Angel & Demon

I have been contemplating my fate lately as I live my life in vain and pain, seeking salvation abroad in foreign lands and I know that life won’t break me but the pain of believing that love is dead will. Then, she walks into my life; offers me protection, a lot of love and affection whether I am right or wrong. Her wings unfold and gently stroke my soul when I am burning in dire flame. She breathes flesh to my bones, hope and love to my soul. Thanks for being my angel.

Jaafar and I

“When two human beings of different culture and language meet, all they need is a sincere heart to surpass any barrier which divides them. ”  — Adrian Hoe, Feb 12, 2015 Down under.

When I arrived at the Swan Hill train station in the afternoon of February 12, 2015, the air conditioner was blowing cold air with full blast. The station was quiet, only the ticket sales attendant and I were in the station. I sat on the bench in front of the ticketing booth and waited for my bus to arrive. I was to take a coach from Swan Hill, Victoria to Albury, New South Wales to catch a train to Sydney that night.

The main purpose of the visit was to meet up with an entrepreneur and investor to talk about my startup Mind Companion. I was also to attend a talk by Professor Peter Gøtzsche at the Hall of Assembly, St. James Building, Sydney. Professor Gøtzsche is a Danish physician, medical researcher and leader of the Nordic Cochrane Center at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark. His topic was “Mental Health — Overdiagnosed & Overmedicated.”

After a while, a man of Asian ethnicity walked in. His dark beard on his rounded face and brown eyes suggested that he should be of Middle East or Central Asia origin. He wore a long sleeve shirt. Our eyes met, we smiled and nodded to each other. Without saying a word, he went to the lockers behind where I was sitting, opened one of the lockers and took out his luggages. He seemed like moving to somewhere else.

He shuffled his belongings, packed up and then moved them to the bench next to where I was sitting. He sat. Relaxing a bit and he took a sip from his water bottle and rubbed his mouth with his sleeve.

“Hello!”, he said and smiled. “Hello! Where are you from?”, I replied and asked. “Afghanistan.”, he replied without hesitation. “Where are you going?”, I was eager to find out. This time, he replied in a language I didn’t understand but familiar. I shook my head and said to him with some simple hand gesture, “Do you know English? I don’t understand Afghanistan.”. He replied, “No Englishy.” I asked again with some hand gesture, “Where are you going? I’m going to Sydney.”. “OH… Sydney! Me Shepparton.”. I nodded and smiled then we went back to whatever we were doing before the conversation started. There was silence.

Having waited about 30 minutes or so, my coach arrived. I rose, took my luggage and walked to the bus. He stood up and grabbed his pieces then followed behind me. We were on the same coach!

I chose a window seat on the left of the aisle. He came up to the coach a moment later, looked around and sat on a window seat on the right side of the aisle, same row with me. We looked at each other and smiled.

The bus embarked on time, and I was looking out the window all the time, thinking about the meeting which would be tomorrow afternoon. It had been a while since the bus took off from Swan Hill and arrived at Echuca, a town located on the banks of the Murray River and Campaspe River in Victoria, Australia. The coach stopped for meal break at a service station.

He looked at me when the bus stopped and everyone started to alight for toilet and meals. I held a gesture with all five fingers pointing to my mouth and said, “Eat!”. He responded, “Ah…” and nodded with a wide smile. I alighted the bus with him after me. I walked into the shop and proceeded to the Gent’s room straight away. When I came out, I saw him browsing the food and drinks and then walked out without buying anything. Maybe he wasn’t hungry or the food did not appeal to his appetite, I thought. I bought a can of Mother’s Frosty Berry.

Mother - Berry flavored energy drink

The weather was sunny but cool and nice, it was 28°C. I strolled around the bus to enjoy the cool sunny late afternoon and to stretch my muscles for a while. It would be a long haul trip. The coach would arrive at Albury before midnight and then I would board a connecting train at midnight and would arrive in Sydney around 6AM.

Sunset At Echuca

After 30-minute meal break, everyone boarded the bus and continued the journey. I felt hungry and took out the breads and raw carrots which I prepared for this trip and ate. That was my dinner. I turned my head and our eyes met again and I raised my hand showing him my food and asked, “Do you want some?” He replied with a hand gesture signaling “No, thanks.” and smiled then turned away.

