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self harm - Singapore Mental Health Film Festival

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 don’t know how to heal or trust anymore

Everyday I hoped for a better day but it didn’t seem to come through. I struggled with loving myself ever since I was in Primary 5, I started self-harm in Primary 5 too. I faced trauma when I was 2 as my mother left me which left my heart broken. Because of that, I became disobedient and caused trouble for my family. It’s not easy walking in this journey knowing that mental health isn’t cared for. I told people that cared but slowly to me it seemed like they didn’t. I was clean from self harm for a year or so but recently it came back. Seeing the cuts in my arm reminded me of why I cut and the pain I’m going through. I don’t know how to heal or trust anymore because people in my life are just breaking me apart.

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…

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

I got admitted when I was 12

When I was 10, I got diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, one of the most common mental illnesses. I didn’t – or couldn’t – find a reason to live, get out of bed and do the things that all preteens should be doing. I started cutting around this time, but I was also in denial of what I had. If something simply doesn’t come up in conversation, or never gets mentioned, then it simply doesn’t exist, right?

No, it didn’t work that way. Until I got admitted to the Institute of Mental Health at 12, I didn’t realise that wanting to die, not wanting to do anything and cutting would become so severe as to warrant a stay there. But I did, and recovery isn’t the best at times, I have to admit. I slipped up a few times, relapsed some, but in the end, it all pays off. Trust me on this – recovery is not the best thing you think will happen, but it gets the job done and you out of this mess that you are in. 

 

Cliche as it sounds, the best thing that you could do is to stay strong, and believe that you can do it, that you are worthy of recovery. And you’ll get better. Maybe not in a year’s time, but you will get better eventually. 

 

I’m now 14 and I’m proud to say that I’ve been clean for over a year and I don’t suffer from depression or have suicide ideation anymore.