20 inspirational women's stories of bouncing back from suicide attempts, crushed dreams, self-hate and more collected in latest #MyVoice volume

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Storytelling is a fundamental part of being human: we make sense of the world and our experiences through stories, they allow us to connect to others and, importantly, they remind us that we are not alone. These are things many people have craved during the global pandemic, which may explain the success of the #MyVoice book series of women's stories.

The first volume was published in July, followed by a second volume in October. The third, Journeys of Self-Discovery and Resilience, was released in mid-December.

These women's experiences "serve as inspiration, encouragement and proof that anything is possible when you take action", says Neera Gupta, the chief visionary officer at Global Influencers Publishing House in Singapore, which produces the series.

For Gupta, it is important that the stories are of everyday women. As interesting as she finds the stories of powerful women on the world stage, such as Michelle Obama and Melinda Gates, she doesn't feel they relate to her own life.

"Reading the stories of everyday women who are like me, whose challenges are like mine, helps build my courage and resilience. Nobody's life is a bed of roses. I think, if this person can do it despite the situation they've gone through, that's some comfort," she says.

Gupta shared her personal story of infertility and the hurdles she overcame to create the family she wanted in the series' first volume.

Of the 20 stories in this latest collection, seven are penned by Hong Kong-based women, including Sarah Kalmeta, a personal coach and wellness practitioner.

As a child, Kalmeta dreamed of becoming an Olympic figure skater - but that dream was crushed. The pressure of channelling her drive and determination into her academic studies led to bulimia, an eating disorder, and a family crisis ended with her stepfather committing suicide.

Angry and numb with pain, Kalmeta bounced back, got married and began climbing the corporate ladder - before her marriage fell apart and she was consumed by impostor syndrome, which is when feelings of inadequacy persist despite evident success. Read Kalmeta's chapter, High Flyer to Flying High, to get to the happy ending and, more importantly, key insights.

"All this adversity has given me the power to create my own reality," Kalmeta says. "Resilience through adversity is our superpower."

She describes the book as a "campfire of inspiring stories". "It is powerful to witness what other people have gone through. Most of us have experienced pain; we are repurposing that pain for a higher purpose," she says.

Lorna Sianen Pagaduan, a registered nurse in the Philippines now working as a domestic helper in Hong Kong, shares her story of growing up in a poor family but feeling like a princess, until discovering that rich people referred to families like hers as "doormats".

She worked hard as a child, both at home and elsewhere, to fund her education and earn a bachelor of science in nursing. The pressure of exams and mounting debts led to suicide attempts, but she picked herself up again. Her thirst for knowledge and passion for helping others has kept her strong.

"I was ashamed of being a domestic worker, but not any more. It requires respect like any job," says Sianen Pagaduan, who is president of the Filipino Nurses Association Hong Kong and an ambassador for Pathfinders, a Hong Kong charity that supports migrant mothers and their Hong Kong-born children.

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Also in Hong Kong, Michelle Harris, a personal, relationship and couples' coach, shares how a colleague once said to her: "You are insignificant."

"Those words cut to my core because I did indeed feel insignificant. Filled with shame and self-hate, I didn't want to be seen," Harris says.

Her chapter, "Powerless to Empowered", ends as all the chapters do in the book: with her key takeaways from that experience. For Harris, those insights include understanding that your pain and wounds are gifts; shifting your mindset to empowering thoughts; and trusting your intuition and inner self to guide you.

In Australia, Sandra McGivern's story, Turning Grief into Love, tells of how she lost her son Angus to a drug overdose: the aspiring footballer was prescribed pain medication after an injury, which led to an opioid addiction, rehab and eventually an overdose on fentanyl. She shares how she pushed to change the medical system that she blamed for her son's death.

"I have become a change agent and proof that there is power in lived experience," McGivern says.

On an intensive meditation retreat in India, McGivern learned a practice of relaxing her mind and imagining that she was breathing into her heart. During her darkest days after her son's death, she found the practice helped quieten the sadness and allowed her to breathe.

"On my journey, I have met so many amazing people who have shared their stories. The healing that can come from this is profound. So, write it down, read it out loud, decide who you want to share it with, and share it," she says.

The #MyVoice book series is available on Amazon. A fourth book is in the making, due for release on March 8, Women's Day, in 2022. It will feature positive stories about how people have confronted adversity and succeeded against the odds during the pandemic, either pivoting their businesses or doing things they wouldn't otherwise have done.

SINGAPORE HELPLINES

  • Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
  • Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
  • Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
  • Institute of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
  • Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928

This article was first published inĀ South China Morning Post.

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