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therapy

Christmas Was Not Always Merry For Me

Christmas was not always merry for me. 8 years with eating disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and borderline personality disorder, Christmas was an awkward, depressing and lonely time to me. I didn’t know what it’s like to laugh heartily. I didn’t know what it’s like to freely enjoy food with loved ones. I had mixed feelings seeing lovers because I believed I was ‘not lovable’ and so ‘romantic relationships are not for me’. 

However, secretly, I longed for joy and to be free to enjoy food with my friends and family. I longed to love and be loved by someone special. But my fear was greater than my dreams. I didn’t date for 12 years until in 2015, I tried #Tinder and went on quite a number of dates. But attracting all the men who weren’t good for me.

My turning point was in Oct 2015 when I wrote a 40 page intention/declaration journal to myself —

“Today, I declare to the universe, that I’m resolute and committed to love Valerie more every day. I’m loving her more than anyone else, anything else. I take care of her Whole Person – body, mind, heart and spirit.
Let’s do this and enjoy this life quest – this Love Quest!
So Val, I love you! You are my favourite person. You are my best friend. Thank you for staying with me – through it all.”

And I wrote as detailed as I could what kind of relationship I was going to have with myself. Then I wrote what kind of relationship I wanted with someone special.

2015 was my first truly Merry Christmas with myself and loved ones. I was excited about 2016. And I attracted priceless gifts of life in friendships and a beloved. My life was never the same again.

Bottomline: When you truly love yourself, the choices you make for yourself will change for the best – health, friends, romance, career, money… I wish you warmth, love and joy.

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.

My parents are still in denial

Since I was young, I’ve always been an escapist. I would always close my eyes and sleep so that I would lucid dream. In those dreams I would abuse and torture myself (sort of like in The Saw movie). I became extremely depressed in Secondary 3 when I started failing all my subjects . This was unusual to me as in Secondary 2, I was first in class and always top for science. I couldn’t accept it. I thought I had become stupid and used alcohol to suppress my emotions.

Then my great grandma passed on a day before my birthday and my depression got worse. I started taking painkillers when I felt sad and even became addicted to smoking. In an effort to improve my grades, I went online to buy “smart drugs” which I later got caught using.

In Secondary 4, when I lost complete hope and even my faith in God, I tried to end my life. I went to school, gave my best friends hugs and kisses and when to swallow 20 pills in the toilet, which proved to be unsuccessful because my teachers found me and brought me to the hospital.

Even though I’m still trying to recover, I hope that people will be more accepting to people with mental illnesses. My parents are still in denial and have yet to get me checked by a psychiatrist. Perhaps if I got myself checked, I would be able to recover faster through therapy.

I would like to tell all those who are suffering in silence: You are not alone, so you don’t have to hide. Talk to someone so that you will feel better.