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medication - Singapore Mental Health Film Festival

Please hold on

At the age of 12, I was so suicidal because of my family and class situation. Then at the age of 15 I finally got help at the Institute of Mental Health but I was so scared that it would affect my career. I stopped going there which was kind of stupid when I think back about it. Then at age 16 which was my first year in applied food science at ITE, my suicidal thoughts got so bad and my cutting got deeper. I got help again and this time I got admitted to the ward. 

 

I thought things were starting to get better but it did not and the medication just kept increasing. Also being gay (which I dare not tell my parents) I felt really left out. It’s as though I am not allowed to be who I am but to be honest I stopped caring about it. I really wanted to get better so I started opening up to my psychiatrist and psychologist which sort of helped but I am still very suicidal. 

 

My point here is to tell any teen or any age group that is never too late to get help, the faster you reach out the faster you could recover although it might take years and many breakdowns it will be worth it. 

 

I know many people have told you it is going to be okay so many times, I want you to know that there are some days that are going to be very hard but you are worth it, every single life counts. 

 

Having depression is like being colourblind so try to find colour in life. Everyone loves you, even I do so please hold on.

The mental torture did not stop

I was diagnosed with psychotic depression in September 2012 due to the stress from a study bond that I signed back in 2009 with WDA. This bond was meant to subsidise my school fees in the animation school but it turns out that I am required to work for a period of 1 year after graduation to fulfill the bond. On top of that, the media company I was working in has very nasty colleagues. I wanted to leave the job, but they made sure I stayed to prolong my suffering. It was a tragic period for me, and I left after 4 months of working there. 

 

After I left, the mental torture did not stop. I was tormented by voices from outside of my head and the people around me threw favour at me. I was very frustrated, but I was unable to voice anything out because I was only able to speak 3 to 5 word sentences at a time. I even had demons facing all sides of me, and I was terrified because I felt the people around me were demons. Everyday was a living nightmare.

 

It was during this period that my mommy took me to get a psychological report done by a psychologist to facilitate my discharge from the WDA bond. It wasn’t an easy process. The psychologist made a statement saying that I was making use of my mother to get discharged from the WDA bond, which is absurd and never the case. If I did, I wouldn’t have come before her so stressed and distraught. Nevertheless, she helped me to arrange the psychological report to be given to WDA for review, and in August 31 2012, I was officially discharged from all the obligations of the WDA bond.

 

After I was discharged from the WDA bond, I had signs of not wanting to leave home. I would knock my head with my fist and with sharp objects such as scissors and my mobile phone. I would shout the word “Die” in both Japanese and English. This was when my mother noticed something was wrong, and she then referred me to a doctor at the Institute of Mental Health. That was when I first met Dr Diana Barron and Dr Sajith. Both of them had me admitted to the IMH hospital for observation and treatment. I was given medication called Risperidone to help bring down the voices in my head and an anti depression as well, called Fluvoxamine which helped to improve my mood. Both of these medicines helped to improve my mental stability and my mood. 2 weeks later, I was discharged from the Institute of Mental Health. 

 

I have been attending outpatient treatment by Dr Diana but she left in 2017 and Dr Sajith took over my case from 2017 to 2018. After that, I was handed over to a team of random ANDS doctors after Dr Sajith saw that I am doing very well with my daily activities especially photography and events. I believe in no obligations and zero pretences. I want to be real and real for eternity, because only by being my real self, will I then be able to relate to people well as a human being.

Caregivers are just as important

“One more day, just one more day!” – is what I tell myself when I’m ready to give up and want to take my life. ”Lord, please STOP the pain”, was my daily plea. The intense emotional pain, anguish was brought about from PTSD, which caused clinical depression for the next 3.5-4 years. This was a result of various factors, but chiefly triggered from caregiver burnout and guilt whilst tending to my mom’s sudden sickness till she passed on within a span of 6 months on a Good Friday! Relationships with family, friends, church ministry, work suddenly were all breaking down. The societal stigma towards mental health did not help.   I was so severely depressed, I gave up hope, and became suicidal. But somewhere, during the sickness, I felt God ‘tell me’ that I am to use this experience to help others with similar conditions.

 

By God’s grace, I was completely off all the anti-psychotic and anti-depressants in April of 2018. I still have intermittent mini-flashbacks but it’s manageable now.

 

Here are but some key tips for recovery:

  1. Be kind to yourself.
  2. Do something you have always wanted to do but have not tried.  A new sport, a new hobby?
  3. Get some sun.
  4. Join a support group – you are not alone.
  5. Identity – know your values, interests, temperament & life goal/mission. Re-discover your purpose! 

 

I would like to help break this stigma, to tell anyone out there, that there is hope, recovery is possible. And that caregivers are just as important as those who are suffering. 

I feel extremely alone

For the longest time, I’ve had a feeling of being empty. My mum told me that I once told her that I didn’t know how to be happy, that I was incapable of being happy. This was back when I was in primary school. Honestly, I didn’t think anything was out of the norm. I even thought suicidal thoughts and making plans to kill myself was normal. Back then, many people always asked me why I smiled so much, and why I was always so happy. I sincerely believed then that if I could smile, it meant that I was happy. 

