MY parents were divorced when I was five. Mum took my younger sister while I lived with my grandparents. Growing up, I didn’t get much parental love but things were okay because my grandparents took good care of me.
Things took a turn for the worse, however, when I started secondary school. I was chubby and I became an easy target for bullies. It got so bad to the point that I hated going to school.
I tried reaching out to my parents for help only to hear dad say he was busy and mum complain that dad was useless. My grandmother passed away when I was in primary school and it was difficult for me to talk to my grandfather because he could not hear well and I didn’t want him to worry about me. The bullying in school escalated. When I told mum about my suicidal thoughts, she simply said, ‘Go ahead, I will not stop you.’ She was depressed and suicidal, too. My world turned upside down.
I was 14 then and what helped me pull through were the Japanese television dramas and anime shows that I was hooked on. I was drawn to Japan and a voice inside my head said, ‘I will work hard, study and live a happy life in Japan someday.’ I laugh when I look back now but it was a crucial time in my life because that was when I decided to put all my effort into saving money to study the Japanese language. But when I found out that I needed some RM80,000 to study in Japan, I felt hopeless, depressed and suicidal all over again. I couldn’t function and would sleep the whole day, overeat or sometimes not eat at all.
Luckily, my teacher sensed that something was amiss and informed the school counsellor who stepped in and saved my life. She called my family and suggested that my parents bring me to a hospital because she was afraid that I would take my own life. I started medication and went for counselling but things only improved when I met child therapist Priscilla Ho.
Our sessions involved a lot of activities and chatting, where she’d motivate me to find ways to achieve my dreams. She suggested I work in Japanese restaurants here to improve my Japanese. She encouraged me, believing that my life could change for the better. Sometimes, when people are severely depressed, nothing brings them joy but I now believe that if we just try doing one small thing as a start, it can change our outlook. Thanks to Ho’s suggestion, I met so many Japanese people and they complimented my proficiency in the language. Some were even kind enough to sponsor my fee for Japanese tuition classes.
Despite all the negatives that I had experienced, I was hopeful that something good would happen. A Japanese language school agent I met offered to become my guarantor and because of her kindness, I am now studying in a public university in Japan on a scholarship from the Japanese government and my university.
My advice to those who are struggling with what I experienced is: Build your emotional intelligence and emotional awareness so that you can better understand yourself and others. A high emotional quotient could allow you to have a better relationship with people around you and help you deal with your negative emotions. Remember that everyone has flaws. Find your strengths, accept yourself and focus on your positive qualities. — Student Solomon Cheah