But after a while, he moved away from his window seat to the aisle seat and extended his arm to tap on my shoulder. He pointed to my bread and then make a circular motion with his another hand on his stomach. Immediately, I understood that he was feeling hungry and asked if I could give him some breads. Without slightest hesitation, I took two pieces of breads and handed over to him and said, “Eat, eat.” He accepted the food I handed over and started chewing. I gave him some more breads and he accepted with two hands and thanked me.

We continued eating the breads on our seats. I looked out of the window and began to reconstruct his facial image in my head. Deep lines ran across his forehead, his skin was rough and pores were big and obvious. Some grey hairs in his beard and on his head but obviously, his hair was darker than mine but he was definitely older than me, I guessed. He must be a refugee seeking safety away from his war-torn country Afghanistan. He was alone so he could be separated from his family or he might have lost his family during the war. I did not want to ask because for every man, he has a secret sorrows that the world knows not.

I had two raw carrots. I gave him one and ate the other. At first, he stared at the raw carrot. When I showed him my carrot and bit it, he understood and started to bite his. We both were busy chewing carrots like two giant rabbits for a while. When we finished, I asked “Full?” and patted my tummy. He answered, “Ya.”

“My name is Adrian.”, I said by pointing my finger to myself. “What’s your name?”, I asked by pointing my finger to him. He did not understand so I repeated another time slowly. “Ah…”, he replied and said; “Adrian.”, pointing his finger to me and then he said “Jaafar”, pointing his finger to himself. We shook hands and then exchanged our phone numbers.

We started with some simple conversation with non-standard sign language. I learned that he was in the UNHCR’s refugee camp in Kuala Lumpur before he came to Australia. I also learned that he was working in orchards and farms picking fruits and harvesting vegetables. He was going to Shepparton for more new jobs.

Time flies. Our bus was arriving at Shepparton. He alighted the coach at the station. We took a photo before we parted our own ways. We shook hands, hugged and patted each other on shoulders and backs. Before I turned away to leave, he gently patted on my left arm and said, “Brother, you good man, good heart.”, and then he softly pointed his finger to my heart.

I returned him with a wide smile and patted on his left arm and said, “You too brother, take care. See you real soon.” And I went up the bus, waved to him from my window seat when the bus continued the journey.

The sun had set, another day was soon going to end and a new day would begin. I sat quietly, looking out from the window. It was getting darker outside and I could only see lights from other vehicles, street lamps and some houses far away.

When I first arrived in Australia, I had endured some days and nights with hunger when my food supplies were running low. I knew the feeling of being in hunger and I was glad to share my food with someone in need. I could see his eyes filled with tears but he tried every effort to not let his tears ran down his cheek. He “swallowed” his tears while eating the food I gave him.

Although our encounter lasted merely several hours with some short and simple conversation and sign language, we touched each other hearts for sure. If the human race is not consumed by greed and selfishness; if they treat each other with utmost sincerity, love and good hearts instead of doubt, hate and atrocity; the world would be a better place. And to Jaafar, he would not have to be separated from his loved ones; he would not have to flee his beautiful country.

This trip to Sydney was worthwhile and filled with the warmth of two sincere men, their new friendship and love. I would never regret making this trip even if the meeting would not bring any significantly positive result to my startup.

I found a purpose of life and treated a man I barely knew with heart felt sincerity which I had never experienced before. That, would be one of the founding basis and culture for Mind Companion.

The Journey of Bootstrapping — Startup 156 week: Wrapped Up and Reboot — Week 122

Last Saturday, the final decision was drawn with heavy hearts. It is sad to have to make a decision to wrap up AdaLogica. At last we decided to part ways after 121 weeks of striving and trying but we think it will be a better decision to move on. I wish my partner, Allison all the best for her future endeavors.

As for me, I continue to move on with the software development at Mind Companion. AdaLogica will be merged and all the published apps will be transferred to the new company soon. At this moment, new apps (if any) will continue to be published under AdaLogica until the Apple Developers Subscription expire in mid 2015. Consolidation is necessary so that I can stay focus with fewer companies and administration work.

The journey of bootstrapping will be rebooted. Until then, thank you for following this series.

