Tuesday, 10 October 2017

mental health topic in malaysia, is it a taboo?

did you know that mental illness is expected to be the second biggest health problem affecting malaysians by 2020? 

some of you who followed me on instagram would probably notice that i posted a picture of my university id card about a week ago. it's nothing special, just me freaking out to start school. however, that picture has gotten more than 7k likes, which is totally bizarre. i have no idea why so many people liked that picture. was it because of ucl? was it because it says that i'm in the division of psychiatry? i think it's the latter. so today, i feel obligated to do this post. 

in conjunction with the world mental health day 2017, which is on october 10, i feel obligated to write about the topic of mental health so i could raise awareness about it, at the very least. so that people would understand, mental health is a part of our overall health. we cannot turn a blind eye to it. there are more reasons why i want to write this post today, which one would be that i realized people i know/care about are suffering from these issues, albeit some silently. 

so, is mental health a taboo topic in malaysia? definitely yes, though i'm seeing people talk about it more often now on social media which is a good thing. this is despite the fact that 29.2% of malaysian adults are suffering from mental health issues as shown in the national health and morbidity survey 2015. it's sad. i don't want to compare malaysia with united kingdom/america, because we are all different in terms of culture, beliefs, etc. but i know that the low income communities in malaysia especially still have a long way to go in an effort to be educated about mental health issues; how to acknowledge it, accept it, and manage it. 

mental health issues are more than just being 'depressed'. it's the people who would starve for days because they are so scared to gain weight even though their bmi says they are underweight. it's the people who binge-eat like crazy and then forcefully vomit everything out because "i'm unattractive, i don't want to put on weight". it's the people who seriously will not go out from their house because they freak out thinking they would die. it's the people who hear voices saying there are people who would kill them. it's the people who on one day have so much energy they will not even sleep, but have the coming days feeling so low and depressed before they kill themselves. it's the people who see many different versions of themselves. it's so much more...

as individuals, if you notice anything about yourself that is affecting your daily functioning, whether mentally, emotionally, or physically, don't be afraid to reach out. talk about it with someone you trust. get professional help if you have the opportunity to. there is nothing to be ashamed about. 

moreover, as a member of the community, we should acknowledge that the stigma surrounding mental health issues is stopping people from progressing to get help. therefore, we need to do our part in breaking the stigma. if we notice someone struggling, we can at least ask how they are doing. we can listen to them, we can empathize with them too. whenever we hear about people who have physical illnesses like cancer or heart problems, we often sympathize with them. but why is it when we hear people suffering from mental health issues, it's shame or disgust that we usually feel? mental illnesses can take people's lives too. i wish people do not easily dismiss that. let's all do our part in making sure that people get the help they need, before it's too late.

last year i convinced a friend to go see a therapist. he had things bothering his mind and i told him maybe it will help if he just talk about it with a therapist. he was scared, doubtful at first, but he decided to go still. not long after he told me how helpful the sessions are, even though i'm thousands of miles away from him, i could hear him smiling when he said that during our call. i was happy for him too.

you don't need a severe reason to see a therapist. most times, it will be nice to have someone to talk to who will not judge us, regardless what our issues are. so do reach out to these people listed below if you are struggling, having a hard time, or if you just want someone to talk to.

BefriendersKL : +603-79568145 / www.befrienders.org.my
Life Line Association Malaysia : www.lifeline.org.my
Malaysian Mental Health Association : www.mmha.org.my
SOLS Help : www.sols247.org/solshealth
MENTARI Malaysia : http://www.mhinnovation.net/organisations/mentari-malaysia?mode=default%0A_2

i hope you remember that you are no less than your wounds or scars. 
i hope you remember that you are bigger than your mental health issues.
i hope you remember that healing takes time, but you will get better. 

from matt haig's reasons to stay alive

let's all be kind to each other 

Friday, 6 October 2017

beautiful people, beautiful problems

all snuggled up on her bed in her white, dreamy duvet that looks more like bubbles of white cloud--her body is warming up comfortably in this 10 celcius weather. in her heart, it just felt right to let the words out on this late friday night. before she started letting her fingers dance along with the thoughts coming out like a stream of river, she opened her spotify playlist and put beautiful people beautiful problems by lana del ray on repeat. everything felt like they are in the right place. she's ready.

