Grief. (pt I)

TW // Suicide Attempt. Death. Abandonment. Psychological Abuse. Trauma.

This isn't fiction. This has been a topic that I tried to approach with as much grace and honesty. With honesty, that means mentioning things that aren't going to make people feel comfortable. It is difficult. I have kept actual names out of this in respect of their privacy and also the deceased. Everything that is expressed here, are my own perceptions and feelings, and should not be taken as facts, or any form of endorsement. If you have any depressive thoughts, please reach out to someone, and if you are currently experiencing a huge loss in your life, whether it's a failed relationship, a fallout with a friend, a death of a friend, and you have so many questions unanswered, please feel free not to continue further with this post. I don't want you to feel more hurt than you already are. You may return another time to read this when you are ready. 

And because it is a series of events that have taken place in my personal life, it would be impossible for me to have it condensed in one post. As such, I may be posting 2 or 3 parts of this topic that surrounds grief. While there are mentions of the fear of abandonment too, this story solely focuses on the stages of grief that I went through while coping 3 separate losses, all in which took place in the same week.

I knew Felix* only enough to exchange greetings when we passed in the university halls. I was the president of an English society and in the parlance of the time, fairly introverted. And I was insecure, too conscious, especially around people in general—species I found perplexing and more intimidating than lightning struck bright and sudden. All of which may explain my confoundment when he pulled me to a side to ask if I was all right while we were inside an International Students’ Society room. I’d just finished handling an event and I was exhausted.

He greeted me calmly. I remember the twinkle in his eyes whenever he spoke, he had a certain kind of gentleness he carried with him, the one that you knew you’d feel safe with. I recall the conversation like it was only yesterday.

‘Are you okay?’ he asked.

‘Do I look not okay?’

‘You just look tired. More than usual.’

‘I don’t know if I’m not okay either.’ 

Thus, whatever plans that he had, whatever work he was supposed to do, Felix laid it all down to talk to me. He wanted to make sure that I was feeling okay. He never mentioned that he had plans to go out with another group of friends for supper. He never told me of the time that he was having a difficult time with his family. He had to teach himself to be independent on his own, and all the struggles he was facing on his own, would become the root of both his compassion and his sensitivity to someone else’s hurt.

I was grateful for him, of course, and had a habit of thanking him for being him whenever we bumped into each other on campus. Each time I reminded him how indebted I was to him, he would smile and say it wasn’t a big deal, and that he was more happy to hear out a friend. Friend? Yes, he said I was a friend. I needed that. 

The last conversation we had face-to-face, alone, was in 2018. One night at Astaka, we were sitting on the benches that faced the campus field, it was empty and lonely. There were stars that night. They were shining bright. Out of nowhere, he spoke the words that anyone who has dealt with some form of depression, would freeze for a while.

‘Isn’t it so random how the most amazing people die so quickly?’

We talked about Chester Bennington, specifically about the song ‘One More Light’ by Linkin Park. Initially, the song haunted me, but it was also comforting. I would listen to the lyrics and it was almost as if I was listening to suicidal notes, an imagery of a candlelight flickering. Perhaps that was just the nature when it came down to Chester’s voice and words. He may no longer be around physically, yet his legacy leaves on. There is still so much of him that is very alive to this day.

It was strange. I remember telling Felix how tragic it was, that life seems so bleak, so short for a person so loved by the world. As I said so, I told Felix I knew that he was capable of great things, and that I couldn’t wait to see what the future held for him, and what he would be contributing to the world. Felix smiled and thanked me.

‘Can I help you, not to hurt, anymore?’

Each time I consumed a creative piece, be it a song, film, spoken words, poetry, instrumental… I can’t help but wonder each form of art is about a person who struggle with a sense of belonging, who is sad, depressed and dealing with issues they can’t possibly talk about. Or even if they tried, no one really cared enough to understand or be patient with them.

And I wondered then too, why, despite all the obvious cues, the social hints, we are never truly able to save a life. But I guess, what no one really talks about depression is that it is ocean deep. You learn to swim to shore by yourself. No matter how sharp the rocks are, or how they can cut you, you have to find the strength to get to shore. Because it’s scary. It’s terrifying to fall into the comforting familiarity of the harsh waves and the sensation of drowning. I told Felix, despite whatever pain we were both going through, I told us to hold on. He said he believed in good things to come. And I believed him too.


22nd September, Wednesday — I had known this amazing person since July, I still think of him as someone special. For the sake of keeping this individual’s privacy, I will not go into full details. But do understand that what I share, is solely from my perspective, and may not necessarily reflect on that person’s character and feelings at that time. I’ll call him Sean*. We had our time set aside for each other then, we would talk of the things that mattered to us. I was happy to be myself around him. Yet, we drifted. Maybe that’s not an entirely accurate way to put it. The words we speak, the voices we drown, the choices we make, the dreams we question, they each come with their own repercussions. To put it bluntly, what he did, hurt me. And I need anyone who is reading this to understand that, while it broke me, I still care a lot for this person. The times we had spent together were golden, a bit unreal. I wouldn’t have traded those memories for anything. Despite that, everything that we had said and done, I could forget nothing.

How was I supposed to?

And again, why would I want to forget the good things?

I was in tears. I was livid we ended things through a text. I didn’t want the conversation to end in a bad place, so I left my last text. I couldn’t continue on with the conversation because anger was going to take my stead. I had to save this friendship. Even if that meant not getting out the exact emotions I was feeling.


