Top Stories

Sign Up for our newsletter now.

Do Good

Diagnosed at 14: Life with Pompe Disease

by | 12 October 2017, 5:26 PM

“You’re turning 24? Me too!”

I’d only been speaking with Emily Ho for a whole 5 minutes, yet we had already made a connection. Both of us were born in the same year and we’d established that we were better listeners than talkers. We were similar in many ways, except she was a patient and I was a visitor.

Emily is 1 of 4 known patients in Singapore who suffer from a rare genetic disorder called Pompe Disease. This disease debilitates muscles and affects their ability to function normally.

Most people who have this condition eventually die of respiratory failure because their diaphragm gradually becomes too weak to support breathing. For Emily, her leg muscles have already become so feeble that simple tasks like squatting and sitting are difficult for her. She falls easily and can’t get up without help.

“In the past when I wasn’t using a crutch, people wouldn’t come to my aid immediately when I fell down because I look so normal,” she laughed. “I’d be on the ground until someone offered to help me up.”

Emily had rejected using a wheelchair for many years, but the past 2 years have gotten increasingly tedious for her. She now uses an elbow crutch to help her get around.

Despite her condition, Emily has a very calm and pleasing disposition. There’s a perpetual smile on her face. If not for the elbow crutch, you wouldn’t have known this cheery girl has such a serious medical condition.

Sitting next to someone my age who has to go through bi-weekly treatments for a potentially fatal disease, yet remains so positive about life, was inspiring and sobering at the same time.

COMFORTED BY COMMUNITY

“I felt suffocated and angry because I was very lost in my situation,” she told me, “I didn’t know what would change and how I would need to adapt so I couldn’t voice out for help.”

Because she was unable to express her needs, Emily became very moody. However, her church friends were patient and encouraged her to open up.

They encouraged Emily to keep working at what she was talented at and helped her to discover her gifts in graphic design and typography while she was still struggling to find a platform to serve God.

They would opt for handicap-friendly places near Emily’s house when planning gatherings so it’d be easier for her. These friends carry Emily every time she needs to get up from her chair.

“I still do throw my tantrums but they accept me for who I am. I feel God’s love through how willing they are to help me, how understanding, sensitive and accommodating they are.”

Emily not only receives support from her church community but also her newly established support group.

Because of the rarity of the disease, Emily hadn’t known about other patients in Singapore for the past 10 years since she was diagnosed. But an opportunity opened up when The New Paper interviewed her after she received the Hero Patient award last year. The Hero Patient award is presented by the Eastern Health Alliance to exceptional staff, patients and caregivers.

Encouraged by Emily’s openness, three other Pompe Disease patients in Singapore reached out to her and they all connected for the first time.

“It’s good to have a support group,” Emily told me, “It helps to identify with people who struggle with the same issues as I do.”

“This is why opening up is important – so that you don’t go through this alone and somebody can walk this journey with you.”

FUELED BY FAITH

Witnessing Emily’s spirit of faithfulness, I wondered how she reconciled her present situation with God.

“When I was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, my aunt offered to pray for me and asked if I wanted to be healed,” she explained, “I did, and I accepted Christ.”

But the healing never came. Hearing this made me question: If Emily came to know Christ because she wanted healing, why did she hang on to her faith despite not receiving what she wanted?

She shook her head and laughed as I voiced this out. “There was once after I went back to church, I had a fall right outside the church building. I cried really badly, not knowing exactly why. I just felt a storm raging in me.

“But as I was crying, I felt God comforting me. He told me that when I’m weak, He’s my strength. At that moment I understood while the physical healing had not come – God had healed my heart. He cured me of my heartaches and sadness and I was finally able to move on.”

There have been other miracles since then. The same year she was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, SBS kickstarted the wheelchair-accessible bus (WAB) services. One of the many features that were newly introduced through this scheme was the replacement of steps with ramps. This made public transport handicap-friendly.

And the first bus service that was launched? It goes directly to her school. That made life much easier for her. Previously, she was very reluctant to attend school as it took a lot of effort just to get up the bus.