i'd like to write about yesterday. it was thursday, and i decided to go to a TEDxUCLWomen Launch Event because the theme was discussing mental health through spoken poetry and hip hop, and i bet you all know already how much i am into mental health. but mental health through spoken poetry, it's definitely something i couldn't say no to. i got there quite early so i made myself coffee and took a nice seat in the middle of the crowd. i wanted to be close enough to the speakers, but not too close where i would feel exposed. 

thankfully, when the emcee announced that we were starting with the first speaker, they turned off all the lights in the room. all that's left were the fairy lights scattered around floor, and the red fairy lights they put around the speaker's neck when it's their turn to speak. gosh, it was pure beauty, to be perfectly honest. everyone seemed very well ready to engross themselves in the poems read aloud by the speakers. it was a beautiful kind of silence, surrounded by darkness. it made me feel safe. it made everyone feel it's okay to let their guards down and to be vulnerable. it was a safe space. 

my favorite speaker from that night, sanaah, started off with her first poem, "my father's accent". she didn't give a lot of her introduction because she said we would understand her background through the poem, and sure we did, in such an emotional way. sanaah's voice was small and soft and it sounded like the voice of a mother reading a bedtime story aloud to her children. it was such a comforting voice full with emotions, it made me tear up and i tried hard not to keep my tears falling, and that's when i heard the girl behind me sobbing. 

when her poems talked broadly under the themes of identity and home, i couldn't help but got drowned in my emotions. what does home mean to me? for a person like me who's left pieces of myself in every country i go, which one do i call home? for a person like me who's left pieces of my heart in the people i've met along the way, how do i decide which one is my home? and the fact that i just moved to london for less than a month, her poems revoked a plethora of sadness inside me. but to be honest, i felt relieved. i found out i wasn't alone. 

it was such an inspiring night for me as it was the first spoken poetry event i've been to. the words were fresh and raw, their voices so soft and passionate they made my soul shivered, in the darkness. when they read their poems out loud, their words and thoughts became alive. it was real. everyone felt it. i felt it. by the end of it, my heart was full and heavy. 

i loved the fact that it reminded me of the event i went to in malaysia before. it was not spoken poetry, rather the speakers there read out their short stories to us instead of poems. i deeply loved that one too, especially for the fact that aan mansyur was there to read his stories. and boy, it's like hearing rangga's words from ada apa dengan cinta. aan does have his way with words, they equate to love. besides aan, there were budi citawan and ashikin, both ladies whom i truly admire the courage and audacity of their work. there is so much inspiration around ourselves, if we let our guards down and admit there is so much we could learn from other people. i am humbled. 

even writing this, my heart is full. i love words and i love people who are not afraid to convey their emotions into words. godspeed. 

Sunday, 24 September 2017

how i spent 3 days in nice, france

spent 3 days in nice, france with short day trips to cannes and monte carlo. it was lovely :)

as the second most visited city in france, nice was busy and packed with people, but not annoyingly. i felt calmed and paced walking around the city at my own pace, doing my own thing. nice is busy in a way that i feel like everyone who goes there really just wanna chill, enjoy the sun and the magnificent view. it's beautiful.

i loved the city, as if being the first european city i ever visited is not enough a reason. i was nervous about starting school and adapting to this new life in london, but going to nice kind of diminished all those emotions away while i was there. it calmed me down. as if when i looked at the ocean, the birds flying, the horizon that looks like it goes on forever, the calm but unstoppable waves, i think they washed away my fears. it was soothing to my soul.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

first seven days in london

me recovering from my vomit incident @ hyde park

hello. been planning to write since the day i arrived but i got lazy... but as today marks the seventh day since i came, i thought it'd be nice to write about how my first week in london went! ~

my flight to london was on sunday, sept 9 at 11.15pm. only my dad and my brother sent me to the airport because my sister in law's taking care of her sick kids and my mom was taking care of my sister who just got out of a surgery. basically, lots of my family members weren't physically well at that time, including me. i wasn't feeling well that day too bcs i think i got infected from my brother's kids who got sick and kept vomiting at home.

i remember having ziera and lowkey accompanying me at the airport after my family left, and they were so pissed at me because i didn't have any appetite to eat haha. i mean what can i do guys?!! i don't want to eat because i know there's a high chance i would vomit in the plane :( which turned out to be damn true! it was already half the journey and i think i was asleep but suddenly i woke up to myself puking like crazy in my seat?!!??!!!!! omg i don't even wanna talk about it in details. it was super gross. i'm so grateful the guy who sat beside me was really nice for helping out and the flight attendants were also helpful. i arrived at heathrow airport looking like an absolute shit and smelling like puke but i got my luggages and went straight to change my clothes. thank god, no more smell of vomit.

