Slow Down and Breathe with Samantha Lek from The Collaging Chronicles

Posted by Melissa Lee on

Uncertainty has become a norm nowadays. People have become accustomed to adjusting their lifestyles to fit the new regulations and restrictions. While doing so has its benefits, we cannot deny that it has also taken a toll on many. Change is always difficult but for some it might be harder than others to get used to it. However, we should always remember that change is needed in our lives because it helps us to grow. 

With so many people trying to figure out their life in such a climate, it is always important to stop and think about your own wellbeing. This September, we have decided to focus on promoting self care and taking the time to slow down and do things that make you happy. As much as we should work hard to ensure that we can get through such trying times, it is important that we do not neglect ourselves. As such, we have teamed up with Samantha from The Collaging Chronicles to bring you all a special Instagram takeover series for #SelfcareSeptember! As someone who has struggled with her mental health, Samantha shares with us her experiences and how she managed to get through it. She believes in investing in yourself where you get in touch with both your negative and positive emotions, and also lets us in on her own self care tips!

1) Tell us more about yourself!

Hi! I’m Samantha Lek. I'm 23 and just graduated from the National University of Singapore this year! I’m a collage artist and I’m big on fashion, pop culture! I’m also a huge fan of astrology (I’m a June Gemini) and I really love documentaries.

2) Collaging is a very interesting and unusual medium. Why did you choose it and what inspired you to create The Collaging Chronicles?

Collaging has been part of my artistic expression since I was a kid. I actually got into collaging because of my older sister! She used to take clippings of her idols from magazines and newspapers and as the annoying younger sister that wanted to copy everything that she did, I followed suit.

It was only when I got older and learnt Photoshop that I decided to make digital collages! It started out as a stress-reliever from university. I made collages of my idols and also decided to use this medium to express how I feel.

What I love about collaging is that it doesn’t always have to make sense - you can put together an amalgamation of random elements and still create something beautiful. That’s something that reflects my experience with growing into a young adult - it can be confusing and a mess sometimes, but that’s just part of the human experience and there is beauty in it.

I decided to create The Collaging Chronicles as an archive of my works. I never imagined that it would get a following! It is still so surreal that there are people who appreciate my work and I am super grateful for all the support!


3) You've spoken a lot about mental health, depression and getting treatment. Could you share more about your journey?

Sure, I’m more than happy to share about it! I’ve been struggling with my mental health since adolescence. I’ve struggled with Anorexia since I was 13 years old. However it was only when I got to university that I decided to seek professional help at NUS’ University Health Centre.

Growing up, there has been this huge stigma against people who struggle with mental health due to how such struggles are stereotyped in the media. Being a teen and seeing how often mental illnesses and mood disorders are negatively portrayed in the media really made me internalise such views and made me hesitant to seek help for fear of being seen as “weak” or “crazy”.

It was only at the end of my first year in university in 2018 that a close friend of mine lovingly suggested that I speak to a school counsellor because she had a good experience there when she needed someone to talk to. The counsellor was so patient and encouraging and I felt very encouraged to work on my mental health. After a few sessions, he referred me to one of NUS’ psychiatrists and I was eventually diagnosed with Dysthymia and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).

The first psychiatrist that I saw was such a patient and lovely woman and she made me feel comfortable diving into this whole new world of mental health. I was prescribed antidepressants and tried out a few types, until I stuck to Venlafaxine, which I am still taking today! I’m in the process of tapering off the medication and can’t wait till I’m off it!

She guided me as I started my journey on antidepressants and I felt safe talking to her and trusting her. Sadly due to the pandemic, I had to switch psychiatrists in 2020, but my new psychiatrist ended up being as patient and lovely as her. I’m still seeing him at his private practice today and I’m also seeing a therapist regularly!

Depression and Anorexia is a lot to deal with when you’re trying to figure out your identity and coping with the stress of school, relationships and everything in between. I know that I’m very fortunate to have amazing friends and family who are so loving, patient and supportive. I also know that I am very privileged to be able to access these resources to get help and I will never take them for granted.

I know not everyone has the means to do so, and I make it a point to share affordable ways that Singaporeans can get help and support for their mental health whenever I come across posts on Instagram or articles online. The conversation around mental health has drastically improved across the years but there is still so much work that needs to be done to make mental health resources accessible, affordable and less stigmatised.


4) How do you get over creative blocks and what are some of the challenges you face during your creative journey?

I get creative blocks every now and then and feel burnt out and uninspired. Whenever I find myself feeling this way, it’s a sign that I have to slow down and take a break. I usually get over such creative blocks by spending time on my other hobbies such as reading, swimming and spending time with my friends! This helps to clear my head and being out and about allows me to draw inspiration from things that I see.

There are times where I worry if my art will be enjoyed by my followers as well and I question my abilities as well, but when such instances come around, I try to ground myself and remind myself that as much as I would love it if people enjoyed my art, the reason behind creating TCC was to chart my growth as an artist and art as a medium is subjective! As long as I enjoy what I do and like my own work, it doesn’t matter what other people think - unless it’s a client that i’m working with - then that matters!

5) Since it is #SelfcareSeptember, could you share with us what self care means to you?

Self-care to me is pretty much what the word means -- taking care of myself in all aspects of my life. I’m a huge believer that it is only when we invest time and energy into growing into better versions of ourselves, that we can show up well for the people in our lives! I’m a huge believer in being in touch with my emotions. There are so many people who think that self-care habits are solely positive experiences, but they actually involve coping with negative emotions as well! 


6) What are some of your top self care tips or habits?

My self-care habits have an association with my feelings to a certain extent, regardless of how good or bad they are. Here are my top 3 self-care habits:

1. Journaling

I make it a point to write down my thoughts at least once a week. I’ve been journaling ever since I was a kid and it has helped me to understand my emotions especially during bad periods of time. It also serves as a little memory bank and it’s fun to read back on my own journals to see how far I’ve come and to read about my thoughts from years ago. Sometimes when I read back on my journals, I find myself still feeling the same feelings that I did when I was younger - just that I can better express myself now.

2. Listening to music 

I’m a huge music lover and listen to all kinds of genres. I LOVE curating playlists for all kinds of events and emotions (you can check out my Spotify here) and turning to different playlists helps me depending on what I need - be it a mood booster, relaxing or even having a good cry.

3. Eating my favourite food

I LOVE pasta and pizza and they are my comfort food! While I try to eat healthily, I know restricting myself completely from indulgent food is unhealthy, so I make it an effort to treat myself to my favourite food whenever I have a good day or whenever I need a mood booster.


7) Which Rooki product do you love the most?

All the Rooki products are amazing but my favourite is definitely a tie between the Superfood Saviour Creme and the Green Pulp Paste Masque! I love how amazing Superfood Saviour Creme smells and how lightweight it is! As for Green Pulp Paste Masque, it is soooo hydrating and leaves my skin feeling refreshed after washing it off. Now I know why it’s such a popular product at Rooki.


8) What are some of your favourite pop culture quotes?

I have so many favourites but one would definitely be from the song "Don’t Dream It’s Over" by Crowded House! It’s my favourite song in the world and it’s my comfort song. It goes “Hey now, when the world comes in. They come, they come to build a wall between us, you know they won't win.” I also love this quote by Leonard Cohen “Forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light get in.” 

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