I grew up in a family where Mum and Dad often fought and the home was filled with Dad’s shouting. Despite feeling fearful and insecure, I felt the need to “grow up” fast to protect Mum and my younger brother. I felt like running away from Dad because I feared him, yet out of worry for Mum and my brother, I did not leave. I simply avoided him as much as possible. Looking back, I probably felt a lot of guilt and shame for having all these conflicting feelings towards my family. These feelings are too painful to bear and so in order to survive, I unconsciously had to repress and push them away. Numbing and repressing my emotions became my coping mechanism.
At the end of university, I started dating someone. The relationship started well but our differing values and beliefs started to show up as we got to know each other better. I desperately wanted to make the relationship work, to the point where I compromised my beliefs. Despite my attempts to hold on, we eventually broke up.
I was filled with guilt and shame over the breakup and constantly blamed myself. I struggled with depression and often felt anxious. Not knowing how to cope, for more than 20 years, I hid my feelings and numbed myself with work and taking care of Mum, who had lost mobility due to multiple sclerosis. On the surface, I probably appeared happy and confident. No one knew the inner struggles and negative thoughts I battled with daily for close to twenty years of my life.
Mum passed away at the end of January 2019. That year, my life came to a standstill. My life had revolved all around mum.
Mum’s death brought me so much pain but I was numb and could not cry. I felt I lost my meaning in life.
One day, while sitting in my living room, my head swarmed with thoughts of Mum. My heart yearned for her and I did what I knew to cry out for help. I cried out to God, “Can I see Mum?” Even then, I had no tears but felt deep emotional pain. At that moment, a gentle breeze blew across my right ear and I felt a sense of peace and calm in my heart. I felt at that moment Mum was directing me to get help through counselling.
I sought counseling in March that year. It was then I began to heal.
I learnt to get in touch with my emotions, feel, and listen to my inner child so that healing could take place. As I healed, I found the ability to forgive Dad and even understand his struggles. In place of hate towards him, came love.
Spiritually, I professed to be a Christian since young but only prayed when I needed help. While previously I could not relate to the Christian notion that God is a loving Father, because the idea of a loving father was foreign to me, I now can. I have also stopped blaming myself for everything that goes wrong.
In C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, he says, “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also harder to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.’”
It was not easy to face my pain, nor is it easy to share my story. Yet, I am doing so because I believe Mum’s devoted prayers were what led me to seek healing and be found by God again.
I am overwhelmed by the reality of a faithful God who sees me through all my difficult moments and leads me back to Him. I finally know what it means to be grounded, no longer living behind a mask and feeling like a floating, empty shell. I have now found purpose in my life—to live and share the love of God with the people around me.
*Author’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
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We are grateful to those who have courageously agreed to be part of our "#thisismystory" movement to help fight the mental health stigma by sharing their journeys on video! Check out these short videos /reels of some of our thrivers and be inspired by their stories of resilience! May their stories encourage you that healing & growing in resilience is possible. We can reach out for the support we need, so that we may be empowered to thrive significantly in life!
As Christians, the topic of mental health is made more complex because of our susceptibility to form biases and assumptions; for instance, that those struggling are “living in defeat” and not walking close with God, or that they can easily recover from their struggles if they “just believe”. The change begins in us...
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