I was brought back to Singapore on a wheelchair. Back to the parental home I never wanted to see again. Within 3 days of my arrival, my father made me so upset that I vowed to stand on my two feet – literally & otherwise – and get the hell out of that home for good.
It was a life changing, humbling, patience-teaching period. From being told that I was never to walk, to boarding that plane and coming back home..From working doggedly on moving a toe to placing my foot on the ground for the first time. From standing on crutches with a huge cast to walking with one crutch. From exhausting myself and almost coming to tears everyday during my efforts to get moving again, To finally taking my first few steps. I had to learn to walk all over again.
During that time, things were still very tensed with my folks. But I had my goal of walking in mind and nothing came in my way of achieving that goal. Exactly one year later, I had my last straw and walked out of the parental home for good. With my own two feet, and I was back in a gym again. I moved into my fiancé’s place..yes the man stayed through all that drama. Goodness me now that is a keeper.
Starting over with no money in the bank, a thin mattress to sleep on without hot water or gas was interesting. I was immensely depressed and my right foot although somewhat functioning gave me pain all the time. I attempted doing a full time job but it was plain to see that the damage that I had incurred from that moment of rage was irreversible.
However being the stubborn person that I am, I was on a mission to lose the weight that had come back on due to the injury. It seemed that I gained even more weight after every weight loss triumph. I was still turning to food for comfort. I was more sedentary, less inclined to exercise despite having a gym membership.
The old insecurities began to flood back in. I felt anger and I pushed myself to run a few rounds at a jogging track close to home.
Karma is a Bitch that bites your ass when you least expect it. As I trudged huffing angrily back home one evening from a frustrating day at the jogging track, my left foot got snagged in a crack on the ground causing it to bend over. Next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground howling in pain because I could not move the foot and the position of the foot was displaced.
I was sobbing so hard thinking to myself, dear god not again. Please, not again. I went to the hospital and came back home in crutches with strict instructions of rest. I was getting married in 4 months, I was nowhere near my ideal weight and I was injured. AGAIN. Well this time I was a seasoned foot injury expert so I knew how to take care of myself but it didn’t make me feel any better about not being physically active. Plus now I had Two injured feet to think about. So I did myself in with injury number one and injury number two was a reminder that I was bloody lucky to have survived the first one but I cannot assume that life will be back to normal. There are chronic complications with the right foot and try as I might, I am no super hero and my poor left foot bore the brunt of that realisation.
With the wedding coming near, I was on a mission to look svelte. Once the necessary physiotherapy sessions and rest was done, I hired a personal trainer and began to see a nutritionist. I consumed protein shakes as meal replacements. I was like Rambo on steroids..just refusing to take No for an answer on the path to weight loss for the wedding nuptials. I was back in touch with my family and it seemed like everyone including my in-laws had something nasty to say about my physical appearance.
The sad thing is, I was Never fat. Maybe slightly plump and not even chubby. But being a Singaporean and growing up amongst reed thin Asian bodies, having really negative comments hurled by my parents, peers, relatives and now my in-laws made me believe that I was in fact, fat.
Fat isn’t even an insult to begin with. It’s a portion of your body that has to exist. Sigh if only I knew then what I know now.
I lost a whopping 18 kilos in that year.
Except that I was completely edgy, starving for a morsel of food and exhausted so I did not feel like a glowing, happy bride. I was still angry at not having lost enough weight to fit into this chiffon gown I simply adored. My husband was tired of telling me that I looked beautiful at any size in his eyes.
I heard so much crap about my body size from complete strangers during the wedding process. By the end of that year, I was just looking forward to celebrating with the honeymoon. And guess what? That is when it all went to shite. I had to dump my meal replacements at the Melbourne airport because dairy products were not allowed. The gym at the hotel was Pathetic. I could not bear to swim in that freezing pool. I just wanted to have fun so why was I still so miserable? I wanted to bask in the newlywed glow, in my new body size but I could not help but cry my eyes out at how mean everyone was throughout the wedding process. Nobody gave a second thought to how hard I had worked to look that good, and I could not even enjoy the good food!
I came back to Singapore slightly relieved that I had dumped the meal replacements. Eventhough I was panicky at first, having proper meals again and not worrying about getting a workout in everyday was a huge relief. It was a relaxing holiday and I came back refreshed.
I promised myself to keep up with the protein shakes upon getting back but I think that year of starvation had taken its toll on me. I was too tired to exercise and unmotivated. I was fed up of drinking my lunch & dinner. But I felt alright, I was working again in a part time position and I did keep myself relatively active. The only drama was shutting myself off from certain people. I decided to weed out the toxic relationships in my life – friends, in laws, relatives. It was tough but I had to make that decision for my own good.
Thankfully the hubster (my husband Suresh, also known as Su) could see why I was taking that stand and there was no opposition for my choice to cease contact with his family. I mean seriously, one wonky family is enough..I can’t divorce my parents can I, but two sets of wonky parents? Blerg!
I was working with special needs children and found the job immensely rewarding. One pesky little kid however had chicken pox unbeknownst to me or his family..and this 28 year old adult began to enact the itchy & scratch show. I hadn’t contracted that damn illness yet, I had assumed I was a lucky one and escaped it.
