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You can regain your life

I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) while I was undergoing divorce with my narcissistic, addicted husband, suffering from depression. 

 

We were married for 2 years, but it was the most hellish period of my life. He was the master of manipulation, knowing what buttons to press, making me seem like the crazy one. His addiction mattered more to him than his own wife. The constant lying, cheating, betrayal, gaslighting, projection took a toll on my mental health. I always felt inadequate as he often made me like it was my fault for everything. Despite that, I didn’t realise what I was doing to myself. I was compromising my sanity at the expense of this “love” with this abusive man. I was in a continual state of cognitive dissonance, with the sweet and mean treatments from him. Little did I know that I was all part of his sick, twisted, selfish game. Little did I know that the flip-flopping between sweet and mean treatments are actually the hallmark of abuse. 

 

I went through the whole abusive life cycle – from the love bombing (making me feel like the most loved woman in the world), to the devaluation, and the eventual discard. It was so so painful. So surreal that the man that I once called my husband is now this cold-hearted monster, treating me like I mean nothing to him.

 

He turned into this monster, one I could barely recognise anymore. What I’ve learnt is that even though he is going through a mental issue, everyone has a choice for change. No amount of my love could help him if he didn’t want the change to happen. 

 

That was when I realised I had to fight for myself, and take accountability for my well being. That was when I stopped making excuses for his bad behavior. 

 

The divorce is a painful but necessary path. Man’s rejection is God’s protection.

 

I am still dealing with this trauma bond, trying to break free from codependency issues, and manage my anxiety attacks. It is going to be a long process and a lot of hard work, but I am committed to loving and taking care of myself. 

 

PTSD is something not to be taken lightly. With proper education and professional guidance from therapists, you can regain your power and control back.

 

You can regain your life, and create that dream life of yours.

I’m going to seek help

I was so desperate. I thought I found a confidant. We once said we would tell each other if there was anything bothering us. I was going through parental, marriage and health issues. I thought I was going to leave my kids behind. I broke down in my doctor’s room. I thought my family was breaking. I couldn’t talk to my parents. I didn’t want to worry them. I felt my world was collapsing. I stood by my window looking down, thinking if I will ever do it. I broke down and I confided my deepest hurts and secrets to someone whom I thought I could trust. It takes so much guts to pour it all out to someone. What a terrible move it was. The responses I received – “I’m superb because I’ve a big heart!”, “You’re like that because you focused on your kids”, “Others have it worse than you”, “I’ll go a long way with people who believe in themselves”. Ouch! It hurts so bad to hear those words. Made me feel even lower, pathetic, worthless. What happened to the trust and respect? It was suddenly all gone. I avoided that person. How does one continue to stand next to someone who feels it’s alright to say those words? I couldn’t do it. So I treated her like a stranger. Those around us who don’t know exactly what happened probably assume she’s the victim. I get curt remarks from others too. I don’t go near those people anymore. I’ve no energy nor wish to defend myself in front of them. I’m on my own trying to heal. It’s a daily struggle but I will do it. I must. I want to watch my children grow up to be empathetic, respectful and trustworthy people. I will continue to be the Mum they love, the Mum I’ve always wanted to be. I get chest pains, nausea, insomnia whenever I hear those hurtful words in my head. It’s even harder to overcome those words from someone I trusted. At times, I still break down crying. I’m mentally so exhausted but I smile as much as I can. I’m going to take the next step to help myself. I’m going to seek help. “We’re not trained counsellors”. That’s what another person told me, defending the one with hurtful comments. My take – “If you can’t show empathy, don’t say a word. Your words can destroy a person.” For those who are caregivers to the elderly and the young, I hope you’re able to share your struggles with people who are empathetic. For what it’s worth, my heart is always with you.

No one has to go through it alone

One day after my 18th birthday, I started self-harming. It started small, using pens or needles to slash my wrists. It hurt, and I wanted to stop, but I also felt… nothing. I did it the first time to stop crying when my father was hitting and hurling insults at me, and I didn’t want him to see me crying to prevent more beatings.

 

It started to get worse, of course. I used the kitchen knives in my house, and I would cut almost every now and then. I wore jackets to school so no one could tell, but at times I did take my jacket off so everyone could see. 
I didn’t really care at that point. I didn’t have friends, and I was quite used to being judged anyways.

 


It got better for me for a moment, until I had a fight with a friend and I tried to end my own life – overdosing on paracetamol but too scared to stab myself with the knife I had in hand. 

 


That was all one year ago. I still have those memories playing in my head like it was yesterday. 
I’ve gotten better at my own recovery. My self-harming has decreased and I am finding the support I need. And even though I still don’t have as many friends, I know there are people I can rely on.

 

For anyone suffering through their struggles, I just wish to say that I am proud of you. No one has to go through that struggle, and I know each and everyone of us going through this is strong and capable in their own way.
 I say, keep fighting. Keep fighting through every hardship and setback you face. I wish someone told me that when I first started, but now I only want to help anyone struggling through that too. 
No one has to go through it alone. 

