SINGAPORE: A Singaporean kayaker struck SEA Games gold on Monday with the partner who helped her shake off a debilitating eating disorder and self-harming problem.
Suzanne Seah, 24, starved herself for years and used to cut herself when in a bad mood, before partner Stephenie Chen’s intervention on their way to K2 500m gold.
Seah earlier told Singapore’s New Paper that her disorders started at high school and continued even after she was drafted into the national program.
“My eating problem affected training because I was not as strong as I should be,” said Seah, going public with her story in the hope that it would help others.
“My cutting problem also meant that the wounds would re-open when doing weights and, because we are often in the water, they get infected and never healed properly.”
Chen resorted to physical violence to help Seah, with her parents and coach also become increasingly concerned.
“I used to smack her damn hard, and told her: ‘You want pain? I’ll smack you,” Chen was quoted as saying. “She needed to realise for herself and, thankfully, she did.”
Seah said her problem started at age 15, when she felt she needed to be “thin to fit in” and ate only one apple a day, drinking large amounts of water to keep hunger at bay.
In junior college, she started self-harming. “When something bad happens and I can’t do anything about it, I’ll cut myself,” she said.
But the story had a happy ending when the pair finished narrowly ahead of Thailand’s Woraporn Boonyuhong and Kanokpan Suansan in Monday’s race.
“Stop telling yourself no one cares,” Seah said, in advice for fellow sufferers. “Go and get more friends, surround yourself with more positive people, and you will see that life isn’t so bad.
“Eat what makes you comfortable, and work your way up from there. It’s difficult, but it will be worth it.”