Mental health does not discriminate, and it affects people of all ages, genders and ethnicities. In this season, we would like to share Don’s story with you and hope that his story is able to bring light and strength as we journey through life together, and more importantly, to remind all you warriors that you’re never alone in this journey.
Here’s his story:
In 2014, it seemed like everything was falling apart. It felt like time stopped and it all happened in a blur. One minute I was in the waiting room and the next I was sitting on a recliner chair with a lot of tugging inside my chest as the surgeon tried to fix my collapsed lung. A few months later, I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and depression.
But this was just the beginning of the journey. The rollercoaster ride had just begun.
Things got worse when I started working few years later. While I am grateful to my employers for being understanding and making accommodations whenever there are attacks, the feeling of guilt was always lingering. Subsequently, I could not even get out of my house, let alone getting to office. Everything felt disoriented and I could not connect with others anymore. Confused and uncertain, I left the company without a job. I was not even sure if it was the right decision.
The focus shifted to recovery. My psychiatrist continued to experiment with multiple medications and I tried seeing different psychologists. Things were slightly better for a moment, till the financial worries kicked in.
I thought I was better.
I joined another company and everything happened again. This time, the attacks hit twice as hard and I could not even get out of bed. The familiar feelings of guilt, anxiety, sense of worthlessness came back. I closed myself up and did not want to meet or communicate with anyone. No replies to text messages, minimising physical contact with friends and just holing myself up in my room.
Why is it that things will not get better? When will things be okay? How long more is it going to continue? What options do I have left? How do I get better? Why can’t I just be normal?
After leaving the second job, there has been so much time to think. Having plenty of time is a double-edged sword. You can choose to stay in that state and think downwards or think upwards towards positivity. The latter is definitely the tougher path and with all the support you have, you can get that push in the right direction. Slowly, I began to realise what matter most important to me - my family, loved ones and health.
Mental issues are mostly not visible. Unlike a physical injury, doctors cannot do an x-ray to check if things are getting better or not. You also may not be able to predict what is going to happen or when is the next attack. It could be in the next minute, next hour, day, week or maybe never. It is not easy to explain to others as it is a feeling/emotion/sensation that cannot be described. Don’t expect people to understand but you need to know that you are not alone in this journey.
As much as it pains you internally, it also pains your loved ones to witness you in this state. The feeling of hopelessness you have is equivalent to the feeling of helplessness they are having. But know this, the support they provide and your willpower will overcome everything.
It is very easy, even effortless, to fall into the negative spiral again every now and then but always remember to catch and pull yourself out of there. Some days are bad and some days are even worse, but hey, who wants a plain-sailing boring old life? Everyone is fighting their own battles but the ones who are willing to stick with you throughout while fighting their own are the ones you know you should keep. Life is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Enjoy the process, there is no need to rush to the end. We already know what the end is.
I cannot say that I have recovered, far from it to be honest, but I am proud to say I am taking steps to adapt and fight to regain control of that driving seat I have lost years ago.
Suddenly, as if it was to pre-empt me of the future, I got reminded of one of my favourites from Westlife that I still listen to since their debut 22 years ago.
Never stop believing
Don't give up on your love
Stumble and fall
It's the heart of it all
When you fall down
Just try again”