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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.

I’m fighting it all the time

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety around 2 years ago. But truthfully I probably have been struggling with it for about 8 years now. Growing up, I used to get panic attacks just raising my hand to answer questions in class. In fact, I never did raise my hand. It was being called to answer a question that would send my heart pounding like crazy. I thought it was normal. Thankfully that abated with time, although my general anxiety still persisted.

People always say that I don’t look like I have depression. What they don’t understand is that there really isn’t a “look” for depression. I always have to put up a facade, so that people around me would not worry. I feel guilty for every single thing and the self-hatred I have towards myself is overwhelming. My mind always goes into overdrive and I can’t do anything to stop it from producing negative thoughts. I’ve been admitted for depression several times now. I’ve been through electroconvulsive therapy and other alternative treatments several times too.

I’m almost ready to give up, with my depression being so treatment resistant, but I know that I need to keep on fighting. If not for myself, then for my parents who have been so supportive throughout this whole time. It is an ongoing battle – one that most people don’t see on the surface, but I’m fighting it all the time.

I feel like I’m slowly drowning

Crying. Seems like a normal way a person would react when they’re too upset, not in the best mood or feeling super stressed out. Well, there’s millions of reason why a person would cry, I just listed a few.

But for me. I can’t cry. Not when I’m upset or stressed out, not when I feel like it. I just can’t. Since young, ‘crying’ seemed to be something that is a taboo in my family. My parents would scold me and my siblings if we were to cry. They would react in a way where we feel threatened as if they are going to punish us.  

So when I couldn’t cry, I feel a sense of loss as I had no idea how to let out my emotions the way “normal people” would. It made it seemed as I lacked empathy even though I was feeling really upset, especially if it concerns someone else. I had no source of an outlet, I had to carry the feeling of sadness, anger and loneliness. Something I knew would not be as heavy as to what most people mention, ‘Crying helps’.

When I am the verge of tears, or even when I have already teared up, I always find myself having to shut myself up in case anyone hears me. But then, I always think about why am I so afraid of something that’s natural and uncontrollable. I have to wait till everyone at home is asleep before I could let myself cry, I had to cry softly as I’m scared my parents would shout at me again.

I am still looking out for other alternatives to let those negative feelings out. I feel like I could depend on a few I have on hand, like expressing my feelings out and talking about it to someone. But I feel like I’m slowly drowning.

Why can’t I cry freely? What’s wrong with crying?

I don’t know how long I can last

I first started having thoughts of depression when I was 13. I might be young, too young to even have it, but the dark thoughts that haunt me everyday are really real and exist even up till today. I want to seek professional help, but my parents would never accept me for having depression and social anxiety. I’ve tried talking to them about mental health issues, but they always label people with them as “simply not having enough strength to overcome challenges”.

My Mom especially is always degrading me, she keeps telling me that my results aren’t actually that good, never making an effort to understand my point of view and she always scolds, scolds and scolds me. She is the main reason why the black dog of depression started following me. I feel better whenever I watch videos that I like, being with people I love etc. because that’s the only way I feel better, without professional help.

There are days when I feel that everything’s gonna be okay, but I don’t know how long I can last until I reach my breaking point.

To everyone who’s suffering, please stay strong!

The hardest part was self-stigma

The first time psychosis happened to me was in 2013. I was a graduate student then, back in Singapore for a short holiday. I was quiet and withdrawn. But no one thought much of it. It quickly spiraled into unexplained guilt and anxiety, such that I could not sleep. It went downhill all the way within days. Delusions of people harming me, stealing my identity, and having me under surveillance crept insidiously into my mind. I was scared, paranoid and full of delusions.

My poor family—they were at a loss, desperate, so much so that they sent me to the emergency room of the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), despite having misgivings about “the mental hospital”. The wait at the emergency room was probably the worst experience in my life. I could not respond to people, I could not walk and talk. I was too caught up in the dramatic delusions unfolding in my mind: I’m waiting to see a judge for my sins, I’m going to die so that my sister could live, I’m putting up a show for the best actress award.

Little did I know that going to IMH was the start of my recovery. Even in that dark valley, I was making my way toward getting the help I needed to get well. I was referred to the Early Psychosis Intervention Program (EPIP) and received quality medical and psychosocial care.

