mental health in the winter months.
When was the first time you became aware of your own mental health and realised that it wasn’t just physical pain you experienced?
Honestly, very very young. I think it was a combination of being a sensitive child and also going through my youth feeling very ‘outsider-ish’, which I’m sure is something a LOT of people can relate to.
What mental health conditions do you have (if any) and how long have you lived with them for?
Well the overarching one is OCD but with that comes depression and anxiety. It’s weird, OCD can manifest itself in so many different ways but for me, it’s the umbrella that everything else huddles under.
If you had to describe how your mental health conditions affect you in your day-to-day life, what would you say?
Anxiety can affect my work quite a lot because it’s a very ‘people heavy’ industry I work in, so it can be difficult to cope when you just don’t want to talk. Also, more practically, OCD comes with certain compulsions that can throw me off.
You’ve been a big non-binary advocate online. When was the first time you realised you were non-binary and didn’t fit within a “girl” or “boy” gender box?
As soon as I learnt the language to express myself, I knew that was what I was feeling. Often, it’s difficult because you identify with something but you don’t quite have the words to articulate it. Being part of such a nice, open, online community has always helped my constant learning kerb.
Could you explain to people who might not be educated on the topic what being non-binary is and how it forms part of your gender identity as opposed to your sex?
I guess it just means that you don’t like, nor want, to fit into the brackets that currently exist when it comes to gender. This doesn’t necessarily mean I want to change the body I’m in, it just means that I don’t like how it’s perceived all the time.
How much of a role does your Tamil heritage and your religion play in your identity and your mental health?
My Tamil and Hindu heritage is incredibly important to me. Often there’s a loneliness and isolation in being a British-Tamil who doesn’t conform to all the traditional thought processes and that can lead to exacerbated anxiety and depression.
How are Tamil attitudes towards mental health as a culture? What stigmas are there and have people got to a stage where they can be open about it?
It’s super taboo and not really accepted or spoken about, which is difficult because a lot of the adults who fled from the Sri-Lankan-Tamil civil war definitely have PTSD that just isn’t addressed.
Are your family and friends aware of your mental health and how supportive have they been when you’ve asked them for help?
Yes they are and they’ve been so supportive! Thankfully, I was brave enough to explain it to my parents in my mid-teens and honestly my brothers have been my main rocks when it comes to my ‘freak outs’ or getting me out the house when I’ve been in a bad mental state etc.
What tools and methods do you find useful in helping you manage your mental health or mental health issues?
Medication, meditation and communicating rather than isolating.
Do you think the conversation around mental health is changing and if so, in what way?
I think there are a lot of activists fighting and making things less taboo. For example, I’ve disclosed all my mental health issues to my work and they’re so ridiculously supportive which is great. It’s so different to what an office environment might’ve been like 10 years ago.
What more do you think needs to be done to ensure everyone who have mental health issues, especially boys get the support they need?
I think getting rid of the stigma and the shame associated with mental health really needs to be broken down. It’s so difficult for men and boys to be expected to break through this awful ‘macho’ wall the world expects them to be. The more everyone of every gender accepts that everyone has feelings, the more comfortable boys will be in talking about their feelings from a young age. Down with toxic masculinity!!
What’s the one piece of advice you could give to someone who’s living with mental health issues?
It’s super cliché and also very hard but I think believing yourself and trusting yourself. It took me so long to get the help that I needed because I thought that I was over exaggerating, or that ‘other people had it worse’. Trusting your gut and talking to someone, anyone, WILL help.