24th September, Friday — I received news of someone passing. We never talked much, but this individual would confide in me from time to time. Just how do you respond to a text when their sibling informs you they have taken their own life? It made my head spin. There was a lot I simply couldn’t comprehend. I thought of how differently I would feel looking at their texts knowing they won’t wake up anymore. Sad? I wasn’t sure if I was saddened. I hadn’t had any proper emotions since 22nd September.

I thought staying over at my second brother’s was going to cheer me up. I was wrong. He tried his best and cared for me like any older brother would. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t shower. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t get up from bed without the pain in my chest. The worst nights were the ones where I would have vivid dreams of having conversations with Sean, where he’d say he wasn’t being himself, and that we’d talk again. I hated that I had to wake up, to be disappointed, that it was just a dream. But mostly, I was just terrified of falling back to sleep if I was going to dream about the good times we had, only to be slapped by reality that I was left behind.

It broke my brother. Not a single day went by where I wouldn’t struggle to breathe, get panic attacks, and cry. I would cry even whilst I was doing nothing. And it felt apparent at that time too, that I amounted to nothing. It’s something else to be hit by someone and getting hurt, and it’s also something else to have someone make you feel like the world, promise you that they would never leave you, only to leave you. And what difference does it make even though we still have each other on social media? What difference does it make for me to follow him, and him to follow me, now that we are just ‘strangers’? Because I already feel like I don’t exist. Maybe, I was the only one who wanted to feel seen. Maybe, it was wrong of me to reciprocate. Yet, asking myself now, do I regret any of it? I don’t have an answer for that. All I know is, it hurt then. Still hurts.


25th September, Saturday — On my way back to my apartment after what I felt was just me burdening my brothers with my presence in their home, I thought I was finally going to make it. For me, I was going to try to be strong, just for one day. All I begged myself was to not cry for one day. I needed to be strong. Then it all came crashing down. I missed a phone call. I couldn’t answer anyone in the state that I was in. Then a text notification came in, I froze. 

My friend, Felix, isn’t here anymore.

I wanted it to be a joke. 

I called up my friend. This had to be a joke. It had to be. I didn’t care how low it was to be one, but there was no way, a bright 26 year-old like Felix, who had huge aspirations, who inspired the people he encountered in life, has died. This must have been a prank someone thought of, and maybe Felix was just planning for us to meet up or something. But hearing the uncharacteristically quiet scratch of my friend’s voice on the line, I knew Felix had left us that day.

‘I thought you might want to know. He was close to some of us.’ my friend said. ‘Do you want to come to his funeral?’

‘I’d like to go,’ I replied.

The word sounded strange even as it left my mouth. Like? Why would I like to go to a friend’s funeral? Is that what I am supposed to say knowing a friend—a kind, bright and sensitive individual who was going places? I left my apartment room and walked aimlessly in the common area. I am told by friends that through texts, I seemed completely out of it. I don’t seem to remember what took place except people kept mentioning I was just not being myself. 

Even then, I was present at his funeral. I saw people weeping. Some didn’t. It was odd to be hugging friends that I had not spoken to in years. To be meeting up with former friends in a funeral. Why did we have to meet up this way, in the midst of a pandemic, on a cold rainy night? And the night felt long, I still don’t remember much of what happened. 

It was past midnight by the time I settled down in my apartment. Settled down, or so I thought.  I threw up whatever I had for dinner. Back in my room, the sight of my antidepressants made me sick to my stomach. As my anxiety grew worse, even the order that was present in my room soon became a disarray. My focus and vision both grew scattered so that it became a challenge to stand still. And I fell to the ground. Shaking. I was scared.

I mustered what seemed of my remaining strength, switched off the lights, and dragged my heavy feet to bed, forcing myself to sleep. The nightmare came, I saw Sean again in my dreams, and we talked happily. It shouldn’t have been a nightmare if we were still talking, but everything that felt beautiful then only turned to sheer terror for me when I opened my eyes. The problem with being in the care of a person consumed by their own pain and grief is that your problems can’t exist to them. In a weird way, you don’t exist to them. And so the neglect is ultimate. The abandonment is real along with the unfulfilled promises and loving words spoken carelessly. 

It’s not just the abandonment that hurts. It’s the post trauma that follows it when you have opened up to someone you trust. It’s waking up and checking your phone for a message that isn’t there. And the last exchange is still apparent. And you know, they have left you.

I was left behind.

I woke up screaming.

I felt as if the world used to laugh with me, hold me when I spent my time with Sean—no longer. Now the world mocked me. It was as if the world had shrunken away to leave a cold void around my skin, as if I had become detached from reality itself. It was dark. And then I asked myself the question I had been meaning to ask myself, but was always afraid to.

What if I just do away with myself?

What if I just swallowed every antidepressant and went to sleep?

What if I just don’t have to wake up anymore?

Because it sure as hell beats living.

But I can’t. 


I have a purpose in this place. But I wasn’t convinced either. I needed to reach out. I could only think of one person to call at that time, it was Sean. It was just a matter of time before I consumed those pills. I had them on the floor with me. I dialed his number, I was fighting back the tears, and I bit my lip so hard it bled. He didn’t answer. 

Second time. Nothing.

Third time. And nothing.

