I don’t feel like myself lately : A list of mental health conditions and how they feel like

Riddle me this: something invisible, yet makes its presence strongly felt.

That’s mental illness in a nutshell and during university, a period of enormous transition and pressure, you could find yourself hit sideways without warning.  Or you might find your peers struggling or behaving differently, but are unsure and cannot grasp why.

Digital Senior, knowing this, reached out to some individuals*, who kindly shared with us how it feels for them. We hope this (along with some basic information) will help you better in understanding what your friends/peers could be experiencing. If you think that this sounds like something you’re currently facing, we have a list of resources here.

*Anon for privacy reasons. This is only a general list. Please remember that everyone has different experiences and not all symptoms happen to everyone.

Clinical Depression

Some signs/symptoms:

– Prolonged fogginess/haziness in your head
– Trouble remembering things you did
– Feelings of hopelessness, numbness, dread
– Prolonged sadness (“At its worst, it feels like drowning in a deep deep ocean with no way out”)
– Suicidal thoughts and intrusive thoughts
– Overt irritability and anger

How it feels

 “For me, I believe I felt [the onset] during secondary school, but it hit its peak during poly, especially when I was trying to decide where to go in my life. I literally ran out of energy, and felt like there was no future for me that I could think of.

It only became better after one accident that made my parents realise that I needed extra help, and the next day I got diagnosed with depression at the doctor’s. So I was prescribed antidepressants and also Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).”

What helps/ways of support

“I learnt a lot through the counselling and CBT on how to cope/manage intrusive thoughts. I was also lucky to be able to get to know friends online that I could talk to. I think some of my irl friends know but don’t say it, though they are definitely very encouraging if I say my problems, haha.

Whatever you do, don’t address antidepressants as happy pills. I think there’s the misconception about antidepressants, that they’re pills that automatically make you happy. That’s oversimplifying things, because they just give you energy to do stuff. ”

Anxiety (Generalized)

Some signs/symptoms:

– Trouble concentrating
– Difficulty breathing/hyperventilation
– Physical symptoms like stomachaches, fatigue, nausea
– Constant worry
– Irregular sleep patterns/sleep problems

How it feels

“Anxiety feels like too much, too fast or not too fast enough – too heavy. It rests on your chest and holds your throat tight and you start to wonder if something bad is going to happen. Everything is all wrong, but I don’t know how to fix it. I can’t help it, but I start to obsess over things. I feel like I’m doing somersaults in my head, holding a little wire trying to fix something that is wrong, but just turning it into tangled loops. But I know in reality that I’m just stuck in my little head hole, paralysed, and before I know it, an hour is gone.

It comes hand in hand with my OCD, like a little sibling that comes in and yells ‘this is wrong! this is wrong!’ and turns my brain into a frenzy, or sees me collapsing and comes in with the wrong tools to help.”

What helps/ways of support

“…To be honest, up until now, I’m not sure what I can do other than to just wait it out. Just, you know, cry, try to stay alive, breathe, and wait for it to pass. It’s hard but you just gotta tell yourself and trust that it’ll be okay eventually.

I think what helps (for me) is to breathe. Remember to breathe. Take deep breaths. Distract yourself. Listening to music that’ll help you calm down. Youtube has a lot of lo-fi playlists now which are rather calming.

When you feel like you’re alone in this entire world, talk to someone, anyone, someone close or someone who understands. I used to shut off when I get anxiety attacks, but really, it helps to talk to someone, so it gives your mind a signal that you’re not alone, and you’ll ‘come back down to earth’.

I don’t expect people around me to know how to deal with this or understand. But I think it’ll be useful for them to know that it’s not as easy as they think it is. I’d like to think it’s that easy too. When I’m feeling normal or not in an episode, yeah sure it’s easy.

But when you’re actually experiencing it, it’s hard. It’s hard when you’ve already started spiralling. Think – falling into a black hole. There’s really no way back from it. Saying things like ‘don’t think so much’ ‘don’t care about it’ ‘don’t worry’ won’t make things go away. It’ll just make us more frustrated because like… TELL ME SOMETHING I DON’T KNOW. Hahaha.

Maybe sometimes just offering their presence will help, just, being there.”

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Some signs/symptoms:

– Constant emotional distress
– Inability to break routines
– Inability to keep to schedules/be on time due to rituals (“compulsions”)
– Unwanted, repetitive intrusive thoughts or images (“obsessions”)

O E.g: Violent thoughts, sexual or religious thoughts

– Compulsions (repetitive behaviours to reduce/neutralize obsessions)

O E.g: Cleaning, counting, hoarding

How it feels

“OCD is like a loose child out of your grasp; your little ill brain makes mountains out of molehills, all the while aware of how silly and illogical it’s being. It goes and goes, and yells and screams until it finally tires itself out, and it trips and tumbles down the hill, landing itself in a worn out lump.

The obsessive thoughts could take hours away from my day; time slips from between my fingers as I’m stock still resisting the compulsive urges nattering in my head. I panic about my loss of time and it leaves me feeling like I had done nothing all day; tired and limp but with nothing to show for the work I have done.”

What helps/ways of support

“Online friends and things I like help me very much to keep going, and now my family and therapy too!

I think just being sensitive helps a lot!! In what you say or do, and understanding when they talk about how they feel, even though it may seem small and insignificant to others/you”

Bipolar disorder

Some signs/symptoms:

– Manic/ hypomanic episodes

O Erratic behaviour/poorer decision making
O Boundless energy/easily distracted
O Chatty
O Flight of ideas
O Euphoria

– Depressive symptoms (some examples below)

O Difficulty concentrating
O Tiredness/irritability

How it feels

“Depressive phase: low mood and lethargy. I tend to sleep a lot and get irritated easily. I find it hard to socialize and will keep to myself. Everything becomes a chore and I just wanna do the minimum to conserve energy.

Hypomanic phase: easily excitable and I get pretty giggly. I feel that I have many ideas flowing through my head at once. And I feel confident about these ideas and my plans to achieve my goals. I sleep very little and get up at dawn to start my creative work.”

What helps/ways of support

“My BD is pretty mild, to be honest. I guess that’s why I hoped my uni mates weren’t dismissive of my illness. Mental illness is an invisible illness and I usually pass as “normal” so a lot of people don’t understand why I grapple with my moods and emotions.

The surges of high and lows were challenging. I felt overwhelmed by my moods and emotions at times and I just wanted to avoid people when I was low and chatter on and on when I was high. I guess it would want my uni mates to know that I am more than my illness. Although the symptoms affect me, I am shaped by various experiences and BD is not my sole identity.”

When speaking to these individuals, we picked up a few common threads: mental struggles are more common than we sometimes remember,  and if you’re struggling, there is no shame in seeking help and reaching out. Find friends, speak to professionals, and above all, recognize your efforts.  Above all, whatever you face doesn’t define you.

While conversations and awareness about mental health have increased in recent years here in Singapore (yay!), there’s always more we can do. If you have a story to share with Digital Senior, please do leave us an email or comment below. We accept anonymous contributions! (:


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