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borderline personality disorder - Singapore Mental Health Film Festival

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. 

This feeling was all-consuming and terrifying

I’ve been struggling with my mental health since I was around 13 years old. I wrote off the newfound anxiety, loss of interest, and lower energy levels, as a teenage phase. Likewise, so did the adults around me.  When the feelings I felt didn’t go away, but worsened with age to the point where I started to refused to go to school, I knew I had to see someone about it. 

 

Feeling afraid of stigmatisation in public healthcare settings, I pleaded to consult a private psychiatrist. No recommendations, no referrals – just the power of the internet and the sheer fear of letting anyone know that I was actually seeking help for something of a psychological nature. In first seeing a psychiatrist, I didn’t feel comfortable revealing too much of my personal history – so I mentioned only recent, severe symptoms I was experiencing at a particular point in time. The specialist I saw didn’t have the best bedside manner, and asked me (in retrospect to other specialists and psychologists I’ve consulted since then) barely any questions. He diagnosed me with “some sort of mood disorder” and sent me on my way with the lowest dose of antidepressants. After taking the medication for a month, and not “feeling” much worse, my family and I decided that I would stop medication. 

 

I didn’t know at the time, that symptoms of mental health could also manifest in interpersonal relationships, and one’s intrapersonal understanding of oneself. These were issues I had had at the time, that I concluded, again, were situational, and not reflective of any psychological issue I might have. 

 

As I continued on with my life, I noticed certain patterns of behaviour that continued to happen, year after year, and feelings that would follow it. I also became more aware of my rapid fluctuations in mood, according to people around me. Finally, one day, several major stressors in my life overlapped, and I couldn’t see a point in me being alive anymore. 

 

This feeling was all-consuming and terrifying – it made me feel like my entire life before was non-existent. I had breakdown after breakdown after breakdown, until finally, I planned to take my life, and began to type goodbye messages to important people in my life. Luckily, they realised what was happening, and I realised I was a danger to myself. 

 

I was living on my university campus at the time, and I informed the staff in charge. I was promptly escorted to the hospital – a humiliating, but humbling experience. I realised something was really, really wrong with me. And so I decided, finally, with advising from the hospital as well, to seek out a psychiatrist. 

 

This time, I was given a thorough review – I only regret that my first positive experience with a psychiatrist did not happen in Singapore, but overseas. I was told that I had some symptoms of borderline personality disorder. I was shocked, and terrified – but I was also reassured that this wasn’t a full diagnosis. While anxious about this unofficial diagnosis, I was also relieved – as I searched more about the disorder, which was the first time I had been introduced to it, I identified more and more with it. With that in mind, I sought to seek the advised treatment, dialectical behaviour therapy, but once more, did not seek it immediately. 

 

Instead, I underwent a variety of other, new stressors, but reassured with the option of therapy in sight, thought I would be able to “handle” it on my own. I did seek therapy, but once I began to, I still refused to see it as regularly advised by my therapist. And once I began therapy, another, altogether highly terrifying symptom of BPD started to manifest in my life – dissociation. It was then that I entered a deeply emotionally draining state, and decided that I would need to continue more intensive treatment back in Singapore. 

 

Mustering the courage to break the news to my family felt like the worst shame in the world. And upon returning, it has been a long and arduous journey that is only just beginning, in finding psychiatrists and therapists that I’m comfortable with. I’ve met the stigma of revealing my “unofficial” diagnosis, and it makes seeking help even more of a struggle than it already is, especially since awareness of it among public health professionals in Singapore is truly lacking. 

 

I hope as I continue my psychological battles, that I can help to shed light on mental health issues and reduce the stigma of psychological suffering here. 

Christmas Was Not Always Merry For Me

Christmas was not always merry for me. 8 years with eating disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and borderline personality disorder, Christmas was an awkward, depressing and lonely time to me. I didn’t know what it’s like to laugh heartily. I didn’t know what it’s 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’. 

However, secretly, 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. But 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 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.

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.

We are human too

Ever since I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), I feel that I have not been treated like a human being. I feel like an object that has been labelled; like a flower because of too many stigmas. I too, am human.

Why does having a mental illness diagnosis make me any lesser of being a human being? I plead with you all, please, stop stigmatising us We are human too. My journey with mental health has been full of ups and downs; many hospitalisations; many tears; many suicide attempts. But I am still alive.

I choose to have a voice and to be an advocate for mental health. You matter. You are worth it. You deserve to be alive. Please seek help if you or anyone whom you know may be suffering from a mental health concern. You are not alone in this fight.