Local TV actress Eelyn Kok gives hope to those with depression

Local TV actress Eelyn Kok was so down she locked herself in her room for six months. Now, she wants to help others facing the same plight

Actress Eelyn Kok found strength through religion, exercise, reading inspirational books and listening to Survivor, a song by defunct American girl-group Destiny's Child. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Actress Eelyn Kok, 36, is a picture of bliss at this interview. She is all smiles and sounds chirpy when she talks about her toddler son Zane and her upcoming Channel 8 drama, Life - Fear Not.

But when she was a 23-year-old rookie, she was a very different person, she says. She put up a strong front around others, but she was filled with sadness inside.

She says she often shut herself in her room, lying on her bed all day, crying and not showering for weeks.

"I felt lethargic. I would wake up in the morning, lie there and just stare at the ceiling. Sometimes, I would sleep the day away. Sometimes, I couldn't sleep at night. I didn't feel like going out. I rejected my friends' invitations," says Kok in an exclusive interview with Life.

Today, she is back on her feet and wants to do her part to help others suffering the same plight. She will take part in next month's The Make A Difference (M.A.D) Race, which aims to raise awareness of depression.

The 5km run and 2.5km walk is spearheaded by volunteers Linette Sung and Kate Ho, and organised by non-profit charity organisation Touch Community Services.

Ms Sung, 27, used to have depression, while Ms Ho, 35, has a relative who suffered from the condition.

They asked Kok to join the cause after hearing her share her story at Hope Church in Jalan Sultan. Kok, a Christian, does not go to the church but was there to give her testimony.

Recalling the bleak period in her life, Kok says the trigger was the double whammy of her failed relationship with her first love and her mother's battle with cervical cancer, which was at an advanced stage. Her mother died of the illness about a decade ago.

After trawling the Internet, Kok found out that her perpetual melancholy and lethargy were all signs of depression.

An Institute of Mental Health spokesman says common symptoms include persistent sadness, difficulty falling asleep, a feeling of worthlessness and weight loss or weight gain.

Kok says: "It was a downward spiral for me. I found wallowing in self-pity was very addictive."

It became so bad she locked herself in her room for six months.

Fortunately, she managed to pick herself up.

"One day, a voice inside me told me to get up and get out of the house," says Kok, who got married in 2010.

She and her husband, a 37-year- old businessman, have a 2½- year-old son. She found strength through religion, regular exercise, reading inspirational books and listening to Survivor, a song by defunct American girl-group Destiny's Child.

But there were days when she still struggled. For instance, after she gave birth, she sometimes had to fight negative thoughts .

While she managed to will herself out of her misery, she encourages others in the doldrums to talk to family and friends.

The shy actress had kept to herself for fear of public scrutiny and judgment. She recalls: "I wore a mask. I would laugh and smile at work. After work, when I was at home by myself, I felt so alone.

"I felt even lonelier when I was with a group of friends because I felt no one would understand me. I was worried they would leave me if they found out I had depression."

In a happy place in life now, she is a bright example of how one can walk out of darkness.

She is enjoying motherhood and is looking forward to her new long- running TV drama Life - Fear Not, which premieres on Oct 19. She is working for the first time with veteran actor Chen Shucheng, 66, with whom she has a May-December on-screen romance.

On depression, she says: "I understand how difficult it might feel to step out of it. But if you keep to yourself, you'll be lingering at the edge of an abyss.

"Be determined and you can do it. Talk to a friend, get some adrenaline pumping with exercise or seek medical help."

  • The M.A.D Race will be held at Sentosa on Oct 10. Get details and sign up at www.madrace.sg

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2015, with the headline Local TV actress Eelyn Kok gives hope to those with depression. Subscribe