She once thought being bipolar was 'fun'
Single mother-of-two battles bipolar disorder, while helping others with mental illness
This National Day, we celebrate with 16 stories of people who overcame adversity to give back to society. Read their stories and watch the videos at tnp.sg/ndp2016
She was juggling many things at 31 - two breast-feeding children, issues with her mother-in-law, the stress of running her own business, and financial problems.
But the last straw was discovering that her then husband was having an affair.
It drove Ms Yohanna Abdullah, now 49, over the edge.
"I cracked. I stripped naked, and would have walked out the door if my former mother-in-law had not locked the gate.
"My children had to watch that outburst. It was painful," she said.
Her daughter was just two, and her son 10 months then.
Thinking she was possessed, her then mother-in-law called in a Malay shaman, who came and put lime juice in her mouth.
"What I saw instead was a dark-skinned giant who was choking me until I gave up trying to struggle," she said.
Ms Yohanna's parents were in Kuala Lumpur when this happened.
They rushed back and sent her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental illness that is characterised by severe mood swings - from depression (low) to manic (high).
Ms Yohanna has Bipolar Type 1, which means she is prone to mania.
"The irony is that when I was younger, I read that many celebrities suffer from bipolar disorder, and I thought 'what a fun mental illness to have'.
"But when it happened to me, it was devastating, especially for my loved ones," she said.
A sociology graduate from the National University of Singapore, Ms Yohanna had married her university sweetheart in 1990.
Apart from some issues with her mother-in-law, their first few years of marriage "was fairly blissful".
After three years as a journalist with The Straits Times, Ms Yohanna set up a business offering editorial and design services.
But juggling two babies, running a business and servicing two mortgages - for a house here and another in Malaysia - took its toll.
"I unravelled when I discovered my husband's affair," she said.
After her divorce in 2002, she worked at several places, including the Muslim Converts' Association of Singapore, an art gallery and a madrasah.
But her condition made it difficult for her to hold down a job for long.
"I was in and out of the hospital because of my manic episodes whenever I didn't take my medication," Ms Yohanna said.
The last time she was warded at the National University Hospital, she helped a man by talking him out of his depression.
"That was when I realised I can help, and I decided to go into therapy," she said.
Her condition has been under control for the last two years - the longest she has not been warded.
Ms Yohanna now works at Club Heal (Hope, Empowerment, Acceptance & Love), a charity formed in 2012 by general practitioner Radiah Salimto assist and empower those with mental illness to regain confidence and reintegrate into society.
She is the group's writer and editor and peer support specialist.
"Learning what my mother went through, what my daughter went through during my episodes, I am also sympathetic towards caregivers.
"It was not easy, and I appreciate and love them for staying by my side," she said.
According to the Singapore Mental Health Study conducted in 2010, 1.2 per cent of the adult population here suffers from bipolar disorder during their lifetime.
An almost equal number of males and females suffer from the disorder, and it occurs most commonly when patients are between 18 and 34.
To help them reintegrate into society, and to improve the affordability and accessibility of healthcare services for the needy and disadvantaged, the Tote Board set up its Community Healthcare Fund.
It is jointly administered by the Ministry of Health, the Agency for Integrated Care and the Health Promotion Board.
"It (battling bipolar disorder) was not easy, and I appreciate and love them for staying by my side." - Ms Yohanna Abdullah on her mother and daughter supporting her
TNP SPIRIT OF 16 GIVINGBACK
The beneficiary is Young Women Muslim Association of Singapore (YWMA)