This is the 49th story of the Mental Illness Recovery Series. Sharon has felt confused and alone for most of her life, but thankfully she has accepted help and has improved. This is her story:
Sharon is from Singapore and she loves to cook, read and cycle. After being diagnosed, Sharon realized she wants to help others, she said, “I met others like me through workshops and therapy, I realized I really wanted to become a psychotherapist and help others like me.” She hopes in 5 years when she’s 21 to be in university studying psychology. Sharon has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and depression. She believes her ADHD is due to genetics and that her GAD and depression is due to her family. She said, “My parents are strict and scolded me whenever I did something wrong, even small things, say for example, accidently spilling water. They would call me stupid in Mandarin or something. So I grew up following this sort of “no mistake rule” thus everything and every situation made me nervous.” Sharon became so depressed she became dependent, she said, “I felt so worthless and helpless, I began clinging on to my best friend more and more, finally she felt that I was too annoying and clingy and she broke the friendship off.”
Sharon was diagnosed by a psychiatrist and was referred to a therapist, she currently receives psychotherapy. Her psychiatrist tried to find the right medication for Sharon, but none of the medicines worked and to her surprise, she found out that medicines did not work for any of her family members that have ADHD. Not only that, but Sharon had to deal with numerous symptoms. The ADHD made her lack focus, she was easily distracted and fidgeted excessively. Her GAD provoked panic attacks because she was always anxious. Sharon also suffered from headaches, muscle aches and nausea. The depression made her feel worthlessness and hopelessness. She excessively slept or had terrible insomnia. Sharon felt fatigued and lost interest in everything.
This affected her daily life, she said:
“It became tiring to do anything, everything felt like it took too much effort. I would come home from school and just sit on the floor for an hour just to gather energy to go take a shower. In the shower, I would just sit and let the warm water spray on me as I try to fight off this intense extreme feeling of loneliness and despair. After an hour in the shower I will finally come out only to stare at my clothes and think what an awful lot of effort it takes to wear them. After putting on clothes I will just lay in bed like a ragdoll and think of why my friend left me.”
She would constantly be thinking when her misery will end and how was she going to survive the next day. School was torturous for Sharon. She said, “I was scolded at every class because I didn’t do any homework, I had to act all happy and energetic in front of my classmates, during recess I would try to take a half hour nap because I was so drained.” This affected her daily life, Sharon ended up isolating herself because acting like she was fine took too much energy, but being alone was also difficult for her. Sharon considered suicide and planned scenarios in her head, but she worried how this would affect her family. She said, “Most of the time I would think of hanging myself in school because I don’t want my family living in the same house where I died and I detested school and a hanging girl would be a very ghastly image which was what I wanted.”
This affected her relationship with others because Sharon convinced herself that people did not care, when deep down all she wanted was to scream for help. This made her feel trapped and confused because she couldn’t grasp how depression and anxiety worked. She said, “I couldn’t comprehend why I felt that way. How can I just lose interest and feel so numb and so empty even when doing the things I love?” Sharon’s first step to recovery was attending a workshop where she meet others struggling with similar illnesses. This taught her that she was not alone and motivated Sharon to get better.
The strategy she used to help control her mental disorders was to have a routine. She said, “I wanted to give up and crawl back into bed to hide, but I forced myself and as the days passed, doing daily activities became easier and more manageable. When I was taking these baby steps towards recovery, positive thinking and exercising gratitude also became easier. I loaded my cork-board with all sorts of positive affirmations although on bad days they were quite hard to believe.”
The road to recovery was not easy because a lot of Sharon’s peers were insensitive. Her desk mate is Catholic and told her that she was an ungrateful brat and she will go to hell if she committed suicide. Not only that, but her classmates made fun of her illnesses saying things like “Oh gosh I need to make my desk tidy, I’m so OCD” or “Did depression and therapy make you this way? Hahaha” Thankfully Sharon’s immediate family tried to be understanding and nicer. This ordeal taught her to accept and love herself. She now has a positive outlook in life and tries to squeeze out every bit of happiness in a situation.
This is her advice for others struggling through similar situations:
“Don’t ever feel ashamed of your mental illness. Sometimes you can’t control how you feel, but this doesn’t mean you’re worth any less than anyone else. You’re allowed to feel sad and you’re allowed to feel happy. You are worthy of love and a great life. Trust me there really is hope so don’t give up on yourself even though the situation is bad. You will grow, you will find the right people, you will learn to love and accept yourself. One day things will start to fall into place, but right now, all you have is the present moment so enjoy it. Always practice self-care and don’t be afraid to take the first step towards recovery or seek help.”
Sharon has come a long way and I am positive she will make a difference in her life and others. Help me make a difference by sharing your story.