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We are MUCH stronger than we think.

It is only when we are faced with adversity that we can truly grow and understand our own true power, our mind. It took a tragedy for me to truly understand the power of mine.

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Photo by Mohamed Nohassi from StockSnap
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi from StockSnap

This is the first time I’m sharing parts of my story in a public domain.

Because of the nature of the events and ongoing divorce proceedings I have had to refrain from mentioning any names or give full details of the relationship. I have also left out many of the incidences that happened simply because there are too many and a book would be a better channel to really explain the full story. It is now on my bucket list.

By sharing my story, I hope to help women specifically, who are facing hardship and give them strength and some tools to help them through the process. You may not be able to relate fully (thankfully) since it was quite a “unique” experience, but the essence of the process is all the same; whether you are facing death, disease, divorce, losing your job, confinement, betrayal, fear etc. Through my tragic experience I overcame the unthinkable, the unimaginable, and discovered that I am SO much stronger than I thought I was. Please trust me when I say that, if I can swim to the shore after almost drowning in the deepest and wildest ocean, you most definitely can.

Just to give you my background in a nutshell. I’m what they call a “Third Culture Kid”. I had a golden upbringing coming from what I would consider a very loving and privileged background: I grew up in Singapore in safe neighbourhoods and a wonderful multicultural environment; never had any health or mental illnesses; I have the most loving and encouraging parents, who are an exemplary couple and have been happily married for over forty years now; loving siblings and amazing friends; attended a top international school and university; often had the jobs I wanted; and I’m genuinely a fun-loving, honest, positive and caring soul. Aside from being in an unhappy marriage, never in my life did I really struggle or have a tragedy strike me or my family until that day where my life would forever change.

It was Wednesday 13th February (ironically) 2019 when my life took a 360 turn onto Hell Street, three weeks after I finally decided to leave my controlling, manipulative and narcissistic husband. We had known each other just over three years and had been married for one and half years. My daughter was 18 months at the time.

I was ambushed by five CNB (Central Narcotics Bureau) officers whilst I was playing on the swing in the local park with my daughter, brought back to my apartment, arrested  and taken in for questioning (for consumption and possession of marijuana which I had been consuming mildly as a way of dealing with my marital stress). For those of you who might not be aware, Singapore has a zero-tolerance drug policy and penalties are incredibly severe. Whether you smoke marijuana or inject heroin, they are all classified as a class A controlled drug and treated the same and if criminally charged you can face a minimum of three years in prison. If criminal charges were to be brought up against me, my husband would automatically get sole custody of my daughter and after serving my sentence I’d be deported out of the country; the country that I grew up in and have been living in on and off for 25 years.

I was released on bail for almost two months.

It was my husband (whom I will refer to as Ex from now on) who had reported me for purely strategic, revengeful and financial reasons. Ultimately his plan was to get rid of me and go back to his home country in Europe with my daughter. Thankfully his plan did not pan out the way he imagined.

The sheer explosion of shock and utter betrayal, not only towards me but towards our daughter. Knowing that the worst was yet to come, it felt like I was on death row waiting for the day of my hanging. And this was only the beginning.

I felt physically sick and was throwing up for the first three days trying to process everything. It felt like I had literally been thrown into the Atlantic Ocean and I had to learn how to swim. For the first time in my life and for about five months that followed, I could not sleep (I had to listen to meditations) or eat (although I was forcing myself), I had heart palpitations every single day to the point that I thought I could have a heart attack any minute. My mind was in complete panic mode trying to make sense of what was unravelling before me. I could barely retain anything that was said to me and simply could not be present and focus on anything other than repeatedly pressing the rewind button trying to make sense of everything and all my fears playing in a loop in my mind.

That day fear completely and utterly took control of my life both mentally and physically and drove it for five months to follow. I had heard, read, but never experienced what this word actually truly meant until that fateful day. My biggest fear was losing my daughter and her falling in the hands of her mentally-unstable father and potentially spending years locked up in Changi Prison.

Not only fear, but hate, an emotion I had never come close to experiencing also took hold of my entire being. I could not understand how he, the man who is supposed to protect his own family, the man I once loved and admired, could do this to the primary caretaker, sole legitimate breadwinner and actual mother of his own child. It was a sick strategic move and clean-cut revenge plain and simple. I knew he was not an easy man, whose true colours started to unravel after three months into my pregnancy, which was catalysed once our daughter was born. But an inhuman being was far from what I could fathom. Having said this, had this not happened I would have perhaps taken a much longer time to discover who he truly was.

