On 1 August 2018, the founder of Malaysian fashion brand Twenty3 Sherlyn Tan announced on Facebook, Instagram and website that she would be shutting down her business to focus on improving her mental health.
“Twenty3 was my baby, and I put my soul into it for every single exhausting day and sleepless night for the last 5 years. I’ve cried so many tears over it, through social media firestorms and our KLFW debut. And through it all, I’ve had to act tough and happy on Instagram.”
Since starting out in 2013, Sherlyn’s brand has grown from being a mere fashion reseller to a full-on fashion label complete with collections catering to various occasions. She even managed to set up brick-and-mortar stores in Atria Shopping Gallery, Sunway Pyramid, Bangsar Shopping Centre and Publika. Sherlyn even managed to expand her brand to Australia.
But despite the growth, the 31-year-old has been very open with her ongoing struggles with depression and anxiety.
Finding her own path
Before starting her sportswear collection Move by Twenty3, she shared that she went through one of the lowest points in her life and was suicidal.
In an attempt to help beat her depression, her boyfriend took her to a workout session and she soon became hooked on getting fitter, which eventually led to her creating her own gym clothing line.
Her aim was “to create a brand the empower women to live a fitter and healthier lifestyle and to be able to feel good about their body no matter what size they had.”
May the force indeed be with you to power through your workouts! ? Featuring the Ceola Side Mesh Leggings on @yokepeiong from the Last Launch collection ✨ Get yours today! . . . #goodbyeMOVE #movebytwenty3 #move23 #fitness #fashion #activewear #lifestyle #gym #sportswear #motivation #force #fit #healthy
Apart from being known for its cute gym gear, MOVE eventually grew to become a community that guided and supported each other through communal workouts and sharing sessions.
Her passion and enthusiasm helped many change their lives and broke their limits. Sadly, it didn’t last. When her mental health took a decline again, she knew she no longer can provide the encouragement and support that the MOVErs needed.
“The truth is, I’m not tough. I’ve been fighting depression my whole life. Officially, I was diagnosed with the persistent depressive disorder and severe anxiety just last year. I’m still undergoing therapy and taking medication daily, but I know it’s still just the beginning. I’ve had many setbacks in my recovery this year alone, even though I’m not even going to the office anymore. Once the mind has broken, it’s very easy to shatter again, but I’m trying very hard to hold it together.”
Knowing when to say ‘Goodbye’
On top of her battles with anxiety, the rising production costs and the influx of cheap activewear made it an even more difficult journey.
While many suggested her cut down on the quality construction, she was unable to let go of her principles despite it being apparent that the industry and consumers were moving in the opposite direction.
To that, she made the decision to shut down her business.
“That’s why I feel like I can no longer lead the company that I built, and I’ve taken the difficult decision to wind down the company to focus on my own recovery. The team has been incredible and very supportive throughout this time, but a small company like ours needs a strong captain to navigate this difficult industry.”
Depression is real!
In a recent statics survey, the World Bank had predicted that 340mil people will suffer from depression by 2020. In addition to that, the National Institute of Health had found that depression to be a most disabling disease as it is not tangible and people find it hard to empathise.
Consultant psychiatrist Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj added that by 2030, depression will be the most disabling disease as it will have the highest number of days lost due to a disability.
Read also: 10 steps to follow before you quit your job
A study done in the United States found that 30 to 40% of absenteeism at work is due to unexplained somatic complaints like body ache, lack of sleep, and lethargy. While there is no such study done in Malaysia, a primary care study in Thailand about five years ago showed up to 30% were psychosomatic complaints.
“Many go unreported because firstly the difficulty in diagnosing depression, followed by the inability of people to recognise the symptoms of depression themselves,” he said adding that many who are in fact depressed are unwilling and embarrassed to come forward for treatment.
Know your limits and take care of yourself
Hopefully, with Twenty3’s example, more people within and without the entrepreneurial scene will be more mindful of such matters and come to realise that things like stress, depression, and mental health are all very real problems that need to be more openly discussed.
Finally, it’s also worth mentioning that if you feel the same way Sherlyn does, it is always a good first step to talk about your struggles through with someone willing to listen. Subsequently, you can try to reach out to these organisations as well:
03-7956 8144 (Kuala Lumpur) | 04-2815161 (Penang) | 06-284 2500 (Melaka) | 05-547 7933 (Ipoh) | 06-765 3588 (Seremban)
Lifeline Association of Malaysia
03-9285 0039, 03-9285 0279, 03-9285 0049
Malaysian Mental Health Association