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the gap between ideals and reality



When I had drinks with my friends from grad school majoring in women’s studies, I found out that most of the people there were living with depression, and that some even had the experience of being hospitalized at a psychiatric hospital. Everyone was being super open, sharing their experiences and information about counselling and medication.


It was a strange feeling. People who didn’t fall within the category considered “normal” were laughing, talking about their depression and suicidal thoughts they had in the past, and supporting each other. It reminded me of how unnatural it is that society categorizes people as “normal” and “abnormal”.


At that time, I thought that I had never experienced the symptoms of depression. It took a very long time for me to realize that that wasn’t true.


In the morning, I open my eyes and instantly close them in an effort to re-enter the dream I was having. I feel sluggish and can’t move. I have no appetite, and drinking a cup of water is all I can do. I know why I feel like this. When the project I have to do hasn’t been worked on for days, when my relationship with a loved one isn’t going well, when I feel like I’m stuck at a dead end because of financial issues, I can only sleep to avoid these issues. It’s not healthy.


Though I have the goal of graduating grad school, I haven’t been able to write my dissertation and I’m stressed. My relationship with my partner that I had at the top of my priority list when making plans for the future is always unstable. When I feel loneliness at this time, I realize how I have a dependency on my partner. Since last Spring, I started to frequently fall into a state where I have no motivation to do anything. I don’t want to be alone, and I want to ask someone for help, but I don’t want to leave the house. I couldn’t think of a single person I could contact.


The phone calls I got from my family at times like these, revolved around my parents’ wishes for me to “succeed” and put even more pressure on me. I wasn’t truly listening, and just said “Yes, I know… yes...” in response. When I admitted to them that I might be experiencing depression-like symptoms, my parents shut it down and told me that was impossible. When I heard these words from them, I didn’t want to say anything so I just hung up.


People often tell me, “You’re always so positive. I bet you’ll never get depression in your life.” Even though I wondered why they were able to make that judgement of me, it was true that I had never really encountered any big obstacles in life. There were a lot of times where I felt sad for sure, but I lived without understanding what depression even was.


Whenever I made a decision, it always revolved around my relationship with others. There were many times where I got interested in something because I met someone I clicked with, and would want to be with them or want to learn more. These things often affected the career path I chose, and what I planned for my future. So for me, the most important thing in choosing the field I wanted to study and planning my future with my partner was that it was something I liked.


But recently, my relationship has been filled with intense fighting. I want our relationship to be healthy -- one where we can grow together and support each other, but having this ideal often hurt me. Things I chose just because I liked it led to my codependency on my partner, and this unhealthy dynamic made me fall into a state of despair.


In an international relationship, let alone an international same-sex relationship, there are visa issues and legal obstacles to overcome in order to be able to live with your partner in the same country. It’s especially difficult in Korea and Japan. To make my ideals a reality, I have to work out things like where I will work, what I will work as, and when I will come out to my family.


It’s said that depression is a result of stress from the environment and relationships around you. But in my case, I think the cause was my unstable and unhealthy relationship, worrying about when I should come out to my family, and the pressure from my family to succeed. My partner and I have discussed whether things would be better if we broke up, but giving up on this relationship seemed like giving up living life as I am, in my own way. I think this issue involves personal issues, as well as societal factors.


Through many periods of instability filled with endless tears and fights, I started to think that love doesn’t just have a supportive and idealistic side, and that it isn’t something that can be explained simply. I decided to accept all the feelings towards my partner -- fondness, hatred, jealousy, respect, commitment, and loneliness without them. There are going to be times where I’ll feel unmotivated, not want to leave the house, not be able to stop crying, feel hurt, or melancholy. And I don’t think it’s so easy to differentiate between a “normal state” and a “melancholic state”. At the very least, I learnt that it was good for my emotional well-being that I see the line dividing these two as undefined and blurry.


To have a “complete” form of love, or to have “success”, or to work at an “ideal” workplace and create a family -- these definitely feel aspirational. I’m not denying that, and I admire these goals too. But seeing these goals as something that realistically isn’t perfect all the time, an impure mix instead of unconditionally idealistic, might be able to soothe my mind. The dynamic of a relationship changes with circumstance, so I think everyone goes through periods where they aren’t in a “healthy” place in their relationship. When I wasn’t, I became co-dependent, but I want to work on myself and be able to stand strong on my own especially in those times.

Illustrations by Haein

Images by Yurina

Edited by Kiara and Hikari

English Translated by Kiara

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