* Trigger warning: Article contains sensitive content which some may find disturbing.
When 30-year-old Malaysian actor Hafreez Adam took to his Instagram profile to ask his followers what they thought about people with depression and anxiety, the number of people who came forward to share their own personal struggles with mental health was inspiring. What he did next was brave, as he revisited the past in order to help those that may be feeling the same way. We at Likely sit down with Hafreez who shares,
“I’ve decided to share this, even though there might be backlash. Because I’ve come to realise that it is very important to help. But please, read this positively.”
CUTS & BATTLE SCARS by Hafreez Adam:
“Remember how I was supposed to help others? To try to be positive, to be strong. To be a fighter.
But I am just a normal human being that makes mistakes, that sometimes gets stuck and falls. A normal human being that, sometimes, loses at his own battles.
Heck, I’ve been through so much. So much that I think I have some sort of an ‘exception’ to be bad. I could have picked up bad, even dangerous habits – but I chose not to. I’ve been carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders for so long. But one day – one terrible day – I lost. My worst got the best of me. And I fell deep into this… dark hole. I was alone.
Day by day – by myself. I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t feel like I wanted anyone around. I just felt like I couldn’t face it anymore, that I didn’t want to fight anymore. I was under a lot of pressure and everything was just… really bad. It was like I’d lost my ability to think. I didn’t know what to do, how to get myself to go out. I was was out of my mind – there I was, shaving one side of my head. Out of anger, out of… possibly depression? I don’t know.
I actually don’t dare use the word “depression” because I didn’t know what I was dealing with. But that wasn’t the only thing I did. A few days later, I started cutting myself. Slowly. It started with a very little one. Then, I did more and they grew bigger – and deeper. The next thing I knew… My forearm was full of cuts and scars. It was (I thought) the only way for me to let it all out. I’d feel okay for a few hours before going for another cut. I didn’t tell a single soul. I was really good at keeping things to myself.
But Hairie noticed. And, Hairie told Aiman who told Haziqah – and they saved me. These three got me out of that darkness and helped me stand again.
In all honesty, and this is very important, I was not trying to commit suicide. That was never my intention, much less did it cross my mind. I only wanted for the pain to go away – I wanted to let it go. But, that was crazy thinking and thanks to my three best friends, I’m no longer standing in that darkness. And today, when I look at these scars – from my battles with my inner demons – I don’t look at them and think, “I failed,”. The fact that these scars are just scars and not still wounds are signs that say to me “You’re a winner. You’ve been through darkness. You fell and stop again. And here you are, standing as the winner because you chose to fight through your battles.”
1. What was going on when you wrote the blog entry above?
I wrote this in 2013.
Growing up was rough for me. Here in Malaysia, it’s hard to show your emotions as a man. When I was growing up, my late dad would tell me, “Lelaki ni pahlawan, tak menangis” (“Men are fighters, they don’t cry). So, I pretty much kept everything to myself because I didn’t want him or anyone else to think that I’m weak or less of a man. But, suddenly, it was one problem after another. My parents divorced and when I was 12, I dropped out of school. No one outside my immediate family knew this. So I had to lie to people about going to school. But one day, I got caught by friends in my neighbourhood. It just got worse from there.
I kept telling myself that everything was going to be okay – I’d do great one day. But it got pretty unbearable for me when I reached the age of 23. So much was going on at the same time. I opened up to my best friend when I was 20 – that was the first time. But, he ended up telling someone else what I told him. Since then, I’ve had trust issues which just made things worse than it already was. And, I was just so tired both mentally and physically. I wanted to distract myself from feeling what I was feeling. I wanted the pain to be someplace I could see and touch because that made more sense than the pain that I felt inside, which I couldn’t see, touch or understand. So every day, for about two weeks, I would cut myself. My housemate found out then and slowly, I made the journey to where I am now.
It hasn’t all been rainbows and butterflies, some days are harder than others but the fact that there are more good days is proof that there is healing and progress.
2. Why did you decide to share this?
Back then, this as not an issue people would discuss publicly. I thought that I was alone and that no one would understand or listen to me about what I felt. So, I didn’t know how to get help. With the platform that I have now, I want people to know that they are not alone. Since sharing my blow entry, I’ve been receiving a lot of messages from people who are going through similar struggles. I’ve come to realise how selfish I was for not sharing and helping before – simply because I feared judgement. But, it’s never too late to start and thus, I’m starting now.
3. What helped you get over the fear of judgement and republish this blog entry now in 2020?
The MCO was a tough time for all of us and I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection. I’ve been asking myself,
“What have I achieved? What else do I want to achieve? And most importantly, am I HAPPY with what I have achieved?”
I’ve realised that I am blessed with so many great things in life but with that, I’ve also understood that I haven’t really lived my life to the fullest. I have so much now, and yet, I’m just not happy. We’re living in a different era where we get judged for what we choose to put out there. And, oftentimes, we get judged by the things that OTHER PEOPLE choose to label us with. So, the idea of not living my life to the fullest because I was scared of thoughts like, “What would people say” or “What would people think of me”, is really what made me decided to stop thinking, and start living.
And a big part of doing that is knowing that I could not do that if I have to lie about being okay all the time. When I first started acting, I was told by people in the industry that could not do certain things, not say certain things, act a certain way, dress this way and all that jazz. At the time, I didn’t realize that I wasn’t exactly allowed to actually be myself. I had to portray myself as a perfect public figure but I am not perfect; I have so many flaws and if my flaws are what it takes to help people to get through their own tough times, then I want them to know that they are not alone in what they’re feeling and that it’s okay to feel.
4. Are you doing okay now?
I have my family and best friends with me. My family has been very supportive and even though my mum hasn’t said anything directly, she has been calling to check in on me and that’s her way of expressing her love – through her actions – so I know that she loves me very much. In that way, I am surrounding myself with positive people. I am keeping myself away from negative environments and good people are the key for me to continue living a healthy life. And that’s something really important that I want people to understand – you aren’t alone. Back then, this as not an issue people would discuss publicly. I thought that I was alone and that no one would understand or listen to me about what I felt. So, I didn’t know how to get help.
With the platform that I have now, I want people to know that they are not alone. Since sharing my blow entry, I’ve been receiving a lot of messages from people who are going through similar struggles. I’ve come to realise how selfish I was for not sharing and helping before – simply because I feared judgement. I hope that in sharing, I am able to inspire and help people with similar struggles and stories. We aren’t all in the same boat – there might be other, additional reasons for someone’s pain and difficulty in life – but we are in the same storm – of pain, of understanding the pain and of dealing with it. I want people to know that you can get through it and you can come out stronger.
You can read Hafreez’s original blog entry here.
Stay positive, guys!
*You are not alone, never. Speak to someone you trust. You can also call the following organisations (no matter if you are a man or woman) for help:
1. Women’s Aid Organization – +60 37957 5636
2.Talian Kasih Hotline – 15999 (24h)
3.The Befrienders KL – +603 7956 8144 / +603 7956 8145