Mental Health and Living With Epilepsy in Malaysia
Before we discuss mental health and epilepsy, let me talk a bit about where I am from. Malaysia is where I live and have experienced what it's like to be someone who has epilepsy and struggled with mental health.
Stigma in Malaysia
Mental health is important and mental illness isn't shameful. But many people in Malaysia still feel embarrassed to talk openly about their mental health issues, especially with a professional. Stigma and taboo are major barriers to treatment. But by being open about our experiences, we can challenge the stigma and help end the silence around mental health in Malaysia and all over the world.
Every day, we encounter stigma related to mental health – when someone laughs at us for something we do or don't do, when a friend tells us something "isn't like us." Mental health affects everyone in different ways and can't be defined by one experience.
Epilepsy and mental health
Mental health is really important to everyone. Especially to an epileptic person like me. The connection between mental health and epilepsy is always linked. What is mental health? It involves our emotional and social well-being. And it affects the way we feel, how we think, and what we do. Stress, interactions, and relationships are also impacted.
When I think of mental health, what does it mean to me? It is a sign of my mental health that I can make clear decisions, take action, and think clearly. During times of sadness, this has triggered my epilepsy. You may be aware that high states of emotion can be a cause of seizures. When I'm unhappy or experiencing strong emotions, I experience epilepsy symptoms.
Signs my mental health was declining
I ended a long-term relationship with someone I adored. I'm confident that it's the finest choice I can make for both of us. But that threw me into a year of melancholy. It was difficult for me to control my emotions. At that point, I lost my ability to think coherently. Nobody could manage a relationship with me at the time, and I was even disrespectful to my family.
Seeking help and building tools to cope
To restore my mental health, I went to a psychiatrist. I felt as though I was caught inside my own mind, with no way out. It was exhausting. I was unable to concentrate on my studies. I was unable to finish my assignments. But I had to make a change. This is not how one should live.
In addition to getting help from a psychiatrist, I added swimming to my routine. This physical activity has made a huge difference! I feel so relaxed after swimming – like everything is going to be alright. I loved the feeling that my body was so relaxed and all of my problems went away for a moment. I felt great.
Another strategy I use is beginning by day by listening to podcasts. I wear my earphones as I wash utensils, clean the house, do laundry, and do tasks around the house. The more I listen to the podcasts, the more positive my mind becomes. It's true! When you're feeling negative, you can't beat a good podcast. You may feel inspired and motivated to get through even the toughest challenges.
I also joined a yoga class to be focused. I want to be in my body, not out of it. At first, it was hard to bring my attention back again and again. But I'm getting better at it.
I've also started to write a lot more lately. Writing about positive thoughts and happy memories, reflecting on myself and my flaws, what I see as good about me, what I like about myself. Writing really helps me more than therapy does, in fact!
Coping with epilepsy and mental health challenges
I went through things that no one can ever understand, but there are some things I learned from them. I learned to never give up hope and always have faith in myself. Through the challenges of both epilepsy and mental health, I am always working on taking better care of myself – both body and mind.
Has a companion ever accompanied you to a doctors visit?