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Personal Stories

I’m asking for respect

I’ve spoken to my teachers and my school counsellor before, and I’ve vented to my friends about my mother specifically. She’s the one person in my life whom I just feel I cannot be nice to, because she doesn’t want to be nice in return. I talk to her calmly, and she decides to just throw temper tantrums and, this has yet to happen this year but had occurred more than once a few years back, she sometimes stomps her feet and pulls my cheeks while smiling at me in an angry fit.

I hate it. I hate the way she treats me. I don’t even say treated, because she still treats me with disrespect and expects to be worshipped like some sort of deity. Everything she says is the truth and she’s never wrong. Everybody, especially me, is a liar and intolerably(to her) imperfect. She’s blatantly racist, lies to me about the most ridiculous things, picks fights with me over small matters, and misconstrue my words so that it looks like I’M the one provoking her and attacking her. I’m underage, and even if I do find work I can’t move out so fast because I know life isn’t that easy. It makes me sick knowing I’ll be stuck with her emotional abuse for years to come, provided she doesn’t suddenly start being physically abusive again too.

She is the reason I fear math so much, that when I couldn’t do a math paper during one of my exams THIS YEAR, I cried silently during the paper because I felt so damn hopeless. Every now and then I remember how she once sat behind me, and when I couldn’t do a math question (this was during primary school), she kicked me on the back, slapped me, and pulled my hair and shouted repeatedly that I was stupid because the question was so simple. Many years later, I realise she can’t even do the homework I have now because she’s been out of school for decades. So why is the question so easy, yet she couldn’t do it at the time?

I’m not asking for my parents to see me as some kind of civilised adult, but I’m asking for respect. Mutual, earned respect. My father once asked me what the “Green things on a tree were”(moss) earlier this year, while my mum kept trying to “teach” me how to open a pot lid and scoop up porridge. The fact that my own parents see me as so stupid childish to the point where I sound as if I am so incapable of living that I can’t even tell what nature is, despite the fact that my teachers and friends(whom I see most often when I’m not at home) see me as “mature” in some respect, clearly shows something wrong. I joke that I’m stupid, partly because I have internalised it from years of verbal abuse, but am I really so stupid to the point where I don’t even know how to do simple tasks? Are they going to teach me how to eat and spoon-fed me next?

I’m sick and tired of being treated as I am at home, I see loving families and while I’m happy for them there’s a tinge of bitterness sometimes. I dislike mothers to some extent despite being a girl myself. I’ve contemplated suicide so many times, called a suicide hotline, I don’t bottle my feelings up and I make it known to trusted friends. But as long as I continue to stay in this hellhole, I’m never getting away from her grasp.

I can only hope I’ll hang on and not actually step onto the road and get myself struck by a car, or jump out the window like I always think about.

The way I walk is different

When I was born, my leg got stuck in my head, it was some unnatural birth problem and they had to cut off a bit of the skin to detach it. My foot became curved over the years, but I’ve grown accustomed to it. When I was younger, I went through quite a lot of surgeries but they haven’t helped at all, it has only cost me pain and money. 

 

Because the surgery’s target is to make my foot curve but somehow after every operation, it will go back to its original form and it kind of hurts me knowing that there’s no cure! With surgeries comes scars and there’s a long scar at the back of my leg. Up till today, I’m still not fond of it and I often avoid short pants when going out because people will look at me differently. 

 

The way I walk is different too. I call my walking style ‘penguin’ because a lot of my close friends have said so too. Socialising with people is difficult because whenever I leave the house, I get anxiety due to the situation with my leg. I always wonder if I deserve to hang out with my friends because I’m different. This thought has been with me for the longest time. 

 

My family always tell me to wear short pants but I always refuse to. Sometimes I even get scolded and that is because they don’t know how I really feel! So for my whole life, I have been wearing long pants (ignoring the primary/sec school times where I must wear shorts, in fact, that was one of the worst times in my life…. Because my class is always standing at the very front, the whole school will see my leg…. And my anxiety was very severe back then but I’m lucky I gone through it). I only wear short pants around my neighbourhood, but when I’m in school or with classmates or friends, I’m really scared.

 

One of the biggest miracles in my whole life was back in 2013. My leg’s pain was so intense I had to drag myself to school. There were times when I cried too. I decided to tell my family that I had to have an operation again, no matter what happens. So we went to the hospital, the doctors explained that they were going to operate near my veins and the chances of hitting it was very high which could mean paralysis and being wheelchair bound for life. 

