A Life Worth Living

Sep 19, 2018   |   Jolyn Lim Siyan

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Hi, my name is Jolyn, and I’m 18 this year.

Ever since 2014, when I was 14, I have been diagnosed with Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder, which makes my mood go on extreme ends of sadness and happiness really quick, and many times causing harm to myself.

As such, many had the stereotype that I can’t get things done, and in a way, I can’t function ‘normally’. I was, too, bullied back when I was in Secondary 3… and since then I left school.

I have lived my life doing practically nothing for 2-3 years. Through those years, my relapses were getting from bad to worse. I was constantly hurting myself and I felt helpless. A friend of mine introduced me to the National Day Parade (NDP) Hospitality Management, and through that I knew about Heartware Network.

I signed up once for NDP in 2015, but before I could even commit, I cancelled the interview because of my then-CCA. I never really dared to commit to something because I am afraid that my emotions would be in the way. I am afraid of stress. I am afraid of my panic attacks acting up.

But this year, I decided to step out of my comfort zone, and joined NDP as a volunteer leader (it was a funny story of how I joined leaders because my initial idea was just a volunteer…haha).

Me and fellow External Cordon sector mates! I love you guys! (IG:jolyn.elora/)

Through the whole NDP experience, I’ve had many breakdowns, panic attacks during and after deployment due to the stress level, but I pulled through with the help of many. After NDP, I was exposed to more opportunities like ’We Love Our Teachers’ Project and President’s Challenge Volunteer Drive 2018.

President’s Challenge Volunteer Drive 2018, Health for Life in Singapore (HELIOS) pilot study. This was a study supported by Nanyang Technological University’s Lee Kong Chian’s School of Medicine, and involving National Healthcare Group and Imperial College London. It aims to bring comprehensive health screening to 10,000 participants by end 2019. In this collaboration, Heartware aims to have clients from President’s Challenge beneficiary pool receive the health screening, especially when they don’t enjoy easy access.

But for me, I felt that this opportunity to volunteer, especially at HELIOS, really changed me.

We were assigned to a beneficiary each. Our role was to accompany them to and fro the hospital, helping them through their health check-up, and keeping them engaged while they waited for their turns.

Busy! Us volunteers slowly walked through the health screening forms with the beneficiaries.

When I first signed up, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say to my beneficiary. I didn’t know how to engage them. And the biggest thing I worried about was whether my mental health would get in the way. At that time, many voices were screaming at me day and night, telling me all sort of nasty words, and all I do was to keep it in.

However, when I started talking to my senior beneficiary, I surprisingly found so much joy and meaning in it. I realised that many times, we don’t need to even do big things for them; all they need is to have someone to talk to, someone to befriend them.

To my senior beneficiary: Keep smiling!

I remember many times when my beneficiary was eating breakfast and lunch, she kept telling me to eat my breakfast, to drink the packet drink, to eat my lunch. In the midst of me being there for my beneficiary, she was constantly reminding me to eat and drink (I almost wondered if I was here for them or they were here for me.. Haha). I felt the love from my beneficiary.

Yes, we volunteers faced tough situations. One of it was that the beneficiary could speak Chinese but was more fluent with dialect. I couldn’t understand what she was saying. I had to get people to translate for me when I didn’t get what she was saying or vice versa.

Also, we had to help them through a very detailed questionnaire about their food intake and personal issues. It wasn’t easy for me to translate the language, and many times her answers were different. She would say ‘yes’, then ‘no’ after. And because the questionnaire was really long and tedious (and for good reason – it was meant to be comprehensive), at some point the beneficiaries would get ‘pekchek’ – annoyed.

Slow and steady, we got through the questionnaires together.

At those points, I panicked. I knew that I couldn’t push it any further, but I needed to get the questionnaire done too. So, we took breaks, drank, and ate biscuits. I calmed myself first and breathed.

While another volunteer talked to her about her life, I tried figuring out how to translate the question. We would go back and forth, because our attention span wasn’t there quite fully. But we pulled through.

Language and tough times were no barriers to us. Instead, they made us know each other better.

And with the success of this pilot study, HELIOS will be able to reach out to more who need the health screening. In fact, Heartware will be bringing other beneficiaries down, some from President’s Challenge beneficiary organisations for the study next week, on 24 and 25 September. I’m excited to know many others will receive the screening to ensure that their health is in check.

As volunteers, we should always ensure the well-being of our beneficiaries. I had to make sure mine didn’t tire herself out from these tests.

While helping her through her check-up, she kept apologising that she was troublesome when she needed the washroom. And something struck in me: That she might have always felt this way. I don’t know if that was true, but throughout the day she kept thanking us for helping her, and apologising for being burdensome.

May I too then, bring you to this important point:

Many have looked down on me because of my mental health, saying that I can’t get things done. Many said that I wasn’t doing something productive. Many said I lived a life worth nothing, and that I amount to nothing. But, through volunteering, I found joy. I found laughter. I found peace. I found people who do what they love and love what they do. And I found comfort.

Thank you, Heartware. Thank you for believing in me, and allowing me a chance to grow and be a better and stronger individual. Definitely I struggle with myself. I still struggle with panic attacks daily. But I have found a purpose in life through volunteering.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted” ~ Aesop.

I believe that all the action we do, no matter how ‘big’ or ‘small’ we think, makes a difference in the community. I enjoy spending hours volunteering. Though I feel tired at the end of the day, I found meaning in life. I’m doing something that is helpful to the community, and I always look forward to the next chance of volunteering or helping out.

So if you’re like me, if you are struggling silently and think you can’t make it, don’t let the dark stop you. When you try and give sincerely, you can gain something important in return. You can volunteer. And there are many opportunities to do so at Heartware and with the President’s Challenge Volunteer Drive.

I definitely don’t do what I do just for the sake of it, because I strongly believe that “if it is not from the heart, it is not worth doing.