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.
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.