My FD Days – Fighting Depression

Depression

The sun has finally risen for me again and the shadows are slowly retreating. The joy of being able to lead an almost-normal life, albeit temporarily, has been overwhelming and inexplicable. Earlier this month, I visited my psychiatrist again for a follow up consultation. Till today, the scene unfolds before me rather vividly. Sitting across him, the realization that I was better, I could get better, and that I could go back to my old days suddenly dawned upon me. With that realization, came hope, and a possibility for complete recovery. I can still draw upon the excitement I had back in his office, as I shared with him how I’ve felt better, how my concentration and mood improved, and of my new-found motivation and enthusiasm to start school. I’ve been given another chance to begin afresh.

Concentration, the ability to recall, and being in control of my emotions are just a handful of the many things I’ve took for granted in the past. And with unnerving brutality, depression has reminded me to be grateful of these seemingly insignificant details in my life. It was immensely frustrating then, to live life with a dull mind as though you’ve been sedated. New memories were practically impossible to form, old memories hard to recollect. You are just swirling in your current depressed state, unable to escape from this hellhole. It was a painful experience, a one so damned that I would resort to physical pain to distract myself from the mental agony. On days when it got so bad, I took solace in contemplating the number of ways I could inflict physical pain on myself, weighing their pros and cons, with a thorough evaluation on their effectiveness in reducing my mental pain. Activities I had considered ranged from punching, kicking, slashing and stabbing my palms, or my thighs/abdomen/chest, blowing my brains out, hanging, to jumping off a building/ in front of traffic. Thankfully, I haven’t come to executing those considerations and moreover, I was too drained then to even get out of my bed. I can now understand how important it is to monitor the well-being of one who is starting on anti-depressants. It came as a shock to me when I found out that the very anti-depressants I was on increased the risk of suicide for the first 2 weeks. Wasn’t it ironic, that the medication that was supposed to resolve your problem was aggravating your condition instead? Apparently with these medications, one’s lethargies are reduced and the individual now has the required energy to carry out his plans of suicide. Er wow…

I made it a point to employ constructive physical pain methods over destructive ones. And this is why I turned to exercise as a form of mental-numbing drug. However, many of my friends would deem me crazy when they see me push on despite suffering from injuries, common colds, fractures, torn muscle and what nots. I’m extremely thankful for every second out of that mental torture chamber, and I would gladly put myself through whatever physical exertions and pain necessary to avoid tumbling down that black abyss once more. Run 1,000km for a month free from depression? Hell, I’ll be the first one to sign up for that deal. While I know this might not be the healthiest coping method, it is the one that is working for me thus far and I’m still exploring other methods. Reading is another amazing method that I’m looking into, but when my energy levels are low and I can barely concentrate on anything, it is as effective as asking my girlfriend to get me a bowl of phở. Oh and I’m single. The Achilles heel of my main coping mechanism is when I’m immobilized and incapable of engaging in any physical activity. The periods when I fractured my collarbone, twisted my ankle and tore my hamstring were extremely difficult to get by, at that probably explains why I fractured/tore them more than once. Ok… At least 4 times each. Don’t worry, my obtuseness confounds me all the time too.

The dark days of depression are waning, but my fight is still not over. I’ve been blessed with 2 weeks of respite from the black dog, but just as suddenly as it went away, it came back again to hound me (pun intended) for a couple of days. It was terrifying feeling, being cognizant of the dreaded state you were slipping into, yet totally helpless in preventing anything otherwise. As the new school term approaches, I’m filled with both excitement and apprehension. Would it be a replay of the same scene over again? That I’ll start off with renewed energy that was so preciously bought, be overly enthusiastic in getting back on track, bite off more than I can chew, and stumble once more back into depression, as I pretty much did for my entire NUS season thus far? Will I be able to break free from this black dog that has been pursuing me doggedly (sorry) for the past 3 years?

As I read how Chester left us today, just as how I read about the NUS Utown suicide incident, I’m reminded once again of how close I was to stepping over that ledge myself. And I’m ever thankful for the grace God has shown me, and the support from my friends and brothers. To Tyn, the perpetual idiot, yet more often than not, an endearing genius whom I love to heckle at and trash talk with on the field, I really thank God for you. And to all those who are still battling their inner demons, may you find the strength to continue pressing on towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

And as I try to tell myself everyday, live for love, Lionel!

 

Gonna end off this post with a few personal favourites from my collection of <Shit Gupta Says>. Hope it’ll encourage you as it did for me.