His hate for me is greater than his love for his daughter. Something I will never be able to understand. His actions and behaviour that followed and still continue to this very day are incomprehensible and I have simply stopped trying to understand them because I simply never will. All I know is that he has made it his life’s mission to destroy me.

The CNB officers, the seven divorce lawyers whom I met, the prison wardens, both consulates, none of them had ever seen something quite like this.

I felt like I was suddenly a lead role in some psychological thriller. My life was collapsing right in front of me and it was as if my soul had left my body and I was watching the horror unravel right in front of me and I was frozen from the shock of it all. It was simply too much to bear all at once. I felt like fainting many times.

The wait was excruciating not knowing what was going to happen and both my daughter’s future as well as mine were in the hands of the law. Everything became a blur as my life, particularly images of my baby girl, were flashing in front of me. The utter confusion and shock of the ultimate betrayal, and the uncertainty of how much time I had left with my daughter, not knowing whether or when my fate would be sealed spending it in a prison cell.

From the day I decided to call it quits with my Ex, on eighteenth January 2019, I had not made love to him for almost six months. It was as if my body or my gut knew, before my mind actually did, that something was not right. I hated myself for failing to recognise the cracks at the time and literally felt like an utter fool. For putting my daughter in such a volatile situation unable to protect her. For making my family suffer, especially my parents. My father almost had a heart attack and had to take distance from the situation as it was too painful for him to bear. He could not even fly out together with my mum until after my incarceration. For breaking the law and losing face in the country that is essentially my home.

My happy go lucky life had disappeared from one day to the next and my survival was suddenly dangling on a tiny piece of string which could snap at any moment. But this was not the time to give up. It was only the beginning of a very long nightmare and I had to fight. I just did not know how to at the time.

Two weeks after my arrest and the very day I had to post bail for the first time, I received a WhatsApp message at 9.15pm from my Ex’s lawyer informing me that I had to appear in the Family Court the very next morning at 10am. Thankfully I had already been in touch with a family lawyer, who managed to scramble one of her senior associates at the last possible moment, to show up on my behalf. My Ex was trying to take my daughter out of the country and filed a court application attempting to take full custody, care and control of my daughter as well as having custody of her passport (which thankfully is now with my lawyers). After several failed attempts threatening me and harassing me to hand over her passport for almost two weeks, he filed an “Undertaking with the International Check Point Authorities” claiming that I was a flight risk, when the exact opposite was clearly the case, just to cover his tracks so again on paper he would be the “hero”.

By going through this process, I have come to understand how easy one can manipulate the law when only taking what is in black and white into consideration.

I remember when I read his affidavit I almost fainted in disbelief. It was filled with lies portraying me a like a full-time junkie and manipulating facts, so again he would look like the saviour and I looked like the villain. He was a pro. This is when I realised the extent of how mentally deranged this man actually was. My reality had become so dislocated and I was desperate trying to piece everything together. I started digging into his past and asking many questions to which the truth left me paralysed.

My family and I tried to connect with his mother on several occasions but it was clear that he had fed her an entirely different story that she gladly believed to maintain the image of her perfect son in her mind. After all, she had already lost one son who died tragically when he was a teenager, she was almost certainly not willing to “lose” her second and only child.

Although he used the law against me, in the eyes of the law he did the right thing by reporting me to the police regardless of his ill strategic intentions.

After my arrest, he even proudly boasted to a mutual friend of ours saying that he received a certification from the CNB congratulating him for busting a “drug abuser”.

During this period, I had to painfully defend my position and prove to the Family Courts here that I am indeed a good mother, even though I was my daughter’s primary caretaker, spent every moment I could with her and did everything right as a mother. Whilst my Ex had barely played an active role in her upbringing until that fateful day and doing his utter best to prove the opposite. Since that day, he suddenly began to take an interest in her day-to-day life and was starting to interfere with mine. It was as if suddenly I had the devil walk through the door and there was nothing I could do other than let him in.

The punches kept coming and I was drowning trying to gasp for air at any opportunity I had. It was as if my Ex was comfortably sitting on a Lilo in a swimming pool sipping a cocktail enjoying watching me drown, slowly.