sheera was so kind to pick me up at the airport that early in the morning (it was 6am!!!) and she helped me buy the oyster card and kinda showed me how to use the underground tube. we took the train that went straight to kings cross because my house was just nearby and guess what, we saw that there was soooo little queue at harry potter's platform 9 3/4 spot! didn't mind our luggages and just went straight to take a picture there with our tak mandi face hahaha oh and did i tell you i've never met sheera before? we only know each other because we read each other's blogs <3 glad to take that online friendship to the real world :)

behind the scene for a perfect picture lol (not putting my pic here, it was fugly)

and after all that random photoshoot shenanigans, we took the bus to my flat where i was supposed to get the keys from my landlord. everything went well there :) soon after, farah arrived and we all went out to Bayswater to get myself a new UK number and other necessities. at the phone number store, the guy who was attending to us suddenly said to me, "are you someone famous from instagram?". i was so shookth guys like what!!! haha apparently he mistook me to a famous hijabi makeup artist somewhere. but hey he gave me a discount so that's nice :p spent the rest of the days buying stuff and then farah left to meet another friend, and sheera and i walked around hyde park. it was painfully cold as i wasn't ready for the weather but it was nice regardless. that was how my first day went.

sheera and farah in my room! <3

the upcoming days was a bit hard and lonely because both farah and sheera have started their classes already and i really don't know anyone else in london, or in the uk for that matter. also, my housemates haven't arrived yet so i gotta get used to do everything on my own. i just spent my days walking around london, visiting free museums and galleries, going to oxford street and more walking aimlessly around the city. it was nice-- i like that i get to do everything at my own pace but hey, in this city so big where everyone's busy hustling, it can get really lonely.

i think the fourth day i was alone here was when i broke down, crying. everything was a bit too overwhelming for me to inhale. i was alone and had no one to talk to, nor to go to. there are of course people i could call but they're all in different continents, different time zones, and so everything's a little bit more complicated that it is. it was a really bad day for me, that fourth day. i probably spent quite a few hours just staring at the ceiling and cried. that's how bad it was. even for myself who's not a family person and who's kinda used to do things alone and travel on my own, moving to a new country where you basically know a small number of people can be really hard. it's a totally new environment, a new life. really.

at that point, i realized how important it is to have a strong support system, even if it's just virtually. i am so glad i have people i could call to just cry my heart out and i know that they would just listen to me, and comfort me. there's no judgment. i keep telling myself that it's okay for me to feel that way, i am still adapting to this new place. i need time to truly adapt, and feel belong.

fifth day, hana finally arrived and i was happy to have her around. we spent the day going out and walking around oxford street and then meeting farah at shepherds bush. it was such a nice day but unfortunately i got a little bit of headache because i sat at the wrong spot in the bus sobs. after we got home that night, i took my meds and decided to spend the next day resting at home. so sixth day was basically just me being comfy under my duvet and telling myself that it's okay to want to spend time at home too.

and today, which is the seventh day, i went out with sheera to columbia flower market and brought hana along :) i bought two plants, they're so cuteee and i'm giving a name to each of them! hehe. after that we became a bit touristy and went to visit the big ben, and of course, took a shit ton of pictures. had a nice indian lunch nearby kings cross after, and parted our ways home. it was a nice day too.

now here i am, snuggled under my duvet and writing this down so i would remember my days in london. it's just going to be one year, so i really want to remember everything. i really want my future self to remember how i feel about first coming here. i want to remember that i broke down, i cried, i felt like things were hard (they still are), and i just want my future self to see that i am capable to grow. i can grow out of this. i can make sure that i will make good use of my time here in london. and i want myself, and anyone else who is still adapting to a new place to know that it's okay to take time. i can do this. we can do this!

me @ columbia road flower market

sheera, my internet friend

me and hana @ big ben (this is a good spot for pic but istg it stinks)

me @ random people's house

my two baby plants! the right one's name is nice and the left one is monaco.

yassss, naming my plants after the first two places i'll be making a trip to from london. so excited! until then, hoping that i'll adapt well and be alright. godspeed. 

