When I awoke on Thursday of my final week of crisis, I was in pain, and the veil was thicker than ever. I remember my wife speaking to me, but I don’t remember reacting much. I couldn’t. I couldn’t take in what she said, and I was speaking in monosyllables as far as possible. But my plan was ready to be put into action.
Being a weekday, and with the boys at home for once, I suggested innocently to my wife that we go for the same steamboat buffet which we had gone for earlier. The reason given was that it was cheaper on a weekday, and it was really rare.
The real reason, was that I wanted something good for the family to remember me by. Before I’d betray their trust and love.
I had a secondary reason. A week ago, when calling up Ng Teng Fong General hospital, a very kind lady by the name of Regina, had picked up the phone. She had been the one to advise me to go via the polyclinics, to ensure that I could get the government subsidy, as she noted that psychiatric cases would usually involve multiple visits. In the same call, she stressed that in the case of a mental health emergency, only one emergency clinic in Singapore existed which would be able to handle such cases, at the Institute of Mental Health. She must have heard something in my voice, as she gently told me that if I needed to, I could call the NTFGH enquiry line again, if I really needed help, but that if I really was in trouble, I could contact IMH.
That call may have been God’s way of saving my life. In the midst of the unbearable pain, I remembered Regina and her words. I did a search for IMH, and noted down their emergency number. This was going to be my last chance. My last hope.
We had lunch. I said little. I ate, and occasionally I would remember to reply to my wife when she spoke to me. She would later tell me that I had the look of a dead man, deep in despair.
I don’t intend to publish my plan, so that others won’t get an idea of how I planned to end my life. Suffice it to say that it was well thought out enough. When I reached home that day, I knew how I was going to do it. And yet, I promised myself – God’s grace upon me! – that I would call IMH’s emergency helpline. And I would not be the first person to hang up. If no one picked up, or I got disconnected, that would be my signal that help was not going to be forthcoming.
I held the phone for 10 minutes. The counsellors were busy. But someone did pick up, finally. I kept my word. I spoke. She listened. She asked. And then she advised me to come in to the emergency clinic as soon as I could. She made sure that I knew their number, so that along the way, I could call if I was in danger. She also made sure that I knew how I could get to IMH. I told her I would.
She had no idea that she was also instrumental in saving my life.
At this point, I resolved to follow through. I’d come so far. The promise had been kept. I might as well see it through. If I needed to carry out my plan, I could do it another day. The weekend was a few days away, so if I really wanted to, I could do it after I came home.
At the back of my head, I suspected I might get warded. But I didn’t want to believe anything at this point. I hugged my wife. I left the house. She couldn’t come with me, or there would be no one to take care of our kids. They didn’t need to know my pain, even though they knew I was mentally ill.
I remember it was raining. Pouring, even. The buses were cold. I had to change buses at a place called Clementi, and the second bus would take me outside IMH. I knew nothing. I felt nothing. I was in a cloud of pain.
But in my helplessness, I remember picking up my phone, and sending a Whatsapp group message to my bible study group. I told them where I was headed, and why. I messaged our friend in Malaysia and my wife. I told them of my pain. The tears still refused to fall. I was cold. So cold.
I finally reached the area outside IMH, but the guide I checked had told me to get off one bus stop later. I followed the guide, so I missed the actual stop by one bus stop. For some weird reason, I still opened my umbrella. I felt I must.
I put one foot in front of the other. It was a long walk in, and I could only focus on one step after another. I was in a daze, and I don’t remember the walk itself. I remember crossing a road, which had little traffic, which was good. I no longer cared about traffic. I reached the lobby of the hospital, and felt lost. I didn’t know where to go, though I thought I’d seen the emergency department earlier out of the corner of my eye. I just tried walking around, till I found the right place. The nurse counter was unoccupied, but I pressed the bell, and they let me in. The nurses must be used to seeing people like me shambling in. They were quietly gentle, did the necessary registration, and asked me to wait at the waiting area.
A couple from my bible study group decided that I shouldn’t be alone. They offered to come down to accompany me. I agreed.
Before they arrived, the doctor called me in.
I don’t really remember what was said. Questions were asked. I was honest. I recall him asking me if I had plans, and I admitted it. He asked me if my wife knew of the plans, and I bluntly told him that if I really wanted to carry them out, there was no reason for me to tell her. I don’t remember his face much. I was staring at his desk most of the time. I couldn’t lift my head, I couldn’t lift my eyes, and the few times I did, I just wanted to cry.
I gave him the details of my plan. He nodded.
He then suggested that I should be kept overnight at least, to be observed. I was scared. I cried in my fear, and I admitted as much to him. But I agreed.
I didn’t know what I’d just agreed to. But it was to turn out to be a good thing, even if it would start poorly.