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Sealed with a kiss

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

Sealed with a kiss

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“It started with a kiss on the cheek.”
That, according to Shana Straughn, is what sparked the relationship between herself and her fiancé Simon Cho Fook Lun.
“I used to host parties and I was doing a video shoot advertising a party for Project X a year ago,” Simon said.
“During the video shoot we pretended to be boyfriend and girlfriend but we actually didn’t know each other,” Shana chimed in. “At the ending of the video to make things look more romantic, I kissed him on his cheek and he blushed really bad. Then he offered to drop me home after the shoot.”
Clearly a spark was ignited that was resulted in a couple of chance meetings and eventual dates.
“Sometimes he would just show up at my house. Once I had the flu and he bought me a whole bunch of cold medicines,” Shana said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
For many people the idea of finding a soulmate often seems like the hardest of tasks. It takes people years of dating sometimes to find that person that they seem to connect with. But for Simon and Shana, it seemed that their lives were intertwined.
Earlier this year when Simon told Shana that he never received anything for Valentine’s Day, she decided to do something about it.
“Every single competition I saw for couples I decided we would enter,” Shana said.
“We entered about three competitions and won every one,” Simon said. “We won the LIME competition, THE NATION’S I Love My Cupid Because . . . and the Wave Essentials competition. We won all of them back to back.”
After ensuring that Simon got the gift he longed for, the couple, who have been together for a year, seemed to have a love and commitment that you often see with older couples.
For them it hasn’t only been building good things and the foundations of their relationship, it has also been about seeing each other through difficult moments.
“We don’t advertise our problems on Facebook and Twitter,” Simon said. “What we do is come together and talk about them and try to look for the best way to solve it.”
Both Simon and Shana said that they looked at their parents’ examples and try to bring those tenets of good communication and problem solving into their own relationship.
Those tenets were tested last year when Simon was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a condition in which people go back and forth between periods of a very good or irritable mood and depression. The mood swings between mania and depression can be very quick. It affects men and women equally and usually starts between the ages of 15 and 25.
“You really don’t know something is wrong, but I was really hot-headed,” Simon said. “Then there were times when I would get really depressed and I spoke to a doctor. It was hard at first because years ago I was diagnosed as dyslexic and now to hear that I’m bipolar. It was hard but we’ll get through it,”
Simon said it was difficult for his parents because they come from a religious background and rely on their faith to see them through difficult situations. That same faith and belief in God has been instrumental in his own life as well.
“Basically I learned a lot about it after being diagnosed and how to deal with it,” he said. “I have medication for my moods, but I’m also trying to deal with things myself.”
Simon realized early on that something was wrong and decided to do something about it.
“It was a situation where you lose a lot of sleep. You’re up all night feeling low and it affects your work and it affects school,” Simon added. “I’m at [the University of the West Indies] and [the Barbados Institute of Management and Productivity] and there’s a certain point where your body mentally and physically can’t take it anymore.”
Initially, Simon was concerned about Shana’s reaction to his diagnosis, but she never missed a beat.
“Shana researched everything, including the medication and what’s good for it, along with the side effects,” he said. “It was around the time when we met that I was diagnosed and when I needed someone she was there.”
Shana and Simon quickly realized that their relationship wasn’t just about celebrating the good times, but coping with the difficulties that life brings.
“I ask her all the time if she can handle it because bipolar disorder affects you any time anywhere,” Simon said. “She tells me, ‘I’m not leaving you’. I realized that finding someone who loves you for who you are and not what you have is key.”
That was why the couple got engaged earlier this year. “Shana really drives me to be better,” Simon said.