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work - Singapore Mental Health Film Festival

I desperately wanted to live

When I was 15 years old, I had my first panic attack in class. I was sent to see the school counsellor and had to meet her for counselling at least twice a week. The counsellor wanted me to go for a full assessment at the Institute of Mental Health, but my mum refused as she was worried how it would impact my future, and because she was embarrassed to do so. I started to talk less and avoided my peers. My ‘daily routine’ would be just going to school, sit at the back of the class and stare out the window or sleep, go for counselling, hide in the toilet during recess time and stare into blank space and then go home when it’s time. On days when I wanted to avoid the school crowd at the bus stop, I would walk by the reservoir nearby my school, and take the bus a few bus stops away. My relationship with some of my close friends worsened overtime as they were not able to understand what I was going through, and I didn’t know how exactly to explain it to them. How do I explain myself when I don’t even understand myself?


One and half years later, I took and thankfully, passed my ‘O’ Levels. As my results were not that good, I wasn’t able to get into any of my 12 choices and had to appeal. I felt like a complete failure.


I was thankfully accepted into a polytechnic after appealing but had to pursue a course that wasn’t of my interest. As part of the school curriculum, I was to be graded daily through class participation and presentations. This would mean that I had to step out of my safe zone; I had to talk to other people, I had to withstand 10 minutes of over 10 pairs of eyes staring at me as I speak every single day.
Eventually in my 3rd month in school, my mind and body gave in. I started to develop a bad case of insomnia. I would jerk awake every hour, or I wouldn’t sleep the entire night. I would skip school. I would be exhausted during class, but I would still try my best. A grade C was enough for me. One day, a lecturer pulled me aside after class and told me that she noticed I wasn’t as ‘active’ as the rest of the class and wasn’t doing well at all. She went on to say that I obviously hated school and I should “just suck it up and move on, because that’s what everyone does”. I felt myself completely shutting down from that day onwards. I didn’t feel the need to try anymore. I was fearful of my negative thoughts that were getting stronger by day. I became fearful of myself.


Upon noticing my worsening insomnia, my mum finally sent me to the polyclinic, where I was referred to a general hospital. After a few appointments, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and started treatment and medication. I could tell my family was embarrassed, but I was desperate for that help, I wanted to live, I wanted to get better.


The road to recovery was lonely and was full of ups and downs. I did not have the much-needed family support, and my illness only became my weakness in their eyes. They’d bring up my illness when we have arguments, they’d call me ‘not right in the head’, they’d use it to insult me. But I continued to fight, even though I was all by myself. I prayed to God to give me strength as I desperately wanted to live.
I diligently followed up with my doctors and researched on self-help materials. As years passed, I have found different ways to cope with my negative thoughts. I have started to listen to my body. I am able to identify some of my triggers and know my limits. I have also met many individuals who taught me how to be grateful and appreciate the littlest things around me. These same individuals are the ones who love me for who I am and have stayed by my side till now.


I am now a 23-year-old working adult, and I would say that although I have not fully recovered, I am still happy to have gotten this far. On good days, I can go out to have a simple dinner and chat with friends, but on bad days, I might cry for nights straight and won’t get out of bed. I still can’t look into the mirror without feeling an immense amount of hate towards myself, but I can now order food without breaking down.


To me, no achievement or a step forward is too small. And a step backwards does not mean that we have failed ourselves. It does not mean that we have to stop.
As long as I am breathing, I will keep on fighting and staying strong.
For those of you who are struggling, stay strong and please keep on fighting. I believe in you.

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.

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’ve had to wear a mask

In the past I’ve had to wear a mask when I talk to people. Meaning I’ve had to say the opposite of what I’ve felt instead of how I really feel about the situation. For example, when I worked in my previous media job, my colleagues require me to say I am coping well, when in actual fact, I don’t like the job and am suffering in it.

 

It was after 4 months when I told my SPD social worker I wanted to leave with immediate effect, so they arranged for me to leave work. But the stress there has taken a toll on me and I haven’t been able to be real in front of my family members as well.

 

I went to seek treatment at the hospital. Now after medication, the doctor has helped me by teaching me how to be myself. My family members have also encouraged me to take off my mask and say what I really feel or think about the problems that I have.

 

My relatives and friends also encourage me to do the things that make me happy, and they also remind me that I do not owe anyone a living.

 

With the support of people who care for me, I am now better able to be myself and I do not have to wear a mask in front of people anymore.

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. 

It takes a village

They say it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to overcome depression. 

 

To all my ex-bosses, kind colleagues, family, friends, counsellors and random strangers who came in the form of angels who encouraged and believed in me (even when I couldn’t believe the light within myself to get up again), thank you so very much from the bottom of my heart. 

 

It wasn’t the job’s condition or situation was bad that made me leave my previous jobs but it was a question of existence I struggled with daily. What do I want to do with my life now after from recovery phase one of being catatonic? (a severe depression state where my doctor told me in layman terms that “it’s like my brain was away on a long vacation”). It was an extremely hard period for me as I was in a disheveled state as I could not move, eat, sleep, bathe, or even groom myself as I was very much unaware of myself and the surroundings around me.

 

When I started having movement in my limbs again, gradually with the help of medication, my neighbour started asking me accompany for Zumba lessons. I remember I would tear when the music started playing and I could actually move my limbs. It felt like a miracle that these feelings actually still exist even after the 4-6 months of existing in what I felt was an empty void. 

 

So fast forward many years since I had catatonia depression in 2012 till now, while the journey has been long and arduous (with some memories I rather forget, sometimes), I’m really thankful for a current stint in my life where I am now able to experience positive feelings daily (mostly!) and live happy to the best I can with a little craft home business I started. I may not be making mega million dollars, but I’m thankful for the daily treasures of simple joy, laughter, love, family, meaningful friendships which has made me rich beyond measure. 

 

If you’re someone who’s going through depression, I just want to say don’t give up. Those layers of scum and gunk will slowly erode away as we take positive steps to allow our hearts, mind and soul to heal. It’s okay.