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I had severely underestimated my worth - by C.J.

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I am

‘O’ Level student-inmate from institution TM1 Consolation Prize

I am currently trapped in a seemingly unending nightmare in which I find myself unable to awake from. Unlike most other nightmares, which happen naturally beyond my control, the one I am stuck in at the moment is due to the culmination of poor choices and rash decisions made in haste, which have caused my once taken-for-granted freedom to be temporarily denied from me. This inevitable punishment of incarceration has provided me with valuable and ample time to ponder and reflect over past mistakes which have resulted in me to land myself in such a dire scenario.

Right from the beginning of my time in incarceration, my whole family (extended one included) has been consistently visiting me once a fortnight, taking precious time off their hectic schedules to travel all the way here to endlessly shower me with words of encouragement and to let me know that I am not alone. While they have never ever complained of the hassle imposed onto them, I am ashamed that I have had to put them through this unnecessary trouble because of my own faults and doings. I had always naively believed that everybody has the free will to do as they please with their lives, so long as nobody else is affected and that they are willing to shoulder any possible negative repercussions caused by their own actions.

It was a terribly gullible notion of mine because in reality, the impact created by the actions of an individual, more often than not, has a ripple effect and is felt by other parties, whether intended or otherwise. I had severely underestimated my worth and value to my family, and foolishly believed that my absence would have gone relatively unnoticed. I only realised just how much I had affected my family when even my uncle whom I am least close to broke down uncontrollably in tears when interacting with me from the other side of the plexi glass during one of the face-to-face visits. I understood then, just how much it must have hurt my family to see somebody they dote on and treasure, suffering in foreign grounds, banished away in isolation from the comforts of home. I had selfishly placed them in such an agonising situation and it has been absolutely no fault of theirs and it was highly unfair that they had to be tormented along with me, suffering the brunt of my misdeeds. I took a silent oath to never put them through such an ordeal ever again.

While it would be highly convenient to shift the blame and attention of my misbehaviours to the fact that I suffer from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and battled with severe depression from my early twenties, I admit that that would be an inadequate and unacceptable excuse for turning out the way I did. Many people have suffered worse conditions and yet turned out to become useful contributing members of society. I acknowledge that most of the blame lies on the simple fact that I grew up a spoiled brat who had most of his whims and fancies attended to and fulfilled, right from a tender young age. However, I do concur that the presence of these two particular illnesses, especially the depression, have some detrimental implications that affected my life.

I cannot concisely pinpoint the exact cause of how it all started, but the depression slowly snowballed into an avalanche of negativity, eventually leaving me engulfed in a sea of destruction. It was extremely difficult to comprehend why I was the victim of such a tragedy, especially when I was fully aware that I enjoyed a relatively sunny life, sheltered and protected from most of the obstacles and stumbling blocks life has to offer. That knowledge, however, was not enough to overcome the unforgiving clusters of prolonged periods of depressive states, and I found it increasingly impossible to steer my thoughts towards the realms of positivity. Many futile trips were made to various psychiatrists in vain. Even with sustained and regular medication and continual sessions at therapy, I was losing the war gradually.

I began losing interest in engaging in activities once thoroughly enjoyed, and life started to lose its meaning and shine. Every day seemed to drag on pointlessly, and it grew tremendously difficult for close family and friends to be around me when I was constantly emanating such gloomy negativity from the depths of my body. The will to live was sapping out of my skin, and my whole life seemed to be at a standstill. The feelings of immense sadness and loneliness intensified to the point where I began toying with the idea of suicide, illogically reasoning in my head that although my family would suffer a brief moment of grief and loss, they would not have to tolerate with the headaches and disruptions I brought to them in the long run. Despite that, I did not possess enough cruelty and self-centredness in me to put my family through such a tragic ending. I had to push on no matter how improbable it appeared to be, I could not destroy my family at the cost of easing my own misery.

There was one day, however, that I remember with crystalline clarity. The demons I was facing deep down were proving too overwhelming to contain and I could no longer bear the excruciating pain and agony. I had run to my mother, knelt down before her, and begged her for permission to take my life. I was at a complete loss and was desperate for the anguish to be alleviated. My dumbfounded mother paused for a moment and then promptly delivered a hard slap across my right cheek.

What followed was a big tight hug from her, I had never in my life received a hug as tightly as the one she had given me that day. Amidst heavy tears which were streaming abundantly from both her eyes, she pleaded with me, saying, “Mummy knows that you are suffering very badly, and then it hurts a lot now. Mummy loves you with all my life and whenever I see you in pain, I suffer double the blow. How can mummy ever give you the permission to end your life, when you mean the world to me? Please boy, please hang in there and don’t give up. I know you will survive in the end, please promise mummy you will never stop trying… please…” the next twenty minutes or so were spent in each other’s embrace, both of us crying on each other’s shoulders. Those words that were said to me that day were seared deep into my memory, and now serve as a constant reminder that I am stronger than I perceive myself to be, and that I had survived.

I continued to fight on, and the depression which had become a permanent fixture in my life was slowly lifted and miraculously dissipated during my time in prison. I attribute it mostly to god, to my renewed faith in religion. I am very thankful that I have been given a second chance at life, and have a clearer appreciation of the little things in life that matter the most. I am grateful for being blessed with such a supportive and patient family, which I most definitely will not take for granted in the future. I am filled with gratitude just knowing that I am well and alive, because I know that my fragile life could have been lost prematurely on many occasions. I honestly believe that the main reason I am sitting here penning this essay today is due to the unwavering love of my beloved mother and her refusal to give up on me. I am determined to make my family proud of me again and am doing my best striving towards that goal.

The decision to apply for studying ‘A’ levels in prison then came as a natural selection. I decided that this was the most productive choice path in prison, and that instead of counting the days, I should make the days count. I eagerly anticipate the day where I collect the results of my ‘A’ levels examinations, alongside my family with smiles plastered to their faces. I dropped out of junior college thirteen years ago, but I am not going to throw in the towel this time. I am sick and tired of conjuring my lame excuses for my inability to complete what I set out to do and I am going to make it this time.

I know that the road ahead is full of unexpected twists and turns, and that life is not all about unicorns and rainbows. However, I feel that through all the trials and tribulations I have endured and experienced throughout my life, I am better equipped to face the real world and give it my best shot. I am more resilient now and will constantly seek to improve myself. It will be inevitable that I will probably fall again, that I will continue making mistakes in my life. Everybody makes mistakes, it’s what they do after to rectify those errors that matter the most. I truly and wholeheartedly believe that in life, you never lose, you either win or you learn. I will fall again, but just like every time before, I will pick myself up and dust myself off.

I am… never going to stop trying because I am not a failure if I lose, but I will be a failure if I quit.

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