Exactly a year ago (on 18 Dec 2017), as I was about to go to sleep, a message came through my phone.

"Jonghyun...", the message was sent by Melanie from Canada.

The next thing that I remember is bawling my eyes out throughout the whole night till the break of dawn.

Before I start this story, let's go through some background story first...

I don’t think that I am qualified to be an official Shawol. I only started following SHINee about 3 years ago despite them having been internationally famous since a decade ago. One of the members of SHINee, Minho (not sure whether I saw him on Running Man first or in a Korean drama) piqued my interest in knowing more about SHINee. Since then, I started listening to SHINee’s songs.

Everyone knows that CN BLUE has always (I swear, I have never used the word 'always' so appropriately ever in my whole life) been my one and only bias since 8 years ago and I have never switched or have another add-on. They produce their own music and everyone plays a musical instrument and everyone's at least 1.8m and handsome, what more can I ask for?

However, I love SHINee's music because they totally spice up my workout playlist. Listening to SHINee's songs could make me run that extra 1km on the threadmill, no joke! Although I started liking SHINee because of Minho, there was someone else from SHINee that caught my attention.

"He looks like a total gangsta and totally not my cup of tea but it's hard not to pay attention on him for his compelling charm". On my iPad screen, there's a blonde hair dude with too much eye makeup and he wore funkier earrings than me. That's Kim JongHyun.

Jung YongHwa always sits on the pedestal in my heart but if there's anyone I would put 2nd place to him, that has to be Kim JongHyun, followed by Jung JinYoung. 

Putting those extra material things and hairstyles aside, I admire JongHyun's talent in dancing but I am totally blown away by his vocals. I could say that his singing is one of the best in the K-Pop industry. His low and high notes to his screaming and falsetto, there's no parallel. Not only he can give you eargasms, he can also really bring out your personal emotions and memories with his voice and through the lyrics that he wrote. Another thing to add to the list, he really stood out to me because he cried a lot. I called him "the only male celebrity who is like a cry baby", in an adorable way though.

Overtime, I slowly discovered that the real JongHyun's a rather sensitive and sentimental individual and probably was still a kid by heart. He fooled around and made people laughed a lot, he himself laughed a lot (oh, his bright smile's another charm of his), he touched the lives of millions of fans, he pampered million pairs of ears with his heavenly voice, he was an international superstar at the age of 27 which many people would think "what more could one ask for?"

Until, he left the physical realm, by his own choice, a year ago today.

I was shattered. It's like I could literally feel my heart being stabbed and torn into half. Just imagine the scrutinizing pain that his real hardcore fans had to go through...If I, as a non-Shawol was already that heartbroken.

When the suicide letter that he left behind got published, the whole tragedy was x100 harder to deal with.

The reason I am saying this is because...

Only a few people who are very close to me know about this phase of my life. Technically, it's hard to pinpoint as to when did this issue started growing in me…

I believe that it's human nature to have a darker side that we don't show to anyone. Nonetheless, I was going through a time when my darker side was starting to freak myself out. I was afraid of myself. When I looked into the mirror, all I could see was a familiar stranger. I felt like a laptop without Wifi connection – I was working out, working and hitting the numerical sales goals, eating 3 or 4 meals everyday, hanging out with friends, doing all the basic things but I was so disconnected…and somewhat hollow.

I felt like I wanted to run away…but from what? That's a question that I would continuously ask myself but that's just a sleeveless errand.

Just from everything...because nothing felt right at all. Doing more wasn't right. Doing less wasn't appropriate. Being in a crowded place felt weird. Being alone felt wrong. Even when I was having a good time with my friends, the happiness, the smiles, the laughter on the surface couldn’t help at all - it's like you can't expect the top whip cream part of a frappuccino to offset how yucky the drink is overall. When those seemingly happy moments ended, the feeling was even more difficult to deal with because it felt like I just got cheated by a mirage.