I kept beating myself down and thinking “what if”, “if only”, “why did I”, and that little voice in my head kept screaming it was all I could hear.

I remember sitting in a café at Orchard hotel with one of my dear friends, sobbing realising that there was a very real chance that I would go to prison for a minimum of four to six months. The thought of that idea alone would simply kill my soul. How would I ever survive in that world? I’ll never be the same again. The fear of going to prison and surviving it in one piece was the equivalent of jumping in icy water and feeling hot.

I was advised by my then family lawyer to stay put and not move out of my marital home where I no longer felt safe. I spent almost two months co-existing with the perpetrator being provoked on almost a daily basis. My daughter started waking up frequently in the middle of the night, my Ex (who previously had never once woken up for her, barely ever taken her to the park, fed her a bottle or meal) suddenly would run into her room whilst she would be calling me, and he refused for me to hold or have her. In a bid to protect her and minimise this poisonous tension between us I had to literally stand by and watch and with all my mental strength I had to refrain from reacting to any of it. I had to stay calm and completely ignore his antagonistic behaviour. Deep down at the time, I wanted to kill him. He had also tapped my phone and laptop. Fact.

The pain was too much for me to bear I can barely put it into words. My heart was literally hurting I would put pressure with my hand in a bid to stop the pain. My mind was in fear over drive and my heart palpitations were severe. I simply could not handle this sudden chaos. It felt like I was being repeatedly stabbed and beaten and I had no way to defend myself. It was a massacre.

One evening, about three weeks after my arrest, I had gone to the top floor of my building, stood on the ledge as I contemplated suicide for about 45 minutes. I was both physically and mentally in so much pain fuelled by trauma and fear of losing my child and betrayal by my Ex, I was simply not able to handle it. It was as if I had a loudspeaker pounding in my ears and I simply could not turn down the music. My brain could not shut up and all these emotions and thoughts took hold of me I was spinning beyond maximum speed in a washing machine and I simply broke down. Suicide seemed like the only option and was literally my only escape. I jumped almost three times, squatting down and literally on the verge of letting go of the pillars I was hanging onto. The only vivid memory of those three moments I have were the flashes of my daughter that were playing in my head. She was the very reason I could not take the jump. This episode is one I almost forgot about it is almost like my brain selectively spat it out and is vaguely stored in the very back of my mind.

Having to deal with these foreign emotions of fear and hate was like reading Arabic to me. I could not understand a word of what was being said. Powerless from protecting my daughter from this man.

On Thursday fourth of April 2020, it was D-day. I had to post bail for a third time and deep down I knew they had made their decision. I held my daughter long and tight as I kissed her goodbye hoping for a miracle that I’d hold her hours later. My angel of a helper promised me that no matter what happened she would stay and look after her whilst I would be away. In many ways, it is thanks to her that my daughter did not suffer as much as she would have, had she not been there. She was the pillar and replaced me whilst I was gone since she helped take care of her since she was six months old.

I did not come back that day. I remember it so vividly. My mother came with me to the CNB Head Quarters. My Investigation Officer was escorted by another female officer who asked me to accompany her whilst he spoke to my mother. I knew I was going in. As she took me into a fully soundproof room, my mother came into the room, we were both sobbing like we never had before. We had literally two minutes to say what we had to say, and we were separated. I was taken into a lock up cell where I spent the night. They took me to the main prison the next day.

I was suddenly incarcerated and separated from my then twenty-months year old daughter whom I did not see during my entire time there. I was thankfully not charged but taken in (for consumption only) where I began to serve my one-year sentence under what they call DRC (which is their version of a Drug Rehabilitation Centre) located inside the main prison with the same prison conditions minus the criminal record. I was essentially lucky as it could have been much worse. They treated my case as a domestic issue and gave me the best possible outcome working within the parameters of the law in order for me to have access to my daughter after and remain in my “home” country.

I was mentally not prepared at all for what I was thrown into. First of all, I thought I was going into a “rehabilitation centre” located inside the main prison, but it was in fact prison. I had been told that it would be for four to six months maximum. However, my entire sentence was actually one year and I would be released after six months at the very earliest, with the next six months being monitored with an electronic tagging system in either a prison camp or family home, depending on what the prison committee would deem fit and capacity of my family to be able to accommodate their stringent conditions.