 

The doctor was not confident of the operation. But somehow, I was adamant about it even though I knew the risks. Many people asked me not to do it, including my close friends and teachers but I still went ahead. 

 

The operation day came and it was time for my fate to be decided. Throughout the whole thing, I smiled through and when I woke up, it was a success! I didn’t know they put 5 metal rods until a few months later and they had to pull it out while I was awake. It was horrible. So that really impacted my whole life!! Part of me still feels insecure.

 

I always thought I would be like that forever, not until I realised the true friends around me and most importantly God telling me to love myself and not care about the world! Through the years, instead of hating my leg, I begin to call it a blessing in disguise and love my leg even though I still fear it! I feel like my leg’s scars are a testimony that I’m a strong man that went through a lot of things. It’s a thing that allows me to be me! I’ve met friends who sincerely cared about me as well, they always take special attention towards me and are always motivating me. Teachers are also supportive of me which helped me a lot. I grew an interest in film and I thought I couldn’t make it because of my leg but here I am, studying film and even working in the film industry already!

Caregiving is a noble task

Unlike the many girls whom I dated, Doris Lau, my late wife was very down-to-earth. I found her to be sincere and caring. This was the woman who would change my life – dramatically. Doris passed away on 17th April 2014 after she was stricken with pneumonia. She died within a week that she was hospitalized in Tan Tock Seng Hospital. 

 

Undoubtedly, Good Friday has special significance to both my wife and I. Why? Because this is the most painful day of the year as we remember how Jesus suffered and was put to death for the sins of all of us.  Despite being tortured and humiliated, Jesus who displayed enormous strength was able to show compassion and forgiveness.  

 

When Doris first met Raymond: By some strange coincidence, 12th April 1974 was the day that I first met Doris. And it happened to be on Good Friday. And though it is an arduous and painful journey for me to manage my wife’s dreaded schizophrenia for 40 years, I often draw my strength and compassion from Jesus. And each time that I suffer from burnout, Jesus is always there to carry me on His shoulders. His pictures are in our home; and He is very much alive in our hearts. 

 

Doris has battled schizophrenia for forty-four years. The disease first struck Doris at the tender age of 17.  Many people find it very hard to believe that I married her despite her mental illness. In caring for Doris for four decades, I had grown to love her more and more each day. I have seen this illness ravage more than half her life and the journey, though very difficult, was so rewarding when I saw her enjoy and live life to the fullest.  

 

Seeing the ‘demons’ in her mind: During our 40 years marriage, my wife has been hospitalized in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) ¬– Singapore’s biggest public psychiatric hospital twelve times during our 40 years’ marriage and I have witnessed all her delusions, hallucinations, depression and fears. Seeing Doris struggling with the “demons in her mind” has been extremely painful for me. 

 

My long hours at work in broadcasting saw Doris spending many days and nights all alone.  The loneliness and the isolation saw her missing out on her medications, resulting in relapses. 

 

When Doris was in a stable condition, she is a loving and kind-hearted person. But during her relapses, I become her emotional punching bag. I have taken all her emotional outbursts quietly, allowing her to scold, shout and nag at me because I fully understand how this illness torments her, how it frustrates her.

 

Over the years, I have learnt to forgive my wife as I fully understand that it is the illness, and not her.  Through my experience in caring for Doris, I have learnt to completely separate the two. Many people, including family members do not really understand the specialized care that the mentally ill need or the unremitting emotional wear and tear that caregivers have to endure every day of their lives. This illness is terrifying because it is unpredictable.  

 

The beauty from within: What struck me most about Doris was the beauty of her heart. She had also touched me with her sincerity. She taught me how to be prudent with spending, advising me not to waste money on taxis, but to travel by buses. Most certainly, she has always had my best interest at heart. This is one of the primary reasons why I took her to be my life-long partner even though I knew I would face huge obstacles during this part of my life.  

 

When the relapse comes on, the nightmare begins: Shortly afterwards my family members and I were shocked to witness the torment Doris went through when the relapse of schizophrenia reared its ugly head.  The enormous stress she went through during the run-up to our marriage took a heavy toll on my wife.  

 

Doris was eventually hospitalized at the old Woodbridge Hospital (now known as IMH) for about two weeks, and my daily visits helped a great deal in her recovery.  This is why I have always emphasized during my motivational talks or in the books I write that emotional support is vital in helping patients in their recovery. 

