Editor’s Note: Ritalyn wrote to us to share her journey of recovering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression and anxiety. It’s been a long and winding road, but her efforts have paid off. Having a mental health condition does not impede us from excelling, doing what we love, or giving back to society. Read more about Ritalyn’s story here.
At the advice of my online counsellor, I decided to get a diagnosis through CHAT (Community Health Assistance Team) at SCAPE, where they offer a free diagnosis of mental illnesses. I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which led me to read up on it intently. The more I read, the more symptoms I started developing. I was so afraid, helpless and ashamed. “Who could I tell about my diagnosis? Will I have no friends?” I ruminated on those thoughts, believed I was flawed, and felt less complete and less human as compared to my peers.
OCD made me believe that I was a terrible person with the intrusive thoughts in my head. I was so scared and alone.
The psychiatrist I visited at a government restructured hospital diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder, anxiety and depression in addition to my OCD.
For one and a half years, I was constantly trying out different drugs as none seemed to work. Needless to say, it was very frustrating to me. Visiting the hospital every two weeks caused me to be behind in lessons as well. I was determined to keep my illness a secret, so no one in at the polytechnic l am studying at knew.
When I told my secondary school peers about my condition, they offered well-intentioned advice like “Don’t think too much”, which obviously does not work.
The only person I could trust and confide in was my online counsellor. I remember how intrusive thoughts such as “use the cables to strangle yourself” made me consider if I should actually try it since I was of no value in this world. My rational mind told me to re-read the conversations with my online counsellor, as she reminded me that I was cared for and loved by someone, and I could not just give up on my life as she wants to see me become successful.
Fast forward two years later, I am now on my school’s director’s list, have completed my Grade 7 piano examination, and am an active volunteer with various organizations. I am also pursuing the specialisation I am interested in.
I managed to do all these by visualising my various mental illnesses as enemies in a video game: each time I do something positive, like finishing my CBT , my enemy’s lifespan decreases.
Also, I was determined to be like my peers and finish school so that I can be a social worker to help other people. I have also opened up to my close friends in school, and now realise that those who care for and love you will be there no matter what. Though some may shun you, or leave you, having a good support system has been and continues to be very useful, as my friends help me to regulate my emotions when I experience a breakdown.
We all fear the unknown. Perhaps my friends just need to be educated more about mental illnesses.
Despite the successes I have achieved, I still struggle. Mental illness is probably a lifelong battle, and there are times where I question if fighting for recovery is even worth the effort or energy and of course, money. Unfortunately, psychotherapy is really expensive.
When I am down, one thing that strikes me most is “If not now, then when?” My teenage years have been spent fighting the enemies, and I daresay I am now a functional and contributing member of society. If I give up, will I ever get better?
Ritalyn is currently a Year 3 student studying in Ngee Ann Polytechnic.