Gupta the Saiyan: “You may win the battle, but I’LL win the war. Cause I’ll beat the shit out of you.”

proceeds to flex chest and biceps (but never his calves)


*sees motivational poster: “When the muscles fail, the mind takes over.” *

Gupta the Super Saiyan, “But my muscles never fail!” flex


The Saiyan Guppy: “Come on! Give me a challenge!”

Common Test papers are returned

Guppy: “Maybe that was a bit too much of a challenge…”


~Cos we too fly like a 12SO6G.~

Part 3a: Words

Words

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These strings of squiggly lines are nothing but a code, a combination of symbols, a repetition of patterns. Yet, they mean something to us. Because we have given meaning to them. And we, or rather, society has taught us, to discern these strings as words. How fascinating it is, that 1.5 billion people recognize these uniquely conjoined straights and curves, be it scrawled on some physical medium, or imprinted virtually in their impeccable typographic forms!

So what are words? A medium in which we convey our thoughts and feelings? Interestingly, right now, I am using this very medium (words) to share my thoughts and feelings with you, through another medium (electronic, unless you are a crazy fool to print this), which yet goes through another medium, of a non-matter nature this time (light), for it to reach you. But how are you internalising this information? If you are like most people, you would be reading this silently in your head, which means this same medium of words, has now reached you through a different medium; one of sound. KABOOM. (Some smarty-pants might point out that technically, reading silently has no sound, but whatever, don’t wet my blanket.)

exhales in contentment Ok, I had my fun.

Ultimately, I hope you can see that we are all connected somehow, in this particular case, through words. And words are so important, whether we know it or not. And that is why there is so much truth in the time-weathered adage that “words cut deeper than knives”. Yet, many of us, myself horribly included, have been so careless with them. How often, do we spew out malice and hate in our words, only to regret that we can never take them back? More importantly, how often do we silence the voices of our hearts, allowing the could-have-been to remain as could-have-beens, rather than evolving into haves and hads? That all these unspoken words, could have been the ones that mattered the most, that could have changed everything? And that sometimes, all it takes is just 3 words. So many of us, too many of us, have waited till our deathbeds to speak the words on our hearts and even then, we might miss the chance to say them.

I love you.

I’m so sorry.

Forgive me, son?

I’ve missed you.

So did I.

 

 

But my dear,

It’s too late.

To say goodbye.

In-Bus Uncle-tainment

I always found it super interesting to observe how our bus drivers keep themselves entertained during their mundane routes replete with interminable waits at traffic light junctions. Using deft gesticulations and a myriad of non-verbal communication, these masters of telepathic communication would invoke a stifled chortle and wide grin across the glass panels separating them. This unique language seems to be only native to them, acquired after years of practice and experience in the industry, for I observed this phenomenon to be more apparent among the older generations of drivers.

And as with every laughter, their smiles are contagious too. I beamed silently to myself, thankful that they were the reason for each other’s smiles. And for mine too.

Disgraced – by Darryl Gebien

Article: Disgraced – How A Doctor Got Hooked On Fentanyl and Lost It All

“I became a doctor so that I could help people. I messed up my life, but I can still help others avoid the same fate.”

When you lie, you enter a never-ending spiral, for one lie has to be backed up by 10 lies, and these lies themselves each have to be backed up by 10 other lies.

The Privilege of Being Underprivileged

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Oral Communications Camp 2016: Unleash the Speaker in You, ft. John Cena

Ever so grateful for this bunch of people! Happened to bump into a couple of them again this week. Interestingly, whenever I get reminded of my past during these random encounters with familiar faces, I always wondered, how have my life changed since then? Sadly, the answer is of a disappointing nature. But these people never fail to inspire me with their relentless pursuit in different areas of life — be it participating in some engineering UAV competition, signing up as part of the SAF Volunteer Corps, practicing till unearthly hours for their dance performances, or pursuing their Ph.Ds etc. Their commitment and passion is amazingly infectious.

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TEAM JOHN CENA was amazingly, the most bonded group in the entire camp. Everyone was just so open and welcoming. The quirkiness, fluidity and brilliant interactions among these people of differing, yet in-sync personalities, magically gave rise to JOHN CENA (which all started with a innocuous sharing of John Cena prank calls to include in our skid). Special shoutout to Kelvin Kang, whose speech gave me the courage to present mine, when I was paralyzed with fear.

