I am not a master with words but here is my story—a candid and personal experience of my struggles and how I chose not to allow discrimination and mental illness take me down.
I come from a violent family–both verbally and physically. They lacked understanding and viewed mental health as a taboo and fed into the stigma they knew. They couldn't understand why I wasn't 'normal' in their terms. But normal is a commercially conceived word. What is normal to you may not be normal to me and vice versa.
When I was staying with them, before my attempts to seek help, they simply assumed that I was being wilful or dramatic. It look awhile for me too seek the help I needed. When I finally did, they simply thought that I was so crazy and that I needed medication to keep me sane. The big irony of this was that the main reason why I was suffering (from the very beginning) was due to the verbal and physical abuse caused by them. With the environment I was in, it was difficult for me to get better.
I was an odd child–that oddball. I remember being bullied by the groupies of cool girls in primary school. Being bullied was traumatic for me. I barely made any friends as a kid, preferring or rather ending up all by myself with sad thoughts in my mind. When the same situation happened again in college and then again at my workplace or outside my core circle of friends–it really hit me hard.
Not all bosses are understanding. In one of my jobs, the lady boss even cited my situation to launch a personal attack on me by saying, “Is it because you’re seeing a doctor now, that’s why you’re like this!!” After which she proceeded to scold me for another 2 hours. It was a rough environment and she was definitely a toxic employer. Having said this, I was pretty fortunate to have super nice colleagues there. However, I was still super hung-up about my condition–feeling depressed and anxious; triggered by very random bouts of anxiety which I had no control over. I felt so crippled from it that I had to quit my full time job.
Reality became even more grim when the problems piled up–financial issues, rejection from insurance, unkind comments from random strangers, the unempathetic police force and the lack of mental health awareness in school systems and in the society generally.
I felt that I could not trust myself. I was so tired; an unexplainable form of exhaustion with myself that I romanticised death as a way to get out. “Death will put an end to all of this and put me out of misery”, I thought. Part of me wanted to live but part of me also wanted to die. I was torn. The struggle within myself was so dreadful that I feared I would kill myself. It was a pitch dark black hole that I was falling deeper and deeper into. There were people gossiping false claims about me to other friends that I have, inevitably causing my PTSD to worsen. I knew that something was incredibly wrong. I knew I needed to speak up and ask for help but from whom?
Life is a journey. And my personal journey on this road towards recovery has been an interesting one.
I was extremely lucky to find a way to get help via polyclinic referral to the hospital. I'm also glad that the doctor that I first met is super duper good. She provided a great listening ear and for the very first time, I finally felt that someone was listening without any judgement. Now, I have stopped seeing the psychiatrist but I am still seeing my psychologist. I am more self aware of my emotions and can identify stressors. This helps me to ground myself and overall I feel healthier and content with myself. Self-love and self-care is very important.
I’m off medication for now which I took for nearly 3 years. Without their work, I would not have been here today. I would not be the “new me” that I am today.
Change can be extremely scary in life. But sometimes we need that extra push and courage. Change is crucial when it comes to caring about myself--I moved out of the family home, weaved yoga and meditation into my lifestyle and practice mindfulness.
I switched up my group of friends. I have cut out many toxic people that I do not need and accept people who are actually there for me. I have learnt to trust them and in turn, I learnt (and am still learning) to be a better friend to them. These relationships have come this far, as we are there for all the ups and downs. They are now my safe circle and I am grateful for their friendship.
Despite the fact that it is the year 2021, most of us are still constrained by the norms of society. I do feel that Singapore may be a first class country yet when it comes to the mindset of the general population, we are still lagging behind.
The one advice that I will give to someone living with mental illness or going on a similar journey as mine is to “Be POSITIVE that things can CHANGE”.