On the outside I’m not supposed to be broken but on the inside I’m constantly trying to hold everything together every day. I’m still trying every day. My fondest and happiest moment was the day I woke up from a dream where I found out I was going to die. Ecstatic is the word I would use to describe that feeling, I’ve never felt that way before nor have I felt that way since then. If feelings had a sound, everything negative would sound like nails scratching a chalkboard, overwhelming and disturbing. I can’t sleep without music, the quiet amplifies the noises in my head. They aren’t there but they are. They’re not supposed to be there but they are. Quiet. Be quiet, breathe but my heartbeat is too loud and the urge to shut it up is always tempting. Life is worth living, every pain and sadness you feel now will make happiness taste so much sweeter. I’ll tell this to you and smile, I’ll encourage you to find the little sweetness in everyday. I’ll hold you close and listen to your story, to help you find a stable ground to put your feet. I do that for others because I’m constantly having to tie my feet to the ground. Life is worth living because if you’re still here, then try. Even when you’re tired, try because you might just be able to help someone plant their feet. Try because you’re still here. I’m still trying every day, and when there are days when I’m a flight risk, I know I’m not the only one. You’re trying too.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression and up till today I’m still fighting against depression. Everyday is a struggle, fighting against my life and to end this pain. I wish people around me took my words and struggle seriously. Everyone else thinks it’s easy unless they have been there. They say as if it’s so easy not to think about it, if it was so easy, people would not have committed suicide. I don’t want to end my life, just want to end this suffering, hatred and pain. I wish it was as easy to remove this mental illness.
I wonder if I’m needed or am I just existing. There’s just this thought that comes into my head when I look at happy families, groups of friends laughing and even a couple just smiling to themselves: do I have anyone who needs me?
They seem so content with life, they are living in the best way they can. Being alone the way I am, even with a family, even with friends who treat me like their blood, even with a partner who tries his best to shower love all that he can, are they doing it because it’s their duty or are they doing it because they want to? I have demons in my head, demons that are chasing me in the day, demons desperate to see me crumble, can you see it?
My mother left me when I was 2, which caused a big gap in my life. My childhood wasn’t perfect nor great. Because of the gap, I became a troubled child. I created trouble and started to go astray. This period of my life was the darkest because that was when I started to self-harm. As the years went by, my thoughts worsened. From the age of 10 to 12, I started to cut myself. From the age of 12 till now (17), I still cut myself but it has gotten worse. I have bitten myself and even wanted to overdose on pills at home.
The thing is. I’m afraid to die but I feel that no one will miss me and everyone will be happier without me. Because of the gap I had when I was 2, it has caused so much trauma in my life. I haven’t been myself for the past months and I really don’t know if I can be myself…
I was diagnosed with ADHD but not with severe depression and social anxiety because my parents did not allow for that diagnosis. They said it would affect my career in the future although my psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with ADHD, strongly suggested for me to be diagnosed with severe depression and social anxiety.
My parents are against me seeking professional help, so I took the initiative to seek help without them knowing.
The journey to healing is tough for me as I don’t have any medications or any medical help. At the same time, my parents aren’t very understanding. I don’t have any income and I’m under the age of 21, so I can’t seek medical help without my parents’ consent.
Thus, I believe I can recover with the help of my few close friends and school counsellor.
When you feel that you’ve contributed a lot at work — only for people to tell you that you’re not good enough — you’ll be both physically and mentally drained. During the weekend, I can just lie on my bed without doing anything and still feel exhausted afterwards. My family won’t understand, they just see me as a lazy person. And I’m just too tired to explain to them because they will just say that my faith is not strong enough.
I was 16, fresh out of secondary school, when I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and dysthymia. I was bullied by my seniors and people whom I used to call friends, simply because of my weight. Because I was also often on my own, I was an easy target. Throughout my life I was also subjected to my father’s snide insults in public and he was always unreasonably cold to me, and I knew he was embarrassed to call me his daughter.
I realised after getting help that a lot of my self-esteem issues stemmed from home. And I knew I brought that low self-esteem out into the world, making myself an even easier target for everyone to pick on. After my diagnosis and a chat with my psychotherapist, Dad still had trouble accepting that he had a part to play. You know how dads are. It has been 5 years now. In those 5 years, I tried to kill myself twice. But as I sit here typing this, I’m so glad I didn’t go through with my attempts.
I sat on a ledge at 16, and again at 18. Today I’m blessed to no end with an amazing support system. I found a wonderful group of friends who remind me every day that they wouldn’t be who they are without me, and my family is stronger than ever. My father still slips up every now and then but I’ve gained the courage to call him out whenever he does. For anyone diagnosed with GAD, I can promise you that it will get better. For depression, hell if I know.
I’ve only learned that grief comes in waves and it never fully goes away. Some days are harder than others, and those are the days you’ll need to put yourself first. Surround yourself with good people, and only good people. Have a good support system — ultimately you really fight alone, but with the right people cheering you on, it’s a little easier. Please reach out, tell the truth, and find a community that’s good for you. I’ve seen how ugly things can get and I’ve met some of the cruellest people. But no matter what, they aren’t worth your life. I promise you this — you will fall in love with life again.
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!
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 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.