Did it matter if I called again? Because if he stopped caring, then who would? If he thought the best solution to go about parting with me was through texts, then did I even matter to him now? Did I matter to him then? I couldn’t just call him to start over this friendship. I couldn’t ask him to be here when I was at my lowest. And I started believing that I wasn’t good enough. But I still wanted to live, I still wanted to have hope. To breathe.

Now, let me tell you… there are times in life where you fall down and you feel like you don’t have the strength to get back up, you sort of put on a mask. A mask where you deny your vulnerable self the chance to breathe and cry. And it starts forming into a survival essential where you are from. It shuts your emotions down, it makes you more alert, more adept, yet more detached to compassion. I didn’t want to go back to being that. I was fearful of indifference. 

You know how when you have to pretend that all is well when it’s going downhill, and you head home, you lay down in your bed when the world’s no longer watching. You don’t have to impress anybody and you are yourself. Then fear comes in. You know the fear that you have as soon as you walk into the doors of your house? Or the fear that comes when you are leaving home and you remind a parent, ‘Please, don’t make them angry today. I don’t want to get hit.’ Yes, that. Maybe it’s a broken home. Maybe you are constantly walking on eggshells with your family. And it scares you. Maybe you are worried about what people perceive of you just from the first contact. You don’t know what they are talking about behind your back. And that fear paralyzes you. You feel as if you can’t do anything. 

Well, I told myself to call another number. And if the second person didn’t pick up, I wasn’t going to think anymore and kill myself. On the call, when Helen* answered, that soft voice that said, ‘Hello?’, that gentleness in Helen’s voice dissolved whatever stood between me and my sorrow. My torrents of grief were unleashed. 

‘I tried to kill myself.’ 

We spoke for about 3 hours on call, taking turns for me to cry, and for Helen to comfort me. With her, I felt safe, even though we were separated by a huge geographical distance. I found solace in the words she had to say. For it was through her words, I believe that she too, felt the pain that swirled in my brain, all the unfinished chapters I kept telling as if they held answers. They don’t. Helen said something along the lines that hurt people do things because their emotions are driving them that way.

‘All those things that hurt you, hun, had nothing to do with you at all… and perhaps that’s even worse. Because you know you did nothing wrong, and you are hurting. And these heartbreaks that you feel, hunny. They don’t get easier. The end of a relationship always hurts. And when you have to deal with other deaths one after another, it gets too much for you. You are allowed to cry. And no one should have to judge you for that. You have been giving too much of yourself to others, you haven’t saved any love for yourself.’

At that time I didn’t understand how Helen who had known me in less than a year, just virtually too, would notice that of me. 

‘Do you know how I know this? It’s because I keep my notifications on for you on Twitter. And see your every interaction with people. You give everything to others, putting their feelings first, validating them. It’s always yours that comes last. And all the hurt that you have been through, you still find the strength to forgive and let go. You still show love and care when everyone else would have found many reasons not to continue anymore. Because that’s who you are. You are so important. The world needs you, even if you don’t think it needs you. This world needs you to take up space. It needs you to continue showing understanding, patience, and love. It needs you to spread joy and bring a semblance of hope to those who have none. And whenever that voice tells you otherwise, it’s not true. That voice hates you, because it knows how strong and capable you are in this world. So, whenever you feel like it’s too much, that you can’t go on, please don’t keep it to yourself. You need a shoulder to cry on too when you’ve been carrying the weight of everyone else’s for so long. I love you so much, don’t kill yourself. You are needed here.’

Outside the apartment window, I could finally hear the wind rustling through the silence. It was hard for me to imagine that someone whom I have never met was able to comfort me with such intensity. I laughed inside, remembering those early days that had seen me rush out from my classroom to avoid being hit by my pursuers, grab a piece of wood for safe measure in case someone would hit me with a brick. I remember all the fear I felt for not being able to speak up, where the teachers never noticed the bruises on me. I wished, how I wished Helen was around then to keep me safe. But here she was now, miles away from me, believing in me and telling me that I served a purpose in this world.

I went to bed that night, finally smiling, even if it was a small smile.

(to be continued)

All is fine.

CW // This content contains descriptions of self-harm, and also refers to themes of suicide. Please proceed with caution. If you are having depressive thoughts at the moment, please do not continue.

Press ‘play’ to listen to music.


[Wednesday 1:38 AM] Sarah

So do you want to talk about it? 

[Wednesday 1:39 AM] Josee

About what?

[Wednesday 1:39 AM] Sarah

Anything. 

[Wednesday 1:44 AM] Josee

I’ve said everything I wanted to. I’m not sure. I think that I will be okay.

[Wednesday 1:45 AM] Sarah

Are you going to bed now? You should. It’s late.

[Wednesday 1:49 AM] Josee

Just some writing. I have a hazy story inside my head, and I’ve tried to write it out but the words don’t seem to mean anything. But in all seriousness, I think I just need some time to sort things out on my own. I’ll write later. I’m looking forward to it already.

[Wednesday 1:51 AM] Sarah

Great! I’m so glad to hear that.

An hour later

[Wednesday 2:51 AM] Sarah

You know something, Josee—you can always talk to me when you are feeling alone. You know? I was thinking about our friendship and what it means to me, everything.

