Content warning – this profile piece discusses the subject of suicide that may be sensitive and potentially triggering. Reader discretion is advised. Information about seeking help is available at the end of the post. Stay safe.

“In 2015, a family member whom I was close to committed suicide. It’s taken me a few years to talk about this without crying. With time, I’ve been able to speak about it to a couple of close friends, but beyond that, I don’t really bring it up in conversation.

It’s not something that you talk about. And it’s not that I don’t want to let people into my life, but it dampens a conversation. The moment I bring it up, things take a dark turn. So I kind of have to see who’s asking, and the circumstances under which they’re asking.

We were close. This person basically brought me up.  She’d send me to kindergarten and care for me in my early years. This was before my mom stopped working to take care of my brother and I.

My mum broke the news to me when I came home from work one day. I was teaching art at a secondary school at the time. I was in shock. I later learnt that her suicide was premeditated. She had left a letter and a photo of herself to be used for her wake.

It was a difficult time because it’s a very personal thing to grapple with. I was so, so angry at her for leaving that way. But at the core of that anger was a mix of guilt and profound sadness. And then you go through a stage of asking what role you had to play in it, and if there was something you could’ve done.

I kept going back to a conversation that I had with her. I don’t even remember the timeline of events, but I recall her saying, ‘When it’s time to go, it’s time to go. What’s the point of living until you’re so old?

I didn’t read too much into it at that moment. I just agreed with her. And that conversation kept going through my mind when I was alone with my thoughts. Like man, should I have said something? Did I make her think it was ok to leave that way?

My parents had their own way of dealing with grief, and I had mine. I actually went to work the next day as if nothing had happened. And halfway through the school day, I went to the toilet and started crying because I couldn’t control it anymore. Things started seeping in.

I was fine during the day, but at night, I would be confronted with what happened, and I’d start crying. I started to have trouble sleeping at night. It got to a point where I felt like I needed a healthy outlet to deal with the grief and tire myself to sleep.

Because sports has always been a release for me, I decided to try Muay Thai. It sounded really exhausting, and it felt like something that could help me deal with my frustrations and also come to terms with a lot of things.

So I started doing Muay Thai and I actually liked it. I guess tiring myself physically really helped with  my mental health. It is very deeply connected. But now, martial arts is not just a coping mechanism anymore. It’s become an interest and something that I really enjoy.

I think the routine and discipline that comes with training was something that appealed to me. The level of detail and understanding of how your body executes a single punch or kick is a constant work in progress, and I found a lot of peace in this repetitive drilling process.

I think her passing really altered my outlook on life. It changed how I wanted to live. I don’t want to be the walking dead, like you’re living but you’re not really alive, or you’re living but you’re doing someone else’s bidding.

You’re not taking control, and you’re not trying things. You’re not taking chances to gain some sort of happiness, or taking risks to tap on unrealised potential. So I was like, ‘Screw it, I’m going to try Muay Thai,’ and I did. I’ve even gone to Thailand to fight under pro rules.

Competing came as a natural progression, and I unexpectedly found it fun. There’s also an odd sense of calmness when you step into the ring and your focus is just on a single task for that nine minutes.

It’s the same mentality I carry with me now that I’m in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, on top of competing with the national team in amateur boxing. I’m currently training with Legends Fight Sport and the SG Women’s Boxing Community. I’ve made so many friends on this journey.

With the perspective of time, I’ve come to accept that she had her own struggles, and had her own opinions on how she wanted to live. It took a while for me to let go of the guilt. There was no defining moment. You just have to continue living your life and kind of get it together.

It still hurts, and sometimes it feels surreal. Especially when I walk past strangers in the street who bear some physical resemblance to her. But there will come a time where you reach a certain level of acceptance. I’m just glad that her suffering is over.

I do not condone suicide. It is not okay. But you can’t blame yourself for someone else’s decisions. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, and with time, I’ve slowly learnt to be at peace with that.” – Hailey

Interview by: Arman Shah

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