“Why do I even bother trying so hard?”
“What is the point anyway?”
“Why do I wake up every day?”
These are the questions that I ask myself ever since I can remember. I believed I was insignificant and not contributing to this world in any way so I was but a waste of resources. When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time on Tumblr and there was a quote that struck a chord with me.
“Don’t just exist. Live.”
Not really knowing the difference, I made it my mission statement – to learn to start living. I’ve struggled with existential crisis all my life and took the idea of leaving this world very lightly. Night after night I imagined how this reality would cease to exist and I could just dissolve away quietly. But I also know that losing someone is one of the most painful feelings we can ever go through. Therefore, the only reason I continue to exist is so that my loved ones would not have to go through that pain. I existed for the sake of others. But of course, these were the raw and painful internal narratives that I hide away from the world. Most of us carry multiple personalities everywhere we go and we were taught to toughen up or appear happy despite our feelings inside. The truest parts of me were being suppressed while I continue to tread the world with a smile that I’ve perfected over the years.
Throughout my secondary school life, a few of my friends visited the school counsellor regularly and I remember going with them for support. Also because there were bean bags and air conditioning on full blast at the waiting area. We had a good relationship with the counsellor and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there but I remember my resistance to sharing anything beneath the surface. I always felt the need to protect this facade and I vowed to never cry or show signs of weakness in front of anyone. But deep inside a little girl was pounding on the door so hard and screaming to be heard.
My tertiary education revolved around social life and fitting in. This stage of my life would be one of the “happiest” days but also the most unconscious. It was the height of my public facade because I was able to find one distraction after another to numb the pain. Drowning in schoolwork, signing up as core committee in various clubs, attending camps every semester, partying at night and showing up in school the next day with a massive headache was just about what sums up this chapter.
Fast forward to me entering the workforce, life continued like clockwork. Gears shifting and clicking one after another automatically. Except, I saw myself as a clock that was chucked away in the basement serving no purpose. I was living an ordinary life with an ordinary job that I didn’t enjoy. People know me as the social butterfly and travel addict. Little did I know, these were actually my escape routes. I should have known because I dreaded the flight back home to reality. It was a reality that I didn’t want to participate in.
Now that you’ve walked through the first 20 years of my life, you’ll already be expecting this ticking time bomb to explode. June 2018. The first time I experienced a full-on panic attack while at work. Not equipped with how to regulate my emotions and how to help myself out of such a situation, I ran to the only place I knew that no one could find me. The emergency escape staircase. This could be one of the most dangerous places one could ever want to be in during a panic attack. The ventilation was poor, the stairs were a falling hazard and there was a fire escape window conveniently placed if you thought to escape (from this world). I sat there crying, shivering and thinking I was going to die. I remember gasping for air and dragging myself towards the fire escape window. Even in such despair, I didn’t know how to ask for help. I caught sight of my phone and notifications were coming in. That’s when I remembered that there are people who still cared about me and depended on me. My mission was to start learning to live and I haven’t accomplished it. I wasn’t even remotely close to knowing what it meant. I needed to fulfil this mission. But right now, I knew I needed help and I needed to reach out pronto. My best friend stayed on the line with me all the way through till I was able to collect myself. This encounter was just the beginning and it would continue to happen every few weeks for another year.
Social stigma, poor knowledge of mental wellbeing and a lack of community support were a few of the cumulative factors for my delayed recovery. Not many people understood anxiety and panic disorder and it was difficult to find anyone who could directly relate to how I was feeling. Workplace stigma also prevented me from seeking professional help. At the same time, I was also facing a lot of resistance from my ego to maintain this public facade and shutting myself from the world. No doubt it was a difficult time in my life but I’m glad I found a sliver of courage to live. It has been 3 years and I still suffer from panic attacks, although very rarely now. I made a promise to myself and the world that I will use the gift of life to continue learning and sharing my knowledge about emotional and mental well-being because once we know how to control ourselves inside, everything outside will slowly fall into place. After seeing that so many people are struggling with the same issues, I created an Instagram account @letters.from.beyond to document and share all the things that I’ve learnt throughout the years about self-regulating, managing our emotions and how to improve our spiritual and mental well-being. I am sharing my life story so publicly because there are millions of others who experience the same journey and are still struggling. There is no need to be ashamed and I no longer needed society’s approval to live my life. We truly start to living authentically when we befriend our fears and allow them to be expressed as a part of who we are. At the root of humanity is the common knowledge that we all go through some form of suffering, but no one should have to go through it alone. Humans are infinitely stronger as a collective than as an individual. The collective wisdom we hold by bringing together our uniqueness and diversity is what we need to push forward and transcend. If you are still finding a reason to be alive, you can start by seeing that “We’re all just walking each other home”. This powerful quote by Ram Dass shows us that our capacity to love knows no limits. The moment you realise the significance you hold despite your external accomplishments, your love for others will expand and that is how you find your way back home. Huddle Humans embraces the power of community, allowing us to raise the bar and lower the stigma for mental health awareness. Sometimes all we need is someone to tell us that it’s all going to be okay and that we will get through it together. Healing may seem slow and treacherous but it is also full of growth and transformation. It took me so many years and it finally brought me back full circle to revisit the quote I stumbled upon as a teenager. Only this time, it is clear as a bright sunny day. I was existing. Now I am living.
I am intensely honoured to be a part of Huddle Humans and to have a platform to further spread awareness about important mental health topics. The word Healing originated from the notion “to make whole”. We are whole when we are able to appreciate all facets of our lives and when we work together as a unit towards a more integrated society. Let’s walk this beautiful journey together.