Today, it is Christmas and for many, it can be a great time to celebrate with family and friends. Imagine putting the Christmas tree up, decorating the house, putting the Christmas lights outside for people to watch, taking photos with Santa Clause, watching Christmas Carols, cooking (and of course eating) a large feast and exchanging Christmas Cards and presents. Sounds like a happy time usually, I guess…right?
Sadly, that isn’t the case for other people as Christmas can be such a difficult time. I know what you’re gonna say with that confused look on your face, “But Davo, what are you talking about? Christmas is supposed to be a happy occasion!” I wish that was true in a perfect world but it is not and what we call it is “Christmas Depression” or “Holiday Blues”. You probably have never heard of it or even be aware of it too and that is why I want to highlight and raise awareness of this. I know I have already spoken about this before on my blog back in 2014 but I want to do it again as I now have more experience.
Firstly though, let me tell you guys a true story about a young boy when he started primary school. Let’s call him Ming.
Ming would always get excited for Christmas every year. He and his family would always spend Christmas together with the rest of the extended family. Because their house was the biggest, they will always host the gathering. Before the big day, Ming and his family would clean the house and decorate with Christmas stuff, they would also prepare the food in advance and as well, they would write Christmas cards and wrap up presents to give to family and friends.
When the big day arrives, Ming and his family can feel the excitement buzzing in the air because they haven’t seen their relatives in a while and when they arrived, they were happy to see each other them. They greet each other with, kisses and hugs all around and they also talk to each other about what they have been up to and any gossips they have had heard. After settling down, everyone is helping out setting the dinner table, preparing and cooking the food for the large feast. Once all the food has been cooked, it is time to dig in eating a large smoked ham leg, prawns, potato salad, spaghetti bolognese and more! After feasting, they feel so full and they had to wait until their stomach digest all the food.
After about waiting half n hour or so, the best bit of the night for Ming comes with exchanging gifts with one another. He wanted that present that he always wanted and he was so grateful that his family was able to get that present. His family were also grateful for him too for the presents that he bought for them. It’s like everyone had a great time during Christmas and they would always do this every year.
With each year that passes by for Ming when he grew older, he would get less excited for Christmas. This was very unusual for him because Christmas time would always cheer him up and by the time when he got to high school, it seems like he didn’t look forward to Christmas anymore. What was happening for him? Well, during school Ming got severely bullied by two groups of bullies and it was hard because he kept it a secret and was feeling so alone like he felt like he wasn’t able to talk to anyone. Although the bullying did eventually stop thanks to a brave teacher, the damage was already done and it was quite traumatic for the scared little boy.
When Ming looked at his whole family during the Christmas party one year, they were all happy and talking to each other and this really made him sad as he felt like the odd one because he didn’t have that spirit of joy. Every time when a Christmas song comes up, it made him teary. He was quieter and didn’t interact as much. His family were confused why he wasn’t himself but Ming made up an excuse saying he was just feeling sick. The family didn’t think much of it and thought it was a one-off thing but in fact, it was always the case for each Christmas.
Because Ming didn’t want to ruin Christmas and felt like he had high expectations to be happy, he would always pretend to be someone who was happy but deep inside, he wasn’t okay. When he had a chance to be alone during the family Christmas party, he would cry and feel so alone but when someone comes up to him, he would dry away his tears and put on his happy face mask. After they were gone, he would sigh with a big relief and take his mask off because it takes so much effort for him to pretend to be someone else.
Anyway, in the final two years of high school, Ming (who is now growing into a young man) went through his first two losses to death which devastated him. First, his dog passed away and the next year his grandma passed away (who he was really close to both of them) passed away from old age and since then, his life was never the same and that was the same for Christmas as it was quieter. The first and second Christmas without them was hard for the family but they were still able to have the family Christmas party and get through it.
However, every time Christmas comes up, it was always an anxiety trigger for Ming and had the anticipation due to the build-up to the end of the year. He has a fear of the unknown if Christmas would be bad again as it brings back bad memories of what he went through in school. Sometimes, he can’t help but compare his family to himself because they all seem to be going well with their lives but he feels like he is way behind where he wanted to be in terms of goals.
These days, the family Christmas party is not much of a big deal as it was used to be and it is now only a small gathering. There was even one Christmas where Ming spent Christmas in hospital by himself and that was the second year without his late grandma who he missed so much as when she was alive. she would always make him more cheerful.
So, you must be asking who is Ming and how do I know him? Well, Ming is a person I met since birth so I have known him all my life.
Now, I have a question for all of you, who do you think Ming was?
Well, the truth is, Ming is actually me. I just changed their name and happen to like the name Ming. I also do apologise if my story-telling wasn’t that great but I just wanted to give you guys another view and make a point why Christmas can be hard. In fact, when I was writing this, I got so teary because it was hard to tell this story.
This Christmas Depression or Holiday Blues is real. My Christmas experience at first started a happy beginning when I was a little kid but when years went by and I experience stuff that no kid should have to go through, it made Christmas so hard.
Now with the current COVID-19 pandemic, it has now affected the whole world in so many ways and it also made Christmas very difficult for so many so I really feel for them.
List of Reasons
Here is a list of reasons why this season can be stressful.
Mental Health – Having a mental illness isn’t nothing to be ashamed of and it is not your fault. During Christmas time, it can make you more vulnerable and your symptoms worse.
Loneliness – Being by yourself on Christmas Day without family or friends is can make you feel quite lonely or even if you’re not by yourself, you can still feel alone. There are so many people out that won’t be able to spend Christmas without their loved ones. Reasons could be being overseas, interstate, the border restrictions due to COVID, lockdown and many more.
