Free yourself from mental distress
I am inspired by ‘nuggets of gold’ to share my story of suicide attempt. With this sharing I hope it will help those who harbour such thoughts.
I had been promoted at work and I loved my job. The future of my career seemed promising. I worked so hard, stayed behind always, even worked on holidays and brought work home. What I didn’t realise is that the stress was creeping into my body and mind. I relapsed again. I never told my boss or colleagues that I was seeing a psychiatrist for fear of losing my job. This time I could no longer hide because of my long absence from work. When I came right I went back to work with the idea that I was still a treasured employee. The first day back at work I was turned into a ‘furniture’. I was not to resume my old responsibilities but was put there because it was difficult to fire me. I was angry.The next morning I went back to the office and resigned. And I stayed home until that day:
In the morning I felt depressed, so I went to see my psychiatrist. Nothing much was done to help me to alleviate my mood apart from, I was told later, telling my parents to take precaution. The side effects of my medication came to me again, some side effects that frightened me for years and I was so afraid that it would stay till the day I die.
‘If I have to suffer this side effect, I would be better off dead,’ I said to my husband. He hugged me but not realising the significance of what that could be.
I remembered that there was a tin of caustic powder which we used to unblock our toilet in the bathroom. Having that in mind, I called a relative hoping to talk to her but could not get hold of her. I went into the bathroom, locked the door, took out the tin of caustic, put some into a cup used for rinsing the mouth, diluted it in tap water and drank it. My throat was burning and it was unbearable, I had to rush out of the bathroom. My husband saw what happened, he quickly took me back to the bathroom, ran water from the tap of the bathtub into my mouth. I remembered he was crying.
My aunt was living just one floor below. My cousin who was a health inspector came up and upon checking that we had three bottles of milk urged my husband to make me drink the milk. The ambulance came, paramedics with a stretched bed took me to the hospital. Outside the hospital waiting were my parents. I could see the concern on their faces. Once inside the hospital the vicious cycle returned - my fear of the communists. I was put in bed in the emergency ward. There were nurses dressed in red uniforms and I associated red with communism. I screamed. I kicked. They had to tie me to my bed. When a nurse dressed in red came close I used abusive language to stop her from coming near. I was fiercely thirsty and demanded water but was left unattended to. Like this the whole night went by. In the morning my parents came, they arranged my discharge and took me instead to a private hospital.
When my throat no longer hurt I returned home only to discover that my esophagus was narrowed and I could not swallow food. I was sent to a surgeon who suggested widening my esophagus. The operation, however, was not successful and instead the organ was broken. The surgeon referred me to another surgeon to have a major operation. My esophagus was removed, instead part of my stomach was severed and was swung up to connect with my throat and the stomach had to be moved further up, food would go through my throat and into my stomach. My act of the suicide attempt had also brought me not just a lot of physical pain but also a lot of after effects. Up till today I still constantly choke on food which was embarrassing and also brought me great discomforts. Since this episode I promised myself that no matter how hard life may be I will make sure I will not have any suicide attempt. There had been long periods of depression but I struggled on. Life is precious and I am glad I was saved.
To suffer from Bipolar Disorder was actually a blessing in disguise for me. It was because of a relapse some twenty odd years ago that I have rediscovered and further discovered my passions and in developing these passions I attain achievements which is very important to me because I have gained back my confidence, my self-worthiness and motivation. I no longer suffer from depression.
I have gone through lots of pain and I can feel the pain of those who are in the same boat which is why I always reach out to friends or whoever who are going through mental health issues. If my story can help in prevention of suicide, I will be thrilled.
Where to find help and support:
Shine - 0508 744 633
Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843
Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
What's Up - 0800 942 8787
Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234,
Samaritans - 0800 726 666
Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865
I used to hide my mental illness because this is not something glorious to tell others, shameful and I thought I would lose friends as they may think that I'm dangerous. I stigmatized myself as well. It is only when I had a relapse here years ago that I become open about my illness and I've discovered that most of my friends accept me as I am. It has been a long journey to come to how I am now - well and happy. I, as a Chinese, understand why we hide about our mental health and I'd love to help my fellow Chinese; of course, I'd love to help whoever experiences the illness.
