In my more stable state of mental health, I take the opportunity to reflect on how depression has changed my life, how my faith had played a vital part of my recovery, and the constant battle to balance the two. As national mental health week approaches, I thought I take this time to provide some insight and wisdom into the world of depression and the lessons I have learnt trying to manage it.
Depression has changed how I thought about myself, how I lived and essentially how it shaped my mindset. I thought depression was a superficial thing that people say to get out of blaming themselves for the bad things that happen in their lives. But when it hits me, I realise the cycle of negative thought and self-blame that it actually implants in my brain so I would feel like it is my fault. Depression allowed my self-loathing and self-hate to manifest in destructive ways. Most importantly, my interaction with others became a chore and I would rather cocoon myself in a hard shell which no one gets close.
Depression is like an addiction in a way because it is hard to pull yourself out of a downward spiral of despair and hopelessness. It is also contradictory because the more we try to hide it by saying I am fine, we are in fact screaming for someone to care and to help us without stating the obvious. Depression had made my decision-making process all croas-wired and I find myself less capable of making a decisive decision. My overthinking and over-analysing feeds into that and I get anxious and irritated.
God has shown me there is light at the end of the tunnel. In my darkest hours, where I wanted to kill myself, God had shown me that His grace is enough for me. He held onto me and carried me through the valleys of despair. I have come to realise that depression does not make me less loved or valued in God’s eyes. My faith in a greater purpose has given me some great insights into how I relate to the world. God has a plan for me, and while I don’t know what that may look like now, I need to see the next second in order to find out what that may be.
I have learnt that sometimes we can’t pull ourselves out of a rut. Which is why awareness is so important. We need to be able to care for our loved ones and be okay with asking the question “are you okay?”. We need to understand that for the sufferers and fighters, they are trying their best to push through the challenges they face in life. Instead of telling them, “you need to do better”, perhaps asking them “how can I help?”. Instead of saying “it will be better”, just sit there and be with them.
What we need is first of all a compassion for the struggles that people go through. Mental health sometimes is not a war that can be won in this lifetime, but it is a constant battle for people to learn to live with. The sure hope that one day, when Jesus returns, we will be made whole again and there will be no more tears and pain, that is one thing which helps me to put things in perceptive. The struggles of this lifetime will not be in vain.
The journey will be painful and long and difficult. It will probably be a lifelong journey. What we need is the support and encouragement of people who will not be afraid of “getting their hands dirty”. We need friends who will be there for the journey, to laugh with us and to cry with us. We need people who will tell us that it is okay not to be okay, but will push us to speak out and seek professional help. We don’t need to be a superhero in our struggles with mental health, but our first step of seeking help will be the most courageous thing that we can do in our fight against them.
I love a good book that makes you think. But what I love even more is one that makes you self-reflect and challenge you to look at your sins and try to change them. Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods does exactly that. I have not finished the book yet, but so far, it has challenged me to search my heart and look at who I am letting in control of my life.
We all have counterfeit gods living in our hearts. Some are obvious, others are not, and some we believe are not idols at all. Yet, counterfeit gods exist in all of us. Some are surface idols that we can identify, but in our hearts, those idols are usually driven by deep idols that rock us to the core. If we continue to allow them to control our lives, I believe that eventually, we would go down a spiral of despair because those things don’t give us the sure hope of happiness. They are temporary because when they fail, and they will, the only things that are left for us are despair, anger and hopelessness.
One of my counterfeit gods has to do with love. That is the surface idol. I believe I have been so consumed about my identity in the “world of love” that I have been obsessing over it. It frustrates me and when it fails, I feel like I failed. Deeper down, I suspect that I have made acceptance, approval and comfort my counterfeit gods. The longing of feeling loved drives what goes through my head. It has also muddled the way I see relationships, romantic or otherwise.
Over the last four months, I have been back and forth about the idea of what it meant for to open that can of worms called same-sex attraction. My desires, temptations and my emotions have not made the situation easier. Whenever I feel like I am making headway, my heart screams in protest and I am knocked back a few steps. Yet, this problem, I believe I have magnified it so much that I cannot think straight and it consumes my mind like a plague.
The painful reminder is for me to stop dwelling on my sins and to look to Christ for identity and salvation. It is a difficult journey and I feel like it will be a long time coming, if ever, for me to come to that point where I am at peace with myself. To understand the counterfeit gods that dwell in our hearts, but to learn to let go of those idolatries, it is something which we need to work towards every day of our lives.
