Throughout junior college, the author was admitted a total of 6 times to both Singapore General Hospital and the Institute of Mental Health for depression, having an eating disorder, and attempting suicide.
This is her story, as told through monthly diary entries. It starts in 2004 and concludes in 2018, when she sat for her A Level examinations.
TRIGGER WARNING: The content of these entries contain information and anecdotes about mental health and related experiences that may be triggering to survivors.
We are starting to prepare for our school concert! Ms C picked D and I to be the lead dancers because we are the tallest girls. D looks nice when she dances. The other girls all like sitting with her at break. Is it because she’s pretty?
A told me that I’m too fat to be in the centre for our dance. When I went home I saw Aunty cooking dinner and she was chopping meat and then I thought maybe if I chop my fats off people would like sitting with me too?
Had my first day of orientation in primary school today. It’s a girls’ school and… I like it, but I don’t like it? Everyone else is so pretty and small, and they all seem to be friends already. The teacher told us to sit down, but I was alone. They laughed when I said I like to read? I don’t know. I’m scared. I don’t like it.
Mrs T told me today that I’m “excellent with words”. She signed me up for a creative writing contest? I think it’s because I write a lot. I carry my notebook around all the time and write, write, write because words aren’t hard to read like people’s expressions, because I can write the endings, the stories that I want. Sometimes I kinda want to tell my friends that I put myself into stories and make my character pretty and loved and not-fat and everything that I’m not, but it sounds so stupid and what if they think I’m stupid? I don’t want to lose them. I should just shut up.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in the school library. I think I’ve finished reading most of the books here? It’s not that the girls aren’t nice, it’s just that I don’t know how to talk to them sometimes. I feel that the words get all mixed up in my mouth when I try to speak. People think I’m weird?
PSLE is coming soon and I’m so scared.
Secondary school is so different, and I feel like I literally can’t breathe sometimes? I can’t keep up, and I feel that everything is too close, and too much. The teachers keep calling me out for sleeping in class too, but I’m not, I just kind of – go away in my head and everything blurs out and I’m not sure what’s happening. I hate this.
I feel like there are eyes everywhere I go, like nowhere is safe.
Got back results. Everything is shit. For someone who got so-called acceptable grades in PSLE and is now in a SAP school, I don’t know how to explain myself. I feel like drifting.
Haven’t felt this shit in a while. Walked past our classroom during recess and K called me in, said he wanted me to see something. So I walked in, and it turns out that the “thing” he wanted me to see was a whole group of his friends, the popular kids, laughing at me. I don’t know why they were laughing. Had to skip Geog because I couldn’t stop crying. I hate myself.
School trip to Henan Province, Zhengzhou. We’re trekking across Yun Tai Mountain, and everyone’s exclaiming over how nice the view is. The guide had us pause to “take in the view” or whatever and take photos, and I was at the back because, you know, everyone acts like I’m contagious.
Went as close as I could to the edge and this voice in my head told me to just jump. Like, no one would really miss me right?
It’s funny how I’ve always had a huge fear of heights but suddenly I’m just picturing how nice it would be to have my body hurtling over the edge and my family what few friends I have be rid of this burden.
You know, sometimes you hear something that really cements an idea you have about yourself?
So today we were having assembly, and I was sitting near Y, J and the rest of their group. And Y was being a typical guy and “rating” female schoolmates on how much they would cost as a prostitute and J was encouraging him (disgusting? Given that she herself is, well, a girl too). Then J pointed at me, and asked how much Y would pay.
“For her ah? Confirm have to pay extra, ‘cuz she will break the bed with all her fats!”
And everyone around him started screeching with laughter, and I wanted to cry, but at the same time it’s like those car wrecks where you want to find out what happens in the end?
“She only go Geylang sell sex because no one will love a pig like that ah!”
So yes, there it is! Thanks for confirming what I’ve always thought about myself, that I’m not deserving of love!
Things have been kind of better. I don’t know. Been streamed into a pretty great class, I like my classmates. Shit schoolmates are still around. Still can’t focus in class, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I think I’m just stupid.
It’s getting closer to O Levels, and my time management is horrible. Who even takes three hours to write one essay? My head keeps drifting, and I feel like everyone is disappointed in me. Friends are amazing but like, I feel like I can’t trust anyone.
So … I started running. Kind of helps de-stress, but I don’t know if it’s procrastination? I’m so scared. Everyone is so smart, and you have me, unable to do anything, stuck in my own head.