I was incarcerated for almost seven months where I was locked up for twenty-three hours a day in a seven meter by three metre cell (includes open shower and toilet squat) sleeping on a concrete floor, along with four other women stripped away from all my rights. I was no longer Kelly but was relegated to a mere number #483. I was one of the very few, if not the only one, that did not undergo any “rehabilitation programme” because they could clearly see that I did not have a so-called drug problem. To my knowledge, I was the only one in my unit for marijuana use together with another lovely girl with whom I shared a prison cell at the beginning. Most were in for harder drugs.

On top of everything, I also had to deal with the day-to-day prison politics which was exhausting. The average age in my unit, DRC 1 (first timer drug offenders), was 23-25 years old. I was one of the older ones. Each cell had their own set of rules and being a newbie and on top of that the only white girl, I had to be extra careful. It worked exactly like in the animal kingdom. You had a leader, an ass kisser, two sort of limbo followers and then there was me, the reject. I was a constant target and had to change cells four times. It took me a long while to adapt to the dynamic and understand how it all worked it was a world and crowd so far removed from my own. I did not know how to “act tough” or “put up a hard front” and kept up with my polite ways which clearly did not work in this hardcore environment. They would mainly speak amongst themselves in their own language, which was mainly Malay. It was the first time in my life that I actually missed hearing and speaking French or English for that matter.

Every two days a fight would break out in a cell. The girls would run to the door and try to peep through the tiny opening between the door and floor and listen to what was happening. I would cover my ears and close my eyes. I could not stand it. The screams and loud thumps from them beating and kicking each other against the doors and walls. When that happened, everyone had to sit for “master” (specific seating position in rows of two and one in the back) until they had diffused the fight. Sometimes we would sit like that for up to one and half hours.

Thankfully there were security cameras everywhere including inside the cells so that protected me from getting beaten up. I avoided fights at all cost and simply did not engage or I would press the buzzer if I could feel it coming.

Each person had their designated seating area. Everything we did was inside the cell including eating, showering and toilet needs. We were fed through a food latch three times a day. I barely ate anything for the first couple of weeks but slowly I had to force myself and eventually just got used to it. I would sometimes wake up from the pungent smell of someone taking a poo and some girls would liberally fart throughout the day. It was frankly disgusting. We slept on the concrete floor, which I also got used to believe it or not. No fans and no proper ventilation. We were given two blankets each; I used one as a pillow and the other to sleep on, both which I would cover with two of my shirts since it was so prickly, dusty and simply dirty. They would wash them every three months. We had no shampoo and had to ration the soap and toothpaste we were given monthly. The toothpaste had no fluoride and our teeth turned yellow over time because of all the turmeric in the food. We had one tiny towel each (slightly larger in size than a face towel) which they would change for us every two months. We were also regularly strip searched.

There is no movie, no book, no essay, no words that can truly describe the actual feeling of being locked up in a prison cell unless you actually experience it yourself. It literally drove me to the brink of insanity. It is so brutal, so inhuman that since that experience, I cannot even stand to see a hamster in a cage.

To have every minute of every second of every day being decided for you. You could not sleep, eat, speak, read, or do anything when you wanted exactly.

Time suddenly stood dead still. Prison had its own pace. Everything was the other way around as compared to “outside”. Whilst you wanted time to go quickly it moved slower than the pace of a snail. Weekends were the toughest as we would be locked up for the entire weekend. The same for public holidays.

We were allowed two visitations per month with a maximum of three people at a time; one twenty-minute face to face separated by a glass panel and one 30-minute tele-visit.

I want to state for the record that I am not here to criticise or judge the local prison conditions. After all, I did break the law and therefore had to face and respect the consequences. Whether I agree with them or not is completely irrelevant. I am after all a guest in this country. Although the conditions were severe, I was treated well, it was clean and safe, and most certainly one of the better prisons in the region.

Dealing with my daughter’s separation, clean cut betrayal by my husband, knowing how much my family was suffering, knowing that my daughter would never know a type of father that I knew, being locked up under severe conditions, missing some very important family events (my sister’s wedding, my daughter’s second birthday and first day of pre-school, my parents 40th anniversary and family reunion) and losing my job, home and things (he moved and took most of it), I was literally rocked to my very core and hit rock bottom as they say. I was severely depressed for the first three months of my incarceration it felt like staring inside an abyss. It was a black hole and I was freefalling right through it.

