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panic attack - Singapore Mental Health Film Festival

I’ve chosen to acknowledge my anxiety, my fears, my anger.

I’ve always had a pessimistic outlook in life ever since I was a teen due to my family circumstances. My father was plagued by various addictions and depression followed him and my mum.

The negative thoughts and feelings I had became worse and was at the peak last year when I experienced anxiety attacks for a week and thereafter regular meltdowns that comprised of screaming, crying and punching my fists into the wall.

I was shaken but not surprised since mental illness is a part of my family history. My grandparents, my parents and my sibling have been sucked up in the cycle of depression, never able to escape it.

It seems inevitable that I myself will never be able to break the cycle of depression but there is something that has set me apart from my family. While they have been in constant denial of the mental issues they face and have refused to seek help, I’ve chosen to acknowledge my anxiety, my fears, my anger. I’ve taken the step to share it with my husband and my closest friends. And I promised them that I will seek help from a counsellor.

Asking for help is completely okay

I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety for over 5 years now. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 13 because my parents didn’t believe in going to see someone for mental illnesses, they thought it was for crazy people.

At that time, I was going through a really, really dark period of my life. I seemed to be stuck in this black hole where I couldn’t get out and I was suffocating. I was dealing with panic attacks almost every day, some with reason but other times they just came out of the blue. No one knew what I was going through because I’ve never been one to express how I felt. So I just painfully went through the motions and attempted to get through school, dealing with family issues and my own mental health deteriorating. I was struggling to cope with everything and it all seemed too much for me. I didn’t want to be in this kind of pain every single day and I started to lose passion in the things I once loved.

Until one day one of my teachers noticed, she knew I wasn’t telling anyone about my issues so she insisted that we talk. She told me, ”you can tell me as much as you’re comfortable with and if you’re okay with talking to me the that’s great I’ll be here to help but if not then you need to find at least one person you can talk to because you can’t keep bottling this up.” It suddenly felt like I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. For once in my life I felt like I was being seen. As though someone was actually listening and cared. She helped me through my mental health struggles. She even went out of her way to research ways to help me. My teacher got me to finally muster up the courage to tell my parents and so I could get professional help.

It worked for a while until my teacher left and my parents stopped sending me to see a psychiatrist. I had learnt a few tools to cope and I used my passion – Drama – to help me get through the hard times. However, I started to lose my way again after a traumatic experience and even more family problems that involved the law.

All of this resulted in a lot more self harm than usual. I tried to give subtle hints to friends and teachers but it didn’t work and I knew that if I didn’t speak up to say anything, there’s nothing they can do. By then I had lost motivation to get better. I started to get flashbacks which would result in really bad panic attacks. I felt like I was back at square one. Somehow – with Drama – I was able to push through until I was 16. But there’s only so much you can do without a professional. I kept spiralling down and I didn’t know what to do anymore. It got to a point where even Drama couldn’t save me anymore and I tried to kill myself twice.

After those failed attempts I was admitted into a psychiatric ward where I finally was able to seek professional help. It is a little disheartening that I had to get to that extreme before any proper help was actually given. Especially since some people aren’t that lucky and may not survive a suicide attempt. All these taboos need to be destroyed because things like this happen when it could be prevented.

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve fallen into a lot of relapses since then but I fight that much harder because I’ve overcome these challenges before. Plus I have the resources to help me. I still have a lot to learn and I know this is gonna be a long journey but I beginning to finally understand that asking for help is completely okay and it doesn’t make you weak in fact, it makes you stronger because it takes courage.

I desperately wanted to live

When I was 15 years old, I had my first panic attack in class. I was sent to see the school counsellor and had to meet her for counselling at least twice a week. The counsellor wanted me to go for a full assessment at the Institute of Mental Health, but my mum refused as she was worried how it would impact my future, and because she was embarrassed to do so. I started to talk less and avoided my peers. My ‘daily routine’ would be just going to school, sit at the back of the class and stare out the window or sleep, go for counselling, hide in the toilet during recess time and stare into blank space and then go home when it’s time. On days when I wanted to avoid the school crowd at the bus stop, I would walk by the reservoir nearby my school, and take the bus a few bus stops away. My relationship with some of my close friends worsened overtime as they were not able to understand what I was going through, and I didn’t know how exactly to explain it to them. How do I explain myself when I don’t even understand myself?


