Monday, November 30, 2015

By Rachel Griffin
I used to feel ashamed of my mental health condition, but now I refuse to let stigma and stereotypes dictate how I feel about myself. If you stigmatize me, that's your ignorance, not my truth. Cool people, who are educated about mental illness and confident in their own mental health, don't stigmatize. Stigma is dated, cruel and just plain wrong. Get educated about mental illness and come over to the cool side.

People with mental illnesses are not less-than. They are not damaged. They are not what you see on TV, the news or in movies. They are people; brothers, mothers, fathers, daughters... People. They are valuable, vibrant, brilliant members of your community. They are 1 in 4 people, not some freaky monster you've never met.

I have an awesome, successful, happy life... and a mental health condition. Big deal. Get over it. Just because I'm different, doesn't mean I'm broken. In fact, I like being different.  

Shame is toxic to the human spirit. I've let it go and replaced it with pride and acceptance. You can shame me all you want and have a big ol' shame party, but it's my choice whether I attend or not. (I'm always busy with better, more important things to do than sit with shame.) Shaming yourself and others are both exhausting, heavy, soul-energy-sucking things to do. I'll be by the pool with joy and acceptance if you want to join us.

I hope you'll also let shame go and move forward with pride. Here are 5 reasons why I'm not ashamed anymore: 

1. It's not my fault. 

I didn't choose this. It's genetics. It's not a character flaw or a negative personality trait. I'm not guilty of something. I don't have a mental health condition because I'm weak, don't try hard enough to change, don't have enough willpower, eat too many donuts, like the attention, or haven't read enough Oprah. It's my brain being my brain. (For the record, though, I eat healthy and I've read a lot of Oprah. I'm eating cucumbers and having an aha-moment right. now.)

Depression is extremely different from normal sadness. Anxiety is not "just worrying." People who have mental health conditions can't just snap out of it. Know the facts. 

2. My brain is actually awesome, and I'm in good company.

I've grown to love my brain. Ya, I have anxiety, I'm a human sponge for everyone's feelings, and I'm so sensitive I'll cry at a cheerios commercial, but the ability to feel so much is also gift. I have an extraordinary amount of empathy. My brain is out to lunch in some areas but it has extra mojo in other areas like creativity and imagination. I am an award-winning composer (writing a mental health musical!) music teacher, Dramatists Guild Fellow, and a published writer. My imagination may take me places I'm not so fond of (but I'm used to that by now) and it's worth it for the beautiful places I can travel to. I'd rather trudge through mud and then dance in seas of glittery stars then walk on flat, easy plain all the time. It's who I am and I'm also learning to appreciate the mud.. Hey, mud-pies! Mud-facials! Mud-baths!  

People with mental health conditions are not doomed. Their future isn't bleak and miserable. With treatment, they can live normal, wonderful lives and have happy, successful relationships!

People with mental health conditions are in good company! Think about all the people who made unbelievable contributions to the world who also struggled with mental health conditions! (Lincoln, Beethoven, Mozart, Tolstoy, Michelangelo... the lists goes on and on)

3. We all have weird minds.

Um... everyone's mind is a little wonky. No one is thinking about unicorns skipping on rainbows (while it rains candy) all day. People with mental health conditions are not super strange aliens from a far off galaxy. (We are more like super heroes from a far off galaxy) We all have problems and struggles in life. No one is perfect. No one has a unicorn mind all the time. 

4. I'm proud of how far I've coming and how I've helped/am helping others. 

It takes a lot of bravery to get help for a mental health condition and stick with treatment. It takes a lot strength to tell your story for the millionth time, advocate for yourself when your care is crappy, try a bunch of medicines until you find the right one (while the cray-cray list of side effects on the commercials plays in your mind) put up with everyone telling you what you should do to get better when they aren't qualified to do so, have your claims denied by rich insurance companies when you can't pay your bills, and be treated like a child and talked to in an odd condescending tone when you have a masters degree.

People say hope is right in front of you, but depression is a blindfold. It takes so much strength to keep searching in the dark. 

Recovery is sort of like making an huge collage. You are always looking, finding, and pasting things that help you. Your your own work of art, a constant project. It takes a lot of energy and willpower. It takes being bad-ass. I'm proud that I am speaking out (not an easy decision) and trying to help others. 

5.  My pain has become my power. 

I'm not ashamed of my pain. I think it's made me a more compassionate person. I think it's given me wisdom and inspiration. I believe pain can be like a question mark, asking us, "What will you do with me? Destruct or create?" It's energy we can transform and put to use. I believe that our struggle and pain softens when we use it to create, and then with our art/work/writing we are able to soften pain living in others.  It becomes our power. It becomes our flashlight to hand to others who are still tripping in the darkness like we once were. I believe when we break down and lose everything, often we rebuild a stronger, wiser, more beautiful version of ourselves. I believe pain can be an asset. High-five, illness! 

