u-turn 25 birthday

*Hi, I’m Cathy. I’m a U-turn Phase 3 Work-readiness graduate. My passion is communication and I’m part of the U-turn communication team. Every week I will be writing a blog post sharing my personal experience on this programme, to give you a window into the experience of being a graduate.

Being employed at U-turn as a receptionist and social media coordinator, I have to set boundaries when it comes to rest. My 2016 mental breakdown taught me the importance of this irrevocable and painful lesson.

I had my mental breakdown because I placed rest on the back burner. The previous year, my mum had passed away after a short battle with cancer. I did not have time to mourn her death as there were family dramas and I was also looking after my 97 year old grandmother. At that time, I was working very hard at work. Reaching targets was a high priority and I did not take time to rest. This  wasn’t  a selfish crusade; I was trying to save my late mum’s  home. She did not have a life policy and at the time of her death, she was still paying off her mortgage. 

Many people warned me to slow down, but I didn’t listen. I was 37 years old and thought I was invincible. I  was convinced I was too young for a heart attack or stroke not knowing there was another danger lurking around the corner. 

I was beyond the point of burnout.   Like a computer  with multiple open windows, I was simultaneously working on different  aspects of my life. After I had spoken against corruption at my previous place of work, it felt like my body had pressed my mind’s reset button.  Over a period of two weeks, I was hospitalised twice,  but eventually came out of my psychotic state.

In my psychosis, it was as if my subconscious mind  had overturned my logic. Being a creative person, my mind went on an  imaginary journey. I thought my colourful thoughts were the reality.

Psychosis is like Jane Doe who goes to the local supermarket to buy paint because she feels that she needs to paint her living room. She tells everybody at the shop about her renovation project. She paints her living room and is proud of the work she has done.  She shows her  friends her little project, but  they take her to the hospital. She thinks maybe her friends are impressed with her project and want her to do the same at the hospital. A few days later her mind returns to reality and she has glimpses of what happened but doesn’t fully understand. When Jane gets back home, she discovers that she smeared her living room wall with golden syrup and realises what happened. Jane sits with the shame, trauma and regret of something over which she had  no control  as she tries  to mend the broken pieces of her life. 

Rest is  crucial in the hustle and bustle of life, and should not be an after-thought. In our modern age, we think rest is a form of laziness. While I was still a Champion, during my counselling sessions, I was taught about boundaries. I learned that I also had to set boundaries for myself. I believe I’m more productive when I’m rested and never again want to experience psychosis.

Sometimes I have to force myself to rest. It’s easy to be so swept away by the targets that one forgets to  take a break. On the weekends, I rest. Whether it’s reading books or listening to music or writing poetry. Rest is essential when it comes to mental health. Just as we care for our physical health, we should also look after our mental health. When we are mentally and physically rested, we’re able to take on life’s challenges with ease.

Join me next week as I share about my journey.