Today, we are interviewing Jess. She worked as a hostess or “doumi” (in Korean) in downtown LA, and she would be sharing her journey and her struggles with mental health and illness with us.
Would you please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do?
Hi, I am Jess. I’m 29 years old. I worked as a hostess or “doumi” (in Korean) in downtown LA at various Korean karaoke clubs. I’ve been battling mental and physical illness for the past year or so.
I want to share my struggles with mental illness. I’ve been rediagnosed with severe ADHD, severe panic disorder, and major depressive disorder.
Just to give you a little background about me: My godfather is Donnie Wahlberg from new kids on the block, like the first boyband, and I’ve been listening to Korean pop music since I was 15. I’m a gamer, and I used to stream on Twitch and got a big following, but I stopped.
I graduated from university when I was 25. I majored in multimedia production and minored in interactive marketing. I am extremely agile, and I took 12 years of Tae Kwon Do, a 2nd-degree black belt. I went to a Waldorf school. I’m 5’1″ and 105 lbs, but I’m not just all bark.
Would you please tell us about your journey?
My journey: I’m currently emerging from the absolute hell that was these past four years. My life completely went in a different direction. I experienced traumas that I never did in my entire life, back to back; it was unbelievable. I didn’t even want to tell my friends anything because it was never ending and painful for them to watch, of course, so I hated that. My family hated to see me like that.
Just to give you an example, This woman still was arguing with me earlier regarding the time I got kicked out for having a panic attack. She continually disregards my mental state. It’s as if she’s in the mood, and I did not get much support from some of my family members. My sister would not prefer even to visit me because she “didn’t want to see me like that.” I did not receive much support from my mother and my ex. I did receive tremendous love and support from my grandmother.
That pain was life-ending… My little sister is 21, and she is my everything. When I think of her, I could start crying because my love for her is never ending.
When I got depression at 22, my faith had disappeared, and I was horrified to feel suddenly like God wasn’t holding me, and actually, he doesn’t exist? I’ll never forget when I woke up one morning in high school, and I just felt suddenly that he didn’t exist and I cried to my mom about it, suddenly my world was bleak and empty, what purpose did I have then? Again she would dismiss me, but it was one of the worst feelings and realisations I had ever experienced in my life. I was sobbing because what I had envisioned and what helped me feel safe in my unsteady upbringing was knowing God was there if no one else. I still struggle, but I am not an atheist. I’m like, whatever. Just be a good person. But that’s not enough to keep living.
So I decided to live for my loved ones.
So you can imagine the pain I felt when they abandoned me when I actually needed them the most.
Would you please tell us about your experience working as a hostess or doumi?
I found the ad on craigslist to make a lot of $$$ by simply looking your best, VIP status self and having rich men choose you as their karaoke/drinking companion for the night. I used to make 100$/hr + tip. One night I brought home 600$ cash. I quit a few weeks ago because my manager took me to the same karaoke place he said we stopped doing business with because I got assaulted there! So I was very angry, and I was being disrespected too much, so I left.
Would you like to share about your struggles with mental and physical illness?
I’ve been battling mental and physical illness for the past year or so. I was prescribed the antidepressant Lexapro, despite my hour-long protest. I was assured it would take no more than two weeks to get off of, but it took me more than a year. When I tried to quit it, I developed antidepressant withdrawal syndrome.
I then got a seizure in August 2020 for the first time in my life, and it wiped my short-term memory, and I felt like when I woke up, I was gone for a lifetime. It was bizarre and unsettling for months. My disabilities were amplified as my ADHD went from typical to severe, to the point where I’m watching myself talk over people and interrupt when I have never done this before as I have social anxiety. Then I went from general anxiety disorder to severe panic disorder and major depressive disorder. It sucks cause I have issues with recall that are so obvious, I’m now the type to be snapping my fingers having all these words at the tip of my tongue, but I keep practicing because I believe in neuroplasticity, and I’m sure I will be fine. I know what brought it on. It had to be the synergy of my anti-anxiety medication and my antidepressants because I was without my anti-anxiety meds for three days straight due to a shipping error while taking Lexapro, which lowers my seizure threshold, and then I remember nothing and wake up to hell.
How can people find out more about you
It takes a lot of courage to share what you have been through. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.