Ep#49: Candid Chat On Asian Mental Health (w/ Iran Thongdy)

In this episode, I had a casual chat with an old friend after reconnecting on social media. It’s a super raw, candid conversation that I initially didn’t think about putting on the podcast, but I know many of you may be in a similar place, so I hope this could give you another perspective. We were both in a transitional phase in our lives when recording this and went for a drive to just talk. 

 Some  of the topics we  delved into throughout our conversations include Mental health,  being Asian American, stigma, following Passion, Entrepreneurship, and Recency bias.

Here are some quotes from the episode: 

 Being Asian American and Navigating Mental Health 

 I want to go back to school  but I’m like, fuck this is it’s a commitment. I want to get my master’s in mental health counselling. but is this really what I want to do.  What If I spend three or four years on my masters and I get out of bed and go, I don’t want to do this?  

I’ve always been Pretty interested in people as a whole. I think people suffer way much more than they should. I feel very strongly about that. I think there’s not much access to help either because of where people are economically or culturally. 

For example my dad he’s depressed and he doesn’t know it. I know he is. I just have this inkling. I just know things like that because I come from a Southeast Asian family. I’m laotian. My mom was born in Cambodia, but culturally we’re really laotian. 

There was a study done around the time of communism when the Pol Pot  was in power. The Study was basically saying that even Five years after the majority of the Cambodian came here from Cambodia, they showed signs of trauma. 

 The thing is, they came from a place where, much like in the Western culture, you don’t talk about those things. That’s number one. Number two is not having access to mental health resources. 

Which basically means if you’re the type of person who has some trauma and you haven’t resolved that you’re gonna pass it on to your kids by any sort of verbal or nonverbal types of interactions, right? And that just keeps the cycle going. That’s why I want to get into mental health. 

I’ve been practicing music and acting for the last 12,13 years of my life. When you sing or when you act you have to speak from a place of truth. I think I’m good at that. 

It’s weird because I never Would have said I’m good at something a couple years ago. I don’t say it with cockiness, but I say it with confidence. I say it with proof that I’ve done these things before. It’s not out of any place of arrogance. myself. 

I’m not sure if it’s an Asian thing, but we don’t say stuff like that? Like I’m really good at this.

I think it’s because we value more humility and in our eyes is kind of like you don’t say good things about yourself.

Which, in my head, that’s kind of a recipe for low self esteem Because you have to take inventory for who you are, right? Yeah.

 If you’re bad at something, say you’re bad at something and either make it better, or focus on what you’re good at or, just or do both right. 

 I think there’s a strength in saying things like, Hey, I’m not good at this just as much as Hey, I’m not good at this right?

 I think at the end of the day, I just really just want people to see their potential because I don’t think many people see it enough. 

Recency Bias  

“ I’m at Crossroads into going into mental health is it because of recency? Or is it because I really want to help people?” 

I think what I’m stuck at is I’m still trying to figure out my life. Let me just like everybody else’s, I’m sure right.I don’t know if my decision of wanting to go into mental health counseling is because I’m seeing a therapist. I Wonder if it’s a recency bias, aka, I’m getting help. And it’s interesting to me so I want to do it. 

It’s not necessarily  a bad thing.The questions I asked myself is, how much of it is one way or the other? it’s 50-50. Am I really doing it for them? Or me?

My belief system is we’re all selfish creatures. I don’t use selfish in a bad way. If you’re selfish, it’s fine. Just don’t be self centered.

Do what you have to do. If you don’t wanna hang out ith your homies fucking stay home and do your shit right? But don’t be self centered. 

So my question is, do I want to be in the mental health counseling world because I’ve had mental health counseling in My life, or do I really want to help people?  The more I think about it, I think it’s always been a bit. 

I like seeing the growth in myself, and I also like seeing the growth and other people. So that’s kind of where like the gray area thinking comes into play is it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Right? Right.

 I find value in seeing people grow from the Crossroads they’ve been at for a very long time. And I don’t think there’s anything more rewarding than that.

I have two friends who are therapists, and they’re like, it doesn’t pay shit, but  they fucking loveit. 

It is like one of the most rewarding things ever. You can’t really measure it. when somebody has a better day because of the things that you’ve told them. Not only does it help you but that person. It’s a very humbling experience. 

Faults In The Educational System 

“I don’t think the education system did any favours for me. I don’t think they really tailored their teaching for me”.

 I remember having this one experience where I was in fourth or fifth grade. There were 20 or 25 of us. We were all told to go to this cupboard or with a piece of letter stock Paper taped to it.

Basically the teacher was like, read that and then do what you got to do. It was like instructions to do something, right. As my classmates were reading it, they slowly  left because they got it done. I was the last one left reading it. 

My teacher was just like, why are you still reading it? You’ve been there for so long! It was one of  the meanest things. 

For me, learning hasn’t been very fun. I found that through the last couple of years that it is a fun thing. I think it’s really important but if you just tell kids to go learn with them understanding it or having fun they won’t do it. 

The world’s fucking chaotic man its like ok graduate. Now you gotta figure it out. I’m like, Holy fuck, dude. What the fuck am I doing right now?

I don’t think a lot of college kids understand how it feels. to graduate from school, which is very structured. You study, you get A’s, you’re good. That’s, that’s what it is. Right?  Simple in the grand scheme of things. 

Then you get to the job market and you’re just  like, oh, you mean to tell me if I don’t figure out my life that I’m just going to be doing this all day. 

What I’m saying is college kids haven’t had to endure that forced existential crisis. that adults or young adults have to endure. 

 It’s a process and it’s something that changes you as a person. You have to. You have no choice but to figure out what you want to do with your life. Otherwise, you’re going to be unhappy for the rest of your life.

Entrepreneurship and The Paradox of Choice

“I have learned that you have two jobs as an entrepreneur”.

when I was thinking about leaving my job and just doing whatever it takes, full time, I thought it was just one thing, right? Be hella good at acting or be hella good at music, but that’s not the case anymore. You have two jobs now. You have the arts and  you have a business. it’s like your life got just twice as hard, because you have to learn two things at the same time. 

There are a lot of ways of doing something. For example if you want to touch people’s lives. There’s lots of  ways you can do that. It’s like a paradox of choice. It’s hard to choose just one thing.

My advice to myself is just choose one thing. Then I question myself like, how do you choose one thing? 

If the choices that you have are at the same priority level then what do you do from there?

Every time I have asked friends for advice. I ask for them to give me something systematic. Don’t give me a result. Give me a step by step process.

I don’t have an exact step by step process for dealing with analysis paralysis, or the paradox of choice but figuring out how to develop self awareness would be good.

What is the impending problem that is the most important and what should be prioritized?

I think that’s where self awareness comes into play. Why are you doing this in the first place? 

It’s still so hard to do. It’s like telling somebody how do you lose weight? I don’t know, eat less than go to the gym. 

 You have to break it into your routine. Being self aware requires you to stop what you’re doing. Think about what you’re doing. And then figure out and ask yourself why you’re doing it.  

I think what blocks people from being more self aware is fear. It’s kind of like, if I dig deep enough, maybe I won’t find something I like. 

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Resources:

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