Happy fucking new year!!! The voices are getting louder every day and telling me how I’m going to fail and disappoint everyone and I can’t stop crying!
I don’t know why all those movies and TV shows or whatever always portray vomiting up your food as some gorgeous, one-shot bending-over puking. Like oh, I ate a bit too much at dinner and I’m feeling “chunky” so like, excuse me while I cough up my saliva!
Haha no, it’s disgusting and horrible and it feels like you’re going to choke to fucking death over the toilet? I’m not going to go like this, can you imagine the headlines: Girl Found Dead Lying In Public Toilet, Cause Of Death: Half-Assed Bulimia.
Why can’t I just escape my own head? I’m so tired.
The drifting gets so bad now. I’m terrified about the exams. I’m practicing and writing and doing so much and everything is in my head but nothing makes sense and the voices are there too and sometimes I wish someone would understand?
The voices have been quiet for a while. Got into JC. Nervous. I keep running and I can’t stop.
Why did I think things would be different?
Is it normal to want to die? It feels like everyone hates me, and maybe I’m being paranoid but I feel alone all the time like I can’t connect with anyone no matter how hard I try. And there’s the weight of everything else drowning me: school, food, family, repeat repeat repeat and I can’t escape
Sometimes I don’t know if I’m asleep or drifting. It’s like I’m not in my own body, and it happens even more now that we have papers that last like two hours or more. I love the subjects I study, I really do, but it’s so hard to write an exam paper when time slips past your fingers and the voices keep telling you that you’re going to fail.
Had an accident during training today. Coach yelled at me, said it’s because I have no strength, I’m too skinny now. He benched me for the rest of training.
He’s lying, I know he is. I can’t fucking trust anyone who thinks that this body is anything less than a lump of fats. That’s why I couldn’t do anything.
The voices keep screaming that I’m a failure.
Results! Barely promoted, but what was I expecting? I’m so, so tired.
My PW group’s OP was today. Had a panic attack when it was my turn and it was so bad I nearly dropped my cue cards, and I could see the room and audience become like a kaleidoscope in front of me.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I told Mum I puke sometimes, and she took me to see a doctor. He referred us to a specialist at SGH. I don’t want to see them. I’m not sick enough.
Saw the SGH doctor today, took some tests and apparently I don’t just have an eating disorder, I have depression and an anxiety disorder too. Wow! Tumblr and civics lessons in school sure didn’t prepare me for this!
She says I’ll have to come back for regular appointments with her and a psychologist and some other people and I might have to be hospitalised if anything happens. Saw another girl in the waiting room outside and she was so, so thin and just – I don’t even look like that, how dare I ask for treatment?
School has been hectic and I feel like I’ve been crying every day. A’s are a few months away, and the pressure is weighing on all of us. I can’t breathe, and my head is all fogged up. The teachers keep saying that our results don’t define us, then they turn around and say that we can’t get into uni and do anything with bad results because This Is Singapore. What are we supposed to believe, right?
Nearly passed out in school. Terrified but … kind of want it to happen, in a sick way. Like, I want to black out and hit my head so hard I just bleed to death.
Got hospitalised today. I’m scared. The voices say I’m not sick enough. There are so many others who deserve treatment and I’m just a waste of space and resources.
Past two months have been a whirlwind of going in and out of the ward, and trying to study. How fucked up is that, right? The nurses are like, oh time for breakfast/lunch/dinner! And I’m like, where are my notes! I need to memorise this! I need to write this!
I don’t know what to feel about the stays; the ward isn’t that bad honestly. The other girls … They understand. Made friends with some of them. It’s nice, I guess.
Am taking a break from school. That makes me feel useless. But I can barely keep up on a normal day, let alone when I’ve been stuck in the ward for ages. Looks like I wasted my JC years after all.
“What you go hospital for? What they teach you there? How to gain weight, how to be normal ah?”
Yes, thank you for reminding me why I hate going to family gatherings.
Going for ECT because things aren’t getting any better. I don’t know how many times Dr A has tried to up my meds, then change them? Time for another stint in the ward, haha.
Maybe it’s never going to be quiet in my head.
Seeing all my (ex?) classmates’ graduation photos on Instagram and … I could have been there. Sick to my stomach with regret. I could have been there.
Secondary school-mate sent me a DM on Instagram today, asked why I lost so much weight. So I told her I have an eating disorder and she replies, “OMG I wna slim down too!!!”
Wanted to school her on what an ED is, but I’m too much of a coward, so I just gave her some generic reply. Sue me, right. Fucking hypocrite.