For the first time in my life, I felt, or in fact, I was completely and utterly alone. My mind was my worst enemy replaying everything like a broken record. My heart was literally aching, and my heart palpitations kept going. Often, I would have falling dreams. Not being able to see my child when I had been with her every single day since her birth was the equivalent of being in a torture chamber. There was not a single second that she left my mind. I cried the whole day every single day for three months to come, begging to hold my baby girl. I lived in fear that she simply would not recognise me or resent me after not seeing me for so long. Boy was I wrong about that one!

My cell mates kept telling me to stop crying and that I had to control my emotions. Except for one, they all started disliking me because I was transmitting “negative energy” in the cell. The hate for my Ex was also eating me up inside I was covered in rashes from neck down. I saw the birth of my first grey hairs from the sheer stress.

On 27th May, I was suddenly called out of my cell at 5am where they told me I had to attend a mediation at the Family Court. I was completely confused as my then lawyers had told me that it would be via a teleconference and was because my Ex was trying to put all sorts of proposals on the table for my daughter to travel to his home country and the “judge” wanted to hear what I had to say. I had already told them that there was no point as I would not allow it under any circumstances, so I already was not sure why this was proceeding. Yet I had no way of communicating with them.

So off I went to the Family Court, shackled with chains to my hands and feet wearing a purple prisoner jumpsuit. I swear I looked like a serial killer. I was first put in a holding cell for a couple of hours in the basement of the Family Court. It was the dirtiest place I’d ever seen here, it felt like a ghetto. The toilet looked like it had not been cleaned in years infested with cockroaches. Two hours later, which felt like 24 hours, I was called out and escorted by three Cisco officers, shuffling my feet through underground tunnels until we reached an elevator which took us to the fourth floor of the Family Court. As I entered into the main lobby all eyes from other civilians going through family proceedings were ogling at me. They proceeded to escort me into one of the private waiting rooms where my lawyers showed up. I asked them whether they could make sure that my Ex was removed from the chambers whilst I was there as I simply did not want to give him the pleasure of seeing me like this; utterly ravaged. That process alone was incredibly traumatising. I was also advised there and then to sign an interim fifty percent custody agreement court order, which I did under extreme duress but very much regret.

Since the second day of my incarceration I began practicing yoga and meditation every single day up until the day of my release. I do not know how I managed physically since mentally I was destroyed. I could hear my mother’s voice clearly in my head. She had repeatedly told me before going in that no matter how difficult, I would need to find the strength and discipline to exercise daily to make sure I kept movement of energy going through my body. I knew that if I was going to regain my mental strength, I needed to start by becoming physically strong again. The average weight gain after six months was ten to fifteen kilograms. I weighed 63 kilograms when I was invoked and weighed the same on the day I was released.

I remember the first few days of my yoga practice inside the cell was not too welcomed by the other girls. Firstly, we were technically not allowed to exercise in our cell. But thankfully I had special permission as the wardens could see I was depleted and understood that it was my lifeline and my coping mechanism which my very survival depended on. The girls would remind me that they did not like it and that it was not fair that I was allowed to and they were not (to their credit). I explained to them that it was the equivalent of me telling them that they could not pray five times a day (most of the women were Muslim). After a while they stopped saying anything but gossip amongst themselves instead. Although I did not understand their language their tone said it all. But my brain would set them to mute and I just went about my own business.

I was receiving so many letters from friends and family around the world I stopped counting them. One of my dear friends was sending me several post cards a week with inspiring quotes and words. In fact, I was receiving so many that it made others jealous and bitter of how much attention I was receiving it was the talk of my unit.

Each inmate had a Personal Supervisor (PS) assigned to them and she would be our go-to person for anything we needed or problems we had. She was almost a surrogate mother figure. Each supervisor was in charge of about thirty to forty girls each. This meant that typically you would see your PS two to three times during your entire six-months stay. However, I saw mine every week. I was incredibly lucky to have one that had empathy and understood that I was complete fish out of the water. She would sometimes see me outside of her working hours. My survival in prison was also in a big part thanks to her and her understanding of my predicament. She is ingrained in my mind and memory and I will always be grateful to her for what she did for me.

