This illness has affected my whole life

I was recently diagnosed with a mental illness called Cyclothymia. Cyclothymia is a rare mental illness which affects only 1% of the population. It is when one experiences a period of hypomania and dysthymia (emotional highs and lows) and it may come in waves.

Growing up, I was always called as an ’emo’ kid by my sisters and they could not understand my moods. There was a period where I was highly optimistic, creating goals and plans to achieve great things, but there was also a period where I would cry in bed without any reason, or totally become numb from overwhelming emotions, or even fantasize about suicide and how it would be easy if I could just end my train of thoughts. Because of this, I often felt that I was alone with my own thoughts and I could not confide in anyone without being judged.

For many years, I felt lost and confused with how my moods and feelings were and I was worried about how it was affecting me. Many people could not understand when I shared my experiences with them, as they deemed me as ‘normal’ – I was able to get good grades and able to perform well in work as well. But, that’s the thing about Cyclothymia. Sometimes, it makes you believe that you’re okay (most of the time during the period of hypomania) but once the depression crashes in, you’re back to square one.

In 2018 this year, I was faced with one of the worst depressive moods where suicidal thoughts would keep coming into my mind. I was afraid for my life, that I would no longer be able to have the mental capacity to fight those dark thoughts and succumb to taking my own life. After 6 years, I mustered the courage and went to see the doctor regarding my illness. I was skeptical about taking medication for my illness, I often would skip it, believing that I do not need to rely on pharmaceutical drugs to improve my mental state. After various meetings with a psychiatrist and psychologist, i decided that I should give therapy and medication a chance.

Being in therapy and having a medical record has given me more anxiety as I am afraid that people would find out about my mental condition. I am afraid of judgements and how I won’t be able to get a job if i were to declare my mental illness. I believe I am capable of holding down a job, but the lack of awareness people have regarding Cyclothymia saddens and worries me.

It has not been an easy journey, and up till now, I am still trying to cope. I fall countless of times, into the dark abyss of depression, and into the illusion of how I’m all better and how I do not need any medication or help to be okay. The feeling of instability frustrates me. This illness has affected my whole life, my self-esteem and my relationships. But it does not mean I should stop trying to be better and climb back up. I still hope for the day where I can achieve stability in life and where I can climb out of this cycle.

I fell back into depression

I was like you many years ago when I was trying to survive through university.
I was bent on getting no less than first class honours, determined that it would be the only way I can get a better-paying job to get away from my family, to live independently from them. Instead I sunk into depression. To be more precise, I fell back into depression – deeper than before.

It was different this time round because I was more conscious of my mental state but I didn’t have the strength or will to fight it. I spent most of my university terms shuttling between my room and the library, completely isolated from society. I spent more hours of the night on the cold hard seats of the library than I did in bed.

It was not long before I started having insomnia. Too much time indoors and sunlight was scarce even if I did get outdoors. There is nothing worse than not being able to sleep. I contemplated suicide.

I was desperate for rest, for understanding, for hope, for it all to end.
But instead of mustering the courage to do it, I called the Samaritan hotline.

I sobbed and talked till I was calmer. I felt bad for the social worker because it was just a one way conversation from me, but hey – I was thankful to just have a person I can call to.

If you need a person to call, don’t hesitate, you don’t have to feel bad. That person wants, to be there for you. That person wants to hear you out, that person wants to know what you are feeling. The hotline is organized for you to call. You deserve the help, deserve the attention, deserve to have someone looking out for you.

I made the mistake of turning myself into a hermit, doing nothing else with my life other than securing a first class honours degree. But it is okay to make mistakes, it is okay to feel the pain, it is okay to feel hopeless, it is okay to feel numb, it is all part of what it means to be alive.

To me:
I am happy that you are still well and alive to be reading this.
I am happy that you mustered the courage and strength to try again for another day.
As long as you keep trying, you are making recovery. Recovery is not hard and fast, it is a process. Because to be stronger, you have to first be weak.
Pain is part of the healing process, just like how your blisters hurt before they get better.

I eventually went for professional counseling service that was provided at the university because the lack of sleep and depression was affecting my ability to write or speak coherently. I knew then that if I wanted to graduate with the first class honours I was striving so hard for, I needed to get better.

