Editor’s note: One final inspiring story for the road. I really love Lea’s way of conveying her journey. Heartfelt, candid and bittersweet. This is a young person’s courage and compassion right there.
Life has never been easy for me. Growing up in a broken family, I have been deprived of love: my mother has had to work all the time to raise my brother and me, while my father never met up with me after my parents’ divorce. Furthermore, I never really knew how to interact with people, and it killed me because I was yearning so much for love.
I was bullied viciously in school, and before I knew it the panic attacks came, and so did the self-harming. It was hard to look in the mirror, I hated my name so much because it just seemed like there was nothing but negativity attached to it. Whenever I saw myself, I only saw what my schoolmates probably thought of me: weird, ugly and irritating.
It was indeed hard to get through school with a mental illness. Examinations terrified me. The anxiety got worse, and after a very demoralizing paper, the bullies disturbed me again. I felt like my dreams were dead, everything was hopeless and there was no point in living anymore.
My first suicide attempt was when I was 15.
It felt horrible, having to step into a psychiatric clinic once a week, and take loads of medicine that did not have very nice side effects.
Yet somehow, I started to shift from being angry about my failed attempt into a positive perspective. I started my journey to self-acceptance.
There were a few mental blocks I had to overcome.
Firstly, I did not have any diagnosis, neither did I receive any sort of help before my attempt, and it was a huge struggle having to go through the healing process alone. I thought that I was probably the only teenager having to cope with such a tough situation, but my weekly visits to the psychiatric clinic allowed me to understand that there were about other brave warriors fighting their similar battles.
Secondly, it took a lot for me to accept my illnesses, but the most difficult thing for me to accept was the fact that recovery is not a linear progression.
Eventually, I turned 16 and along with Secondary Four came the stress of having to take the O levels. It was during my preliminary exams where I suddenly started screaming, feeling an overwhelming pain and anger. I cried everyday and forgot to take my medicine because of the stress I was facing. My depressive symptoms amplified and I ended up taking a second attempt at suicide.
When I finally realised what was happening, I only thought about how much of a mess I would be in now that I am not going to make it into my dream junior college. I would not be able to meet my expectations, that I may even fail my O levels. I felt so alone, and the thought of school looked more hellish than ever.
It is the love of my family that carries me, even till today. One silver lining is that my depression and anxiety brought my mother’s attention back to her children. Though it is extremely painful for her to see me suffering, especially when she sometimes has no idea how to deal with my episodes, she has never once thought about giving up on me.
I once thought that my condition ripped out every ounce of hope from me, but it actually brought me so much closer to my family and taught me to be grateful and proud of every milestone in my life.
My brother always hugs me through a crying spell, and helps me as much as he can with my studies. Because of them, I managed to get through my O levels, and I am now preparing to do my A levels. I remember crying so hard on the day of the results release. None of my schoolmates congratulated me, but what mattered the most was that I had my brother and mother hugging me, pride swelling in their chest for me.
Still, relapses occur, but I know that I’ve survived before and that can do it again. The journey is tough—there is no denying this.
As much as I felt broken by the pain, it has also been a blessing in disguise.
When I was in secondary school, I did not have any friends back, but it was the loneliness that made me realise that my family is always there for me, giving me the love I have always been yearning for.
Now, when I look at myself in the mirror, I see a girl that has grown and flourished through her experiences.
Lea is an 18 year-old student aspiring to be a doctor. Depression and Generalised Anxiety Disorder threaten to rip her dreams away from her, but her passion to help people is spurring her on. She takes joy in reaching out to people who are in need of help, and hopes to save lives.