After a season of rest, I went back to grad school. I want to tell you that I kept psychosis at bay; that it did not return. But due to the mounting stress and pending deadlines of defense and thesis writing, I soon started to lose touch with reality again. The delusions were coming back. The line between what’s real and what’s not began to break down again. My thoughts were all over the place.

It helped that I had a doctor at the University Psychiatric Clinic. She picked up my call on the third ring. I found out later that she already knew that I was unwell when I talked to her on the phone. She had a team mobilised, ready to meet me during my consultation with her. At my vehement objections to hospitalisation, she sent me home that evening to rest after giving me some medication. I went back to her the next day and was given three weeks of medical leave. With the support of my family, friends and medical teams, I completed my thesis and defended my doctoral research work. I still look back in awe of how I managed those days. There may be some truths in the Permanent head Damage title.

I moved back to Singapore in 2015. Bright-eyed and willing, I found various job opportunities ranging from science writing to teaching to social service. I landed a job as a peer support specialist in 2016. I thought it was a dream come true. I found so much meaning in helping others with a similar psychiatric condition as me. Yet, it burnt me out quickly as I ran too fast, too far. I fell into a third relapse last December. To be honest, the hardest part of it all was that self-stigma. As I struggled with my mental health, I questioned if I was really unwell or was just seeking attention. I was well physically, but why can’t I sleep, eat or concentrate?

I am thankful to have supportive colleagues and family that tide me through that period. I took a leave of absence from work. As I rested, I turned to writing. It was a cathartic and healing experience for me. The burden of the burnout seems to melt away with every word that appeared on the word processor. Soon, I went back to work, and transferred to another department. Clinical work has taken its toll on me. For now, I am happy to relish in the backend research, and hone my skills as a wordsmith.

Tomorrow is worth fighting for

I was 21. I didn’t feel 21 though. I felt like someone past a hundred, living out the years that I didn’t deserve because somewhere, somehow, I was wondering why I wasn’t dead yet. I felt like I was living on borrowed time, wandering a world soaked in a never-ending fog. But I didn’t have it that bad – I didn’t have a mental illness (or at least, I didn’t bother seeking a diagnosis because it couldn’t be that bad, right). I had parents who made sure that I had enough to eat, that I could handle school and general life things. Money was never a problem.  

Turns out, I had been running my whole life. I learnt how to disconnect from my emotions. I learnt how to repress anything that remotely distressed me, and that’s why I can’t remember most of my childhood and adolescence. I had made everything into a complete joke because if I could laugh about it, it didn’t affect me, right? And if I couldn’t laugh about it, I’d end up crying the moment I thought or spoke about it.

I was 21 years old.

At 21 years old, I met someone. Someone who told me this was not okay, that it should not be like this. That this was not living – just surviving. With some help, I realised my family was just…emotionally unavailable. Unsupportive. I realised that the things I experienced were unacceptable. The shaming, the guilt-tripping, the paralysing powerlessness and the haunting loneliness of not being heard – I did not deserve to feel that way. I did not deserve to expect that as a normal part of life.

Reframing all that changed everything – and that’s the thing. Sometimes, we just need one person to stop us, and ask: are you really okay? Being stuck in a fog for so long, you forget about how the sun shines, or how fresh the flowers smells in the morning. You forget how there’s life beyond that fog. And sometimes, that changes everything.  

One year later, things are different. Things are better. I’m getting the help I need, doing the changes I need to do – not to survive, but to live. Recovery is not a linear path, of course – some days you regress and feel like nothing’s changed and there’s no point, but it will pass. It doesn’t always have to be like this.

It will be one long, hard fight, but you deserve a happy ending. You deserve to be more than the pain you carry in your bones.

Honestly? I feel that tomorrow is worth fighting for.

Trust your instincts

Ever since primary school I have had the thoughts of ending my life, because my parents fight every single day and I just felt like nobody was interested to listen to what I had to say. I cried everyday but got through it somehow. I eventually grew up thinking it was normal for a couple to quarrel daily until my ex became upset about his parents quarreling one day and then I realised it shouldn’t be that way. My parent’s relationship skewed my views on how relationships should be and up till now I haven’t been able to see it as a happy and blissful thing to be with someone. I ended up with very low self-esteem and other issues which weren’t diagnosed but I kept going anyway.