HANGING ONTO HOPE

Pompe Disease is incurable. One can only go for treatments to slow down the deterioration of the muscles, but the treatment requires bi-weekly appointments and each session costs about $27,000. This all amounts to a yearly medical expenditure of nearly $500,000.

“I wasn’t keen on treatment initially. I intended to live as I’d always did because I couldn’t afford it.”

That’s until she was miraculously provided with a medical sponsorship. However, it is ending this year. If the renewal process falls through, she will have no choice but to stop the treatment.

Emily’s face is somehow still smiling as she shares this with me. She asks me to pray with her, that her medical sponsorship will come through again. “But I know that no matter what happens in the future, God is with me and He will always help me.”

I thought about what she said. Her response to trust God in the face of adversity demonstrated a profound truth: God does answer prayers. Perhaps not in the way we expected it, but He has his own ways and purposes.


If you would like to reach out to Emily or make a donation, please visit her Give.Asia page. You can also view her artwork on her Instagram.

/ siqi@thir.st

Siqi loves to eat. Except for peas, egg yolk, cucumbers, livers, intestines. Among others. She also happens to be a writer.

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

You’re 50 shades of blue, what can I do?

by Shiyun Yong

Faith

How do I know if my faith will stand?

by Sim Pei Yi

video

#THIRSTACOUSTIC: Take Me

by Christina Wong

Culture

A dream of justice for the disabled

by Ronald JJ Wong | 19 October 2017, 4:19 PM

The greatest challenge I find in trying to do good is a lack of empathy.

The truth is I am a product of circumstances. I have my biases, blind spots and paradigms. These sometimes hinder me from being able to understand different perspectives, and climb in the skin of another and walk around in it.

It’s quite a prevalent problem. It can hinder Christians from better understanding certain justice and mercy issues, as well as people’s needs. It can prevent advocates from understanding the rationales for certain policy decisions or laws. Conversely, it can also prevent policymakers from understanding complex ground realities and relational dynamics.

We are like the Hebrew people in Babylon. We are exiles and not emperors. We are not some majoritarian force of power.

So in Singapore where there is a democratic system for law-making, every citizen must participate in law-making to help make just laws for all. Political leaders, civil servants and civic society — which includes the church — all have roles to play.

In this conversation we must remember that as Christians, we are like the Hebrew people in Babylon. We are exiles and not emperors. We are not some majoritarian force of power. We ought to live the best we can and do good. We should honour all, especially the authorities, and fear God (1 Peter 2:15-17).

Jesus remains the finest example to us all. He was like a humble servant who did not quarrel or cry aloud, who would not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick (Isaiah 42:3), and yet brought justice to victory through the cross.

A LAW OF LOVE

I long to enact a law for people with disabilities (PWDs). Of course, the specifics would have to be worked out carefully in consultation with PWDs, their caregivers, and various stakeholders. It’s worth noting that Singapore has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) but does not have a specific disabilities legislation.

Why have such a law? Well, it’s a justice issue. God calls His people to justice, mercy and faithfulness (Micah 6:8). As I wrote in my book, The Justice Demand: Social Justice & The Singapore Church, the foremost conception of God’s justice is the inclusion of every person to participate in His community.

That is why justice was brought to victory on the cross. At the cross, everyone who repents of their sins and believes in Jesus can enter into the Kingdom of God regardless of their race, background or social-economic status (Galatians 3:28). This principle of inclusivity should first be expressed among the family of God. Then the people of God should express in relation to others in the world.

At the cross, everyone who repents of their sins and believes in Jesus can enter into the Kingdom of God regardless of their race, background or social-economic status.

PWDs have a pressing need for this inclusivity, and the Bible is very clear about this. For instance, Leviticus 19:14 is a Mosaic law prohibiting discrimination against PWDs. Furthermore, a large fraction of Jesus’ healing ministry served the PWDs. When the public silenced the blind beggar Bartimaeus, Jesus specifically called out to him and healed him, and Bartimaeus followed Jesus (Mark 10:46-51).

In Luke 14:12-14, Jesus exhorted people to host dinners not for their rich neighbours or even their friends, but for the poor and those with disabilities. King David made Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, who was crippled in his feet, join him at his dinner table.

