In line with Suicide Awareness Day in September, PGR is raising awareness around a very taboo topic: Suicide & Depression. We’ve interviewed several individuals (heroes) about their lived experiences; stories that we hope will bring you healing, hope, and a deeper level of understanding.
In our interview below, we feature Angeline* (not her real name), who once struggled with issues ranging from starvation to self-harm to attempted suicide. Today, she’s proud to share that she’s come out stronger and has been in recovery for the past 8-9 years.
Tell us more about your journey?
I had a really difficult childhood. It was not about the money or opportunities – my parents always provided and gave me what I needed. Rather, it was mainly the differences in terms of the way I see things vs how my family saw things. It made it really hard to be around and I ended up leaving home at a fairly young age.
Over time, I developed a complex; most of this stemming from how I didn’t fit into the conventional “mold” in a typical Asian household. I found it hard to accept myself and did everything to try to escape that pain… I starved myself, had various eating disorders, cut myself etc.
I just couldn’t see myself being of any value. It didn’t help that my parents and I didn’t have the best relationship. In fact, I remember my dad telling me in passing that I was “so dumb and probably not going to do well in school” so I might as well “do something with [my] looks”. Needless to say, that message formed the way I lived for quite a few years following that.
Things didn’t get better from there and the complex stayed even after I got married. Looking back, getting married was a mistake. At the same time, I did what I could and there is one amazing thing that came out of it: My son. He is my world.
When I decided to end the marriage, a whirlwind of things happened – my son got taken from me, I was beat up, stalked, abused, accused of unthinkable things etc. This brought back a lot of old scars related to worthlessness and the feeling that I only made poor decisions in life.
Even after my entire divorce was settled, I had a couple of relationships without much luck – the guys I tried building a life with turned out to be liars or cheaters. I think the straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was when I got back together with my ex-boyfriend and was dumped and thrown out of his apartment. I didn’t have a good relationship with my parents but was forced to live with them again. It was an all-time low and not a good period.
One day, I just remember looking in the mirror and I couldn’t recognise who I was. I just wanted to run away and selfishly, that was the only thing that came to mind: to disappear, to just be gone forever.
I can’t remember much from that morning. I just remember being at the supermarket. I bought bleach, lots of it. When I got home, I just took it all to my room and poured it in a bunch of bowls to inhale the fumes of the bleach…I also took all the pills I could find.
I don’t remember feeling any pain or falling asleep. I thought it had worked. In that moment, I just forgot everyone on the other side of that door: my kid playing with my mum, my dad watching TV, etc.
How did you get diagnosed?
I’ve seen psychiatrists and got counselling over the years. I was diagnosed early on with depression and body dysmorphia.
Tell us more about your recovery journey?
That night, after my attempt, I woke up and found myself in a hospital bed surrounded by some of my closest friends and family. I remember the first thing I saw was my kid playing with some toys and my mum who had obviously been crying.
The one thing, though, that I’ll never be able to forget (and that probably got me started on the path of recovery) – was the look on their faces.
It made me hate myself even more. The only thing I could think about was how I had failed again. It was the first time I realised how much I was hurting others by hurting myself; the first time I fathomed that I would’ve hurt many others if I was gone.
At that moment, I just knew I couldn’t leave. It was not my place or decision to take my life and it was the worst thing I could do to some of these people who obviously loved me; the same ones who didn’t have to come see me at my pit, the same ones who still stand by me today and who I’m eternally grateful for.
Since then, it’s definitely been a journey – a journey of about 8-9 years. I’ve made it a point to prioritise therapy, focus on things that bring me joy like my son and career, and be as open as possible about the struggles I face.
Not going to lie – there’s definitely been instances where my PTSD has been triggered, where I’ve had thoughts or losing the will to live. What keeps me going, though, is the knowledge of those that love me and the fear of seeing the look on their faces (the pain and the hurt) if I ever were to attempt suicide again.
What did you wish you knew back then?
That not everyone will like me, understand me, or accept me for who I am – and that’s perfectly okay. Also, that my failure does not define me. Cliche as it may sound, loving yourself is a start.
With therapy, I’ve also learnt to put up appropriate boundaries and gain insight into what things are hard for me or what triggers I have.
What are some misconceptions about suicide and/or depression that frustrate you?
I’m not sure this is a misconception but till today, my family doesn’t talk about what happened all those years ago. They simply sweep it under the rug, fearing that addressing it may bring up the issue of blame. Or that they’ll have to admit that I have these issues.
While I have made it a point to keep it from my son, I don’t think there’s anything to be embarrassed about and I wish people were more open about such topics.
There’s a notion that those who attempt or contemplate suicide are worthless/stupid/selfish. Trust me when I say perpetuating these ideas will only validate the thoughts of those who are struggling and will give them more reason to believe they’re better off gone.
Instead of passing judgment, perhaps offering empathy, support, and encouragement to those who are seeking help for issues they’re facing. Remind them they do have people who love them, want them, and need them. Sometimes, we do forget this, even for those who are leading happy, healthy lives. A little kindness wouldn’t hurt anyone.
What advice do you have for those who are struggling?
Don’t be afraid to own up and face anything that you feel is “wrong” with you. We all have our issues. We aren’t perfect. We should just do what we can to make our lives better. Part of living is embracing that imperfect life.
Fight to love.
Fight to live.
Fight for your relationships.
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