Mental Wellness & Peer-helping :)

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The truth about our state of mind is scary. A mental illness is not something you can just will away, and will fester over time. I learnt something; and that mental health & mental illness run on different spectrums. Often, many people run on autopilot – we go about functioning and performing day-to-day tasks, but we neglect to see we’re becoming more hollow and empty as time flits past. These individuals are languishing, and they need a time out.

As peers and friends, we need to instill hope & it should be a positive thing. But the thing that kills is when people start passing judgement. They say those afflicted with mental distress are weak, that they’re cuckoo or having a breakdown – they whisper hushed comments, or avoid them. But do you really think that’s what they need? Do you think they aren’t already trying? And that what they feel is genuine – that it’s already terrible enough to live with without your input? And there’s another flip side to this.

When we try to help, we need to come with the right mindset. We’re only here to understand, not critique the person. Nor are we in the right to expect something from him or her. Don’t expect gratitude, nor a positive change. It might be met with resistance, and it might even deteriorate – dragging all your own insecurities to the surface to the point it becomes hard to ignore.

While I was at IMH for a mental health literacy workshop yesterday, I wasn’t too surprised to hear that the facilitator herself had colleagues who treated patients; only to become deluded and depressed themselves. Life has an uncanny way of turning tables.

Another case that resonated with me was that of a 19 year old girl who developed a chronic case of social anxiety. She had been skipping school for weeks, and became very uncomfortable in public spaces – but was interacting well with her family members. The participants of this workshop were quick to label her as a youth with early psychosis, and unfortunately, so was her family.

They unwittingly brought her in to SAMH (Singapore Association for Mental Health) for a mental health check-up in the hopes that it would mend her, but it only aggravated her condition. It turned out that she was facing immense pressure from school – from her studies and peers alike and was actually trying to rehabilitate herself by seeking the company of her family – people whom she thought she could trust. When she found out that she had been tricked, she became withdrawn and slowly descended into late-onset schizophrenia.

Everyone has their coping mechanism; it’s personal and you won’t understand it – but it’s just polite to nod and go with it. Because it’s what your friend needs, and you’re not in a position to dictate how he or she should feel; but rather, accept it. It only takes a person who has suffered mental distress before to be able to go down to their level and understand, and even then it’s just a fraction of what they are truly experiencing.

To the sufferers, learn to let go and live. Life is simple if we make it that way. Don’t think of the things we need to accomplish, or the people we have to please because it’s all about us. We’re in charge here, and we’re in control. And if the going gets tough, then get up and fight. Every day is a struggle but as long as we’re still breathing; it’s a day to conquer and win. Be strong & love yourself ❤

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Mental ward visit – they healed me <3

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Yesterday marked my very first visit to ward 45b at IMH, the one exclusively for long-term stay patients. Amongst the 3 wards (mood disorder unit & early psychosis intervention programme being the other two); 45b has been espoused to be the most challenging yet. I can understand the sentiment, given that it is an all-male ward housing ~50 patients, most of whom suffer from severe psychosis – primarily schizophrenia.

I honestly had no idea what to expect and it wasn’t until I was departing with 2 other girls & a guy did I start to get a bit nervous 😩 No doubt I felt a bit embarrassed afterwards because the other girls looked pretty unfrazzled and the guy was more worried about what activities we would do with them!

But when we reached the doors, it was like a horrible scary zoo, with patients peeking from behind the door! It was really ignorant of me at first, but my senses were screaming at me to run run run. I don’t even know how I brought myself to walk through the door, and not flinch when the patients immediately crowded us. I think it goes the same for every hospital setting, but the smell of bitter medicine and sickness always permeates the air. I was trying not to let their proximity get to me, because I know that they were just curious. And I forced myself time and again to reassure myself, to coax myself into acting as normal as I could.

