Melody Sim

Wednesday, 20 September 2023


The Cambridge Dictionary defines "withdrawal symptoms" as,

"the unpleasant physical and mental effects that result when you stop doing or taking something, especially a drug, that has become a habit."

It is often used figuratively for things like Korean dramas, American TV series, online games, a co-dependent relationship or a nice, long trip - basically anything that offers you a distraction, and a form of escape, from your current reality.

Through therapy, I realised that I was not great at processing my thoughts and emotions. I had a tendency to avoid thinking about difficult situations and engaging in tough conversations until it was absolutely necessary to do so. As a result, I ended up spending most of my time engaging in frivolous activities that kept my mind from processing the pain that was inside me. 

Since what happened in Summer, I decided to stop avoiding my emotions. I was finally ready to face them head on and become a better person; for myself, and for the people that I love. I also took the leap of faith to remove the things that I felt over-reliant on; binge-drinking being one of them. 

It has been a rewarding journey but I had my fair share of ups and downs. Today, I want to talk about withdrawals - the "downs" of breaking a bad habit or quitting something that has essentially become a part of your identity and survival strategy. I want to share my own experience of how I have coped with it and encourage anyone who is facing the same struggles to persevere.


July and August were amazing months. I had decided to cut out the bad things and focus on re-building my life. I flew home for the summer to spend time with loved ones. I had great support and my mind was clearer than ever - no brain fog, no bad hangovers, no fuzzy memories. I even started thinking about future plans - something that I had lost the courage to do. I flew back to Berkeley at end of August for Fall Term, feeling confident about achieving great things. I was certain that I was out of the woods. Spoiler alert- I wasn't.


That was when the withdrawals hit me. Not all at once, but incrementally. Tiny hand trembles, heavy breaths, dissociation. "Earth to Melody!" Dissociation, again. It feels all to familiar. F*ck, am I having an anxiety attack? No please no, now I'm anxious about being anxious...

Without my community of support, I didn't know how to cope on my own. Most days were still pretty good but there were just some days that really sucked. It's a human thing. 

What did I do? No prizes for guessing. I fell back into the same patterns. 


But the difference this time was that I could recognise the signs early. I knew that if I did not intervene, I might fall too deep and it would be difficult to climb out of my bad habits once again. I refused to go back to the same mind space that I was once trapped in; and I knew that I needed help. I went for therapy. Therapy might not be for everyone but I can't emphasise enough about how important it is to seek help as soon as you recognise the signs of a relapse. Be it a therapist, an accountability partner or a friend, it gets a lot easier once you seek some form of help and know that you're not alone in this.


How do you get better? Frankly, I do not have the answers for everyone. But what has worked for me is coming to realise that my "withdrawal symptoms" and anxiety are temporary. I don't have to respond to them to make them go away. They will eventually go away if I could just sit through the pain. There have been times when I lie in bed feeling like I might truly die but I refuse to give in and somehow always make it through. And it gets a tiny bit easier each time. I just need to win the waiting game. My therapist also taught me practical tools like taking an ice bath or doing a high intensity work out to reset your body - feel free to speak to me to find out more!


Another difficult thing about quitting your bad habits and finally facing your problems head on is coming to realise that you have been left behind in the race of life. While your peers have been developing themselves and working towards their dreams, you have been wasting your time trying to cope using bad habits that do more harm that good. You are no longer on equal ground and it's time for you to play catch-up. It can be very discouraging and depressing but I think there is beauty in understanding and accepting that everyone has their own journey.


Without my emotional "crutches", I was forced to face my difficult emotions. I didn't know where to start. For years, I have accepted that I'm just a sad person and never understood what triggered my sadness and anxiety. As soon as I felt them, I would distract myself through unhealthy activities. 

One of the hardest things about giving up your bad habits is having too much time to sit with your emotions. Your mind will naturally start breaking them down and processing them bit by bit, whether consciously or subconsciously. For me, a lot of this takes place in the moments before I drift to sleep when my subconscious mind is doing the work.

What surprised me is that random unprocessed emotions from years ago surfaced at random moments and caused an emotional response in me that I was not ready for. I then remembered what my therapist once told me, "if you don't process your emotions, you will be like a university student still trying to solve the same primary six math problem from many years ago." I was still an infant in terms of my emotional maturity. And you will surprised to know, even grown men and women can be infants when it comes to emotional maturity. 