All through the scriptures I can see God telling us that PWDs are not to be devalued — but treated like His children!

BASED ON JUSTICE AND EQUALITY

In Singapore, PWDs make up one of the largest marginalised groups. We have certainly come a long way in supporting the establishment of many special education schools and social service organisations. But open employment continues to be a huge challenge for many PWDs.

There are still many instances of blatant prejudice against workers with physical, intellectual disabilities or those who are on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

There are also more subtle forms of prejudice. The greatest and most prevalent is the mindset not to consider PWDs for employment. This is something which cannot be entirely addressed by legislation or policy. The truth is, there are already numerous government grants and programmes which encourage employers to hire PWDs.

Instead we need paradigm shifts. We need far more than mere tokenism. While legislation cannot solve everything, it can help educate us as a society. A just law that we uphold can help us remember our commitment to the inclusivity of PWDs in our land.

Such an attitudinal shift cannot just be for PWDs. It calls for compassion for all. In a society where large corporations make millions of dollars of profit but still layoff employees, it challenges Christians to challenge the norms.

In the Mosaic gleaning laws, land owners were required to leave some of the harvest for those who are otherwise poor and unemployed to glean so they can provide for themselves. The principle here is that capital owners — whether wealthy individuals or businesses — must use some of their profits to provide employment for those who are otherwise economically marginalised.

Would Christian business owners heed such a law? Would Christians lead the way in living out Kingdom values in their respective spheres of influence, particularly in relation to PWDs?

God give us courage. At the end of our lives we will be judged on how we expressed justice, mercy and compassion to the least among us (Matthew 25:31-46). How would you fare?


As a Christian who is also a lawyer, Ronald JJ Wong believes in access to justice for all. Burdened for the common good of society, he advocates for the marginalised and volunteers pro bono for the less privileged. He will be speaking at LuminoCity 2017.

LuminoCity is a 3-day forum that will bring together thought-leaders and disciples in the marketplace for conversations to shape the culture of our day. It will be held from November 3 to 5, 2017, at The Pavilion. Thir.st readers can enjoy a special discount of $50 from now till October 23, and a discount of $40 from October 24 till October 30 with the promo code “THIRSTY”Visit the LuminoCity website for ticketing information, and follow them on Facebook for updates. 

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

Join the mission: #HACK for Jesus

by Simon Seow

video

Living With Pompe Disease

by Timothy Goh

Faith

I give in to sexual temptation again and again. What hope do I have?

by Gabriel Ong

Culture

Should I be giving to every peddler I see?

by | 18 October 2017, 1:44 AM

Most of us are used to being approached by old, hunchbacked elderly selling tissue packets, but I was once approached by a young man who asked for some money for lunch. Although I typically walk away when such people approach me, my heart was softened that day.

“Sure, shall we go to the Kopitiam?” I offered.

I accompanied the man there and bought him a plate of mixed rice. On his part, he was careful not to exceed the budget he’d asked for, carefully deliberating his choice of vegetables.

As I watched him gratefully tuck into his meal, I wondered if I would do this again. I still feel like I did the right thing that day. Why?

GENEROSITY TOWARDS THE NEEDY

The call to be generous towards the needy is found in both the Old and New Testament.

In Deuteronomy 15, Moses teaches the Israelites God’s Law on the year of the Sabbath. In view of Israel’s inability to keep the Law perfectly, Moses tells the Israelites, “there will never cease to be poor in the land”, therefore they are to open wide their hands to their brother, to the needy and to the poor in their land (Deuteronomy 15:11).

In trusting God to meet our needs, we look away from our sufficiency to God’s sufficiency.

This commandment is echoed in the New Testament in Luke 14:7, where Jesus teaches that believers are to aim to do good for the poor without expecting to eradicate poverty in this age.

As we heed this commandment, we may be questioning the value of being generous with those in need. Proverbs 19:17 makes this clear: graciously lending to the needy is akin to lending to the Lord.

As we meet the needs of others, we demonstrate reliance on God to provide for our own needs. In trusting God to meet our needs, we look away from our sufficiency to God’s sufficiency.

