The end of 2019 marks the completion of my 30-day self-harm free challenge, which means a sign of my recovery that had been longed for and also a giant step in my self-care efforts. It also signifies an all-new journey of life experiences as I hauled myself northwards to stay close with my mum and younger brother for a long residential plan by leaving my lecturing job of glamour. This year heralds my journey back home to a passion for educating kids of kindergarten ages that was left dormant and has been rekindled again after almost five years being away from the field of early childhood education.
A life of simplicity has just arrived at my doorstep as I open the door of my heart widely to welcome it with my expansive arms. Still, my life is preoccupied almost everyday as I work to teach English classes for three age groups that take up at least 6 hours every week, not to mention my doctoral study. Notwithstanding, my heart feels so much freer as I am taking up responsibilities that I fulfill with love from the bottom of my heart and the amount is certainly manageable.
Leaving behind my footprints in Kampar, a place I resided in throughout my lecturing tenure that lasted for more than four years, I secretly hope that I have left it as a better place (at least). That is the place whereby my self-harm behavior had gotten out of control and also ended. Sadly, it is also a place of untoward memories. At different points, I had lost thousands of ringgit, bodily integrity, time and sanity due to a break of trust in friendships. Sometimes, it was heartbreaking due to my unhealthy attachment. Sometimes, it was traumatizing due to disrespect and violation of personal boundaries. Yet, I carried on living as if everything was just fine. I think people had noticed my self-harm wounds/scars, for very sure. Most of them turned a blind eye or just shrugged off what they had seen. Only a few stepped up to me to show their great concern. Some accompanied me for meals amid ordinariness while some went the greater mile to make me talk “it” out.
What I really appreciate is those people who makes me feel that it’s fine to talk it out. They embraced my vulnerabilities and assured me that they know I had tried my best yet I couldn’t stop cutting myself. Gone is those days when I tried to gulp back my tears during work meetings that included agenda on students’ mental health. I was wordless due to the inexpressible tiredness of putting up a mask to go about my days. Yet, I celebrated a few passionate ex-colleagues who were vocal about mental health during work meetings. And I am glad that I have supported quite a number of suicidal students, even in minor ways. It is really heartwarming to see their transformations.
For all these years, my heart has longed for a channel to express myself. I have learned that it is perfectly okay to talk about one’s vicious cycle of self-harm and crying spell. In fact, for us to make way for a society which can accommodate mentally vulnerable beings with more acceptance, the inevitable remedy is for us to discourse with others about the pain and suffering at length without feeling uneasiness.
That’s the impetus for me to dive right in my doctoral study that concerns mental health. As I read the published works on this topic, I feel understood and cared for even being millions of miles away from the writers. And I am grateful for my friends that I can count on. They have trusted in the overflowing love contained in my heart. Not only that, they have helped me to release it in my new teaching vocation and maybe more volunteer opportunities.
My crying spell seems to have almost stopped as I have challenged myself not to cry so as not to release further damage to my skin overtaken by my rashes. The saltiness and warmth of my tears, coupled by my nut allergy, was not doing good to my vulnerable skin. During my menses, I still experience mental breakdown but I resort to more rest and enriching food, instead of doing things that can take a toll on my well-being.
Let’s hope for a new year for better mental health and greater overall well-being for me, you and everyone in our society. Every soul has stories to tell. I have told some of mine and I hope to listen to yours. Storytelling is a therapeutic art that heals the broken spirit. Let’s have more open conversations to eradicate the stigma and build more human connections.