“I used to cut myself when I was in secondary school. It took me a while to get over that. I was a stellar primary school student and was quite the extrovert, but when I went to secondary school, I became more withdrawn.
“I went to an all-girls school and the culture there was just so different from what I was used to. Being a teenager, my hormones were naturally raging. And while I was doing alright socially, my academic performance was slipping.
I was such a stubborn person as well. Every time my teachers counselled me and said things like, ‘You’re capable of so much better. Why don’t you work harder?’, a part of me wanted to prove to them that I was really that lousy. That was the only way I knew how to rebel.
My breaking point was when a friend from school made a hurtful remark about me on her blog where we all used to like recording our feelings. I told her something which she didn’t appreciate, and she blogged about how I shouldn’t talk about things I didn’t know about.
After that day, I was more conscious about what I said and didn’t speak to anyone for two months. I just shut myself down around people. That was when I started cutting myself. It was stupid, but I read somewhere that it helps certain people, so I decided to try it for myself.
I would cut myself in the toilet. Initially, I used my fingernails because that was the easiest way to do it. Whenever I got really stressed out, I would clench my fists really hard until I felt my nails go into my skin. But when I found a pair of scissors in the toilet, I used that instead.
I did it for about two years, from secondary two to four. It’s strange just thinking about it now, but it did provide me with short-term release and the solace that I required at the time. Today, I have scars on my tummy, upper thighs and arms.
What helped was seeking support from the people around me. I eventually told my brother, and my family scheduled a counselling session for me. My brother, sister-in-law and parents accompanied me down, and I remember thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’
As I was listening to this supposedly renowned counsellor talk to me, I realised that he didn’t really care at all. Nobody cared! Clearly my family cared, but it dawned on me that the person who should be caring the most and trying to solve the problem was me.
I did a search on the Internet on how to be happy, and even though the suggestions sounded stupid at first, I put my ego aside and decided to give them a try. You know, stuff like writing 10 things you love about yourself. That actually works!
Exercising also became a very important aspect in how I dealt with personal issues. I started running and cycling, and I picked up badminton as well. I would play about 10 to 15 hours a week. Whenever I got really stressed out, I’d sweat it out and get the endorphins pumping.
I didn’t share this with my family, but I did have a relapse in my first year of uni. Perhaps it was triggered by the stress of a new school life, but I somehow managed to stop inflicting self-harm on my own a month later.
That’s why I really appreciate boxing now. It demands your attention, which was what I needed to distract myself from the negative thoughts I had in my head. In boxing, you cannot lose focus because that’s when you’ll get hit.
And then you’ll start to wonder what you did wrong. Why doesn’t your power connect, or why are you still doing what you’re doing while everyone else is doing something else? I love the intense focus it requires of me.
I was first exposed to boxing when I was in university. I was understandably broke as a student, so I went for a class at Active Red using Groupon. One day, a friend wanted to do a trial at Legends Fight Sport, so I joined her for a class and instantly got hooked.
I think it’s the quality coaching here that keeps me coming back. Not everybody who boxes can teach, but I can safely assure you that the people here can box and teach. I also like how they can pay attention to everyone in a class no matter the number of people.
The friendly environment is another reason why I’m attracted to come here. Whether you’ve been at the gym for 10 years or even 10 times, there’s no discrimination. Everyone has room for improvement, and the coaches will scold you regardless of how experienced or inexperienced you are, hahaha.
Yeah, I’ve overcome my need to self-harm, fortunately. Sometimes you just need a routine in your life. Find something that you really enjoy doing like boxing or badminton and stick to it.
And don’t be afraid to ask for help. I think that was my major failure. I thought nobody cared, but there are people who want to be there for you if you let them.
But I think what’s most important is that you never give up on yourself. If you keep telling yourself that you’re really lousy at something, you’ll eventually believe it. You’re limited by yourself; nobody decides what your limitations are for you.” – Dawn, 28
Interview by: Arman Shah