One of Us is a video series featuring regular people in Singapore who are out there pursuing their passions and dreams. Some have already made it, while others are still fighting the good fight to realise their goals.
We hope that through this series, Singaporeans can realise that finding success or making a small mark in this world is not something reserved only for a select few.
This is Crystal Goh’s story.
It was a day in April 2011 when singer-songwriter Crystal woke up and found herself in “a singer’s nightmare”, as she describes. She had completely lost her voice.
It wasn’t a simple sore throat, as she later discovered when she was diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia (SD), a voice disorder characterised by sudden involuntary muscle movements or spasms that affect the vocal folds.
Some people with the condition have their words unpredictably cut off due to spasms while others sound quiet and breathy.
Speaking at barely a whisper then, Crystal believed her career as a singer was surely shot to bits. Or so she thought…
A Wedding Favour
Prior to losing her voice, Crystal had agreed to write a song and perform it at her friend’s wedding, which was to be held in 2011 as well.
After losing her voice, she told her friend that she had to withdraw from performing because she could not sing and did not want to ruin her big day. She recounts, “It’s going to be captured on camera, and everybody is going to be asking, ‘Why can’t that lady sing?’”
To her surprise, her friend insisted that she sang at the wedding, as she wanted “to make a statement” that she believed that Crystal would recover.
The decision to go ahead with the performance turned out to be one of the key moments that kickstarted Crystal’s road to recovery.
Describing the day of the performance, she says, “I, literally, was singing with my head down and trying to get the song all done. And then after that I looked for the exit sign and tried to rush to the exit sign.”
“There were people that I didn’t know, who just came up to me, and they said ‘Thank you’ and they started to hug me. And they said ‘You know what? I also believe I can recover (from another condition).’ They said that listening to me actually gave them hope. That perhaps, they could also do it.”
Helping people heal and healing herself
Not letting her SD diagnosis defeat her, Crystal founded Diamonds on the Street in 2013, a help group that provides support to youths from vulnerable communities. The group encourages expression through songwriting, often turning painful moments in their lives into songs as a way to deal with their problems.
Starting Diamonds On The Street was a step towards recovery for Crystal. She had written a song to remind herself that she would recover one day, and her friends encouraged her to share the song with other people who needed help.
With that, she was introduced to a group of youths from vulnerable communities by a friend, and Diamonds On The Street was born. She recalls, “My song, my story could actually connect with them, even though my voice was not perfect. That gave me a lot of courage to continue writing and singing.”
She shares that these youths often go through traumatising experiences, and have to learn to cope with difficult emotions, which is what she hopes to help them deal with through songwriting. She says, “I found that one of the most powerful ways to process and to make sense of difficult emotions is actually through crafting a narrative… through songs.”
Crystal says that while she shared her own songs and stories of struggle with participants of Diamonds on the Street, she also learnt about their stories and realised that she was not that different from them.
“Learning how to see my so-called liability as a strength, that was very powerful. Because the liability - which was that I found it hard to speak - was the very strength that gave me the ability to empathise with what they (the at-risk youth) had gone through and to understand pain. And I think that became the cement for the community and myself.”
Over the next six months of helping the youths and connecting with them through music, Crystal, without her own realisation, was gaining her voice back.
Explaining how she healed, she says, “There’s something about the community, and something about healing together.”
Today, six years after losing her voice, Crystal is back to performing. She is slowly regaining her voice and exploring her new “sound”, and continues to help at-risk youth and marginalised individuals through music and Diamonds on the Street.
You can watch the video of her story here:One of Us is a collaboration between Mothership.sg and the Singapore Tourism Board. We believe that the people of Singapore have some of the best stories to share with each other, and with the world.
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