I don't think I had dreams. What I wanted was to study well, had a good job and made a comfortable living. Then I failed at school, couldn't get into university and experienced mental illness which almost took away everything from me. But, I came to New Zealand, a relapse enlightened me. I wanted to get well. I started by self-actualization. With a goal in life, I not only gained back my passions, but I've also discovered several more. I struggle. I begin to have dreams. I become motivated and I no longer suffer from depression. Life is good!
I do get a lot of anxiety these days because I am working on a huge project. Anxiety hits me throughout the day and if I let it get its way I believe I would already have a relapse; but I do, and have quite a few ways to help me out of it. I do all the things I love doing like writing poetry, dancing, singing, drawing… The most recent one, one that works well, is to study. When I concentrate on studying I’m distracted from whatever anxiety I have. The important thing is to make an initiative to do something. I truly understand that most of the time when I feel anxious I don’t really want to do anything, thinking that nothing can help, but I make myself to do them and once I’ve started I find solace. It works for me every time which is why I would like to share my experience with someone who needs it. Don’t let anxiety overtake you, do something you love or you use to love, you will be surprised how it can take you out of distress.
I have written a musical and I have come to the stage of fundraising. I have chosen crowdfunding via Boosted NZ. Please support by donation and/or share. Many thanks!
This is my last attempt. I have written a musical ‘Reach Out’. It is a play about mental health, racism, discrimination, love, and forgiveness... and I have been trying to put it on stage, but with no funding, I can’t employ anyone to have it done since I don’t believe in rounding up volunteer workers. Even though I have tried again and again to get some funds which have been total failures, I now decide to form a team of artists who have experiences of mental illness but are fit to work to help out. I cannot promise a handsome fee but meals will be provided whenever we are at work. Any income from the play will be shared. And you will be having a goal to work on, a chance to bring back confidence and motivation, and a chance to show your capability. What I provide will be my script, my music, my passion and I can assure you my hard work as well. Whoever is interested please send me a message on Facebook or email me (email@example.com). If this time again I do not receive any response I will bury my script and forget all about it.
September 28, 2021
It has been particularly difficult for me today. I am feeling quite restless. I believe it has a lot to do with the lockdown. Everyday I check on the number of new cases and am anxious to find out if there has been progress in fighting against the Delta variant. Although I have been taking all this quite well, but six weeks is a long period to handle. I have played the piano, watched movies, YouTube, just to distract myself from the feeling of being trapped. So I plead everyone who can take the vaccination go for yours. It will help us to move out of lockdowns. In the meantime, those who are finding it difficult to face the lockdown, act to help yourself. There are many ways of distracting yourself from bad feelings. I won’t give up on using whatever ways I can to stay well, and there are many, just search for them. Take care!
I did a cartoon which took me less than 15 minutes, but my good mood returns and I can concentrate in doing stuffs. Hoorah!
October 17, 2021
The prolonged level three really got me. For several days I was feeling unhappy and stopped doing things I used to love doing. I buried myself in movies, YouTubes all day so that I don’t think or work. I let myself have a few days of holiday, not that I was enjoying them, it was just to pass time. I understand that the lockdown is necessary in order to fight against Covid-19 and yet I longed for my freedom. My mood was like a rollercoaster. Very fortunately, this lasted only for several days, and now I am back on track. I continue doing what I enjoy, practicing on the piano, reading, studying. It’s like I’m alive again. So, anyone out there who has anxiety and/or depression because of the lockdown, help yourself, go back to do the things you love and/or take a holiday as I did; talk to a friend, go out for walks and remember to go for the vaccination if you haven’t had it yet. When the numbers are high enough we will get our freedom!
I shared the following on Facebook two years ago but thought I should shared it here as well.
I have been experiencing fleeting moments of depression whenever negative thoughts come into my mind. Like when I am stressed while doing something difficult; or when bad memories appear, and worst still even when there is no reason to or triggers at all. This can happen as many as three or four times a day. My way of dealing with it is to stop them right at the beginning and not allowing them to develop and aggregate any further. By switching my thoughts immediately to something more pleasant, or do some of my favourite activities. Sometimes even a simple distraction of making a drink can work. Usually the depression is gone within a very short period of time. This works for me because I have been practicing these remedies for years. I am not expecting somebody else can do it as fast as I do . But through constant and persistent learning, experimenting, making improvements and adjustment, one can surely quicken this "divert and calm down" time significantly. I remember way back during my fourth relapse. I was in a really bad way with my family for quite a while. The worst thing was that I did absolutely nothing to help. I was like a puddle of mud, no thoughts, no action, no nothing. But once I was determined to get myself out of it by my own effort, and despite heaps of failures and disappointments, I did my very best to stand up and tried again. And after each time I fell, and there were many many times,it took less and less time for me to pick myself up, stand tall and try again.