Recovery is possible

I have a twin sister. I guess it’s normal for siblings to be compared to one-another, but being genetically identical to another person means people find the comparisons even more entertaining. They’re desperate to know ‘which one’ is cleverer, taller or heavier. Which one is better. Even our teachers at school were encouraging us to compete against each other. So from a young age I was desperate to be perceived as the more attractive twin, became obsessed with my size and began skipping meals. I completely internalised the idea that my entire personality and self existed relative to my sister. I spent my entire adolescence trying to prove myself. I was spiteful about her achievements and wished failure upon her. She did the same to me. We loved each other so much but society had entered us into a vicious competition against our will, in which we were rivals. We would sabotage each other to get an advantage, though we’d never admit it. By the time we were 18 our relationship was in ruins. 

We resented each other, we couldn’t trust each other, but we were also grieving the relationship that we deserved to have that had been taken away from us by the competition. Eventually everything came out. We talked for a long time about things we both knew but had never acknowledged, and we decided to turn a new page and be honest about how we feel. I would tell her if I felt intimidated by her success at something, and vice versa. That platform of communication changed everything and we became closer than ever. But I couldn’t shake the physical comparison: the first and most obvious comparison to be drawn between us. I wanted there to be no doubt about which one was the skinny twin and, by default, which was the fat twin. 

It sounds awful writing it down, but that’s where my eating disorder was at. I became very underweight and everything I did was in fear of gaining weight. I had no friends as I couldn’t socialise – I didn’t have the energy and I didn’t want to be in a situation where I was out of control of my diet. I left my job because I was too exhausted, and I became a prisoner in my bed, drained, depressed and hungry. But I was the thin twin. It’s true that comparison can kill you. 

I was at rock bottom, physically and mentally, and I firmly believed that I couldn’t be helped. But I was incredibly lucky to be assigned a therapist who probably saved my life. She laid the foundations for my recovery. I’m now a healthy weight and I have a healthy relationship with food. I’m learning to accept myself as an individual with my own personality and my own aspirations. My adjectives don’t end in ‘-er’. I am funny and passionate and giving and determined and goofy and so many other things. My sister is funny too. She’s also sporty and trendy and bubbly. 

I want anyone reading this to know that recovery is possible. I didn’t believe it at all – I thought that I would never be truly comfortable with food or my weight. I honestly believed that for me, recovery was impossible. But I’ve restored everything that I’d deprived myself of and it’s been the most enjoyable and exciting and beautiful journey. It’s a cliche but I honestly feel like I’m stood with my hands on my hips looking at the mountain and proudly thinking ‘I climbed that’. I really want everyone to get a chance to look back at their mountain, because it’s such a beautiful view!

Every day is a new battle and victory

I cannot be too sure how it began but it feels like it has been a long time. It might have begun when I was 12 and felt the full impact of my parent’s ugly and painful divorce. Or 14 when I self-harmed for the first time because I didn’t know how to cope with parental conflict and anxiety. Or at 16, when I was sexually assaulted and did not dare to tell anyone. When depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts entered my life, I learnt how frightening, isolating, and hopeless life could feel.

Fast forward and I am 30 this year. Despite multiple hospitalisations, countless medication and psychotherapy, and several failed suicide attempts, I am still alive and that counts for something. I am capable of functioning and have had full-time jobs most of the time, which is fortunate. With the right attire and socially accepted behaviours, you cannot see the scars. Sometimes the depression gets worse, sometimes it lifts momentarily and I can go on dates, meet friends, function, plan for the future. Sometimes I lie in bed when the fog gets too heavy. Sometimes the fog is a weight I carry around and go about my daily routine.

Mental illness is not something that comes up in everyday conversations, but it should be. There were (and still are) countless days where I wished I could be honest about my experiences and not fear judgement or get passed over for an employment opportunity. Contrary to mainstream belief where only the “weak” are vulnerable, anyone can be afflicted with a mental health condition. And while resilience is often used to describe individuals who turn out well despite adversity, perhaps we can begin to see that it actually takes a lot of strength to fight another day, to survive, to just be.

I may live with depression for the rest of my life but I have been learning to cope better. Every day is a new battle and victory. I am just as human, longing for love, understanding and belonging. I am just another person on the street.

It is very treatable

Surfing the web in Singapore, where I emigrated with my family from the UK ten years ago, I never imagined I would come across a video of my primary school.

The film was shot on the last day before the school buildings were demolished, adding to the special meaning for me because, when I was a pupil there in the mid 1970s, I had a near-fatal accident at home. Afterwards, a series of very difficult family issues sowed the seeds of what I now know was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For 40+ years I suffered recurring nightmares, physical tremors, constant anxiety, sexual dysfunction and other disturbing symptoms related to the trauma. It affected my family too.

