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 ☺
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