Changing Tides, an initiative within the Little Tokyo Service Center, will hold a mental health conference called “Making Waves” at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo on Sept. 28.
Aiden and I are so honored to be speaking at one of their workshops about how we have turned to mental health professionals to get us through some of our most difficult times. If you are interested in this conference, here is the link: https://thechangingtides.org/upcoming-events/making-waves. We would love to see you there!
Like the topic of LGBTQ+, mental health is a stigma in our Asian Pacific Islander community that prevents us from finding help to overcome challenges, obtain resources and seek out support that we may so desperately need.
Instead, we suffer alone. I remember feeling so trapped when Aiden first came out as lesbian, with no one with whom to talk. I had many negative thoughts swirling in my head, which made me feel so ashamed, sad and fearful.
But we had turned to therapy a few years back when Aiden’s anxiety manifested in cutting himself. So, when faced with this challenge of understanding his sexual orientation and later his gender identity, we knew we could turn to therapy again to support us, if we needed it.
Previously, we had searched for the right therapist for our family and actually interviewed a number of people. In the end, we chose the one that Aiden was most comfortable with. Even after our family no longer saw the first therapist because Aiden stopped cutting himself, we found another therapist that happened to be lesbian — and that therapist became a trusted confidant whom we hoped would help Aiden with his all-consuming panic attacks.
Although he had not come out yet, we suspected Aiden’s struggle with his sexual orientation might be the underlying cause. Was Aiden a girl that likes girls or was he really a boy that was born in the wrong body?
Aiden looked for answers in many places, but he always had Diane, his therapist, to process through how he felt. Aiden no longer sees Diane professionally, but when we run into her at social gatherings, I am filled with so much appreciation for all she has done to help our family and Aiden.
Today, I see the strongest people around me are willing to ask for help. Like Aiden, I have learned that it takes too much energy to hide a part of me that chips away at my worthiness. Getting help has freed me to live more authentically and focus on areas like my advocacy that empower and bring me joy. My ability to show up for my son was the result of others showing up for me and me taking the steps to show up for myself.
In the next few months, I have decided to highlight other Asian families that have made choices to show up.
A minister and his wife have agreed to talk about their journey of having a schizophrenic child, and a mother from the Buddhist community has agreed to talk about her journey having two LGBTQ+ children.
I hope their stories inspire you to support others or bring comfort to you if you are facing similar challenges.
You may never know if your children or grandchildren are watching what you say or do until one day they come to you and share their true selves, trusting you will love them no matter what. Or, perhaps they will reach out to you for help with their mental health issues, trusting you will get them the help they need.
How we show up for others may one day circle back to us and those we love.
If you know of others who have shown up for their children or a family member, please email me some information should they be willing to share their story. Perhaps I will be able to write about them in the future. I cannot write every story, but I want to write about different challenges families have overcome. I want to illuminate how API individuals and families have bravely broken through stigmas and sought the help they needed.
Here is my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope that I hear from some of you, so we can broaden our understanding of areas in our API community where stigmas continue to exist and paralyze us.
You will be showing up in a way that may help even one other person, and for that, I will be so grateful.
Marsha Aizumi is an advocate in the LGBT community and author of the book “Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance.”