I didn't know what was wrong with me. I couldn't sleep despite feeling lethargic everyday. Thus, I tried my best to wake up at 5am to workout just so I could wear myself out even more in order to fall sleep at ease at night. The days when I could sleep, I would wake up feeling as if I hadn't even slept at all. My heart would start racing out of no where from time to time and I would start having cold sweat and shivers without any epic reason. Nearly every evening, I would cry in the shower, in the dark.

This cycle was driving me nuts. However, not even once that I suspected that I might not be doing OK on the inside. I thought I was just stressed out. I tried to persuade myself that the "stress" which was engulfing me was good because it's a process of growth. You know how those cliche quotes that say something along the lines of "A diamond is a chunk of coal that did really well under pressure". Yeah, stupid me, I bought that shit. Of course it was complete bullshit because if that's true, I wouldn't be hating life as a whole.

I got to a point where I couldn't find a reason to live for the next day. Yeah, there were those ultimate convincing points of "I couldn't let family down", "What would happen to my friends and family?”…

The reason was for others, not myself.

The more I tried to silent these voices in my own head, the louder they got and the more torturous it was for me to deal with. Because I had zero reasons to live my life for myself. Everything that I could think of was to put other people first. I was living for other people. I was doing my work for other people. I was acting OK and happy for other people. "From the day I was born, I was destined to live for other people when I didn't even have an option whether or not I would like to be born in the first place".

"If I were to live life this way just working, earning money, fulfilling the materialistic goals or the bucketlist that my friends, family and society set out for me to tick off, then why should I even continue living life? Afterall, we all have to die a dusty death eventually. If it’s just a matter of time, then what’s the difference if it’s now?"

After reading JongHyun's letter, I was terrified. Yet the word terrified ain't enough to do my feelings at that time justice. Because I could relate to everything in his suicide note. 100% everything. As if his last letter was just a transcript of my mind at that time. I didn't want to admit this...but I was so afraid that I would be taken over by my inner devil, just like JongHyun.

As I lamented JongHyun's passing, I realized that if I were to look at it from a 3rd person's point of view, I could see that it’s evident that this tragedy could have been avoided, in some ways, to a certain extent. Simultaneously, because I could relate to it so much, I know the loneliness, pain, hopelessness, helplessness and exhaustion that JongHyun was going through which led him down this path.

If I could pull my heart out like how they show in cartoons, I would have taken it out in an instance and give it a good thorough brush. Or just hit a reformat button in my mind without having to do any system backup. Unfortunately, I couldn’t, JongHyun couldn’t and nobody could.

When I finally mustered enough courage to tell Melanie what was going on in my life on the other side of the world and how I found JongHyun's letter scarily relatable, she kept on urging me to go seek for professional help. And she said to me that she’d continue to pester me everyday until I could tell her the exact date and time of my doctor appointment. I kept on telling her "OK" but of course I didn't do shit.

It’s like having a toothache that's bothering you big time but you dread to drag yourself to the dentist because you don't want to (and are too afraid of) deal with the consequences. On the other hand, you also know that you can't live forever with that toothache.

I had that tennis battle in my mind for a few days and then I called another friend of mine who's a psychology student who's working as a part-timer at a psychology clinic. She told me that I might be having panic attacks and been brushing them off as “stress”. However, I didn’t end up going to her side because it was too far away and I was intimidated by having to see a psychologist. Hence, I decided to take the first baby step by going to a GP instead.

That’s the first time I confided in someone about all the symptoms that I had. The GP suspected that I was having anxiety issues but he didn’t want to jump to conclusion without checking my cardiac health and before making sure my hormones weren’t in havoc. Nevertheless, before I left, he reminded me once more that it’s completely OK if I was having anxiety issues without myself knowing and I shouldn’t be feeling guilty or beating myself up for it. "Take a deep breathe and know that it's a very common thing and don't be afraid".

Back then, when Christina Grimmie passed away, I wrote a blog post in the memory of her. This time around, I told myself that I wouldn’t want to write one for JongHyun until a year later. I wanted to take this year to heal and get myself out of this wreck, then I would pay tribute to him.

