why suicide shouldn’t be criminalised

In conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day earlier this month, gender equality group Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) called for a repeal of Chapter 16, Section 309 of the penal code, which makes attempting suicide a seizable offence in Singapore.

Marian Govin, The New Paper

Suicide is becoming less and less of a taboo in Singapore. Yet, it is still greatly misunderstood. Today, it is still against the law to commit suicide. According to Aware’s report Distress is Not a Crime: Repeal Section 309, the police are required to arrest suspects, and it is mandatory for third parties to report attempts and intentions to the police. I read a few articles about Section 309. A lot of them talk about how it discourages people from seeking help, sometimes even encouraging them to attempt again with stronger determination. They miss out something else that Section 309 does – the effects it has on survivors.

Here is one of the effects:
Potential employees like to ask about run-ins with the law. If a survivor chooses to be honest and tells him/her about previous suicide attempt(s), there is a high chance that, during the job interview, the survivor is already being looked at through tinted glasses; there is already a giant sign above the survivor’s head that exclaims “DON’T HIRE THIS PERSON”. In essence, it lowers one’s chances of getting a job. Knowing that a failed attempt is a contributing factor to failing a job interview might bring about feelings of bitterness and regret. Not just regret over attempting suicide, but regret over failing to commit suicide.

This criminalisation of suicide does more harm than good. Granted, it acts as a deterrent for some people. For others, however, it acts a motivator. As for survivors, it forces them to live in the shadow of their suicide attempts. Read more

when does it stop being “bad parenting” and becomes “bad person”?

This question haunted me about one and a half years ago.

I posted my then-boyfriend that question, and he told me that it would always be the parents’ fault. The answer was far from satisfactory, and it showed an extreme lack of responsibility, but I did not care enough to pursue the matter.

Today, I still do not have an exact answer to the question. A child’s upbringing will definitely influence his/her behaviour, motivated by values instilled into him/her. But when do you say somebody “did not know any better”, and when do you say somebody “should have known better”?

I have met people who, at 20, blame their parents for their bad habits and poor behaviour. But I have also met people who, by the time they hit 20, take full responsibility of their actions and refuse to attribute values and behaviour – whether good or bad – to upbringing, because they know better, and they know that they get to choose what kind of person they want to be.

Perhaps it could have something to do with locus of control. Perhaps it could be neurobiological. Perhaps it’s a person’s maturity level and emotional intelligence. Most likely, it’s all of these (and very likely more).

I’d like to hear as many thoughts on the matter as I can, so I suppose posting this here would be a good start.

an anxiety training session

On Sunday, I went to the mall and did some shopping (toiletries, pet supplies, etc.) on my own. I then took the bus back home, on my own. This is something I have not done in months, and I’d like to share a little more about it.

As the loyal readers of my blog would know *waves excitedly at Ms. Addie*, anxiety relapsed last year. Since then, my anxiety has been fluctuating, probably because of the meds, some of which made it worse. I was just put on Valium last week. It helps anxiety just a smidgen (only because it leaves me feeling a little… “out of it”. I’m not too sure how to describe the feeling; for some reason, I want to use the non-word wumzy) at the cost of weariness for the whole day, and a some impaired cognition in the night after taking it1.

Anyway, I went to the mall on Sunday.  The over-stimulation was horrid. Every moment was excruciating, especially when it was time to approach the cashier. What I’m most proud of, however, is talking to one of the cashiers when I didn’t actually have to. I was at Uniqlo when I noticed the cashier had scars on her arms (I have developed a tendency to take notice of people’s arms; sometimes thighs and ankles, too 2). After she bagged my stuff, I walked to the side and pretended check my receipt when actually, I was gathering the courage to talk to her. When I finally walked up to her, the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey, uh, I saw the cuts on your arm.
Her: You want to cut the tag?
Me: No, I meant the cutting scars.
Her: You want scissors?
Me: No. The scars. *I showed her mine, and pointed to them*
Her: *silence for about two seconds* Oh.
Me: Just wanted to know that you’re not alone. *proceeds to walk away with my heart pounding, but a sense of achievement*

I used to be able to go up to strangers upon seeing self-harm scars with no problem. I’d tell them to stay strong, or that they’re not alone. If they had company, I’d write it on a slip of paper and pass it to them, or discreetly slide it into their bag or pocket. I was surprised by how difficult it was to go up to someone this time. But, I did it.

The entire one and a half hours seemed to last much longer. I was constantly sweating (and worrying about pit-stains did not make it any better), I was breathless, and I felt a little bit faint. I got back exhausted, and immediately went to take a nap. It was, essentially, an anxiety training session for me. Perhaps I should make it a weekly thing. I already have a less intensive and nerve wrecking anxiety training session every week – one of my lecturers have a booming voice, and the particular students of the class are extremely noisy during the break.

Well, that’s about it for this post. I just wanted to share my experience. Feel free to let me know your thoughts (:

1 Could someone explain to me why the tiredness lasts all day, but the impaired cognition lasts to, at most, late morning?
2 I’m starting to think that this is a universal cutter thing; you’re constantly looking for, and wondering, if the person you’re interacting with has ever cut.

he sings as he can finally fly: a poem

The bird was hatched upon a tree;
a bird with a broken wing unfixable.
All he wanted was to be free;
but for that he needed to fly.

He wanted to get higher up the tree,
but he knew that he was unfixable;
he knew he needed help to be free;
he knew he needed help to fly.

There was a weak branch on the tree;
a weakening branch that was unfixable.
The branch soon broke free,
and the bird, still alone, could not fly.