Has it occurred to you that I know absolutely nothing about your life? The things you like, the kind of music you listen to, I don’t know of it. I’ve talked to you for so long but it’s dawning on me that each time when I do, you are just listening to my feelings. You’ve been a great friend, but some days you can be distant too.

Are you okay?

[Wednesday 2:56 AM] Josee

Hey hey, it’s all okay. All’s good here. (Why are you still awake?) Did I ever give you the impression I was not okay? I’m sorry if that was the case. I’ve never been comfortable in telling people how I feel. You don’t have to feel bad about anything. I feel assured enough that you are asking me if I’m okay. That’s more than enough for me, Sarah. Believe me, I’m okay.

[Wednesday 2:57 AM] Sarah

Okay, Josee. I believe you. I can’t wait for you to teach me how to paint tomorrow, can we please start with painting trees?

[Wednesday 2:58 AM] Josee

GO TO SLEEP LOL.


“I wish I hadn’t gone to sleep that night.”

Everything made no sense to Sarah. She cried occasionally, trying to make sense of her emotions, but she was getting colder and stiffer. It is well known that she and Josee had been friends for 8 years. She felt certain that there was probably a time, at least a few occasions where Josee was smiling, laughing, and having fun with everyone else. 

She had also read stories from Josee. Josee was a great writer, she had a way with words that made things feel real. Some held a pessimistic outlook on life and development of irrational fears, some filled with anger and hurt. But Josee was alright. She was having a stable income and was advancing in her life. But Sarah also recalled a time she saw one of Josee’s artwork; a woman weeping in such silent and bitter distress that Sarah’s heart almost moved out to her. Yet all she could mouth to Josee was, “Your art is beautiful. I wish I could paint like you.”

Everything happened so fast, without warning. No one knew Josee had been mildly to moderately depressed with several episodes of major depression. At first, everyone else thought she was just having a bad day, perhaps it was seasonal depression. They hadn’t seen her sitting in her room using her tears as to ease the wounds she had inflicted on herself. And under all that summer heat, no one seemed to ask Josee why she wore sweaters and long sleeves. It seemed clear to Josee that her body was a canvas and the knife was a paintbrush, and the only paint colour she had to express with was red.

Letters. There were letters in Josee’s desk too. They found many letters in her handwriting. She wrote letters to her father, her mother, brother, Sarah, including some other friends too. They never sent them, and she wrote to them as if she was already gone, like she knew she was never going to see them again. In her own words too, in every letter, there was a common theme of her concealing how she felt. Damaged, unworthy, unseen, unheard, undeserving, broken beyond help… a cry for just wanting to be enough, to feel enough, that she was worth living in this place.

For there were so many days Josee couldn’t bear to be around people at work too; she would detached herself from work and tried to go solo whenever she could. It was always easier to not have to hide and lie to people that she wanted out. All of those feelings of not belonging, not being like everyone else, having to hide how the voices in her head makes life exhausting, isolating… it all made her feel small, ashamed, and tormented.

It was hard to take in. Sarah buried her face in her hands, mourning came as a sad song, soft and low. Josee had her great sides too, she could be cheerful, giddy and witty. The people around her felt assured, and when they reached out to her, she would politely decline things, laughed it off and change the subject. Maybe, maybe what Sarah never understood was, all this while, the writing, the art, the changing of subject, were all cries for help. She could canalise her feelings into a coherent one; she only knew how desperately she wanted to turn back time. Crying seemed to be the only sensible thing to do now.


The night of Josee’s departure

[Wednesday 2:56 AM] Josee

No, I’m not okay at all. Hey hey, it’s all okay. All’s good here. (Why are you still awake?) I’m scared of falling asleep. I’m scared of being awake. I don’t know what to do anymore, Sarah. Help. Please for help. I don’t think I will make it tonight. It feels so suffocating to be here. I feel trapped even when all the doors and windows in the house are wide open. I going to put a stop to it. I’m going to stop feeling this way. I just want that fucking noise in my head to stop. I will put an end to this. Every second of everyday, I think about silencing that voice. Did I ever give you the impression I was not okay? I’m sorry if that was the case. I’ve never been comfortable in telling people how I feel. But I want I’ve always wanted to know if I was a bother to you? You don’t have to feel bad about anything. I feel assured enough that you are asking me if I’m okay. That’s more than enough for me, Sarah. Believe me, I’m not okay. I want to kill myself tonight. If I don’t make it tonight, I just want you to know, thank you for staying with me all this years as a friend. I love you and I’m sorry.

Josee Lee Williams (11 March 1996 – 4 July 2021) died from an overdose. The last painting they ever found in her room was a tree in shades of red. Looking closer, through it all, the tree seemed like a sentry to the bloody landscape, the stoic guardian of so many souls, a beauty that encouraged the spirit to dance though words, to make odes to its branches that spread heaven-bound. And in the strong light of the new day, gives liberty for the senses in those moving leaves, the thousand green hues and the soft whispering in the wind that sings “You’re okay now, Josee. All is well.”


Having going through severe depression myself, I can say in my own case that depression isn't a fixed form, it comes it all sorts. What is heart-breaking though, is coming to terms with depression, my mind tries to reason with it. I force yourself to feel, to be vulnerable, to reach out to someone. It's hard, and it's painful. It's a cycle of self-hate I put myself in, and I disappoint myself. That's when the thought of killing myself seems 'worthwhile'. For when I look around and find that world has moved on, and I can't seem to catch up... a race I'm so scared of losing. I contemplated back and forth on sharing this piece. I understand the consequences that comes with sharing such a personal part of me, but it's not a piece of me that I am ashamed of. I just wouldn't know how people would take it. If you read this until the end, know that I am always 6 feet deep inside my mind, but I still keep living every single day.

