Mental illness was a foreign thing to me back when I was younger. We would call people with mental illnesses a crazy person. It was a terrible thing to say to people who suffer such a terrible illness, but I was a dumb kid in a dumb circle of friends. I didn’t know better. Not until 5 years ago when I saw a doppelganger of mine. He came one night when I was 15 and I was scared as hell.
I didn’t know what it was or what I saw was even real, but he spoke to me in a calm and clear voice. I remember his words, “I am your one true friend, Ammar.” I cried myself to sleep that night.
Fast forward to today, I am 21 and I am diagnosed with schizophrenia. On top of that, I was depressed for as long as I could remember.
When I had my first psychotic episode, I was home alone and was on my computer watching videos of Mike Portnoy, a favourite drummer of mine. While I was busy enjoying the videos, I heard whispers in my room. I thought it was my neighbours upstairs as I lived in an apartment. The whispers kept on going until it became louder and I couldn’t handle it so I shouted, “Shut up!” It stopped, I was glad, but then it came back.
The voices were actually talking about me. They told me I was a loser and that I will never be anything worthy in life. No one loves me and I’ll die alone. I stared at the wall for a solid hour, listening to the voices until my mother came home.
The feelings I had were overwhelming and exhausting. I felt tired most days, sad without knowing the cause. I felt helpless, unmotivated. Sometimes I felt suicidal and thought ending my life would be the best decision I’d ever make. It’d stop the pain and voices. I abused alcohol and drugs to cope with my condition. I also had many suicide attempts throughout my teenage years. I tried running through traffic, I tried jumping off my apartment, I tried hanging myself. I tried many things, but all attempts failed. Maybe God is trying to teach me something I already know. Maybe he wants me to live. Maybe. He works in mysterious ways they say.
But I am better now. I’m off drugs and alcohol. I got my treatment previously at HKL and presently at HUKM. I am better.
One other thing that helps me get better is sharing the stories that I keep to myself. Bottling things will never be a good solution for a healthy mind or life.
I know, it’s hard opening up to people but start slow and find that one friend that you can always rely on. They may be your grandma, father, sister, boyfriend or wife. Opening up and sharing my story is one of the ways that help me cope with this illness I have. It has help me become better as a person, more understanding, compassionate and emphatic.
Your illness does not define you. Your failures do not define you. Your breakdowns do not define you. Your cuts do not define you. You, define you.
Whatever mistakes you did in the past, whatever mistakes you will do in the future will never define you. What you do afterwards define you. Your demons are not bigger than you, your depression is not bigger than you. The pain you feel in your chest is not bigger than you. It operates within you, it does not operate you.
People might not understand you but as Matt Haig, a favourite author of mine said, “What matters is that you understand you.”
You can get through this as I am getting through it. With friends, family and yourself. You can, I believe in you.
Remember, you are loved. You matter.