Thenceforth, I made the decision to heal myself. There’s just a fine line between being stubborn and being determined and thankfully I've always been good at playing in this grey area. I knew that no matter how much help that I were to seek from the outside, the real healing should come from the inside. Only I could heal myself.

The most effective method that I used to pull myself out of this whole dark period of my life was that I would constantly tell myself, “Don’t you dare give up now. JongHyun left a great legacy before he left and you have nothing. Even if you want to quit, just hold on and create something first”. This may sound very negative in a way, but it worked, at least for me.

Later on, I learnt that asking someone to suppress their current feelings will most probably backfire. Encourage them to feel their emotions and tell them to try holding on a little longer before quitting on themselves – it’s a softer manner in such a tense situation.

Within this 1 year, I (nearly) stopped shopping completely. I know that no matter how many luxury handbags or branded possessions I own, those will never be able to make me feel better in the inside. I wanted to stop the tendency of finding instant and short gratification in material things.

I now pay more attention to what is going on inside my head. I am more aware of the changes in my emotions. All I strive for is having true peace and happiness within me. If I feel like going out, I'll go out. If I feel like I need time alone, I'll just spend however much time to recover my energy.

I started doing things that made me happy – as long as I wasn’t doing illegal things and (just my personal preference) wasn't seeking solace in drug substances or alcohol or cigarettes. I no longer want to be responsible for other people’s feelings. Because I could be doing a million things in the attempt to make them satisfied but for that 1 little thing that I didn't do, I would be penalized and blamed for hurting their feelings and being crowned as "irresponsible". I was sick of that because the more I prioritize someone else before me, the more I was putting myself in a doormat position. It's even more pathetic because I was the one who voluntarily shoulder that type of burden previously.

A year later...apart from the fact that I’ll still cry 90% of the time when I listen to JongHyun’s songs, I’m in the process of pretty good recovery, dare I say myself.

Still improving gradually everyday though. Sometimes I still feel very shitty about myself but most of the times I'm pretty calm.

I read a lot on self-help and spiritual topics. I spend a lot of time thinking, writing, meditating, reading and working out. I practice to be more in tune with my emotions and give permission to feel my feelings without covering them up or beating myself up for feeling a certain way.

I found some gurus and few amazing private groups on Facebook that serve as my biggest support system throughout these past few months.

I took a step back and evaluated my career path and finally made a choice that many, typically in the Asian community, will frown upon, including my family but I don’t care…I want to do something that makes me happy and not just because of the job title or the salary or for the sole reason of making my family proud.

I got told by many people, “you were a smart kid in school and it’d be such a waste that you don’t pursue a job in your field”, “you jump to conclusions too early”, “90s kids like you just feel too entitled”, “you just can’t take the stress” and those sorts of I-think-I-know-you-better-than-yourself talk disgusted me to the core…And it’s extra painful when you have to hear these from the people who you thought would be genuine in caring about your well-being, but no. It's a hard pill to swallow but I gotta find a way around it anyhow...

Slowly, I got to a point that whenever someone says those things to me, I know there’s no point in explaining. They don’t know, they don’t care and they don’t actually give a shit. All they want is to prove that they are right, and possibly will be happy that you are not doing as well as they do. At the same time, as much as I feel annoyed and frustrated with these people, rationally speaking, how could you be mad at someone who doesn’t understand – you can’t blame a lawyer for not being able to perform an organ transplant surgery, can you?

I no longer want to just be a piece of pawn in someone’s huge corporate chess game. Coming to this decision ain’t easy at all. I had to fight the battle inside my head. I had to turn a deaf ear on what other people are constantly telling me because I know that it’s impossible to sink a ship unless the water gets into it.

Ironically enough, as the world advances, the more we promote individualism, the harder it is to live your life on your own terms.