I wrote this piece for many reasons, how depression is a silent killer, and it makes me realise how important it is for me to be grateful for my loved ones, as well as be aware of what I say to a friend or stranger. Because any moment now, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Any moment can be an event that impacts our lives one way or another. If you just need a friend, someone to connect with, someone to listen, I’ll be here. There are also many people who would care for you, please reach out. ♡

City dwellers.

Hello, this is a first for me.
I'm not sure what you're expecting.
You're not sure what to expect from this.
But today, you'll listen to my voice. 

[ If you have issues listening to the recording on mobile, I apologise. It seems to be working fine on the laptop. ]


Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

What’s that? Oh. Of course, a clock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Sunrise. Sunset. It moves the day on until the afternoon and then, the first signs of the panic arrive. It starts with a discomfort in my chest, a tickling at first, almost unnoticeable. You would think that it’s a temporary feeling, it will soon go away but not for me. I have been familiar with this for far too long. Soon it mutates into something inside of me, sucking my life out. After that, it radiates into my brain. Feels like excess caffeine… then it sets in deeper.

Noise.

I turn on my television. It’s the same old news. Propaganda in the too often used imagery of photos, videos, interviews comes in slow motion stirring up strong love for the children, family, community, and country—It’s quiet, unconcerning at first, you feel connected to them, you feel their pain and then all too quickly, too late for you to realise, the same love is weaponized. A love that grows so intensely and reshapes itself into hate as the “common enemy” is broadcasted on the screen. For when something on the news brings on one’s love in full passion, the “enemy” is perceived as inhumane, arrogant, and threatening, a circumstance for what is aptly known as pseudospeciation. An individual’s love quickly becomes hate for the “enemy.” The stronger the initial love invoked, the stronger the resulting hate. It’s news like this which becomes the norm. And everyday it’s getting harder to resist.

Noise.

In another apartment not far away, on the 26th floor, you have your radio sitting on the carpet of your bedroom floor playing. It’s an old beat-up machine that you must have inherited from a relative, or you just happened to find it tucked away in a thrift shop. Either way, the radio volume still manages to level just above the traffic noise for it to compete with. You don’t know why you have it on either, part of a habit perhaps, perhaps it makes the apartment feel more ‘complete’. Because you can’t just sit in your room watching the walls no matter how pretty they have been painted.

Face it. You don’t care much for the songs that play either, I’m willing to bet you don’t even know if one song has transitioned to another. A few songs later, an advert chimes in. Just games of word associations you never signed up for. They have crafted their formula so well, taking normal words and saying their constructed phrases, over and over. These phrases echoed in your ear so often until you became something not much more than a biological automaton. Again, they are jocundly trying to convince you that their product can grant you happiness, they are luring you down a path that hurts the Earth. Why would you need protein shakes, and just how super did you have to be to sell toothpaste anyway? Are you so emotionally deficit you will buy their product just to elevate yourself? 

Noise.

Well, you see. My television, your radio—They both have something in common. Vehicles, for great drama, beautiful music or even redeeming words. But can you claim that for the vast majority of people, these devices are anything other than agents of noise? We are not listening to what they have to share; we are only hearing them to pass time.

Like the modern person I am, I begin my day being rudely awakened by the blaring of the alarm clock. I don’t suspect that my own body would be so uninspired performing the same tasks each morning. I just get up. Some days I don’t even bother to fold the blanket, it gets tiresome really fast. Then I brush my teeth. Check my cupboard. If I run out of coffee, simple, I just settle for tea but yet I can’t enjoy my breakfast because time is ticking away and my mind is constantly aware of it. I need to catch the cab so I don’t be late for work.

The noise follows me even as the cab speeds away. I’m stuck in a traffic jam. I look around to see angry people behind their wheels, their brows are furrowed, the traffic never gets any lighter here. It’s the age where everybody’s first move is to burst out of their apartment doors just to beat the next traffic wave. Funny. So much movement and yet the air has never been more stale and the roads have never been more congested. They’re pressing on their car horns again when the line becomes stagnant, fooling themselves that the movement of the traffic depends on the power of their horns.

This is the present noise.

Again, I am stuck in this traffic and even when I’m not the one driving, I loudly curse at the ones who cut the line. It creates a bond between me and the cab driver.

I imagine that while I am stuck among these metal boxes, you are watching down on us all in your apartment. I can picture your gaze down as you grimace at every blare of the car horn. Even all the way on the 26th floor, these noises are as strong as your radio. By then, you would have been ready, your neatly pressed clothes cling confidently on you, hair perfectly immaculate. You’ve already had breakfast and you turn off the radio before you leave. Like me, the noise still follows you.

See, we both continue moving about with piped-in music in the elevator and ‘on hold’ on the office telephone. But we don’t talk to each other at all, no. Just a couple of ‘hellos’ and ‘goodbyes’, that’s it. I’m not sure why I’ve never thought about asking you out for coffee even though I see you quite often. But then again, you are always tied up with your phone, answering calls even after office hours. Whatever.

