What are your thoughts on suicide and its implications?

A student wrote to me, asking:

What are your thoughts on suicide and its implications?

This question reminds me of a student who passed away in recent memory. It totally devastated me…

Days before her passing, I reached out to her as the trajectory of her social media posts suggested that suicide was imminent. I messaged her to check on how she was doing, and we conversed over the next couple of days. One day, she asked to see me as she wanted to hear advice from an older adult. She didn’t say what the matter was. We fixed an appointment, and I came to my office that fateful day waiting to meet her.

Half an hour passed, but she didn’t show up. I messaged and asked her if she was coming. She said that she wasn’t feeling too well. So she cancelled our meeting, and asked that we reschedule to another day. I didn’t think too much about this, so I agreed to a rescheduling.

Two days later, I learnt from some of her friends that she had passed away a few hours after she cancelled our meeting.

I was devastated, and even now, I am still haunted by this lingering thought in my mind: What did she want to talk to me about? What advice was she looking for? Would she still be alive today had I been insistent on meeting her? Given how it happened soon after we were scheduled to meet, I felt really awful. Couldn’t I have done something? Anything? Would it have been better if I wrote my messages some other way? What could I have done?

I beat myself up for days over this incident.

I eventually met up with some of her friends to find out what had happened. I learnt that even though this student felt so unloved, she meant so much to so many people. And so many of her friends were heartbroken by her passing.

The point in sharing this story with you is to let you be aware that no matter what you feel, or how you feel, you will always matter to a lot of people, even the seemingly unimportant or insignificant people in your life. At the very least, I want you to know that as my student, you will always matter to me.

Our minds can play tricks on us, make us feel unloved and unlovable, or make us feel that we have reached the point of no return. But how we feel is often an inaccurate reflection of what’s going on in our lives and to the people around us. Yes, the feelings are real because you feel them; the thoughts are real because they go through your mind. But we can always be mistaken.

Suicide basically leaves a trail of brokenness. Brokenness begets more brokenness. Pain begets more pain. What seems to be a solution for one’s self turns out to affect so many people. Suicide may feel like the answer to your problems. You cease to exist, but the people who love you will have to carry the burden of continuing their existence without you. And it is a sorrowful burden to shoulder for the rest of our lives. Some are haunted regularly by the lack of closure from your sudden departure. Some are haunted by the void that fills your absence for the rest of their lives. And many will have to live with the guilt that they could have done something, anything, to prevent it from happening because they are your friends/family. And not all are emotionally strong to get back up on their feet after your passing.

So, don’t forget the people around you. They do care for you even if you don’t feel that they do.

I just want you to know that no problem is ever too big. You will always have your friends and family, and you have me too. Come talk to me if you like. Don’t be afraid. :)

And if you want a trained professional to assist you in your time of need, please call the Samaritans of Singapore at 1800 221 4444 (24 hours).

Training my Left Hand to Write

I seem to have injured my right hand – once again – from writing too much.

I can’t tell if it’s a muscular problem or if there’s some issue with the nerves. I experience pain, numbness, and weakness in my right hand all at the same time. It’s a strange feeling to have. I don’t know how to explain the sensation (or lack of it).

It got so bad that I couldn’t hold a pair of chopsticks last week. I could still hold a pen, but it was difficult trying to control the movement.

Last week, I decided to see a doctor about it. The doctor thinks that it has something to do with the nerves in my neck. That’s scary. I did an x-ray but the report hasn’t come back yet. I’ll know the answer soon.

I figured I should learn to write with my left-hander just in case my right hand doesn’t recover, or if treatment to fix my right hand is beyond what I can afford. It’s probably a useful skill to be ambidextrous anyway.

One of the first things I did last week was to train myself to use chopsticks with my left hand. That has worked out quite well. It’s still not perfect. I mean, I can’t pick up noodles as easily as before, but it works sufficiently well for me to finish a bowl of noodles.

But the success of chopstick-use has inspired me to try using my left-hand for other things.

I’m now training my left-hand to use the mouse. This hasn’t been going as well as I hoped. It really takes a lot of patience. The problem is that my left hand isn’t as agile and flexible as my right hand. I move the mouse pointer slower than my right hand, and even so, I still end up clicking the wrong things every now and then.

One thing I realised from this experience is that my mouse is not ergonomic at all. Just a short period of use and my left hand would cramp. Perhaps that is why my right hand is now in this sad situation. Ironically, the mouse I bought had an ergonomic design. I’m trying to find an ergonomic solution, but so far the ones I’ve seen are really ugly. Do you have a mouse to recommend?

I have also tried learning to write with my left hand. Capital letters are fine. They look like the writing of a 3 year old, but it’ll do for now, I guess. I still have a lot of difficulty writing out small letters. I think the problem lies in the fact that there are more curved lines in small letters.

As they say, practice makes perfect.

Oh well, wish me luck!