 

I didn’t realise that my thoughts were abnormal until one day when I was replying a seeker in Audible Hearts (a now defunct platform that used to be a listening ear for youths), I wrote that having suicidal thoughts was a phase, and that it would pass. I honestly thought that was true, as my mother, who I confided everything in, told me so. The site moderator told me that was not so, and that was when I first realised that something may be wrong.

 

After my first suicide attempt, my father called me crazy. My mother cried very badly at my bedside. I remember her asking the doctor how long would I need to take medication for before I got better, and if I could still sit for A-level exams. She told me to never tell people that I have depression, and I must never write it on any form. Once, I had to declare that I was on anti-depressants to my school, and she was vehemently opposed to me doing so as she didn’t want it on my school record. Now, my mother reads books on depression, and books on how to support people with depression. She’s my biggest and most dependable supporter. 

 

I am now a survivor of 2 suicide attempts and seeking help still. Even now, many people still ask how and why I smile so often and so easily. To me, it is my one constant, and most days, I am glad I am able to. 

 

I find it difficult to confide about my feelings and illness to people. Initially, they tend to empathize and will keep checking in on me, but when I feel suicidal and seek their help, I tend to lose friends. I feel extremely alone more often than not. I fall behind in my schoolwork for weeks at a time. I spend days skipping class and spending the time in my bed, watching YouTube or reading. Usually, it’s difficult to find the energy to do anything.

 

I’ve been on scholarships since primary school. I volunteer, participate in projects, organise events, hold EXCO roles, and am in several committees. Even so, I still feel empty. I hope one day I won’t.

I’ve had to wear a mask

In the past I’ve had to wear a mask when I talk to people. Meaning I’ve had to say the opposite of what I’ve felt instead of how I really feel about the situation. For example, when I worked in my previous media job, my colleagues require me to say I am coping well, when in actual fact, I don’t like the job and am suffering in it.

 

It was after 4 months when I told my SPD social worker I wanted to leave with immediate effect, so they arranged for me to leave work. But the stress there has taken a toll on me and I haven’t been able to be real in front of my family members as well.

 

I went to seek treatment at the hospital. Now after medication, the doctor has helped me by teaching me how to be myself. My family members have also encouraged me to take off my mask and say what I really feel or think about the problems that I have.

 

My relatives and friends also encourage me to do the things that make me happy, and they also remind me that I do not owe anyone a living.

 

With the support of people who care for me, I am now better able to be myself and I do not have to wear a mask in front of people anymore.

I wish I had more guidance

I’ll be honest, it’s been a long struggle with persistent depressive disorder (PDD). I was diagnosed with PDD 2+ years ago and I thought seeking help would mean immediately getting better. But the truth is, it was really only the beginning of learning how to take my mental health in my own hands and with responsibility. 

 

With the help of my psychiatrist, I started taking medication and finally settled on a particular drug called venlafaxine. The truth about antidepressants is that it’s a double-edged sword, you can’t be sure whether it is worth it and sometimes it leaves you more broken than before. 

 

I’m surprised to have found that antidepressant withdrawals are a thing and something not to be taken likely. How I wish I had more guidance before I was given these antidepressants because they can cause more mental health issues in the aftermath coupled with physical problems. To anyone going through it, you aren’t alone. Don’t let anyone look down on you for what you’re going through. 

 

As I lay here with nausea and headaches from withdrawals, I want to share something my friend shared with me a few hours ago on the phone while listening to me cry – “You’ve gotta take it minute by minute. Your situation sucks, that’s for sure, but you can’t give up now.” The truth is, I have so many minutes more to spare with people who aren’t gonna’ give up on me.

 

To anyone reading, it’s true, your depression and anxiety may not leave anytime soon, but there’s hope in knowing that there’s still life worth living despite it. So go on, find a reason and hold onto it. There will come a time that you and I both will be able to switch from survival to truly living, minute by minute. 

 

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. 

I am now passing the help on

I was diagnosed with major depression and generalized anxiety at 17. With medication, a counsellor and a caring psychiatrist, I am now passing the help and hope on in my work as a clinical psychologist. This is an amazing initiative, and I salute fellow mental health warriors.

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!

There are, thankfully, good days too

Everything on a bad day feels like a first draft of an unwritten story. There’s a sense of being too heavy, a sense that the action of rising will require insurmountable effort. If you can relate to this, you’ve probably have days like that too.

There have been days where I have had decided to lie in bed binge surfing on my phone in lieu of a therapy session. When I am most unhappy, I often find myself not wanting to talk to anyone at all. For the afflicted, you probably identify with this too.

Therapy is a hell of a lot like speed dating. I’ve sat on a great many sofas, couches, waiting rooms with certificates and answered many, many leading questions. I’ve been on a carousel of medication, from Ritalin to Xanax to Wellbutrin etc…

There are days where my heart is inscrutable, like a still and vast ocean. Other days it feels as though my will is balanced on something infinitely small and precarious. It makes me angry.

There are, thankfully, good days too. On those days I might feel fascination with an article, a TV show or a good book. I enjoy a good conversation, or the company of my friends.

Depression has many angles of attack. Some days it feels like a stifling boredom, other days an existential despair. In its harshest form it becomes a self imposed exile on Life via suicide.

For me, there really aren’t any “silver bullets” to things, whether you look at philosophy, psychology or psychiatry. In fact, the many interconnecting and sometimes conflicting views provide great anxiety.

Sometimes all we need is for someone, or even ourselves, to tell us, ” You aren’t okay. And that’s okay.”