You relax by the jukebox at the bar and conclude your day with televised chatter. I can’t sleep here. I can’t sleep in the silence that descends when my TV is shut off. So I resort to machines that produce “white noise”. I open my window and the world of the night invites itself in, the rustle of the wind against the leaves or when it blows into my apartment, tinkering the loose glasswares, the distant sound of moving rubber against gravel, the muffled voices of the nightlife. They all calm me.

Silence has become a vacuum in which both you and I abhor. It is no longer normal or good in itself. It is only understood as the absence of noise. Before noise there were sounds, distinguishable from noise, because sounds came from the silence. Silence was the background for sounds.

Maybe it’s because we are city dwellers. Awash in constant noise, we become nervous in the country because sounds of the country—from crickets, birds and animals—are made against the background silence. There is also less talk in the country, because to interrupt the silence, one must have something to say. Here in the city, words are part of the general noise—one can say anything in order not to stop talking—and silence is always interpreted as awkwardness. There seems to be a fear that if the noise stops, the city will collapse in the silence.

Why though? 

Before the days of widespread TV, there was a notion that people would play the radio to make sure they are still really there. This proposition neatly reverses the old conundrum: If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound if there is no one there to hear it? This question presumes man exists and asks if sound can exist without man’s hearing it. Hold that thought. I’m going to reverse that presumptions and ask you this:

If there is no noise, how do you know—I know—that I am really here?

How would you know if I’m on the other side?

Solitude and silence are the crucibles of serious thought. To flee them is to flee the conditions necessary for the self-examination that makes life worth living. It is to flee as well the peace that can come only from the orientation of one’s life to the ultimate realities—realities that can intrude only when one is still and quiet and open to them.

What’s that you’re saying?

Oh. You’re telling me that you turn on the radio because you are lonely? Don’t worry, It’s the same for me. I just needed something to fill the loneliness, not necessarily something close to the physical. Noise somehow comforts me, it just tells me that the silence will not get me, it’s my shield against the enveloping silence. Are they just noise that we are both using as an atonic for loneliness? But the city’s rich, we have skyscrapers… and loneliness is a longing for something which should not be drowned in noise. Maybe if we started to quietly search for our own loneliness, we can begin to ask ourselves why we are lonely and for what. Maybe loneliness was supposed to let us know that we really have nothing adequate to our deepest longings—not in our friends, not in our family, nor in our worldly goods or pleasures.

In what then or in whom are we to find the object of our deepest desire? This is perhaps the important question we can ask, and maybe it can only be answered in the silence. Let’s hear it for the silence—would you join me? 

I turn my head to gaze at you. You meet my look and you nod your head at me.

You’re smiling at me.

Is that a “yes”?

Now? Is it now? You have a really beautiful smile. Has anyone ever told you that? It is enchanting, in ways my imagination had not begun to dream of. Here, take my hand. Your fingers are soft, like wisps of cloud. Now I am noticing how your rhythms and gestures are reminding me of my own. It’s like we are linked by unconscious mysteries and benignly watched by the environment. It is almost as if we are walking at the unfurled edges of great waves. I am inviting you into my personal space, my bedroom, my mind. Something is different. The lamp has been shifted, the bed’s been angled in a specific way, the light streaming in through the window is not the same light I glimpsed last time I stepped in. I think we have just been welcomed into a world of softer sound, of stuttering laughter and sunlight… We are both giddy and uncertain now, we left the noise for the first time in years.

There is no superficiality to this—perhaps because there is no label to what we are feeling now. Right here, we only have us, stripped to our very bones, at our most vulnerable even, lyricizing the constancy of loneliness, of love, of light, attempting to negotiate relationships, memories and feelings, all of which forms us. This is our true nature. And it’s also right here, right now, our faces appear in the windows of each of our own hearts. I see your face. You see mine. We’ve been staring at each for a while now. You know what this reminds me? That even in the most glaring isolation, we aren’t really alone… you are here with me in this city.


Loneliness is a universal emotion, one that is deeply and sometimes painfully felt. Each of us feels lonely at one time or another. It is part of the human condition. More often than not too, we let the loneliness to be filled by artificial solutions. I believe that almost everyone one has cried out of loneliness before. And I hope that you do not take umbrage when I say you are not alone in this. It's not your fault that you feel like this. I am still breathing, and walking along my own forged path. It gets quiet sometimes, and—as bizarre as it sounds, I've realized that my experience with someone else's story is a lot like my own, and it might be a lot like yours. Not entirely, but you feel me, don't you? Some parts of our stories are starting to make sense, some parts have always made sense, and some... they still don't make sense. Maybe they never will, or will they? Just promise me you would never let your current chapter stop you from pursuing the rest of your story. 

My mental health: Living with MDD and GD.

TW // Dysphoria.

This wasn’t a planned post. I had scheduled something else for today but this morning was different. I woke up feeling defeated, worthless, with a toll of anxiety engulfing me. I had received some personal troubling news over the phone. I wanted to stay in bed for the rest of the day. But then I sat thinking about the future waiting for me, I thought about the special person whom I have not met but will meet, I think about the person who will be proud of what I did to get up off bed, that person was me.

So I got up. Still anxious. But there’s progress. Because you see, every other day, it would have been easier to stay in bed and not face the world. Living with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) and GD (Gender Dysphoria) takes a toll on me, it’s an ongoing battle, constantly. There were many things I wanted to speak out, I just didn’t know how. Don’t know where to start. Don’t know how it will be received. Don’t necessarily have the privilege to just speak out honestly on how I feel in this sinking place, in this Asian upbringing and all else that feels, traditional, archaic.

