Today’s SameHere Hero Story: Rupeet Singh
If I had to sum up my life challenges, I’d say I experienced great trauma at a very early age. When I was 2 and half years old, I experienced my first real loss and I saw my younger cousin die right in front of me. We were taking a bath together and he died from an accident that happened there. I might not remember the actual event, but that death greatly impacted me. When everyone was grieving about his death, they found out how much I was affected. I didn’t talk at all for a year and developed a speech disorder as a result.
I did take speech therapy when I was younger, but the sense of something missing in my life still lingered. It took me a while to accept that this boy; my cousin was dead and I would never see him again. I would look around for him – even though I knew he wasn’t around. It is bizarre, I know, but as a young child who experienced this kind of loss, it made me yearn more.
“Who was this boy?”. “Why do I keep going to these same places?”, “Why do I have these memories?” Obviously I didn’t think exactly like that since I was only a little kid. But looking back, I did question a lot of things in life. I didn’t talk to any adults about it and this became a consistent theme in my life.
I hid things because I thought very low of myself. It was like I was a freak for having these feelings and also, who would want me really. This became worse when I was diagnosed with psoriasis too. So imagine being already traumatised, can’t communicate quite well, and now have these ugly plagues on your skin?
I barely started elementary school and I had all these problems already. Suddenly, I was bullied and seen really as a freak by kids and adults alike. My fear came true. I was called “monster” and “ugly.” My fellow classmates would literally run away from me – and I meant literally. I had heard older people say to keep away and tell others not to touch me because of my psoriasis. I was already a shy kid – but this all added to my anxiety and depression.
Plus as a South Asian, we are not supposed to tell much of these things. There is a lot of stigma when it comes to mental health and I did not take care of myself all that much.
As a young adult, I was painfully shy and quiet. My life was slightly better after junior year of high school. I made friends. I attracted some guys. I had a little bit more freedom to do what I like. It was nice, but again, there is that theme. I didn’t think I deserved anything. I failed out of my first college, though I made some friends that I would talk to years later.
So I was behind with things. I didn’t quite knew what to do with my life. I don’t think I had a mind of my own and just went along with things to be honest. I tried jobs and went to another college. But it all failed. Because it was forced and I honestly couldn’t make myself look good in these jobs. People kept rejecting me and also, when I did find opportunities that might’ve lead to something, I just wouldn’t take them.
School-wise, I did well. I found I had a thing for sociology and psychology. So it was the start of something. However in my mid-20s, I talked to my old classmate from my first college. He was really nice and found me warming – which surprised me. We talked even more and I found out he liked me in a more romantic way. But again, I was too shy and didn’t think I deserved anything.
We were really good friends though and talked about everything. It was nice to have a friend like that and I actually cherished that deeply. To a girl who experienced loss and rejection, this was definitely a nice feeling. I had someone who really believed in me and I wanted to keep that.
Too bad as we grew further and mutually shared romantic feelings finally, he changed. He doubted himself and became distant. Suddenly he became cold to me and I felt really really bad. Suddenly my world scattered and I began to feel guilty. “I hurt him…My love hurt him.”
As he became colder and colder to me, I began to lose my sanity as I became more codependent on making this work again. This is when I started having panic attacks, laid in bed all day, not going to school, giving up on life, and just crying everyday. This lasted for like 3 years really and I would always try to get him to “understand” that I was sorry and that I wanted things back to normal. I was a mess.
He began to see me as a potential person to have sex with and only that. Luckily I didn’t fall for that, but I did give him affection. But I had always had that lingering feeling inside and would explode. We would fight a lot and eventually he would end whatever our relationship was at the time. I was so heartbroken and this led me to a hospital a few months later.
In short, I was so out of it, I began having these intense panic attacks. Plus I felt betrayed by everyone and was sick of life itself. During the Christmas holidays, I freaked out after my dog’s nail got stuck at the sofa and that was the first sign I saw something wrong. My mind felt chaotic and I remembered the next day, it had gotten worse. I hid it though – because of that theme again – and my aunt and uncle came over.
But l acted distant and my parents thought I was a terrible host. I didn’t care. I went to my sister and tried to tell her. For some reason, I couldn’t exactly talk as I normally do and I remembered getting a notebook. Even though my sister could tell there was something wrong, she did not know how severe it would be. She told me to rest for the rest of the day and I would write in my notebook to figure out how I could tell what was happening to me.
I did not trust anyone and many people thought I was being a jerk. I just hated life and the people around me. I felt alone and would hide the fact that I couldn’t breathe right or that my mind would overload. I would fall to the floor crying it out. I always had a notebook around me so I could “unload” my thoughts and make this awful experience easier for me.
