Train & Grow

Stories of Thrivers

Read stories about courageous individuals and how they've overcome the different challenges in their lives with the support of ThriveSg

 

Meet Mandy. She had always been good in academics. Her family of origin took great pride in it and believed that high academic success is the only true success.

Mandy graduated from two prestigious universities in the United Kingdom. After receiving her Bachelor of Laws (L.L.B) (with Honours), she went on to do a specialised postgraduate law degree (L.L.M) at a more renowned British Law School.

To date, Mandy has interned at various legal departments in private and government sectors. She completed her training contracts with a community law specialist firm and a small-medium sized litigation specialist firm.

Mandy is also active in her local church’s bible study course and is determined to finish all levels of the local church’s bible study course series.

This letter is addressed to herself in the summer after her first year at law school, just after the death of her mother, many years prior to attending Counselling.

 

Dear Mandy,

The worst has just happened. You are facing the unimaginable, the unthinkable. Your mother has lost the battle against cancer. No longer can you talk to your number one confidante and best friend. She will never be able to watch you graduate from law school, as you always imagined. For the first time, when you board the plane to return to the United Kingdom at the end of the summer, you will not be able to say goodbye to her.

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Except that you probably won’t board the plane at the end of the summer, will you? You are the only child, and now you and your father are all alone. It only feels fitting, it only feels right, that you remain behind and provide emotional support. You have decided that you are going to take a gap year. You just needed the gap year to sort out your thoughts.

Little did you know and never did you expect that processing all of your thoughts would be so hard. Wait a minute, have you truly ever grieved over the fact that your mother was even diagnosed with cancer in the first place? What did you do when you found out from a third party that your mother hid her true medical diagnosis from you? Did your parents even know how you felt? Did they even bother with what you thought and what you were going through?

You brushed all your innermost thoughts aside and again, was gaslighted, over and over again, by your extended relatives, whom you tried so hard to believe that they had good intentions, even though you knew in your heart that they had other hidden agendas. However, you were too afraid to explore these truths on your own. It was no better that your only parent was completely emotionally detached and continued to embitter you, no matter how much pain you were going through and how much you were struggling.

The thing about your life, Mandy, is this—Your life has been fraught with trauma, excessively high anxieties and tremendous stress. You just never knew this. You were indoctrinated with heavy internal programming at a very young age and had to take up numerous responsibilities that were never yours to bear in the first place. You had many misunderstandings and misconceptions about God, what Christ really is and what the heart of the Father really entailed (through no fault of your own, of course, but rather stemming from warped upbringing, immense confusion and conflicting messages from your earthly parents). That was why during your gap year, which you hoped would improve your relationship with God (again, whom you never knew in reality, even though you grew up in a “Christian” home), that kind of real and authentic relationship with God never occurred.

It is hard. More than hard. Heart-wrenching. Torment, indeed.

I’m not going to lie or sugar-coat it—the year ahead will bring some dark times. But just know that these experiences are going to give you a deeper sense of empathy, compassion and understanding. They will help you to realise that there is more to life than law; especially the people who walk with you along the way and touch your heart with genuine sincerity – people whom you treasure, cherish, care for and love deeply. With more conviction and passion, your words will be able to truly touch the hearts of your readers.

How did you even come to these realisations? How did you make breakthroughs in your life? It was when you sent yourself for Counselling. When you finally reached the breaking point (and even thought you could bear the emotional pains even longer!)

I do know that your past may seem shocking and overwhelming right now. But remember this:   “Without [your tumultuous past], your words hold no power to change lives” and that “a great [inner] healing shall flow from the pages you write into the hearts and minds of those who read” (Visions from Heaven: Visitations to my Father’s Chambers by Wendy Alec).

I am going to give you a glimpse of “future Mandy”, or “Mandy Version 2.0”, depending on which term you wish to use - the you since you started attending Counselling and beyond.

You would realise that it is OK not to be OK - that it is alright to acknowledge that you were emotionally manipulated, heavily abused and consistently gaslighted during legal training. You would realise that honing emotional boundaries is essential for doing anything in this life. You would be eventually convinced that God works in ways that you cannot see and that His timing is best. You would eventually accept that self-care and self-compassion are not wrong, that it is alright to have your own views, thoughts and mind. You would realise how toxic it is for you by being a people-pleaser for the past 26 years of your life.

You would see God bringing his family (including your boyfriend and best girlfriends, yes) to you, even without you asking. You would see how attending Counselling enables you to be much more equipped to dealing with difficulties that come your way. You aren't afraid to be who you really are. You aren't afraid to share your views at appropriate junctures. You aren't afraid of condemnation and being disliked by everyone around you. This is the greatest joy and freedom that the Lord Jesus Christ has given you.

Through your sheer dedication, hard work and most importantly, through experiencing the true, authentic, deep and raw love of God the Almighty Father, you will see many joys and inner healing in so many areas of your life, which you never had envisioned would be possible. In your great hunger to know God for yourself and consistent efforts of ensuring that you were not being bombarded with toxic and anti-Christ influence from toxic extended relatives, you were transformed inwardly in your local church bible study class. You began to refine your life’s purpose and calling continually, closer and closer towards Christ.

