The Troublesome Nature of Families and Depression

This article was written by Aishika Jennela and originally posted on The Curry Diaries. This article has been updated and syndicated with permission in order to continue sharing the critical lessons and message this story conveys. If you are interested in syndicating articles for ECAASU Editorial, please contact the Managing Editor, Sylvia Guan, at sylvia.guan@ecaasu.org.

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“Why do you go to the therapist every week? Who goes to a doctor when they’re not sick? You’re healthy. You don’t need to go.”

My dad tells me this in the car Tuesday evening after picking me up from the train station. The question makes me choke, catching me off guard again. It’s the second time he asked me this week, and I still don’t have a response for him.

I told my parents about my depression about a year ago, when it became unbearable, and I thought taking Zoloft would help with the aching in my chest.

My mom – like most moms of color I know – firmly believes in herbal remedies and concoctions over Western medicine. I remember her telling me all I needed to do was exercise and meditate for my problems to go away. 

However, when the Zoloft didn’t immediately work like I hoped it would, I stopped taking it. I started to believe my parents, that maybe I was overreacting and overthinking, that my mental state was normal.

Two months ago, I realized avoiding my problems didn’t help. I got anxious about little things, felt insecure in all of my relationships, and felt unmotivated to do anything. I wanted to keep running away, but that meant becoming a person I didn’t want to be.

I started going to a therapist near my university and opening up about my problems for the first time, letting myself explore the heartaches and anxieties I grew up with.

My parents, again, didn’t understand.

“Did you cancel the rest of your therapy appointments? They’re pointless,” my dad told me in the car yesterday.

All of our meaningful conversations happen in the car because we don’t know how to communicate outside of that space. It forces us to speak to each other without running away and confront all the things bottling under the surface.

They don’t understand why I feel more comfortable talking to a stranger about my problems more than them. They think it’s some Western BS telling me to go to therapy, because why would I have issues when I have them for financial stability? What do I possibly have to stress about? After all, they let me change my major to something that makes me happy, let me live on my own during college, and have given me everything I wanted when they could.

I don’t know how to tell them that I’m unhappy with everything, that even when things go my way, I still feel sad and lonely. Incredibly lonely.

I don’t know how to tell them I go to therapy because I want to figure out how to manage my emotions, communicate better, and become a better person and the daughter they want. I don’t know how to tell them I go because I don’t love myself, but I want to learn how to.

I don’t know how to answer, so I respond in anger. I snap and scream at my dad, frustrated with myself for not being able to talk, frustrated with him for not understanding why I feel like this, disappointed that we both don’t know how to talk to each other without screaming.

I noticed even in therapy I don’t know how to talk about my emotions, how to communicate with someone else about my life and problems and things that make me upset.

I notice this with a lot of my friends, too, and with romantic partners. We all don’t like talking and being vulnerable with someone, so we send memes about our feelings, or say “lol” after a serious text because we don’t want to confront someone head on and talk things through. We have a fear of emotional intimacy because we don’t even know how to cope with it ourselves, so how can we trust someone else to deal with our insecurities and true feelings?

I don’t know how to tell my parents I go to therapy because I want to be able to talk to them more, that I want to learn how to manage my sadness so I can be happy around them.

But I’m learning and taking the steps to maybe one day have that conversation with them because that’s all I can do.