NEED GENEROSITY BE FINANCIAL?

Cynics will argue that peddling tissue has become a profitable income-earner, where peddlers are scamming their buyers at rip-off prices. Yet, I choose to ask myself: Would I rather be in their position, where I have to make ends meet by hook or by crook?

Of course, I cannot be certain how the money will be used – if it will be used in the way the person claims. Hence, I admit I tend to err on the side of caution as I don’t want my generosity to be taken for granted. I don’t want to risk having my money being used on feeding a harmful habit, such as the consumption of cigarettes or alcohol.

But I also remember this: In showing love to someone else, I do him no harm (Romans 13:10). So, taking this all into consideration, I’m willing to be generous in kind rather than in cash.

In showing love to someone else, I do him no harm.

In personal experience, I have had the privilege of sharing time and energy with a family who is less well-to-do, by reading with their preschool children. They have been directed to the appropriate platforms for financial assistance; nonetheless, I am repeatedly reminded not to give them money, were they to ask for it.

As I give my time and energy, I believe the family is no less blessed – my presence is an opportunity for their caregiver to take a momentary pause in caring for them. I know she appreciates my presence – in the midst of caring for young children, she treasures conversation with other adults.

Likewise, the children anticipate my visits – being read to is a treat their caregiver cannot afford time for, as her time is spent on taking care of their basic needs.

TRUE GENEROUS GIVING

As we seek to be generous both in cash and kind, it is worth remembering we are not always able to give to every person we meet. Hence, we give as we are able, bearing in mind their greatest need is not physical, but spiritual.

The New Testament speaks of spiritual hunger and thirst in the gospel of John.

When Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, He offers her some water, telling her that whoever drinks of the water that Jesus will give them will never be thirsty again. The water that Jesus will give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14).

This water Jesus professes to give refers to the Holy Spirit dwelling within a believer (John 7:38-39).

Later, Jesus tells the crowds He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) – which is superior to the manna provided in Moses’ day. He says this to tell the crowds He gives essential and eternal spiritual nourishment, instead of meeting only physical needs.

Hence, while we are called to give generously to the needy, we do so with discernment – in order that we don’t run the risk of doing more harm than good for the needy person. We also should be looking out for opportunities to meet their spiritual needs, not just their financial ones, as God avails.

At the end of the day, we cannot guarantee they’ll always get helped, but we can ensure they’ll always get loved.

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

/ eudora@thir.st

Eudora found herself writing on public platforms by chance. Apart from writing, she likes many random things, including spoken word poetry, adult colouring books, tea, stationery and fresh, clean laundry.

Conversations

We Recommend

Faith

The day I lost my dad

by Jolynn Chia

Relationships

What if I’m just a calefare?

by Fiona Teh

Faith

When you work freelance, you either grow in fear or faith

by Melody Elizabeth Goh

Culture

Join the mission: #HACK for Jesus

by Simon Seow | 13 October 2017, 6:19 PM

How can technology be employed to address the increase in suicides among the young? What could be some creative digital pathways and opportunities that might help stop people from taking their lives? How can the Church respond to this problem?

Many Christian techies and creatives are unaware of or under-appreciate the unique skills and talents God has given to them. They are unsure how to live out the passions for the Kingdom. But I’ve seen how their eyes light up when they hear stories and examples of how technology is creatively used and maximised for God’s mission.

It’s as if they suddenly realise things like: “My line of code can actually help save a girl’s life from sex trafficking!” Or “My creative design and writing could contribute to the Gospel’s reach across the globe!”

As they discover these opportunities, they inevitably gain new, God-given vision of how they can invest their digital and creative gifts for building His Kingdom.

DIGITAL DOES GOOD

Young professionals of the digital generation are often under-challenged in their own churches. For example, a CEO of a tech start-up company who has just launched a successful app might be asked to help with the worship slides, or design the church bulletin. It’s easy to miss the potential to help solve harder and larger missional challenges in this day and age.

We all desire to be a part of something larger than ourselves. Young people are driven by causes for the problems they see and experience around them. When given the opportunities and right connections to a  community with like-minded, like-gifted individuals, the gears are kicked into place for them to make significant impact for Jesus.