What are you proud of? I challenge you to #letshamego You have nothing to be ashamed of! You're amazing.

Friday, November 27, 2015

am liking this art piece....
Stranded Paris commuters ditched their headphones and got a live performance when a quirky train driver started belting out his own rendition of a Rihanna song.
When a train on line six of the Parisian subway stopped, the driver flicked on the intercom loudspeakers for an important announcement.

In the video, the 38-year-old driver known only as “Ramzi” starts to softly serenade the commuters with his version of Diamonds.
When the high-pitched verse kicks in, a person filming on their mobile phone breaks into laughter and at one point even joins in.

The other passengers are in fits of giggles as the driver helps brighten up their trip home.
Ramzi is well known by regular commuters for breaking into song during rush hour.
His dulcet tones started featuring on Parisians playlists when he was a bus driver caught in a traffic jam on Christmas Eve.

"We were stuck on l’avenue d’Italie because of the traffic. And to help the passengers relax, I began to sing," he said.
"Some years later, I became a metro driver on line 6. And once again, as chance would have it, since there was a problem on the line, I cheered up my passengers a bit by singing a few verses to them."

In the busy streets, shoppers and workers rush by the homeless little boy with a flute -- some dropping change, but most ignoring him.
Sitting on the sidewalk in Istanbul, Turkey, his head is barely above knee height of the adults around him. But he plays on -- for hours, knowing that each coin or note can help his family survive another day.
The flute is a cheap one, but it is key to their struggle. The money he makes -- usually about $10 a day -- will help feed his mom and four siblings.

The family escaped the horrors of war in Aleppo, Syria, and he says they now live in a park. He does not say which park or if they have a tent for shelter at night.

The boy says he has been in Turkey for about a year.
He plays falteringly and his young face looks innocent, but he knows the cruelty of war. He says his dad died in Aleppo, which has seen some of the fiercest fighting in Syria and is a rebel stronghold that President Bashar al-Assad's army has attacked.

The boy, who says he is 6, complains that his head hurts and talks of the guns back in Aleppo.
As he plays on, he is relying on the kindness of strangers and watching for police patrols, as begging on the streets is illegal.
When police do see him -- this time as he walks back to his makeshift home -- an officer confiscates his flute.
But he cannot be kept down. A new flute is $5 -- half is daily profit -- but if he is to play on, if he is to help feed his family, if they are to have some hope, it's a small expense.

And tomorrow, he will play again.

A little Syrian girl sells tissues on the streets of Turkey to help her family.
She was absolutely shaken when she sees a man in uniform (police) approaching her. 
So much that she grabs on to a passer by for dear life. 
Despite the officer's attempt to calm her down, she repeatedly begs to be let go and promises to not do it again, She makes the emphatic promise gesture used by some Arabs by kissing her own hand and placing her finger on her forehead, which is the practice of asking for forgiveness.

Taken from

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Local TV series teen actor Tang Yi (汤昱) is believed to have committed suicide on Tuesday, 24 November due to stress after being unable to answer Additional Mathematic questions for his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM).

The 17-year-old student told his teacher the he could not answer the questions so he requested to go home, but the teacher advised him to stay. He didn’t listen to the teacher and went home anyway,
When Tang Yi didn’t turn up for the second paper in the afternoon, the teacher became concerned and called the boy’s mother who then called the aunt and asked her to check up on him.
The aunt then found out that Tang Yi had committed suicide with his necktie, which was wrapped around his neck and was tied to a window frame in his room at Taman Jinjang.

Tang Yi has acted in several local Chinese-language TV series including the Malaysian version of “Justice Bao Jr” (少年包青天) where he played the role of Zhao Hu (赵虎).
He has been described as a “bright student” by his teachers, and had previously obtained all As on his PMR (Penilaian Menengah Rendah) and 9As 1B for his SPM trial exam.

However, Tang Yi confessed to his family that he is frustrated that he couldn’t get all As for his SPM trial. Thus, it is believed that the huge exam pressure had caused the young actor to take his own life.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I've got work to do but I really must type this down before I lose any of its inspiration.
My boss, the historian-author, took me and another staff out for lunch with her family.
Their family lineage is somewhat elite, hence communication was somewhat classy too.
You know, where the spoken English is the type you can put into writing.
It's like having a meal with modern day Malaysian Crawley family of Downton Abbey.