 

Caregiving – a noble task: I’ve always felt that caregiving is a noble task; and it must be promoted as such. Though it often takes the wind out of you, it will be such a joy when you see first-hand the smiles on their faces, their creativity and their happiness when they are in their full recovery stage. 

 

In managing a loved one with mental illness, practice the 3Ps – Patience, Perseverance and Prayer.  Not always the easiest task, but I assure you that if you can find the strength to do that – God will bless you in more ways than one as He has done for me and my wife. 

 

Today, I have authored 30 books and, in the process, I have gone on to become a motivational speaker, a songwriter, regular forum writer to the mainstream newspapers and even a TV actor.  I am also Singapore’s leading advocate for the mentally ill and volunteer my time with IMH, the Singapore Association for Mental Health and the Silver Ribbon Singapore. 

 

In producing my books, I also managed to “infect” my wife with the power of the pen. And before she died, Doris became an author of 8 successful books because she fully understood that writing is healing. 

 

Coping with the loss of my wife: It was a real struggle for me to come to terms with the sudden passing of my wife – more so when my whole world revolved around Doris. I went through situational depression for one solid year and experienced insomnia for the same troubling period. Two things helped me to come out of this difficult period: Counselling from a psychologist and the love from a Filipino girl whom I got engaged to in March this year.  

 

Many people have asked me why I willingly married Doris despite knowing of her mental illness. My answer to them is simple: “If schizophrenia and arthritis was part of the life of the woman I love, then it must surely have been part of mine too. I did not necessarily like what the illnesses did to her, but it is her that I love. And that had, and will always be, the guiding, motivating force of my life.

I will never love myself

I was insecure about my appearance from a very young age. I started to dislike how I looked and wanted to lose weight since I was in primary school and now I’m 17, in poly, nothing has changed. I still hate my body, my face and even my personality. The hate just seems to grow stronger and it feels like I will never love myself. I realised this just recently that no matter how many genuine compliments I get, I will never see myself as a beautiful person. I told some of my friends that I disliked myself and one of them simply asked ‘Why?’ but I couldn’t give a simple answer.

I just want to end my life now

I took my Primary School Leaving Examination at the age of 12. When the results came back all I saw was failure. Everyone else was doing better. I still got into a school under the Normal Technical stream which most students do not want to end up in since there is only one path – Institute of Technical Education.

 

Well I took my N-Levels and got 9 Points and got into a good course. First year is always hard but at the end of Year 1 I finally broke and crashed apart. I continued on with Year 2 however I broke even more and ended up at the Institute of Mental Health. I was told to take a Leave of Absence as the school thought I couldn’t catch up with my studies. My dreams of going to Polytechnic is now shattered and I just want to end my life now.

Fight with me

At 17, I’ve recently started getting help again at The Institute of Mental Health although I started having suicidal thoughts since I was 12. I’ve always felt left out because I’m gay and society has sort of made us seem like a disgrace. But I’ve learnt to embrace myself for who I am. I’ve been admitted 4 times into the Institute of Mental Health this year so to those who are fighting their demons as well, fight with me. Let’s not give up. I may be depressed but I’m still human

Please hold on

At the age of 12, I was so suicidal because of my family and class situation. Then at the age of 15 I finally got help at the Institute of Mental Health but I was so scared that it would affect my career. I stopped going there which was kind of stupid when I think back about it. Then at age 16 which was my first year in applied food science at ITE, my suicidal thoughts got so bad and my cutting got deeper. I got help again and this time I got admitted to the ward. 

 

I thought things were starting to get better but it did not and the medication just kept increasing. Also being gay (which I dare not tell my parents) I felt really left out. It’s as though I am not allowed to be who I am but to be honest I stopped caring about it. I really wanted to get better so I started opening up to my psychiatrist and psychologist which sort of helped but I am still very suicidal. 

 

My point here is to tell any teen or any age group that is never too late to get help, the faster you reach out the faster you could recover although it might take years and many breakdowns it will be worth it. 

 

I know many people have told you it is going to be okay so many times, I want you to know that there are some days that are going to be very hard but you are worth it, every single life counts. 

 

Having depression is like being colourblind so try to find colour in life. Everyone loves you, even I do so please hold on.

Never give up

I have been suffering from Severe Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder and Trichotillomania since I was 11 years old. I envy my friends when they are able to tie their hair so nicely in different types of styles and also let it down without being self conscious like I do.

