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  • Dear Psychiatrists, I Wonder If I Still Have Schizophrenia


    Dear Psychiatrists,

    I wonder if I still have schizophrenia.

    I hear voices at times, and I at times hallucinate. See things that aren't there, feel things that may be a 'figment of my imagination'. Or is it just another diagnosis there for me to take medications? Whether I  have been diagnosed with Bipolar or Schizophrenia, I feel some symptoms can overlap in some places. I have been taking medications for almost a decade now. I am a little tired of medications at most points in my life, but I feel now I have the right combination of medications at least.

    I haven't had such a good 6-months-period for so long. This year has been a good year for me, another year of me discovering myself. From discovering my love for art, to changing my diet and exercising almost every day. I wonder if life can get any better than this, cause at the moment everything seems like smooth-sailing and I don't want to fall into a downward of spiral and depression with no control whatsoever.

    I believe I have the right set of coping mechanisms for everything now. I learn about DBT and the skills I could use to deal with the difficult, emotional turmoils that I sometimes have. 

    So I wonder if I still have schizophrenia.

    Cause everything/life seems to be so good right now.

  • 5 Important Things I Learnt At Rehab


    1. Medication Management -

    I learnt the importance of medications and I get educated by doctors and nurses on how having them to help me. I feel like I have tried every single antidepressant and antipsychotic so far, including valium. If I wanted to have a medication withdrawal, this would be the 'best' place to have it I reckon, cause there is support and the doctors and nurses work really hard to be on the same page as me.

    2. Exercising -

    I know this a cliche one, but I have never exercised so much in my lifetime until since coming here for six months now. I feel motivated and I never found exercise was fun until I came here to this mental health rehab. I find it challenging too, in a good way. I never knew I enjoyed doing so many squats!

    3. Reaching Out To My Support Network -

    During the time here at rehab, I must remember this place is only temporary, I won't be staying here all my life, and I need to reach out to the community ultimately for support. I have friends and family who I can reach out for support. It's just important to connect to my friends and family and let them know how I'm going with everything.

    4. Finding New Coping Mechanisms -

    That includes diamond painting (new form of visual art I discovered - it's so much fun!), using my DBT skills for stressful and distressing situations, and also reaching out to my support network. Also importantly, building the trust between my support worker and myself is just as important as reaching out to friends. When I get emotional and feeling distressed, the main person I contact are the nurses here. 

    5. My Safety Plan -

    My safety plan is basically...my safety plan! Self-explanatory...I reach out and look at my safety plan to remind me during distressful situations on what I should do and the step-to-step process I should take to minimize any self-harm and people I can contact if I was running in trouble. I learnt to make this safety plan while being here at this mental health rehabilitation. It's a valuable tool.

  • My First 6 Months At A Mental Health Rehabilitation Place



    I have learnt to have a Safety Plan which includes to see what are my warning signs and symptoms when things 'get out of whack'. Also steps to take when I am feeling distressed. Living in a self-contained one bedroom unit has taught me a lot of things. Things like recognising when you're feeling your symptoms are getting too much of you and you need to contact the nursing staff for help. I go to the exercise programs here, and they really work you hard. I have learnt to enjoy it actually. So far I enjoy the 24/7 hour support and learning to be an independent person like how to do budgeting, learning about healthy food cycles and diet, cooking classes, every week. My favourite part (or one of them) is doing art at the rehab place. There are HEAPS of things to do in my mental health recovery, and this place has given me so many options to help with that. I am so so grateful to have this sort of support.

    What one special thing I enjoy the most out of this place is meeting others who have mental illness/s like me and learning about their story and getting to know them. Some have been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Depression, Anxiety, OCD etc. Every one is at a different stage of their recovery from me and there's no such thing of "Who's better?" and comparing their skillsets to mine. I respect everyone is at a different place in their recovery than mine. I have made some wonderful friends here, and some of them are the most beautiful people before I've ever met. And I don't mean 'beautiful' by exterior kind.

