On 6 April 2020, the day before Singapore went into circuit breaker, I received a missed call from my Human Resources personnel in the evening. I was home after being put on one month of unpaid leave, mandated by my manager due to my mental health issues. Knowing I would be receiving bad news, I texted her back to find out what was going on. She replied to say that my contract was terminated effective immediately. To soften the blow, I would be given an additional month’s pay. That was the beginning of a tough few months that tested my resilience and mental health.
I remember the circuit breaker period. I remember the moments after being told I was laid off, trying to make sense of what happened. A large part of me believed that it was due to my mental health struggles. Spending months distracted and lethargic at work, late every day because I couldn’t get myself out of bed. I had no appetite and had constant headaches.
Now, suddenly I was being laid off and I was home every day, struggling with waves of different emotions. It started with anger and resentment that I was treated that way. It then turned to sadness and hopelessness, and I asked myself “Am I really that worthless to them?” Somewhere along the way, there was fear of the uncertainty, and unknown. We did not know how long the situation would last.
Disappointed by the lack of answers and anxious over the uncertainty, while having so much time to myself, having no purpose and livelihood, it crushed me. Having both depression and anxiety is akin to having a war in my head. My depression would leave me feeling hopeless, wanting to stay in bed for the entire day, while the anxiety kept me up at night.
It took weeks before I started to feel a little bit better. It was awhile before I started to see the good again. I started running at the park connector and seeing so many Singaporeans outside helped with the loneliness. I also started going for counselling again. I had to be better. I had all the time and resources I have known about for years to help me.
This is the time I must get better so that I can work again, be useful, and contribute to the society in my own way. I just needed to do work that I enjoy and find meaningful work. I had to learn what mental resilience meant. I had to decide that I wanted to be better. To look outside of myself. To find meaning in the pain and struggles I faced. To learn to appreciate my own pain and struggles because it meant that I could understand and empathise with the pain of others.
Currently, I am still in my mental health recovery journey. It meant patience, keeping faith and hope, and choosing to move forwards despite setbacks and struggles. A lot of people think that resilience meant that a person went through setbacks and struggles without breakdowns and falling apart.
I wholeheartedly disagree, because that leaves no room for us to be simply human. To be tired of struggling, tired of putting in the effort. Because I know that all of us, those who are battling mental health struggles, we are constantly tired. I would like to redefine resilience to mean that we continue fighting, even if we need to take a rest sometimes, even if sometimes it feels like we are taking steps backward. As long as we continue to take steps forward, that is the meaning of resilience.
Setbacks and struggles are necessary for growth. Each time we emerge from a struggle, we gain strength. We gain wisdom. We gain experience. We may be down for a while, we may rest and move slower than usual, but we’re still moving. I still don’t have many of the answers I seek, but I have found resilience in me that I did not know I had and I found opportunities that forced me to grow and be a better person. With resilience and mental health support and awareness, I was able to keep going.
Authored by: Aisha Redzuwan
We thank our blog contributors and applaud their strength in finding the words to share their lived experience, not only as part of the personal recovery journey but to inspire and bring hope to others who might be facing mental health challenges.
Photo credits: Aisha Redzuwan