Train & Grow

Stories of Thrivers

Read more about these individuals and their stories of overcoming different challenges in their life, with the support of ThriveSg

 

When I got my first panic attack, I wasn’t sure what exactly it was. I just thought, as I was shy to a crippling degree, that I was shaken after being chewed out by my boss during my internship.

I related it to the short of breath, panic rising through my body and cold sweats of my younger years of public speaking in secondary school. But it spiralled from the initial symptoms of fear, causing me to hyperventilate, unable to calm myself and alarms going off in my head like everything was ending.

I continued ignoring it and as time went on, it felt as if I was having a panic attack for days on end. A straining in my chest, being on constant edge and what felt like never being able to breathe in enough air. It made me over-analyse everything and everyone, all in regards to my self worth. When I went to University, into a course that was difficult to get into, I thought it would give me that validation I subconsciously craved, that I was good enough, that it would make me more confident.

But it only got worse.

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My degree programme at Lasalle was a very man-eat-man environment. If you weren’t one of the people who spread baseless rumours and gossip about other’s work ethics to socially isolate them, you would be seen as weak and not passionate enough to want to succeed. 

I was one of them, resulting in my social rejection. The overwhelming toxic culture of my classmates, general stress of higher education mixed with the trauma from my childhood that was still prevalent in my family life, suffocated me. I would often miss classes, waking up straight into a panic attack and finding it impossible to get out of bed. If I did get out of bed, I would collapse on to the ground and stay down. I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone, because they wouldn’t understand, nor did I truly understand what I was going through. The environments I was in during that time made me feel useless and I started to lean into the narrative. I began to avoid everyone and barely made it through school. I over-ate, I rarely slept and I carried my growing fear to graduation. I was barely in contact with any friends and family and had lost myself.

A few of the friends that I had remained in contact with had encouraged me to go for counselling while I was still schooling. I dreaded asking my parents for anything. I always felt that I had to act as if I always knew what I was doing, mature and independent, especially since I was pursuing a career path that they objected to. I also had been a middle person for them growing up, a position I had accidentally stepped into because I couldn’t stand the misunderstandings between them. I had begun to believe that that was the only reason they would love me and would willingly put myself in their crossfire. I thought by doing that, it proved that I was worth loving and make them not treat me like I was incapable, something I had tried hard to prove since young. I had aspired to be many things, a lawyer, a doctor, a journalist, which I realise now was mostly to compete against other high achievers in my family and please my parents.

I am an ambitious person and to turn around and tell my parents that I needed help meant that they were right about my incapability, at least that’s what I thought. But once my anxiety reached a boiling point, I gave in and asked. It took me a year and a half of constant begging, and a huge break down on the morning of my first day of work after graduation, before they let me go. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard for them to allow me to go. I thought it was because they cared about what others thought an the social stigma that revolved around going for therapy. To a degree, they did, but ultimately it was the fear of facing the truth that they had hurt me and being in denial that I was hurt, that made them refuse.

For the next year, Pamela Koh, my counsellor, helped me process my trauma and figure out ways I could best retain my mental health considering my environment. She helped me come into my inner strength and capabilities by seeing new perspectives of the past and the present. She taught me to grieve, the necessity of it, to allow me to heal from each wound. Cutting the cord, unhealthy thoughts and attachments, was the hardest part. I had to rewire and build myself from the bottom up all over again, this time in a way that was for my greatest good. There were moments of relapse and times when it would be hard to practice the lessons I’d learnt. It made me feel like I was taking only one step forward every two steps back. But I realised, I was still taking a step forward. My healing journey became easier as I began to practice meditation and mindfulness, discovering a lot about myself and trying my best to fully commit to the process.

Pamela gave me recommendations based on strengths she saw in me, like asking me to do more journalling because she knew that I love to write and also helped me come up with a practical career plan based on my aspirations and mental health. Even after I stopped seeing her for counselling, she had inspired me enough to continue healing and growing by myself.

I reconnected with old friends and bettered my relationship with my family. My friends learned from me and were supportive and became more vocal about their mental health as well. My family was harder to get through to, but there have been changes and I am balanced enough to be able to withstand the highs and lows. My biggest fear was going back into the work force. As I had experienced a lot of stress that had worsened my mental state in the industry I was in, I needed to move on. Normalising mental health issues and wanting to encourage mental health has become something I’m very passionate about and am making a career out of. It was strange to me that most of the jobs in today’s world requires mental and emotional dexterity, yet wanting to rejuvenate and grow these parts of ourselves is often met with judgement and misconceptions. Somehow people are more empathetic with their physical issues than they are with their mental state. Without the help of Pamela, I dread to think about where I might be now. But I am eternally thankful for the help I received and hope she, and other counsellors out there, know that they have changed many lives for the better.

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