Transcript

My only goal was to make myself look as normal as possible. It seemed to be the only answer to my life because I didn’t want to embarrass my family.

I grew up in Malaysia with my mum, dad and three sisters. My father always taught us to be good people, not to live for yourself but to live for others.

The teaching of Confucius strongly penetrates the whole of malaysian chinese society. You have to carry on your family name, you need to marry, have children and then look after your parents. And because Malaysia is a muslim country - gay is a big no.

I can’t recall a happy childhood. I was really skinny and fair and a lot of people called me a “girly boy”. I only remember being sad and scared and anxious.

Once my parents brought in a chinese priest to help stop me crying and screaming all the time. No one really knew about mental health, either someone was crazy or they were not.

According to the priest I was being disturbed by bad spirits. I think for me it was a combination of many things - my unhappy family, my dad’s compulsive gambling, my gayness.

I remember when I was about eleven reading a newspaper article that described what a homosexual was. I felt relieved - suddenly I had a name that described my feelings. But I also felt sad, the article was quite negative. The only example I knew was that if you’re gay you’re abnormal, you’d become a transgender and sell yourself on the street.

One of the things I feared most was the rejection of love. When I was sixteen I had my first gay relationship with a classmate. I wanted to share it with my family but I couldn’t.

Everything had to be very secretive. Like when I would write him a letter, I would have to be careful about what I said. His sister actually read one of the letters and told his mum and then I couldn’t see him anymore.

I remember crying a lot and feeling so much pain that I had to bang my head on the wall. I started to miss school, my chest always felt really sore and I didn’t have the energy to do anything.

As I got older everyone kept asking me “why don’t you have a girlfriend?” It made me feel like a freak.

The lowest point was when I locked myself in my room after having a huge fight with my mum. My sister and mum started knocking on the door “tell us what you want – anything”.

Out of my mouth I said “I want to go overseas”. I had no idea of where I was going to go, I didn’t have a plan but I just wanted to get away.

Leaving the country was the best thing. It gave me the freedom not to worry about how other people thought about me. But it was very sad, I missed my family - they were all I had known for the past 28 years.

A lot of things changed after I came to New Zealand. It was the first time ever I could be myself. I started to see how society can post their values into a person. It made me see that I am able to choose a lifestyle that I want, but it means I need to choose the right country to be in.

It was also in New Zealand that I first found out about depression and anxiety.

I was taking a university paper and one day I saw the diagnosis of depression and I suddenly realized that this is what I had. It was a hard moment but at least I now knew what it was.

My depression and anxiety are like old friends – they have been with me for such a long time. But now when it gets really intense I know I have to take care of myself by talking to people and getting help.

I remember someone once told me that “you’ll get better if you allow yourself to get better” - you’ve just got to hang in there. It’s like the weather – sometimes you get a good one, sometimes a bad one, remember it all passes.