Now, you have reached the point where living a life without Christ as President is wholly unthinkable. That you truly know that you are complete in Christ and therefore, you can trust Him in all outcomes of your life.

Take heart, for life is truly an adventure to live! Go ahead with great confidence, valour and hope - be the most real, authentic, genuine, deep and honest being you are and will ever be!

Remember, keep all of your thoughts captive in Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Captive thoughts! Not negative thoughts, not positive thoughts. (Please, if you are going to appear happy even when you aren't, then you are creating painful crevices in your innermost being and soul!)

Don’t be overwhelmed - I shall reveal to you gradually what truly happened, as we go along! I will write to you more and unravel the many pieces of your life that you are still (I know you will persist) in figuring out. There will be more challenges ahead, but you will realise that you will begin to frame them much differently as compared to the past and regulate your neagative emotions in healthy ways!

With much love,

A much happier Mandy (in Christ alone)

When I got my first panic attack, I wasn’t sure what exactly it was. I just thought, as I was shy to a crippling degree, that I was shaken after being chewed out by my boss during my internship . It spiralled from the initial symptoms of nervousness, causing me to hyperventilate and unable to calm down. I continued ignoring these symptoms and as time went on, it felt as if I was having a panic attack for days on end.

A straining in my chest, being on constant edge and what felt like never being able to breathe in enough air. It made me over-analyse everything and everyone, all in regards to my self worth. When I went to University, into a course that was difficult to get into, I thought it would give me that validation I subconsciously craved, that I was good enough, that it would make me more confident.

But it only got worse.

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My degree programme at Lasalle was a very man-eat-man environment. If you weren’t one of the people who spread baseless rumours and gossip about other’s work ethics to socially isolate them, you would be seen as weak and not passionate enough to want to succeed. 

The overwhelming toxic culture of my classmates, general stress of higher education mixed with the trauma from my childhood that was still prevalent in my family life, suffocated me. I would often miss classes, waking up straight into a panic attack and finding it impossible to get out of bed.

The environments I was in during that time made me feel useless and I started to lean into the narrative. I began to avoid everyone and barely made it through school. I over-ate, I rarely slept and I carried my growing fear to graduation. I was barely in contact with any friends and family and had lost myself.

A few of the friends that I had remained in contact with had encouraged me to go for counselling while I was still schooling. I dreaded asking my parents as I always felt that I had to act as if I always knew what I was doing, especially since I was pursuing a career path that they objected to. I also had been the middle person for them growing up, a position I had accidentally stepped into because I couldn’t stand the misunderstandings between them. I had begun to believe that this was the only reason they would love me and would willingly put myself in their crossfire. I had aspired to be many things, a lawyer, a doctor, a journalist, which I realise now was mostly to please my parents.

Overcoming internal stigma

I am an ambitious person and to turn around and tell my parents that I needed help meant that they were right about my incapability, at least that’s what I thought. But once my anxiety reached a boiling point, I gave in and asked. It took me a year and a half of constant begging, and a huge breakdown on the morning of my first day of work after graduation, before they let me go. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard for them to allow me to go. I thought it was because they cared about what others thought and the social stigma that revolved around going for therapy. To a degree, they did, but ultimately it was the fear of facing the truth that they had hurt me and being in denial that I was hurt, that made them refuse.

The journey to recovery

For the next year, Pamela Koh, my counsellor, helped me process my trauma and figure out ways I could best retain my mental health considering my environment. She helped me come into my inner strength and capabilities by seeing new perspectives of the past and the present. Cutting the cord with unhealthy thoughts and attachments, was the hardest part. I had to rewire and build myself from the bottom up all over again, this time in a way that was for my greatest good. There were moments of relapse and times when it would be hard to practice the lessons I’d learnt. It made me feel like I was taking only one step forward every two steps back. But I realised, I was still taking a step forward. 

My healing journey became easier as I began to practice meditation and mindfulness, discovering a lot about myself and trying my best to fully commit to the process. Pamela gave me recommendations based on strengths she saw in me, like asking me to do more journalling because she knew that I love to write and also helped me come up with a practical career plan based on my aspirations and mental health. Even after I stopped seeing her for counselling, she had inspired me enough to continue healing and growing by myself.

Moving ahead in wholeness 

I reconnected with old friends and bettered my relationship with my family. My friends learned from me and were supportive and became more vocal about their mental health as well. My family was harder to get through to, but I am balanced enough to be able to withstand the highs and lows. However, as I had experienced a lot of stress that had worsened my mental state in the industry I was in, I needed to move on in my career.

Normalising mental health issues and wanting to encourage mental health has become something I’m very passionate about and am making a career out of. It was strange to me that most of the jobs in today’s world requires mental and emotional dexterity, yet wanting to rejuvenate and grow these parts of ourselves is often met with judgement and misconceptions. Without the help of Pamela, I dread to think about where I might be now. But I am eternally thankful for the help I received and hope she, and other counsellors out there, know that they have changed many lives for the better.

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