Note: This article presents a sequel to Part One of Callum Ang's story (Pseudonym; Author's name has been changed to protect privacy)
When I was 21, I couldn’t take the mental health side effects of the steroids anymore as they were making me feel terrible. I felt very frustrated that I couldn’t sleep and get the rest that my body needed. After consulting with my doctor, I decided to taper off the medication. However, after I stopped taking it, I experienced an episode of severe fatigue after a university exam. I lost the stamina required to continue my studies. I was in the middle of my second year and couldn’t even complete my assignments. I wanted to withdraw from school as I felt that I wouldn’t be able to regain the strength needed to cope with the demands of the university. But my mum wisely advised that I should apply for a medical leave of absence instead, to leave the door open for me to get a degree. Subsequently, after hearing from my doctor, I went back on the steroids but on a lower dose, and I felt much better mentally. I eventually returned to my studies after a meet and greet session with my favourite soccer team and members of the team encouraged me to at least try and finish my course.
When I was 24, I started to face an existentialist crisis when a church member questioned my faith and told me that I can never glorify God for as long as I have a disability unless I pursue deliverance and get healed from it. They even threatened that if I didn’t confess my sins to them, I’d be hindering God’s healing of my condition. I felt rejected and hurt by this as it never occurred to me that my disability has ever disgraced God. For a while, those words made me believe that I am a disgrace to God and that I should never have been born in the first place. I endured many sleepless nights because I thought I was sinning so much and I should not even exist. Ironically, that didn’t make me want to kill myself. Instead, I became closer to God!
I embarked on the most challenging phase of my life when my brother, whom I looked up to the most in this world, passed away. I’ve been feeling very lost and alone since he left me as he was the only person who could fully understand what I’ve gone through my entire life as we shared the same condition. I’ve been feeling depressed ever since then and am still coming to terms to life without him. I don’t think I will ever stop grieving over his passing. Since his passing, I started taking anti-depressants as my mental health took a turn for the worse when an episode of compulsive decluttering led to immense grief and sense of loss. I began to have a lot of thoughts about death, which became too much for my family to bear. I even took a liking for dark comedies and enjoyed talking about death. Since I’ve been on psychiatric drugs, my mood has improved significantly, and my obsessive tendencies are now under control. But I’ve also been going through a quarter-life crisis and coping with my parent’s anxiety over my desire for greater independence as I approach the end of my studies.
It’s been a little over a year since my brother went to be with God, and the past months have been an emotional rollercoaster for me. But because of him, I’ve managed to find a more profound strength through my faith and have not looked back since. I want to dedicate the rest of my life to honouring my brother’s memory by striving to be a disability educator. Be it physical disability or mental health issues, I believe they should all be legally and formally recognized as areas where people need support and help rather than judgement.