This crisis we are facing can bring a lot of stress, restlessness, anxiety to people like us but this will be over so we should try to keep well and find ways to cope and be patient. Once this is over you will, I’m sure, feel even better, stronger than before as you have overcome something so difficult and devastating. I do!
I was filled with guilt
I was terribly shy
I was embarrassed
to admit being pretty
I was embarrassed
to admit I was smart
I had a paranoia
which followed me for 50 years
today I’m proud to say
I’ve outgrown my guilt
I’ve outgrown my shyness
I’ve chucked away my paranoia
I feel beautiful inside out
I’ve learned to be kind
I’ve learned to be generous
I’ve turned brave
I must admit that I’m also intelligent
I am not afraid to show the world
Who I am
And being me is the best thing
I’ve done to myself!
Love is my worst enemy
I have been on antipsychotic medications for years.
Gradually the side effects took over.
They got out of hand,
a major concern.
I couldn’t even walk properly.
I could bear anything
except not daring to hold my grandson
in fear of him falling down, being hurt.
No! Something had to be done.
My ex-GP was not helping,
so I took things into my own hands.
Without letting anybody know
I had a plan,
I would reduce the medication bit by bit
until I could stop taking it.
When I received good results,
I would gain credibility.
I had this all planned out.
I kept a journal
documenting my mood
and my physical wellbeing
for the psychiatrist’s viewing.
After a month without medication,
I began to gain back balance.
I didn’t have reflux.
I could focus.
My memory improved.
Everything pointed to a good beginning.
This plan included
getting help from my ex-psychiatrist,
someone who had helped me greatly
in my recovery.
The plan matured.
I tried to contact my ex-psychiatrist.
Some days passed
with no reply.
Full of confidence.
That night, at my daughter’s place,
we were happily gathered,
Then I put a stop to all the joviality
by exposing my secret.
my husband, my daughter, my son-in-law,
came out from every mouth.
The Pandora’s box was opened.
Harsh words, accusations, pointing fingers
It was one of the worst times I have ever experienced.
To stop them from worrying
I offered myself up for slaughter and
sought out the help of the crisis team.
I arranged to see the hospital’s psychiatrist.
I was still hopeful.
They are experts.
Surely they’ll understand.
I’m in good hands.
Finally, they gave me an appointment
after delaying twice.
I knew my file would be huge
because it had been more than 30 years
since I was diagnosed with schizophrenia,
only to be told later
it was bipolar disorder.
Surely the assigned psychiatrist
wouldn’t see the whole picture.
Very intelligently I wanted to fill in gaps.
I told them what achievements I have had.
I told them I haven’t had depression for years.
I told them how motivated I am.
All in all
I told them how I have recovered,
information I thought would help.
But they were terribly busy.
The backlog of patients has always been huge.
All they wanted
was for me to resume taking medication.
Then my file would be closed.
They could move to work on other patients.
After three consultations,
they thought it’s time to take action,
to force me back on to medication.
After rejecting them,
the psychiatrist applied to put me
under the Mental Health Act.
The cheeky psychiatric nurse
said stupid things,
asked me to wait in the room
for security guards.
I was calm and clear headed.
My question was,
‘Will I be taken to the hospital now?’
She said, ‘No, it’s just routine.’
A staff member came in.
I didn’t really know why.
To make sure I wouldn’t fly?
However, the staff member and I
held an interesting and intelligent conversation.
Finally, someone did come.
Not the security guard,
but a consultant and another two staff.
I was read my rights.
The consultant listened to my story,
also to my husband’s.
After more than an hour’s consultation,
he turned to my hubby and said
‘I have no grounds to put your wife under the Mental Health Act.
I have no grounds to enforce her to take medication.’
He also said to me, ‘I hope time will sort things out for you.’
I felt gratified.
It’s time that I need, and not meds.
After that the psychiatric nurses called
from time to time
to check on my sleep,
to check on my wellness.