Grief – Losing a loved one is heartbreaking and it is more difficult if it is the first Christmas without them as it won’t be the same or there are reminders of them if it’s not the first Christmas.
Expectations – This one is tough because when you’re feeling down and other people around you are more joyful than you are and because of that, you expect to be joyful too. It is so tiring and draining.
No Support – At the moment, a lot of access to support such as mental health like psychologist, psychiatrist, GP, day programs or other services unrelated to mental health are closed because of Christmas and for someone like me who struggles with mental health, that is hard.
Family Issues – If you have an issue with a family member and you can’t get along with them but you have to see them at a family gathering, it is not easy as it can increase more conflict and anxiety.
Missing Out – You want to go to a gathering but can’t go because it’s either you’re working, feeling sick, didn’t get invited, isolate due to COVID-19 or any other reasons, you feel left out and missing out the fun.
Past Experiences – If you ever had a bad experience during Christmas in the past such as trauma or other reasons, it can affect you and you feel like the next Christmas will be the same one as the one before.
Financial Stress – Buying gifts for other people but you struggling with money because you lost a job, not being able to work, going through debt, not earning enough, it can be such a struggle.
Work/Other Commitments – If you’re working or have other commitments that you have to juggle, it is exhausting
Being Behind/Not Reaching Goals – The year is nearly over and compare to other people, you feel like you’re falling behind. Your friends and family all have jobs, they have partners, some got married and even already have kids. You feel like you haven’t reached your goals for this year and feels like you wasted another year.
Christmas Shopping – I’m listing this one because doing Christmas shopping in person can be stressful because you have to buy everything before the deadline and because of the chaos at shopping centres and on the roads, everyone is doing a mad rush.
These are the ones that I can think of and note, I could have listed more reasons but because there’s so many out there, it would be too long to list them all.
Some Helpful Skills
If you feel like you’re struggling during the Christmas holidays, here are some tips and skills you can use.
– Plan ahead: If you plan your schedule in advance, you don’t need to worry about what you should do during the week and this is important because it helps you keep busy. If you’re at home all day all week and doing nothing but having way too much time thinking, it’s actually not ideal as it can make it worse.
– Set realistic goals: If you have a goal you want to reach but it feels like it can be impossible or it takes a long time, try setting it up so it can be achievable. Take small steps rather than big steps as it is more realistic.
– Alternative ways for Christmas Shopping: If you want to avoid the mad rush, start your Christmas shopping early, shop online (but be careful of scammers) or avoid the peak hours.
– Organise meet-ups: If you’re feeling lonely during Christmas or don’t have anyone to spend Christmas with, you can organise a time to catch up with family or friends. If you can’t meet up with them or they live far away, there’s the power of technology! I know it is not the same but it’s so much better than nothing.
– Prioritising your own needs: If you feel like you need to priortise your needs over other people’s, that is perfectly okay. if you also feel like you can’t look after other people or see other people, you can take a step back. The most important thing is looking after yourself. If you can’t look after yourself, how are you suppose to look after other people’s need? And no it’s not selfish at all.
– Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a type of meditation that I actually learned in therapy. Being mindful means being aware of your thoughts, feelings, urges, your surroundings around you like sounds or sight etc. You notice it’s there but you don’t interact with them and learn how to cope with them, that’s the whole point. It will take a lot of practice using mindfulness and I know it’s not for everyone.
– Know your triggers early: If there are certain anniversaries that come up during Christmas or any triggers that could set up a relapse, set up a plan in advance. Let your support team or loved ones know so they are aware of your triggers and they can support you in case.
– Remembering loved ones: Everyone grieves in their own way and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Do what you feel is right for you as long as it is healthy. Share your memories of your loved ones who have passed with family and friends as it can help you to heal and think of the great memories and cherish the time you had together. You can even set up a memorial or do something great in their memory like writing a letter to them or do a drawing or anything that relates to your loved one. It’s so easy to think about the sad times, that’s okay but you don’t want to do it all the time as it can have an impact on your mental and physical health.
– Grounding: Grounding is one technique you use to get yourself back in the presence if you are dissociating, have overwhelming thoughts, emotional pain or getting flashbacks from the past. If you feel like you’re losing control, grounding helps you detach from them. Some techniques that can help is holding ice to feel the cold, doing intense exercise (boxing, squats, running) that makes your heart rate goes fast, using 5 Senses Grounding Technique (what you can see, smell, hear, taste, touch). If that all doesn’t work, take a cold shower or splash water on your face.
– Eat: I’m not an expert on food but I know food gives you energy and if you are skipping meals (unless you’re on a diet), you won’t function properly. Eat in moderation so you don’t overeat or undereat. Try to eat more healthy too so if you want something sugary, try eating fruits or go for the healthier option if it’s deep-fried, try doing baked. Also if you love to cook like me, you can cook whatever you want like baking cookies or try cooking a new recipe.
– Sleep: Not only we get energy from food but we also get it from sleeping when we rest our bodies. Apparently, we should try to get at least 8 hours of sleep or whatever hours that is enough for you. Oversleeping is not good for you as it could make you more tired. It’s also good to have a good routine so your body system knows what time to wake up every morning and go to bed at the same time every night.
– Exercise: Apparently we should exercise at least half and hour. If you can’t do half and hour, spread it out so do one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Even going out for walks is good. It will keep you fit and it also releases the healthy endorphins in your brain.
