I’ve been struggling to find the light

I’ve suffered from anxiety attacks, depression and an eating disorder for around 6 years now. 

I wished people understand me a little more instead of shutting me down with the usual, “Just get it out of your head, it’s all inside you.“ Over the increasing years, indeed it hasn’t been easy and many times I’ve been struggling to find the light in the dark. Even though it has been increasingly challenging every day and there were many times I felt like giving up I keep telling myself, “If I can survive today, why not try another day?” Perhaps that is why I’m still here after 6 years. I wouldn’t say that I have recovered fully, but sometimes all you have to do is hope and count on yourself.

I feel like I’m a bomb

I wish I could express my struggles to my family. As a trans male with anorexia, OCD and mild anxiety, I tried really hard to distract myself from all those unwanted thoughts, with studies and a part time job, to the brink of exhaustion. Overworking myself seemed to be the only way to seek sanity. My family always, always claimed that I’m emotionless and have a ‘low EQ’. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the case, sometimes I feel so wronged, because they don’t know what I’m going through every single day. I feel like I’m a bomb that’s about to explode any time soon.

You are worthy of love

I had a rocky childhood: My father was abusive and unfaithful, and my parents divorced when I was 9. My mother never fully recovered from that trauma. I grew up believing I was a burden to my mother, and had my first major depressive episode in my teens. 10 years and countless episodes of depression later, I finally ended up at IMH after coming close to completing suicide. Now, after over a year of therapy and trying three different antidepressants, I can finally say I’m stable. There are still awful days when I feel utterly hopeless and the suicidal thoughts return, but I am now better equipped to handle them. My only regret was not seeking help earlier because I was convinced that how I was feeling was my fault, not something to be remedied. To anyone else struggling as I did: you are worthy of help, you are worthy of love! Don’t hesitate to seek help!

I feel alone

I struggle with self esteem issues and irrational fear on a daily basis. It consumes my mind and stresses me out every time. No one knows how much it has affected me because whenever I try to talk about it, the people around me just brush it off like it’s nothing. I’ve always wanted to reach out and seek help but I could never bring myself to be so vulnerable in front of someone else. I feel alone. No one else can hear the things in my mind the same way as I do. I always have a small bit of hope that one day I’ll get help and be better, but it will take time. I just wish people were more open to listen to my problems and worries without judgement.

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!

I’m grateful for every day I live

I just want to start by saying: To students who struggle with mental issues, I believe that keeping a gratitude journal, documenting every happy thought/action done to or from you will help. I know it’s tough… but we won’t win this battle if we don’t take action ourselves. Think positive, fill yourself with positive friends and give yourself a year to heal and don’t make rash decisions.

It all started in Secondary 3 when I got a really high leadership position in school. Given such high status, with no idea what I’m about to face, I honestly was crushed to the very bottom. I survived 1.5 years of being rejected from adults. I thought that teachers would always be there for you… but they had their own workload to care for, instead of caring for their students’ issues. I’m thankful for my friends who have seen my ugly sore eyes from long hours of crying. But the pain doesn’t not stop there. I started having anger issues because things did not go my way. Not only that, during my O’Level journey, I started having anxiety, mood swings, nervous breakdowns and depression (I searched the symptoms on the internet). 

I thought that I wasn’t good enough because I did not perform up to expectations, when I had my leadership position, it led me to think I was a failure in my academics. It wasn’t true… but looking back, maybe if only I had a trusted adult I could talk to in school, one that would hear me out and give me advice on how I should deal with growing up into adulthood, I believed I would have manage my mental health better. Also, I thought that after I finished O’Levels, I’ll be happier and carefree. Honestly, no. I’ve had nightmares of not doing well for O’s and it hurts so much. I don’t know will I get the result I worked endlessly for.

I cry every now and then, alone, and no one sees this side of me. I don’t dare to speak up too because people’s attitude and tone definitely don’t show they want to hear me out. I don’t even know how should I go and get my mental health checked because I certainly wouldn’t want my parents to know that their child is sick and this child is losing himself/herself piece by piece. I’m grateful for my family, yet I’m sorry if the situation gets out of hand and I ever commit suicide.

I’m grateful for every day I live. The pain and thoughts come and go, but I’ll stay strong.  

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.

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.