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school

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.

I attempted suicide

I started experiencing depressive moods in October of 2018. It has been non-stop ever since. Some people think depression is a feeling of constant sadness, but for me it has been both pain and emptiness. I realised that I was not like most people, as I seemed high-functioning and did not outwardly display sadness. My parents thus struggled to understand it, as to them, I was a happy teenager. In 2019, I was diagnosed with Atypical Depression. Getting a diagnosis was actually relieving for me, as I now knew that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. 2 weeks ago, I attempted suicide, and was put on a 2 week MC. I am on the MC as I am typing this, trying to get better in order to go back to school. Depression confuses people, and honestly, it confuses me too. How could I feel so empty yet so much pain? I am still finding my way through this illness, and I now understand the stigma to a much larger extent. I realised that I would lie about the reason for my MC to avoid questions, and would play off my self-harm scars as scratches from eczema. The stigma that surrounds mental health needs to be broken, so that those who suffer from the illness can seek the support they need.

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.

Don’t feel ashamed

To all those who are struggling with any form of mental illness, you are not alone. There is someone out there that cares for you. As someone who has depression, 2018 wasn’t a great year for me. Friends burning bridges and having a dysfunctional family didn’t help with the situation. Trying to make ends meet financially and juggling between education and work. In the pool of despair, sometimes you may feel like you should stop struggling and let it consume you.  

 

There were days where getting out of bed takes everything out of me. Nights where suicide is all I ever think about. Times where the only form of relieve was with a Swiss army knife and cutting myself to let the physical pain numb the mental agony that I am going through. 

 

Life is too short to stop trying. It is not wrong to seek for professional help. Don’t feel ashamed. I am thankful that my counselor and therapist for not giving up on me. I am thankful that right now I have friends who can provide me with mental support. Even though I am still struggling, at least now I know there is still hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel. 

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.

I learnt how to be vulnerable

In my secondary school days, I struggled with low self esteem. I would always beat myself up over my perceived failures; in hindsight, it was an impossible drive for perfection. Coupled with a tendency to internalise my feelings, I found myself turning to self harm to cope with my self-hatred. 

 

It started as a way to punish myself for my inadequacies and not doing things ‘right’. Soon, it became a habit. I self harmed more and more frequently, and the urges were strongest when I felt stressed, anxious and overwhelmed. 

 

Self harm was my coping mechanism; frankly, it brought me relief and was an outlet for all the feelings I keep inside of me. However, I always knew it was wrong and not socially accepted, but because of how useful it was in helping me cope (maladaptively) and its habitual nature, I could not and did not want to stop self harming. 

 

I told no one about this for 3 years and no one knew. On the surface, I was a good student who had my life together, but deep deep down I was craving to just talk to someone about everything that is going on. I could not go on like this. 

 

Eventually, I realised that the help I needed won’t always be as accessible and affordable as that in school. So I plucked up the courage to seek counselling. It was one of the hardest but best decisions I ever made. 

 

I learnt how to be vulnerable with others, how not to let my feelings destroy me and how important it is to talk and express my feelings. I also understood that people need people. 

 

Today, I still struggle with self harm urges every now and then, but I am in a much better place and I’m coping in healthier, more fulfilling ways. 

 

There truly is light at the end of the tunnel, don’t be afraid to seek the help you deserve.

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 question my self worth

They say depression can be cured. But I doubt so. I grew up feeling suicidal all the time. Every small little thing that happened, be it to me or others, I question my self worth. I always thought of death but I never really felt the urge to kill myself but at the back of my head was a constant reminder to myself that ‘death is beautiful’. I can’t forget the day that I was scolded because of what they labelled me as ‘attitude problem’ but to me I was feeling so much pain. I was 11, standing next to a ledge, on the 3rd storey, tears rolling down my cheeks – the first time ever in elementary, I knew that the jumping over the ledge was the best escape. That’s when I knew how I could kill myself at Primary 5. Being labelled was the worst. Everyone expects something of you. I went through my teenage years with suicidal thoughts all year. My art was an expression of suicide but teachers did not flag them up because I do not look like one who needs help or is going through depression. Not until the day they saw cuts all over my arms. It was too late. I fell into a deep dark trap of self harming and that was the best relief I could get. Depression never heals. I just learn to cope and hide it better from everybody. But until today Death to me is still the most beautiful escape of living.

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’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.