– Music: I love music and it is one of my passions in life. Playing on my guitar, ukulele and piano helps me get everything out of my mind because I can just play it out and do my own thing. I also love to serenade to other people as it makes them relaxed and more peaceful. If you can’t play an instrument, that’s okay! You can also just listen to the music and sing along with the lyrics. Another thing if you like to hear the sounds of the beach and the waves, you can listen to that. It feels like you’re actually at the beach without going to one.
– Creative Arts: If you like art, this could be the thing for you. You can paint whatever you want to paint or even just draw what’s in front of you. If that’s not your thing, you can even do a collage. It doesn’t have to be perfect and so what if it doesn’t look like the best. You don’t have to be like Leonardo da Vinci. It’s your own art! That’s all it matters!
– Be adventurous or try something new: Remember that time you always wanted to try that new hobby of yours but never had the chance to start it? Well, here is your chance to do it now. For example, I started picking up drawing when I was in hospital but because I was never good at it in school, I didn’t even dare to try it again. One nurse gave me a task to do a sketch of me and my dog Tank and show it to her after I finished. I was a bit hesitant at first but gave it a go and it wasn’t the worse drawing but still good enough that made me want to draw more and hence, I picked up drawing.
– Volunteer job or helping others: A great way to give back to the community or people who are more unfortunate is volunteer at charities or non for profit like Lifeline. Donate clothes or things you don’t need, donate blood, help make hampers or ask anyone if they need help. I find if I help other people when they need help and know that I have helped them, it makes me feel I have accomplished something and that I have contribute to their lives.
– Christmas Gifts/Cards: I like to give out inspirational Christmas cards because I want people to feel better about themselves and if they supported me with something, I like to give something back to them. The different messages I write to people in their cards, they tell me that they are very powerful and inspiring and they all really appreciated my gratitude and that makes me happy. You also don’t need to buy a very expensive gift as well, it can be just like a gift card or something small.
– Sunshine: We all need sunshine because it gives you energy and it’s good for our bodies especially for those who are living where winter is and don’t get a lot of sunshine! Go to the beach if it’s a sunny day or go have a picnic. It’s also a great way to connect with nature, listen to the birds, feel the breeze of the wind and look at the surroundings.
– Know this will pass: Christmas is not forever but it is a time that will pass. Tomorrow will be a new day, take each day as it comes
– Writing/Blogging: Writing in your diary or journal is a great way to express yourself. You could just write about how your day was, rate what mood you are feeling out of 10 in the morning and then rate it again in the evening to monitor and you don’t have to show it to anyone. Maybe you can do creative writing and write your own book. You already know what blogging does for me but it doesn’t have to be what I’m doing. If you have an interest in anything you like say photography, you can do that or if you like to design things, you can do that too.
– Stop Comparing: Okay, sorry I know I may sound blunt but please do me a favour and try not to compare with other people. Everyone is different and are at a different stage in their lives. Although some people make look like they have a perfect life, that isn’t always the case. Even for me I can’t help compare to my friends and family but I tell you guys a secret, I’ve been single for 12 years so I still yet to find the right girl (if anyone knows one, let me know! hehe) and I’m not working due to my mental illness but I know I am not alone as there are other people going through the same thing and I’m so grateful for what I have now.
– Support network: Since it’s Christmas, most of the clinics will be closed but if you need to talk to someone, contact someone you trust like a family member or a close friend. If you’re not able to talk to them or anyone else, there are hotlines that are available to you locally.
– Get Help Immediately: If you or someone you know are at any time feeling unsafe or feeling at risk and requires immediate help, please call your local emergency provider or go to your nearest local hospital emergency department and stay calm. They will happily assist you if any help required. If it’s not an emergency but you really need to talk to someone straight away, you can always call a local crisis number
– Psychiatric Hospital: If you feel like you need to take a break from everything and feel like life is too much to cope, it is perfectly okay to go into a psychiatric hospital voluntary. Being admitted into a psychiatric hospital could help you or even maybe it is someone you know who is struggling. There will always be 24/7 support, although because each hospital is different, they will have their own programs, it still acts the same.
Phew! That was quite a long list of tips and skills and I know there are plenty more out there. The skills that I have listed are the ones that I have learned in various therapies with the cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Also, anyone can use these skills. While one skill works for one person, it may not work for someone else so you may want to try and experiment.
This Christmas for me, it has been really hard because the last two months have been a rollercoaster ride for me. After getting back on my feet into normal life with TAFE after going through that hard lockdown, I went through two heartbreaking news in late November that I never wanted to hear. First, one of my family members has cancer (thankfully it is not terminal but still serious) and then secondly, I found out my close eldery friend passed away in an unexpected tragic accident. This happened in the space of two days which I actually cannot believe and it is my fifth loss in three years.
Plus, I had my last day for my Commercial Cookery Course for the year a few days later (after hearing the shocking news) which was so sad because I find that we finished TAFE way too early and it was my final day with my new helper who I get along really well with as a team. Since I don’t have that normal routine, I find I have way too much time. As much as hard it is for me to get out of the house now, I have to try push myself as being at home doing nothing is no good and I have to keep busy.
The thing that is helping me to keep going and live my life each day is the support from my family, friends and my mental health support team. When I don’t feel like doing anything, they give me a nudge and help me to keep active and continue on with my passions. Without their support, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
One final thing, lately, I’ve been talking to some family and friends and they are also struggling at the moment and it really struck me. Why? Because I realised I am not alone with this Christmas Depression or Holiday Blues.