 

I have a lot of friends, I am very sociable but also extremely introverted. I have come to realise that I am that person that’s actually alone, surrounded with people that I am familiar with. Even at home. It’s not until I met a close friend that I’m comfortable with, only she knows the real me. 

 

She would try to stop me from plucking my hair when I am unconscious or doing it out of anxiety even though I would get angry at her after that. I guess, it’s true when they say that you’re not alone. You’re just not exploring the friend that will be more than willing to be your listening ear, a helping hand and shoulder to cry on.

 

Yes I admit I still do have my psychotic episodes but it is not as bad when you let it out to someone you trust and are comfortable with. It is NOT necessary to be alone all the time and keep it in you to the point where you would think “exploding” ー giving up on the efforts you have put in to be okay. It is okay to fall back down sometimes. But never give up.

 

Try it out, I gambled on trying to lift all the weight I have on my shoulders, it worked. Explore and have someone that would be in the same effort you put in to feel okay. 

I feel like I’m suffocating

I have been feeling down for some time. I never thought I would end up this way. I was a nursing student, I loved what I was doing. I learnt about mental health and I never expected I would go down this route. I was a very confident person. I was never afraid of anything. But then it all changed. I quit school and I lost myself. 

 

It’s tough living with a drunk father. He stole my room key when I was out and barged into my room in the middle of the night when I was sleeping, screaming at the top of his voice. I was determined to kill myself that night but my friend managed to talk me out. I cut all contact from my family and avoided my father. My mother tried to ask me what was wrong but I avoided her question because she was partly the reason I got into this black hole. 

 

The constant stress, the biasness and all the scolding I got from my family for no reasons. When I finally picked up the courage to tell them my feelings, my mother could not accept it and started to compare who was going through worse problems. Why is it so hard for them to understand that I just need to be heard and understood. I could be better if she chose to accept what I said. Even if she could not accept it, she could just pretend to. All I need is to be heard. It hurts so bad when I do not have my family to support me through this stage. I feel like I’m suffocating, I have so much in me that I can not let out. It hurts so bad. I never thought I would go down this route…

The mental torture did not stop

I was diagnosed with psychotic depression in September 2012 due to the stress from a study bond that I signed back in 2009 with WDA. This bond was meant to subsidise my school fees in the animation school but it turns out that I am required to work for a period of 1 year after graduation to fulfill the bond. On top of that, the media company I was working in has very nasty colleagues. I wanted to leave the job, but they made sure I stayed to prolong my suffering. It was a tragic period for me, and I left after 4 months of working there. 

 

After I left, the mental torture did not stop. I was tormented by voices from outside of my head and the people around me threw favour at me. I was very frustrated, but I was unable to voice anything out because I was only able to speak 3 to 5 word sentences at a time. I even had demons facing all sides of me, and I was terrified because I felt the people around me were demons. Everyday was a living nightmare.

 

It was during this period that my mommy took me to get a psychological report done by a psychologist to facilitate my discharge from the WDA bond. It wasn’t an easy process. The psychologist made a statement saying that I was making use of my mother to get discharged from the WDA bond, which is absurd and never the case. If I did, I wouldn’t have come before her so stressed and distraught. Nevertheless, she helped me to arrange the psychological report to be given to WDA for review, and in August 31 2012, I was officially discharged from all the obligations of the WDA bond.

 

After I was discharged from the WDA bond, I had signs of not wanting to leave home. I would knock my head with my fist and with sharp objects such as scissors and my mobile phone. I would shout the word “Die” in both Japanese and English. This was when my mother noticed something was wrong, and she then referred me to a doctor at the Institute of Mental Health. That was when I first met Dr Diana Barron and Dr Sajith. Both of them had me admitted to the IMH hospital for observation and treatment. I was given medication called Risperidone to help bring down the voices in my head and an anti depression as well, called Fluvoxamine which helped to improve my mood. Both of these medicines helped to improve my mental stability and my mood. 2 weeks later, I was discharged from the Institute of Mental Health. 

 

I have been attending outpatient treatment by Dr Diana but she left in 2017 and Dr Sajith took over my case from 2017 to 2018. After that, I was handed over to a team of random ANDS doctors after Dr Sajith saw that I am doing very well with my daily activities especially photography and events. I believe in no obligations and zero pretences. I want to be real and real for eternity, because only by being my real self, will I then be able to relate to people well as a human being.