And it was really uncanny, but while all this internal turmoil was going on; I only stopped reeling when some patients started waving hello haha. It was kinda anti-climatic because there I was, having a crisis and there they were getting friendly. A nurse helped to open a cubicle for us to keep our bags and the games room as well. Some of the patients were trying to follow us in since they never really got a good look into the rooms but we needed the space to gather our thoughts and plan the activities which involved colouring, pasting and using colourful ice cream sticks to make Avengers stickmen.

All that planning fell through, though. Personally, being a simpleton, I found the idea really cute but it can be a handful for people who had no patience or stamina for details. In the next 2 minutes, we tried to gather wandering lost souls around to play with us and it turned out they preferred games such as Scrabble and Mahjong better.

I panicked again when patients started crowding us, and coupled with their tendency to stare at you and blink really really slowly..it can be a bit disconcerting. But I think it was partly the fact that I was in the company of people who were taking it well, and also that I had come to accept they had no concept of personal space; did I manage to wedge myself between two patients.

Patient 1 sat on my right, and he was the silent brooding sort who talked little and mumbled to himself a lot! Ironically, he & I had a profound love for Scrabble and we played so many rounds of this game! The pleasant surprise that I was not expecting at all was that I could relate to him via words, because he had really impressive vocabulary and liked making word chains. He’s a total Scrabble champ, really. Some of the words like “Panaroma” and “vexing” which stupended me to the max. Though he didn’t stick to the rules, we complemented each other well and he displayed a genuine interest in Scrabble, even scrambling for empty tiles to make words! This comes to show that mentally distressed people can be really gifted and intelligent too; which debunks a myth.

The OCD patient sat to my left, and played with two crayon boxes for two hours – removing and replacing, moving crayons around. He seemed very irked when he had them mixed up but other than that he was great company! Sadly, he wasn’t as mobile as some patients and struggled to bend down when he accidentally upturned a box so we had to help him. I almost laughed when another OCD patient started getting down on his knees to pick them up too – I think he really hates things lying around.

A few other patients that I had the pleasure of talking to briefly, or observing; were really quirky and fascinating. This other patient was harassing the guy in our group for his phone, and he looked so happy to have convinced him. In no time, he was belting out tunes – “Beat It” by the late MJ (fine choice) and was very protective of his phone. While he was bobbing his head to the beat, a patient we call ‘B’ quickly joined in and I saw him shaking his hips and twerking soon after.  It was really impressive, and he held quite a candle to Miley Cyrus. But he did run out of steam in a minute and it was a rather bad day for him, having periods of schizophrenia hit him episodically.

The MJ fan wasn’t deterred though, and he was so happy he actually peed in a corner of the room. I didn’t really understand why, but the male nurse explained that he always does that when he’s happy. But I sort of understand because I don’t even wanna admit the things I do when I’m hyped about a BTS comeback. Verily enough, before the nurse could chide him, MJ fan ran away and hid in another room whilst the OCD patient started having a meltdown and proceed to wipe up his pee with toilet paper.

Ironically, I feel that the patients complement each other and some of them are close friends. Mr B is very affectionate to others, giving them back rubs and checking their scalps for white hairs or head lice; I’m not too sure.

But back to crayon guy.

He was actually clingy for the first hour, and kept trying to communicate with me – it’s a pity he lost his ability to talk. He stared at me curiously as a child would, and offered me a pink crayon ten times in a row whilst mumbling something incoherent. I didn’t know what to say, so I just smiled and said ‘pink!’ many times and he smiled, flashing 5 lovely teeth. He also loved to fart loudly and would make a good admin assistant because his organisational skills are on point.

It was at that point that I realised even though these were grown men, many of them were very child-like. They were impatient, impulsive and difficult to handle. Even though I felt less jittery than I did initially, it didn’t stop me from being subconsciously aware of everything in my surroundings and taking up a defensive stance when some patients got too close. In the end, the advise given to us was true – no matter how friendly or normal these patients may seem, it’s hard to gauge their state of mind. I didn’t intend to agitate the crayon patient but I think I raised my voice a tad too much in my excitement and he made a really loud growl and became rather incensed. So I know now to keep my volume low and gentle. Notwithstanding, the guy in our group was trying not to entertain the MJ fan who kept bugging him for his phone, but I could see he was on edge as well.