I'm still on a journey but I feel stronger, healthier and happier each day. The first step is always the most difficult but this world is full of resources to help tide us through. You are not alone!

Sunday, 3 September 2023

Is this what happiness feels like?

When you're deep in depression or anxiety, you don't think about happiness. All you wish for is to not be depressed and anxious. To not feel like a burden. To not feel like you're about to lose your mind. All your effort is spent on trying to survive that you don't have any energy left to pursue happiness.

I took a short walk down my avenue this morning to grab my mandatory morning coffee. It has been almost two weeks since I got back to Berkeley for Fall Term. I'm a student of Berkeley but I never felt like I was a part of the campus experience. In foreign places, I see myself as more of an observer. And I like it. I can be anyone I want. Perhaps, this is how I have always seen myself. A wallflower. Someone who observes the party rather than partakes in it. But somehow, at home, there's no way of escaping the expectations to be a certain person and act a certain way.

As I walked down Channing Way, just two streets south of campus, I observed the undergrads chatting away and and queuing for pizza. I took in a deep breath of the crisp Californian air. And for a fleeting moment, with my coffee in hand, I thought to myself, "I am happy." 

I have recently started thinking about the future. My future. It may not seem like much to most people. "Isn't it normal to think about your future?" you might ask. No, it is not for someone who has been trying to survive. For someone who has been trying to find the motivation to get out of bed every day. Thinking about the future was a huge thing for me. For the past four years, it was as though my life was put on pause. Yes, I still showed up to work and social events. And I still give my best in everything that I did. (Cites high functioning depression / anxiety.) But internally, I felt hollow. I didn't know what I was living for or what I wanted to achieve in life. So yes, thinking about the future was a huge thing for me. It showed me that I was finally at the end of the tunnel. It was me saying f*ck you to depression. 

But healing is not all rosy. When you finally start thinking about the future, that's when you realise that you have been lagging behind. You may have missed certain opportunities because you simply didn't have the energy to even notice them. You may have gone down the wrong path because you have just been going with the flow. When you look around, you realise that other people are thriving. But you? You have just started to wash your wounds, get back up on your feet and walk. You may have to take a few detours to get back on track. And by the time you do, you are no longer that passionate, full-of-energy and youthful person that you once were. And it's tempting to give up. To settle with mediocrity because "it's too late anyway." This has been my constant struggle since I walked out of the tunnel.

Everyone has their own journey. My boyfriend reminded me of this when I shared with him about my mental struggles. And I think it's a very beautiful thing. My journey, though off the beaten path, makes me uniquely me. It makes me passionate and empathetic about certain things that I would otherwise not have been. And it gives me the stories to inspire others. What matters most is that I'm loved and supported for whatever path that I am on. And with that knowledge, I came to realise that I am very much on time. 

I want to help people who forgot what happiness feels like to find it again. I will be creating more of such content and I'm always open for a chat on my socials! Let me know how I can help ☺

Sunday, 23 July 2023

why i think the barbie movie is a masterpiece

There is only one thing on my TikTok fyp now - and that's the Barbie movie. Everyone who has watched it is saying the same thing. We walked into the cinema dressed in pink, expecting a light-hearted watch, a journey back to our childhood days and to be blessed by Margot Robbie's beauty (and yes, we were indeed); but we all ended up leaving with a heavy heart, pondering about our life choices, the role of women in society, and for some, our relationship with our mothers.

Feminism is definitely a core theme of the Barbie movie. And I absolutely loved how they brought across the message in such an entertaining, intelligent and witty way.

But for me, the message that struck the deepest chord was the importance of learning to become your own person.

Barbie Land is a reflection of the world that we live in. Every single person in Barbie Land lives for a purpose that was assigned to them, and it is not something that they gradually discover for themselves. Ken does not exist apart from Barbie. And even Barbie herself exists for her owner in "the real world". She must be the stereotypical Barbie that Mattel designed her to be or she would be considered as having a defect and be out of production in no time. I found this very relatable.

I wrote this in my Apple Notes two years ago,

"Strip me of my intellect.
Strip me of my passion.

So I can be a flawless doll that never stops smiling at you,
and bringing you comfort."

