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OCD - Singapore Mental Health Film Festival

Stay, you are needed

I was recently diagnosed with clinical depression, anxiety and OCD. I am still learning to slowly accept my diagnosis because when the doctor said I have these illnesses, it was a confirmation of my deepest fears yet a sense of relief and consolation that what I’m feeling is real. 

 

I grew up in a messed up home where my parents were either not home at all or when they’re home, they would verbally and physically abuse me. They are really successful perfectionists so they expect perfection from me as well. If I don’t live up to their standards, I know I would be in deep trouble. 

 

I didn’t think much of all the abuse that was happening because I thought it was normal. I only came to a realization when I entered a local school where teachers questioned beating marks on my body. This happened throughout middle and high school. I hated myself and I wanted to die. 

 

In the 21 years of my life, I have attempted suicide 3 times, all unsuccessful. I felt worthless and a burden to everyone around me. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be at church because people at that particular church were judgmental and topics about mental illnesses and suicide were all avoided. I felt all alone in this world because I had no one to talk to about feeling down. I lost all my faith in God and I stopped going to church. 

 

Around 2 years ago, a friend of mine invited me to her church near my house. I am so glad I went and got to know the people there. They were so loving and friendly, and they were the family I never had. I found people that have helped me realize that it’s okay not to be okay and that it’s okay to feel my emotions, and not bury them. 

 

I am also very grateful and thankful for the guidance of my therapist and psychiatrist for helping through rough times when I felt like I couldn’t go on, and for bearing with me when I have outbursts in sessions. 

 

Today, I am still in the process of learning how to love and be kind to myself. Even though I am still going through a dark time, I am glad to have people that listen. Their very presence brings comfort to my hurting soul. To those who feel alone, please know that you’re not alone. I am here, please do not give up, I am living proof that you can survive this. Stay, you are needed. 

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.

Keep fighting

“What if there is a tumour growing in my brain?”
“What if someone comes into my house and murders my family?”
“Do my friends genuinely care about me or are they conspiring against me?”

These are just a few of the obsessive thoughts that OCD floods your mind with. They are irrational. They are bizarre. But they are so convincing — capable of deceiving even the most intelligent mind. And before you know it, you find yourself stuck carrying out compulsions such as counting, checking and reassurance seeking, to name a few.

I never really know how to fully describe OCD to someone who has never experienced it. To put it simply, it feels like you are a slave to a monster living in your head. You are made to do whatever the monster demands of you. Don’t even think about rationalising or negotiating with it, you’ll only end up doubting yourself further. There is always a lingering “what if”. There is never a moment of peace in your head, and you are often physically exhausted as well.

OCD is cruel. It affects the way you function daily. It goes against your values. It steals what is most precious to you — time with your family and friends, things that you used to enjoy. On bad days, I would wake up to panic attacks and obsessional fears of stepping out of my house and being near others. Time which could have been spent productively is wasted on meaningless compulsions. What used to be my hobbies, my favourite subject in school and favourite Youtube videos are now potential triggers of my OCD.

I am currently seeking professional help for my OCD and anxiety and on the road to recovery. My parents, friends and teachers have played a crucial role in my mental health journey as well — by checking on me, encouraging me and simply letting me know that they’re there for me. I am slowly learning how to manage my condition. Compared to a month ago, it is now less debilitating as I am able to better identify my obsessive thoughts and resist the urge to carry out my compulsions. I am beginning to understand this monster and gain a sense of control over myself. Although recovery is not a linear process and I still have my bad days, I will continue celebrating every small victory along the way and focusing on my progress.

Having OCD, or any other mental health condition, can be frightening and isolating. An important thing I have learned is that although nobody will ever truly understand what you’re going through, you should not let that stop you from opening up to others. You may not always find open-minded, non-judgemental people who are able to empathise with you, but never lose hope and keep reaching out. There will always be someone who is willing to offer you support. Even if they may not know how to help you, a listening ear or nice conversations during tough times can make a difference. And while you build up a support system, It is also important that you build yourself up, as ultimately, you have to fight your own battles.

To all those out there who are struggling, the valley may seem dark now, but there is always a little voice in you that tells you that you can get through this, and you’ve got to nurture that little voice. Keep fighting. I believe in you.

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.

It’s difficult to explain

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.

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.