The Abyss of Depression

Imagine yourself floating in the middle of a crashing ocean. A thunderstorm is roaring above you. Wrathful waves throw you high up into the air and then mercilessly smash down on top of you pushing you deeper towards the bottom of the ocean, over and over again. Lightning brightens up the sky, but you are unable to see anything, except for the thunderbolts zapping through the darkness. The deafening thunder pierces your eardrums. You feel yourself being sucked into the abyss beneath. You feel something grabs your limbs and your body. You struggle, but are unable to escape. Pulled into darkness, deeper and deeper, you see the lightning becoming more distant. The world suddenly becomes silent, you feel thunder pounding your heart. You feel helpless, hopeless and lifeless…

This is how I felt during two severe depressive episodes which included suicidal thoughts brought on by work stress and relationship problems. The first episode was on Saturday August 23, 2014. The second one was also on a Saturday October 4, 2014.

Although I was not actually planning to commit suicide, I was thinking about the issue of suicide and the reasons why people want to commit suicide.

I was suspected of having Asperger Syndrome or AS. One of the traits in people with AS is lack of empathy with others. I lack empathy, but most of the time my empathy comes much slower, usually hours or even days after an event.

“There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold- with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.”

― Barbara Kingsolver

During my first episode of suicide thoughts, I felt the pain for Robin Williams, who had committed suicide earlier that month. I felt sympathy for him. I could feel how helpless and hopeless he must have been during the hours before he took his own life. Suddenly, I felt empathy for Robin on that Saturday morning. I felt the excruciating pain and, in addition to my own, I was dragged deeper into the dark abyss of depression.

But thank goodness, a very close friend and co-worker, Allison Beh, pulled me out of this that very Saturday afternoon. I am still alive, of course. I not dare to imagine if I kept dwelling on suicide issues, I might actually become part of the statistics.

“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.

Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”

― Stephen Fry

On September 2, I was diagnosed having mild clinical bipolar disorder. The prognosis was good and I needed no medication. However, this added more weight to my depression.

Last week, I read from a local Chinese newspaper that a teenager committed suicide because his girlfriend broke up with him and refused to communicate. They had not actually met but knew each other from Facebook. Before my own experience, I would shake my head and say “How silly!” But this time, I felt empathy for this young man.

Then, again later last week, I read about the tragic death of Dr. Sophia Yin, a world renowned and well respected veterinary behaviorist, who ended her own life struggling with deep depression. I felt for her. I watched her video, Tough Love, and I could not imagine that she could commit suicide.

If a highly educated and well respected person like Dr. Sophia Yin, or a successful actor such as Robin Williams could have depression which finally costs them their own lives, what about you and I? Anyone can suffer from depression without knowing it.

My startup, Mind Companion, aims to develop mobile apps to help people to cope with their depression and mood disorders. My own experience makes me want to continue the development in spite of the fact that the partnership at Mind Companion did not work out.

Imagine a wearable device that evaluates and monitors your moods, collecting and sending the tell tale data to an affection computer where the data is analyzed. When the affection computer detects you are experiencing depressive episode and thinks that you may be in trouble, the affection computer then sends notification to people you love so that they can be alerted and care for you.

Wait! Am I nuts to give up my ideas? No. I am not. Sophia’s tragic death has awakened me. With the departure of my teammates, I am unable to succeed my own. The project is a huge and expensive endeavor. I need assistance to realize all the potentially useful applications that may help people and save lives!

So, if you have the same passion and empathy for people like the famous actor Robin Williams, or the world renowned and highly respected veterinary behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin, or the many people whose names you have never heard of, like the young man I mentioned above, please join me. I can be contacted at Mind Companion or via my personal website adrianhoe.com.

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”

― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tough Love

Dr. Sophia Yin, aged 48, one of the world’s high respected and renowned veterinary behaviorists committed suicide on Sunday September 28.

You can catch her appearance in the short film Tough Love, where she talks about her life discovering positive-reinforcement training. A really interesting video to learn about training and taming your pets, especially dogs.

Her demise is a lost to humanity.

Another Tragic Death

I read about another tragedy of depression and suicide case on Huffington Post last Friday. A 48 year-old Dr. Sophia Yin committed suicide on Sunday September 28. She was one of the world’s highly respected and important veterinary behaviorists.