We Christians often get it wrong. We can blame it on busyness of life, claim that it is the paid ministers’ jobs, or thinks that we do not have talent to minister.
We Christians believe that we can magically help people to grow in Christ without having to spend time with them and listen to them. We love the idea of helping people but we don’t want to be the one who sacrifices their right for the sake of the gospel. We want to fix people’s problems, help clean up their sins without even understanding what their sins are.
I know that we are busy. But I feel like the more busy we are, the more we need to intentionally think about how we are spending the time. I feel like we have become more self-centred as we claim to have taken on more stuff. We have lost the idea of community.
What is really heartbreaking is when people start talking about ministry (of any kind) as a paid job, and those who does it as paid work is beginning to see it as a regular job that just pays the bills.
I want to change the way we think about ministry and fellowship. It is not just for the church elders and the pastors, but everyone should minister each other. Church is about community and we are made for relationships. The support and encouragement we receive and give will help us to be more Christ-like. Doing ministry is about doing life together, not about small talk, but going alongside our brothers and sisters throughout their journey.
It is not hard. You just need to spend time together, not just at church but in life, come with a compassionate heart and an ear to listen. Having the faith in God will mean that God will do the rest. All we need to say is “I’m available.” When we step up, God will give us the resources that we need. And we may find that we will get more out of it then we put into it.
Okay, so I am done venting. The best way to do ministry is to start taking a geniune interest in other people’s life and to take the initiative. I will do my best and trust that God will do what He plans.
I have been given the gift of friendship from the few who did not turn from me at my darkest times in my life. Their support and love for me allowed me to appreciate the value of building the people of God’s kingdom. I sincerely hope that I can create the opportunities for others to do the same and to allow the possibilities for ministry to happen in my sphere of influence (aka my church community).
One of the biggest questions I ask myself is how content am I at being single. I have slowly realised how blessed I am, no matter what my martial status is and that for most of my life, I had bought into the lie that I need a romantic or sexual relationship to feel valued as a person.
I am in a way conflicted when I see Facebook posts of friends getting married or starting a family. On one hand, I am happy for them and congratulate them on their new chapter in life. Yet, I often wonder how much emphasis we put on finding love or your soulmate, and how that affects the way we think, the way we feel and the way we act.
The world wants you to think that to be truly happy, you need to be “in love”. You need that significant other to fully enjoy what life has to offer you. Sadly, in a way, I believe the church is encouraging that line of thought. I feel frustrated that people associate so much of their life and identity on romantic love (and lust) that they sometimes fail to see the bigger picture. Everything that “love” offers is self-centred.
We have failed as a society to acknowledge the value of companionship and friendship without the romantic or sexual undertones. People have always told me that how can the emotion of love be wrong. They emphasise love as an emotion and how we should feel about it. But love is so much more than just a feeling or emotion.
Love is an act which one can chooses what to do and how to do it. 1 Corinthians do set out some principles about what love should be, and not one of them merely talks about emotions or feelings. It is because we choose to go with our feelings that we have war, violence and hatred. If we treat love just like any other emotion, I believe we just end up just like those who act on their feelings of greed, of hatred and of jealousy.
Love is not just about romance or sexual intercourse. True love is the ability to act sacrificially despite your emotions towards someone. God loved us so despite that we have sinned against Him and have turned away from Him, He sacrificed His only Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins so we can enter His kingdom again. Love is knowing those who persecute you but still pray and love them as you would for your friends. Love is about learning to sacrifice our rights for the sake of the good for others, and for God.
Nowhere in Bible do God promise us marriage and romantic love. It is a blessing from God, but it is not a fact. It is no way a measure of who you are as a person or how godly you are. Likewise, we have a misconception that godliness means heterosexuality, or marriage.
Singleness and remaining celibrate is also a godly way of life and is also a blessing from God. Yes, sometimes I do get lonely, the kind that gets me on the floor in a crying heap, the kind where friendship may not be enough. But I remember the one who loved me even before I was born. It is God who held me close to His heart in my darkest hours, and it is God who never let me go and allowed me to dive down the cliffs of death. When I do get lonely, I remember that God never forgets me and that makes the journey very worthwhile.
Sometimes, I feel like an infant again, learning what it means to walk, eat, think and act. For the most part of my life, I have had the idea that I know all that I needed to “survive” in this world. That is, I have already learnt to think for myself, know what and how I should feel, how I should behave, etc. But as I look back on my life, there are still so many things that I need to rethink.
