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.

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 feel like jumping down the school building

To my secondary counsellor who took my thoughts seriously. Thank you. Thank you for taking it seriously enough to call down professionals from the Institute of Mental Health to assess me. Severe depression was their diagnosis and they shared with me my options. But, how do I go for treatment with zero finances?  I wonder what would have happened to me if you had not given serious thought to what I told you. It was nearly the end of recess. “I feel like jumping down the school building” You looked at me shocked while I told you that grim sentence with a smiling face. It didn’t feel like much to me.

My whole life had been a series of half-hearted suicide attempts. Never really wanting to commit, but feeling like I had to because it was always going to be that way. All I have left of it are two arms filled with obvious self-harm scars and some scars here and there on my body. I never realised that talking about suicide was out of the norm. A taboo. It was the norm in my head. It has been a norm since I was in primary school.  My mum was toxic and poisonous at that time. Someone lost and reeling and simply trying to hold on without losing it herself. You told my mum about it and didn’t let me go till she came to pick me up. We went back home and she told me that I had humiliated her by sharing personal family matters with a stranger. In that moment, I hated talking to you. My mum constantly reminded me of how I shamed my family and I regretted sharing my thoughts with you.  Forward to a few months later, I felt better. I shut down and started being positive cause I thought things were getting better. If I shared my real thoughts, my mum will know of it and more shaming would occur. So I didn’t tell you of all the times I wanted to do it. I just said “okay”. “I’m good”. “I’ll be alright”. My favourite teacher told me that it was nothing. I just had to talk and it would get better. Maybe he was right, maybe not. I had no one to talk to who’d understand. So yeah, maybe it would have been better if I had spoken about my problems. But there was no one out there who could understand, who could help.  

Life has been a journey. I thank you my dear counsellor because you manage to instill the tiniest ray of hope into my mind which was enveloped in darkness. I go for therapy twice a month. My job brings hope to families. I have a diagnosis now. Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) with bouts of depression, anxiety, and a whole lot of dissociation. I still wish I didn’t have it. I feel broken. But I’m okay with that. I’m used to it. I found that acceptance is the way forward from the reins of my past. It makes it a tad easier than denial.

Healing is not linear

Mental struggle is real

Having witnessed a friend’s mum commit suicide at the age of eleven and two uncles who lost their lives to suicide, one in Institute of Mental Health and myself personally experiencing anxiety and depression and later being clinically diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I can only say that mental struggle is real.
Healing is not linear even with the help of medication. The love and support from family and friends are what kept me alive.
“Having someone in your life with depression and anxiety means being prepared for any and all episodes. There are going to be days where they’ll want to lay in bed all day. Lay with them. Bring them their favorite drink.
There will be days when you’ll be out socializing, but at any given notice they’ll start shutting down and want to go home. Watch for these signs, remember them like the back of your hand.
There will be days when they’ll be so fragile, and anything can break them. Hold them in your arms while they cry about something that they remembered from years ago, even if they swore they moved on. Do not try to explain to them they need to stop living in the past, now is not the time. Just hold them and show them they are loved.
And lastly, there’ll be days when they will want to be alone and not speak to anyone. Yes, this includes you. Understand this, understand when to give them space. Understand nothing is in spite of you.
Just, understand.”
Let’s break the social stigma!

Nobody knows I am a shipwreck

When I was 17, I was raped and I never told a single soul about it. I thought by ignoring it, I would somehow move on and get over it. I am 25 and married now, yet I still feel so lost and ashamed of myself every single day. I now realize how damaging the encounter had been to my mental health and relationships.

Nobody knows I am a shipwreck at the bottom of the sea, yet bit by bit, I see pieces of my past keep emerging and floating up. I can’t stand myself. My cheerful self is gone. My sense of purpose and identity is gone and it scares me. I am currently trying to be brave and want to seek professional help. My husband has been my pillar of strength and I cannot continue hurting him.

It has been 8 painful years of silence, anxiety and depression. I hope my loved ones can forgive me for my constant absence from their lives. I hope I will live and break my silence one day to help those who have gone through what I went through.

Please I hope you make a prayer for my journey to recovery.

Healing Takes Time

Word of advice, if you’re suffering because of your mental health, please get help. I started showing signs of clinical depression and anxiety at the age of 13, I had panic attacks almost every day but I didn’t know what they were. By the age of 14, I went to my first therapist for my depression and I didn’t feel comfortable so I never returned. Sometimes it takes multiple tries to receive help that suits your needs. By 15, I had been through multiple tests to check for the reasons behind my breathing problems and got diagnosed with clinical anxiety instead. I started going for therapy since. At the age of 16, I started showing symptoms of ARFID(eating disorder) and dissociation. Sometimes the battle isn’t easy, it can get worse, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the road. The road to recovery is difficult and anything is a step forward as long as you’re trying, even a relapse counts. Your life is worth fighting for. You are loved whether you feel it or not. And most of all, anything you feel is valid. Don’t forget that. Pain is pain and healing takes time. Self-care is important so please learn to be kind to yourself, and know that you are loved.

