By Nur Afiqah Bte Mohd Azman
I have been through the stages of recovery.
Is there life after diagnosis?
Is it really over?
Will I be able to live normally?
Is there a word called hope?
When I was in university, I knew deep down I was not mentally well. I needed help from a professional. I felt alone and deeply lonely even though I had a lot of friends with me. I had a lot of insecurity to deal with, felt clingy with friends that they could not stand me anymore. I felt abandoned day by day. I started feeling depressed but I just did not know how to tell my friends who are still by my side. I was afraid that they would judge me and called me names. I was afraid that the whole world would know of my existence that seemed unbearable.
I had no dreams and I just flowed into life like a piece of wood.
I booked an appointment with a counselor and told them that something was wrong with me. My inner self told me that my depression was following me everywhere I traveled. It was just a deep sense of isolation that I thought no one could understand. I did not follow up with the counselor for the following sessions as I was too embarrassed to see him. How could I bear to waste someone else’s time to see me crying non-stop for hours? I thought I was being selfless.
The years went by. I graduated. Thankfully. I did not want to go for the ceremony. It dawned upon me that everybody was doing well in life except me. I did not get a job offer. I was so lost and aimless. I wasted my life at home for 6 months, not going out so often and avoiding any conversations of getting a job.
I managed to find a part time job as a relief teacher in a primary school for a year. The children filled with me so much joy that I could ever ask for. I was still that introverted and shy girl. At that end of that year, I started hearing voices behind my back and following me everywhere I go. I felt disturbed but I thought it was normal. The following year I cried a lot in my room and whenever I watched a sad drama, I would cry non-stop without any reasons. Sad plots easily affected me. I was hospitalized for close to a month but they did not give me any proper diagnosis as I looked fine. I tried to behave as normal as possible because I did not want to be labeled with a mental illness. I was very afraid of being sent to the Institute of Mental Health. The stigma was real to me.
I forced myself to get a part time job and endured all the voices for 4 months. I started feeling so tired and weak. I could not barely stand up after the shift ended near midnight. I changed to an office job but it was unbearable for me too.
I endured for 5 months and I felt stressed every single day for that entire year. I had insomnia for that one whole year. I struggled to sleep and kept thinking about work in my sleep.
On that one fateful day, I met my counselor for an appointment and filled in the questionnaire honestly. I slept a lot the whole day and I could not function normally. She told me that I should see the psychiatrist as they could help me but I was so afraid.
She accompanied me to see the doctor and I was referred to Queenstown IMH satellite clinic. I am attached with the case manager who is always there for me.
I convinced the doctor that I was in so much unbearable pain and thankfully he prescribed some medications to me. After about 4 months of taking medication, I am close to my real self and can function normally again. In January, I was diagnosed with bipolar. However, my mania lasted for about 3 months due to medication so the doctor changed my diagnosis to Schizoaffective disorder.
My case manager was worried that I would be sad. But I told her that I am happy with the diagnosis. I feel unique in a way. After all the setbacks that I have been through, I feel so grateful for the diagnosis as the diagnosis enables the doctor to prescribe me with the right medications. I am able to lead a normal life now.
I am focusing on volunteering this year.
Life after diagnosis is a beautiful one as I have to start learning how to talk to people from scratch like a baby would learn how to take small baby steps. I had to struggle with social anxiety in the first few months. But I get the hang of socializing. I can make jokes now and I am happier now compared to my past self. The activities that are organized by the rehab centre helps me to deviate from my negative thoughts. These negative thoughts have been haunting my life for the past 7 years. I am glad that they are slowly going away from my life.
Indeed, mental illness does not define me as person. It is a gift so that I can change for the better. I am grateful to Club HEAL for taking me in as a peer and allowing me to write for the blog as it is a therapeutic tool for me to express my thoughts in words. I love writing and writing will always be my first love.
The future is still uncertain now but I know that I will get somewhere as long as I don’t lose hope in myself. I am wonderfully made and I am enough. I deserve to be a masterpiece and be in work-in-progress at the same time. There are always good things inside of me.
Atikah Amalina who is an active mental health advocate, crafts these words. I am greatly inspired by her presence in social media. I hope I can meet her one day and have a nice conversation with her.