I started to think what would I want to die as, not what do I want to achieve. “I don’t want to die as a banker, I don’t want to die as a stock broker, I don’t want to die as a CFO, I don’t want to die as a top sales, I don't want to die with solely a huge investment portfolio and big bucks in the bank because I used my life in exchange for money…All I want is to be remembered of something that is of my own creation.”

That’s why shortly after that, I created a brand with a demonic sunny doll that I drew called 
Duo Emblem. I didn't start this brand with the idea of becoming a millionaire but I want to convey a message. To most people, it may just seem like a quirky and annoyingly cute cartoon character but to me, it embeds this whole dark-to-light story phase of my life. Here's the full story

The mantra of the brand “Take A Sunshower, You Never Know” was something that I wrote as a reminder for myself that despite how disappointing life is at the moment, everything will be OK and eventually I will get to the other side unscathed. In addition to that, I hope that I could let those who are feeling devastated, despair and lonely know that they are not alone in this.

Furthermore, I want to stop the idea of striving for the society's idea of perfection or so called ideal life/ideal image. That’s why I deliberately put a scar onto my cartoon character because you can still be perfectly imperfect despite being disfigured – you are the one and only.

My first product that I came out with has the term “Fangtastic” on it. I never told anyone about the real reason behind this:

We live in this world where everyone keeps wanting you to put in that extra grind, hustle more, achieve better grades, earn more money, have a bigger house and etc…Nobody seems to give you any credit for already doing your best. JongHyun wrote in his last letter that he wished someone could tell him “you did well” for going through everything. Because I sincerely know how that feels, I want to be that person who gives another person a pat on his/her back during hard lonely times, through my demonic sunny doll.

I know (and I don’t blame you) that you may think that I was/am being very melodramatic about this whole thing because of the overpowering emotions…but I just want to put everything out there, once and for all.

There's a very common accusation that's being put on people who committed suicide which is "they are just selfish and short-sighted sad individuals who don’t think about their loved ones and are too stupid to not find better ways out of it". Truth to be told, nobody, I repeat, no single person on this earth is born with a suicidal thought. A suicide is carried out because that person doesn't know where the light is in amidst of absolute darkness, and whether there’s even light in the first place. That person would’ve done everything he/she could before reaching that stage. Do you know that even biting off your own tail hurts too? And it takes mountainous courage to even plan on doing that?

I read this somewhere recently and it’s such a great analogy: A soap can easily wash off the dirt on a person’s body but the soap can’t do anything about that strand of hair that’s stuck onto itself - that’s just like life. Other people’s issues always seem so easy to handle but when it’s our own thing, it’s ten times harder to deal with.

The worst thing about this whole anxiety/depression thing is that the sufferer is often the one to be blamed. I remember the most painful thing in the process of me picking myself up was that an important person in my life who I thought would be giving me the greatest comfort told me off sternly instead, “you brought that upon yourself”. And she even told me, "do you know what aunty thought of you? She said you are such a disappointment and embarrassment." Fuck it, who cares about what that aunty/uncle or stranger ABC has to say! They probably have a bunch of issues themselves at home that they don't say to you and they create the false image of a we-are-happy-family to deceive people. And here you are, taking my feelings in comparison to their comment??!! I resented her so much during that time because it already took me a hell lot of courage to admit to myself that I wasn’t OK and a hundred times more bravery to open up to her about that issue and that’s the type of reaction I got in return. It was disheartening.

It took me a really long time until I realized that I can’t blame someone who doesn’t understand something, just like what I wrote above…She’s not me, she can’t read my mind and she probably was acting out because she didn’t know how to express herself in a way that's appropriate in that circumstance…

Followed by a few friends who commented something like, “I understand you are having a hard time but you have had some savings, you are way better than us who are just graduating from school, so you don’t have to feel like this”. And there were also people who told me things like, "I wouldn't be upset if I have your bag/perfume/lipsticks"


There was even a friend whom I grew up with told me that I was acting in a typical American kid wannabe way and was desperate to shake off my Asian roots - just because I told him that I wanted to start living my life on my own terms and start prioritizing my own happiness above anything else. Mind you, it’s apparent enough, I’m such a Korean kid wannabe – and Korean’s still Asian!

