Tag

youth

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. 

Don’t stop trying

I suffered from insomnia and depression for the past 6 months when I was studying overseas. I remember being in emotional turmoil first, troubled by my own thoughts and worries that kept me from having a normal night’s sleep and would be ever-present in the day. Emotional distress slowly turned into numbness, and I slowly lost interest in daily activities and hobbies. Seeking a way out, I turned to self-reflection and tried to journal my thoughts, hoping to understand why I was going through all this and to come up with a plan for the future. Little did that do apart from making me ruminate more and feel more lost. For a few months, I was stuck in a loop of indecision, one day feeling like going down a certain path and the next day not feeling motivated by it at all. 

 

It took time, but feel better throughout the days now. There are still some moments where everything seems a bit too much, but I can now find things to look forward to every day. I’ve slowly gone back to old interests and picked up on new ones as well – and I’ve accepted and am ready to move on from the past

 

For anyone who’s struggling with similar issues: Have hope that it will get better. Reach out to close friends or people you trust, and try to get involved in the community. Make an effort to go outside to get some activity or fresh air. Don’t be afraid to seek help. You’re not alone, and the sooner we all acknowledge the reality of mental health, the better we’ll be able to face it together. Most importantly, don’t stop trying. 

 

I just hope to see the rainbow

I’m at a point in my life where I feel like the world is just going against me. I feel like I have no control over what is happening and that is stressing me out. I spend countless sleepless nights thinking about why I’m such a mess and how I can change it. Everything I come up with doesn’t work. I don’t know how long I can keep up with this. For now, I just know that I have to keep trying, no matter how hard it gets. I just hope to see the rainbow after the storm.

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 am now passing the help on

I was diagnosed with major depression and generalized anxiety at 17. With medication, a counsellor and a caring psychiatrist, I am now passing the help and hope on in my work as a clinical psychologist. This is an amazing initiative, and I salute fellow mental health warriors.

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.

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.

I felt so pathetic and immature

You would think that life is unbiased. You would think that life is fair. Yet, everything crumbled when I found out that one of my closest friends was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and depression while the other had suicidal tendencies brought on by stress. 

 

I felt so pathetic and immature as I embarked on a journey to study psychology in an attempt to ‘help’ them, but I honestly felt it was nothing but a ruse to lie to myself as if I were truly helping them. Although learning about psychology helped me understand and be more patient towards my friends and supporting them in their recovery, nevertheless a part of me still resents my childish behaviour and I feel nothing but regret and helplessness for my friends. Why couldn’t I be there for them? But yet, them assured me. They broke through their own barriers to help me, someone ‘normal’. Who says the mentally ill are weak? 

 

In my eyes, they are my pillars of support, the strongest people I have ever met, breaking through one obstacle by other, slow, but always steady. I’m so thankful they are part of my life, and if you do have friends or family who are the same, always remember that they are just like us and as humans, they will always pull through, even if there are days that they don’t seem like they will. Each of us have our own struggles, but what makes us human is the power to persevere on.