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NSmen Share: Overcoming Health Challenges

NSmen on how they tackled personal health issues while in camp.

By Mandy Lim Beitler      1 December 2021

While serving the nation, enduring painful injuries, health crises, and mental anguish is inevitable. Learning from these experiences is part and parcel of the process that turns mere boys into men.

 

“I’m physically healthy but I suffer from insomnia. As a result, my biggest issue was having to wake up at 5.30 in the morning during BMT, since I always struggled to fall asleep at night. Day by day, it snowballed and eventually put a toll on my health. I would vomit in the mornings, my eyes began to hurt all the time, and I just could not focus during training.

I did a lot of research to find ways to help my insomnia and improve my health. One day, it dawned on me that serving NS is the pride of every Singaporean son. And even though I was born in Myanmar and was still only a PR then, I felt that same pride. Somehow, and I don’t know why, but I think that feeling tricked my mind.

Suddenly, I found myself able to focus and go through the training the whole day. At the end of each day, I would lie down on the bed, close my eyes and think of what I did that day until I fell asleep. Yes, my body was tired and even painful, but I felt no stress. I was just happy to be there and proud of myself.

Sometimes it’s not about what we face; it’s all about how we react. If you keep thinking it’s tough and view things negatively, you can end up getting stressed, which may lead to many health problems such as insomnia, like in my case. A positive mindset can be a cure!” – Ye Htet Aung Gary, CPL, BMTC School 4

 

“As with many Singaporeans in the midst of this pandemic, I started running more last year, in part to keep up fitness for IPPT, for the most part just to get outdoors. As a result of this sudden increase in mileage and old shoes that did not provide sufficient support, I developed ligament injuries to my right knee, to the point I had trouble getting up from a chair. I wondered if my running days were over… as if the pandemic wasn’t worry enough for my greying hair!

After x-rays determined it was not anything more serious, my injury was treated by a physiotherapist at SAFRA-partner AMP Lab. Through strength-building exercises over several months, I am now back to ‘normal’, though remain more cautious about my knees.

This incident reminded me of when I was a regular more than 20 years ago, and training for the Army Half Marathon (AHM). Months into training I developed excruciating pain in both thighs – like electric shocks with every step. Yet because the injury was not visible and I could neither pinpoint nor explain it, I even worried that my colleagues thought that I was ‘chao geng’ (Hokkien for malingering).

Thankfully the Army Medical service promptly arranged for MRI scans, which identified chronic compartment syndrome due to insufficient stretching and warm-up and cool-down routines. I underwent physiotherapy then too. A few months later, I successfully completed the AHM with a personal best of just over 1h 37min.

Lesson learnt: build strength and mileage gradually, and don’t scrimp on good shoes, warm-up and cool-down stretches and exercises, and proper medical and physiotherapy care!” – Raymond Tham, CPT (NS), HQ Armour

 

“The tough part of serving NS isn’t always about overcoming physical obstacles. For me, it was facing emotional health issues that revolved around Talent Night during BMT, where we had to present a show for the entire cohort. A combined group effort to perform a wooden plank-breaking demonstration had been my proposed idea.

I began to question if all the teammates who had agreed to participate would endure the time, effort, even risks the performance demanded. As the performance day got closer, my anxieties began to get the better of me, especially when managing my teammates’ confidence, trust, and best performance. I suffered crippling panic attacks.

Expectations were high because we were literally playing with fire. There was one stunt where my teammate was to smash his head on a thick plank laced with a mild solution of gasoline and lit on fire. “Whop-eesh!” His forehead landed, splitting the wood in half neatly, while the fire vanished upon contact. Safety was always our priority, and we prevented all hazards before, during and after the performance, that at the end of the day, ran without a hitch.

We were only recruits, yet we performed like we were grown men. It was one of the moments in my BMT riddled with anxieties, overcome only because of the trust and co-reliance with my teammates.” – Sri Yahweh Van Ram (Jacob), Civil Service Rank MX12 equivalent, RSAF

 

There are only two types of people in Singapore: Those who enjoyed National Service (NS), and those who didn’t – but all will agree it was a memorable time. In this series, we speak with several NSmen who share their most memorable experiences during National Service.

Share your favourite NS memories with us at magnsman@sph.com.sg!

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