I think I must have hated myself then.

For speaking too much, for speaking too little.
For being too playful, for being too dull.
For being too honest, for being too deceitful.
For being too emotional, for being too apathetic.
For caring too much, for caring too little. 

For. being. never. enough.

I wanted to be loved, so badly, that I cut out every piece of me that I thought wasn't loved. What was I left with? Nothing. I must have felt suffocated to the point that I wanted to be nothing more than a doll. I didn't want to have any emotion or human agency because anything that I said, did, or chose, would have been wrong anyway. And I think that was probably when I started using dissociation as one of my primary coping mechanisms.

One of the things that I want to achieve in this year abroad is to find myself. To find out what it means to be me, apart from my history, my career, the people around me, and all the expectations that I have hitherto placed on myself. 

It has been two months and I have definitely not arrived at where I want to be but what I have realised is that for my entire life, I have always boxed myself within the realm of possibilities defined by my circumstances. I made decisions after decisions that went against my truest desires because I believed that it was either duty, love, or just the way things were meant to be. And by doing so, I gave so much of myself away.

In the past, sacrificing your dreams and ambitions for "the greater good", be it a divine purpose, your country, family or a significant other, would have been seen as an act of courage. But what has this led to? Countless stories of resentment, anxiety, regret, and depression that the generations above us are not allowed to talk about. The narrative is changing. Of course, religion, patriotism, family and love are wonderful things if you truly believe in them. But in today's world, you must first find yourself before you can show up as the best version of yourself and make a truly meaningful contribution to the people around you.

Afternote: But sometimes, all you want to do is to embrace your inner child and be loved by someone else because you simply can't find the love for yourself. I still have a long way to go.

Monday, 10 July 2023

why i quit binge drinking

This is a story about a break up. A toxic relationship that I should have left a long time ago; but sometimes, it takes being bruised and abused before you finally realise that it's time to walk away.

The name is alcohol.

I wrote the prose below in my drafts early last year, which pretty much sums up my relationship with alcohol, and how it slid into toxicity in such a subtle manner that I did not notice how much damage it was doing to me. But I guess that's how toxic relationships exist - you stay because you don't realise how toxic it is. 

"my best friend - feb 20, 2022

who would've thought that you would end up becoming my best friend?

i met you a little late. most people would've met you when they were eighteen, or some even earlier. 

i don't think i liked you then. but you were cool, and i wanted to be cool so i hung out with you. a lot.

i think it was after my first break up that we became close. real close. i was lost, and i had no one to talk to but you were there. people came and went, but you? you. were. always. there.

whenever you were with me, all my problems floated away. and nothing seemed to matter anymore.

i mean, the problems, they would came back the next day but i could just find you again. and they would float away, again.

i don't think you're the best for me since my problems are still here. but these days, it seems like when I'm sad, you're all that i've got."

I picked up drinking in the army. There's always a reason to drink - happy hours at the mess, initiation, company cohesions, celebrating promotions, or simply just having a chat over beer. And in the army, there's no such thing as "too much drinks". You drink till you drop. In a culture where drinking is normalised, it's hard to ever think that you have a drinking problem. I mean, wouldn't that mean that everyone has a drinking problem?

So, up till 27 Jun 2023, I truthfully did not think that I had a drinking problem (although perhaps it was clear as day to the people around me). Now, let me bring you back to the epic day on 27 Jun 2023 that would perhaps save me from greater destruction further down the road.

canon event - jun 27, 2023

i had been in berkeley for almost two months. the berkeley narrative was one of healing and growth. a semicolon to my life story that had gone down a rather chaotic path.

it was a rough start for a supposed era of healing and growth but i was considerably content and at peace, and hadn't gotten wasted since i arrived in berkeley. i mean, i popped a few cans every night but that is still within the realms of "everything in moderation", right?

a typical weekday stay-home kinda night

on the evening of 26 jun 2023, i was at a friend's birthday party. there was a campfire, and drinks, finger food, chick-fil-a sauce, party hats and dancing - can california get any better?! i was definitely in my element.

a party to remember

what happened six hours later was beyond my wildest imagination.

at 1a.m. on 27 jun 2023, i heard knocks on my door. i was too tired to get up and decided to let it pass. it did not. the knocks became louder and more rapid. i tried to prop myself up but it was impossible. instead, i passed out. at that point of time, i did not realise that i was on my kitchen floor.