Mindset needs to be shifted about the way I view myself, the way I believe others see me, the way I was programmed to think. We are living in a broken world, and as a result, the way we view some of the worldly thoughts are not God’s original design for us. We are corrupted by outside influence that tells us how we should think and feel.
Today, I had to reexamine what I have been taught all these years of my life. I realised that I had been bought into the lie that love is everything and everything is becomes sexualised and lustful. Perhaps, I do have some of those feelings, but for the most part, I need to learn what it means to be me, and how to be okay with being me.
Learning to wait on God’s soverignty. His timing and His way, not to make assumptions but to actively seek His will in my life. Learning to trust that God will not let me go. God holds onto us more than we do Him. Learning to always hope for the light in the dark places. Depression is a journey that takes small steps and a lot of support on the way. However, I am still learning to always look towards the sure hope that God loves me and to put my faith in Him.
I am still learning to grow in Christ, and I know that I will stumble and fall many many times along the way. But God has given me the gift of friendship and I am grateful that when I cry, God places people in my life to comfort me. They have seen my vulnerability and my ugly side, and although I am more open to pain and hurt, I am grateful to be able to share and do life together with some of these guys.
Sometimes, I am unsure of whether to love you or hate you. I desperately want to be like most other people, full of life and wanting to go out and embrace the world.
I know there are so many things that I am and should be grateful for. But maybe it is because of my depression that I can’t see the things worth living for. Except whenever I look at my hands, I am reminded of the nail-pierced hands of Jesus Christ and that He died on the cross for my sins. The very ones that are still present in my life.
Friends, I know they are value to me, more than what they can imagine. I also know my shortcoming of wanting that close friendship, possibly possessive and jealous. Maybe this is why I am so frustrated at the fact that my heart really wants me to be selfish and I feel like I can’t fight it.
As I sit here on a Friday night, where I am at my lowest, I desperately try not to feel sorry for myself. I am privileged so why should I? There are people in so much worse situations. I feel like I don’t matter. My problems don’t matter. Even to my friends. I know people tell me if I don’t say it, they don’t know how I’m feeling. But I struggle. As someone who wants to be so independent, I can’t muster the courage to tell people. So in the end, I tried different methods of crying out for help. Much like why people self-harm. Yet, I feel so alone.
I pray and cry out to God but I can’t see it clearly and I don’t find an answer but wait. I want to become a heap and cry out my eyes on the floor. Or if the floor would open up and swallow me whole. I desperately want to just leave everything behind. Not to think and not to care.
If I ever write a suicide note, let this be it. I tried my best. I am giving the rest into God’s hands.
It seems like a few years ago, I was in a happy place, in Hawaii and in Egypt (different years), taking a holiday. Now, I feel like I am rock bottom.
I know there are a lot of things that I can’t control and there are a lot of things that I can’t be selfish in. Which is why I have a constant battle between my head and my heart. I am writing this not to trick or make everyone into feeling guilty. I really needed to vent and to complain. Not about psalms or lamenting. Just a desperate cry for help.
Ever since church camp, I had to struggle with the idea of asking my friend (you know) to catch up and talk. Since my last entry, I had been fighting a battle to not to think or sin. It has been a tug-o-war until I felt like I finally snapped last night. So I finally mustered the courage to invite them to dinner. Not a date, just a chance to talk and to do life. I don’t know why I got so worked up for. A part of me thought to myself that it is okay if the decline the invitation. Yet, my emotions and desires give away my true feelings. It is not so much the feeling of rejection, but it is about at a point where I feel like I want to cry out for help yet somehow my problems just don’t matter.
I am more guilty at myself because I know it is a selfish thing to say and think and I know that I am better than this. Yet my heart refuse to listen to my conscience. I can’t seem to open my mouth and ask for help again now. The awful truth is, I wanted to be angry at them, but that’s not right. I have no reason to do so except my own selfish needs. Instead of being strong, I feel like I’ve hit rock bottom again and I can’t get back up again.
I am not frustrated at anyone else. The more I tell myself that I don’t care, the more I do. And the truth is, I feel like my life is too complicated for me to handle and I often wonder why God has made me this way.
I often wonder when I can do this until the day I cannot take it anymore. I feel emotionally drained and I feel like rest and silence is so much a better option for me right now.