I really respect the tenacity and care that is exhibited by nurses, social workers and even friends who try to understand and approach mentally distressed loved ones. It can be exhausting, disturbing and definitely erratic. But life is unpredictable, and we can always find ourselves on the short end of the stick someday. And we’d be hoping for someone to empathise, to go down to our level and ignore our deficiencies.

On a lighter note, there was a self declared palm-reader who told me and another volunteer to change our date of birth to steer away bad luck. He told my friend that being born in January was a terrible idea, and that I needed to change my birth year from 1996 to 2018 😂 By then, we were so used to their antics that we just nodded dutifully.

Things became calm and slightly boring afterwards, until another patient stood up wielding a marker and a mutilated drawing block. He was so excited to share what he knew about the water cycle and insisted that I was 10 years old, so I didn’t know better. He even asked me if I knew what condensation was, and said that he was an NUS undergrad who used to give science tuition (our backgrounds are uncanny!) He knew a lot about countries, and when we were packing up, he helped to stack the  chairs which was really kind. A few patients were sad to see us go, and in the short time I spent with them…so was I. Ironically. It was heartwarming to see them trying so hard, despite their challenges. Crayon patient was still trying to arrange things, and intercepted us at every turn all the way to the games storeroom. Nonetheless, I was pretty tired after the adrenaline wore out. When our group reconvened to sterilise our hands, a few patients were waving at us from behind the door again but it was a different feeling altogether.

To be honest I don’t know how I transited from being on edge to being silently amused, but this experience was timely. I’d been having terrible days recently, and I’m not sure if it’s burnout; but meeting these patients really brought a lot of much needed perspective. Looking at them makes you appreciate the little things in your life – even those that drive you up the wall. Because these men are locked behind 3 doors, and are deprived of any semblance of a job and family, which is unbearable. It was a great wake-up call; sometimes, you have to look at those below you to appreciate what you have. And it derails all your theories about what defines happiness and success. Often times, I imagine that these patients must have once had a semblance of a normal life. They are someone’s child, and once upon a time, they must have brought joy and hope to their parents. I don’t think anyone would have thought this would be how it turned out in the end.

Too often, you hear about people – professionals, especially; snapping due to stress or even throwing aside everything they’ve worked so hard for, just to extricate themselves from the hustle and bustle. The world can be a big gigantic mess, and I get myself roped into it too. I’m scared that one day I might be unable to untangle myself and that I’d lose my rational thoughts. In the end, we need to get our perspective right. We need to know our pressure points, and not under-or-overestimate ourselves. We carve our life, and we dictate what defines happiness and success are. I’m trying not to let people and qualifications define my worth – which can be a hard thing to do; but it’s a struggle worth overcoming for my own sake.

It reminds me of a few incidences last year. I suddenly had bouts of fainting spells and would vomit for no obvious reason. I didn’t even think it was because of stress and I was imagining all sorts of scenarios. My parents sent me to the doctor to figure out what was wrong with me, especially since I had never experienced such a thing before. In the end, the first doctor said I was really stressed and even gave me a head, neck and shoulder massage lol. It still persisted, however so I went to a second doctor and he said the same thing; then started lamenting about how A levels were the worse days of his life.

Eventually all these went away, I don’t even know how. But I do remember being less stressed and redirecting my attention to things I love like baking, Muay Thai and rock climbing. I also started reconnecting with all my close friends, which was amazing. I think all these acted up because I harboured my feelings, and cast them aside. I always find it hard to scold or fight with people, and often isolate myself. It taught me that we need to know when we’ve had too much – to pull the plug, and do things that make you happy. Because there’s no point continuing on when you’re already unhappy and messed up; it’s just a trainwreck impending.

