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PTSD - Singapore Mental Health Film Festival

Your pain is valid and it is real

I was raped by my ex-boyfriend in Secondary 4 and had to proceed with a secret abortion at 3 months (with zero knowledge from parents) because I got pregnant soon after. I did badly for my national exams and subsequently had to battle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and an eating disorder for the past 2 years. It was probably the hardest struggle I ever had to endure and I was confused. I was scared. I couldn’t accept what happened to me and why I kept breaking down almost every day, tired from pretending in front of my loved ones that I am okay. The nightmares kept me up at night, endless thoughts of self-doubt, self-blame and shame were wrapped around me tightly.

The suicidal urges were so bad, I had numerous attempts and unhealthy coping mechanisms (drinking, hooking up) were used to suppress the pain. I honestly felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was probably the only one back then who must have been feeling like this, and I felt that I should be ashamed for feeling this way. Fast forward 2 years later, the pain is slowly becoming lesser. Therapy (and opening up 2 years later) is helping me learn how to cope with the pain and not to carry it around with you like a mountain on your back, but instead to slowly become like a small pebble that I carry around with me.

There are still days where you feel like the world is against you, where you feel like you lost it all, there’s no hope for anything anymore and everything feels extremely fucked up. But I urge you to stick around for the days that you see yourself trying to heal as best as you can, for the okay days, for the good days, for the days where you didn’t give up on yourself and are able to carry the pain more easily. We need you around in this world, to continue the good fight. I promise you, to anyone who has been a victim of rape, sexual assault, and/or who are currently struggling with your various mental health issues – you are never alone, and you ARE a survivor and a warrior. You are brave and you are strong for coming this far and for still sticking around. Your pain is valid and it is real and no one should ever tell you otherwise. Please don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to a trusted person for help. I hope that you are or will get the help that you truly deserve.

No one will miss me

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…

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 was molested by my younger brother

I was molested by my younger brother in my sleep when I was in secondary school. I can’t be sure how many times it happened. Whenever it happened, all I could think of was how to move so that he couldn’t touch me from that angle. Recently I found out that other than fight and flight, there is also a “freeze” response which greatly validated my response at that time.

 

After telling my parents, they scolded him badly but the stance was always that he was probably curious since he was still young. I agreed to some extent, but at the same time there were feelings in me which to this day I still don’t really understand. Maybe I felt violated and alone. Thereafter I continued with life pretty well albeit with some PTSD symptoms here and there. But when University came it finally reared its ugly head and I ultimately was brought to see a professional.

 

The 3 years of recovery was a step by step climb out of harmful coping mechanisms and relearning how to love myself. But it is 100% worth it. I am proud to say I graduated and am holding a full time job and giving back to my family. I have completely put the trauma behind me. Everyone is on good terms and I have forgiven my brother, even though I’m not sure if he remembers what he did.

 

To everyone out here who struggles, I just want to say it is really possible to recover, but it takes hard work. Things happen to us, it’s not our fault. I learned that it is our responsibility to try because it’s our life. If we are strong enough to have made it through the trauma we are strong enough to recover. I wish you the loveliest of days ahead.

You can regain your life

I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) while I was undergoing divorce with my narcissistic, addicted husband, suffering from depression. 

 

We were married for 2 years, but it was the most hellish period of my life. He was the master of manipulation, knowing what buttons to press, making me seem like the crazy one. His addiction mattered more to him than his own wife. The constant lying, cheating, betrayal, gaslighting, projection took a toll on my mental health. I always felt inadequate as he often made me like it was my fault for everything. Despite that, I didn’t realise what I was doing to myself. I was compromising my sanity at the expense of this “love” with this abusive man. I was in a continual state of cognitive dissonance, with the sweet and mean treatments from him. Little did I know that I was all part of his sick, twisted, selfish game. Little did I know that the flip-flopping between sweet and mean treatments are actually the hallmark of abuse. 

 

I went through the whole abusive life cycle – from the love bombing (making me feel like the most loved woman in the world), to the devaluation, and the eventual discard. It was so so painful. So surreal that the man that I once called my husband is now this cold-hearted monster, treating me like I mean nothing to him.

 

He turned into this monster, one I could barely recognise anymore. What I’ve learnt is that even though he is going through a mental issue, everyone has a choice for change. No amount of my love could help him if he didn’t want the change to happen. 

 

That was when I realised I had to fight for myself, and take accountability for my well being. That was when I stopped making excuses for his bad behavior. 

 

The divorce is a painful but necessary path. Man’s rejection is God’s protection.

 

I am still dealing with this trauma bond, trying to break free from codependency issues, and manage my anxiety attacks. It is going to be a long process and a lot of hard work, but I am committed to loving and taking care of myself. 

 

PTSD is something not to be taken lightly. With proper education and professional guidance from therapists, you can regain your power and control back.

 

You can regain your life, and create that dream life of yours.

It is very treatable

Surfing the web in Singapore, where I emigrated with my family from the UK ten years ago, I never imagined I would come across a video of my primary school.

The film was shot on the last day before the school buildings were demolished, adding to the special meaning for me because, when I was a pupil there in the mid 1970s, I had a near-fatal accident at home. Afterwards, a series of very difficult family issues sowed the seeds of what I now know was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For 40+ years I suffered recurring nightmares, physical tremors, constant anxiety, sexual dysfunction and other disturbing symptoms related to the trauma. It affected my family too.

My life changed two years ago when I found a wonderful therapist in Singapore. She identified the problem and was able to help me move on. My life is so different now. Colours are brighter, I can trust and accept the love of friends and the strangest thing is no longer feeling gnawed from inside by the anxiety I could never have shaken off on my own. It’s like deep piling construction work on a building site next door finally stopped and now I can sleep and hear my thoughts and feelings again.

One of the side-effects of PTSD is amnesia – suppressed memories. Unfortunately, one of the things that has taken the longest is recovering happy memories from the period around the trauma in my life. Along with the near death experience that my mind suppressed for so long, and which I can now see with fresh eyes and leave behind, I thought I had also lost contact with the many many happy days I spent at my primary school. I write this with tears in my eyes because the video has helped me to remember the corridors and buildings where I had fun with friends. Even the sound of the children singing with a clumping piano in the background could have been recorded when I was a child. It reminds me that the time around my trauma was not all dark and it does not have to be that way ever again.

For anyone suffering pain as I carried for 40 over years, please know that you are not alone and you do not have to carry it. Trauma is a natural response to an awful situation and it is very treatable.

I was abused by my father

I was abused by my father when I was younger; it lasted until I was 16. Although I came clean about it to my parents 3 years ago, they expect me to have moved on from it. My mum especially believes it is wrong of me to still hold a grudge against my dad. It is really difficult to forgive him when he does not acknowledge that what he did was unacceptable. I’ve struggled with self harm for the past 5 years. I probably suffer from PTSD too according to a counsellor I saw but I haven’t been able to afford a professional diagnosis. I’m basically alone in my recovery from the abuse because I cannot be honest with my family members about my true feelings and struggles. 

I’m in the process of internalizing that while my past is always going to be a part of me and influence my actions and perspective, it does not define me nor does it dictate my future. The hardest part, I’m pretty much alone in my recovery. I have amazingly supportive friends but it still pains me that my family is not part of my recovery process.