I needed to see psychiatric nurses
and consultants every now and then.
I repeated my story
time and time again.
The story was consistent
because I wasn’t lying.
They were satisfied.
My hubby was with me
at each of these meetings.
To my dismay,
he was drowning
in the idea that as long as I was taking meds
I’d be okay.
Harsh words, harsh attitudes
came my way every day.
I know he loves me and he’s worried,
but love turned out to be my worst enemy.
My loved ones worried
because they love me.
But all they wanted
was for me to resume taking medication.
They disregard the horrific side effects I am facing.
I got angry.
I fought with them all and
stuck to my belief.
All this struggle
put pressure on me,
but I held on.
I was strong.
After I convinced the consultant
that I was OK
he told me if they discharged me,
I’d be under the care of my GP.
He even said
He’d arrange a meeting
for me to meet my ex-psychiatrist
since I trusted him so much.
I was greatly relieved and
thought I would be discharged soon.
How wrong was I!
after being torn apart
by my loved ones at home,
which I had hoped to be my sanctuary,
a place to recuperate,
I decided to move out,
at least for a while.
It was at an exhibition
held in my school, an NGO.
I tried so hard to find a place
to stay but didn’t succeed.
I offered to provide entertainment
by playing on the piano
to attract visitors.
I played, not from any composition,
just let my fingers go
and depending on my ears.
I didn’t know I had this talent
I can keep playing
for as long as I want to
with no ending
and starting on any key.
And I only passed grade three
in piano training.
What went wrong that day?
I thought I was discharged.
I was so happy.
I posted on Facebook.
What went terribly wrong?
My daughter sent messages out
telling everybody I was not OK.
With heightened emotions
When it was time for the school to close,
I lost control.
I didn’t want to go,
but I had nowhere to go.
I insisted that the psychiatrists
come and see
how a genius works.
My husband wanted to take me back to the hospital.
standing across the road.
It was raining.
I was screaming.
He was on the phone talking to whoever.
I didn’t care.
‘We can’t come as the protocol does not allow it.’
That’s the response
from the psychiatrists.
Finally, I said they had to get the police to take me.
Two policemen came.
One talked to me.
I told him my story.
They talked me into going with them.
They took me back to the police station.
What they put me through,
like searching my body
to make sure I did not hide anything
which I could use to harm me,
I was tired, agitated, provoked.
I waited for hours
before two teams of psychiatrists and nurses arrived.
I talked to the first team
who seemed kind.
I told them my story.
I told them
all I needed was a place to stay
for a couple of days
till I found a place,
because I did not want to go home,
which I considered a sick place.
They seemed sympathetic
and I was hopeful.
The second team came.
After talking to me,
they at once put me under the Mental Health Act.
I was taken to Waitakere Hospital.
When I got there,
they put me in a room.
I had a good night’s sleep,
woke up and gained back my senses,
but I had already jeopardised my plan.
During the stay in the hospital,
I fought with the psychiatrist
over medication, over his diagnosis.
With a cell phone,
I searched for information.
I checked the symptoms of bipolar disorder
in the DSM-V.
Armed with research and knowledge
I debated with him.
At each meeting
I asked him questions
which he wouldn’t or couldn’t answer.
All the more I believed that I was right.
In the hospital
I talked to patients.
Every time I was with a patient
a senior staff was nearby,
listening to our conversations.
Then he told me
I have the power of connecting with patients.
I was still not discharged,
to stop taking medication.
But I made a lot of friends,
staff and patients,
via poetry, music and art.
It was time for me to leave the hospital
as I had nothing more to do
to help the others,
and I was bored.
I succumbed to resuming medication
and left the hospital.
I became an outpatient.
The dosage was high.
All the side effects resumed,
and worse than before.
I was assigned
a new psychiatrist and psychiatric nurse.
I told them my worries about the side effects,
how bad my balance was,
the problems with my heart,
how my life would be shortened.
I was fighting for my life in actual fact.
They did not listen.
My psychiatrist refused to acknowledge
all these were side effects,
not just ailments of old age.
The psychiatric nurse told me I’m very intelligent,
but for God’s sake,
why then didn’t they listen to my plea?
In the meantime,
I researched and studied my case.
I studied Open Dialogue theory.
