Without learning to communicate, I doubt very much that I would be here today.

I have faced into several difficult situations in the past, many of them self-made, but somehow I have managed to either overcome them to a certain extent or consign them to nothing more than memory. I certainly would never have characterised myself as strong or brave, but on each occasion I have managed to at least come to terms with the situation. It’s never easy, but I am proof that it is possible.

I genuinely believe that we all possess this strength, that it is innate, exists somewhere in each and every single one of us, but unfortunately it’s not available on demand. I have felt some of the most extreme negative emotions that I think it is possible to feel – they overwhelm, they consume and ultimately, they dictate how you behave. I have suffered the embarrassment of huge public failure, I was incarcerated in a maximum-security prison for a total of four and a half years, separated from my friends and family in a far-off land, I was divorced whilst I was in prison and was also diagnosed with cancer of the colon whilst shackled to a prison bed.

“Lucky”, I am not. Although that’s not entirely true – I have a lovely and loving family. If the huge public and personal embarrassment that I feel from my time in Singapore is as bad as it’s going to get; I’ll take that.

I still have times when I get really depressed about a situation or an event. Like before, they start to consume me, I feel sick to my stomach, my heart and breath start racing but I know that in my back catalogue of experiences that I have something in my locker to cope. Slowly my pulse and breathing come back into order and rather than facing into an abyss, I can face away from it and move forward. Sounds easy! We all know it’s not, I’ve lost count of the times in Tanah Merah Prison, I picked out the sharpest corner of a wall and anticipated the maximum possible damage that I could inflict, possibly the ultimate damage! Diagnosed with cancer, thousands of miles from home, handcuffed to a bare metal bed, nobody to talk to; succumbing to the diagnosis was the easy option but I didn’t.

It’s easy to ignore the difficulties that you are facing but like a boomerang they will keep coming back. It’s a cop-out to try and block them out using drugs and alcohol; they will keep coming back to the surface. As bad as it may seem, causing yourself pain is not the solution either and contemplating suicide needs to be as far from your thoughts as possible. I’ve walked each and every one of those roads and am here to tell the tale.

Dealing with problems at work, health issues, personal family problems, debt, alcohol and drugs – there is something that can really help. I learnt to communicate, to talk and bring my problems out into the open. It’s not easy but it works. Small steps at first – I kept a diary whilst I was in prison and every day I would write a page to myself looking back at things that had happened in my past – looking at how I would have preferred to react, but most importantly confronting my emotions and feelings. At different times I would be embarrassed about things that I wrote, angry that I had reacted in a certain way to a situation, aghast at the amount of alcohol that I was consuming to avoid dealing with problems that I was facing. It was a cleansing exercise and it worked, you can focus on you and not the problem.

Without learning to communicate, to talk, to look my problems in the eye, I doubt very much that I would be here today. It was my 50th birthday last month, it is almost 19 years since I was diagnosed with cancer and I have an adorable family.

I’m not going to lie, I do still get depressed, but not for very long. If I can’t find anyone to talk to, I talk to myself as I’m the best equipped to deal with me.

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