In March 2021, CandleX director Xiaojie interviewed Kelly Yang on her experience with bipolar disorder. A year later, CandleX decided to present this interview in five chapters to commemorate World Bipolar Day. This is Chapter 5 of the interview. Check out Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, or Chapter 4 if you haven’t already!
In today’s Chapter 5 video, which is also the final chapter of Kelly’s Story, Kelly shares her learnings and the adjustments she made since starting therapy. She went into therapy thinking of just having a safe space to pour out her feelings, but soon learned that it can give her much more than that. She explains how her therapist helps her to dig deeper in examining her behaviors and to find the inner emotions that drive her actions. She said that therapy has allowed her to become more self-aware and know her true self better and that her therapist has helped her bring subconscious thoughts to the conscious. Then, she shares with us a trick she finds extremely useful: creating a “happy list.” This list consists of things that make her happy, and she elaborates on what she puts in the list and how the list comes in handy during times of low emotions. She also mentions escaping the box that we may feel trapped in during depression and discovering hobbies to fulfill ourselves. Overall, therapy has been guiding Kelly in a positive direction.
Interviewer: Xiaojie | Director of CandleX
Time of interview: 2021
Finally, a huge thank you to Kelly for sharing her experience with us! Hopefully, her story has helped you, inspired you, or taught you something. This brings us to the end of our March World Bipolar Disorder Stories of 2022.
Xiaojie: Can you tell us about the changes that therapy has brought you?
Kelly: Starting last November (of 2019), I began another depressive episode, which was due to some family changes. So, I went to therapy because I wanted to find a place to express my true feelings. At first, I went to therapy with the goal of pouring my heart out to someone. My therapist is a young Malaysian man and a great listener. Every session, he would say one or two things that’s eye-opening to me. After engaging in around ten therapy sessions with him, I could identify my thought process clearly when describing events. While I speak, I could see a clear train of thought. After I expressed my thought process, he would point out the different internal feelings I may have when doing certain things and how I could improve in the future. He wasn't telling me what to do; he was pointing out things to make me think deeply about the meaning behind my actions.
Kelly: He was guiding me to see the deeper logic that goes into my actions. We engaged in about ten sessions, and it has been a positive help for me. He has helped me realize the reason behind my actions. Before, I thought I acted in certain ways because "I am just that kind of person." But that's not true. He would explain my inner feelings that drive these actions. When I think back and realize what he said is correct, I learn more about the real me.
Xiaojie: You mentioned a few key things. Through therapy, you have learned more about yourself. Only when we are self-aware and know what we're deprived of, can we make according adjustments to our lives. You talk more about gaining a deeper level of knowledge of yourself. We don't know why we act certain ways subconsciously, and your therapist helped you become conscious of your subconscious. Another thing you mentioned is you made adjustments to your life to better charge yourself. So, which adjustments were the most useful, in your opinion?
Kelly: I am someone who is willing to try different things and I have quite a few hobbies. So, a strategy I use is, when I'm unhappy, I would have a "happy list." I would write in my "happy list" that I was happy when I went singing today. Or I did a thorough clean-up today which made me happy, and I would add it to the list. I would fill my "happy list" so that when I felt unhappy, I could find something on the list to do to make me happy. Say I'm unhappy today. I look through the list, then decide to find a few friends to go sing together. Afterwards, I would feel relaxed and relieved, and I would go to sleep happily. The "happy list" has been a useful little tip for me lately.
Xiaojie: That's great. Many times, when we're unhappy, our emotions are negative, which makes us act negatively. For example, we drink alcohol or do shopping, which later makes us feel even worse because we spent so much money. So, the "happy list" you use is something that makes you happy and something that gives you more energy.
Kelly: That’s right.
Xiaojie: It can help you short-term recover from your negative emotions.
Kelly: Another thing is, since I was depressed, I was stuck in a box thinking about one thing. What I've been getting better at doing is forcing myself or allowing myself to escape from that box. Then, I can go develop a hobby that makes me feel truly happy, alive, and fulfilled. For instance, I've been starting to learn a few instruments. Once you give yourself the power and energy, the complicated thoughts and feelings will slowly fade. You would start to focus on more things that really matter and realize that you're better off improving yourself. A lot of the time, we need to be able to jump out of the box.
Xiaojie: True. You may have heard of this, but it's said that when we are in an unhappy environment, most people spiral into the negativity. What we need during these times is a technique called distraction. The "happy list" you talked about aligns with this. You have a list of things you know you like to do, so I do these things first to distract myself and relax my mind. Good for you. I'm so happy to have been able to discuss so much with you in nearly an hour. One hour is actually not long because there are more details that we weren't able to cover today. But, hopefully, we'll have more chances to interact and grow with you in the future. Thank you so much for sharing.
Kelly: Thank you, and thank you to CandleX.