“I’ve had selective mutism since I was nine. I’ve had it from primary three all the way through secondary school and ITE. It’s an anxiety disorder which prevents me from speaking in certain circumstances where I feel out of my comfort zone.

The condition was worst when I was in secondary school. I experienced it very acutely when I tried to communicate with my peers and teachers. Sometimes, I won’t be able to respond when my teachers ask me a question.

I was also made fun of by my peers because I couldn’t communicate like them. When I saw them talking happily amongst themselves, I would feel very upset and disappointed with myself. Why couldn’t I be like them? I’d have a complete meltdown and even hurt myself in school.

I still have the condition; but, it’s much more manageable now. The anxiety of meeting new people is not as high. Talking about my condition at the Human Library is a breakthrough for me. My mom accompanied me here today and told me she’s very proud.

Under the guidance of my mentor Andrew James, I’ve also written a book called Silence is Not Golden. I wrote it mainly to raise awareness about selective mutism because it’s misunderstood by society.

People are familiar with autism, depression or ADHD, but they don’t often hear about my condition in Singapore.

My other reason for writing this book is self-healing. Apart from music, writing has always been a platform for me to express myself, so this book has really given me a lot of strength and confidence.

Currently? I’m in a nine to five job. It’s a very suitable working environment for me because my boss and colleagues know of my condition, so they’re quite accommodating. I’m also in the process of writing my second book called ‘The Beauty of Silence’.

This time, I focus more on the advantages of being silent. Society values verbal communication more than nonverbal communication, and people often don’t want to mix around with other people who don’t talk as much.

I want to change people’s mindset about silence and how it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Nonverbal people like me express ourselves through different mediums like writing and music, so please don’t just disregard us and accept us as equal.” – Nigel, 23

Grab your copy of “Silence is Not Golden” here. Alternatively, you can contact Nigel’s mother Janet at janetwongss@gmail.com for your autographed copies.

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