Editor’s Note: Recovering from mental illness is possible.
Our reader, Kate, shares that it begins with facing our fears and rediscovering our hopes and dreams in life. A Peer Specialist with the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH), Kate relates her personal story on depression.
We look forward to receiving more inspirational stories like Kate’s and we hope her journey encourages you, just as it did for us at The Tapestry Project SG. Join the mental health conversation by commenting below or write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi, my name is Kate and I have chronic depression.
I would like to share with you something that is very close to my heart – mental illness.
For me, mental illness is an insidious affliction that leaves a person in a constant state of distress, severely affecting a person’s daily functioning and the will to live.
With it, one of the first things we forget are our dreams as our minds are enveloped by the fog of the disease.
And it is our dreams that make life worth living.
I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder sometime in 2010. However, looking back at how I was, I realized my first breakdown was in 1997 following two traumatic events within the same year the details of which I will spare you in the interest of time and your interest as well.
Because of my fear of stigma, I chose not to consult with a doctor.
Because of my fear of costs, I chose not to see a counsellor.
What I chose to do instead was to turn to God, self-help books and one supportive friend who stayed by me whenever I needed a listening ear.
My fear of God prevented me from actively attempting suicide, instead for years in my distress, I slept and slept and slept praying to God that He will let me die in my sleep. Reading self-help books created positivity within me when I wasn’t busy praying for my death.
In 2009, I had a major crisis and my existing coping mechanisms at that time were no longer adequate given the magnitude of my distress then.
Finally, one night in 2010 when I was about to kill myself, I decided that I can no longer deal with the situation on my own.
I chose to face my fears and sought help – one of the best gifts I could ever give myself.
And with that I began my journey to recovery. 🙂
The path to recovery led me to IMH for my medications, SAMH’s Insight Centre for counselling and SAMH’s Illness Management Recovery Program where I learned how to create my own support system.
Anti-depressant didn’t make me “happy”.
What it did…it improved my attention span and concentration level.
With this increased cognitive ability, I am able to do therapy work more effectively — like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, meditation, gratitude therapy and now mindfulness.
As I re-wired my brain to replace dysfunctional thinking patterns that were contributing to the illness, my skills in coping with stress got better and in time my mood got better as well.
With my improved cognitive functioning, I am able to function well in spite of the symptoms of the illness.
Everybody feels sad from time to time…everybody feels hopeless from time to time.
The difference with a person who has a mood disorder like me, the mood overwhelms the person and affects the person’s daily functioning.
“Normal” people (with no mental health condition) resort to suicide in extreme situations…but…people with depression are pre-occupied with death and have detailed plans in the back of their minds on how to die. And when the distress is great enough, suicide is attempted.
Earlier in my story, I mentioned that dreams are one of the things a person with mental illness cannot see and/or forgets.
This is significant because it is our dreams that make life worth living.
I am now on the second leg of my recovery journey – that is revisiting the dreams I have that were long hidden, long forgotten and empowering myself to make those dreams my reality.
One dream is to support people with mental health issues achieve their recovery goals and another dream is to work with SAMH (Singapore Association for Mental Health) in promoting mental wellness for all 🙂
I feel grateful for every moment I am alive…for each breath I take is a reminder that I have a shot in doing all the things I have always wanted to do.
I humbly thank you for listening to my story 🙂
Kate is a Peer Specialist for depression with the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and is a certified eCPR Facilitator. More details on SAMH can be found at www.samhealth.org.sg
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