Sorry for the poor quality; taking this left handed on my right arm is not exactly easy. But the message is more important.
Standing here today, reflecting over the past year, and especially over the past few months, it is a joy to realise that despite what life could throw at me I am still alive, that I am still living every moment. My battles are by no means over, and perhaps some of them are ones that will be lifelong. But in each battle I find the will to bite back, whether through indulging in the things that give my life meaning, or through my favourite medium of expression: writing. These things keep me alive and sane. These things define who I am.
I still remember the first day of 2010, its key details vivid as though I had experienced them yesterday. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep after the New Year fireworks, or waking up to a hot day cooking pikelets on a hot stove, or dipping our toes in the swimming pool, but that day struck me as strangely peaceful, as a snapshot of everything before it changed. Friends for instance, whom I thought I would get to know better, now fading into the distance. Cooling off lazily in summer without a care for the school year beginning again in the coming weeks. They happened, but during the darker days I thought they were all illusions. Things that would never happen to me again.
The warning signs first appeared during school, building up as stress as increasing workloads made it hard for me to cope initially. On top of that, I was feeling somewhat alienated at school, and I felt extremely awkward in social situations. In fact, I had always felt this for years; it would not be until months later that I discovered I have social phobia/social anxiety disorder, and I only found this out through dA. Realising this was bittersweet, for I had finally realised what I'm feeling IS a real problem, and is not just some phase, but at the same time I felt it set me apart even further from the people I tried to communicate with.
Meanwhile, at school, family pressures including my mother's expectations of what I should be doing now that I was at a senior level of high school started to press down on me, and finally culminated in an argument one early morning before my English Extension exam. Completely shaken, I could not stop crying and had to leave the examination room, when the teacher half gave up on me trying to get me to do the exam and advised me to visit a counsellor. I didn't. Ultimately, I managed to resit the exam and reconciled briefly with my mother, but while it felt like an isolated incident at the time, I still dwell on it from time to time, purely because I felt it was the trigger for how I was going to feel. And it was.
Because when the term ended, the feelings of sadness and hopelessness did not go away. In the first week of the holidays, I was glad just to leave the house in order to go to philosophy lectures, but as soon as I came back I just started crying all over again. My parents never knew a thing. I hid it well. And when the next term started I was just so miserable that people kept asking what was wrong. And I put up a brave face and said I was fine, I was fine. I wasn't fine. The exams and assignments built up on me. Realising I was going to fail an exam on one day, since I had not studied for it, I deliberately stayed home and wouldn't go to school. Eventually my parents sent me to the doctor, and he made me take the K10 test, the universal test for depression. I scored 40/50, which classed me as extremely depressed. Suggestions to visit a psychiatrist started to float around my head. I stood my ground for a few more weeks. In those few weeks, my condition steadily grew worse, as I contemplated suicide in school lessons, constantly had tears in my eyes and withdrew to myself completely. I especially had recurring urges to jump in front of a train, because I had remembered a boy from my school doing the exact same thing last year, to escape from his depression. I had to physically hold onto something during those moments because I was scared that I might actually do it, even though for all my suicidal thoughts I was one who could never really bring myself to do it. It was a small irremovable part of me that deep down would not let me go.
Finally, on 6 June 2010, after a demoralising chemistry lesson, I finally consented to visiting the psychiatrist. I left school early and had the appointment. The initial consultation only revealed what I had already guessed for so long, that I had major depression (moderate). And so began the fortnightly sessions, as I tried to hang onto everything that was crumbling. As I tried to hang on to what I used to be.
More and more, dA intervened to be my saviour. The friends I made on dA cheered me up more than any of real life friends could ever do. To be honest, I don't really blame them since I don't say anything much to them nowadays; I just felt they would never understand how I feel and I thought people on dA understand me better than those in real life. In particular, there was one very special friend whom I feel extremely lucky to have met. Although six years and an ocean divides us, we were as close as sisters could be. Over time we have sent each other gifts of words and objects and each of them are never far away from me. Of course, my involvement with dA during this time has faced much criticism from friends in real life, but I had not let that faze me. With each year I have been on dA, I have been increasingly more involved, and I know this year has been the most worthwhile year to date being on deviantART.
Nevertheless, while I found a most precious support base on dA
, a pool of encouragement I can dip into when I needed to, I still had to come to terms with the problems I had to face in real life. dA was a wonderful distraction, and a wonderful place to be, but ultimately it will not be, or it will not solely be my long-term solution to a long-term problem. My sessions with my psychiatrist decreased my anger and hurt and gave me some useful advice to think about and apply to in real life. Through these sessions, I have come to realise that speaking aloud and unafraid on issues that we are so willing to turn a blind eye to is a powerful way for me to break the silence that had trapped me for so long. So I did. I once spoke about my experiences to a group I didn't know. I wrote often about my own experiences and posted them on dA. I even started speaking a little more about it to my friends. But on that front it still remains a struggle, and in my eyes it is a mixed blessing, because while I felt abandoned during the process of healing, I slowly developed a self-confidence and belief in my self that I had never truly possessed for all my life until today, which keeps me standing in those moments when I am alone. Once again, it was the friends I had met on dA that had helped me develop it, but it was also the efforts of my psychiatrist and surprisingly, my mum's recognition and acceptance of my condition. Not only had I grown in many ways in this journey, so had my own mother, and her support was something which I had valued for so long, but had taken on something more of a significance as the year progressed.
Today is November 18th. It is that special friend's birthday. Without her, I do not believe I will have the courage to share this today. In truth, I have already shared parts of it on dA already; this is just the complete story in one deviation. But without her, it will be hard to conceive the person that I am today. There is without a doubt that she has shaped me as who I am today, as has dA for the past three years. As has my faithful readers, if you are reading this now. I appreciate your every comment and every bit of support. For the past few days, I have written the word "love" on my arm as a reminder for the beautiful things that do exist, for the words that tell me I am loved. I can only hope that as I continue on my life journey that I will hang onto such reminders.
Life is a gift, so make full use of it. Project Love