I went through what therapists call – cognitive therapy. Healing through speaking. Weekly sessions helped me understand my past, the source, to open the secret vaults of suppressed anger and sadness, to allow healing to begin. It was embarrassing at first for someone to know my inner demons, but I continued with the sessions because I felt the positive effects. My recovery was not overnight but I felt so much better; it helped me to clear my mind, to see things in a much greater perspective and it gave me the courage to face my pain. Facing your inner demons is the first step to taming them, instead of letting them to overwhelm you.

I know counseling in Singapore isn’t free but there are affordable services that you can find online.
You don’t have to be embarrassed about your pain, we all experience pain in one form of another, no matter how perfect our Instagram feed is.

Don’t mask that pain, because it is a part of you and one day it will be the reason that you are stronger.
Letting go is hard, you don’t have to do it on your own – you can reach out to get help.
Getting help is the first light. Keep going and soon all that darkness will be left behind, you will be able to see and enjoy that light again. Let go to let the light in. Help is near, light is here.

I’m in one of my darkest moments

Mental health is something that on first thought people don’t think too much about. But mental wellness, that’s something that is relevant to everyone.

As for me, my mental health state and journey has always been one that fluctuates because of my identification as bisexual. Love-relationships are hard. Life just hasn’t been the easiest, there is a fear of being who I am, I’m unable to live a life that I want. Living in the shadows and under a mask is painful and not easy.

It is in our nature that we as humans tend not to desire to live when our mental health is not strong; we may falter. But it is not a sign of weakness, what makes us strong is how we deal with it, view it and fix it. HOPE – Hold On, Pain Ends.

You know that rock bottom feeling, that helpless feeling, that feeling when you’re on the brink of it and you know you can no longer do it? Everyone might not know what each of us are going through but everyone has their own struggles, things that weigh so heavily on our shoulders, on our minds and in our hearts.

We want to be happy, we want to be cared and loved, want to love and care, we want to be heard and hear, to be validated and validate, we want someone to step in to help us, we want to live but sometimes we just get too drained and tired of life, people don’t hear us or want us or are ready for us.

More importantly we are not really ready for ourselves and we can’t handle ourselves so we see no other options. In our darkest hours, we feel so alone, so afraid, drowning and our thoughts flood out and we spiral down down down.

But. The dawn will come again, new light will come at day break. Through our darkest hours even in day light, it takes courage to brave through life. So here’s to all of us struggling, we’re only human. So hold on, the pain will end. And in our darkest moments, let there be light within ourselves.

Maybe apart from reaching out to others, let’s reach within ourselves to find a light that we can count on, a light that we can control and the courage to brave our lives strongly and fiercely. To find the light to still live on and love on.

Timing has the funniest ways of reminding me. The thoughts of ending it all had only been at its highest intensity in the recent week and days and I was ready to end it all.

I’m currently in one of my darkest moments and lowest periods of life. I’m still struggling and I’m not okay but I’m looking for my light within me. To anyone out there struggling as well, let’s hold on. And if you can, reach out to another to help them find some light. Even in our darkest moments, we still have love to give. It really takes courage to die, but it also takes immense courage to live and love on.

For me, I can never fully say that my mental health state is good or good enough at this point.

I believe that at any turn of events, we might not be always okay, but it’s okay not to be okay. Everyone has their not-okay days. I cannot guarantee that you will feel better but what I know is, you are not the only one fighting.

We can stand by each other in our personal fights to keep going and even as our mental health is not at its optimum, we can still find the light by seeking help not just from around us but within us. We may only be human but we are human.

I’m still afraid to seek proper help

When I was really down at age 15, I didn’t know what to do and who to turn to. I soon resorted to self-harm. Others may see it as suicide attempt, but to me it’s a form of relief. There’s a calm that follows when I feel the pain of my skin opening under the blade as I cut myself. School teachers noticed the wounds and alerted the principals and I was referred to school counsellors. That was when I received help.

Due to the stigma of mental illness, I’ve never dared to seek proper support after I left my secondary school less than 2 years later. I’m forced to fight this lonely battle without support even from my own family as they simply label me as being a lunatic.

15 years down the road, the journey has not been easy. There are days wherein I feel wonderful – as if none of this has ever happened – and then there are days when I feel like I want to end it all.

I’m still afraid to seek proper help due to all the shaming that is still prevalent.

For those who are struggling: It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better.

For those around people who are struggling: STOP telling us to “just think positive” or “snap out of it”, because it just doesn’t work that way.

I hope that people will stop judging. Start listening and empathising.