9 months before his A-level examinations, Simon was diagnosed with Major Depression and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Always knows as an energetic and bubbly individual to those that knew him, they were shocked when they found out. Some were in disbelief – they even questioned the doctor’s prognosis.
Simon still remembers when his teacher found out about his condition. She repeatedly asked him if they were a mistake or if he was pulling a prank on her. When she was sure, she said something that he could not forget: “You put one hell of a show to hide your emotions from the rest of the world.”
It all started during his December holidays – he starting having trouble sleeping, only getting four hours of sleep each night. He would have racing thoughts and quickened heartbeats. He began crying for no reason.
The pain became so intense that his only coping mechanism was to self-harm. Simon shares, “cutting and burning myself was an escape from the agony that I felt. When I did that, I felt better as the pain started to fade. I know it’s bizarre for others to understand but that was the only route I could take back then.”
Self-harm is often used as a to transfer negative emotions. Those who do that use it to aid them in forgetting their problems, but it usually backfires as it creates more problems than they anticipated.
As such, Simon dropped out of school to concentrate on recovery. That was a dark period for him as he felt that he had no one to rely on. While his family members were aware of his condition, they did not handled it well. His fair-weathered friends became non-existent in his life.
Not long after, he had to go through National Service. While his condition meant he need not go through the Basic Military Training (BMT) like others, he faced a new set of difficulties.
Through Rough Waters
Simon felt stuck in an unsafe setting – surrounded by men who shouted often and expected everything to be “perfect” according to their standards was nerve-racking. He felt threatened by his army superiors and friends.
Unsurprisingly, his condition worsened. He was only able to get two hours of rest each night, his anxiety skyrocketed and depression aggravated.
Feeling helpless, he turned back to self-harm while he was in camp. It was his coping mechanism – he had told his medical officers that he was unable to cope, but they paid no attention.
Simon started to have suicidal thoughts and tendencies as well. He ended up overdosing on his sleeping pills, and shares his story of what happened that night.
“My breathing started to become shallow after 30 minutes, and my visions were blurry. I blacked out not remembering anything else.”
His parents found him in his room in time, and he was rushed to the hospital where the drugs were pumped out of his system. His family members were clearly distraught – they had never imagined that he would attempt suicide.
Simon was then discharged after ten months of service, and attended more recovery sessions. Gradually, he regained his appetite, and started going out more often. He was finally making progress.
Simon later became an outdoor instructor and enjoyed working with other trainers and handling students during outdoor activities. While it was challenging, he relished every moment.
He credits his ability to cope with such pressure to his group of trainers, who Simon says helped each other in any crisis. After working in the outdoor industry for one year, he decided to focus again on his education.
A current English Language and Literature major, Simon has since developed a love for reading and writing.
On top of that, he is also a part-time tutor and volunteer. He feels that giving back to the society and supporting the less fortunate is essential. To him, “it is to give them hope that there are always others to help them during their toughest time.”
Despite his long-fought battle with his mental illnesses, Simon is grateful that he has come out learning many things, and has transformed into a better person.
In closing, he picks a quote in his favourite book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which helped him to take a different perspective of his illness.
“So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”