  • I'm A Fighter. I Won't Give Up To This Mental Illness.



    I ended being in the hospital for mental health issues up until a bit of New Years - and for treatment especially. My doctors have noticed how unwell I have been in the last few weeks, and was concerned about me. No matter how many times I have fallbacks, I tell myself to stay positive and treat myself as much as I need it or even more during these times of hardships. For example, like buying flowers for myself, and smelling and appreciating them every day. I believe to not give up during the hardest of times, and remember the good times I spent with family and friends. My loved ones are the ones that I continue living for. It is really easy to say, harder to do; but I believe I can do it if I put my heart and heart to it. If I believe, I believe it will all be okay. 

  • I Tell You, If I Could Walk Away From These Voices, I Would.


    Recently they have caused a lot of stress and distress in my life and been escalating, to the point I was admitted into emergency mental health for them. My sleeping pattern has been good, I eat a 3-meal balanced diet, I exercise, I take medications and the question is why do I still hear voices? Wish I would knew with a click of a finger, but in all honesty I don't. What I do know is that I had some traumatic events happened in my life. For one example, my younger sister recently was admitted to the mental health ward for the first time, and this put a spun on my mental health. I have hope that while I am still in rehab, I can support her as well. I am living proof that this complex mental health system can be used to our advantage. 

    Recently the voices gave me commands. They told me to "Look left." whilst walking down the street, and I looked left. Startled by the genderless voice, I was shocked I acted on their command. I did not know why I did that. I have been startled by them again later that day, and they told me to burn my hand on the stovetop. 

    I am glad I didn't hurt my hand though.

    Following that incident, my PRN medications were popped open and soon drowsiness overwhelmed from the medications. I believe there are effective ways of managing and understanding these voices. But normally I just shout back at them, and talk to them like a friend at times. The former works, most of the time. But when it doesn't, I am in for a rollercoaster of a ride. 

    Photo by Winston Boon Photography

  • 3 Positive Things I Learnt From Living With Bipolar

    There is still a lot of stigma around mental illnesses. Although it's getting better, we still face these challenges - for example, with everyday conversation - how easy it is to say "Good" to the typical question we see every day when meeting someone new, "How are you?", when deep down in ourselves we are not actually ok and actually need someone to listen to us. Even from a stranger at times, cause why not. How often do we find in this rushed society, it is hard to meet a stranger who actually genuinely cares about you and your mental health? And what actually would happen if we answered, "No, I am not ok." and the self-stigma we may face that prevents us from continuing that conversation? Living with Bipolar Disorder Type I has many disadvantages, I am challenged every day with myself whether to share to a stranger I meet on the streets that I have Bipolar Disorder on those "I"m-not-OK-days". I ask myself, am I putting myself up for trouble by sharing 'too much' about myself? Why am I trying to connect with this person in this way? Cause I do find I have the tendency to share more about myself than the average person, not in an egotistical way, but more like my struggles in life and so on. But in the midst of all the disadvantages of oversharing to a stranger (and perhaps the dangers in it), on the lighter side, I found five positive things I learnt since being diagnosed with Bipolar:

    Photo by Erin Smith Photography

    1. The better people stay in your life

    And the people who don't understand you won't. I have lost a lot of friends in this fight with Bipolar. But I have also found some very genuine, and authentic friends as well. I am lucky and blessed to be surrounded by positive people.

    2. Your creativity in art heightens

    I always had an appreciation for art, but it grew since being in and out the mental health ward almost eight times now that I am learning to appreciate it even more. When I think about my art, I think about my photography, my painting, my mindfulness colouring-in. It's all very therapeutic.

    3. You have more insight into yourself

    I'm becoming more self-aware with my thoughts, feelings and emotions. I act on them much sooner if I sense something unhealthy is about to come my way. When I feel suicidal, I have self-coping mechanisms like praying. If they're not working, I reach out for support such as Lifeline 13 11 14 and talk through it with a counsellor, if need be.

    All photos by Suzanne Dang unless stated otherwise