Dr. Yin was a pioneer in the field of stress-free, positive-reinforcement dog training. She took her own life due to deep depression. May Sophia rest in peace.

You can read the story on Huffington Post here and watch her video, “Tough Love” on YouTube.

Dissolve and Reboot

When a partnership does not work out as good as it should be, then it is time to make a decision to dissolve the partnership and reboot. It is really sad to reach this point when the partnership at Mind Companion has to come to an end.

On October 2, I sent out an email to call for unanimous votes to void the MoU that we signed during our visit to Hong Kong in early August. Unfortunately, I have not received any response until this time of writing. Hence, I need to do what I deem fit so that Mind Companion can move on.

The partnership will be dissolved immediately today. I wish all my ex-cofounders best of luck in their future endeavor.

Launching of Amulets App

Finally! The app that I’ve been developing for the past few months has been approved and ready for sale on iTunes App Store.

Amulets allows you to take photos of your Thai buddhist amulets collection and record their origins and stories so that you can take your entire collection in your pocket to showcase to your friends anywhere you go.

The Amulets app is the first of its kind. You can read more and download the app here.

Do you like our app? How about writing us your review on iTunes?

 

My New Adventure

The past four weeks were very exciting but filled with emotion and sorrows. Since the inception of a new startup sometime mid June, I have been working non-stop building ideas and pulling pieces together and neglected a lot of feelings especially the feelings and needs of people surrounding me.

We had two deadlines to meet. One is the startup competition submission by July 31. Because we were short notified of the competition, we were unable to submit a 2-minute pitch video on time. When we received an approval to allow us to submit the pitch video by August 15, we needed to change our plan. In order to meet the second deadline by August 15, we decided the team must meet and work together to produce the video.

There are five of us in the team, three are Hong Kong nationals and two are Malaysians. Instead of three persons coming to Malaysia, we decided it is more cost-effective for two persons traveling to Hong Kong.

The team finally completed and uploaded the pitch video on time. Kudos to the entire team. I really appreciate everyone’s hard works and patience with me.

Mind Companion is a startup with a passion to help people to cope with their emotion using affective computing, wearable devices and emotion intelligence.

I, myself has many emotional flaws and this startup project gives me a chance to rediscover myself. I hope to discover who I actually am through this project.

To change the world, I need to change myself first.

Do you have difficulties coping with your emotion? Visit mindcompanion.co and talk to us.

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Robin Williams

After visiting Cyberport (Hong Kong) in the morning, Jo, Silvia and I were on our way to visit The Hong Kong Science and Technology Park and I read the news about the death of Robin Williams.

According to the news, Robin committed suicide on the morning of August 11 at his home in Paradise Cay, California. He hanged himself and died of asphyxiation. He was having severe depression. In mid 2014, he admitted himself into Hazelden Foundation Addiction Treatment Center in Windstorm, Minnesota, for treatment related to his alcoholism. Before his death, he was also diagnosed with early stage Parkinson’s disease.

It is sad. If, only if, our Mind Companion app were completed, things might turn out differently. The demise of Robin has made me determined to push the development through.

Robin’s movies, Patch Adams and Mrs. Doubtfire inspired me. I wish Robin rest in peace.

The Journey of Bootstrapping — Startup 156 week: Take Flight to Hong Kong — Week 110

Today marks a significant day for us to take our startup to Hong Kong. Our journey is full of hope and passion despite of the slow development at AdaLogica. We’re hoping this trip will be a turning point with our new startup, Mind Companion.

For the past few weeks, we have been working non-stop to put our concepts into writing then completed and submitted a startup competition application. After that we worked on the website and then meeting agenda etc. It’s frantic but things turned out as expected and we are all set to go.

As I am writing this post at twenty thousand feet off the ground, I have a mixed feeling, excited and nervous. Excited because we are finally going places, taking with us a new hope and venture. Nervous because we are stepping out of our comfort zone into uncharted territory with new people we haven’t actually met.

Looking out of the window, white clouds shimmering in the late afternoon sunlight, golden rays above the horizon. Beautifully breath taking. Will our startup succeed with a beautifully breath taking debut? I am not sure but we will work hard towards the goal.