I studied about psychosocial strategies.
I studied mindfulness.
I studied Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
I pleaded my psychiatrist to reduce my meds
in a safe environment,
giving her my sound evidence.
She wouldn’t listen.
She wouldn’t even see me
or answer my letter.
The psychiatric nurse argued with me.
She told me mental illness could not be cured.
I had no other option
but to make complaints.
I complained about the irresponsible neurologist
who rejected my psychiatrist’s request
to give me an appointment
to test if it was Sodium Valproate
that was causing my loss of balance.
To which he wrote back
and refused my psychiatrist’s request.
I made a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner
about my psychiatrist,
giving sound evidence.
They took my case.
Finally, my psychiatrist decided to discharge me
from the Mental Health Act
and left it to me
whether I wanted to take meds.
That very night
I stopped all meds.
My GP told me to make an appointment to see him
in eight weeks.
I learned that it would take at least four weeks
for me to detox.
So, during those eight weeks
I kept a journal,
documenting my sleep, my mood, my physical wellbeing.
Before seeing my GP I emailed it to him,
so he could see
I don’t do things impulsively.
I do plan.
My blood tests after stopping the meds
had never been so good.
All my abnormalities became normal.
Even my uric acid level,
though my ex-GP had bet her life
it was gout
and not Olanzapine
which heightened the uric acid level.
But, since stopping the medicine,
I experienced verbal abuse every day.
And from who else
but my husband
who loves me?
And all my loved ones agree with him.
Yes, they all love me,
but they refuse to walk with me
through my most difficult times.
They believe I am in good hands
under the care of experts.
They refused to read information
I sent them
to help them understand
Every day I was under pressure.
Not happy, I would not rest my mind.
But I learned important things
like being independent,
taking care of myself,
gaining back my confidence,
making good decisions.
When I was well enough,
I went back to Hong Kong
to visit my mother.
I could even take her on a cruise
all by myself.
My balance was good.
My memory was good.
My focus had never been better.
But I wasn’t welcomed by my family,
except my mother.
She loves me.
I love her dearly.
But I began to be honest with her
for the first time ever,
which angered her,
and she was disappointed in me.
However, she still loves me,
and I love her just the same.
But I was not happy.
I couldn’t sleep.
I couldn't eat.
I was losing weight.
I cried a lot.
I longed to come back to my hubby
so I could have a shoulder to cry on.
I was in a terrible state
both spiritually and physically.
I came back.
But on the way home from the airport
we started to argue heatedly.
I was determined to leave him,
but for the first time ever
he said sorry.
Yes, for the first time.
I once again forgave him.
I needed his love.
But I was still unhappy.
He was not much help.
Instead I felt pushed into misery.
I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep.
I lost seven to eight kilos.
Until one day I decided to leave him.
I ran away.
I felt relieved.
I was happy.
I thought now my love for him had died.
I was set free.
I planned to look after myself.
That night in a motel,
I had a short relapse.
I called an ambulance
which took me back to the hospital
where I spent roughly 50 days.
When I was discharged,
I gladly went back
to my husband’s embrace.
What happened during the 50 days
needs another tale.
What has changed?
My husband’s attitude.
He has become a loving husband,
and we argue much, much less.
I’m a much happier person, and so is he.
Despite the side effects
I take my meds.
My psychiatrist is happy.
My loved ones are happy.
Though my conviction
is different from my psychiatrist’s,
I listen to her.
It makes a difference to my world,
I choose love over anger,
which helps me bear the physical discomforts.
I am waiting patiently
for the day they are convinced
of my beliefs.
There are better ways
than just antipsychotic meds
to help patients recover,
and I intend to work on this.
I vowed at my book launch
that I’ll spend the rest of my life
to help the mentally ill and the depressed,
and this promise I will keep.
I am lucky to be loved.
For every recovery
there has to be support and love.
I have reconciled with my psychiatrist.
I trust that she is fulfilling her duties.
No matter what my belief
my life has become better and better
and I look forward to a bright and happy future.
Sitting under the sun
Baking in heat and solitude
My mind paused from thoughts
Ignoring what’s happening around
Tiredness streamed out in sweat
A pleasant feeling
From head to toe
I’m no longer imprisoned
In day-to-day woes
This is my song as a gesture of fighting against stigmatisation, enjoy!
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