When you go through tough times at such a young age, you start to think that the world is out to get you. You build walls around you as protection. But if you open your heart, you’ll realise that love is all around. ~ Putri*
For most of my life, I believed that I was truly alone.
The voices in your head don’t tell you nice things. They warp your thinking and distort your narrative.
“No one loves me.
No one will ever love me.
How could someone love me if I could not love myself?
I didn’t even know myself.”
These thoughts kept me spiralling into negativity. Life seemed bleak and it is really quite sad to have these thoughts from the age of 13.
My relationship with my family was quite awkward when I was younger. My mother, the sole breadwinner of the house, was always working. Providing for me, my siblings and my grandparents was her top priority.
My grandparents helped to take care of my siblings and me, but sadly my grandfather passed away in 2014 and my grandmother has not been the same ever since. My older sister and younger brother were always boisterous and dramatic. I sat awkwardly in the middle as the quiet one.
Talking to my family was hard when you have noisy, extroverted siblings fighting for my mom’s attention, so I quickly got used to blending into the background and keeping things to myself.
I built walls around me so that I never had to be vulnerable around anyone but myself. I spent nights crying in bed by myself. I hurt myself with my own thoughts.
And so I lived like that throughout secondary school, only letting my closest friends know how I felt. It was easier to let my guard down to the people who didn’t live with me.
Being in school made me feel welcomed. It made me feel loved. It was comforting to know there were people who cared for me more than I ever could. Yet, there was still an air of discomfort the moment I unlocked the gate and entered my house.
The façade of pretending to be okay in front of my family, while feeling unseen and unloved, could only go on for so long. While sobbing late at night, trying to figure out a simple maths question for my GCE O-levels revision, my mother called me on the phone to ask if I wanted dinner. I tried to answer but she could clearly tell I was choking back the tears.
“Putri, are you okay?”
Finally, the walls fell. I told her about everything that was stressing me out over some coffee. Finally, I felt comfortable talking to my mom one-on-one. And the feeling was mutual. She told me about her poor relationship with my grandmother and how she didn’t want her own children to experience the same thing. So she was always trying her best to give me and my siblings a normal life, even with our difficult circumstances.
We couldn’t afford full-day tickets to Universal Studios Singapore, but she would bring us there at night for the fireworks display. We couldn’t travel on planes, but small trips to Johor to buy groceries and karaoke was good enough for a holiday.
It wasn’t the quantity of time she spent with us but the quality of it, since time was something she didn’t have much of before the pandemic.
Love is the feeling of comfort and spending time with one another. Love is letting yourself be vulnerable and letting other people love you.
While many young people felt suffocated about having to be with their families 24/7, mine finally had time to bond after almost a decade. It was nice having meals and playing card games together. I even introduced her to the world of Korean dramas, and it has become our mother-daughter tradition ever since.
Love was not a grand display of affection or fancy trips overseas.
Love is the feeling of comfort and spending time with one another.
Love is letting yourself be vulnerable and letting other people love you.
According to Samaritans of Singapore, suicide is the leading cause of death for those aged 10-29. Mental health is very important and no one should ever feel like they are suffering alone. Find solace in people you can trust or seek help from counsellors if you need someone to talk to. Surround yourself with people who love you when you cannot love yourself.
Always remember that you are loved, you are needed, and you are not a burden.
*Name has been changed for privacy
Putri is a Year 3 student from the Diploma in Media and Communication (DMC) at the Media, Arts & Design (MAD) School in Singapore Polytechnic (SP). She wrote the above article about how she steeled herself to find a ray of happiness despite challenges, as part of a journalism assignment where students are trained to write a personal, factual story.