But I am going to try.

I am going to try my very best to journal all these feelings. Not always on the internet, but when I feel it’s necessary for such. It’s not the brightest and happiest place to be in the dark, cold closet. Even growing up, I was confused on how I was feeling because words were inadequate; society was unhelpful. There was no impetus for me to understand the condition in my mind, my feelings, and all the things I was going through. Even in times where I knew I was broken, I downplayed my own brokenness by comparing my life with people who had or have it worse. I thought being grateful was all I needed to push through and see life in a better light.

What I didn’t know was I needed help.

I needed support; unconditional love.

Not the kind of love that excuses me from doing vile things and exercising unbecoming practices, but the one that knows despite everything I say or do, I am trying my darn best to be sane. You see, when I was discovering myself, I possibly already knew who I was, but I was uncomfortable with it. Tried all the tricks from the book to look like a normal feminine woman. Tried to date guys to feel pretty and see that being a female isn’t so bad as I’d make it out to be. I was uncomfortable with so many things but went along with them convincing myself it was all part of growing up and blossoming into adulthood. I didn’t know things was going to get messier with me slowly coming to terms with myself. I wanted to deny myself. 

In university, I hardly dressed up as a guy. I would try to wear something more feminine to appear more female outside. Would try hard to feel like a lady, wearing the tight dresses, flowing skirts, high heels… would remember feeling empty after a prom night looking at the mirror. All I remembered from the proms—wasn’t the food, not the performances, no, or how that emcee particularly sucked at their one job. No. The women were beautiful, so were the men. Yes, the men. I was envious. I looked at them in their tall stature, the suits they wore, the different tones in their voice… and realizing that could never be me.

Staying in the college apartment too prevented me from dressing up as a guy because I was sharing the place with people who would not understand. Going shopping with my female friends, I already got used to smiling when they would choose a dress out of the rack for me. “Very nice,” I’d tell them, “but it would look better on you, not me.” They’d still insist I looked the prettiest out of them. When someone tells you how beautiful you look, you’re supposed to be happy. I knew their intentions, it’s going to be alright, right? Right.

But you see, no one knows what goes up inside my head. I would still get scared shopping alone for men’s clothes in the mall. It wasn’t just the stares that would make me uncomfortable, but the fact that I had to cover up when being questioned about my ‘fashion choices’, “It’s not for me. These clothes are for my guy friends, my brothers.” Those clothes were for me though. 

Dealing with relationships and the opposite sex too would take a greater damage to my dysphoria. I would only dress up as a guy alone in my room or when I knew I was heading out alone where others wouldn’t find me. It felt lonely. It’s still a lonely place. It’s always a lonely place when you are afraid to be caught and questioned. And I tried, I really tried so hard to love me as a female. I wanted to achieve bigger things, make something out for myself, be that friend who listens when someone’s in need. Joining an English Society, I met some amazing people, hanging out with all sorts of people who supported me, helped me out of my shell, where I learnt to give public speeches… Performing on stage gave me confidence and I was ‘kind of’ getting used to being in public with my outward female appearance, but there was still pain from hiding at home. I still hung on to life and hope things will get better.

It was a terror to come to terms that I am actually, not the person everyone think I was. I mean, hell. I’m female in offline. I’m male online but I am still talking the same behind the screen. But I was only, I was only female offline because that was how I was born. Does this all mean, I am mentally ill? A freak? Hitting puberty when my chest began to develop, it felt unnatural, then looking below, down there, I’m missing something—I felt foreign just as my own chest felt unfamiliar.

I wanted to make an effort to talk to the close friends about it. I was experimenting on androgyny. I had to learn make-up, and look androgynous—androgynous enough that I felt like I did not have a label on me because when people cannot tell if you are male or female, they tend to simply ignore you or refer you as ‘that guy’. I had a lot of friends that love me, I was fully aware of that. I do, and I would be there for them, naturally, even if I was more close-knitted to some than others. Even then, I could see that I was distinctly different than them and some close friends could observe the same in me. I just don’t think it would’ve been easy for them to ask either. I mean, who goes up to their friend and asks, “Hey, are you possibly trans?”

Do I have to answer that? Anxiety, distress, pain. All in one go.

After graduation, moving out from my siblings and started living on my own, as I weighed in all my thoughts of wanting to disappear from this world—Disappointment was profound. And still cuts me skin deep. I wonder how I got by those days in college.

The days keep passing and passing.

Every thing is on repeat, on repeat.

The man inside of me would slip away, slowly… slowly…

I had hoped he’d disappear.

He didn’t.

It got me thinking to this day that I am stuck here and destined to live a life colourless and pointless. Black and white? Grayscale? I called it 50 shades of pain. I wish this description, all these written words sounded less dramatic and extreme, but it’s not.

This is how I am feeling.

This is what I go through daily.

Living my failure of being a female, a sister, a niece, a daughter.

My coffee laced with self-rejection. I’ve pushed out so many beautiful things in life I could’ve experienced. I hurt myself thinking about the worst possible scenarios about how my family would hurt if I opt for a top surgery, take hormones, and start life anew. Not only family, but friends would too, would have to get used to this ‘new’ person who had always been there in their life as a female.

