At work and happy


By Yohanna Abdullah

I am surrounded by colleagues who have gathered to attend a staff meeting in two hours time. I feel blessed for these are great colleagues indeed. They genuinely show care and concern and spend their time willingly to make a difference in each other’s lives. Some being counselors, counsel, some being peer support specialist, support and some are just friends and more.

Not that there are no unhappiness or skirmishes from time to time  but these are resolved in peace and with understanding before they have a chance to grow big and ugly. Always there is give and take and the spirit  of live and let live.

Indeed working life is beautiful that way. We spend so much of our waking hours at work, it is only right that we are happy while working. What makes us happy? Is it because we are doing something we love, like me writing and interviewing people? Or are we happy because we have decided to be happy come what may, whether we enjoy the work or not whether  it was a good day or not.

Being happy, whether we are are among colleagues, friends and family is a moment to moment choice and it is a decision that only we can make. So for those who are at work now, be free and be happy!


This Girl is on Fire


This song by Alicia Keys feat Nicki Minaj sounds like a girl going through mental illness when I listen to it again.

I’ve felt that, a girl with her insides feeling like it’s on fire, not being calm and grounded. Feeling bad but not knowing how to put water over that fire.

This was what helped me recently- pinning down what made me feel bad (work, not managing my household well, lack of physical fitness) and then thinking of steps I could take right that day to address those worries. And doing those things!!!

For me, facing the worry was better than ignoring the worry and bad feelings. Also, I was reminded by a loved one to make Doa and remember God, and that advice instantly lifted me up a little, knowing God was with me and I could turn to Him. Sometimes I forget. It is good to zoom out also and ask myself – will I remember this in five years time? Why feel so awful when it’s a relatively not so significant thing.

If we feel like our insides are on fire, may Allah cool us, may we help cool our friends who are feeling that way, may we take deep breaths, and take steps, no matter how small, to help ourselves. And may we know that if we feel lonely then, we are never truly alone.

Written by Sumaiyah Mohamed

By Yohanna Abdullah

It has been more than three years that I was last hospitalised and my recent retreat in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) brought back all the happy memories of institutionalisation. Indeed, we enter hospitals as a last resort and to HEAL from our wounds – mostly emotional and spiritual, yes of course physical but it is mostly a retreat and a safe haven.

Yes, we have a place in the sun for those who are hurt or wounded and needed shelter. A place for the crazies may seem to be the last place to rest and relax with ear-piercing cries and mumbo and jumbo and impromptu random and made up songs but yes, bewildering as it is, it is just the thing to get back to your centre to your humanity.

Me? I just wanted to reclaim my sleep. Out there in the community, I had slept a total of 11 hours in seven days. In IMH, I was sleeping like a baby on my soft bed strategically placed in the middle of the ward beneath a fan. Somehow the sleep that eluded me at home found solace in a ward full of 48 patients with their own interesting tales to tell.

Ani was my first bosom friend at my ward. She sang non-stop to certain melodies being totally random in her word association with funny results. Her hair was snow white and she has schizophrenia talking every now and then to her constant phantom companion and exhibiting signs of dementia. We had quite a few ECTs (Electro Convulsive Treatments) together. I don’t know about her but ECTs work fine with me except for some memory loss.

Then there was Elsa a helper who felt unceremoniously dumped in IMH by her boss as she was suffering from depression. She lives just a few blocks away from me and we pledged to go for daily walks at our neighbourhood a 7 am whenever possible. She wondered how her bosses felt about her as they did not come to pay her a visit her.

One remarkable woman I encountered in the ward is Salina who was born with physical impairments which do not stop her from walking on her knees using her one good arm and another deformed arm with an appendage which many have pointed out to her anger, looked like a penis. She is a mother of two and is independent and carries herself with composure and dignity. She needed my help to report some matter to the police and we both want to go eat cockles. These two things I promised to help her with, inshaallah I look forward to meet her again in better circumstances.

She is planning to rent in a room in the home of another hospital mate Maria who is looking for a job once she has settled down. She loves sharing and counselling and she wonders if she can be a para-counsellor at Club HEAL as she can help communicate with our Chinese clients.

There were many who could use the free services provided by Club HEAL to those with mental health issues. The day rehabilitation could help them use their time fruitfully gaining knowledge, having recreation and exercise and companionship. Indeed, it is better than frittering their time at home with no goals and agenda.