The bird fell from the tree;
his faith in friends now unfixable.
He knew now he’d never be free –
nobody would help him fly.

He watched his friends on the tree,
who had dismissed him as unfixable.
They left him; they wanted to be free.
They didn’t care that he couldn’t fly.

He stares at the empty tree now,
his shattered heart and bones unfixable.
Through Death’s mercy, he is now free.
So off, and off, he sings as he can finally fly.

where does anxiety go when i’m on stage?

Sometimes, people don’t believe me when I tell them that I have anxiety, because I am an actor and I have no issues going on stage. Sure, there is the expected pre-stage anxiety. But that anxiety is already a lot less than the anxiety I am faced with on a daily basis. Once I’m on stage, however, all the anxiety goes away completely.

Read more.

working with caregivers alliance limited

logo_01

I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile now. As a person-in-recovery (PIR; a term I learned working with this organisation) working with Caregivers Alliance Limited (CAL), I have learned many things.

A little background about CAL:
CAL is an organisation devoted to supporting caregivers of those with psychiatric conditions (we prefer to refer to them as brain disorders though). While it’s a rather new organisation, it has already reached out to hundreds in Singapore. Apart from providing lessons for caregivers, CAL also offers free counselling services and introduces caregivers to support groups.

A colleague of the boyfriend introduced said lessons to him. The caregiver-to-caregiver class (C2C) is, as its name implies, conducted by caregivers for caregivers. Well, it’s mostly conducted by caregivers. There are some PIR trainers as well. I got the opportunity to work with a fellow PIR when I first started working with CAL as a support leader for a class.

After the twelve sessions of C2C, the boyfriend and I attended two courses – one to be a Certified Care Support Specialist, and one to be a trainer. We have just finished our first class as volunteers, and I have to say that I have learned a lot from both the classes I’ve attended.

Here are some of them:

Read more

after a month of transcranial direct current stimulation therapy

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive method of electrical stimulation of the brain using a weak direct current applied to the scalp through electrodes. The aim is to modify cortical excitability and activity in the brain areas under the scalp electrodes. It is thought to work by the depolarisation and hyperpolarisation of cortical neurons.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

It has been four weeks since I started transcranial direct current stimulation therapy (tDCS), which is four weeks of going down to the hospital every weekday for a thirty minute session of getting my brain zapped. A shout-out and huge thank you, by the way, the boyfriend and the mother for sending me there and back.

This post is going to be slightly lengthy. It’s basically going to be about my experience with tDCS thus far, including the effects on my mood and the process. Some background on my history – I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalised anxiety disorder when I was 14, and have been on meds since. My psychiatrist has told me that my condition seems to be rather medication-resistant. Even so, I’m still on several meds that help me function. I recently suffered a major relapse last year, with no identifiable trigger. Ironically, I’d still say that I’m recovering. Relapscovering? Recolapsing?

Highlights from my progress log
A noticeable change in mood was observed by the boyfriend and the sister within the first week, who told me that I seemed happier, particularly after a tDCS session. The second week, my DASS-21 score for depression was at its lowest (9) for the past month. However, my anxiety score was at its highest (18). On the third week, not much change was observed. The fourth week, I got yet another panic attack, but this time I didn’t have any medication with me because I ran out.

As for my own thoughts and feelings, it seems that I have regained some of my capacity to feel joy. As all depressives know, depression isn’t just sadness – it limits the capacity to feel joy greatly. So it is quite refreshing to experience this growth in capacity after six years, although the sadness* is never truly gone. There is the fear, however, of the effects of tDCS being temporary, which prevents me from fully embracing this newfound capacity.

The process

On the first session, I had to go through a whole series of inventories. Some parts, I recognised from the DASS. I also had to go through a pretty long cognitive test. When I asked the doctor whether the tDCS would affect my cognition, he said no, so either he’s lying in an attempt to soothe (or pacify) me, or there’s absolutely no point in going through the cognitive test. Then begins the process that I go through every session:

Electrodue placement for DLPFC tDCS
Electrode placement

My temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate are taken before all else. Then, the nurse measures the dimensions of my head, does some calculations, and marks three X’s on my head – the dorsal-lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC; see image), above the eyebrow, and on the crown of my head. An elastic band is attached to my head. Two electrode pads soaked in saline solution are then held in place, on the X’s, by the elastic band.

After I have been hooked up to the tDCS machine, the doctor turns it on, and I can feel the electrical currents. They are rather uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t say that they hurt. I’m sure it would hurt for the slightly more sensitive, though. It’s a stinging sensation that I don’t notice much of after a few minutes. About twenty minutes in, I start to get a headache (or my headache worsens). Ten minutes later, the machine turns itself off and I’m shocked by a sudden jolt of electricity and a flash of light that seems to be coming from the top right (of course, there is no light).

The headache will continue to worsen for a few hours after the session before it gets a little bit better. The headaches increasingly got worse from the first to third week, although they weren’t as bad in the fourth week. From the first to third week, the headache would take the weekend to subside. On Monday, by the time the headache is gone, it’s time for another session. So, it was three weeks of a non-stop headache that made me intolerable of loud noises.

Yup, that’s about it for the tDCS sessions thus far. Hopefully, this post has been somewhat informative and interesting. Note, however, that I am neither recommending nor am I advising anyone against tDCS. You should do more research and talk to a specialised doctor about it before deciding to zap your brain.

*The term “sadness” definitely does not do justice to what depression feels like. It’s just a term I have decided to use instead of attempting to explain the anguish every time I mention depression. Depression is melancholy, emptiness, self-hatred, frustration, a capping of emotions, an involuntary suppression of emotions, and so much more.