From Me To You

A photo of sunflowers
Sunflowers, Changi Airport Singapore by Chan Li Shan


Dear Reader,

It’s possible that I’ll need your calm, and your kind and helpful heart. Don’t make me itemise the sorrows that are plaguing me—friendships lost, memories not made, my father’s death in 2015, feeling misunderstood because of “difference”. I avoid people and basically don’t care, and after more than a decade, I still pay nearly $3000 a year on necessary medications that I need for my psychiatric condition.

But writing to you from Hawai’i, where I am now working on my PhD, I have come a very long way from that day in 2008, when my research scholarship had been terminated by the National University of Singapore soon after I was discharged from the Institute of Mental Health and diagnosed with schizophrenia.

So, after marvelling at a red-crested cardinal, a pair of white terns flew above my head today. Gorgeous like anything. I took a walk at 7am, and found a stretch of eucalyptus trees. The air was so minty, I could smell it even through my face mask.

I recently chatted for an hour with T, who was discharged from IMH, and is now on risperidone and is chronically ill with schizophrenia, has been for the last eight years that I have known him. He also has a diagnosis of myasthenia gravis and autism, and other pain syndromes. Will he live much longer? I am tormented, thinking about it. He lives in a one room rental flat on his own and I think is unemployed.

We met, in 2012 or 2013 at a mental health event, and I remember noticing that he was looking really lost, he had that dull look in his eyes which is typical of how a person with schizophrenia looks. I had that look at one point as well. Anyway, he’s just sent me a story he’s written. I guess he feels that I might understand.

But there’s something else I would like to do, and that’s to read and respond to my mother’s diary that she wrote during my hospitalisation at IMH. She gave it to me a few years ago and I still can’t seem to stop crying whenever I try to read it. Perhaps I need more time.

Chan Li Shan

(From May 8, 2021)