Mental health is a topic which is personal to me, having had first-hand experience with it in my adult life. I, like many, did not believe in such things until it was too late.
This is a tale of ego, self-realisation and more importantly, self-love. Life has its ups and downs – no matter how cliché it may seem.
I am truly blessed throughout my life, which is a statement that took years for me to realise. Years back I went through a whole mental ordeal, triggered by the loss of a job at a local company which was close to my heart, something which defined my adult life.
I was in Singapore at the time, fresh out of a medical procedure that involved a corneal transplant which was needed to prevent me from being legally blind. All of this happened while I was also going through challenges in my life.
The news of losing my job was the icing on the cake. I became numb; everything was happening all at once, I was emotionally paralysed and only expecting the worst or seeing what other unfortunate event would come next.
All of which triggered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), something that I have realised now thanks to therapy.
Here is a glimpse of what was going in my head. I hated where I was at that point of my life. Scenarios kept playing in my head and the voice in my head constantly asked, “why did this happen to me?”. I felt sorry for myself and slowly the voice changed from trying to seek answers to something I detest, as it reminds me of how pathetic I felt I was.
Coming back to Brunei without a job, without any means of income – imagine earning a stable amount of money every month for years, to not earning a single cent and with nowhere to go. I was deep in depression, cutting ties with everyone I knew. I buried it inside of me for years before I actually got professional help.
Whether it was taboo, being labelled as ‘mentally ill’ or ‘gila’ when seeking professional help, or whether it was my ego trying not to look weak, I kept burying things deeper so that I could function and go through my life one day at a time.
After close to more than one year of unemployment, Alhamdulilah, I was given an opportunity to work as a marketing executive for a local food and beverage company. It was a breath of fresh air and I once again found self-worth.
The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic then hit. At that time, private companies – most notably eateries – had no contingency plans. Every day was a battle for survival as new strategies had to be thought of and executed daily. After one heavy week planning for Ramadhan and Hari Raya, I had my first panic attack. I was frozen in front of my computer at home.
Working at home had no boundaries – I was working around the clock as the lines between work and life were blurred. I couldn’t breathe, half of my body was paralysed. Thankfully my brother was at home and told me to calm down and take long breaths.
It was a blessing in disguise, just as most things in life, the episode was the wake-up call I needed. Not long after the episode, I made the decision to head to Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital and talk to a doctor who referred me for therapy.
This was at the peak of my manic episode. I was talking non-stop and thinking I could handle everything on my own. My therapist sat me down and listened calmly to what I had to say. After a few sessions, he assured me I was alright and was experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety.
I learnt to let go and acknowledge what I’ve been through as well as begin the process of healing.
He explained that being stuck in do-or-die situations is not good as it fuels anxiety, and that I can only handle a limited amount of it.
Alhamdulillah, I realised that, yes, I was hurting; I learnt that I was not alone and the only way to start healing was to acknowledge that what I was going through and reach out for help.
It took a while but I am currently at a place where I am content, respect myself and allow myself to heal.
Recently, Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar in his message to mark World Mental Health Day 2022 stated that 1,515 individuals were diagnosed with anxiety disorder and more than 900 individuals also experienced depressive disorder.
These are the numbers of those who had reached out for help. Imagine the numbers who are still lost and are still seeking answers. To them, I want to say: you are not alone and help is just a number away.
In conjunction with World Mental Health Day, I would like to say: “Please love yourself.
Seeking acknowledgement is not a sign of weakness but a glimmer of strength. You are not alone. I wish you the best and my thoughts and prayers go out to you.