I really love the way her family interacted with each other.
So... harmoniously.
Yes, of course people tend to behave differently when there are outsiders, but some gestures of affection just can't be acted out.
Like all families, there were some quirks, disagreements and idiosyncrasies.
But they evaporated very quickly because their love and respect for each other was more potent.
And the children.
Wow, they exude confidence, spoke so eloquently and yet so patient and gentle with their grandma.
Epitome of an educated Asian family.

With my contrary upbringing, to witness this is so...precious.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My birthday.
A friend asked, "How are you celebrating?"
I answered, "At this age, ain't much of a celebration."

When I was little, I had always looked forward to this date.
Because I had always believed it was my special day.
That special and better things were on my way.
And most amazingly, I had believed that I was deserving of them.
A feeling that was so long ago, so distantly far away.
Another fairy tale story that I used to believe in my childhood.

Today, I bought myself a set of colour pencils as my birthday gift.
To remind myself of my childhood imaginations.
Perhaps, I would learn to believe in them again.
By Arthur Chatora 
Haben Girma was born deaf-blind but she had access to opportunities afforded by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Girma is Harvard Law School’s first deaf-blind graduate and her academic achievements have catapulted her advocacy career, fighting for the rights of people with disabilities

Using a digital device that displays Braille characters, Haben Girma talks with President Obama at a White House ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Her success has been shared and appreciated by many including her grandmother back in Eritrea. During her introductory remarks at the White House, Girma noted that in Eritrea, “there was simply no chance,” for deaf-blind children to go to school.  Her grandmother had difficulties finding a school in Eritrea for Haben’s older brother, also born deaf-blind.

Girma’s family moved to the United States, where Haben was born deaf-blind but she had access to opportunities afforded by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The 27 year-old has achieved a lot despite her disability, “For my grandmother back in Africa, my success in law school seemed like magic,” she says.
Her academic achievements, a “J.D. in 2013 from Harvard, and her B.A., magna cum laude, in 2010 from Lewis & Clark College” have indeed catapulted her advocacy career which have seen her fighting for the rights of people with disabilities.

The Eritrean-American was born in California after her mother escaped Eritrea in the early 1980s. Today, Girma is a successful attorney who advocates for civil rights of people with disabilities, reported the Diplomat News Network. She says that she is proof that if you believe that you can achieve a goal, then you will.

Monday, November 23, 2015

There was a very haughty middle-aged man asking me many peculiar questions.
I thought he was rude.
After his purchase, as he walked away he said, "Sorry if I made you uncomfortable. I'm sick."
I didn't say anything but smiled.
I wondered...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

My friend Mn came to visit.
My room is too small to accommodate her, so she had to put up in a homestay and invited me to spend the night with her before she proceed to her next stop.

It was very good to see her.
She brought me my pre-birthday present.
The present suits me so much that I will write another post about it.

She was among the many who supported my decision to move here.
"You have been here for over a year, you've done it'', she smiled approvingly.
I smiled back sheepishly.
"I'm on my way...I may not be there yet, but I know at least I'm no longer heading the wrong direction. I'm walking a path with big potential."

"Yes, you are."

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A young child's struggle to understand the violence wrought by terrorists in Paris — and his father's teaching that humanity prevails — is shining light into a world overcome by grief and fear in the days since 129 were killed and 352 wounded in France's capital city.
The exchange, captured on camera by French media outlet Le Petit Journal, unfolded amid a growing memorial outside the Bataclan, where 89 people were massacred while attending a rock concert Friday night.

"Do you understand what happened?" the television reporter asks a small boy propped on his father's knee, in French.
Yes, the boy says, he does.
"They're really, really mean. Bad guys are not very nice."
The child says he fears his family now will have to "change houses" and flee, but his father reassures him they won't have to move.
"France is our home," he explains.
"But Daddy," the boy persists, "there's bad guys."
His father, softly, tells him "there's bad guys everywhere."
"They might have guns, but we have flowers," he says.
Flowers — the boy furrows his brow, confused. "But flowers don't do anything..."
"Of course they do," his father explains. "Look, everyone is putting flowers. It's to fight against guns."
"To protect?" the boy asks.
"Exactly," his father says.
"And the candles too?"
"It's to remember the people who are gone yesterday."
The father's words seem to bring comfort. His son smiles and looks toward the Bataclan memorial, where mourners gather to remember.
He turns back to the reporter.
"The flowers and the candles are here to protect us," he asserts.

