Resilience | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness


By Cau Thoong

My parents came to the U.S. when I was three years old as refugees from the Vietnam war. My parents knew very little English, so they had to work manual labor jobs to provide for four kids. They came to the U.S. chasing the “American Dream,” and so far, it has paid off.
Growing up in America was tough. Throughout my life, I have never had anyone to guide me along, support me or teach me about mental health. There was a huge language barrier to communicate how I felt to my parents. I have always lived under the “Model-Minority Myth” and tried to excel at academics so that I could get into a good college.
Living under that myth with no support really took a toll on me. My parents were unable to attend any of my award ceremonies, chess tournaments, tennis matches, etc. The expectations my parents had for me felt even higher than any of my other siblings. I was the first-born male, and I was supposed to be the “Bread Winner.”
Under these expectations with no support, I always found a way to do better with my abilities and graduated from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. This was no easy feat because of the anxiety and depression that I dealt with during my time in college. I was living under the perception that I needed to do everything by myself, so it was harder for me to let people help me.
I studied biomedical engineering for three years at Chapel Hill but was told I had to switch because my scholarship wanted me to graduate in four years. I think this was a blessing. I switched to psychology and learned so much more about life and what I was going through.
I learned concepts about depression, anxiety, resilience, communication, PTSD, etc. I learned about my bad coping mechanisms and my unconscious hate and anger towards my parents for pushing me so hard. I learned about my traumas and my inner child, which I’m still working to deal with. My journey with mental health has been a relatively short one and I am still practicing a lot of self-love concepts.
I am grateful for everything I went through because it taught me resilience. It has taught me how to empower myself and others around me. My relationships with the people around me are much better because I feel empowered to talk about mental health. The world changes when you change your mindset to re-write the narrative that you were given.
I wish upon anyone reading this story, to say change is possible. It is not easy, and it will come with a lot of turbulence and education, but the immense growth will be worth it. You are not alone in your struggles.

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