‘Fessing up and stepping out

Hey everyone – it’s been a while since I last posted and I thought I’d shed some light into the reason behind the silence.
This is going to be pretty much the most personal post I’ve written to date, so grab a coffee and sit tight.

Here goes –

Before I begin… A disclaimer is needed:

If you think you might be suffering from depression, please speak to a trained counsellor, or practitioner who will help, or a close friend/loved one who can go with you. Do not be afraid of judgment and dismiss what could be manifesting as minor symptoms; depression can come in many forms and deteriorate if left unchecked, so please – do not take anything lightly.

Source: Google

Background:
It all began last year, when I left a pretty kick-ass job that was all about parties and fun stuff – and I had A LOT of drive for planning and ensuring everything I planned went PERFECTLY without a hitch.

With my Type A mentality and drive, I planned several events at once, and took pride and pleasure in ensuring all events were perfectly executed, and garnered the team strong commendations from satisfied clients and guests.

What I did not realise was that I had been running like a supercar with a faulty fuel gauge – I did/could not recognise the sign of burnout.

For example, friends and family alike noted that I had been really short on my temper, and I dismissed their alerts.

In August/September, a great career opportunity presented itself – I was invited into loyalty marketing for an infant and children’s nutrition brand. I leapt right at it, because I do have the heart for children, and the purpose really appealed to me!

But, when the reality of the super silent workplace hit me, along with the unfortunate development that my projects were on back burner (which meant that I wasn’t activated as a resource) – I dreaded turning up for work every day.

I started to withdraw from social activities, and talking to my friends because I felt unworthy next to them, and very much alone.

I left the company after 5 months, in February.

Within the same month, I asked to join a former boss’ team, and this time, I’d be back in advertising – but with a brand which is deeply meaningful to me, because I felt I could contribute to the building up of our nation’s stature in the world.

After months of running high-profile projects fairly independently, I buckled to the pressures of self-doubt, and second-guessing myself constantly.

The peak (or nadir) of depression:

I shut down, and started withdrawing into a shell, and felt no one would understand or could relate with judging.

My boyfriend would be the only person I’d turn to for support, and he was getting visibly and understandably frustrated.

I lost appetite for anything fun, tasty, exciting – it was like my world turned monochromatic – which was VERY distressing for a extrovert, to say the least.

For lack of a better way to express my sense of frustration, I would cry.
– At the workplace, with no apparent trigger, I’d cry at my desk.
– At home, I’d cry to sleep. And sleep often eluded me as well.
– In the car and when I was out with my boyfriend, I’d either go silent or weep.
– At church, I’d shy away from small group meet-ups and corridor chats pre- and post-service.

In retrospect, what was most difficult to reconcile was my inner depressive state and my outer appearances – I felt the constant need to keep up with the outside world’s perception of my self as a positive, happy, bubbly, jumpy personality.

The turnaround:

…Was not as immediate as I had hoped!

I was sent off on mental break leave by my bosses for 4 days (including a weekend).

In desperation, I Googled ‘depression hotline Singapore‘ and I dialled for help: the first hotline on the National Council of Social Services (NCSS) directory of helplines, which led me to Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) – a not-for-profit organisation with trained counsellors who were ready to help.

I spoke over the phone with a kind lady Any for 2 days, and was equipped with frameworks to own the recover process.

In addition, I started confiding in a trusted group of 10 girls individually (one of whom was a trained psychologist as well), who helped me track my progress and moved out of my fog of depression.

Through continual prayer and active conversations/debates about my situation, I am glad to have taken steps to treat the underlying cause of my depression – I had been tagging my own identity to how work was going for me, which was so off!

What’s next?

Depression remission (as referenced by Sarah Silverman/Ellen) is real.

I wouldn’t take for granted the danger of slipping back into depression lightly –
just because you’re clear of extreme lows and are in a clearer frame of mind to tackle the here and nows does not mean it’ll not come back again ever.

To be super vigilant, I will continue to reframe and challenge my perspectives, with the help of friends and loved ones.

Was it really that terrible? Yes, it was.
But do I regret having gone through this suffering? No, I do not.
In fact – I’m thankful for the added self-awareness from this episode.

As Any once said – there is a positive side to depression.

“You will find that this episode of depression will enrich your life experience, and help you to relate to others better, with your own brush with depression.”

Indeed.

I’ve recently found out as well, that October is Depression Awareness month, and many others have spoken out on it.
(See: Eelyn Kok’s story – she’s a Singaporean actress who’s been actively speaking out on this issue)

Check out some other readings/resources which helped me:

  1. Desiring God – Going Deep with God in Depression
    (I’m surprised to have found that John Piper struggled with depression too!)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xp0vrI5yFIw
  2. Sarah Silverman
    (This lovely comedienne shared her experience on the Ellen show recently)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZGVgl_RZ5Y
  3. This piece from Hello Giggles – ‘Why ‘Inside Out’ will start an important conversation about mental health
    I am totally like Disgust from Inside Out, but the interaction between Joy and Sadness was very insightful for me from Inside Out’s core – that emotions aren’t challenging rational thoughts, but support decision-making with the need to protect our selves.

    Source: Hello Giggles

Thoughts?

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