Shattering Stigmas: The Beginning

(on 16 August, 2016 & with 17 Comments)

A beautiful thing – a nerve-wracking thing, yet beautiful all the same – is beginning.

It is called Shattering Stigmas. It is a two-week long event, hosted by myself along with five other incredible bloggers, dedicated to discussing mental illness in all of its facets. The breakdowns & the panic attacks. The medications, the endless therapy sessions. The good & the bad & the lovely. The ugliness, and also – secreted away somewhere in all of it – the beauty.

Shattering Stigmas is an event aimed at breaking the shroud of quiet surrounding mental disorders. I am beyond honoured to be co-hosting its second year.

I try to share stories of my own mental illness with you as often as I can, and I hope that in these next two weeks, more barriers will come down. It is time, I think, to break through the horrible & stifling silence.

Please do keep an eye out for posts not just at Six Impossible Things, but also at the four other participating blogs: Of Wonderland, Novel Ink, It Starts At Midnight, and The Fox’s Hideaway. There will be giveaways & guest posts & shoulders to cry on. None of this wonder is to be missed.

If you would like to be notified when I share a new mental illness story over these next two weeks, consider joining the love letter list.

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So: the beginning.

My journey with mental disorders began just over three years ago – yet, to be honest, it seems a lifetime ago now. This is something that happens, I have learned: one’s disorders intertwine with one’s daily life, slip-slide into unseen cracks, embed themselves in one’s soul.

People often ask me if there was a trigger. Some moment, some traumatic event, some breaking point. A place on the map to point: here is happiness. And look – right here is where it all went wrong.

The answer, for the record, is no. There was no breaking point.

Like all beautiful things and like all terrible things, mental illness found its way into my life slowly, tenderly, morbidly. The moments of sadness – just flashes in the beginning, here and there – quickly to be pushed away. The way I startled just slightly more easily than before. How my poetry began morphing into something I could not show to my mother, because I knew that she would look at me in the way mothers do when they know something about their children that the children themselves cannot (will not?) imagine.

It always starts with the small things, and then there is one tick of the clock and suddenly you are sitting in the passenger’s seat with your elbows on your knees, sobbing and sucking in air so desperately that the boy sitting next to you thinks perhaps you are dying.

(Later, he Googles it because you are too terrified to do so.

It’s called a panic attack, he tells you. It’s a symptom of a bunch of anxiety disorders. And he looks at you like something that does not want to wake from its hibernation, says, slow and worried, has this ever happened to you before?)

It always starts with the small things, and then suddenly it is winter break and your parents are asking why you have not gotten out of bed in four days. It starts small and then you realise every single smile is a foreign language. It starts small and then, too quickly, it isn’t small anymore.

It starts small. And then you are standing in front of your father and you are telling him that you are sad, for no reason, all the time. Desperately sad.

And your father looks at you, and he laughs.

People often ask me why I share so much of my mental illness on the blog. Why, though I shy away from the topic when it comes up in real life, I am so very forthcoming online with the details of my demons.

I had a panic attack once in the middle of a National Day parade, the biggest Singaporean celebration of the year. My tears were boiling & burning & blinding. My lungs were birds desperately trying to escape my ribcage. Every single part of me was in panic, in overdrive.

My father told me to get over it.

That is why I share these stories with you.

That is why I am co-hosting Shattering Stigmas.

My father is not a bad human being. He is, in fact, quite a marvellous one. And yet: this is what the fear of the unknown does to those dancing in the dark. Ignorance, I have found, brings out our worst selves.

Though I have learned much over these past three years grappling with my mental illnesses, I do not pretend to be unafraid. All I can do is to share what I know of this darkness that haunts the edges of my vision, and I hope it is enough.

I am learning to coax out the monsters underneath my bed. To stand and face them eye-to-eye, and then: to have the courage to invite them into the blankets with me.

It is the only way I have ever known to lessen the ever-present fear. And I share these stories with you so that – perhaps, perhaps, perhaps – we all might learn to call the monsters by their names.

Sharing my mental illnesses is perhaps one of the hardest things I have ever done. It is also one of the most necessary.

And I hope that, in doing so, I may help to bring some of these elusive monsters to light.


17 Responses to “Shattering Stigmas: The Beginning”

  1. This is so beautifully written, and I’m so sorry you have to struggle with these things. I think it’s wonderful that you write about it so openly though. You never know just how many people you might be helping by doing so. That “get over it” attitude that so many people have about things they don’t understand is exactly why we need to talk about these things more.

  2. This was a really moving piece, Topaz, and I’m so glad you’ve been so willing to share, whether it is now through Shattering Stigmas or your previous Adventures in Zombieland posts. They’ve done a lot to help me understand and I know you touch so many people with your words. So thanks for doing this because what you do is important. :)

  3. Aw this is so, so beautiful, Topaz. I am so sorry that you deal with the “get over it”s too. It’s like, when you finally get the courage to speak the words, someone brings your worst fears to fruition by minimizing it all. I know I still deal with this with my parents, and it is so, so difficult. Like you said, a lot of it stems from their inability to understand, the ignorance. And of course, the stigmas- which is why this is so important to me. When I first talked to my parents about the fact that I could not actually function anymore, my dad said he would “let me” see a counselor- as long as it was someone several towns over so no one “saw me”. What even? That is when I knew how bad the stigma somehow still was- because the kicker is, my father spent 35 years working in the mental health field- in fact has a college degree in psychology- but was too embarrassed to find help for his own kid. So I think you have summed it up perfectly- it isn’t something that is easy to talk about, but it is absolutely necessary. Lovely, lovely post ♥

    • I know the experience too well, Shannon, and I’m sorry to hear that you too must deal with it. Thank you for your kindness, and for beginning this beautiful event in the first place. There are already so many gorgeous, heartbreaking, and illuminating stories shared across all of the blogs – and I have no doubt that we will experience so many more by the end of Shattering Stigmas. You are an important, inspirational human. xxx

  4. How my poetry began morphing into something I could not show to my mother, because I knew that she would look at me in the way mothers do when they know something about their children…

    oh my god, i felt this deep in my gut. like painfully so. i feel for you. i’m holding your hand in this journey together, topaz. thank you.

  5. Inge

    I know how it feels to have loved ones telling you to “get over it” and it sucks. So this is also why I write about mental health so openly — so that people might understand. And of course to help others who are sailing a similar crickety boat.

    You are beautiful and brave. ♥

    • It is, I think the worst feeling of them all. I know my father would never dream of saying something like that today, but it is a very different time now. How very important it is to educate ourselves on these matters of aching.

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