The Great Team

Yesterday, we finally completed the StartmeupHK competition form and submitted before the deadline. The team spirit is high and we are set to meet in Hong Kong on August 8. The meeting will be the first time the team members to meet each other.

What brings us together? Passion! Yes, passion it is. We all find similar passion in helping people in need of support during emotional downturns. Although Mind Companion, our startup aims to develop mobile applications to help high-functioning people with Asperger’s Syndrome to battle their emotional downturns, we find the concepts are very useful to even the normal people who suffer from their emotional up’s and down’s.

Winning or losing the competition is not important to the team. This competition will be an ultimate test to tryout if the team can work together or not.

Emotional Metamorphosis

“Emotions are generally regarded in the mind of the Buddhist as aspects of our personality that interfere with the development of a spiritual life, as unwholesome states ethically undesirable, and roadblocks to be cleared in the battleground between reason and emotion. In keeping with this perspective emotions are described as states of agitation or imbalance.” ~ Dr. Padmasiri de Silva, 2007

I recently came across a type of chronic mood disorder called cyclothymia or cyclothymic disorder, a milder form of bipolar disorder.

Cyclothymia goes through a series of depressive or dysthymic episodes and hypomanic episodes.

During a depressive or dysthymic episode, the symptoms include difficulty making decisions, problems concentrating, poor memory recall, guilt, self-criticism, low self-esteem, pessimism, self-destructive thinking, constant sadness, apathy, hopelessness, helplessness and irritability. Other common symptoms are quick temper, poor judgment, lack of motivation, social withdrawal, appetite change, lack of sexual desire, self-neglect, fatigue, and insomnia.

In hypomanic episode, symptoms may include unusually good mood or cheerfulness (euphoria), extreme optimism, inflated self-esteem, rapid speech, racing thoughts, aggressive or hostile behavior, lack of consideration for others, agitation, massively increased physical activity, risky behavior, spending sprees, increased drive to perform or achieve goals, increased sexual drive, decreased need for sleep, tendency to be easily distracted, and inability to concentrate.

Typical people (of sane minds) also go through phases of hypomanic and depressive episodes in their daily life. For example, a person can feel euphoric when he/she gets a lot of fulfillment from his/her work. But when things have been done, the excitement subsides and the euphoric feeling wanes. If during this time, a sad event comes along, that person may become depressed.

Life is a roller coaster ride. There are high moments and also low moments. The difference is that typical people may find a way to get away to recharge and then come back to normal life again. But some, like the cyclothymia, are unable to do so because of their mood disorder.

I examined my emotional states in the past, it was as though I went through the roller coaster ride. Recently, I was in an euphoric state while my app development was progressing steadily. Then depression kicked in from many aspects. I am not suggesting that I am cyclothymic but my experience looks exactly like the symptoms described above.

Like what Dr. Padmasiri de Silva wrote, emotion is an obstacle to the development of spiritual life. Emotion is the biggest impediment in one’s personal and career development. By recognizing oneself’s emotion, healing is possible.

The healing process is likened to the metamorphosis of a butterfly which goes through four stages:

  1. Larvae: You are uncertain of who you are and where you come from.
  2. Caterpillar: You are exploring every possibilities you come across and consuming anything that is consumable to you. At this stage, you are struggling to satisfy your hunger and seeking security and desire for patience.
  3. Chrysalis: You are focusing on yourself, constantly searching your inner world trying to identify your strength and weaknesses, trying to single out which area of your life you have control over and can improve. Sometimes you feel so ecstatic like you are on top of the world, sometimes you feel stucked, isolated and depressed.
  4. Wounded Butterfly: You see an opportunity and you want to fly towards it. But you are like a wounded butterfly nursing a wounded wing from past hurt, fearful of flying and confused about what to do and where to go. Deep inside you, you are hoping to fly again to rediscover lost freedom and peace.

I discerned my (work) life has been through these four stages of metamorphosis. I want to fly high to live my dream but feel so incapable to do so. I see opportunity but I am afraid to open my arms to embrace it. I feel uncertainty of any outcome and fear to get even more hurt and will not be able to fly again.

Then I came about this beautiful quote:

“Happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

This inspires me to heal. And healing I am and growing stronger.

Are you riding the emotion roller coaster and finding it ruining your life? Please join me in the emotional metamorphosis and triumph together. Let me know of your experience.

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