Battling Anxiety and Depression during COVID times 2020 - 2022
This post was written on December 2021. I finally found the courage to post this. All photos are those photos I took on good days when I wasn't crying and I was feeling okay enough for a photo. Most of the time I couldn't look myself in the mirror.
It's finally December again - the time of the year where many of us would be doing our New Year resolutions with more people signing up for gym memberships. I would like to end this year by updating my blog - something that I have been waiting to do for a long time, but I kept putting it off with the excuse of not having time. I'm not quite sure why, but perhaps I felt like it wasn't the time to open up yet. But now, I am ready.
These past 2 years have been difficult for many of us - myself included - and I have grown so much in these 2 years. I'll try to summarise what happened in the shortest way possible and share the insights I had after experiencing some life lessons.
The year 2020 was a year of turmoil for me with many things happening at the same time. I lost a relationship of 2 years, changed jobs, left my job and did freelance, and entered a new relationship and moved into a rental place. It started out as thoughts, and I wasn't surprised because I have always had these thoughts since young (these inner chatter that keeps me thinking about this and that, keeping me up at night). They usually stem from work and super low self-esteem, about how I could do better and I wasn't doing enough. How I am not keeping up with others, and how others can do it and why can't I. It doesn't help as I kept putting on weight - (I'm the heaviest I am right now in my entire life) and the more I look in the mirror the more I loathe myself. I couldn't even look into the mirror for quite a few months and I stopped putting on makeup or dressing up.
It got worse and worse - I couldn't stop the thoughts at all and they started pestering me 24/7. This was during the period when I was doing a managerial role in my new job - and I wanted to prove myself and do better - and being young and inexperienced, I bit off more than I could chew. The stress of being at the top of my game every single day cost me much. On Mother's Day - due to late delivery islandwide (there's even a news article), I didn't sleep for 24 hours and spent the entire day with my boss to reply to each and every customer to apologize and refund them. I was scolded, blackmailed, threatened by customers online, and I remembered one, even threaten to expose my identity and put my personal information up when I reached out using my personal social media account. I broke down crying several times, and let these get to me. My partner forced me to resign and I finally did when I started having digestion issues due to mental stress.
Honestly, I didn't even know I had anxiety/depression until I was diagnosed. I thought it was just me. My mom never believed in counseling/therapy as I was brought up thinking things like that doesn't exist. I posted a Facebook message saying that "I can't stop thinking, control my thoughts", only for one of my friends to comment that it sounds like an onset of anxiety. What is anxiety? I don't even know such things exist. Sure, I've heard of depression. But that's just when people are really sad right?
It didn't just end there - I ended up in IMH. I broke down crying at the doctor's office because it felt like I was in a candy store trying medications after medications (you never know which medication works + you won't even know if it even works at all or worst, makes you suicidal?) On my darkest days, I would wake up at 5am crying with heart palpitations, it got so bad that I vomited and my whole body would be tensed with fear. I would go for a jog downstairs, see kids playing at the playground with their grandmas, and I would cry about how I might lose my grandmothers soon (they are still fit and healthy btw, the thoughts are extremely irrational). I cry about people I love dying, and how I will be homeless in the future because houses were getting so expensive, and how I would never be able to get better at my job.
I had to undergo several intensive counseling sessions through the help of - Fadilah from Mindcare and Choosan from Qi Philosophy and Minghui from CHAT. Friends like Lovelle from Battlestar Boarding, Irene from foodwanderers helped. It took a lot of work, time, and patience to be able to process my irrational thoughts one by one so I can minimize the same thoughts popping up again. The thing about anxiety is - we know the thoughts are irrational, the possibility of them happening might be a super low percentage, but yet they still pop up and haunt us endlessly as our deepest fears. It makes you want to do something to solve them asap, yet you can't. The endless loop makes me crazily tired mentally, I can't even do anything physically. I think that's why sufferers are unable to find the energy to do simple chores like going for a shower to clean themselves up, or even their rooms, let alone their life.