To my family and friends and of course, anyone who is struggling at this time, you are not alone. It is okay to be not okay and you don’t need to pretend that you have to be strong as I have done that in the past and it never works. Try to sit with your emotions and if you want to cry, cry. If you want to scream, do that. Find ways to keep your mind busy and ways to cope as that will help. Like with everything, it will take time and patience, but make sure not to be alone and reach out if you need support. I know it’s easy for me to say but hard to do for you. Please know that I’ll always be here for you as a friend and someone who will listen and will never judge you.
Also, for those who have been supporting me during this difficult time, thank you again for being there for me. I really appreciate the support as I will always value our friendship!
To end on a positive, I’ll be posting photos at the end of the post of some Dark Chocolate Macarons I made by myself to give to family and friends for Christmas. These batches were the best ones I have done in my 7th attempt and I’m so happy it was a success. All my family and friends loved it and said it wasn’t too sweet. Keep believing in yourself and know that you can do it
Thank you guys for reading. Have a Merry Christmas to you, your family and friends and please stay safe in the holidays wherever you are. Look after each other and remember to reach out if you ever need support. There is no shame in doing that as I’ve been through that before and I’m still here. You are not alone.
Giving back some random love to you guys. Be random but stay safe! ^_^
Well, it has been a few months since I’ve posted here and I was actually planning to do it more regularly like with my gaming YouTube channel but it’s been such a rollercoaster for me especially with the lockdown and getting out of lockdown. With life slowly going back to normal since freedom day for us over here, it’s been such a huge adjustment for me going back to TAFE and among other things but somehow, I’m managing.
Now, about tomorrow…yep, it’s that time of year again and it is my birthday. For those who really know me well, this can be a difficult time for me. With other people’s birthdays, I’m totally fine but with mine, it’s a bit different. For someone who struggles with mental health enormously and has gone through so much in childhood, birthdays can be so hard but I also do have mixed feelings about it at the same time. I know there are a lot of people out there who don’t really understand why (which is totally okay) because birthdays are supposed to be a happy occasion and it’s your big day celebrating with family and friends.
Also, note I have already talked about this in the past so if you want to read more about it for those who haven’t seen it, you can read my two posts down below.
What’s different about this year? I think it’s just with the current pandemic, it hasn’t been easy even for all of us. Life has totally changed for the whole world and still learning to deal with COVID-19, it’s hard and I think because we have never been in this situation before, it’s unique. In the last few weeks, the build-up to my birthday has been quite anxious for me. I have been trying not to think about my birthday a lot and plus I’ve been trying to avoid it as well which isn’t good either. There have been times I’ve been so teary and emotional about my birthday like what’s it going to bring. To tell you the truth, I didn’t start any planning for my birthday until this past Monday right after TAFE.
I was talking to my personal trainer today when we were training at the park and I told him about having bad experiences in the past with birthdays due to my mental illness. I hope he doesn’t mind me mentioning this on here but he said that I have come such a long way compared to where I was and I’m now in a much better place which gives me a bit of confidence and I’m lucky to have my PT as a supportive mate.
Also, I realise I didn’t even blog about my birthday last year. The two years before last year, I spend both my 29th & 30th birthday in hospital which you guys already know and I was pretty anxious actually about my last birthday because I had thoughts like am I gonna spend another birthday in hospital again. Well, thankfully, I didn’t and last year was the first year I spend my birthday outside of hospital which felt so weird.
My birthday celebration didn’t even start until mid-October when my dad and I were invited to two of my dad’s friends combined birthday dinner party and also because I made a birthday cake (my popular Mango Almond Cake) for them. When my dad mention that my birthday was coming up, they celebrated my birthday which was so unexpected and it was nice of them to do it because I’ve known them for quite a long time.
I also made new friends too and one of them was a musician too which was so awesome as I was able to do a bit of jamming with them on my ukulele and guitar and plus, they booked a private room in the restaurant, it was so much better too. The songs that we played that they grew up with The Beatles & Simon & Garfunkel and plus I played songs that I grew up with too like Disney, The Cranberries & IZ. Also, the hospitality and the service from Alex the owner, the chef and the rest of the staff were brilliant and the food was so delicious as it was a Chinese banquet.
The night before my birthday, my parents and I went out for dinner at our favourite local restaurant to celebrate my birthday and my parents’ 42nd wedding anniversary. The food we had was really authentic and it just brings back memories of when I was in Hong Kong and now that I’m thinking about it, I really missed the travelling. Since we already know the staff, they surprised us with a slice of Tiramisu birthday cake too which we were not expecting!
The actual day of my birthday, I went out for a Japanese lunch with my parents and the restaurant we went to was another favourite of ours that we always go to with my late grandma & late auntie when I was young. The chef who is also the owner is actually still working there since I was a kid believe it or not and he would always greet us. The food here is so yummy and compare to other Japanese restaurants we’ve been to, it’s the one that we always like to go to for Japanese food. Later during the day, I trained with my personal trainer at the gym which is great but boy, the training can be intense too!
To end the day, I celebrate my birthday with my Juniors/Anchors group and with the leaders (Reid & Jono!) at Boys Brigade. It was actually quite funny as Reid asked the kids if they noticed anything different on my uniform (as I was wearing my birthday badge that my family gave me years ago) which they did and they suddenly surprised me by singing Happy Birthday. I was totally not expecting them to sing but it was a great surprise. Jono also baked me a second birthday cake which was a tasty chocolate cake that looked like a Pac-Man!
Back to tomorrow, it’s going to be a big day. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but my PT said I should try to shift my focus on being positive and celebrating with family and friends which I’m gonna try to do. One thing I do know is that it will be my second time celebrating my birthday out of hospital which is a massive achievement for me as I haven’t been in hospital for close to two years now!