Life is full of trials and tribulations; it’s unavoidable and we’ll always be tested. So friends, let’s be nice to one another – forgive and forget, and let go of that baggage. Wishing everyone nothing but the best 🙂

What to expect from Muay Thai

Tips for those considering this combative sport – and newcomers! 🙂

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Muay Thai is all about cardio. Unlike the weightlifting that gym peeps do, Muay Thai practitioners may not necessarily have a lot of strength (but it’s really fine).

A good thing to have would be stamina & flexibility though *so start working those joints*

Having trained in Muay Thai for almost two years, I would say it can be likened to a serial killer who’s out to exterminate you. And whilst you barely survived the harrowing event, you’ve become a sort of adrenaline junkie who’s thirsty for more thrills.

Many times, I’ve asked “Why do I do this to myself? Why am I here? Am I insane??”

But the allure of Muay Thai is that it’s really a fluid and dynamic martial art – you learn a set of routines, train your ‘core’ and pick up the basic skills; but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The art of 8 limbs: you can fight in any way whatsoever; even with elbow jumps, knee jabs, flying kicks..you name it.

It pays to be on the smaller side, especially in Muay Thai because you have the advantage of being more agile. Other forms such as Brazilian Jujitsu just don’t cut it for me – I know I’ll get pummelled – given that it’s all about pinning your opponent down.

And I can’t even pin down on where my beloved kpop idols are; so I’m clearly not cut out for that xD

But Muay Thai allows for compromise, at least to some extent. What you lack in strength, you make up for in – runs, skipping, shadow boxing, padwork etc.

Whilst all these stations are highly timed and versatile, it trains the different parts of your muscle, and tightens your abdominal & pelvic region.

Sometimes, you can feel sores and awkward hip alignments (but that’s really just bcos I get a little too eager at times) and end up inviting more injury than what’s necessary.

The instructors at Evolve Mixed martial arts are mostly world champions, which is pretty intimidating; but they’re awfully playful and humble – enough to make you forget you’re training with A+ league.

It wasn’t until I got my Level 2 band (it took 9 months) did I realise how swag I actually was – and that I probably should have tried harder at NAPFA (lol spelling halp). Because  I’ve met  buff guys who’ve ended up wheezing and panting #regretlifechoices

Nonetheless, the entire class runs in this order:

Number of participants:

  • small: 5-8
  • medium: 8-15
  • large: 15-20
  • ultra-large (i.e. you’re just tryna squeeze urself somewhere): 20+

From the aforementioned class sizes, the number of instructors will vary from 1-4.

I used to think that small/medium sized classes were better; but on days you just feel “out of it”, it’s actually an inherent blessing to end up in a larger one. This is simply because they are way too many people for the instructors to handle, and the stations are really swift so you can get over the torture pretty easily.

Moreover, the probability of other people having higher or equivalent levels to you (cough: lvl 3/4 – which is rare) is much higher, which leaves the demonstrations and padwork to them and you get away scot-free :))

I’ve been in a smaller class, and this is what goes down most of the time:

– on luckier days; I end up getting yelled at for not kicking hard enough (despite the fact my shin feels like it’s gonna split) and my STM i.e. short-term memory; is unravelling at the seams, because I have to remember all the routines

– on less lucky days, you end up leading the class – which is the kinda crazy, since you’re in charge of pacing.

This is especially so for running (which has always been my forte, obviously – that’s why I always end up panting like a dog in heat) and also count loud enough for those trailing behind you to hear.

Imagine my plight.

But it’s all part and parcel of teamwork – the instructors, especially Kru Nek – loves to enforce this rule. If anyone doesn’t count, the torture will repeat itself. And since I’m not exactly Adele with such a powerful lung capacity, I’m always struggling to be audible.

