Helping Others, Helping Myself

“Living in dark and blinding confusion, my mind split into two and I was afraid of myself.”

The fear of abandonment, loneliness and insecurity, together with desperate attempts to be understood led to toxic coping mechanisms including impulsive decisions, manipulative words and suicide attempts. I felt no desire to help myself at times and thought perhaps numbing my suffering was the best option.

While I was curious about what was happening in me, I had just assumed my trauma was normal. But over time, I gained insights as to why I was the way I was.

Volunteering for PhotoStory came at a somewhat opportune time, as I sought opportunities to meet like-minded persons, to understand more about what I was going through and steer myself away from loneliness and isolation. Stepping into it, I was so nervous, but I had zero expectations.

Being able to experience the PhotoStory

From Darkness to Light exhibition, both as a volunteer and visitor was extremely nostalgic and empowering. It brought back memories of trauma and pain, yet it brought a sense of peace. I was able to relate to some stories and gain new insights from others. It gave me an outlet to cope and I found myself drawing, writing and taking pictures as the participants did.

I enjoyed studying psychology, generating awareness of it and also helping others that needed it because I didn’t know how to help myself. More often than not, we judge others just based on what they say and what we see from our own perspective. Ironically, that makes it so easy for us to judge ourselves too. I was amazed at the entire project. The stories were heartful, so genuine and vulnerable. It brought tranquility and hope.

The suffering never stops, but it gets better a step at a time. The comfort of pain makes it difficult to want to help myself. This experience made my first step of discomfort worth it. I met people who understood what living with a mental illness felt like, I met people who wanted to make a difference. People whom I considered mentors and healthy support. That made me see that maybe through helping others, one day I would be able to find a way to help myself, to find some normalcy in life.

Authored by: Stefanie See. Stefanie believes that recovery is a process of constantly building self-awareness, self-love and meaning in life, despite the difficulties and pain. She is currently gaining normalcy in her life, working as an assistant childcare teacher and pursuing a Graduate Diploma in Clinical and Counselling Psychology and is looking forward to making a difference in the life of others.

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.

PhotoStory: From Darkness to Light exhibition ended a successful physical 1st run with over 1,100 visitors at Raffles City. While the exhibition and fundraising efforts continue online, the second run of the physical exhibition will take place from 5 to 18 March 2021 at Plaza Singapura. Visit www.resilience.org.sg/photostory for more.

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