Never give up on faith – this is the mindset we must have when faced with continuous challenges in our life. This is what Estée, a YWD from Malaysia adopts and with strong determination, she manages to overcome many difficulties she faced.
My name is Estée Ling. And I have a story to tell.
My parents have been practicing Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism ever since I was a toddler. But of course as a child and teenager, I have never taken this religion seriously.
I came from a happy and fulfilled family but as a teenager, I was not happy with life.
What I’m about to share is not known to my parents.
When I was 16, I was introduced to a lifestyle called clubbing. I partied really hard and was in a gang. I had all the fame I wanted as a teen and was in some sort of ways protected by my gangster friends. I was so hooked to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.
Life was fun but still meaningless. I moved out of home at the age of 16 staying with my then boyfriend.
I was also physically and mentally abused by my boyfriend who was also a drug addict. We didn’t have to pay for drugs as I can easily get these needs from my gangster boss. When the kick went off, I was back into the dark hole feeling miserable again and again and again.
I would wake up, drink, smoke, do drugs everyday of my life. I didn’t want to work as well. I wasn’t really in good terms with my family because of my own temper and the need to escape from my mum who used to nag at me all the time, so I tried to avoid them as much as I can.
I would beat up anyone whom I do not like simply because I was powerful then, or as I thought I was. I spent 4 years living this life. In what I called hell.
My poor parents tried all means to get me to come home but I just wouldn’t. Apart from this scene, I was also admitted to the hospital several times because of drunk driving, which led to accidents that were supposed to claim my life.
This happened a few times and I escaped death. Not to mention, I tried committing suicide many many times whenever I was suffering. However, the funny thing was every time I faced death or difficulties, I would automatically chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in my heart.
Finally, I woke one day late in December 2006, when I was 20.
I suddenly felt the urge to change. And I wanted to stop what I was doing and start anew.
Of course I was scolded and so called attacked by my then friends and gang members. But that didn’t stop me from changing. I rang my mum and told her that I wanted to go to Singapore to work and start anew. My mother was so happy. But her happiness was short lived when I told her my condition. That was, to bring my then abusive boyfriend with me.
My relationship has never really been a good decent one as it was filled with a lot of parties, alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. My then boyfriend was very abusive and I had to undergo so much physical and mental pain but I just wouldn’t leave him. I was too weak and afraid of leaving him. So I endured the pain for years.
Even when I was in Singapore , my then boyfriend would take money from me although I was only earning SGD800 then. I would have to feed him and myself. I was enduring a lot of physical abuse as well.
One day, in March 2007, my then boyfriend decided to leave and return to Malaysia , where we came from.
I was devastated and wasn’t sure how to go on living. Not knowing who to turn to,amazingly, I called my mum and cried about it. She encouraged me to chant and go on living strong. I did. I stayed on in Singapore and kept working hard.
I worked as a hairstylist in Singapore for 4 years before changing my job to a secretary in a broking company. Life was getting better and better. Bosses dotted on me and things were smooth.
I began chanting. Although my faith was easily shaken, I kept chanting. With the help of SSA members and YWD leaders, I managed to pull through. I enshrined my Omamuri Gohonzon in April 2009.
I chanted every day and I chanted hard. I realised that I was a changed person.
My family meant everything to me when they were the ones I never cared about when I was a teen. My mother became my best friend and I started to remove toxic people out of my life. I stopped going to clubs. I stopped drinking. I overcame drug addiction and I became happier.
I met someone new who loved me so well and was genuinely in love with me. We both shared the same passion and were going on strong. I was a very confident and happy person.
However, after 5 years of relationship, we broke up due to some reasons.
After 6 years plus in Singapore, I decided to return to Malaysia as there was a so called good offer to run a restaurant in Malaysia . I missed home so I made my decision to return.
In the beginning, it was all good. But a few months later, I got too stressed and was only beginning to recover from my break up. It took a while for me to really go through the phase as I was occupied with the restaurant.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a sort of depression in June 2012.
With the stress from the restaurant, the business not going well, the break up from my 5 years’ relationship, the change of environment, I fell.