Also, apologies that this post was a bit rushed because I literally just wrote this at the last second as usual but thank you guys again for the support! I hope this post explains more of why birthdays can be a difficult time for me and also even for other people who are going through a similar thing out there.
Be random but stay safe guys!
This post is dedicated to my dearest Auntie Margaret Fong who passed away six years ago on the 22nd August, 2015. I also want to send my random love and support to my whole family.
So, I wasn’t really too sure if I was going to do a blog or not because the topic I’m going to talk about is the first time in a few years I have talked about which is my late Auntie Margaret but I’ve never gone into great detail. You can view the post down below.
In the end, I thought it would be good to do so because it gives me closure and I want to honour the legacy of my Auntie Margaret and plus, I want to get back in blogging again. I’m also giving you guys a heads up that in this post, I’ll be talking about grief, not an easy topic to talk about especially death but it’s also really important to me.
Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of my auntie Margaret’s death and it’s hard to believe it’s been that long since hearing that unexpecting news of her passing like where did all those years gone by? I still remember everything like as it if was yesterday. I remember hearing that phone call which my mum answered and it was from my cousin. Not gonna go into exact details but after my mum got off the phone, she told me that my aunt Margaret had a heart attack and passed away at the age of 71. Instantly, I went into shock trying to process the news for a few minutes and then, I just broke down. My parents had to comfort me because they knew how close I was to my aunt because she was like a second mother to me and my siblings.
These type of news, you never expect and that’s why it’s always difficult for me to talk about. Grief is something I’ve always struggled with and I notice when you get older, you experienced it more, well that’s what my dad says. The last few years, I’ve experience more grief than I have ever imagined and it’s hard because some of the losses I went through were unexpected deaths like my aunt’s but as you guys know, that’s the reality of life.
With my aunt’s passing, life has never been the same and I feel it’s like that with every death I noticed. I think what was the hardest thing is when my aunt was alive, she asked me to promised her that I would take her out one day for lunch but sadly, I never got to do that and I really really wish I did. I think at that time, I was busy focusing on my own problems and looking for work. Even in the final years of my auntie, I didn’t really get to see her as much and the reasons I won’t ever talk about on here. However, one thing I know my auntie wouldn’t want me to be stuck living in the past as that is something I struggle with and the past is the past, you can’t change what happened but you can focus on the present which is what I’m trying to do.
What do I miss about my aunt? Everything. When my parents were busy, she and my late grandma would always look after me and siblings when we were in school. They would take us out to eat at our favourite local Chinese restaurant for afternoon tea and take us to swimming lessons. I remember times when my aunt was trying to park her car in a car park and she would get anxious if she was going to hit a wall or car but luckily, I was able to calm her down. I wasn’t really to sure how I was able to do calm her down as I was still a small kid back then but I was able to somehow.
I also remember my aunt telling me that when I was in primary school, there was one time her car was on fire, how it was set alight I have no idea but because she didn’t notice and I saw it, I told her that her car was on fire. Boy, she was panicking and so we had to get help immediately nearby. The fire was eventually extinguished, I don’t remember the exact details because it was a long time ago but my aunt was thankful for me because I was able to save us which could have be have a very different story.
If I were to describe my aunt, I definitely say she was courageous and an absolute fighter. She was the eldest out of all her siblings (my mum, aunts & uncles) growing up in Hong Kong and she’s also been through a lot in her life. Like me, my aunt even was battling her own mental health which I probably didn’t find out until I was in high school in Year 8 when I was diagnosed with depression. I think that made us real closer because I feel like my aunt could understand what I was going through especially with the mental health.
Although my childhood and teenage years the hardest times for me in my entire life, my aunt would always be there for me. One thing my aunt would always do to cheer me up or spoil me is buying Shortbread Men (I like to call them Cookie Men) from Michel’s Patisserie. This would put a smile on my face every time because they were my favourite, though I did feel bad for eating the Cookie Men as they were adorable and smiling at me.
When I got more older, the Cookie Men were unfortunately getting more expensive to buy so a year before my aunt’s death, I though I try making them myself with my case worker, Jarrah and the end result was a success! However it almost turned into fail when Jarrah open the fridge and somehow, our shortbread men fell and broke into half but luckily the baking paper was able to save them from the ground. This reminds of the scene from the very first movie Shrek when Lord Farquaad was going after Gingy the Gingerbread Man.
I have to admit, yesterday was really hard. Just knowing that it was my aunt’s sixth anniversary of her death, it really just hit me. I didn’t feel like doing anything except staying in bed all day but I know that would be no good for me. Good thing is, I always have a weekly routine which really helps me especially now with the current lockdown in Sydney.
What did I end up doing? Usually every Sundays, my case worker comes to my house to do cooking so we ended up making Scottish Shortbread from scratch which is so easy to make and it’s only four ingredients – butter, castor sugar, plain flour & rice flour! I’ve actually made it before at TAFE when I did the Retail Baking course but I wanted to relearn how to make it at home and it was a success! Here was the final product.
After waiting for the Scottish Shortbread to bake in the oven, we created butterflies using fondant which my mum wanted to learn how to make. We were able to use different shades of colours by just using red and yellow fondants and roll them into balls and warm it up so it was easy to work with. After that, we put tiny bit of cornflour and rub it on the bench and rolling pin so it disappears and so the fondant won’t stick. We use a rolling pin that has a 3mm disc thickness so we roll out the fondant and we shape them into butterflies using stamps and then put it on a folded piece of foil to hold it’s shape and viola! Here are the butterflies that we made!
