Photo: Nicole Kay
She never wanted to admit that she was suffering from mental issues even though all signs were there. Nicole Kay was constantly falling ill and stressed out. I
t all came to a head when her general practitioner referred the then 24-year-old to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed her with major depressive disorder and generalised anxiety disorder.
Her first reaction, she recalls: “I was disappointed with myself as I thought it was because I was generally weak.”
Upon her diagnosis, the management and social psychology graduate quit her first job as an administrator in the banking sector. She was always working overtime, and workplace bullying was prevalent. “I was stressed, with the constant sense of wanting to please people and to live up to their expectations,” the introvert remembers.
At home, Nicole had to deal with her parents, who were going through a divorce. Nicole took up part-time English tuition jobs, and started penning a journal. She explains: “It’s the best therapy, and writing helps me to externalise things when I’m down – like unclogging a choked pipe.”
Through writing, Nicole articulated her emotions and thoughts with her psychiatrist and psychologist. Her growth as a writer – and gradually, with a better grasp of managing her emotions – led to Nicole founding The Tapestry Project SG in 2014. The online platform gives those who suffer from mental illness a voice.
She says: “I wanted every person and household with Internet to have access to mental health information, especially personal stories that weren’t readily available a few years back. It empowers people to take ownership of their own story.”
She adds: “People who used the platform told me that they felt relieved, and that it has helped them in their journey.”
Besides humanising illness and recovery, eradicating the stigma behind mental illness was another reason she set up The Tapestry Project SG, emphasises Nicole.
Last year was a big year for the writer, now 37: She started her Masters in creative writing at Lasalle College of the Arts, and was engaged for National Library Board’s writing workshops.
She says: “Most of my life, I felt that I was not heard, thus I turned to writing. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Ignorance breeds stigma, and it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. I hope to change people’s minds about mental health.”
This article was first published in Her World’s October magazine.