At this point of time, I have stopped chanting.
I was going through hell. My bipolar works like this: I get really happy for no reasons and then I get really really sad and depressed. I couldn’t sleep and I only slept for 1-2 hours a day for weeks. My mind was playing tricks on me… I started hallucinating, cried a lot and tried all sorts of ways to hurt myself. I tried to commit suicide many times because I wanted to end the pain.
I was so desperate and I was indeed in real suffering. I couldn’t even work. I looked okay to everyone but no one knew how much I was battling with my self.
So I started seeing a psychiatrist and was on medication since then. But It didn’t get any better. I was constantly attacked by anxiety and was very dependent on people around me. I’ve become very negative in life and seeing the bad in everything. I was afraid of everything. I was indeed in hell. The suffering was unexplainable and the worst thing was to fight with your own mind.
One day, a friend told me, “why don’t we try to chant”.
She was not practicing daimoku then but she told me to chant. She said she would chant with me and she did. This was in October 2012.
In a way, my depression had shakubuku her to chant. I chanted with her everyday and eventually, I got better. I started to be able to sleep. I stopped hallucinating and was able to pretend to live normally. Nobody knew what I went through except for my friend who was constantly there for me through it all.
I portrayed a very strong outlook but deep inside I was really shaking. But still, I kept chanting.
We decided to go to Singapore again to try out. But when I went back to Singapore, I wasn’t happy again. After having depression, I wasn’t a happy person like I used to be.
I struggled through the battle deep within myself. And the most suffering part is that I couldn’t control my emotions and thoughts so we both returned to Malaysia again. I was ok in the beginning because I wasn’t working.
I then struggled to find jobs and was being really broke. I developed a fear of working and going near people too.
I kept chanting and chanting. Although I have become very fearful and lack of confidence ,which was so far from who I used to be, I know that someday I will be who I want to be again.
I finally got a job although it was just a casual job with low salary, but we’ve got to start somewhere don’t we?
But that didn’t end. I struggled through that job which I encountered a really nasty boss. It triggered my depression again. I stopped working after a short while and was back into the same dark hole of misery again. This time I was truly broke.
However, deep down inside there is this strength that keep telling me to hold on, keep searching and never give up.
After chanting harder and harder, I finally landed a job in a better company which is a hotel. With my very limited qualifications, I could get a job in a hotel which is something magnificent.
It’s amazing what daimoku can do! Bosses are nice to me too. I became happier.
My confidence grew bit by bit and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am now also confident to work. My relationship with my family has become very strong too. During all these years, I have overcome drug addiction and my depression.
Although I am still under medication and therapy, I’ve become better. I can get hold of myself and control my emotions.
I became more positive in life.
And that’s what this Buddhism is all about.
Constantly fighting and never giving up. I finally understand that it is my karma and that I have to challenge it and face it head on.
I will never stop practicing this Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism, which has opened up my eyes to accept what has come upon me. I accepted this challenge which made it easier to live by life.
There will definitely be hard times in life too but no matter what happens, I will keep on fighting and chanting. With the support and love from my family and best friend, I strongly believe that someday I will not need to depend on medication and therapy anymore.
Someday I will be able to break free from my fears and become a person with unlimited self esteem.
I have no doubt in the Gohonzon and I truly believe that if one chants wholeheartedly and with a very focused and determined daimoku, one can face anything that life throws at us.
We may not be able to escape our karma, but we will definitely be able to pull through no matter what happens.
Let us fight the ugly demon in our lives and continue to strive for victory.
I would like to thank my dear friend and my family for all the constant support and love they have given me through this hard times.
With that I would like to conclude this testimony with one of my favorite words of wisdom by Ikeda Sensei.
“When your determination changes, everything will begin to move in the direction you desire. The moment you resolve to be victorious, every nerve and fibre in your being will immediately orient itself toward your success. On the other hand, if you think ” this is never going to work out”, then at that instant, every cell in your being will be deflated and give up the fight. Then everything will move In the direction of failure.”