Thanks for reading! I have to admit, this was a very hard post to blog and there were times that I did get teary and had to pause but I finally was able to made it through the end. Also thank you guys for your love and support from my last post! The responses I got was really overwhelming and I’m so lucky to have you guys in my life. I do apologise again for being so dark but it’s only because I want to raise awareness of mental health and also help others who could be in a similar situation.
To my loving family, I hope you guys are coping okay! I know our Auntie/Mother Margaret has left us too soon and it’s really heartbreaking as we never expected this. Please do look after yourselves and each other and remember the memories that we had with our Auntie/Mother Margaret!
Finally, I’ll end this post with an old photo of my aunt Margaret and I together that I found while I was looking through photos of my baby album yesterday. I don’t even remember where or when it was taken because I was too young but this one seems to be a special one and yes, that is my babyface in a suit when I was young!
Be random but stay safe all especially during this pandemic!
I’m putting a trigger warning as this post is dark and may be triggering for some people. The content I’ll be talking about is suicide, suicidality, past planned suicide attempts, mental health – depression/anxiety, grief and trauma.
If you are not in a safe place or are easily triggered, please do not read, otherwise, read with caution. If you are feeling suicidal or unsafe at any time, stop reading and please reach out for help as the last thing I want to do is triggering people. Your life is so important!
Please note, although the content I write about on my blog can be quite difficult to read, I feel like it’s so important for me to share my life experiences with others and especially now that we are living in a pandemic with COVID19 and mental health is on a rise. I notice there are still a lot of stigma and taboo with mental health and suicide in our society which is something you should not be ashamed of. That’s why I’m raising awareness of mental health so it can be talked about it more. Thanks for reading and now onto my post.
First of all, before you guys read about my milestone of the anniversary of my last suicide attempt, about a month ago during my term break from TAFE, I was in a really good place and probably the best place I’ve been in a long time since my relapse in last September where I heard the heartbreaking news that my friend Phoebe who I met in hospital in one of my admissions passed away. It really devastated and shocked me because she died so young and was about my age. That was really hard for me to deal because the last time I spoke to her in person, she was in a really good place. I have a lot questions that I’ll never have the answers to unfortunately but one thing I will never forget about Phoebe is how she was able to support me when I was at my lowest when I was in hospital in 2018.
One of my memories of us together is jamming on my guitar and we were both singing Radiohead’s Creep. It was embarrassing because I can’t sing that good and even though she also didn’t know the lyrics to the song, we managed to somehow able to sing Creep and we had fun. Oh Phoebe, I can’t believe that you’re still gone and wish I could have done something more.
Also, this was the fourth loss I’ve been through last year in two years which is very unusual for me to go through but since then, I have been working really hard to get to where I was especially with TAFE and everything was going so well the rest of last year and all this year. Because I was in a really good place, I was originally gonna do some blogging in the holidays since I had a lot of time but then everything just gone downhill. With the breaking news that NSW Government announcing the whole of Sydney and the nearby regions will be in lockdown due to the COVID Delta strain outbreak, that was really hard because had a lot of plans to do in the holidays and I’m sure that was the same for you guys and everyone else who lives in Sydney.
Plus hearing the unexpected news of several changes to my support network which just happened all in one week after I heard the news about the lockdown, it really shocked me and some of you guys know I’ve always struggled with change which can be a bit surprising for others to hear that because most people deal with change easier than others but for someone like me especially who struggles with mental health, it’s hard. I also had my first shot of Pfizer too (was very anxious about taking it after hearing people’s experience!) so I was feeling very fatigue, I had muscle soreness which didn’t help and this is also the time of the year when my mental health gets worse too during winter especially with today and dealing with past trauma.
Speaking of my milestone, today is the 18th anniversary of my first suicide attempt and lucky number 13th anniversary of my last suicide attempt where I almost successful succeeded so in other words, I almost didn’t survive and was dying but thanks to my dad and my sister, they were able to save my life. The ER doctor told me in ICU that I was lucky to be alive because if my family didn’t find me, I would have died.
I’m so thankful to be given a second chance as I feel like my life is worth living but then there’s that little voice in the back of my head saying…oh I should have died and my attempt should have worked. I have always wonder, what would have happened if my family didn’t find me in time because it could have be a totally different story and one I can’t imagine.
As most of you guys know, I have talked about this countless of times in my blog so I won’t be repeating again but for those who haven’t heard my story, I’ll add the links to it so you can read all about it.
As I mention earlier, this is the time of the year I struggle and to tell you the truth, I’ve just had a relapse with my depression and anxiety recently. It is very strange because I was able to get through the end of last year but with the things I have gone through in the last month especially the lockdown, it’s not easy. However though I’m so glad that this has happened to me because it was very strange and uncomfortable for me to be in a good place for a very long time and my support network was telling me that I was just waiting for something to happened to me because that is what I’m used to and that is struggling with my depression/anxiety.
The build up to today was difficult as I’ve been getting flashbacks of my last suicide attempt that can last for a few minutes. I’ve also been getting full on panic attacks and breaking down too with all the changes and thinking of the worst possible outcome from the changes. I’ve been getting nightmares again and being woken up from them having panic attacks again which is terrifying, something that I have experienced before a few years ago but haven’t had them in awhile. I’ve also been breaking down almost every day too which is unusual and I hate it when I do it in front of other people. Why? Well, it’s because of one of the school counsellors who I used to saw at my last high school before he left and he question me why am I crying all the time and telling me I was weak and stupid for crying. It’s like guys can’t cry but girls can. To be honest, I’ve always believed him maybe because I was still a young teenager back then and usually the counsellor always knows better.