Contracting chicken pox as a child or teenager brings forth little added complexities to your health. But it activates some pretty nasty complications when you get it as an adult. I was born with a wonky immune system. I suffered from allergic reactions, sinusitis and asthma from toddlerhood. Those ailments had decreased to a bare minimum with the exception of a tonsillectomy when I was 20. Once the pox arrived…guess what happened? I transformed into Bubble Girl. My asthma was ‘re-activated’ and I developed something called Mono for the very first time.
So, here I was 28 years old with chicken pox..a new lease on asthma trouble & glandular fever. Subsequently due to the long period of illness from the latter, I had to leave my job. I also had 6 asthma attacks over the next 2 months. I also had my first miscarriage.
Chronic irreversible injuries on both feet. Sinusitis. Bronchial Asthma. Glandular fever that makes an annual appearance.
I gave up on exercise for good.
I gave up on ever being able to hold a job position. I gave up on my appearance. I gave up on managing the emotional eating.
I Gave Up on Life.
I was waiting for some in curable terminal disease to come my way because I was far too cowardly to kill myself. My days & nights were a blur. I met up with my friends, came home and slept all day, stayed up nights staring at the ceiling wishing myself dead. My mood swings turned ugly and I began to hurt myself physically by cutting myself, hurling myself against walls, punching my fist through doors.
One really harrowing night, I found myself praying on the floor of my toilet. All I kept saying was Please God, please help me, please please please do something. I cannot live like this any longer. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I cried and pleaded until a voice in my head said : Go to sleep. You can’t solve your problems like this, now. Go to sleep.
I awoke the next day and decided it was time to be on my own for a while. I decided to book myself a two week stay in Thailand..as a solo retreat. I brought with me 2 books, a few magazines, a swimsuit, jogging shoes and my journal. The second book that I read during that trip literally stopped me in my tracks: Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I bawled when I read that passage where she laid her head on the floor surface and cried out for help.
I spent my two weeks reading the book, penning my thoughts, crying, laughing at funny bits, enjoying the new sights & sounds, swimming (my idea of meditation), having workouts. I was all alone but I was healing, I didn’t feel alone with the book and my writing. I didn’t care for my weight or ailments, I just enjoyed my evening laps and peaceful walks around the area.
Now I would love to tell you that when I came home to Singapore, things were all changed for the better. What the trip did was suspended my reality for a bit. Once I was back in my caged up existence, I was once again restless & filled with anguish. Only this time I sought change. So one fine day after a particularly harrowing mood swing and temper tantrum, I marched my butt to the psychiatrist’s office. I now sat at the other side of the table, which was ironic but doctors fall ill too right?
I was placed on anti depressants & sleeping medication (I developed a bad case of insomnia from age 21), that I still consume today. I have chronic low-grade depression : basically, it isn’t major enough for me to hurl myself off the roof everyday but it does mar my daily outlook to life.. its a tendency towards melancholia.
I decided to pursue my Masters in Psychotherapy as a reminder that I was still a capable, smart individual who wanted to help others. I was not exercising or watching my diet, that was still at a standstill despite the 2 weeks in Thailand.
However, I was plagued by another depressive episode after my 2nd miscarriage. I adore children. Anyone that knows me is well aware that I have always dreamt of the day that I would be a mother. So losing 2 babies was very painful. Watching friends around me get pregnant and give birth to healthy offspring was very hard.
Then came the big blow.
Maa had liver cancer. Maa, is my paternal aunt and although she isn’t my biological mother we have always had a relationship identical to that of a mother & child. When I was little we lived in a flat with her family and I was brought up by her, loved by her as one of her own. Maa held a very important role in my life …throughout my ordeals she provided love, comfort and been a source of inspiration.
Maa was always a character who was larger than life. She was a tough personality, physically strong and a very entertaining character who never failed to bring me joy & laughter. Even upon hearing the diagnosis I scoffed at the idea that she was terminally ill. Maa would bounce back, like she always did.
I had been so involved in my issues and as such we hadn’t seen each other in quite some time. I had to stifle a gasp when I saw her after her first round of chemotherapy : she was lying in bed, dull and half her size. The seriousness and terminal outcome of her disease hit me hard at that time.
Time stood still for those 6 months that she endured chemo, and it began to sink in that she was not going to make it. She was sent back home to be with family for the last few weeks of her life. I was there everyday, watching her breath raggedly. Lying beside her, placing my head next to her now bony body. Her children and I kept telling ourselves that she would be at peace when she finally left us so we shouldn’t be sad but relieved for her.
However we all know that reality differs from what we discuss and plan for. The cancer ravaged through maa’s body so quickly over 6 months and on the 26th of March 2011..I stared at her heaving her final breath. She took a long hard look at everyone in the room, a tear dropped from her eye. I whispered into her ear : I am here, it’s okay. You can go in peace. I want you to rest now, don’t worry about us.
A few months before Maa passed away, she made me promise a few things : Take more pride in my appearance again, lose weight and not give up on having children.
That is where the 3rd chapter of my life begins. To Be Continued …