Indigitous started as a global movement of people who love Jesus and are passionate about using their strengths for God in the creative and digital space. Indigitous communities around the world bring together the best minds and hearts from the tech and creative spheres, inspiring them with projects and challenges that cause them to stretch and grow their gifts.

I heard an account of a lady who was 5 weeks pregnant and desperate because her partner kept pressurising her to abort the baby. Depressed, she searched online for help and found Boiling Waters, a Facebook page set up by a few brothers in Indigitous Manila – a mixture of creative writers, designers, website and social media experts.

Moved by the inspirational posts, she started chatting with one of the volunteers of the FaceBook page. It led quickly to a spiritual conversation. She was then invited to watch Falling Plates – a powerful 4-minute Gospel short film that has been watched by millions on YouTube. She received Christ that day and decided that she will not abort the baby.

A NEW KIND OF LIFEHACK

#HACK is an annual global missional hackathon that brings together the best creatives, technologists, strategists in various cities around the world for a weekend. Almost like a special force team, you will “hack” out digital-based prototypes and creative solutions to missional challenges in your context.

These challenges seek to address social issues in the city to contribute to the good of our world, but also to make Jesus known everywhere. In November 2016, Singapore hosted the first Indigitous #HACK event, the first-ever Christian hackathon in our country.

This year at #HACK, we encourage teams to work on potential solutions to some of the social issues in Singapore.

A few of these challenges include:

1. Countering social issues that are contrary to God’s values (e.g. sexual immorality and abuse)
2. Positively impacting the underprivileged (e.g. the poor, sick, disabled and elderly)

What dreams has God placed on your heart? What are some ways you desire to contribute to the digital strategies and engagement in our city? Does it excite you to use your talents for God in the digital and creative space?

Then this #HACK could be for you.


#HACK is happening next weekend, October 20-22, 2017. You don’t have to be a programmer to get involved. Creative thinkers of all types are welcome: Designers, photographers, writers, project managers, social media gurus – we want you! For those interested, please register here. Participation is free.

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

I’m way too bad at goodbyes

by Fiona Teh

Culture

Why I don’t celebrate Halloween

by Gabriel Ong

Faith

How often do you talk to someone you love?

by Sara Koh

Do Good

Whose strength are you serving in?

by Noah Ho | 13 October 2017, 3:30 PM

I was so near to God, yet so far.

I was so caught up with serving and doing things for God – good things like missions and my ministries – that I was actually wandering away from Him.

I heard myself asking: Why isn’t anyone else doing anything for Christ? Why do I feel like I’m the only one trying to make an impact for God’s kingdom?

I was filled with pride. And because of that, doubts, distraction and discouragement crept into my life, and I didn’t understand why. But the reason was simple: I had stopped looking to Jesus.

And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:39-42)

Martha was so busy serving Jesus that she forgot to spend time with Jesus.

Although Martha had good intentions to serve Jesus, she missed out on the best thing, which is to sit at Jesus’ feet and spend time with Him before doing, you know, stuff.

The truth is that her problems might not disappear in the time spent with Jesus. But her worry would – that’s the lesson of John 16:33, where we’re told there will be trouble, but we’re exhorted not to worry about it, because … Jesus!

We will get discouraged in life. People will disappoint us. Circumstances will sometimes overwhelm us. But in such times we mustn’t respond like the world would, running away and giving in to despair.

What we need to do is rest in God, refocus and listen carefully to the assuring whispers of His grace. Once we are recharged and filled with Christ, we can go back in the world for His glory and purposes.

Being productive and getting things done – that’s all important. But praying and enjoying God’s presence must be more important that.

Work for God that is not nourished by a deep relationship with Him will eventually be contaminated by other things like ego, power and the fear of man. If we work for God with such motivations, we’ll lose sight of the main thing. Our sense of worth and validation will gradually shift from God’s unconditional love for us in Christ, to the success of our works and performance.

Are you, like I was, burnt out from the demands of ministry? Are you restless?

