Recovery Story: Gina’s recovery advice
Interview by Fari Wu
Fresh graduate Gina was 16 years old when she developed social anxiety, due to bad social experiences with friends. Five years later, she developed depression.
She was the victim of bullying in school, even when she was in Kindergarten. “I was the fattest kid back then. And some friends followed me from Kindergarten to Primary School, which made it harder.”
How her Social Anxiety developed
“It was in secondary school when I realized I had symptoms like not being able to look people in the eye. My hands would shake a lot. I became conscious with how I present myself.”
“I was put on Prozac. It worked for a while, but then the symptoms came back. I changed medications a few times but the same thing kept happening.” (Gina no longer takes medication as she personally feels it is not effective for her).
Gina’s Recovery Advice
“In Polytechnic, I managed to make new friends. Then I removed all toxic people in my life. I believe my environment was really important. Sometimes you keep giving and giving (to people), until you feel so run down. And people just take what you give them.”
“I do still struggle with that. It’s part and parcel of life I guess. But you have to learn to protect and value yourself. Otherwise people might take you for granted.”
“And if you’re unhappy with yourself, implement routines to change your lifestyle. Like eat better, exercise, make time to do what you want.”
On Her Friends
“In Secondary School, I had a friend who helped me through difficult times. I have issues with trusting people, so I’m grateful she and I are still close friends now.”
On Her Family
“They thought I was being too sensitive. They told me to just focus on my studies. But I wasn’t even emotionally stable, how do I focus?”
On Her Aspirations
“I want to get a job and be financially stable. And I hope one day I can fully accept (the bullying and difficulties) that I went through. There are times when I think about it and still feel unhappy. But I hope one day I can stop being hung up about it.”
Her Message to Caregivers
“I think you should remember to take care of your own needs too. Sometimes when caregivers are tired or rundown, you quarrel with us or have misunderstandings with the person you care for. And it just becomes bad for both sides. And please be patient with the people you’re working with.”
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Recovery Story: Coping with depression and anxiety
Written by Jon Ho
We all know the saying – an idle mind is the devil’s playground.
This saying holds no truer than for those experiencing depression, anxiety or both.
More often than not, one leads to the other and we are then left at a loss, not knowing, nay, not feeling the urge to do anything other than wanting to hide.
Hiding. Running away. Wanting to curl up in bed and hide from the world. Actions that further compounds the problem.
We should ask ourselves, why should that be at the top of our minds? Rather, we should all the more channel that into something productive, something that helps the process of healing.
There are many different possibilities out there and these can be tailored to suit you and your situation.
“Taking a walk, taking in the sights and the sounds, has helped me when I’m feeling depressed. It reminds me of what it is to be human – to take in all around us, to appreciate the beauty in the myriad of forms that exist.”
Walking also stimulates the heart, becoming a sort of exercise and it’s proven that physical activity does help one’s state of mind.
During those intermittent periods of calm and tranquility, I find that channeling my energy into learning new things such as a language, or an art form helps build mental resilience.
It lets me understand the beauty and diversity of life.
What about when we are experiencing an anxiety attack?
The main thing would be to find a quiet place to calm down.
Sometimes, an anxiety attack happens when we are outside instead of at home.
Personally, when that happens to me, I find that sitting in a washroom, thinking calm thoughts insomuch as possible, and doing breathing exercises has helped me to cope.
The suggestions may not work for everyone. We have to remember that everybody is intrinsically different.
We each have to find an outlet that works for us and focus on that, to strengthen our mind against idleness and stress.
Take it as a step in understanding yourself and that these ‘distractions’ aren’t really just distractions.
They’re instead a reminder that there we are more than the sum of our mental frustrations.
We are fighters.
Recovery Story: Take The Leap
Written by Anonymous
For most of us, we have our safe space. We cherish it, we embrace it, we run back to it when all hell breaks loose. But that’s when our comfort zone becomes our crutch.
Sometimes, all you need is a push. For me, that was my godma’s birthday. She was turning 60 and wanted the people she cared for to be there. That meant 100 guests packed into a restaurant located at Tanglin.
Now that was a terrifying thought for me. Correction, terrifying thoughts. Firstly, we’re looking at 100 people all in one location; in a café with barely 10 people, there’s an 80% chance I’ll get a panic attack. Secondly, Tanglin. The location was way too close to where I had my first major attack ever, followed by my second a week after.
I truly wanted to die. For two days before the event, my body was literally on fire. I couldn’t sleep, I was feeling sick, parched, constantly having to tell myself that I’m not going mad.
On the day itself, I pulled myself out of bed, my heart in my throat and all weak in the knees. My two closest friends texted me to ask me if I would be intending (one is my godma’s daughter and the other, our classmate). I was hesitant but I replied them I was fine.
I forced myself out of bed, showered and decided to go for a haircut. Just walking to the salon, I wanted to pass out twice. At the salon, I gripped the chair so tight my knuckles turned white.
But I survived.
With that, I told myself, I need to do this; my godma would only be celebrating her 60th once and she wanted me there.
I spent an hour getting ready, a bunch of nerves. It took all my willpower to get into the car and head down.
When I saw the crowd, surprisingly, I had an adrenaline rush. A good one at that. For the entire 5 hours, I only had to take one pill.
At the end of the night, instead of feeling exhausted, I felt rejuvenated. And yes, extremely proud of myself. I made it, I got through it all.
Stepping out, going through the party, gave me a new confidence. I’ve definitely made a breakthrough and with the support of my friends, feel great.
So sometimes, it’s the fear that stops us from getting better. We need to step out of our comfort zone to realise that the fear is our own creation.
Recovery Story: My Journey Thus Far
Written by Jon Ho
On bad days, getting out of bed is hard; trying to stop the tides seem a lot easier.
When these days do happen, all I do is curl up in bed, keep the room as dark as possible and ignore all forms of human contact.
This however, is the wrong mentality. When you embrace the darkness, you perpetuate a cycle that is hard to break. As this happens, therapy, even medication, becomes moot.
We need to take control of our challenges and not vice versa. For me, I’ve realized it’s not just about fighting it but embracing it, to know that it’s a part of me.
I stand up, and tell myself to do something productive. It may not be something you love, it could even be something as simple as taking a shower. But that’s the miracle of the human brain. When you take charge, your body heals, your mind heals.
Each step gets easier.
Yes, there will be days when you fall back. Remember, do not beat yourself over it. As my psychiatrist says, the hardest thing to fight is your body. But with each practice, with each attempt, you grow. You overcome.
You get better at controlling your mind.
For me, my depression, which I lived with for 12 years without treatment, has resulted in general anxiety disorder (GAD). The trigger is most likely due to the chronic pain that I’ve been living with for just as long.
When the anxiety hits, it brings me to depression. On a bad day, I force myself to at least tell someone; someone who can give me words of encouragement. When that happens, slowly, I tell myself that it’s going to get better and I get up and stand tall (or as tall as I can at that point in time).
Being in fashion marketing, I like to challenge myself. It’s been only 3 months since my diagnosis of GAD but I push myself, to travel out of my comfort zone, without meds.
If it gets really bad, I’ll take a pill but instead of beating myself up, I tell myself that hey, at least I’ve gone/done something I haven’t done in a while. And that’s something to be joyful about.
And that gives me the strength to push through.
Of course, in saying that, you need to understand yourself. You may not be able to do so immediately, or to travel out without someone. So know your baseline and just push yourself slightly over it.
You’ll definitely grow stronger and you can beat your own mind. When you do, be proud of yourself. A small step goes a long way.
And we will be proud together with you.