Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ten years on

On 19th November 1997, I attempted suicide for the first time.

It was two days before the House Music Competition at my boarding school. I was in charge of coordinating our (miserable) effort. I was getting frustrated by the group not co-operating with me and not putting some effort into our entry. I burst into tears as I usually do and stormed off, with the sarcastic jeers of the rest of the house in the background. After contemplating for such a long time and with nobody coming to see how I was doing, I decided to ask a friend to slash my wrists. Fortunately that friend had the common sense not to heed to my request and retrieved our housemaster to talk some sense into me. Now is the tenth anniversary of the day I effectively mark as the beginning of my depression and I'm sort of in a reflective mood.

The past ten years have been like a rollercoaster ride with my depression, usually with more descents than elevations. Since my initial episode I have never fully recovered my ability to enjoy anything , not to the level which other normal people enjoy activities or other aspects of life. Most of the time I am a miserable bastard, having changed from an idealistic, kind person to a cynical, sarcastic gremlin who has no faith in the human race. My depression, growing up and living in Hong Kong has brought me to where I am in life.

I remember watching Stephen Fry's excellent documentary about bipolar affective disorder, "The Secret Life of a Manic-Depressive" where the comedian was asked how many depressive and manic episodes he had. Since I am in a reflective mood, I have been doing the same. In the past ten years, I have attempted suicide about four times - slashing wrists, slashing wrists, paracetamol overdose and slashing wrists. I have been hospitalized three times for severe depression with suicidal ideation - December 2003, June 2004 and April 2006. I have seen many people for my depression - two doctors (with many trainees attending), two counsellors and two clinical psychologists. I'm currently on my fourth type of antidepressants and have been on the maximum dose for each regimen. I have gained a few valuable friends through this experience but lost more people who couldn't handle the situation.

The inevitable question I should be asking myself is how do I feel after ten years with depression? I know I have to live with depression with the rest of my life and maintain constant vigilance for relapses/episodes. I know I have to change my way of thinking to avoid entering another depressive state. I know my prognosis is poorer with an early age of onset, an episode almost every year and different drug regimens.

Most of the time, I wish I never had depression. It has taken four years out of my life and lost me a lot of "friends". Yet there is a small part of me which is thankful for having depression. I know what it is like to be a patient and some part of society that is stigmatized, along with other people like different ethnic races and the elderly. I have learned to think more broadly and be more open-minded. I know which people do genuinely care about me and which people don't give a shit about me.

I don't usually celebrate special occasions such as as birthdays, Valentine's Day and holidays. I may make an exception for having survived ten years of depression.

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