Sharing their pain in letters to mum
Two women who contributed to new anthology book, Letter To My Mother, highlight importance of mental health help
When she was approached to write a letter to her mother for the recently released anthology book, Letter To My Mother, Ms Nanny Eliana could not decide which woman she wanted to address it to.
Legally adopted when she was two weeks old, she has had three mothers - her biological mother and two adoptive mothers (her adoptive father remarried after his first wife died).
Eventually, the 42-year-old founder and regional account director of medical and healthcare communications agency Bridges M&C addressed the letter to her biological mother, having spent the least time with her and understood her the least.
At 18, Ms Eliana craved freedom but her adoptive parents were strict disciplinarians.
Her adoptive father would lock her out of the house, try to impose a 7pm curfew, not allow her to speak to male friends and break things when he was mad.
As tension mounted and he realised that he could no longer control her, he told her of the adoption and sent her to her biological parents.
She stayed with her biological parents and sisters for eight years, but there was "no emotional connection", and they acted more like "roommates".
Her biological father also suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and had attacked or tried to attack her multiple times.
While her situation was not ideal, Ms Eliana felt in hindsight that it was a "necessary detour" to "understand her roots".
She told The New Paper: "I realised that I come from a line of strong women who took charge, which explained a lot about my nature."
Seeing how her illiterate biological mother was trapped by circumstances and "did not receive much support" from others, Ms Eliana said she "never want to feel or be trapped in the same way".
After her biological mother's death in 2005, Ms Eliana moved out of the home and founded Bridges M&C.
She said: "If nobody is there to help me, my only way is to build something new."
She has been getting therapy since 2010 and encourages others to seek professional help and take better care of their mental health.
Said Ms Eliana: "For the past 11 years, I have been processing emotional issues that have arisen from having a colourful family history. It is the first time I am sharing this story publicly."
She is also using Letter To My Mother as part of her company's annual corporate social responsibility initiative.
With every copy purchased through Bridges M&C, $5 will be donated to the Singapore Association for Mental Health.
Among the 20 contributors is author-teacher Christine Chia, 42, whose letter is about her mum who physically and emotionally abused her for six years when she was a teenager.
But the older woman had continued to deny the beatings and mistreatment, which led Ms Chia to change her phone number and block her mother - something necessary for her mental health, even though she regretted that they were not able to reconcile before her mother died in 2019 of a sudden heart attack.
Ms Chia suspected that her mother suffered from an undiagnosed "serious personality disorder".
She opened up about such a painful part of her life partly to encourage others to persist and let them know that such ordeals can be survived if they persevere, but also because it was a form of closure for her.
The book's editor, Mr Felix Cheong, told TNP that some seniors started to feel disengaged and alienated during the circuit breaker last year, so Letter To My Mother "offers a platform for connection and for children to express feelings to their parents".