My Story, my pride: “Always hold space for the people around you before it's too late.” - Hannah Tan
I've always focused on covering stories & perspectives of our AR!SE community members until a friend of mine said: "Eh, you went through some pretty messed up stuff right? Just share one of your stories lah!" (How gentlemanly) But he was right. I did have my fair share of setbacks but found it awkward to bring them up. For every struggle I faced, I would think of another person who had it 10x worse and would quietly sit back down in my seat. This changed when a series of heart-wrenching incidents triggered flashbacks that flooded my mind with memories of my struggles with one of the leading causes of death: Depression.
For years, I'd refused to seek help & constantly lived in denial despite obvious symptoms that revealed something very wrong with me. I ballooned from 50kg to 70kg in 8 months, could barely pull myself out of bed, missed multiple classes, wept for hours until I was knocked out with swollen eyes, and even attempted to end my life a few times (thankfully I failed). With such erratic behaviour, it was expected that my teachers and peers reacted with hostility and mean-spirited comments as they had no idea why I was such a difficult person to be around and left me out of many outings. Moreover, my weight gain became a talking point for relatives and schoolmates to weigh in on with many comments mocking my appearance & reinforcing my unattractiveness.
This aggravated my depression and shattered my confidence in socialising and being in bigger groups. While I was still pretty active in church and lending a listening ear to people, I would also get very upset when others benefitted from my help while no one seemed to truly hear and understand me in the way that I needed to be heard and understood. I was desperate to be set free of all the crippling negativity that caused me to spiral down into a rabbit hole. Every single night, I had wished for death to befall me as I figured that if I, the problem, was gone then the people around me could finally move on with their lives. However, I could not be further from the truth.
Looking through one’s eyes and into their hearts
It took the sudden deaths of people around me to show me how wrong I was. Not one day goes by without me thinking about them and what could have been if we had paid just a bit more attention to the warning signs before us. They were some of the strongest & most successful people I knew who could weather any storm in life. But deep down inside, they felt unheard and helpless to the brink of hopelessness. No accolades, opportunities, love, or money were enough to keep them here. They had made up their minds that leaving it all behind was the only way to move forward.
I deeply resonate with their sentiments because I had been on that path. This is also why I cannot stand it when people downplay the complexity (sometimes existence) of depression and write it off as a weakness. If anything, depression reveals a deeper problem that needs to be carefully unveiled and patiently dealt with. To tell someone to "suck it up" or to "get over it" adds another layer that conceals the ticking time bomb. It solves nothing and only pushes the person one step away from us and closer to the edge of the cliff.
If we can't find it in ourselves to be understanding, we can and should still choose to be kind. If being present for others is something you hope to do, start by creating a safe space for them to pour out what's on their heart. No matter how occupied you are, always hold space for the people around you before it's too late. You never fully know what someone's going through but you can certainly remind them that they don’t need to go through it alone.
The power of genuine relationships
I count myself blessed to be able to write this heartfelt piece today. Had it not been for the persistence of my loved ones who refused to give up on me, I would've given in and given up altogether. It's because of their endless love & support that eventually led us to start AR!SE, a community beyond borders that empowers people to make the world a better place.
For some of you who have lost loved ones to depression, know someone, or are personally struggling with it, I want you to know that you are not alone. Your very existence is a reflection of intentional design, and your individuality reveals a unique life mission that only you own. As you align with your innate calling to the mission & purpose you were conceived to live out, you'll experience a peace that transcends chaos and crisis and keeps you walking on. While outcomes are never 100% certain, fulfillment comes from being true to your mission. If you think no one loves you for who you are, or you're struggling to find acceptance, you couldn't be further from the truth. You are loved and accepted no matter where you are at this point in your life because love overshadows disagreements and mistakes and surpasses barriers and borders.
As you're faithfully running in your own lane, keeping your eyes on your destination, the right people will come running alongside you. There is nothing more that you need to do to receive this love. Be free to chase your dreams and to live out your convictions knowing that you always have a place in this community.