Thank you TEAM JOHN CENA, for giving me the opportunity to speak my heart. Hopefully many years down the road, I’ll still be updating this blog, reminiscing about life, and with a nice cup of tea in hand, enjoy this sweet stroll down memory lane 🙂 Thanks for keeping me company and walking with me in this journey called life! As we inevitably part our ways, we may forget each other’s names. But we will never forget the imprints we left on each other’s hearts.

Here it goes, my speech at Oral Comm Camp that won me $20 NUS Co-Op vouchers ^^

The Privilege of Being Underprivileged

How many of you watched the viral video of a guy eating corn using a drill? Ok, I see a couple of hands. Now, how many of you watched a similar video of a girl trying to imitate this? Because honestly if you haven’t, you are missing out on a big part of life, or in her case, a significantly big portion of her hair. I love corns. Really, I do. To the extent that I love corny jokes and of course, have complete adoration for the widely acclaimed Cornfucious. I hope this oral communication camp has been a fruitful one for all of you, albeit tiring and mentally exhausting. As Cornfucious once said, “Man who runs in front of car get tired. Man who runs behind car gets exhausted.

Today, I want to talk about privilege. Privilege. Specifically, the privilege of being underprivileged. My family moved over to Malaysia when I was Primary 6 due to financial difficulties. Commuting to school every day was a nightmare and 3 to 4 hours jams were very real indeed. I had to wake up early in the wee hours and despite this, I rarely made it to school on time. I was constantly reprimanded by my teachers and judged by my peers. And this feeling sucks. The feeling of dread, when you are late and you have walk down the aisle to get to your seat. The feeling of shame, when uncountable pairs of eyes track your every single movement, and the whispers of “Wah this guy always late sia. Aiya what’s new?”  And this, was indeed trying times for me.

Well, on a more positive note, I was famous in Raffles for this. I proclaim this with mixed feelings of pride, and a tinge of shame. Proud, because for the first time ever, I was consistently among the select top few in RI. Shame, because this 2nd position title that I hold in the entire school, is for the most number of demerit points. At this point, some of you must be thinking, wow, so who’s No. 1? This guy definitely must be some badass rabak pai kia. But nope. This person, is an aspiring doctor. Someone, who has a heart of gold (Note: die hard Rafflesians would now snigger here at this reference at gold). He is none other than my elder brother. Lionel Goh and Leonard Goh, the two brothers taking RI by storm. Well, needless to say, the throne was all mine when my brother graduated.

Being able to study in Raffles Institution was definitely a privilege. But it was a privilege that came at a cost.  My peers were mostly from the upper class. Their parents were doctors, lawyers, corporate leaders, people with amazing careers and prestigious backgrounds. I just couldn’t afford to hang out with them when they have meals at restaurants followed by visits to ice cream parlors. Most of my peers were oblivious to my financial difficulties, but there were a handful who were. To them, I’m eternally grateful. A recent incident reminded me of how much we take money for granted. And this isn’t all that surprising, considering how Singapore has progressed economically with leaps and bounds. Most of us here are fortunate enough to be able to live our lives without worrying about money.

It was 3am. My dance group just finished practice and decided to go for supper. I was ravenous, but I was strapped for cash. I had a hard time deciding on what to order on the menu, because on one hand, it was rather pricey. But on the other hand, my stomach was demanding to be fed. And as you know, a hungry man is an angry man. So, I gave in to the demands of my stomach, but I wanted to buy something that was the most value-for-money, something that would be filling for a growing boy. However, my senior was getting impatient and commented, “Eh, no need think so long one. Just buy! So cheap over here! Hurry up leh!”  My heart sank.

Now, I would like all of you to take a second, and ponder on what I’m about to say. The rich, worry about their choices of what to eat — “Hmm I can’t decide if I like the ribs better, or the chop“, while the poor, worry about their choice to eat — “Am I really that hungry today? How much can I spend this meal, so I won’t go hungry for the next?” The rich never have to worry about such seemingly trivial issues, while the poor, rack their heads over every single decision they make, because they are already starting from a disadvantaged position, and many doors of opportunities are closed to them. Because they do not have the social mobility money provides. When was the last time you were really thirsty, but you had to suppress any urge of purchasing a drink, because that would mean exceeding your budget? How about worrying about how you would contact your family and friends, because your mobile service has been cut due to outstanding fees? My financial situation required me to constantly draw upon my willpower to resist temptations and be financially prudent. It made me a rational person that had to make logical decisions rather than impulsive ones, and keep a tight rein on my finances. It developed my resilience towards hardship and also molded my character, as I was more better able to empathize with the less privileged. But, it also made me extremely afraid to fail.