To be honest with you guys, I can’t believe I have made it this far and I haven’t attempted suicide in thirteen years. Although what happened to me was very traumatic, I am now in a much better and safe place. I think in the early years after I attempted my last suicide attempt, it was a long road to recovery and searching my identify was a bit confusing but with each year that has gone pass by especially the last few ones, I’ve now able to handle it better and I’m slowly changing the way of living in the past to being in the present. I mean there are times where I still struggle a lot like and my support network said that’s okay but I’m coping so much better than where I used to keep going into hospital at this time of the year.
When I was talking to my current and past support network, they had an idea for me with the anniversary of my suicide attempt for each each year, to celebrate my life because I survived and was given a second chance at life which makes me realised how lucky I am. Just thinking how totally different it would be if my family wasn’t able to save me and I didn’t make it on that fateful night which is surreal thinking about it but I’m still here. I was actually planning to celebrate today with my family but because of COVID, I wasn’t able to this year which totally sucks but I can always to a proper one later on this year.
So what did I do today? Well, I saw my psychologist and that was very useful for me because we know today would be hard for me and I felt so much better after our session even though it was hard. I won’t go into details but I’m starting to able have a clear mind and a view from another perspective. After the session, went to buy some lunch take away from Wild Caktus and it was good to see Paul the chef still working there but it was very different and quiet especially the traffic because of the lockdown. When I got home, I watched a bit of Netflix and recently I just started watching Lucifer which I’ve never seen before. I heard of reviews how good the TV show was so that’s why I was curious to see what was all the rave about and I’m so glad I did. The story telling was written well and the acting from the cast especially Tom Ellis were brilliant and boy, the comedy so hilarious!
After that, I thought I washed my car as I haven’t done it in a while. It took me a while to do it but it was kind of therapeutic actually just having some me time and being outside in the sun. Now my car looks like a brand new one after washing it but I was so tired. Then after that, I decided to start working on this post and had a bit of dinner that my mum made with family and we did a cheers to celebrate my life which was thoughtful of them and now I’m watching the Olyroos take on Argentina in a football match at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on TV. To tell you the truth, usually it is hard sharing with my family what I’ve been through because I don’t want to worry them but it is really good to have their support and they are starting to understand and learn more better of my situation.
Well, I am gonna leave it there for today and apologies for not blogging in a year. I will talk about that in my next post. Also, I hope this post wasn’t too depressing or triggering as I know talking about suicide is very hard but it is something that is not done enough of more as in talking about it. I also saw a report by ABC on TV last night on how many people are struggling with mental health and taking their own lives especially because of COVID and other reasons. The numbers really shocked me and that really really upsets me because this really hits close to home for me. I’ve been there before and it’s a very dark place to be in and it’s so freaking scary. You don’t want to be there.
I know the first time when Sydney was in lockdown last year, I was in a dark place and just relapse again after going so well again. There have been times where I did get suicidal thoughts but thankfully, I didn’t go through them and was able to have access to my support network.
For those who are struggling because of the COVID and all these lockdowns, please know that you are not alone as there are other people who are going through the same thing. I have spoken to many family and friends and they feel the same way as I was feeling. It’s hard being alone but being with other people and communicating through the technology is a great way to battle that. Keeping yourself busy like doing your usually hobbies or trying new things like baking or cooking will spent a lot of your time, even going out for exercise and being with nature is great for your mind and body too!
Finally, thank you guys for taking the time to read this. I hope to do more blogging again as I feel my blog really helps me to express what I’m writing and also share life experience with people. It’s like you guys are getting to know me more. Plus, I am living proof that you can get through the dark times and able to survive them all and that’s why I want people to know that they are not alone as I did feel really alone in my childhood. I just want to say a huge thanks for those who are supporting me at the moment and for being there for me. I’m really grateful to have that support and I’m so glad to have you all in my life.
Be random but stay safe during these strange times we’re in!
Today is the 17th anniversary of my first suicide attempt and 12th anniversary of my last suicide attempt where I almost lost my life and didn’t survive. 22 July 2003 & 2008, these are the two dates I’ll never ever forget for the rest of my life and I’ve also reached another milestone. In those twelve years, I have not attempted suicide which is the longest time for me…it hasn’t been easy getting to where I am now especially the last few years but so glad I haven’t gone down that dark path.
My last suicide attempt was a very traumatic experience and something you never expect to go through but battling a mental illness and all the struggles since you were born, that’s the reality of what I would call my “normal” life back then when I was at my lowest of the lowest dark point of my life. A lot of my readers who have been following me since the early days would already know this I have talk a lot on here from my past posts which you can read one of them by clicking here -> Suicide Attempt Survivor: A Decade Milestone.
I also forgot to mention six years ago (in 2014) on the same day, I posted The Dark Truth on my blog which was probably the hardest and emotional post as I reveal some of my struggles to my family and friends for the first time in a long time since Year 8. Few people knew my darkest secrets that I was hiding for many years and not many people knew about it mainly because they know me as RandomDavo, the one who loves to make people laugh and do random pranks since the old days in high school but they never expect me to have a mental illness.
Even in my childhood, I would always hide my depression and pretend to be someone who was always happy since it was easier to fool people but in reality, I was dying in the inside and wanted all the pain and suffering to stop.
Why do I feel like I had to hide my struggles? One of the reasons is coming from a Hong Kong Chinese background, there is a lot stigma and taboo of mental health. I was ashamed of having a mental illness and I’d bring shame to my family. This is something I just found out (during the lock down from COVID-19) the reason why I was doing that and why it is very hard for me to reach out for help when I was talking to my teachers and support teachers from TAFE. I mean I knew what I was doing in hiding but I just didn’t knew the whole truth.