One who has spent most of her teenage and adult years in and out of IMH is Selina who is of mixed parentage – Dutch and Sikh. She is convinced she is not crazy and should not be treated as such being mostly committed to the hospital unfortunately known for the gila. She seems to have schizoaffective disorder to layman me. But she assures me that she is normal and it has been a terrible mistake and injustice that is the story of her life. Selina is artistically blessed and sings and draws well. She turned 26 and her parents brought a cake to celebrate with her friends in the ward.

Which brings us to Club HEAL’s HOPE EMPOWERMENT ACCEPTANCE and LOVE. All of us deserve these four words. We need them to Heal us from what has befallen us in our journey on Planet Earth. Life can sometimes turn into a nightmare overnight.

Being at Ward 32-B, I was happy and contented with the service and companionship but I had been waiting to try the new Mood Disorders Unit (MDU) at Basement 2. I had been privy to its launch and its sister Early Psychosis Intervention Programme (EPIP) side by side in all its glory and wasn’t disappointed.

There’s a place in the sun where there is room for everyone and there is a nice place, even to bask in the sun in a pretty garden at MDU. There are two silver coloured swings which send me back to my childhood days, swinging in such a swing at my Aunty Hapsah’s garden.

MDU has a feeling all too different from Ward 32-B. The windows are without grilles and are tall and slim thus not compromising safety. As it is in on the ground floor and opens up to the outdoors, there is a great feeling of openness and freedom that is usually wanting in a mental asylum.

There is greater leeway to wear your own clothes or the uniform and as there are no curfew for visitors, visitors and patients lounge around the living area and it is hard to tell them apart when both are in their own clothes.

The common area is also used to play games such as mah-jong, monopoly, scrabble and chess an Uno and Mastermind. The atmosphere is enlivened with student nurses on their internship and the friendly competitive spirit among the patients and students.

The dormitories were simply and beautifully designed with the cubicles named after flowers. The toilets and bathrooms likewise pleasant and clean and spacious.

This contrasts with Ward 32-B’s basic bathrooms where I enjoyed the communal assisted baths as I did not want to queue for my own cubicle.

To be fair, Ward 32-B is also meant to see better days as I had been privileged to give feedback to its makeover much among the lines of MDU last year. The changes will take time but it is all in the offing. IMH is set to provide better quality care for all its clients.

At MDU I made friends with a few who were mentally challenged more than I can imagine. Johnathan has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and it takes a lot out of him just to eat a meal. Sitting down is something he has to ponder and contemplate and eating is a pain too.  Some are more blessed than others, being surrounded always by their loved ones. I made friends with Wati who is from Sarawak married to a French patient. Being a mood disorders ward, quite a few are like me, afflicted with bipolar disorder and one of them Wan who dropped out of a banking and finance degree from Harvard University who came out with an interesting business proposal for us to embark on once we are both out in the real world.

Love sometimes bloom in such situations and Wan with a more mature girlfriend and a cute young patient Anja created a love triangle inadvertently. Such is the daily drama unfolding before our very eyes. What you see in the ward is a microcosm of what happens in the outside world.

Back in Club HEAL and doing an exercise on The Perfect Healing Hospital that we can conceive. MDU comes close to it, with all the facilities, including Art Therapy and Occupational Therapy thrown in to engage our senses and emotions and translate them into works of art.

Now that I am in the real world, I feel surreal as for three weeks, home was an institution – one that is safe, structured and routine revolving around medication, meals, showers, chats, games and sleep. I have to keep to the routine in the real world as that helps organise the random and extremist bipolar bear’s day. Mood or no mood I am not planning any more admissions for a long, long time yet to come.

The good outcome is that my case will be managed by the MDU team as an outpatient with changes in my treatment plan to include outpatient ECT and increase in injection of Clopixol and removal of haloperidol. An illness doesn’t stay the same all the time and treatment need to change accordingly. If your health is compromised, there is a need to change the formula for successful treatment. Verily there is a cure for every illness except for death.