I wanted to feel better and get out of this rabbithole of my own dark thoughts but everyone seemed to have an opinion on everything. Eventually, I gave up on finding comfort from the people around me. I am grateful enough that I get to have my own peace. When I seek companion, there are still some friends there for me, in a way. That’s when I went online. There, I found people who encourage me to want what I want, to be who I want to be and they don't disapprove of my personal feelings. Even at times when I felt like I wasn’t seeking for anything, they would prompt me to really be honest with myself. That’s when I discovered an outlet that doesn’t belittle my emotions and feelings. In fact, they encourage my wildest dreams and desires more than the people who are close to me in real life.

I don’t care whether you know or understand but just takeaway this one thing which ought to be a logic – nobody prays to God/Buddha/the Universe/the genie to be bestowed anxiety/depression. We are all humans. We are all the same, made of flesh and blood. It’s natural that we get sick – physically, mentally and emotionally. You catch a fever and flu, people send in the warmest get-well-wishes; have mental or emotional issues, people start treating you like a complete alien…

Just because the symptoms are not apparent, you can’t judge someone if he/she is really OK. Not every person who suffers from anxiety/depression carries out self-harm, or locks him/herself in a dark room 24/7...You get what I mean? Everyone has their own untold chapter. Everyone has things that they don’t share with anyone. It’s very pompous to say something like, “get out of your own head”, “you shouldn’t feel depressed because you have everything”. It’s ridiculous because you can’t expect a person to not feel pain and not bleed based off his or her social status/wealth/job title!

You think the Queen Elizabeth wouldn’t scream “OUCH” if she was to accidentally cut her finger?

An opened wound will sooner or later close up and that's how the pain stops. However, with the things that are going on in the inside, there's nothing to see, nothing to be used as an evaluation of the state of it. There's no "oh, I'm getting better" nor is there something that tells you "this spot right here is that's aching"...Everything's so vague yet so real. It's like drowning in an invisible ocean that only you are trapped in. 

The Little Prince said, “what is essential is invisible to the eye” and that’s true. Most of the time an emotional or mental wound is much more painful than a cut because on top of the endless internal pain that you have to battle within, you have to add on the shitload of judgment coming from the others who rightfully think that they should have a say about your condition. 

It sounds really funny isn’t it when it’s put like this? If you don’t fully know or understand something, it’s best to keep your mouth shut. Just because you don’t voice your opinion, it doesn’t mean that people would think you are mute or an idiot. Being silent is way better than saying shit with a condescending assumption that your opinion is golden. Sadly though, such common sense is not that common apparently. 


I am not writing this to gain anyone’s sympathy by any means. I’m writing this as a promise that I made to JongHyun and myself from a year ago. I just want people to know that it’s OK if you don’t even understand another’s suffering, just don’t judge or attempt to make any sort of comparison. Sometimes, just a hug or saying "it's OK" will mean a lot to that person.

It just breaks my heart how he's singing his heart out. The lyrics really reflected what he was seeking...but nobody knew... 

After JongHyun passed away, many people expressed their deepest apologies for not noticing and giving him enough comfort and support. To be honest, I believe JongHyun knew that he was, still is, loved by millions of people. He just needed to hear the right words, probably from the right people but unfortunately they didn't say it to him.

He wrote this song for Lee Hi. This is a rare footage of him singing that song himself with some improvisations. The lyrics are very meaningful. 

Being the warm guy that he was, he turned those words that meant so much to him into songs that comforted and gave strength to many. 

If only someone gave him the support in the form that he needed...Would the story be different then?

One of my favourite performances of JongHyun. Just look how much he puts himself into the song. 

RIP JongHyun, you are the shiniest star that will always be shinning in our hearts and in the sky. You did way way way way more amazing than you could ever imagine ♥

사랑해 앞으로도 많이 사랑할게요 ♥ 그곳에서는 부디 아프하지 않고 행북하세요 ♥

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