M blocked me today. Blocked, as in, cut off all contact. Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook …
She told F that she doesn’t want to talk to me anymore. That we drifted apart.
But that’s … not true? We were in school together, and on the same CCA team. We walked to school together whenever possible. She sent me messages of support when I was warded.
Ten years of friendship, gone. And I don’t even know why.
Back to JC. Repeating school … Time for a fresh start, I guess.
Things were going okay the past few months, and it all just collapsed again. I’m back in the ward. Tried to kill myself. I don’t know, my head is all fogged up.
Classmates brought me homework I missed out on. It’s nice of them, and ironic how the cycle is repeating itself once more.
The girl in the bed beside mine is a General Psych patient, and she’s in for depression, but talks about her weight whenever she sees us ED patients. Last night, her mother came to visit and they were laughing about puking up food to “lose weight fast”. I’ve never seen a nurse usher out a visitor so fast.
Common Tests are coming soon and … I’m afraid. Like, I’m older, and I’ve been through this before, so the teachers definitely expect more of me. My classmates too? But at the same time, everything seems so new to me. I still drift so much, and it still takes so damn long for me to write even a single paragraph. I told one of my teachers about it, and he said that I’m just not practicing hard enough. I don’t know. I don’t want to keep failing.
Seeing ex-classmates posting about uni orientation camps makes me realise how much I’ve missed out on.
Promos are soon but there’s also schoolwork and I feel like I can’t breathe because I still can’t do anything? I can’t write I can’t memorise I can’t do anything I sit down and it’s like my mind blanks out on me and I can hear every single noise anyone makes and it fucking grinds on my skin. Can you imagine if I don’t promote. Actually, I can.
I keep going through the options. Poly, private uni, full-time job, part-time job. Presentations are one of my biggest weaknesses and I don’t want to waste any more time. Private unis are expensive. Maybe a job? But what about my health record? My regular visits to the doctors? What if I declare that I have mental illnesses and they reject me? I can’t stop thinking thinking thinking
J2 year. What do I say. I feel like I’ve been spending too much time crying in the school toilets.
My form teacher pulled me aside once to talk to me, ask me to re-consider continuing with JC. I’m “intelligent” but “JC isn’t the system for [me]”. But how long have I wasted already? How much money, resources?
I’m going to keep trying. The voices keep screaming how fucking stupid I am.
Was trying to explain to Dr E today, I have dreams, you know? I do have ambitions, and I can picture myself in those scenarios: completing A Levels, going through orientation at my dream uni, graduating, internship at a job I’ll enjoy, going to my younger brother’s graduation ceremony and POP, travelling with friends. But it feels like an alternate universe where I’m not ill and the disappointment to everyone around me, where my medications don’t cost hundreds a month, where my family’s finances are in the clear and my grades don’t basically determine whether or not I’m worthy of a place in society. I can’t stop feeling like a burden burden burden
Can’t stop thinking about how my issues are so disgustingly first-world? I’m whining about grades when there are people literally struggling to stay alive. I’m terrible and I don’t deserve to be alive.
Feeling out of place in my own fucking body.
“There’s no place in the system for someone who can’t, or doesn’t want to play the game.” But what’s The Game? Who made it? What are the fucking rules? I’m so, so exhausted.
Essay after essay after essay, failure after failure after failure. I know the content and I’m writing and writing and writing, but I can’t get the words out right and there’s too little time and and and
“So many people did their A Levels and made it … I read that Xiao Han has depression too, and she even did her PhD.”
I wish I could have the confidence to tell you that I can and will be like Xiao Han, and one of those “many people” too, Mum. But my head is so noisy all the time, and I don’t know how to stop myself from drifting, and sometimes (all the time) I wish I’d jumped off that cliff in China in Sec 2 so you won’t have this failure of a daughter like me.
Talked to Ms C today and:
“Why did you choose to come to JC?”
Because of my O Level results, and because I’m not good at presentations? And because I wanna go uni.
“Okay, but why do you wanna go uni?”
Because I need to support my family, and getting a degree is the easiest way to do that?
And she just looked at me, and just? How long have we been growing up thinking that the end goal of school is just to earn a living, and not to learn?
So like, improvement of leaps and bounds continuously, almost overnight. Cramming bookfuls of theoretical knowledge into a few years of competition and timed exams, then boom, you’re out on your ass into The Real World, your battle wounds still fresh and nary a practical skill to be found.
Yeah, I’m tired.
We’re due to get our results for mid-years soon.
