Lin Jiawen (20J19) gets in touch with RVians, past and present, to dig deeper into their mental health struggles and to learn that they are never alone.
“I couldn’t reach out for help; I didn’t know how to. I didn’t think anything would help,” B recalled. There were so many moments where he felt like he was being suffocated, left without a shred of hope about anything in life.
Often unable to find a trigger, the frustration from the inability to comprehend why he was feeling like this snowballed.
“In a way, my life was going great but I still felt an overwhelming urge to give up on it,” he added.
With it being Healthy Lifestyle Month once again, and with Home-Based Learning becoming a reality, it is a timely reminder to ensure that we are not just treating our bodies well but also treating our minds with kindness.
We have reached out to a few RVians, past and present, who have taken the courageous step to initiate the conversation about mental health struggles.
The hope is that they will encourage those who are struggling to reach out for help if they need to, and for others to better understand what mental illness can be like.
Our interviewees include A (JC1), B (JC1), C (Class of 2018), D (Class of 2019).
The different facades that mental illness presents itself can lead to other struggles, where those around people with mental illness may not understand why they are acting the way they are.
“Some were unable to truly understand the impact that mental illness had on me and thought I used it as an excuse. It’s a problem for many of us - without empathy from those around us, it’s very hard for those struggling to explain themselves, which creates a vicious cycle,” C recounted.
A little compassion goes a long way
The impact that mental illness has on people can be devastating and unimaginably difficult to deal with, and a little bit of compassion from those around them truly goes a long way.
On top of that, mental illness also manifests in different ways, and everyone’s experience is different.
“I would get panic attacks or break down crying over nothing while doing schoolwork. It would take me a long time to calm down and get to what I was doing prior to these episodes,” A described.
“Apart from that, my condition also affected my interpersonal relationships with others and my physical state. For example, during bad days, I couldn't move in bed at all and would get pains from stress in my body.”
“It starts off with feeling sad for one day, and then the next, and the next. And suddenly you don't see any end out of it and being sad is all you’ve ever known.” - A
No specific checklist
Oftentimes debilitating, mental illness strips its victims of everything they have, regardless of where they are in life. Anyone can struggle with mental illness; there is no specific checklist you have to fulfill in order to ‘qualify’.
“Sometimes we rub off as ungrateful, because others look at us for what we ‘have’ and how much more ‘talented’ we are than them,” D explained.
It is not an individual’s fault that they are affected by such a condition, and this is definitely something to bear in mind when someone comes up to you to talk about their mental illness.
“I took this photo some time ago when I was in the midst of writing out some of my feelings. In some sense, it represents something that has given me comfort in my lowest times - photography and writing.” - C
“However, I’ve become more empathetic towards the struggles and emotions of other people; I’m more aware of the little things that other people may not pick up on,” B commented.
While mental illness is nothing to glorify or romanticise, it does indeed build one’s maturity and changes their perspective of the world.
Most mental illnesses cannot be completely cured; they can only be managed with treatment. It is never easy living with such an unpredictable and permanent condition, but one other thing that mental illness has taught our interviewees is the importance of seizing opportunities that life offers.
“I don’t know when I’ll relapse; all I can do is try to live my life to the fullest while I still can,” C added on. Indeed, mental illness does have valuable life lessons to offer amidst the negative impacts that it brings.
I believe in you
When asked what advice they had to offer for juniors going through a rough patch, they mentioned how living in denial will only send you spiralling down further. There will also be days when mental illness will try to tear you down mercilessly, but it is crucial to not give in.
Recovery is never a linear process and there will be times when you feel like you are just not getting better despite trying your best, and that’s okay.
“Have faith that you'll get through whatever you're going through. Know that you matter, and that you're greatly loved, even if it doesn't seem so or if you somehow just can't believe it at this point of time,” D concluded.
“You are strong; I believe in you.”
Mental illness can feel like a never-ending, lonely cycle, but it truly isn’t. As long as it might take you to get there, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there, you got this :-)