The reporter, now a quiet observer, asks the boy if he feels better.
Yes, he says, he does.
Taken from

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

On preface of The Garden of Evening Mists book,

“There is a goddess of Memory, Mnemosyne; but none of Forgetting.
Yet there should be, as they are twin sisters, twin powers, and walk on either side of us, disputing for sovereignty over us and who we are, all the way until death.”
― Richard Holmes

Monday, November 16, 2015

Emotional Hygiene

Below is the excerpt from the TED presentation by Guy Winch
I recently was at a friend's house, and their five-year-old was getting ready for bed. He was standing on a stool by the sink brushing his teeth, when he slipped, and scratched his leg on the stool when he fell. He cried for a minute, but then he got back up, got back on the stool, and reached out for a box of Band-Aids to put one on his cut.
 Now, this kid could barely tie his shoelaces, but he knew you have to cover a cut, so it doesn't become infected, and you have to care for your teeth by brushing twice a day. We all know how to maintain our physical health and how to practice dental hygiene, right? We've known it since we were five years old. But what do we know about maintaining our psychological health? Well, nothing. What do we teach our children about emotional hygiene? Nothing. How is it that we spend more time taking care of our teeth than we do our minds. Why is it that our physical health is so much more important to us than our psychological health?
We sustain psychological injuries even more often than we do physical ones, injuries like failure or rejection or loneliness. And they can also get worse if we ignore them, and they can impact our lives in dramatic ways. And yet, even though there are scientifically proven techniques we could use to treat these kinds of psychological injuries, we don't. It doesn't even occur to us that we should. "Oh, you're feeling depressed? Just shake it off; it's all in your head."Can you imagine saying that to somebody with a broken leg: "Oh, just walk it off; it's all in your leg." It is time we closed the gap between our physical and our psychological health.
Our mind is hard to change once we become convinced. So it might be very natural to feel demoralized and defeated after you fail. But you cannot allow yourself to become convinced you can't succeed. You have to fight feelings of helplessness. You have to gain control over the situation. And you have to break this kind of negative cycle before it begins.
 Our minds and our feelings, they're not the trustworthy friends we thought they were. They are more like a really moody friend, who can be totally supportive one minute, and really unpleasant the next. I once worked with this woman who after 20 years marriage and an extremely ugly divorce, was finally ready for her first date. She had met this guy online, and he seemed nice and he seemed successful, and most importantly, he seemed really into her. So she was very excited, she bought a new dress, and they met at an upscale New York City bar for a drink. Ten minutes into the date, the man stands up and says, "I'm not interested," and walks out.
Rejection is extremely painful. The woman was so hurt she couldn't move. All she could do was call a friend. Here's what the friend said: "Well, what do you expect? You have big hips, you have nothing interesting to say, why would a handsome, successful man like that ever go out with a loser like you?"
Shocking, right, that a friend could be so cruel? But it would be much less shocking if I told you it wasn't the friend who said that. It's what the woman said to herself. And that's something we all do, especially after a rejection. We all start thinking of all our faults and all our shortcomings, what we wish we were, what we wish we weren't, we call ourselves names. Maybe not as harshly, but we all do it. And it's interesting that we do, because our self-esteem is already hurting. Why would we want to go and damage it even further? We wouldn't make a physical injury worse on purpose. You wouldn't get a cut on your arm and decide, "Oh, I know! I'm going to take a knife and see how much deeper I can make it.
But we do that with psychological injuries all the time. Why? Because of poor emotional hygiene. Because we don't prioritize our psychological health. We know from dozens of studies that when your self-esteem is lower, you are more vulnerable to stress and to anxiety, that failures and rejections hurt more and it takes longer to recover from them. So when you get rejected, the first thing you should be doing is to revive your self-esteem, not join Fight Club and beat it into a pulp. When you're in emotional pain, treat yourself with the same compassion you would expect from a truly good friend. We have to catch our unhealthy psychological habits and change them.
One of unhealthiest and most common is called rumination. To ruminate means to chew over. It's when your boss yells at you, or your professor makes you feel stupid in class, or you have big fight with a friend and you just can't stop replaying the scene in your head for days, sometimes for weeks on end. Ruminating about upsetting events in this way can easily become a habit, and it's a very costly one. Because by spending so much time focused on upsetting and negative thoughts, you are actually putting yourself at significant risk for developing clinical depression, alcoholism, eating disorders, and even cardiovascular disease.
By taking action when you're lonely, by changing your responses to failure, by protecting your self-esteem, by battling negative thinking, you won't just heal your psychological wounds, you will build emotional resilience, you will thrive. A hundred years ago, people began practicing personal hygiene, and life expectancy rates rose by over 50 percent in just a matter of decades. I believe our quality of life could rise just as dramatically if we all began practicing emotional hygiene.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone was psychologically healthier? If there were less loneliness and less depression? If people knew how to overcome failure? If they felt better about themselves and more empowered? If they were happier and more fulfilled? I can, because that's the world I want to live in, and that's the world my brother wants to live in as well. And if you just become informed and change a few simple habits, well, that's the world we can all live in.