But there are always perks, such as a fitter physique and some routines I personally enjoy:)

  • Skipping is my new favourite: you really get nice legs by jumping
  • Kicks (x50-60) per side: makes your hips more flexible

Though I sort of zzz/despise:

  • running: this is the downright worst – my 1-pack fatty globes are clearly out to get me; I feel like they weigh me down:/
  • jump knee: disclaimer – it’s just a painful version of jumping because you have to grope the bag & just…no

And there are some things I’m impartial to: like squats (but seriously, I can’t get the posture right). I look up at the mirror and regret everything; because I look like I suffer from constipation.

Likewise, planks (though when you sniff the floor, it’s potent enough to sober you up)

I’d also advise people to get shin/ankle guards, not hand wraps; because you have gloves for that. Personally, I only use ankle guards because they really prevent serious bruises when you’re kicking, and minimise the impact of your flesh hitting the bag – especially if it’s got rough edges.

Finally, I’d like to end off  by saying that really..Muay Thai isn’t a one size fits all. It’s really just about your personal development, and you can plan/regulate your training in any way – e.g. slimming, muscle toning, cardio.

Have fun!! ^.^

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Tom Yam Goong (prawn) Recipe

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INGREDIENTS: for 4 people

4 cups of shrimp stock/chicken stock/water

1 stick of lemongrass (smash it with the back of your knife & cut into smaller sections)

galangal: not substitutable with ginger, the former is cooling while the latter is hot (8 thin rounds)

5-6 lime leaves (tear them to release their flavour into the soup)

2 chilli padi (or more): crushed, or sliced

Oyster mushroom/Enoki/Shimeji (don’t use button mushroom, they don’t do well in this dish)

8 or more prawns (butterfly them) -> can save head for making shrimp stock or just leave it for aesthetic

3 tbsp of fish sauce

1/2 cup of lime juice (2-3 juicy limes)

1-2 tsp of sugar

3-4 tbsp of thai chilli paste: chilli paste with soya bean oil  (optional) -> usually used for tom yam goong only because it is made from shrimp do not use it for other types of tom yam e.g. chicken, fish

 

METHOD:

  1. Put the shrimp stock, lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves & chilli padi into a pot, and bring it to a boil
  2. Add the oyster mushrooms
  3. Add the prawns -> the moment they change colour, turn off the flame you don’t want to overcook the prawns
  4. Add lime juice (don’t cook it will ruin the flavour)
  5. Add fish sauce
  6. Add sugar
  7. Add thai chilli paste ( i didn’t add it because i didn’t have it)
  8. Stir well and taste before serving because every brands of fish sauce has different saltiness and every lime has different acidity especially when cooking soup a lot of variables go into it like the amount of water that evaporates so always taste and adjust accordingly:)

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VERDICT

A lovely combination of sour & spicy!

 

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Stir-fried Clam with Lemongrass

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INGREDIENTS

1kg of clams ( soak the clams in salt water for about half an hour to get rid of excess grit)

1 tbsp of oyster sauce

cherry tomatoes (x10)

coriander leaves

4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely

1 inch ginger, sliced

3 sticks of lemongrass, sliced thinly

pounded chilli padi (6 or more)

chicken cube: 1 tsp (optional)

1tbsp of sugar

oil for frying

salt

METHOD

  1. Heat oil in a wok.  When hot, stir fry lemongrass, ginger, garlic and chilli padi.
  2. Add oyster sauce, sugar and salt ( just a pinch will do because oyster sauce is already salty)
  3. Then add the  clams and coriander leaves mix well and cover with tight lid until the clams start opening
  4. Lastly, add the chicken cube and tomatoes mix well and add some more coriander leaves and ready to serve 🙂

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VERDICT

It has a spicy, unique taste bursting with flavours!

It’s a fascinating blend of zest and freshness from the clams, which is hard to parallel in any other Asian dish.

Can be eaten with anything, even on its own:)

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