Today marks the third day since I went to Club Heal ater being ‘released’ from Institute of Mental Health (IMH). I asked myself, “What do I want to do?” First inspiration: work. I was ever asked what is independence to me. I relate finance to that. I have been so used to drawing my own salary that I was not prepared to be a stay at home mum (SAHM). I was confused. I was given home leave during my stay. Without oral mood stabilisers, I became violent. I was returned to IMH before the stipulated timing. Easier said, my husband called for the police and ambulance on Saturday night. I was supposed to return on Sunday night. A huge fight broke out at my in-laws place. This is me being very personal. I am not out to embarrass anyone but I would like my story to become an inspiration to other people who are facing the same thing that I did. The police officers requested my in-laws to allow me to see my daughters. Somehow, my in-laws relented. This is only my side of story. To know further, you can comment and we can consider meeting up. Fahamat

Let’s HEAL


By Yohanna Abdullah

To people having mental illness little things can be the biggest challenge. Like getting up in the morning and brushing one’s teeth, bathing and dressing up for work. It may seem that he or she is just “a lazy sloth” and amounts to  “a good for nothing” but it is really a true symptom of depression.

This is true because when the same person has elevated mood, he or she springs off the bed each morning and dresses with aplomb and arrives at work bright and chirpy and early.

The battle every morning with depression may be a simple set of steps to take but it is really like a battle with an inner demon which has a mind of its own and is bent on taking over the body. You either win, lose or draw and  have to face the consequences.

If you eventually reach the office, late and via taxi and frequently too, you will not only be the poorer for it, you also have to face the boss who is understanding or not based on his knowledge and understanding of your illness.

That is why, some reckon they should be upfront with their illness before signing up for the job and if the boss accepts them, he or she is more likely to be understanding and concerned.

Which leads me to the next issue of when you have a mental illness and your work is affected how should you react? Quite a few of my friends chose to focus on their health and put their careers on hold while they stabilise their mental states. The length of the break depends on each individual and his or her struggle to restore comfort and peace of mind.

Indeed taking a break can be a great relief and it may be time to pursue interests and past times that are therapeutic and calming. Join a psychiatric rehabilitation centre such as our three  centres at Club HEAL, where you make friends, do physical and spiritual exercises, be motivated and gather tips on how to handle a particular mental illnes, learn pottery and glass painting and gain knowledge on how to manage mental illness and garner the support of family and friends in your journey to optimal health.

Sometimes the healing journey is not about battling, it is about surrendering your will to the Highest Will, that is God Himself. Learning to see the good in what He ordains, even if it seems like a painful punishment for something you may have done in the past, understanding His Goodness and the fact that He is All-Seeing  and All-Forgiving and  All-Merciful knows what you do not know about your situation, you will see the wisdom of His choices for your life.

Remember that everyone has his or her own sets of challenges and you are not alone. Life is a daily experience and we can break each day into a moment at a time, for us to give thanks for the gift of life, to cherish the goodness and happiness in each second, the triumphs and beauty in a moment,  even as simple as beholding a pretty wild flower in a pavement crack or appreciating a cool breeze under the hot sun.

wildflower in pavement

Sense of self

When you feel like the World is crushing you beneath it’s feet. When you lose all sense of life direction. When you feel like every fibre of your being is unworthy of this life. What will you do next? Will you duck your head and cower beneath the shadows? or will you get up and stand to face the Sun? When misunderstandings occurs and relationships become strained; will you burn that bridge or will you rebuild it from where it stands? Can you stay true to yourself when the World is filled with lies and deceit? If only you knew the answers to your heart’s desires.. I never claim to know the answers; only God can and will show you the truth. I’m tired and sick of this life and if I only knew what holds for me in the future. Life with it’s tragic yet beautiful moments. And when you’re standing at the edge of that cliff will you choose to end it all or admire the beauty of the horizon and awe at the dangers of where you’re standing? If only… If only… If only…  Shout and scream at the top your lungs!! Tell yourself it’s ok to forgive. Forgiving yourself is the greatest act of love you can show to yourself.. Yes it’s all easy said.. It’s ok. Just keep telling your heart that  ”All is well” and everything will fall into place. I know… I know.. I know….

Written by Amalina

The Source


I am wearing a new kaftan that my sister bought for me from her recent trip to Jakarta. Her husband chose the two blue and orange batik dresses and I love the colour combinations of turquoise, orange, grey, brown and black.

Life is like a fabric that we paint with colours of our minds. Well not just our minds but our hearts and souls. These three faculties are separate though we seldom think of where our thoughts, feelings and actions come from.

For example:

Heart: I am feeling lonely. = blue

Mind : think there is no one here for me now. = black

Soul: I know I am not alone as Allah is always beside me. = orange

Everyday we paint the colours in various combinations and permutations, moment to moment. Feelings and thoughts are fleeting, but the soul knows the truth about the purpose of life and its journey to the  One that Creates.

We only have a limited years to living on this earth and we are always trying to find meaning to existence. Every question  leads back to the Source.