By ANGELIN YEOH and KEVIN TAN
MOST of us would find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. We‘d be tempted to just turn off the alarm and go back to sleep. But then reality kicks it and before you know it, you’re getting ready for work or school. For Jasmine Chua, 25, however, it’s just not that easy.
“When I’m depressed I would cry all the time. I would have this feeling of intense guilt and hopelessness. There are times where I would not get out of bed for days,” she said.
As a child, Chua was not aware she could be suffering from depression. She thought it was normal because she was just a child. She relied on food for comfort as a child and later in life, she turned to self-harm.
“I only started thinking about the term ‘depression’ when someone told me about it. Then I thought about my childhood and realised that I’ve actually displayed symptoms at a much earlier age. It began when my sister was born and she was a sickly child for many years. I felt neglected and unwanted so I turned to binge-eating. I started cutting myself at the age of 10. I cried myself to sleep every day after school.”
It was difficult for Chua to open up about her depression.
“I grew up keeping things to myself and I even took pride in the fact that my parents knew nothing. I didn’t even know what I was doing to myself was abnormal!”
When she entered university, Chua started to seek professional help from a clinical psychologist.
“Therapy wasn’t easy because I had to face painful issues I had been running away from for years, and recovery was often never a linear progression – there are good days and bad days.”
After years of struggling with depression, Chua said she finally experienced recovery last year.
“For the first time, life was meaningful. I could actually enjoy life and the people around me and there was no need to take my own life,” she said.
Therapy also taught Chua how to be more realistic about recovery, and she learned new skills to help her cope with relapses.
“I realised that ‘normal’ doesn’t mean an absence of bad days, but it means getting on with life despite the circumstances. Right now, I can enjoy the people around me, do the things I enjoy, and lift up those who are in need. That’s recovery.”
Eve Oh, 22, struggled with depression since she was 12, when her family went through a rough patch.
“Growing up in a struggling family and home environment really made it hard for me to see other people happy. It’s as if I’m not normal,” said the law student.
“My main problem was that I lacked confidence, so that made me defensive and to put on a strong front when I’m actually weak and lonely on the inside,” she expressed.
As a musician, Oh wrote songs to cope with her depression and used music as an outlet her to express herself. “Writing music is what I love to do, and I had to learn to focus on the things I’m good at instead of being unproductive, whether or not I was struggling.”
Oh pointed out that overcoming depression doesn’t just happen overnight.
“It is very important to build relationship with friends and family, because through them you will know your identity,” she pointed out.
“As you build relationships with people, you will also meet new ones, and you get to know people from all sorts of backgrounds, people with their own struggles as well,” she said.
On top of that, Oh adds that it’s important to keep looking forward despite the pain. “Although it is difficult, keep on focusing on the positive – on your strengths, and on your goals.
“Make a list of goals and dreams, something for you to work towards. It may not be easy, but looking forward while having the support of the people around you will gradually make you a stronger person.”