My life changed two years ago when I found a wonderful therapist in Singapore. She identified the problem and was able to help me move on. My life is so different now. Colours are brighter, I can trust and accept the love of friends and the strangest thing is no longer feeling gnawed from inside by the anxiety I could never have shaken off on my own. It’s like deep piling construction work on a building site next door finally stopped and now I can sleep and hear my thoughts and feelings again.

One of the side-effects of PTSD is amnesia – suppressed memories. Unfortunately, one of the things that has taken the longest is recovering happy memories from the period around the trauma in my life. Along with the near death experience that my mind suppressed for so long, and which I can now see with fresh eyes and leave behind, I thought I had also lost contact with the many many happy days I spent at my primary school. I write this with tears in my eyes because the video has helped me to remember the corridors and buildings where I had fun with friends. Even the sound of the children singing with a clumping piano in the background could have been recorded when I was a child. It reminds me that the time around my trauma was not all dark and it does not have to be that way ever again.

For anyone suffering pain as I carried for 40 over years, please know that you are not alone and you do not have to carry it. Trauma is a natural response to an awful situation and it is very treatable.

The loneliness is grappling

Girls are toxic, well some at least, I try to fit in but they just shut me out. They pretend that I am not there and I pretend that I do not care. But when I go home all I do is cry. Cry for the friends that I never had, cry for the memories I never shared. I cry I starve I cut I swear.

Death welcomes me with open arms, it says I will be there for you no matter what. I bury myself in books, believing that they can be my companion but soon I realise that there’s no cure. For the depression stems from neglect of human interaction.

The anxiety from trying to be perfect for everyone else and forgetting myself. I hurt people around me, without intent, for I have been hardwired to survive, not to find a companion. The loneliness is grappling especially during the holidays, where everyone has someone while I find myself here…

I was abused by my father

I was abused by my father when I was younger; it lasted until I was 16. Although I came clean about it to my parents 3 years ago, they expect me to have moved on from it. My mum especially believes it is wrong of me to still hold a grudge against my dad. It is really difficult to forgive him when he does not acknowledge that what he did was unacceptable. I’ve struggled with self harm for the past 5 years. I probably suffer from PTSD too according to a counsellor I saw but I haven’t been able to afford a professional diagnosis. I’m basically alone in my recovery from the abuse because I cannot be honest with my family members about my true feelings and struggles. 

I’m in the process of internalizing that while my past is always going to be a part of me and influence my actions and perspective, it does not define me nor does it dictate my future. The hardest part, I’m pretty much alone in my recovery. I have amazingly supportive friends but it still pains me that my family is not part of my recovery process. 

It still hurts me so deeply inside

Recently I went to visit a Chinese Medicine doctor to see if she could help me with conceiving. She came highly recommended by a friend who successfully and easily conceived with her advice. She appeared to be very knowledgeable and experienced when she spoke. 

My monthly period cycles have never been consistent since it first started, and I also revealed I had been diagnosed with schizophrenia at about the age of 24. But it was 10 years ago and I have been doing very well with medication, holding a full time job and doing well for all those 10 years.

The doctor frowned at me and struggled but in the end said that doctors like her usually advise people like me not to have children. Having children she says, is not that easy. There’s the risk of postpartum depression, not to mention all the stress from taking care of a child for so many, many years. Nevertheless, since I wanted, and since I look stable, she will give me some medicine and try to help.

What she said seemed truth but it still hurts me so deeply inside, I controlled myself till I got home, and then the torrents of tests came. Is it wrong to want children? After all, a marriage also is two people and not just me. I guess it’s time to hope beyond hope again.

Keep fighting for yourself

I grew up without a dad during my early childhood. I often thought to myself that I could never make a mistake and when I did I would “punish” myself for it. It started with rubber band flicking on my wrist and then it developed to excessive eating or starvation and then to cutting and drinking. My anxiety grew worse as my depression did. I only got help at the age of 17 and that was when I got diagnosed with severe depression, post traumatic disorder and severe anxiety. It was definitely very overwhelming for me and there were days that I would really drag myself to therapy because I kept thinking that I would never get better. 

At the age of 18 was the peak of my depression. It was the year of the most times I actually tried to end my life. I got hospitalised a couple of times and I saw the pain my family felt. I was accused for not being grateful for the life I had when it was just that I couldn’t take my own pain. Was it selfish? To an extent, maybe. Here’s the positive outtake. That same year, as much as I continuously fell down, I also kept pushing myself. Back then I won’t be able to admit that but right now, I wanted to win that battle and I did. I still get anxious now but that was because it became a habit to constantly worry. I’m handling it better now. 

So, keep fighting for yourself. Remember you deserve it and as much as you feel alone. You aren’t. Don’t end your story half way because when you overcome it, your happy ending may just help someone else.