This time of the year I always struggle especially today. There are times where I get flashbacks of what happened twelve years ago, I remember everything from taking my medication and blacking out, being in and out of consciousness when the paramedics escorting me to the ambulance and rushing me to hospital. Even waking up in hospital being groggy and confused where I was and I remember I just took my oxygen mask and this nurse was going towards me saying not to take it off and all the sudden, I blacked out again from the lethal amount of medication I took. It’s pretty scary and I never been that scared in my entire life.
Still, I get these dark thoughts like life will be better off without me because I’m a burden to everyone or my suicide attempt should have work. A lot of these thoughts has come from when I was a very young kid probably when I was like 7 years old (because of the trauma from the bullying) or some from after I attempted suicide. Half of me believes these thoughts but the other half, doesn’t believe that.
Talking through with my support network the last few weeks has been helping me a lot. Apparently my past suicide attempts are like stories being retold again. As well, it’s in the past, something you can’t change and you can’t keep living in the past but you can move on from it and look forward to the present and the future.
Although what happened to me in my last suicide attempt was terrible and no one should have to face that, I’m just grateful to have a second chance in life. Even the doctor from ICU told me I was lucky to be alive because if my dad and my sister didn’t find me in time, I would have been dead and it feels surreal hearing me saying that out loud as you never expect being so close to death.
I guess after going through countless and countless of therapy especially with the DBT after I attempted suicide, it’s pretty much changed my life for the best. One thing I have learned that I’m now in a different place compare to where I was seventeen years ago and twelve years ago as I was still very young and being a teenager is probably one of the hardest thing to go through. It’s incredible that I was able to survived those dark periods back then and I’m so glad not in that dark place anymore.
The last few weeks, I have been keeping myself very busy and been giving a lot to others. What do I mean by giving? Well, I’ve been baking cakes for a lot of my family and friends, teaching my two bros how to cook, doing volunteer work at Boys Brigade, helping people and I’ve been serenading to people at the day program by playing music on my guitar and ukulele. The feedback I’ve been getting by doing those things have been overwhelming as they are very grateful for me for doing something good for them and this makes me really happy to see that they are happy. I wouldn’t be able to do all these things twelve years ago and that’s why my support network always reminds me I’m now in a different place.
With all the experiences I have went through and surviving them all, that’s why I am sharing my experiences through my blog with people who could be in a similar situation to where I was. I want to show people I am living proof that you can survive life and it’s not as bad as it seems even though it can feel like it’s the worst possible feeling ever. Also, they are not alone going through as I’ve felt really alone when I was on my own but finding out there were others who are going through the same thing as them made me felt better that I wasn’t the only one.
Living with a mental illness is one of the hardest thing to go through and it can be really hard to understand when you don’t have it yourself or have not experience it before. I want to show people the reality of it because it’s something you can’t snap out of it as it doesn’t work that way. That’s why I want to raise awareness of mental health and change the stigma/taboo of it.
Today, even though it was hard, I find I was able to get through today. I pretty much slept in this morning as I had a late night last night and I have been very busy everyday without taking a break. That’s the life of a baker and a student studying Commercial Cookery. I trained with my personal trainer in the arvo which is always good as exercise is great for mental health. Though, we only did an easy session today as my neck is a bit stiff from all the stress and sleeping awkwardly last night but it was good to talk through things with my PT as he’s been a great support.
I also played on my ukulele as I am a musician and I’m currently learning how to play the fingerstyle “A Whole New World” from one of my favourite childhood movies, Disney’s Aladdin. I don’t know how many times I’ve watch Aladdin but I remember whenever I was sick as a child, this was the movie I always watch when I was sick. Not really sure why it was my go to movie but anyway. After learning the song for two days, I’m now able to play the full song but still need more practicing as there are some parts I’m still having trouble with.
My parents took me out for dinner tonight at a new local Chinese restaurant that just opened a few weeks ago just to distract myself and to celebrate my life. It’s your typical Chinese meal as we had soup, crab with noodles, steamed fish and sweet & sour spare ribs. For dessert, we had egg tarts which I never had for dessert after dinner as usually you have it for Yum Cha but the food was yummy and superb! Also, the service from the restaurant was top quality too and because we met one of the owners (I think) as he invited my dad and I for Yum Cha one day after my dad was showing me the new restaurant. Definitely gonna come here again!
I have survived yet another year and I have to admit, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I think the anticipation and the build up to the date always make it worse for whatever reason I don’t know and because I’ve been really busy which is a bit unusual for, I haven’t had the time to think about today during that time.
Finally, I still remember before I was going to publish The Dark Truth, I was pretty terrified of the reactions I would get from people because you don’t know what reactions you will get from people whether it will be good or bad but thankfully, it was all good. The amount of support and the positive response I have been getting from everyone whenever I share my darkest stories with my mental illness have been really amazing and I’m just thankful to have their support.
Although I have to admit, over the years there have been a few minority of people (who I used to be friends) judging me because of the content I post on my blog. It sucks because you can’t make everyone happy and was I sad at first? Yes I was, I hate losing friends but the thing I learn about life is that people comes and go and that’s the reality sadly.
To those who have been supporting me, thank you guys for your support especially to those who have stand by me from the very beginning. Never in my life thought I’d reach here after what I’ve been through and I think without your support, I don’t think I would get to where I am now. I mean I know I did a lot of the hard work but having moral support from you guys makes me appreciate life a little bit more so thank you again and I’m glad to say that I’m still alive.
Be random but stay safe!