I would also regularly receive consular visits especially from the French Consulate who was a god sent. What they called “cookies”, who were prisoners working inside the prison, would announce every morning outside our doors our appointments for the day whether a family visit or “ICC” interview. When someone would get an ICC interview they would generally freak out since often it was a visit from a CNB officer. However, that also included visits from lawyers and consular offices. So, every time I would hear #483 ICC interview in the morning or afternoon, I would feel a sense of relief. They could not understand why I had diplomatic support and again created an even further divide between us. One of the nicer girls explained to me that it is the typical “privileged Ang Mo (foreigner) sentiment and I just had to ignore their ignorance”.

Gossip spread like wildfire it was the girls favourite pass time, something I loathed and stayed well away from as much as possible. 

One of my first letters which came from my dad, he had told me to build up a routine for myself, which would help me pass time and stay focused. And so, I did.

After every lunch and dinner, I would pace up and down the cell (five steps up and down) for about 45 minutes repeating mantras inside my head such as “you can do this Kelly”, “you have survived so far you are one day closer”, “it is not forever this too shall pass”.

My ten years of yoga practice became one of my key survival tools and saved me from going insane. I built up my own 45-minute sequence and practiced that same sequence every morning for a total of 207 days.

Although I did not realise it at the time, my mental training had started. I knew all I could do was go inwards since I had no-where else to go. I began practicing mindfulness and trying to be in the present moment every time. It was incredibly difficult, but it was a crucial survival mechanism in order to keep myself from going insane. If I was washing my hands or having a shower for example, then I would try to focus on purely the action at hand and not let my mind drift into thought.

Don’t get me wrong, my mind was in constant overdrive but slowly I got better at it. I would observe my thoughts and patterns and would try to catch and stop all negative thoughts and worries. I was often giving myself so called pep talks, talking to that little voice in my head. I also started to observe the words I would use and eliminate those that did not serve me from my day to day vocabulary such as “but”, “I am scared that”, “what if”.

Each visit, we were allowed three books which I devoured in no time. I would get two self-help books or autobiographies and one crime or philosophical novel for entertainment. From “Light on Life” by B.K. Ayengar to “Think on These things” by Jiddu Krishnamurti to “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel, I was reading and reading looking for tools on how I could survive this hell I was in, which was actually dealing with my “crazy” mind.

Then one day, about three months in, I received an e-letter from my dear friend, which was an essay by Ross Ulbricht, who is currently serving two life sentences and 40 years in a maximum-security prison for non-violent crimes which were misdirected and unfairly trialled. This essay titled “5 keys to inner strengths from 5 years in prison” had all the answers I needed and was looking for. I am sharing some key extractions here below.

Patience:

I’ve learned that patience means doing what you can today then letting go. It means settling in to this moment and letting things come in their own time. Impatience and boredom do not bring results faster, but they do rob you of your happiness here and now.

Will to Fight

The will to fight is primal. It’s in all of us. Like me, many of us have never needed it and it lays dormant. Yet you don’t need to wait until you are under attack and your life is in danger to learn to fight. You can fight for who you love, for what matters, for what you believe in, like your life depends on it. And truly it does because a life worth living is worth fighting for.

Forgiveness

As time went on, I became ruthless with these hateful thoughts whenever they entered my mind and would rewire them immediately as I had that night. I could not indulge in them because I had come to learn this simple truth: hate does not hurt the hated, it hurts the hater. It’s been years since I wasted my energy hating those people and I’m so much better off for having forgiven them.

While pain is inevitable in my circumstances, suffering is entirely optional. Pain, even emotional pain, is just a physical sensation: the knot in my stomach, the ache in my heart and head. It is neither positive nor negative on its own. It just is. Suffering is our negative response to pain which compounds and amplifies it and drags it on and on.

Acceptance & gratitude:

I’ve come to believe that the antidote to suffering, the path out of it, is acceptance and gratitude. Acceptance turns “I can’t take another day in this hell” into “I am where I am, and yes, it hurts.” Gratitude goes a step further: “At least I have clean water and enough food. At least I’m alive and surviving. Thank you.” Suffering always arises in the context of inadequacy because you want what you don’t have. Acceptance and gratitude flip your context to one of abundance because you are focused on what you do have and are thankful for it. It’s the difference between misery and joy and it’s available to each of us every moment of the day.