But one day when my dad called me for lunch, I went back up and had another panic attack and couldn’t take it. I went down and my parents looked like they were about to yell at me, but I just cried in front of them. I cried and cried. They did not know what to do and I could not express my thoughts. My mind was still loopy.
Eventually, my cousins and my sister came. But I was severely disappointed in them and that was when it started. I pretended to be okay, but later that night, I wrote an angry LONG message to my sister and cousins on my phone. I was so angry. I did not want to be near anyone. The next day, it happened. I was tired of everything. I remembered angrily saying out loud – how much I hated my life and the people in it. Then my dad came over and I saw a black smoke around his head. That was it. I was hallucinating. 2 weeks later, after being stuck in a whole different world, I was in the inpatient. Apparently I lost my memories for 2 weeks and not only that I could not feed myself or do anything really. I was pretty much a child again.
But I didn’t remembered all that and could only base it on what others had told me. Loved ones who knew said they were afraid that I would never be back to normal and that they lost the “Rupeet” they always knew. It was scary for my parents. And it was scary for me as I regained my memories slowly back in this strange place. I wanted to go home and when I did go back, I felt so alone.
At one point, I was healthy enough to go to the gym. But I felt a sudden sadness. “I loved so much and yet people hurt me; they left me,” I thought. I began to cry but did it silently. This was when I realized love was not enough, alone. I needed respect and I vowed to never be in the state I was before. I wasn’t even 30 years old back then, but I held all this pain inside.
I was never diagnosed until I ended up being in the hospital. But looking back, I saw really strong symptoms of severe depression. I felt unmotivated and sad most of the time. I do have my happy moments, but sadly due to all these events, I couldn’t trust others. Most importantly, I couldn’t trust myself and that led me to having really poor reactions to things. I felt in a way that I didn’t deserve anything and I am still struggling with this. I sometimes lay in bed and feel worthless – though luckily I am in a MUCH healthier place than I was before. It just took a lot of reprogramming it out of me.
I always felt a sense of loss and I never really got to tell anyone this. I am afraid of being abandoned and sometimes I get afraid of speaking of my needs. It has put me in a lot of unhealthy situations. Even when I was loyal, I was too attached and dependent on the person. It is sad that I couldn’t see other good things that were happening in my life. And because I held it in for so long, I felt guilty and my negative feelings would manifest. I wasn’t my own person until recently.
To be honest, I didn’t seek help. After the hospital and inpatient, I was forced to go to all these outpatient programs. But honestly that was one of the best things that happened to me. I met staff who genuinely cared about me and wanted to help. They saw potential in me while I was releasing out the sorrows I was carrying all these years.
It was nice and I was able to trust people with my problems more. In groups, I also began to be open with my thoughts and experiences – something that I had rarely done before. It felt great and I would be a surrogate sister in a way to my fellow peers. The staff saw that I could make a difference and said I should try to make a career in helping others. I was in awe and I slowly started seeing my purpose again.
Eventually, this led to me to become more comfortable with myself and I started developing healthier relationships with others. That meant being my own person and learning to be more true in front of others. I was no longer a painfully shy girl. But an extremely quirky quiet woman who gets really passionate about things at times. Individuality suddenly became one of my values and I slowly started practicing it. Also I volunteered at this nonprofit mental health organization and again, the staff there saw potential in me. This led me to other paths.
Having support definitely helped me. Not only to get the help that I needed, but to help build self-love for myself. Self-love is tricky because people just tell you to do it. But how when you are conditioned over many experiences to hate yourself so much? It took me a lot of practice, but I found that therapy and journaling helped a lot to untangle some thoughts I had carried for a long time. It is nice to have someone who is not only supportive but can help guide you to create the next steps of recovery. Most people see therapy and counseling as just talking to someone. But it is more than that.
I was able to dig deep with these events and do so in a safe environment. Not only that, it helped me self-reflect and made me realize both my strengths and weaknesses. At first, I would rarely talk. But eventually they helped me build trust and it got me to open up about my feelings. I learned that openness really does help in being authentic and possibly even in helping others.
Also, I learned that self-love is taught. You need to practice and I am still learning. But doing the things you love really helps. I am a dork and loved to dance to music for example. Music helps me so much. I either feel inspired or feel comfortable. This includes both mind and body. Am I good at dancing? Not really. But I add it to my routine and coping skills.
You don’t have to be all serious in your recovery. Yes, do practical things – but know you are also human and you want to have fun too!
Again being honest, I wanted to send this story a year ago. But looking at it now and how much I grew over these last 4 years, I think it is a good thing that I am sharing it now, instead. I learned so much and I hope others gained some wisdom and most importantly, empathy towards others. Many people would be shocked how much I held in and how much it cost me. But at the same time, I want to share the story because maybe it will teach others about self-love and how support can be great…and also what it means to be human. That is my new theme in my life now.