Watching my life move from high dependency to high distinction

Two months into 2023, I'm setting a new tone thanks to a few positive events

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by Shalom Lim |

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Note: This column includes thoughts about suicide. Resources for help are listed at the end.

On the verge of this new year, I was struck by what felt like a surrealistic event. It was a surprise I never expected, coming just three days before the end of my tumultuous 2022. But it’s had a big effect on my 2023.

Chaos carried over from 2021

A year ago, I struggled with undiagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I’ve learned this is a common comorbidity in Duchenne muscular dystrophy survivors, affecting approximately 32% of us.

I’d overcommitted myself, taking on a full-time research attachment and two part-time courses here in Singapore. Ultimately, they all failed spectacularly. This resulted from my desperately trying to heal myself from 2021, the darkest year of my life, when I suffered a severe relapse of my major depressive disorder, mostly caused by unresolved conversion trauma from 2019 that snowballed into prolonged suicidal ideation.

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I was also reeling from the failure of my undergraduate thesis in 2021 because of a careless and costly plagiarism error and coming to grips with the resulting third-class degree classification. The rest of that year was spent recovering from those harrowing ordeals and rebuilding from the ashes.

Toward the end of 2021, my dad told me to stop lying in bed all day and do something to emerge from the recent crises. Perhaps I’d taken his words too far when I took on too much.

Crashing and burning in 2022

At the height of my ADHD spiraling out of control in the first quarter of 2022, I experienced uncontrollable meltdowns because of repeatedly failing to deliver at the workplace.

It didn’t help that my dad repeatedly tried to take me to task for biting off more than I could chew, as I also began a graduate program in counseling that year. Growing up in an Asian society, I had difficulty setting boundaries with my family.

Then came April. My supervisor terminated my attachment a month early after I notified him of my mental health struggles, and it became clear that our partnership wasn’t working out.

The following month, I decided to call it quits with my then-church after I was triggered anew with conversion trauma. A month later, a rare opportunity to publish my writing in a local disability studies volume went up in flames after I couldn’t deliver on what was required.

I felt I was at my lowest ebb in June. But things would get even worse.

In July, I contracted a dengue virus for the first time and spent a hellish week at the high-dependency unit at the Khoo Teck Puat-National University Children’s Medical Institute. My body went into hemorrhagic shock, and I couldn’t tell if I was dead or alive most of the time.

With Duchenne, I’d already resigned myself to die in the hospital with only the company of my migrant support worker, as the rest of my family were ill with either COVID-19 or dengue. In an unlikely turn of events, I pulled through miraculously. Was it a cruel twist of fate?

From near-death to hope in 2023

After a forgettable first seven months, my 2022 luck turned a corner when I started writing twice-monthly columns for Muscular Dystrophy News in August. The first draft I sent didn’t cut it, but thanks to guidance and wise supervision, I began to turn in well-received drafts. I didn’t think I could recover so quickly post-dengue.

Later the same month, I rushed to submit an assignment for the counseling degree, which had been due more than a month earlier. My college was kind enough to give me that long of an extension in light of dengue.

Shortly after, I was interviewed for the community partnerships role at the dog charity K9Assistance, and I was hired in September. My new job gave me renewed optimism and purpose. I didn’t expect to get another chance at the workplace after repeated failures. I also got the diagnosis I needed for my ADHD, which helped.

Nevertheless, the dreaded feeling of déjà vu still found me in December. I lost momentum at work, and my motivation and productivity started to unravel. Not again, I thought.

On Dec. 28, I received my overdue result from that paper submission in August. I wrote about how to apply the principles of positive psychology to Duchenne survivors. It scored a high distinction. I was in shock again, this time not so deadly. I never expected to go from a state of high dependency to high distinction in the space of a few months.

As 2022 drew to a close, I had nothing but gratitude for the transformation in my fortunes that I’d experienced and witnessed from the start to the end of the year. Now I’m about to finish my graduate degree in counseling.

Thank you, Duchenne, my lifelong partner in crime, for making all of this possible.

If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. (988, or, available 24/7), Samaritans in the U.K. (, or Samaritans of Singapore in Singapore (

Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.


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