I would hyperventilate and cry at the thought of confessing to my friends. To admit that I want to have top surgery, and that I am considering going on testosterone. There’s an overwhelmingly terrifying prospect of being rejected. Am I strong enough to do this? I don’t think I’m independent enough to live with this identity yet. Not only is it comforting to be known as Lucid Green, but it also makes me feel safe when not everyone can be sure of my sex. But regrettably, I don’t think I have a bag packed that’s all enough and says it is all set to leave when I open up to my family. I sure as hell don’t know how well they will receive the news. And I love my family, too much to break their heart.

Have your ever tried to have a conversation with a friend in a loud environment? Where your friend’s talking as loud as he can and you can’t make the most out of what it is because everything else is so loud? All that background noise makes the situation incomprehensible. You try to understand and enjoy your friend and the conversation, but it’s exhausting. My condition is a lot like that background noise, and it’s always there, every waking hour of my life. Some days the noise is bearable, but some days it gets sickeningly loud. An unsettling pitch that makes me scream. Because I’m still scared. Some people wake up feeling scared of what they might lose, I’m scared of what I’ve already lost.

I just don’t know how to go about it. But I’ve learned to live with it. Because I know, someone, somewhere, out there, they are going through the same thing. I want to tell them, “You’re not alone in this. One day, you are going to wake up and see everything in its right place.” I’m still female in appearance, my thoughts are all very much the same and still mine, but I’m going to be honest with the people that I care for. The ones that stay, I know they are the keepers. Am I going to ever get a surgery? I don’t try to think much about it, but what I will do is make each day count by trying.

Death is permanent but I…

I hit the rock-bottom for the past few months. This blog post is something I debated on writing. Who knows, maybe I will delete this in an hour later, or maybe it will overstay its welcome here. Either way, it is a good place to vent.

I hate life.

Regardless, every day I search for reasons to make life worth living. Being able to make it through the next day and see the sun rise, that is sufficient. I am still learning to choose life, each day, instead of death.

You are just as lost. You are not sure why you are reading this either.

Maybe we are just in the same boat.

Just maybe.

Perhaps it is with the idea that everything I experience is temporary, therefore the pain I feel should come to an end eventually. Naivety at its best; a mask for optimism, some might say. What else is temporary? 

Everything.

Does it not make you question why we tell someone we are having a bad day, but not a bad life? If you have a bad day, it finds its way to halt. Light is only significant in contrast to darkness. Comforting one’s self by saying without the bad days, the good days wouldn’t be quite as sweet. 

Such cliché. Cliché but, I find myself gravitating towards it.

Maybe I quite fancy the idea of life not being sweet all the time and instead, of it concerning itself in finding balance in the many flavours of life.

I cannot predict the future. I cannot simply foresee the arrival of the better days to come for me, my inner peace, my soulmate, or life-changing encounters. I don’t even believe in soulmates. Having said that, I know the only way to know when that day comes is to experience it. And to experience anything at all, I need to be alive.

While my thoughts and feelings are still in place, I appreciate that I can see the world change around me while I am still breathing. Time is simply a measurement of change. The clocks measure the sun’s position in the sky. The days of the year measure how far the earth has traveled around the sun, and our age measures how many of those full rotations I have been alive for. Time stops for no one, and neither does change. In other words, while I am alive, change is the only thing I can be sure of.

If that is not hope, I don’t know what is.

I do not wish to think that my life as a former victim of mental and physical abuse is not worth living because of the situation I am in.

The only thing I can help speed such change is by changing my perspective. When I was 14, I felt an overwhelming disinterest in life. I thought about life like this: we are born, if we are lucky, we go to school, we go to school some more, we get a job and maybe continue to go to school, find a career, maybe get married, have a family, they go to school, we work until we are too old to work, and we die.

Maybe we die before one of those “milestones,” and maybe we will be missed. Regardless, one day we will die, and eventually, the world will cease to exist and none of this will matter any longer. I was indifferent and numb to the idea of death and saw no point in participating in life as I thought I knew it.

If I had ended my life right then and there, I would never have discovered what I know now.

Flash forward, I’m in a different city making a living as a writer. I have accepted that deep down I believe that nothing matters, but my perspective has shifted.

If being alive and not being alive matters equally as much to the universe, then my presence is just as significant as my absence. I realized that life, in itself, is significant. I have one shot at this whole being alive thing, and it would be rude of me to throw it away before my time is up. And if ultimately nothing matters, does that matter?

That just means that there are no rules — anything can matter, and I have the freedom to decide what matters to me. I do not believe there is a meaning of life. I believe there are many. And I believe that they are not set in stone, they do not exist already for me to find, they are for me to create.

Once I realized that I cannot find meaning, I stopped looking for it and started inviting it. I began saying yes to things outside of my comfort zone. I started making conversation with strangers. I started doing things that I wanted to do, despite the opinions of the people around me. I started caring about myself. I began to value life, in all forms. I came to realize how strange it is to be alive, in the first place, but how wonderful it is to share this oddity with millions of other living people at the same time.

This is not to say that I am always happy. No one is. I have days where I feel lost, insignificant, tired, stagnant. I do not always feel a sense of purpose. And that is okay. In those times, I just remind myself that no one really knows why I am here. I simply am. Maybe I don’t hate this life after all.