Everything went downhill when my family was going through financial difficulties. I had to juggle between school, work and giving tuition on top of issues at school with friends. It didn’t help when (through my ex’s encouragement and a school staff’s understanding) I mustered up the courage to see the school counsellor and she turned out to be super dismissive and made every problem I had seem unimportant. I eventually stopped seeing her because she made everything worse. I did not continue seeking help and just coped. Only my ex at that time knew about all the issues and even after we broke up I was able to talk to him about my anxiety and he helped me look for doctors to see in a public hospital. However I still didn’t have the courage to do so and just tried to cope in my own ways through unhealthy habits.. 15 to 20 years down the road, my anxiety hit me in a way I had not anticipated. It was like my body was physically telling me that this was it. It was done fighting and it just couldn’t be caught in the struggle anymore. The physical symptoms manifested 24/7, I lost sleep and fell even deeper into depression as I could not figure out what was wrong with my body and how I could recover.

I did not dare confront it as a psychological issue as I was dismissed by not 1, 2, not even 3 GPs who said “no lah we won’t anyhow call people crazy even when we don’t know the cause of their symptoms” when I finally muster the courage at the very end of each visit to question whether it could be due to anxiety. I was shocked and it scared me so much to see another doctor. I put it off until months and months later my physical therapist said that he tried everything he could and also when my orthopaedic specialist made me do a 2nd MRI within 4-5 months just to confirm that there was nothing wrong with my spine. Deep down inside I just knew this wasn’t a physical problem. It was illogical to me and so I finally sought help at a polyclinic and I straight up told the female doctor who was exceptionally understanding that I have been having these symptoms 24/7 and that I think I need a referral to a psychiatrist and that I have tried to see the possible physical specialists so she believed me and she finally referred me to someone. It was the best decision I have made so far. Though I am not living my best life yet. I know now how it can potentially turn out great.

Submitting this story for all those who are afraid to seek help and find it hard to take the first step. I know sometimes it takes a few doctor’s visits and having to face doubtful and dismissive doctors who just didn’t know better. But you know yourself best and trust your instincts. No, it’s not for attention and when you feel like you need help, it is okay to do so. And once you find the right doctor.. it will be so worth it. Keep carrying hope and having faith. For those who are worried, it is actually accessible and affordable and there is financial help if you need. Your parents or family do not have to know. I do hope that one day though, the stigma can be gone and I can open up about what I have been through to my family or be well enough to not have to visit my therapist whom I am very grateful for.

I don’t think they’d care

Sometimes I feel like I am not worthy to share my experiences with others because people go through their own challenges, but it gets hard when people pour themselves to me and I don’t get to do that because I feel that no one is there for me. I don’t think they’d care if I disappeared one day without a trace. Sometimes I wish I would.

Every day is a struggle

Every day is a struggle.
I was diagnosed with depression a year ago, and every day has been a struggle since then.

Waking up is difficult. Trying to be a functioning human being is tough. Most of the times, I just wish to be alone and push people away. However, I have responsibilities, having to take care of my elderly parents. Hence I pushed myself to be a functioning human being.

But it gets harder each day.

Now I feel like an auto-pilot robot, who functions because it has to. The medication has eased the heaviness, providing certain fuel I need to move forward. It’s a work in a progress, but it is still a struggle.

I have lost some friends who do not understand my mental state. It hurts.

But I deeply treasure those who stayed on, especially my family who gives me the space I seek, but also the guidance I need. I want to be alone, but deep down I’m grateful that I am not.

Now I just long for the day I can repay all this kindness I have encountered. I long for the day where this heaviness will cease and I can move forward with no dark mist surrounding me.

I’m a burden afterall, right?

I’ve always been pressured to get good grades. Multiple tuition teachers have hurled insults like “stupid” & “useless” at me countless of times, with a tuition teacher throwing a pile of newspapers to me because she was so frustrated I couldn’t get any questions right. This made me fearful and scared of everything, as I didn’t want the same thing to happen to me again.

From then on, there was this irrational fear of studies and getting bad grades. For every time I had a bad grade, I would continuously beat myself over it, and there was this point in life where I couldn’t get up and began feeling suicidal and getting suicidal thoughts.

Nowadays in Polytechnic, I still continuously feel sad everyday. I can go from happy to sad in a span of a few minutes and I blame myself for everything, like my emotions, of what I’ve been through. It’s like I’ve trapped myself in a dark hole and I always feel like killing myself.

There are times that I honestly really want to commit suicide but I always found a reason not to do so. Things have gotten bad recently, even though my friends urge me to see a counsellor, I’m not willing to do so because I’m a burden afterall, right?