So here I am in the hole, counting my many blessings and refusing to indulge in suffering. Hopefully you can benefit from these five keys to inner strength without having to go through what I have. That would be a nice silver-lining, to know what’s happened to me can make a difference for you. That is one more thing to be grateful for.

Once I processed and truly understood this wisdom Ross was sharing from his prison cell across the other end of the world, it finally dawned on me. I was the very cause of my own suffering. I was simply not accepting the circumstances I was in. I was also not accepting part of the responsibility for being in this mess in the first place. After all, had I not been smoking marijuana and given my Ex this opportunity I would not even be here in the first place. But I was. I simply had to suck it up and deal with it and put a stop to my pity party.

And in Ross’ words, “he lit a fire in me that has been burning ever since”. And so, by accepting, my path towards healing began and I was finally making leaps of progress. I felt at peace. Yes, I felt good and hopeful amidst this hell of a prison and managed to find inner peace amongst this madness.

I started to see the light, was able to get up and “walk” again.
Photo by Frank McKenna on StockSnap

From that day onwards, my mind set did a 180 and started to shift. It was as if I had got up after having been beaten to the ground repeatedly and this burst of energy electrocuted my body and mind and I suddenly was able to walk. It was also my daughter who gave me a great deal of strength. I knew I could not allow this to eat me up inside since she depended on me. My capacity and ability to get my daughter back depended on my mental well-being. The only way I was going to “beat” my Ex was purely with the strength and will of my own mind.

Once I also understood that hating him was not serving me and giving him an incredible power over me, I began practicing forgiveness and letting go. I did not forgive him for him, but rather for myself. I had to eventually accept that I would never find justice for what he did and just let it go. Although I do believe that he sealed his own fate and trust that one day karma will come knocking on his door. But whether it actually does or not does not matter to me anymore.

I had finally shed that layer of skin and accepted that the old me had vanished forever and that this was my new reality. I stopped being scared of what was to come. Prison was a battle in itself, but I had another battle to face, which was facing life after prison. I had to keep fighting and this was just how it was going to be. Not easy.

My heart palpitations stopped and my rashes disappeared. I began cracking jokes with my cell mates, dancing and singing during cell washes, participating more and socialising and I finally could sleep (as best as one could in prison).

Around that time, again that same dear friend came to visit and brought me three books. One of them was “You are the Placebo” by Dr. Joe Dispenza. She also brought me another book by the same author called “Breaking the habit of being yourself” a few weeks later. That was the second milestone of understanding the power of my own mind.

In a nutshell it explains the science behind the law of attraction which up until then was a bit of hocus pocus for me. I had already read a great deal on the topic notably readings by Abraham Hicks. But the way Joe explains it, the actual science behind it, I was able to understand it clearly that I could actually practice it. I already had a good understanding and foundation in meditation as well as psychology that I was able to apply it quite easily. It was such an eye opener for me since I understood that every single thought that I was having, which were essentially from the trauma and past of what had happened, my body was reliving the experience as if it were that very moment, and had been fuelling both my mental and physical stress.

This also taught me how to disconnect emotionally. Naturally being more on the emotional side, I had to learn how to take the emotion out of situations. How did I do this? By simply accepting and not letting it affect my head. I would ask myself, “is it life threatening”? “Can I do something about it now”? If not, then just bin it or store it and deal with it when I have to. My hands were literally tied anyways so there was absolutely nothing I could do in that present moment. I simply began to not let things brew in my mind for too long, so I did not actually dwell on it. The more focus you bring to something the more it grows in your mind. So, by shutting it down at seed stage, it stops growing and taking up unnecessary space leaving plenty of room for more important matters. And as far as when I have silly thoughts or worries popping into my head. I ask myself until this day. “Has it happened”? If not, “then shut up Kelly”. By doing this your emotions do not have time to come up but rather they sort of just drift away. Had you told me this previously I would have not understood or believed that this was actually possible. But perhaps because I was faced with extreme circumstances it was almost as if my mind knew that channelling and compartmentalising my thoughts was the only way for me to survive.

Joe also explains the power of belief. If in your heart you do not believe that things will essentially get better, you are drawing this very possibility into your reality. I am sure you have heard, read or met people who suddenly found themselves with a disability and the doctor told them they would never be able to walk again for example. But through sheer belief coupled with effort, one day they miraculously start walking again.