Monday, 4 September 2017

safiya zahra

baby girl, safiya zahra

i'm still a bit down, but today my heart feels warm and fuzzy. am i in love?

yes, i am. i'm in love with my baby niece, safiya zahra. her name revokes a plethora of emotions in me. her name reminds me of why i belong to this family. safiya zahra, a girl as beautiful as the name itself. today, maksu is writing about you.

when i left to america back in 2014, you were the only grandchild of the family. my one and only niece. i saw you grew up until you were 4 years old. i was with you. but i had to leave you for years. during those years, there were little contact between us. maksu was the one to blame. but i always have you in my mind, looking at your pictures that were posted by your dad. i saw you grew up and became such a beautiful girl, virtually. i missed you.

this year i came back to a lovely girl who is now reaching my height (ughh). i still remember going to visit you at your house that one evening-- that was when you screamed my name when you saw me in the car. my baby girl, how could you still recognize maksu after all these years. i missed you a thousand times more.

spending time with you to catch up on all those missing years, i remember reading bedtime story to you every night (but it's actually me giving science facts to you -.-). you are so into science that you made me feel a bit dumb, haha. especially physics related thing. how dare you. but my god, you are so bright. so beautiful. so brave. i can't wait to see you grow up more.

this year we got to celebrate raya together. it's raya day 4 today, and it's around after lunch when everyone's a bit sleepy and the house was quiet. my baby girl cannot sleep during the day so she sneaked into my room. maksu was falling asleep as usual, but there you were, you tiny curious creature, you. as i was falling asleep, this girl was busy going through my stuff, reading my old diaries from primary school and all, questioning things. i was so tired to entertain you. so then i asked you to lie down with me, to sleep with me. but you said you can never fall asleep during the day. my poor eyes had to stay strong, i forced myself to wake up and spend time with you.

we listened to songs together. i opened my spotify playlist and chose my favorite songs i want you to listen to. you listened very attentively but you didn't sing along with maksu, so i started opening the lyrics to every song first and you started to sing. it was so lovely. seeing this little girl stuttering at first to keep up with the beat, but slowly picking it up, singing, laughing, having fun. we sang so many songs you said your ears were tired. lol. from ed sheeran's perfect to wild thoughts and many more. but your favorite from today was kissing strangers by dnce. it becomes my favorite too, as i reminisce back on how happy you were singing it.

you asked me kindly if you can use my old blue notebook that i don't use anymore-- my heart blooms. you remind me of myself back then, the girl who loved to write in her diaries so much. i wish you'd keep this habit, because it's a precious one. safiya, maksu will always remember the time we spent together. i'll be going far away from you again soon, but i am already looking forward to coming back and seeing how you have grown.

you are so manja with me that everyone notices-- maksu and safiya, the clingy pair. i think your parents worry a bit, haha. i'm the carefree one that would let you do anything, explore anything. some people could think of me as a bad influence to you. oh wells, maksu will take care of you, so fret not :p

my 4 years old safiya zahra back then is now 8 years old.
i love you still, and will continue to do so <3

baby girl with her signature hair 

baby girl and the ocean

baby girl and that precious smile

all my love,

Saturday, 2 September 2017

hello anxiety my old friend

i can't sleep at night nowadays, even when i'm tired, my eyes would be wide open. i have so much in my mind. so many things i haven't settled. i feel suffocated with my own anxiousness and worries of starting over. i'll be going to london alone. i'll be there alone. i don't know people there. it's definitely different from back then when i first went to america. i have cica with me. we took some of the same classes. i know we had each other. now it's different. i don't have anyone. i'm doing this course whereby i don't know anyone in there and i'll be the only malaysian. i'm so anxious. people tell me i would be fine as i always do. and i know that is most probably true. but goddamn it suffocates me, i am drowning. i don't feel a tiny bit of excitement to go. i told him, 'i don't even have motivation'. how do i do this. how do i keep being positive. i'm exhausted from feeling my own feelings. these sentiments, they kill me slowly, like a rope tied loosely between my neck, but overtime the rope tightens, wrapping closely around my neck, strangling me.

everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.
everything will be fine.

Friday, 18 August 2017

my education history

It’s going to be a long, nostalgic post, this one. After all, I am turning 22 in a few months’ time, which means I have been going to schools and gaining knowledge through our formal education institutions for 18 years, almost. For the lack of memory capacity in my brain, I made it compulsory for myself to write everything I remember about this in my blog, before I embark on a whole new, daunting ride soon. Here is my journey—

Kindergarten Era (2000 – 2001)
Oh gawd, I barely remember anything about kindergarten!!! I think it’s called as Pasti Al Huda and it’s located just behind my house. I don’t remember what I learned there, probably just memorizing all the doas before eating, sleeping, etc, as well as the alif ba ta, ABCs, and 123s.