Christmas was not always merry for me. 8 years with eating disorder, OCD and BPD, Christmas was an awkward, depressing and lonely time to me. I didn’t know what it was like to laugh heartily. I didn’t know what it was like to freely enjoy food with loved ones. I had mixed feelings seeing lovers because I believed I was ‘not lovable’ and so ‘romantic relationships are not for me’.

Secretly however, I longed for joy and to be free to enjoy food with my friends and family. I longed to love and be loved by someone special, but my fear was greater than my dreams. I didn’t date for 12 years until in 2015, I tried Tinder and went on quite a number of dates, attracting all the men who weren’t good for me.

My turning point was in Oct 2015 when I wrote a 40 page intention/declaration journal to myself – “Today, I declare to the universe, that I’m resolute and committed to love Valerie more every day. I’m loving her more than anyone else, anything else. I’ll take care of her Whole Person – body, mind, heart and spirit. Let’s do this and enjoy this life quest – this Love Quest! So Val, I love you! You are my favourite person. You are my best friend. Thank you for staying with me – through it all.”

And I wrote, as detailed as I could, what kind of relationship I was going to have with myself. Then I wrote what kind of relationship I wanted with someone special. 2015 was my first truly Merry Christmas with myself and loved ones. I was excited about 2016. And I attracted priceless gifts of life in friendships and a beloved. My life was never the same again.

Bottomline: When you truly love yourself, the choices you make for yourself will change for the best – health, friends, romance, career, money… I wish you warmth, love and joy.

I used to have severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). There is a huge misconception that OCD is all about making sure that everything is squeaky clean. This is not true. Many people use it inappropriately in their comments about themselves, “This chair is not in order! Sorry I am OCD”. This simply means that they like to be neat.

OCD is more complex than merely wanting to keep clean and neat. Going through OCD is a real struggle because your brain is just permeated 24/7 with intrusive thoughts that feel very real. For example, being afraid that you will kill your family if you leave the gas tap turned on when it is already turned on. Afraid that you may have illicit sexual affairs with people you randomly see on the street when you have no sexual attraction for them at all.

OCD is about the inability to break out of irrationality. It’s difficult to explain it to people who don’t have OCD. They just dismiss my concerns as “you are too worried.”

They don’t understand that it is excruciating to have these worries that are constantly being repeated in your head.

I still keep my old expired antidepressants in my drawer as a reminder to stay where the light is. I was 14 when I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anorexia. It was an extremely difficult and painful phase of my life, especially at such a tender age. I didn’t eat and cried my weight in tears.

Starving myself was a slow death the voice in my head had masterfully orchestrated. And, everyone around me had front row seats. I still remember vividly how my peers would recoil from me with disgust/shock/fear, the looks they gave, the callous remarks said behind my back. I was a painful spectacle and was utterly helpless to it all. It hurts to think about it even till this day.

Being afflicted with a mental disorder doesn’t make sense, it is unlike breaking a leg. How can you hurt when there is no wound? How can you be sad when your life is ‘perfect’? Because an affliction of the mind is like internal bleeding. I bled in pools of desolation, self-hatred, anguish for years, simply waiting for death to whisk me away.

Today, I’m beyond lucky to have recovered. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort trying to undo and bury my past. Because the stigma behind depression is very real, and not everyone is kind. At 22, the prime of my youth and beauty, I am unrecognisable from the girl I was when I was 14. But I know the only way to end this epidemic is through vulnerability, empathy, and openness.

My pain has given me so much perspective. I wouldn’t be who I am today without it. It’s time I embraced my past and paid a tribute. I wouldn’t wish to hide behind a cloak of anonymity forever but it gives me anxiety when people know too much.

I was afraid of telling others

I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety for over a year. Throughout the year, I was afraid of telling others about my condition as I am aware of how people around me viewed mental illnesses. Now that I have found people who support me in my journey, I sincerely hope that others who suffer from mental illnesses would not have to feel as afraid, or even more than I did. The world and people around them should help in their recovery, & not make it tougher for them.

Good things come to those who wait

I was 15 and suicidal. Depression had taken away my ability to communicate and anxiety had gotten the best of me.
I hadn’t been able to go to school for the past semester because I just couldn’t function. I’d received special permission to stay home and be homeschooled, but after a single day of attempting to follow a measly study schedule that I’d drawn up, I gave up and resigned myself to lying in bed and crying all day.

I felt so incredibly useless and pathetic. My girlfriend had broken up with me because I was “too troublesome to handle”.
My friends stayed away because I was too negative, and though I knew it was the better for both them and me, it hurt. It just hurt. I was all alone.

