Making sense of the mental health symptoms
“I’ve always wanted to enter the mental health sector, but I knew that being a psychologist or counsellor was not the right fit for me. I was intrigued by the idea of becoming a Peer Support Specialist (PSS). With my vision to change the system, I took a leap of faith, pushed through my doubts, and signed up for the PSS course.”
Ever since she was three years old, Grace has been battling with her mental health. But during that young age, mental health was not as widely talked about, and she could not put a name to her conditions.
Grace was 16 when she learnt that she was experiencing panic attacks. When eating, she constantly felt like she was choking on food, and could not catch her breath between bites. This caused her to develop a fear of eating. “Looking back now, I guess this was EDNOS – Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.”
It was only when her uncle recommended to her parents to seek help from a psychiatrist that Grace learnt that she was having a panic attack. This allowed her to make sense of her symptoms that matched what she was going through. Later, Grace was diagnosed with an eating disorder and generalised anxiety disorder.
The Chase for Perfection
Her mental state worsened after she graduated from secondary school. She began receiving compliments from others for the first time. “Coupled with the beauty standards on social media, and standards I placed on myself, I felt like I had an image to keep up with. For once in my life, I felt like I could control something.”
The compliments continued flowing in, reinforcing the believe that she was doing the right thing. “The external validation I received prompted me to continue chasing perfection, and there is no end to that, because perfection is unattainable.”
This went on for over a decade, until COVID-19 hit. Though Grace was not affected by the COVID-19 lockdown, she was struck with the epiphany that she hadn’t lived her life to the fullest. Wanting this to change, she decided to give herself another chance at life.
“You don’t need to know everything, you don’t need to do things ‘perfectly’, because perfection does not exist. As long as you’ve done your best for the day, you have already done enough. It is okay to be afraid, but don’t that the fear stop you. Do it afraid, do it without knowing how. Be gentle with yourself, and trust yourself.”
Helping Others Through Recovery
“I received minimal help from medical professionals, apart from my diagnoses, and I realised that I didn’t want others to lose hope because of the gaps in our system. I wanted to make a full recovery, to help others on their journey.”
Now, Grace has learnt to manage and cope with her mental health struggles. However, she understands that recovery is not linear. During her down days, she reminds herself why she started her recovery journey, to keep herself on track and remain accountable.
During the PSS course, Grace felt well-supported in the safe space created by her course-mates and trainers. “I’m amazed at how much each of them are always looking forward to hear what I have to share. Everyone was extremely respectful, forgiving and open-minded, even when I made mistakes. I felt stronger, safe, and accepted. Along with the feedback provided by my trainers and course-mates, my self-confidence blossomed. I began to believe more in myself and my abilities.”
Grace has completed her practicum with Resilience Collective. Now, as a certified Peer Support Specialist, she hopes to be able to provide peers in the future with the same kind of support and safety. She also strives to continue walking her talk, and to be the hope for others who are in recovery.
About the NCSS Peer Support Specialist Programme
Launched in 2016 by the National Council of Social Service with support from the Institute of Mental Health and mental health organisations, it is Singapore’s first national training programme to prepare individuals for the role of Peer Support Specialists. The peer support specialist programme equips persons with mental health conditions with peer support skills to leverage their lived experience to support others on their recovery journeys.
Find out more about the peer support specialist programme here.
Authored by: Grace Faith
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: Unsplash