I enjoyed the daily break time for lunch. We’d break into small groups and eat together from a big plate (talam?). It was fun because right after we said our prayers we’d fight over the biggest portion we could get from the talam. Sounds gross now that I think about it lol

We’d get so done with drinking hot tea every single day that my friends and I sneaked out to my house through the back door just to drink plain water or milo. I don’t remember so much about my kindergarten friends either—there were Najwa, Zainab, Alia… and the rest whom I can’t recall. Alas, my kindergarten experience wasn’t terrible.

Primary School Era (2002 – 2007)
I went to Sekolah Kebangsaan Bandar Baru Darulaman near my house in Jitra. It was good too. The classes were named after colors. My class was actually the second last class and it’s called Putih, from Standard 1 to 4. So yeah, I wasn’t really a smart ass back then.

However, during Standard 4 end of year exam, I somehow aced it and became the top 4 students throughout my batch. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I DID? I was not that clever before… second last class for 4 years straight remember?! I think it was kind of a miracle or something. But yeah, I got transferred to the first class which was called as Hijau for Standard 5 and 6. Since then, 4 became my favorite (lucky) number. And that’s the beginning of my journey in doing well throughout the upcoming exams.

Oh, we did have religious classes after school period before right? It was in the late afternoons. I think it’s called KAFA classes. I wanted to join so bad because most of my friends went, so I paid the registration fees and went to the class for a day only. Never again! I told myself right after because I didn’t wanna miss the bawang putih bawang merah sinetron playing on television in the late afternoon. LOL priorities

High School Era (2008 – 2012)
Fuh, this was the era where I felt like I was already a grown up (perasan je). I still remember guys, I really wanted to go to a religious school (sekolah agama) *trying to repent from my sinful decision of choosing a sinetron over religious classes before* and I even went for the qualification exam and interview. Of course, I wasn’t selected.

So I ended up going to SMK Bandar Baru Darulaman, near my house. A few months in, I noticed some of my friends were leaving school to go to SBP/MRSM. Curious and envious, I wrote an appeal letter by hand and mailed it to MARA and Kementerian Pendidikan myself. I was still 13 at that time.

I think it was around the middle of the year when I got the offers to go to SBP Bukit Kayu Hitam and MRSM Kubang Pasu, thankfully. I chose MRSM Kubang Pasu and spent the rest of my high school years there. I got 8A’s for PMR and alhamdulillah 9A’s for SPM. I don’t remember what I got for my SPM trial but I got into MARA Fast Track program using that result. So, even before SPM results were out, I was already in college.

Pre-University Era (2013 – 2014)
Yo this was the epitome of the ‘college life’ people usually boast about. It was crazy fun, carefree, stress-free, and ahh idk how to describe it! My life in INTI International University Nilai for 1 year and a half was just pure greatness. I was surrounded with awesome friends who still stick with me until now. It’s legit fun and I would do it again for sure!

Bachelor’s Degree Era (2014 – 2018 2016)
I completed my degree in BSc Psychological Sciences at Purdue University, Indiana, USA. It was a lonely, challenging experience at first but along the way I guess I got the courage to push myself out of comfort zones.

In Purdue was where I got the opportunity to mix with people from different backgrounds. I got the chance to learn Spanish and American Sign Language. I got the chance to do my internship in Peru and visited the famous Machu Picchu. I got the chance to take elective classes and explored my passion and interest. I loved every bit of my experiences in Purdue, as well as the people.

Alhamdulillah, I graduated with Distinction with a CGPA of 3.86/4.00. Though I have to say that I was supposed to graduate in May 2018, however I took summer classes and somehow completed all the requirements to graduate by December 2016. So I did.

Some people question me if I was too in a rush, that I should enjoy my degree years more. But tbh I still feel like my decision to graduate was right. I enjoyed my degree years enough and I felt like I have done enough according to my capacity. I know I have bigger plans await. [sorry I kiasu]

Master’s Degree Era (2017-2018 inshaAllah)
Getting the offer to do my Masters in UCL made me so happy. It’s my dream school. And getting a prestigious scholarship awarded to me after all the struggles is even more worthwhile [read about my scholarship journey here]. But hey, it’s not even the start of the journey yet.

I am anxious af to fly to London and start over, especially considering that it’s a Masters program!! I’d probably be the youngest and the one with least experience in my course so every now and then I’d feel very inferior. Ugh, this inferiority complex ting. But let’s hope for the best!