Fadilah, although she had many clients and extreme heavy workload, counseled me for free once a month. It's hard to seek proper help in Singapore due to the high cost of , and since I was doing freelance, I didn't have a proper income. I was constantly anxious because I couldn't seek treatment without money. For those of you in this situation, I hear ya. The situation has since improved nowadays, with various platforms and hotlines you can call for help for free. I realized that most of the counselors are around their late twenties to early thirties, so it helped when they could relate to the things I am worried about.
Choo San, bless her, she's a boss of a cafe that focuses on healthy eating/living as well as a mother, yet she made time for me amidst her super busy schedule. Having gone through the same experience when she was younger, she gave me weekly hypnotherapy sessions and taught me how to practice mindfulness. There was a period when I just couldn't stop crying and she treated me to a meal and brought me out for a facial, just to ensure that I was doing alright. I'm really grateful for angels like this. She also gave me products, like an aromatherapy spray that helps in grounding myself when my thoughts are spiralling. She taught me to practice affirmations, and stick to a routine of self-care (exercising, taking care of my body, eating right).
Irene gave me longans because she said they help with anxiety and let me play with her pet bunny, Whisky. She even cooked a delicious Japanese home cooked meal, which I enjoyed very much. She also gave me a book on photography to help me focus on something better. Lovelle allowed me to help her at her pet shop and I had so much fun bathing her dog Mochi, (until he poop himself after I bathed him omg it took me hours to dry his thick coat of fur) and cuddling with all the dogs. Pet therapy helps alot, being with all these doggos gave me no time to think about stuffs. I slept very well that night because I was so exhausted after that.
It took me some time to open up to my family and my parents & brothers were kind of like the last to know. I didn't want to worry them. I was quite a rebellious kid that wants freedom since young and prides on being independent and being able to take care of myself. I wasn't keen on showing my sad and weak side at all. I was treated with lots of understanding and my parents tried their best to help in ways they can - financially, mentally, and also a place to stay and call home. My aunt who had similar experiences also helped in giving advice & spending time with me.
|A volunteer couple from the MummyYummy group! They are super nice people giving their |
time & effort to talk to the elderly & asking how they were.
I formed a support group among my family & friends and stopped social media for a while. I also did volunteer work to help the less fortunate, giving free vegetarian food to lonely elderly living in rental flats. If you would like to join the support group, search for MummyYummy & reach out to Guo Xiong. After experiencing this, I can imagine how lonely and depressed one will feel if they are stuck with their thoughts and unable to seek help. Unlike the younger generation who can make use of technology to reach out, many of these elderlies rely on chatting with their neighbours or through chatting with welfare groups.
I also joined a community of caregivers for community cats in Toa Payoh (I was staying in a rental place for awhile) and helped to feed the cats daily. Knowing that the cats need me and look forward to seeing me daily gave me a sense of purpose. I look forward to them greeting me every night. I also adopted a stray, (his name is Tomtom) from the streets of KimKeat. I moved to my mom's place and being together with my mom gave me a sense of security & comfort.
I got better day by day and even landed myself a dream job. I was so grateful to be given the opportunity, and the job has kept me mentally stable with a more manageable workload. My colleagues are a humorous bunch that makes me laugh often with their silly jokes and positive attitude even when things are hectic, and I have a manager that surprised me with a delivery of beautiful flowers sent to my house when I was hospitalised with kidney stones at the age of 27. It's a serious issue that I would like to talk more on, but I'll leave it for another blog post.
I feel that I am in a much better place. (which is crazy because during my darkest days, I never thought that there would be a day when I could ever feel better). I am healing day by day, and for everyday I am still breathing, I am thankful for the life I am given. I know many others are not like me & struggle to find a way out of their darkness, but don't give up. There will be better days. It seems impossible at this point of time but please reach out. Talk to someone. Not everyone will be able to help but know that you are not alone. I hope that reading my story will give you some ideas on places you can seek help.