The lesson of Mary vs Martha is that you need to be with Christ, before doing things for Him. Only when we are topped up will we be able to pour out and invest into the lives of others effectively. We can only serve out of the overflow of our hearts.

The danger comes when we get caught up in doing so many things for Christ that we neglect spending time with Him. We risk doing “godly” things in the energy of the flesh, rather than in power of the Spirit.

Being productive and getting things done – that’s all important. We can’t be passive. But praying and enjoying God’s presence must be more important that. We need to constantly come back to Christ before we can serve and help others.

 

Conversations

We Recommend

Faith

Home with her greatest love

by Eudora Chuah

Culture

Seen, heard and accepted

by Jonathan Cho

Relationships

What if I’m just a calefare?

by Fiona Teh

Culture

“Our fight is simply to make it to tomorrow”: This is what depression looks like

by Mak Kean Loong | 9 October 2017, 4:34 PM

I almost committed suicide in August of 2017. I’d made plans. I’d started to put part of it into action, unbeknown to those closest to me.

I have a loving wife, a couple of good kids, and a supportive extended family. My Bible study group meets at my house every week, and we are a close-knit group. My support mechanisms are in place, and I know what I should do when depression hits, due to an earlier episode.

So why did things go wrong?

My temper had been getting worse day by day, even in the workplace. At home, I found myself over-critical of my boys, and easily tired. I withdrew from many social engagements. I forgot how to be happy. I’m still not sure how much of that was negativity, or how much of that was something else. My moods were often low. The doctors would call my persistent low mood dysthymia.

The stage was set. No one, including me, expected that the crash would happen.

Depression is a reality, and pain can lead us down paths we never knew existed. Let me try to give an idea of how depression feels.

Picture yourself putting on something that wraps itself around the top of your skull. Attached to this is a chainmail veil that drops over your eyes and ears. At the same time, a steel band is put around your heart, and starts to constrict, just a little, even as a cape of liquid metal drapes itself on your shoulders. It’s not heavy, but the weight is definitely felt. None of these can be taken off at will.

Now everything that you see and hear is filtered through this haze. All positivity is filtered out, through your eyes and ears. Pleasure is taken away, and whatever you see, touch, taste, hear, is now tinged with grey negativity. It’s never totally black. It’s a drip torture, little by little. You start losing touch with the world.

If this change was sudden, it might be easier since you know for sure you need help. Instead it drips on you, little by little, giving hope that things may improve, even as it takes away hope.

The band around your heart grows tighter. Everyday, the cape drags down further, gradually. It becomes harder to breathe, and every day grows dimmer, as you drag your feet, as you try to carry on. Soon, you can no longer lift your head. Everything feels like you’re slogging through mud. Drink tastes dry, and food tastes like sand.

Occasional bursts of enjoyment gets through, but nothing lasts beyond that sparkle of time, which makes it even more painful because you can’t reach back for it.

Despair starts to set in. Your self-worth drops. Hopelessness is your constant companion, as pain wracks your heart. Breathing becomes ever more difficult, and death itself seems like a good way out. It doesn’t matter how positive life is for you. Every step is painful, and everything is gray with despair. Every blessing becomes pale, every good thing becomes a shadow that you desperately wish to taste and enjoy, but can’t.

Words matter at this point. Words that tell you that you’re worth something; that someone cares. If you don’t even have that, suicide becomes a reality to dance with. Even with support, death becomes delicious, something to savour, because the pain is so deep that nothing else can fill your heart. As the pall continues to grow, as you struggle to breathe, to walk, to think, nothing matters anymore.

That is how depression feels for a sufferer.

I won’t publish my plan, so that others won’t get an idea of how I planned to end my life. But it had been well thought out. When I reached home that day, I knew how I was going to do it.

Yet, I promised myself – God’s grace upon me! – to call the Institute of Mental Health’s emergency helpline. If no one picked up, or I got disconnected, I would proceed as I’d planned.

I held the phone for 10 minutes. The counsellors were busy. When someone finally answered, I kept my word. I spoke. She listened. She asked. She advised me to come in to the IMH emergency clinic as soon as possible. She gave me directions, and made sure that I knew their number, so that along the way, I could call if I was in danger. I told her I would.

