New York, Mental Health and Dear Evan Hansen

Inspiration: Dear Evan Hansen

Post was originally written in May 2018, published recently after seeing Dear Evan Hansen again in San Francisco.

New York City holds a special place in my heart. My best friends used to live there and I’d grab any chance I could to drive down or fly in from NH to hang out with them. We’d have the most carefree nights as well as deep soul-enriching red wine conversations that filled my heart with contentment.

I was back recently over a weekend for the musical Dear Evan Hansen (DEV), tickets I’d bought almost a year ago. I was devastated when Ben Platt left the show in November, but nevertheless, could not wait to see it.

It was beautiful. Simply beautiful and raw. DEV isn’t a grand production in the way that musicals like Wicked, Lion King are. But it was relatively simplistic, focusing on 8 characters (each of whom had depth, its own arc) with breathtaking music and themes of mental health.

I already want to watch it again. It’s my “Spring Awakening”, a musical I watched 4 times over a few months in my London days.

A few hours after I’d return from NY, I had a sudden realization in connection with mental health.

The realization being that over the last few months, I’ve had numerous conversations with various individuals about mental health in all sorts of forms. It affected them personally or a close friend or family member. I’m talking at least 10 conversations affecting 10 different people in the last 3 months.

I recall a recent conversation with A. As I sat across A listening to A’s story, I cried with A, as I remembered the depth of a similar pain I had gone thru a decade ago.

That personal memory is a powerful one, one that reminds me of the signals leading up to it. One that reminds me to listen to my body, my mind, my soul. One that reminds me to be there for others in the same way others were there for me.

That realization of what seemed to be an increasing number of people experiencing a negative form of mental health turned into anger. What is wrong with our environment, relationships? Why is this happening seemingly more often? Or perhaps this realization is occurring as a result of an increased awareness, education and conversation around MH?

I’ve recently been educating myself about mental health. The more I learn about it, hear firsthand experiences and read others’ stories, the more I’m able to look back at my life, reflect and recognize instances of when I’ve experienced a mental health issue.

A form of depression in 2008. It was triggered by an experience that I let unfold for too long, longer than I should’ve let it gone on for. That experience taught me to recognize the unhealthy signs and to immediately distance myself from it.

A form of burnout in 2011. It was triggered by an unhealthy devotion to work, an addiction to fixing problems, an addiction that I let go on for too long without taking a break. That experience has taught me to balance work, health and personal endeavors. It has taught me to be selfish, understand what wellness is for ME and what I need every now and then.

I’m no expert in MH, but I’m learning and curious. And if there’s anything I’ve learnt from it, it’s…

…to surround yourself with friends, family that love you, care for you AND are positive influences in your life. Because when you are deep in that hole, not realizing it, they are there to help you take a step back. And when you get to the next point of awareness of what is happening, they are there for you no matter how shitty it gets.

…to process it and learn from it. Set some time aside to reflect & think back. It’s rare that a person “gets it” immediately, but it takes thought, conversation to discover and understand it. Live through that journey.

Because we will come out on the other side. And we will be richer, happier and have more capacity to live our lives to its fullest potential.

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2 thoughts on “New York, Mental Health and Dear Evan Hansen

  1. Soh Chee Lim says:

    I-Li, really appreciate your sharing of your life journey and inner struggles and coming out beautifully. Thanks. Love you always and may God keep you and watch over you always.  Mom

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