Ms S took me aside today, asked me why my script’s still incomplete though I have extra time from Access Arrangement. So I’m trying to explain, and she just barrels on, like, “Do you think you’re the only one in the world with problems? Do you even think you can get in uni like this? You’re going to fail your A’s this way.”
At this point I’m starting to panic and drift because I’m trying not to cry? But she just goes on, says that, “I can’t believe your parents let you stay [in JC] this long. You’re just going to stay here waste time until the school kicks you out, is it? Don’t you feel bad about not making your parents proud, wasting all this time and not trying your best?”
I can’t stop hearing her voice in my head. I’m a disappointment.
21 rank points. Couldn’t stop staring at that while everyone around me was comparing their results. I’m terrified and angry and numb and
“You still have three months, you can make it if you start studying now!”
Can’t stop thinking about what Y said to me today. Do people really think that? That I don’t study, that I’ve just been taking up space in school because I fail nearly every subject and get called out for “falling asleep” in class? Like … What do you think I’ve been doing the past two and a half years?
Guess it’s really true how ingrained stereotypes are, huh!
Assembly in the hall today. Somehow, I’m always the first to arrive. Somehow, no one ever sits next to me. So I always end up with a bubble of empty seats around me, like I have some sort of infectious disease. I don’t know what happened. Things were good last year, we were all friends, and then somewhere along the way, people just … left.
Like they got tired of me, tired of being around me, tired of talking to me. And I get that I’m outspoken and different but it’s just – it’ll be nice to have friends in the same school? The same class? To not feel alone?
Prelims. AA is good because of the extra time and fewer people in the same room, but there’s no point when I can’t even focus.
Dr E told me to just memorise and regurgitate content (suck that, MOE!) but even that is hard when I lose time or get lost inside my head or any small noise is a huge distraction? And I’m trying, I swear I am, I just. I just want people to see that I’m trying my best. I really, really am.
Mr L talked to me today. Said that I’m “using my conditions to escape reality” and that he has friends with “conditions like [mine]” so he “understands but [I’m] not even trying to help [myself]”.
Why I could get a good grade for GP last year, but not for anything else, this is proof I’m not trying. That if I like writing so much but I can’t even do well, I should just “find someone rich to leech off”. And I’m trying to explain but I was panicking and started to cry and he kept raising his voice and then I couldn’t breathe I was just hyperventilating but he wouldn’t stop?
We were on the third floor and I wanted to throw myself off right then and there. Just stop, please, I’m trying, I really am. Why doesn’t anyone believe me?
Graduation. Pretty nice stuff, I guess. I just … want to not feel like an outcast for once? Is outcast too strong? I keep feeling like I’m inserting myself where I don’t belong. It’s like, I’ve tried to make myself better since secondary school, tried to change my interests and make myself more extroverted and lose weight and still.
I don’t belong.
Feels like I’ve been running on coffee and adrenaline the past few weeks. Just writing essay after essay after essay. And then at some point nothing makes sense anymore so I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and I start dissociating and everything’s a mess and I want to smash my head open and yank out all the information please let everything be over soon
Wrote an essay for Mr C’s consult today, and he said it was good! Kinda encouraged but I don’t want to jinx it.
Sat through a whole morning of “motivational” talks today. Basically alumni and student success stories, all with the underlying patronising tone of “A’s are nothing, you haven’t been to uni yet!” or “Do you think you have it bad? You can get over it, because it’s all in your head! Now I’m a double degree/law/med school/insert major here student and it’s AMAZING!” or the usual “Other people have it so much worse than you but they got 80 rank points, so why can’t you???”
Yes, I understand it’s “inspirational” but it’s so fucking patronising because yes, you can work hard, yes, you can study smart, but all of these are able-bodied people? Even if they weren’t, not everyone is going to have the same outcome? How is this supposed to be encouraging when what is a “life obstacle” to “get over” for Amazing Grades is so subjective and personal?
I hate this hahaha.
A’s have started and … it’s so much tougher than everyone says it is. I just want to get through this. I need to show them that I made it through.
It’s finally over. It just feels so anticlimactic.
And it sounds pathetic but it kind of really hurts to not have anyone to celebrate or have a meal with after the last paper? I mean, I’m meeting the secondary school friends soon, but I don’t … have any friends from school. There are people everywhere in school taking celebratory photos, going for meals, and I just feel so empty.
Past month has been numbing. I don’t know how to describe it. Not bad, not good. A’s are finally over but there’s still uni to think about. Applying for internships, and fingers are crossed. Voices are here, always here.
Tired, still, but taking it a day at a time.