Musical Chairs: A Narrative on the Diary of a Depressed 20-year-old
The moment I agreed to writing a piece about my experiences with mental health, my mind instantly raced off in all creative directions – I sought to write a story about my journey, true to fact but lined with cinematic effect and exaggerated to epic proportions. I am a “creative type” after all.
But mental health is not cinematic, neither is it glamorous or epic. It is with this that I steered the creative ship towards a direction that made even myself nervous – I will tell you my story, and I will tell it to you very honestly.
I am a survivor of two suicide attempts. I have a clinical diagnosis of depression, and I am still on anti-depressants three years from the fateful day I stopped denying I had an issue. But none of that matters, because today, I am proud of how far I have come.
The music begins.
Funny enough, I never used to believe in mental health, or more accurately, mental ill health. I used to believe that all this talk about depression and anxiety were matters of the mind and that people should be able to control the way they feel and the way their mind works. Who could blame me though, I grew up in a culturally-strong Chinese household, where being sad, even in the most extreme forms, were simply dismissed as being emotional.
Many metaphors have been used to describe depression, but for me, it was a game of musical chairs. I don’t know when the game started, but it started off innocent and naïve – who cares who wins, it is all just a fun game. But deep down, there is, and always was that insecurity and impending sense of loss – what if I lose soon? Don’t be silly, there are still so many players in the game, how can anything go wrong?
“Feeling so behind on everything at the moment. Feeling so insufficient + worthless. So many things I’d like to do, so little time. Nothing feels right yet I still put on a smile like everything’s OK.”
1st May 2012 – 9.18pm
Days passed, months changed, seasons came and gone but everything was still so stagnant. The game of musical chairs was still going, but many have been eliminated from the game and the sense of impending loss was becoming greater and greater. There were a lot of anxious waiting for the next time the music would stop. There was also a lot of blame – do better, if you lose it is your fault, why can’t you just control your emotions?
“You are always unhappy because you expect too much, From yourself, from the people around you. Until you learn how to lower your expectations, the smallest things will upset you.
6th October 2012 – 10.40pm
It then came down to the last two players – myself and the world. I knew I was going to lose the game. The world was fast and it kept moving. I was slow and always just a pace behind.
“No one cares about how you feel. Swallow your sorrows and wear your emotions on your sleeves if you ever want to survive. Stop being a sook. Stop thinking people want to care. Get a grip. The sooner you come to terms with this, the less you will feel emotional about. No one cares. No one cares. No one cares.”
22nd October 2012
And then the music stopped. I lost the game.
“A month ago, I decided I was sad. As a sign to the people around me that I was drowning in the deep. No one came. And with every day of waiting, and with every word that was spelt out, pieces of me were lost.”
21st November 2012, 7.19pm
“And when I am gone, they will say things about my death. They will blame themselves. They will wish they tried. But I have given too many chances. Yet I am still alone. And no one came.”
21st November 2012, 11.17pm
But someone did come. The game was not over.
It took a supportive friend who saw me in trouble and implored me to get help, to the point of breaking down in shear exasperation. It took a friend to stop the music for me to finally be honest to myself and to the people around me. And hence, begins my road to recovery.
But recovery was not a straight road and it was filled with many twists and turns through complete darkness. This darkness threatened to envelop me and in the worst of these twists, was my second dance with death. But the dark days slowly lifted, and before long they were coming along less frequently. Eventually they subsided.
I am not a mental health advocate, nor do I claim to be one. But I am a survivor of a mental illness, and I have a story. Today, I look back at my experiences and I am proud of myself.
If your story sounds like mine, be brave and be bold, for seeking help is not a cowardly thing to do, it is the bravest thing you can do. If your story sounds like mine, remember you are not alone. If your story sounds like mine, I promise you, you will look back at yourself one day and you will be able to say to yourself, you are proud.
“I am about to tell you something I never let myself hear enough. I am proud of you. Six months ago, you were dropped into darkness and as lost as you were and as many attempt you took to escape, you were always out there alone. I won’t go as far as to say you found the light, because personally, I don’t think you have. But you have found the sun again. You stepped outside. You let your friends in. And for once in a long. Long time, you lived for yourself. I am proud of you.”
9th March 2013 – 12.33pm