Editor’s Note: We’re so honoured to have Singapore Peer Specialist, Vijay, share his personal story with us on Tapestry! A humble, unassuming individual who’s ever so encouraging, we certainly need more people like him in our society :) Thank you for sharing your story, Vijay. Let’s impact lives one story at a time.
My name is Vijay, a Peer Specialist from the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and I’m honoured to share with you my recovery story.
I am about to share with you a very personal experience which not many people know of. I hope this impacts you in a positive manner.
I was diagnosed with Psychosis in 2010.
Psychosis is a mental illness in which an individual loses touch with reality and experiences delusions, as well as hallucinations.
In my darkest moments, I believed I was put under some sort of high-tech satellite surveillance where my mind, emotions, perceptions could be picked up due to the technology. I believed my thoughts and feelings would be broadcast to people, and be potentially altered due to this technology.
I was hearing loud voices and felt electrical-like sensations all over my body from time to time. I perceived that there was some energy moving within me in a circular motion and felt my body rotating slightly.
Eating was difficult. Whenever I tried to, I would feel electrical “zaps” in my stomach causing me to become nauseous. I was also unable to sleep. The little sleep I got was filled with nightmares. The nights were the worst as the symptoms seemed to be the greatest during those moments.
Seeing my poor condition, my father hastened to bring me to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) Emergency department for help.
My recovery journey started from that point onwards.
With good support from my family, friends and medical team, my symptoms reduced to almost zero within six months. In other words, I was no longer experiencing any electrical sensations or energy moving within me. There were no more voices in my head although some paranoia remained.
Hope was slowly rekindled in my life.
People around me did not give up on me although I had already given up.
Slowly I began to piece my life together which seemed to have been shattered by the illness. Baby steps were taken, one step at a time to face the challenges–internal as well as external. Both internal and external stigma had to be dealt with, along with my existing fears and worries.
I was running my own business in events management at that point of time and was happy that I managed to complete the events with good support from my partner amidst all those symptoms and situations.
This taught me something, I realized that what looks impossible might not necessarily be impossible.
It is no wonder that some people claim that impossible is actually ‘I M Possible.’
After running my events, I became curious about mental illnesses and how various people coped with them. Hence, I started going for activities by the Early Psychosis Intervention Program (EPIP) in IMH. Eventually, I was ‘roped-in’ to provide peer support due to my positive attitude. I was job-hunting at the same time as well.
When I was first introduced to Peer Support, I had no idea what it meant. I had little confidence in performing such a role as I was still on my way to recovery. However, the case managers at EPIP believed in me and so I decided to give it a shot.
In peer support, an individual uses his personal experience with mental illness to inspire fellow peers towards recovery, walking alongside them on their recovery journey.
I still remember a client whom I was tasked to support. She came in with a low and depressive mood. After about an hour of speaking with her, her mood was lifted visibly and she walked away happily quietly smiling to herself. I realized that I could touch people’s lives with my experience, instill hope and happiness in them which is crucial in the recovery journey.
There’s a certain sense of satisfaction which is priceless and difficult to explain in words. Not only did I managed to help her, I too was helped, and so was the mental health system. Since that experience, I got hooked onto peer support.
I was fortunate to attend the Peer Specialist Training Program by SAMH which helped me make sense of my experiences, and taught how I could effectively support my fellow peers. It was an impactful program that I could emotionally relate to. I was inspired to make Peer Specialist my vocation after the program, and applied to SAMH for the Peer Specialist vocation and got the job.
I knew having such a vocation wouldn’t be easy and it has its challenges.
Although, I am already well into recovery I still have my own challenges. Few days into the job I started getting very anxious. It became difficult to ‘get-by.’
Fortunately I had a supportive organization, colleagues, superiors and fellow Peer Specialists. I am thankful for the support they provided and continue to provide. Having good support from them helped me to ease my anxiousness.
In addition, I also undergo regular counseling sessions at Insight Centre which is free for all to help me along with my issues.
Besides YouthReach, a program for peers aged 12-21, I also attended and am currently helping out at the Mental Health Interactive Group (MHIG) which is a support group for people with schizophrenia and psychosis. I also assist at Illness-Management-Recovery (IMR) sessions which gave me new insights into my illness and wellness. I am also helping out in Recovery Modules which is all about recovery. In addition, I conduct Personal Effectiveness of Successful Living (PESL) together with a professional staff and have since moved on from YouthReach to Club 3R, a drop-in centre for support services.
With all these in place, I believe I will be able to perform my vocation well, to heal not just my peers but myself as well and also the system. I look forward to my exciting endeavors.
I sincerely thank you for your time and attention given to reading my recovery story.
SAMH (www.samhealth.org.sg) has a wealth of information on mental health and support services. You are welcome to volunteer or make a donation to support their cause! Their toll-free number is 1800 2837019 which operates from Mondays to Fridays (9am to 6pm) except on public holidays.
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[EDUCATE] Information on Psychosis:
[EMPOWER] Take Action:
Recovery is possible with a supportive environment in place, be it at home or work.
What would you do to show support towards someone (perhaps a friend, family member or a co-worker), who seems to be experiencing symptoms of psychosis?