October 10th is World Mental Health Day, and I thought it would alright to share this:
The thing about me is that I used to be this ‘highly confident’ child. My aunt used to call me a ‘peacock’ because I would supposedly ‘parade’ around, and I was proud of myself. I used to be ‘the boss’ of my friends, always coming up with ideas for ridiculous things to do. And when I was in primary school, my brother was too, so I had an ‘in’ with slightly older kids. I would participate in every single competition be it ‘show and tell’, ‘story telling’, or ‘poetry recital’, and not just in English, but in Malay and even Mandarin (all that requires is serious memorizing skills).
Even when I moved around to three separate primary schools, I maintained that. I was that kid who did ‘everything’.
I guess with time, all that changed. It’s not one particular event, but so many. When you start to learn to ‘compare’ every bit of yourself with another person, your world crumbles a little. I liked being smart, I liked knowing things. But people don’t like it when you’re a ‘know-it-all’.
In Sunday School when I was Form 3, I got openly called a bitch in class, and that hit me hard. Sure, now in 2015, if I’m called a bitch, it could also be an compliment, but in 2007, it was a derogatory term meant to elicit a reaction. And it did. I kept my mouth shut the rest of the class, and while I waited to meet my brother after, I was busy tearing up. When you’re 15, with the emotional stability akin to an egg attempting to balance on it’s finer point, you take these things a little too seriously.
I moved to a different church the next year. Yes, that move was due to a combination of things, but it had a lot to do with how little some of my classmates accepted me.
The next class I was in, I remained mum unless I was called upon. It was better to keep silent and not call too much attention to yourself in class, in case you risk someone disliking you.
I had body issues growing up, because I never got the willpower to actually work-out on a daily basis, and my mind’s ‘brilliant’ decision to make me binge-then-purge (an issue that I would continue to face for years to come). Schoolmates can be cutting with their words, be it those which would tell you to your face ‘why are you so fat?’ or those who call you ‘a whale’ behind your back. You know that these things made a big impact when you still flinch to think about it so many years later.
These things, if handled in a mature manner, would have created someone with resilience, but instead, I took the opposite turn and let it eat me up inside. I never knew how bad things got until my mom told me ‘I don’t know who you are anymore’. I was the DSM-5 criteria to a T:
Having to see a counselor regularly to talk things through was something I never thought I would have to do. But those sessions helped me to understand myself a little better during my second year in medical school.
My housemate is the type who ‘has it all together’. She studies hard, she’s organised, she’s happy in her relationships (be it the romantic ones or the platonic ones), she’s skinny, and she seems to have everything figured out. When she told me she got her elective placement in one of the top hospital in Australia, I was so happy for her, but that terrible realization that I was lagging behind hit me so hard. I got more resentful.
It’s this vicious cycle that I have placed myself in, allowing myself to be affected by external factors. I had to take a step back and think things through: are her dreams my dreams? Or am I just letting myself be jealous of successes that were never in my ‘plans’?
So many years of letting the world chip away at my previous courage and confidence has left me a porous stone, letting everything get to me. I am trying to have more sense. I am trying to let myself understand that where I am right now is still further along the path in my own story. Just because other people have ‘better stories’, they’re not mine. I have my own journey to take. I don’t have to have what they do, I don’t have to share their experiences. My own should suffice.
I should be enough for me.
And that is something that I have to keep telling myself.