Pen Name: Nayla Husna
I can’t exactly pinpoint when was my first breakdown as I’ve had episodes throughout my childhood since I was diagnosed with eye cancer as a toddler and had to live with one eye and looking different from others and getting bullied because I look weird. Despite all the bullying and name calling, there has always been good friends, teachers and family to support me and that kept me going during my growing up years.
I think the first time I had a depressive episode that lasted for 4 months was when I had broken up from a relationship which I was blamed for the breakup. I was 19 years old and felt guilty even though it wasn’t entirely my fault. I ruminated what went wrong over and over again until it affected my sleep, eating habits and my mental health. I still remember being anxious and unable to sleep causing me to walk at to and fro along my house corridor at 1am just to make myself feel tired so I could sleep. The guilt was eventually resolved when I decided to meet up with the guy and apologise to him for causing any hurt. After that meet up, I was able to forgive myself and let go of the guilt and that lead to my recovery. I fell physically sick for 2 weeks from all the pent-up emotions. This shows how much our mental health effects our physical health. This incident taught me the importance of sharing our feelings for a relationship to work out and not to keep everything inside which is unhealthy for the mind and body. At the same time, to forgive myself so that I can let go and move on.
My next episode was when I was working my first job. I was the youngest among all my collegues and I struggled with steep learning curve especially the paperwork like doing reports. On top of that, during that period, I wasn’t in a good relationship with my father and it affected me greatly that it affected my performance at work too. I remember numbing my feelings just to get through the day. After working for a year, I told myself that I had to leave for my own mental health and find meaning of my life through my religion. That was when I decided to fly overseas and go for religious studies. I stayed in United Kingdom for 6 months with my sister before flying to Yemen. When I was in UK, I got better and recovered, however I fell sick again when I was in Yemen as I struggled to adapt with the lifestyle and the vigorous studying there. I stopped eating, couldn’t sleep properly, had nightmares and stopped talking to people. After 4 months there I said to myself I can’t continue with my mental health deteriorating so I flew back to Singapore 10kg lighter and underweight with the energy in me zapped out.
Coming back to Singapore, I rested for a month before applying to work part-time at Bedok Library. The job was easy and I was quiet mostly but it helped me to recover. After working for a month I decided I wanted to continue with my religious studies in Singapore. So I applied to enroll in a small religious school and got in. But 8 months in, I fell sick again but this time round I think it was a hyper-mania episode. I had delusions thinking that I was special, had running thoughts and couldn’t sleep well at night and at that same period, my younger sister was admitted to IMH for mania too. But her case was more serious than mine as she did not sleep for days and was acting out of sorts with super high energy. It was the end of year 2014 and that was when my mother decided to seek help for me through a private clinic. That was
the first time I met a psychiatrist and was put on medication. After a few visits, my mother decided that we could not continue with the private clinic due to its expensive fees. That was when we decided to go to the polyclinic to get a referral at Changi General Hospital.
For 3 years I went for follow-up appointment with psychiatrists and a psychologist at CGH. It helped me manage my mental health condition and I was able to go back to work for about 2 years before I had a relapse in June 2018. That was when I made the decision to not take my medication consistently during the Ramadhan period due to wanting to complete reading The Holy Quran in the month and to stay up for night prayers.
This time, my mania was full-blown. I had delusions about getting signals through hand gestures, music lyrics, the colour red, eye-contact with strangers to name a few. I was in my mania episode for about 5 months before I managed to pull myself out of that state when I was given the right medication. But when I realised that my beliefs during mania episode was just happening in my brain, I became depressed and embarrassed of some of the things I did during my mania episode. In the same year I was hospitalized in July and August for my mania and in December for my depression. It was a difficult period for me as I was sent unwillingly to IMH for my first two admissions when I was in my mania as I believed I was well despite my family thinking otherwise. For my last admission in December 2018 I wanted to be admitted as I wasn’t able to sleep well for weeks due to one medication I was talking that had a side effect which prevents me from sleeping. I think I went to A&E at IMH for 3 times before I self-admit myself.
After my last discharge, I recuperated at home for a few months before I started working part-time as a tuition teacher. It’s been a year since my last admission and this time I have slowly taken one step at a time in my recovery. What have helped me in my recovery this year? Prayers, slowing down to achieving goals, spending time with my family who are my pillar of strength especially during the difficult times, going for walks with my mother/sister, supportive friends who are also in recovery, supportive childhood friends who stayed by me despite my episodes of being sick, Club Heal’s Our Healing Voice sessions with my peers, my counsellor at Club Heal, keeping through my medication, doing new things, being a tourist in my own country and teaching my students.
My hope for my recovery journey for this year is to continue teaching, improve in my physical health through more walks, going for slow jogs, do activities that make me happy, save money so that I can travel with my friends and family and learn to ride a motorcycle. I have learnt to slow down and do things that are in my capacity in the hopes of maintaining my mental health for the years to come. In shaa Allah.