One and half years later, I took and thankfully, passed my ‘O’ Levels. As my results were not that good, I wasn’t able to get into any of my 12 choices and had to appeal. I felt like a complete failure.


I was thankfully accepted into a polytechnic after appealing but had to pursue a course that wasn’t of my interest. As part of the school curriculum, I was to be graded daily through class participation and presentations. This would mean that I had to step out of my safe zone; I had to talk to other people, I had to withstand 10 minutes of over 10 pairs of eyes staring at me as I speak every single day.
Eventually in my 3rd month in school, my mind and body gave in. I started to develop a bad case of insomnia. I would jerk awake every hour, or I wouldn’t sleep the entire night. I would skip school. I would be exhausted during class, but I would still try my best. A grade C was enough for me. One day, a lecturer pulled me aside after class and told me that she noticed I wasn’t as ‘active’ as the rest of the class and wasn’t doing well at all. She went on to say that I obviously hated school and I should “just suck it up and move on, because that’s what everyone does”. I felt myself completely shutting down from that day onwards. I didn’t feel the need to try anymore. I was fearful of my negative thoughts that were getting stronger by day. I became fearful of myself.


Upon noticing my worsening insomnia, my mum finally sent me to the polyclinic, where I was referred to a general hospital. After a few appointments, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and started treatment and medication. I could tell my family was embarrassed, but I was desperate for that help, I wanted to live, I wanted to get better.


The road to recovery was lonely and was full of ups and downs. I did not have the much-needed family support, and my illness only became my weakness in their eyes. They’d bring up my illness when we have arguments, they’d call me ‘not right in the head’, they’d use it to insult me. But I continued to fight, even though I was all by myself. I prayed to God to give me strength as I desperately wanted to live.
I diligently followed up with my doctors and researched on self-help materials. As years passed, I have found different ways to cope with my negative thoughts. I have started to listen to my body. I am able to identify some of my triggers and know my limits. I have also met many individuals who taught me how to be grateful and appreciate the littlest things around me. These same individuals are the ones who love me for who I am and have stayed by my side till now.


I am now a 23-year-old working adult, and I would say that although I have not fully recovered, I am still happy to have gotten this far. On good days, I can go out to have a simple dinner and chat with friends, but on bad days, I might cry for nights straight and won’t get out of bed. I still can’t look into the mirror without feeling an immense amount of hate towards myself, but I can now order food without breaking down.


To me, no achievement or a step forward is too small. And a step backwards does not mean that we have failed ourselves. It does not mean that we have to stop.
As long as I am breathing, I will keep on fighting and staying strong.
For those of you who are struggling, stay strong and please keep on fighting. I believe in you.

I nearly lost hope

My life was literally an act – pretending every single day that all was well and good. In the past, I decided that only me, myself and I would know about my mental illness. I felt ashamed to tell anyone about it. 

 

No one knew that I struggled with even the simplest of tasks. I couldn’t get out of bed and couldn’t get ready for school. Even showering and doing the laundry seemed impossible. Learning again how to be independent and ‘normal’ was painstaking. I nearly lost hope. Behind closed doors, I cried every day and night. Pulled my hair and blamed myself for being so weak. I got overly anxious and panic attacks kicked in. 

 

Since then, the attacks become more intense and frequent each day, it’s no longer a secret by now. My mental illness is now more visible than it ever was, hiding it is no longer possible. I always receive insensitive remarks and questions I don’t have answers to. After some time, I’ve decided that the only option left is to be open and truthful about my mental illness, and educate others about it.

 

Opening up is undeniably scary. We never know what others would say and how they would react. However, by opening up and sharing our story, we prove to ourselves and others that we are actually warriors full of courage and bravery. 

 

While the road to recovery is still long, I choose to focus on those who care and understand. To all who struggle with mental illnesses – please know that you’re not alone. You can and you will overcome and conquer what comes in your way. I understand you, I’m so proud of you and I believe in you. 

I try to fight every single day

Since I was young I’ve had pains and aches, which turned into periods of crying and extreme worrying. At 21, I was admitted to A&E after several consecutive panic attacks, diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder, and later, Agoraphobia as well. It’s hard, having to relearn how to do basic things such as getting out of the house, and taking public transport – things we often take for granted. 

