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Interview time!

This interview is for my job as a project assistant. In the interview I talk about my my job as well as my mental health.

Who am I?

I’m Mena, a 26-year-old Psychology student and I'm originally from Iraq.

What am I mainly concerned with?

I am a project assistant at Stichting JIJ. Stichting JIJ is a foundation that helps people with eating disorders or problems. For my graduation project, I'm doing research for Stichting JIJ, about cultural diversity within the mental healthcare system. In non-Western cultures, is discussing psychological issues a big taboo. In order to make this topic open to discussion, I am involved in various activities. I write a blog about my own mental health problems and the life lessons I have learned in recent years. I write my blog with the knowledge I have gained from my education. In addition, I give lectures on behalf of Stichting JIJ about mental health within the Islamic community. With this, I hope to reduce the prevailing stigmas and taboos on this topic. This can also be a taboo within Western cultures. That is why I give guest lectures as a peer educator on mental health, for MIND Young Academy, at secondary education and colleges.

Why do I find this important?

I have struggled with my own mental health for years. Because it's not customary to talk about psychological issues within my culture, there was little recognition for the problems I experienced. I always felt 'different' in my childhood and adolescence. This was very lonely, stressful and painful. Why you may ask? Well, because I had no knowledge and understanding of what was going on with me, and because of this I was very hard on myself. So hard even that everything I did was not good enough and nothing could give me a satisfied feeling. I couldn’t talk about it with anyone. My parents wanted to raise me like any other child so that I would not feel any different. They had the same expectations from me as my sister and cousins ​​. Because of my culture, my parents believed that they were acting in my best interest: to believe that only 'crazy people' have mental health problems and I was not one of them. Therefore, there was nothing wrong with me. I only had to learn to ‘approach’ things differently, which actually only suited their approach. This is understandable in a way. But to what extent did, not discussing my issues, the shame, and the impossible expectations do me any good?

They didn't.

This only backfired for me. It only caused me to ask way too much of myself, and helped created a very negative image about myself. The expectations of the people around me were unfair. Why you may ask? Well, because everyone deserves to be treated equally. But equal treatment has to fit within everyone's abilities. As Albert Einstein has said, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid." And that's what I believed. The inability to meet the expectations and the disappointment of my family, and of myself, aggravated my issues to the point that I could no longer function and fell in to pieces. In the end, I had to discover how I functioned in my adulthood. After 26 years I read my own 'manual'. My content was clear: Now I finally knew how to put myself back together again, step by step, as my manual instructed. It would have helped me if my environment was open to mental health problems, symptoms, and disorders. This would have helped me a lot in my own development. My young adulthood might have looked different: the time and energy I put into working on myself, has caused delays in my studies, goals and future plans. I could have learned to deal with my limitations sooner and enter my adulthood with less serious complaints. But instead, I was trying to live up to the high expectations of my family, which I could not meet. It was only after I let go of everyone's opinion about me, that I started with the process of healing my inner wounds. That is why I would like to create more recognition, within my community, so that this does not have to happen to anyone else. Only you can take the first step to self-acceptance, but without the support of a handrail we can all stumble and fall down the stairs sometime. Self-acceptance is difficult when no one you care about accepts you or tries to understand you. By sharing my knowledge and personal experiences, I hope to create more recognition and acceptance for both people with mental health problems as for the people in their environment.


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