My parents called me a burden, telling me I had made life difficult for myself and had no one else to blame. I was the one who decided to be a lesbian, to be depressed, they said. I was the one who could just choose to stop at any time. And so I took their advice and decided to stop living. My very being was toxic. What was a little more poison inside my body?

But then I survived. I cried and cried, but to no avail.

I wanted kindness. My parents screamed at me, hit me and offered to drive me to a cliff if I wanted to die so badly. I wanted warmth. My helper sat by me and tried to pray the devil away from me. I wanted acceptance. My brother shrugged, saying, “well, you’re the one who brought this upon yourself.” It was the worst night of my life.

The fourth anniversary of that day passed recently. I’m still horribly anxious. I can’t do a lot of things myself and hate myself every day for it. I’m negative and slow and wish I could be someone else, anyone else. But I’m doing my best. I can go to school now, even if I have to take days off sometimes. It’s hard to bring myself to do things, but I can at least start every now and then.

My relationship with my family has improved, and they’ve learned to be more understanding and accepting with the help of my therapist. I have kind friends who are open and I am so, so grateful for them.

Some people see those with mental illness as ‘freaks’. But they’re not. Sometimes some people need a little more help than others, and sometimes they need a little more effort. Nobody chooses to have health issues and nobody asks to be born a certain way.

If you don’t understand, try and make the effort to learn. See things from different perspectives and help one another. And if you’re suffering from a mental illness, or are in a dark place right now…..know that you’re not alone. I believe in you! You can do it!
Improvement will always take time.

Good things come to those who wait, so hang in there, lovely reader, and do your best to wait a little more.

This illness has affected my whole life

I was recently diagnosed with a mental illness called Cyclothymia. Cyclothymia is a rare mental illness which affects only 1% of the population. It is when one experiences a period of hypomania and dysthymia (emotional highs and lows) and it may come in waves.

Growing up, I was always called as an ’emo’ kid by my sisters and they could not understand my moods. There was a period where I was highly optimistic, creating goals and plans to achieve great things, but there was also a period where I would cry in bed without any reason, or totally become numb from overwhelming emotions, or even fantasize about suicide and how it would be easy if I could just end my train of thoughts. Because of this, I often felt that I was alone with my own thoughts and I could not confide in anyone without being judged.

For many years, I felt lost and confused with how my moods and feelings were and I was worried about how it was affecting me. Many people could not understand when I shared my experiences with them, as they deemed me as ‘normal’ – I was able to get good grades and able to perform well in work as well. But, that’s the thing about Cyclothymia. Sometimes, it makes you believe that you’re okay (most of the time during the period of hypomania) but once the depression crashes in, you’re back to square one.

In 2018 this year, I was faced with one of the worst depressive moods where suicidal thoughts would keep coming into my mind. I was afraid for my life, that I would no longer be able to have the mental capacity to fight those dark thoughts and succumb to taking my own life. After 6 years, I mustered the courage and went to see the doctor regarding my illness. I was skeptical about taking medication for my illness, I often would skip it, believing that I do not need to rely on pharmaceutical drugs to improve my mental state. After various meetings with a psychiatrist and psychologist, i decided that I should give therapy and medication a chance.

Being in therapy and having a medical record has given me more anxiety as I am afraid that people would find out about my mental condition. I am afraid of judgements and how I won’t be able to get a job if i were to declare my mental illness. I believe I am capable of holding down a job, but the lack of awareness people have regarding Cyclothymia saddens and worries me.

It has not been an easy journey, and up till now, I am still trying to cope. I fall countless of times, into the dark abyss of depression, and into the illusion of how I’m all better and how I do not need any medication or help to be okay. The feeling of instability frustrates me. This illness has affected my whole life, my self-esteem and my relationships. But it does not mean I should stop trying to be better and climb back up. I still hope for the day where I can achieve stability in life and where I can climb out of this cycle.

It’s an ongoing battle

When I was 11, my parents started to quarrel a lot, they were heading towards a divorce. My father blamed the church for taking my mum away from the family. He accused her of seeing someone in the church, justifying her time away.

My mum ended up having depression because of the divorce and got admitted into the hospital. I was 12 and I had to choose who to follow, which also determined who my younger sister followed. I chose my mum. My father hated me for my decision and never spoke to me again after that.

Shortly after, my mum started having a relationship which was forbidden under the eyes of our religion. It was always so secretive that we had to lie for her too. My mum and her partner have been together for 18 years now and she cannot live without him, literally.

All her lies and mind games have impacted my life so much but she refuses to see it. We are not allowed to be in the house when he comes around, even as teenagers. We have to call him dad and show him affection.

She’s once told me she’d rather disown me than to lose him. I go through anxiety attacks regularly and am bordering on depression.

I find strength from my 2 daughters and my husband. I chose to leave Singapore years ago because I couldn’t live my life with her lies in it. I knew that if I didn’t leave, my condition would get worse.

Now I struggle to truly believe I am loved, even by my husband. It’s an ongoing battle for me.