Friday, November 13, 2015

I love this game called , "The Werewolves".
On the Diwali holiday, I played this with my church friends and I got the 'Guard' card.
My role was to choose a person to protect each night round.
My choice is purely random as I wouldn't know who is chosen victim by the Werewolves.

First night, I protected myself.
When day time came, true enough no one died.
Second night, I protected the lady who is known to have the strongest intuition in this game.
Her intuition is so accurate that she always 'killed' first by the werewolves every time we play.

As the game continued, I kept 'guarding' people whom I thought to have power cards, or 'stronger' players.
I mistakenly neglected the villagers.
It is very silly of me because we can only win if the villagers outlive the werewolves.
Players with power cards, - witch, prophet, guard, cupid, elder don't count.
However, power card players have better chances in identifying the werewolves.

I had busied myself strategising that many of the villagers in the game had been killed by the werewolves.
Thankfully, there was one villager left before we finally snuffed out the last remaining werewolf.
When the game ended, I reflected on myself.
I held on to my biased opinion too strongly, and had talked too much.
I became emotional when people didn't agree with me.
I didn't listen and observe.

Had I been more still, I would have picked up more clues and detected more lies.
So metaphorically applying this to my life, I focus so much trying to figure things out, that I neglect the simplest and most important aspect.

I need to
Be Still.

Monday, November 09, 2015

I am insecure.
Very insecure.
I seek validation all the time.
There is an elder in church whom I respect very much.
Her opinion means a lot to me.
But my perception of her is changing.

Case One.
Someone was sharing a story about a youth who ran away from home.
Before we could even get to the details of her family, the elder quickly pointed out,
"The girl must be problematic."
I was stunned.
She didn't even consider a possibility of abuse?

Case Two.
During a sharing, she said,
"You know why the patients at the mental ward can't stop moving about? It is the sin that is making them restless."
My facial expression was enough for her intuitive husband to signal her not to continue with that opinion.

It is time I trust myself.
It is time I validate myself.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

4 days after my interview, blood-red fingernailed HR lady called me.
I was required to go for a pre-employment medical check up.
This is good news.
It isn't a job offer, but it certainly sounds promising enough.

As I walked into the doctor's room, I had a sudden prompting.
I wanted to tell the truth.
And so I did.

Unsurprisingly, HR lady called the next day.
I was to give a detailed doctor's report.
Off I went to the hospital to see the psychiatrist.
I was very lucky to see two conscientious doctors.
The first, gave me a number (one can't see a doctor without prior appointment),
the second, advocated for me to his superior that he can write a note that states my current stable state.
Though he couldn't convince his superior to turn a blind eye from the tiresome bureaucratic wait of 1-2 months for the official letter, I am very grateful to him.

What's left to do?
I wrote a letter attaching all supportive documents to prove my efforts to the HR.
2 days later, she called to ask me to go back to the initial doctor whom I went to for the pre-employment check up.
" I think they don't know what to do, so they just pass the bucket to me," said the sympathetic doctor.
In the end, he called the HR and wrote me a note to pass to them.
I don't know what had transpired nor what he wrote.

During this entire journey, I have been asking myself, "What am I doing?"
"Do I really want this?"
"Why did I tell the truth, when the stigma is still so strong?"

When I sat at the doctor's bench waiting, I prayed.
"Dear Lord, I don't know what I want. I don't know what I can handle.
I ask that I face whatever that presented to me with serenity.
I ask for nothing else.
Serenity is my only greatest wish."

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Chong Sing Woh probably swears by the oft-said adage, 'Seek Knowledge from the Cradle to the Grave'.
Otherwise, how else can one explain his dogged determination to sit for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination for the sixth time - after five failed attempts earlier.

Chong is a retiree from the private sector and is 60 years of age. He is among 2,667 private candidates sitting for the SPM this year.

"I want to prove to people my age that it is not a barrier for an individual to succeed and cross the many hurdles in life," he told reporters after finishing the Bahasa Melayu 1 paper at the Secondary School (SMK) Seri Ampang here Monday.

“If possible, I want to keep going until I am no longer able," he said. He also said that he "studied for knowledge" and wants "to improve" himself and "serve the country and its people"
He said he used to revise his lessons for two hours every day and intended to pursue a diploma in sports science.

"If I fail in this attempt, too, I will try again next year...until I pass," said the father of a teenager.

Chong has taken the subjects, Bahasa Melayu, English, Moral Education, Science, Mathematics and History.