The privilege of being underprivileged. I saw how much sacrifices my parents made in order to give my brother and I a better education. I still remember when I was just a kid in Primary 1, how my father would travel to Malaysia after work just to buy milk powder and our weekly groceries because it’s cheaper over there. And mind you, we didn’t have a car back then and I was staying in Tampines, the other end of Singapore from the Woodlands Immigration Checkpoint. As a kid, I would see him coming home past midnight and making multiple trips up the elevator, lugging bulging bags of milk powder and groceries. And that was when I took my first baby step into the complexity of this concept called maturity. I respected my father tremendously for all that he has done for our family, and I know it has not been easy on him.

Being poor also allows you to understand love on a more intimate level. It is when there is only one piece of meat on the table of four, and your parents insist that you and your brother share it, that you realize how much your parents love you. They will find excuses like “Oh, I’ve already ate” or “I’m not hungry” so that you could eat it with a slightly better peace of mind. But deep down inside, you know they are lying. The same piece of meat however, does not bear the same weight in terms of perceived love should there be an abundance of it.

My mother told me a story that I’ll never forget. And it is a story of a mother’s unconditional love. There was once a mother and a son who were very poor. The mother took up multiple jobs and worked extremely hard to ensure that her son not only had enough to eat, but also enough to go through proper education. As the Imperial Entrance Exams were approaching, she worked doubly hard day and night, scrimped and saved every penny she could to buy fish for her son, as she heard that it was nourishing for the brain. She wanted to give the best she could offer for her son, so that he could excel in the exam, be appointed as an official, and have a better life. During meal times, she would only eat the fish eyes and let her son have the rest of the fish, under the pretext that she only loved eating the eyes. Thankfully, her son passed with flying colours and was appointed as a scholar with a high paying government position. The first thing her son bought with his first payslip was a bag full of fish eyes to express his gratitude to his mother for all she had done for him. When his mother saw the bag of fish eyes, she broke into tears, because she understood her son’s kind intentions, but yet, despite his education and all these while, he didn’t understand her at all. He didn’t understand that she hated fish eyes. It was truly a bittersweet story on the complexity of love and life.

This reinforced my belief that maturity does not come with age. Maturity in my opinion, comes with the multitude of experience one encounters over the years in his life and it is the reflection upon these experiences, that brings about maturity. While the number of experience we encounter typically increases as we age, not everyone reflects and truly internalize the lessons these experiences bring about.

I set my mind on being financially independent when I entered the National Service and was determined to continue doing so when I entered university. Working as a tuition teacher to pay for my hostel fees and university education, I can finally understand the trite saying of “It is definitely not easy being a teacher.” During my students’ exam periods, I had to rush down to the East 3 times a week after my lectures without having dinner, only to reach back in my hostel well past midnight, all exhausted and drained. Fortunately, teaching is one of my passions and the sense of satisfaction you get upon seeing your student top his class, or just the mere fact that you made a positive impact in your student’s life, are indescribable feelings of joy and accomplishment, that any attempt to put them into words just don’t do them justice.

Life isn’t a bed of roses. If you think about it, this saying is actually rather hilarious, considering the fact that roses are not only known for their beauty, but also for their thorns. I knew that life would be one full of ups and downs. But somehow, mine seemed to have more downs than ups, and the downs were deeper than the ups. Basically, if you would plot this on a stocks market graph, whew, people would be cashing out faster than that of Lehman Brothers. I could even make a paraplegic go on a bank run!

I can’t even remember how many times I’ve cussed and swore, wondering, why God, if he even existed at all, made my life such a miserable one. These numerous hardships and setbacks that kept sprouting around me every single step I took were so discouraging. The daily accumulation of minuscule frustrations dealt a really huge blow to me. It was as if everything out there existed solely to prove my maxim wrong —when you are at rock bottom, the only way is up. I was so envious of the lives my wealthier friends were living.

It is only through retrospection that I realized what I have gained out of this. It opened my eyes and enabled me to see from a wider, a more macro perspective. It enabled me to relate to the daily struggles of the man on the street, to have compassion for the many more who were worse off than me, to be resilient, and understand that the struggles that I am facing today are developing the strengths I need for tomorrow. It taught me to be grateful for what I have, and to treat everything as a privilege, rather than an entitlement. All these seemingly unpleasant experiences can in fact be seen as a form of education. As Arthur Schopenhauer once said,

“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”

For the more Mandrin inclined, this is something my professor, Prof Wang Chien Ming, whom some of you may know as the Director for Engineering Science Programme and Global Engineering Programme, shared with my coursemates. I believe it was a series of interviews of successful NUS graduates conducted by the Centre for Future-ready Graduates. The main message I took home was this beautifully crafted quote.