 

It’s hard battling suicidal thoughts and tendencies and self-harm that slowly grows into an addiction. Feelings of worthlessness and emptiness, of never being good enough. It’s hard when you don’t know who you can count on or turn to, being socially isolated in class and feeling as though you have to beg to find a group for group work. 

 

I’ve been advised to take a medical leave of absence, and am considering it, to take a break from school and focus on recovery. It’s amazing how just 4 months since my diagnosis can cause such a drastic change in my life, but through it I’ve found the rare few who stick by me without judgement. For them, I try to fight every single day.

Why can’t I control my emotions?

For the past three years, I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety. What started out as simply academic stress became countless nervous breakdowns and panic attacks. It feels like a never-ending ride. I no longer recall what it feels like to be “normal”. I’ve shunned many people away from me and lost many opportunities. Why can’t I control my emotions? I wonder. 

 

“The greatest battles we fight, are the ones with ourselves.” It truly is isn’t it? I am fighting against the depression, against the anxiety within me, and although I haven’t won yet, I know I will someday.

I feel like I’ve been in a never-ending fall

I’ve been feeling myself slipping away again.

 

I first felt it in 2012. I felt my mind turning dark for no reason while my best friend was talking to me. I snapped not long after. Then three years later in 2015, I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and chronic depression. Therapy didn’t work as well as I thought it would — mostly because I had a therapist that talked more than I did. I’ve been silenced most of my life and I thought no one would ever want to listen, and those therapy sessions just seemed to prove my point. It was a bad first experience and I never went back to seek help.

 

I was blessed to have met the most supportive friends in my school, and ultimately they are the ones who gave me the confidence and love I needed to be better. I believe having them around me constantly cheering me on and encouraging me is what helped me control my anxiety. They were the best thing that ever happened to me.

 

I’ve had suicidal thoughts and plans. I’ve had one suicide attempt. I’ve had dates scribbled in my planner to take my life, but with each date that passed, I changed my mind. It was usually because someone I loved did something good for me that day, as if they knew what I was thinking. It always seemed to happen at just the right moment. Coincidental nice things save lives.

 

But since mid-2018, I feel like I’ve been in a never-ending fall. I’ve loved (platonically) and lost, and each loss sends me into awful grief. I’ve been having more panic attacks than usual. I get extremely depressed and stressed out, and I lash out at people. I act like I’m fine and I don’t let anyone see beyond the tough facade but inside I am broken. I used to live my life trying to take care of everyone because I knew what it was like to be unhappy and alone. I used to always put people first. I make all my friends laugh and I’m supposed to be the funny one, so I need to keep that up too (or else, who am I?). 

 

I’m deathly afraid of being alone again but these days I’m finding it harder to control my emotions, and it’s getting harder to go out and see my friends. I just come up with weak excuses and hope they believe me. I feel myself becoming more and more selfish. I’m just trying to keep what little happiness I have left for myself. On the rare days I do see them, I make them laugh, and I hope it fixes something inside me too. But it never works that way.

 

I know I need to seek help once and for all. Good help this time. I want to go for therapy again now that I’m a little older, and hopefully a little wiser. 

 

I’ve lost my way but I know I need to pick up the pieces, and start right now, if I’m going to make it.

It isn’t my fault

The past two years of my life have been really hard for me. I’ve been struggling with social anxiety since I’ve entered secondary school. Things haven’t gotten easier because I didn’t seek help when I needed to and chose to bottle up my feelings instead. This would result in random outbursts at my peers or family and they never understood why I acted this way or another. I’ve had bad friendships and felt insecure about myself and felt unworthy because of the things people would say or do.

 

They call me stupid, ugly, bimbo, and criticise me because of my religion. As this carried on, I’ve started to feel just terrified of all the people in this world.

 

Around the end of the year, I attended a camp and experienced my first two panic attacks. It was then I realised I needed help. 

 

I decided to tell my mother and sister about my anxiety, and even though they didn’t really understand at first, I think they are beginning to understand me now and I am currently seeking help. 

 

It’s a hard thing to talk about but I’m glad I did. And even though I’m not okay yet, and I still am uneasy, I trust God that with time, I can learn to overcome this and be happy again. Because I deserve to be happy and it isn’t my fault that this happened.