In other words, I had to believe with all my heart and soul, reach deep down and actually visualise a future that everything was going be OK. I had to actually believe it and feel it like it had already happened. And so, I started visualising clear images of picking up my daughter from school, seeing her playing with all her cousins in my parent’s home in France, writing this very article which I am now, and so on. And by visualising all of it, I started weaving my future in a motion picture which pulled me even closer to where I wanted and needed to be mentally. I felt empowered. I was mentally free. That sensation of surmounting the impossible was a feeling of extasy.

I had passed the school of life.

So the last almost four months I slowly bounced back and gained back my power, my physical and mental strength, through my daily yoga practice, mediations, and sheer belief in my very core that things would get better from here. I also had an incredible support network of family and friends with whom without this journey would have been a much bigger challenge. I just needed time and take things one step at a time and cross each bridge as I would arrive to it.

Whilst I should have been released on the seventh of October 2019 (which is a story in itself) I came out on the twenty-seventh October and hugged my mum and brother, the first two humans I had touched since my incarceration. I was semi-free. I remained under prison custody until the fifth of April 2020 where I was serving the remainder of my sentence under what they call the “Residential Scheme” where I was bound to strict curfews and rules through an electronic tagging system living with my mum under family “supervision” and reporting for urine tests every week at the prison camp.

I was reunited with my daughter four days after my release. She was 27 months at the time.

When she first saw me, she knew instantly who I was and came running into my arms saying “maman”. To hear her say that single word sent goose bumps through my entire body. We hugged for a long while, she took my hand and lead me to some toys which she wanted to play with. It was as if I had never left. The bond between mother and child is so sacred, so powerful, nothing can ever break that.

I currently share fifty percent custody, care and control with her father, not by choice. Because my divorce proceedings are ongoing, and I am limited in what I am able to say, I cannot say too much more.

My tag was removed on the fifth of April 2020. I had also found a great job and signed a brand-new lease both starting in April.

Two days later, Singapore went into lockdown. Just my bloody luck. My position got frozen.

And so here I am. A single mum with no help (at the moment). I have yet to go through my divorce. I have yet to find a job. I have had to accept that fifty percent of the time my daughter is with her father whose parenting style is very different to mine and there is nothing I can do at this point except my part in the time that I have her. I have to deal with my Ex now and for the rest of my life. I have had to completely readjust my lifestyle since I am not working at the moment. I continue to go for bi-monthly (thanks to Covid or it would be weekly) piss tests and will continue to do so for the next year at least (for a maximum of two years). I also need special permission to travel each time I wish to do so (which is not a deal breaker in these Corona times).

Reunited with my daughter, crossing each bridge as we arrive to it, together.
Photo by Jeremy Page on StockSnap

There are many challenges and moving parts right now that leaves me with an unknown future. Although I am doing my best to focus my lens, I’m not able to see clearly yet. Anything could happen. And rather than being worried about what the future holds and playing out the hundreds of different possibilities in my head, which I would have done previously, rather I am excited and look forward to what lies ahead. Perhaps it is also because it cannot be worse than what I went through that makes it a bit easier. All I know is when I arrive to each bridge, I will know how to cross it at that point in time. Until then, I live each day as it comes and do what I can.

My daughter and I are both healthy and happy and I am hopeful and trust that things will fall into place.

I guess that is life.

So, the message I want to leave you with is that everything is about mind set. Often, we are unable to change a situation, but we can change how we look at it. We are often blinded by our fears and the unknown needing to define everything now, be it professionally or personally, and we tend to miss the point as a result. Remember that our brain is a muscle and with a bit of training, you can actually alter your own thought process and how you see and approach certain situations.

Acceptance is also key. If you can accept each situation that comes, you will heal, pivot and move on much faster. The ability to adapt to a situation is intrinsically linked to our capacity to accept it. This is fundamental.

Ironically, I have had this quote in my email signature by Charles Swindoll for the last eight years which says that “life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

I thought I would walk out a broken woman but instead, I walked out a warrior. Even in your deepest darkest hour there is always a silver lining; it sometimes just takes a bit of time before you can see it. I’m convinced that I had to probably go through this in order to better equip myself in dealing with my Ex now, and for the rest of my life.

Don’t mind the pun but please “think on these things” – Jiddu Krishnamurti.

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