学历是铜牌,your ability to learn is your bronze medal

能力是银牌,your skill sets are your silver medal

人臃是金牌,your interpersonal skills are your gold medals

思维是王牌。But your vision and ideology, that is your trump card.

My struggles have shaped my character and my vision for the world today. I am extremely thankful and humbled to have this privilege of being underprivileged. Thank you.

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Embracing Failure

Failure

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A short speech written by my student! 🙂

Good morning teachers and fellow classmates. There is a Chinese idiom, which when translated, says “Failure is the mother of success.”. This adage shows the undeniable relationship between failure and success and how we can use our failures to lead us to our successes. However, in society today, many think of failure as a life ending event. Thus, they try to avoid failure at all costs. But failure cannot be avoided forever. At some point in our life, we will definitely fail, and the stress that it brings along may cause us to feel devastated, depressed and in extreme cases, suicidal. Today, I would like to address this issue about how we view failure, and how failure is not always harmful and that we can turn it to become our strength.

First of all, why do we hate failing? As students, we definitely know what the most common answer to this question is. Scolding, scolding, scolding. We detest the consequences that follow after we fail. Our self-esteem will take a hit and we may think that we are not good enough, that we will never reach our goals. Imagine the time when you put in your best efforts but the results were nowhere near your expectations. Now, we will all have that one friend who puts in lesser effort, yet he still scores better grades than us. You will be like “Why is the world so unfair?” Thankfully, I have good news for all of you. There are ways that we to utilize our failures and improve for the better.

Having a positive mindset is crucial to turning our failures into successes. Let’s take the light bulb as an example. The light bulb was invented by one of the greatest inventors of all time, Thomas Edison. He was once remarked by his teacher that he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive”. As an inventor, Edison made 10,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. However, he treated his unsuccessful attempts as his learning points and said, “I have not failed, I’ve found 9,999 ways how not to build a light bulb.” It was his positive thinking and perseverance that enabled him to successfully invent the light bulb. Should he not possess such qualities, light bulbs may still be a mystery till today and we will not enjoy the life we are living right now.

Moreover, being able to see the bigger picture and end goal will increase your chances in persevering on, and help focus your attention on what you need to do. We all need to treat our small failures as baby steps towards our bigger successes. I am certain that everybody in this room is familiar with the game “Angry Birds”. But how many of you know the story behind it? The creators of Angry Birds were on the verge of bankruptcy and had one last shot in the mobile games industry.  They produced 51 unsuccessful mobile games before the launch of Angry Birds. Just one successful app, and the rest is history. This single application generated over a billion dollars of revenue per year today. Dear fellow classmates, can you see how risky it was for them at that point in time, because once they fail, they would not have any second chance again! However, the team did not give up and put their best foot forward. Perseverance in the face of adversity, indeed led the founders to success.

Lastly, we need courage. Courage to do things that are daunting, and courage to humble ourselves so that we can learn from the people around us. We need to have the courage to be different from others, to think out of the box, and have the courage to carry out our plans, despite the many setbacks that we may face. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, pitched to seventeen of his friends in his apartment before staring Alibaba. Although his seventeen friends said that he was crazy and warned him that his idea would not succeed, Jack Ma mustered up his courage and took a leap of faith to start his website. Now, his company is one of the most successful companies in the world. We need to learn to be courageous and stand up for what we feel is right, despite the many oppositions we may face from the people around us. Yes, following everyone down the same path may seem safer at first, but you will only see the back of the person in front of you and you will never enjoy the view of true scenery that the leader sees. If we take the path less travelled, we open our eyes to the beauty of this world and the endless possibilities that lie in wait for us. But because it is the path less travelled, it is unavoidable that we will be scratched and bruised as we navigate our way through unknown terrain, and we are bound to meet small failures along the way.

Today, I would like to challenge your current perception of failure. Think of failure as simply a stepping stone to greater success, should we focus on the bigger picture and keep pushing forward. Failure will be painful. I know that. But as with all pain, it is temporary and greatness will come to those who persevere. In today’s world, we have to learn to embrace failure as part of our learning process so that we can encounter new experiences and make the best out of life. As J.K Rowling once said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case, you fail by default.” Thank you.

-UTJ, April 2017