in the next few moments, it was a blur of events that up till today, i do not clearly remember. some men in black uniform appeared in my apartment, i was carried on a stretcher into an ambulance, i struggled a lot, and next thing i knew, i was in the hospital. with a broken collarbone.

someone, i suppose the doctor, asked me how i broke my collarbone. "i don't remember" was all i could say. up till today, i still do not remember. 

my hospitalisation report

i was later told that i had been highly intoxicated and found "unconscious and unresponsive" on my kitchen floor. and it came to me as a shock, as i had absolutely no recollection of anything that had happened after i left the party. all i knew was that i surely did not have a broken collarbone when i left.

i was hospitalised for the next two days, and i spent the first twenty four hours recovering from the shock and processing what had happened. my family and partner had received the news and were terribly concerned. i felt a mix of guilt, shame, and determination to never let it happen again. yet somehow, it never occured to me that the solution was to stop drinking.

on the morning of my discharge, a concerned hospital staff passed me two books to read and said that it would help me overcome my problem. i was slightly offended. alcoholics anonymous? i'm not an alcoholic! i've never had a desperate need to consume alcohol or withdrawal symptoms like the alcoholics do in the movies. nonetheless, i decided to flip open the book since i had nothing better to do anyway. 

two books given to me by the hospital staff

in the prologue of "Living Sober", the author starts off by telling the reader that they probably think this book is not for them, as they are not like the alcoholics that they hear about in AA. i felt immediately called out. the author then goes on to say that you have an alcohol problem if you are always finding reasons to drink.

"it was such a long day at work, i need a beer."

"we should celebrate, let's open some bottles!"

"there's so much going on in my head, some whisky could help."

i read that line over and over again, and thought about all the reasons i would give to drink. i was always finding a reason to drink.

the author then talks about the problems that drinking could cause, including harming your body, your relationships, and your future. as i was sitting in the hospital ward with a broken collarbone, having to take time off classes and making my loved ones extremely worried, that was the moment that i gained self-awareness about my drinking problem. 

over the past few years, i have been gradually giving my power away to this inanimate, emotionless thing and it has cost me so much. my mother's tears, my weekends, my ability to have fun, deep meaningful conversations, my peace, and so much more.

that was the moment i decided to stop binge drinking. and as my mum would always describe me, "once she's determined, she will make it happen."

Hi, I'm Melody, and I'm fourteen days sober!

Addiction, be it to alcohol, smoking, gaming, or spending money, is a very common problem and it can happen to anyone - even the best of us. The first step to recovery is self-awareness.

Again, this is my humble attempt to normalise conversing about taboo topics so that, hopefully, the world will be a better place.

If Mel can do it, so can you!

at the end-of-summer-term party, abstaining from alcohol for the first time!

Friday, 21 April 2023


2018, that was the last time I walked the streets of London.


It is now 2023, and five years have passed. You would think that five years is a long time and many things would have changed in a place. But London still feels the same. The morning rush in the underground subway. Commuters staring into space from station to station. The cool, fresh air. Caffe nero at every corner of the street. It is all the same.


But what, I think, is more amusing is how I feel being back here after so long.


Again, you would think that five years is long enough to change a person. In that five years, I have graduated, left England, started work in Singapore, ended a seven year relationship, gotten used to the scorching heat, and the daily grind of corporate life, fallen in love again, bought a house, planned a wedding, braved covid, and depression, made an enemy out of myself, and learned how to heal, and love again.


Yet, in spite of everything that I have been through, every ounce of my being feels the same as I walk down the streets of London. I still feel like the same college student eager to find out what’s down the next corner. I still feel the lightness of being that I, Melody, have always felt, despite how heavy the world says life ought to be - all is vanity and a striving after wind. 


And that is fucking liberating. To find out that your pain and suffering never defined you. That while it seems impossible to escape that dark fate of yours, there is some place in this world that is safe, and happy, and where the air is fresh and easy to breathe. 


They say that trauma changes a person forever. That the darkness will always be a part of you. Indeed, it is a part of me, and a part of my story, but to it I say, “you won’t define me.” And I’m starting to believe, once again, that maybe, after all, I am a free and happy person. 

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