29 years ago in 1994, Amy Kang was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
During one of her episodes, the now-48-year-old heard voices that led her to drop a potted plant down six stories. She was later arrested and warded at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).
But mental illness was far from the end of the world for Ms Kang. Through her mum’s support, she was able to get over the stigma and support herself by working various jobs.
After her son was born, the 28-year veteran bike rider decided to work as a delivery rider. This was so she could spend more time with him while also pursuing her passion for Chinese metaphysics, or Qimen Dunjia (奇门遁甲).
The ancient divination art has helped her to ground herself, especially after her divorce and depressive episodes.
But without her mother, who constantly supported her until she passed on a year and a half ago, Ms Kang doesn’t think she’d be able to live like she does today.
Ms Kang was very active as a student and enjoyed doing outdoor activities, including riding motorcycles.
During an Adventure Club camping trip to Pulau Ubin as a 19-year-old polytechnic student, Ms Kang became overwhelmed by being assigned too many tasks by instructors.
Coupled with being unable to sleep properly during the week before the camp, she began to hallucinate and become incoherent from the stress.
“I had no recollection [of what happened then],” she told MS News.
All she could remember was that someone had flicked a cigarette butt at her while they walked past a sacred site she was looking after.
Apparently, when others asked if she was okay, she started calling them “siao” and alleged that their eyes were “colourful”, which was part of her hallucinations.
As her delusions were getting out of control, she was sent back to the mainland. But over the next few weeks, Ms Kang was unable to leave the house.
“For a period of three to four weeks, I did not care about whether I was showering or eating,” she said.
When she finally returned to school after being “bored” of staying at home, she heard a voice telling her to throw a large potted plant down from the sixth floor of a building.
Ms Kang did so, and as she walked away, she said, “Okay, master, I have accomplished my task.” She then began to walk on the road in a dazed state.
That was when police arrested her and sent her to IMH, where she was warded and eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia.
“After I changed into my gown, I was so relaxed,” Ms Kang shared. She had been yearning for rest ever since her sleep disturbances began.
Her condition has improved since, although she has occasional relapses.
Once, she threw a knife at a friend of her ex-husband because she suspected that he was cheating on her. Luckily, the knife missed its mark.
During her first stay at IMH, Ms Kang’s mother, who was a hawker then, would leave her stall during the peak lunch hour and bring food to her ward without fail.
Even though talking about mental illness was taboo back then, Ms Kang’s mother never stopped supporting her.
“She gave me the courage and said, ‘Don’t worry, Amy, you’re fine’, because at that time there was a big taboo surrounding mental health.”
This helped her to keep going in life. “Since I already have this illness, whatever I do doesn’t matter.”
Ms Kang did not know it then, but she also had depression, which would also affect her interest in everything, including her own child.
“I feel bad [as] I didn’t do my responsibilities as a mum,” she said. “My depression meant I had no interest in anything, even my son.”
As a result, for the first five or so years, Ms Kang’s mother took care of her son in her family home at Old Airport Road.
When her mother passed away a year and a half ago, Ms Kang was devastated.
She had always been appreciative of her mum’s unwavering support and realised that spending time with family was more important than making money.
Ms Kang has spent more time with her son since switching over to become a delivery rider.
Ms Kang started to deliver food with her motorbike back in 2020, joining a group that worked in the North-East region of Singapore.
With Deliveroo, she can work whenever she wants and she feels happier compared to her previous full-time job at a clinic.
The company also invites riders to festive celebrations and Ms Kang shared that she has received prompt support when she faced trouble while making her deliveries.
Even from her first delivery order, she had lots of help as one of her friends guided her through the entire process.
The group, she said, has also offered her plenty of support in other matters over the years. They would even hang out together for dinner.
“One time, I think my door or something spoilt, so they helped to mend it, like handyman work, because most of them are guys,” she shared.
Another friend would even let her go over to her place at 3am when she had difficulty sleeping. To Ms Kang, they’ve certainly prevented her from relapsing again.
“I’d say I have no chance to relapse, because of the support,” she smiled.
In 2019, Ms Kang officially got divorced after around seven years of not communicating with her ex-husband.
She was depressed, but she did not know why. She faced verbal abuse relating to her weight, which she thought was normal until she met other women’s support group members and realised the things her ex-husband said to her were abusive.
For example, he’d tell their helper, “[Amy] so fat still eat three chicken wings.”
It was only after she got divorced that she realised she needed to set boundaries and take care of her own mental health.
She does this with the help of Chinese metaphysics — specifically, Qimen Dunjia and Bazi — which she was introduced to during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
Because of her flexible job, Ms Kang is able to study her passion while still making enough money to get by.
Now, she has her own consulting business, Amykang Metaphysics, which she set up with the help of her tenant, a website designer.
Besides giving her an additional source of income, her studies also help in priming her own mind, especially when things get tough. She refers to this as her “priming” and “daily manifestation”.
“I started to get back my grounding and clarity from there,” she said.
While her consultancy helps people with their lives, Ms Kang is also a big proponent of mental health advocacy, which is based on her own experiences with schizophrenia and depression.
I hope through sharing my personal experiences, I can inspire hope in people who need them.
Besides self-care, she also advocates for others to set healthy boundaries.
“We just have to be clear on what we want, having inner peace is what I gain learning metaphysics.”
Eventually, she hopes to travel with her son when he is old enough and perhaps even spend some time overseas working as a digital nomad.
Ms Kang’s story of how she overcome her mental health condition to carve out a fulfilling life for herself serves as hope to others that even after facing such adversities, one can still rebuild their life while supporting their family at the same time.
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Featured image courtesy of Amy Kang and by MS News. Photography by Brad Lee.
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