She had no idea that she was instrumental in saving my life.

I was admitted to IMH for my suicidal plans and tendencies. The time there wasn’t always easy, though everything was regulated and I was well taken care of. There were group therapy sessions in the ward I was in, and I responded well to medication. I was discharged after a week; other patients usually stay for at least a few weeks.

If my story speaks to you in any way, to your current struggles or past feelings, please know this: You are not alone, and help is available.

If you have never sought medical help before, please consider it. There are various means that you can use in Singapore.

If you are not having suicidal thoughts, or don’t believe that you will act on your thoughts in the short run, visit a government polyclinic to get assessed. GPs in Singapore are generally well equipped to assess such conditions. I have managed to get compassionate help from my private GP as well as a polyclinic GP. They will refer you to any government hospital specialist if there is a need.

There are also other sources that you can seek for help from, such as counselling centers, or private therapists.

If you are already seeking medical help, remember that you are not alone. There are many people who are also seeking medical help for mental issues. Don’t feel ashamed, or fall for the fallacy that if you are mentally ill, you are mentally weak. No one chooses to be ill, just as no one chooses to have a broken arm, or the flu. Don’t blame yourself.

Be responsible in taking your medication, and keeping up with your follow-ups – that is already a huge thing. Be responsible for your own actions, and apologise where you need to, but don’t apologise for being sick.

If you feel suicidal, answer the following questions:

1. Do you have constant thoughts of suicide?
2. Do you have a plan on how to commit suicide? Can you describe it to some level of detail?
3. Do you have a timeline by which you wish to commit suicide?

If your answer is yes to any/all the questions above, seek immediate help. Death may seem to be the only option, and may seem delicious and easier – but your mind is lying to you. There are other ways out, and you need to seek help.

Call the Samaritans of Singapore at 1800-221 4444. Alternatively, IMH has a 24 hour helpline at 6389 2222. Both numbers are manned by trained volunteers or counsellors around the clock. Why not talk to someone who is willing to listen to you before you do anything? You have nothing to lose by calling either of these numbers as soon as possible.

There are major changes that mental health sufferers will have to adapt to. Our expectations of life and the world need to be toned down. Get well first. As long as we are not well, there are fights we cannot fight. When we are better, we can then educate others on the illness, and increase awareness of the issue.

Our fight is simply to live to the next day. When we have accomplished that, we can fight for the next week. When we have conquered thinking a week ahead, we can then learn to fight a month ahead.

Don’t expect too much of yourself, because your mind needs to recover and heal. Sometimes the healing can take years. Sometimes miracles happen, and healing is quicker. If not, don’t forget that such mental illnesses are there for the long haul.

If you find yourself dipping back into the darkness, try not to despair. Talk to your mental health professional at the closest possible opportunity. Work with your doctor or therapist, not against them. Pharmaceutical conspiracies are precisely that – conspiracies. The amounts we pay for our medicines, especially at government hospitals, don’t justify the doctors keeping us on treatment for longer than necessary.

Our doctors and therapists work hard to help us get better. If you are not comfortable with the doctor or therapist working with you, by all means, ask for another one. Just don’t do that too often, as there aren’t that many in Singapore to go around!

Get a support group that understands you without demanding more from you. Support groups can include friends, family members or members of your religious group. We need to grow and heal at our own pace, and no one has a right to dictate the pace for us. Our actions will determine how much we progress through therapy and medication.

If we are not honest with our support groups, or our doctors, we can’t expect to get better any time soon. If we are honest and responsible, reaching out for help when we need it, there is every hope and chance that we will come out from under this dark cloud at some point.

Singapore remains a country where depression and similar mental conditions remain not well understood. The medical help structure however, is robust, and has contributed to saving lives. Don’t waste our lives or hurt the ones who love us, by taking our lives into our own hands. Seek help, and remember that we are never alone in this fight. At least you now know that I’ll be struggling alongside you!


This blogpost was first published on the author’s own blog. It has been edited for length and republished with permission.

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

Ghosting, zombieing and the rise of irresponsible dating

by Sara Koh

Faith

The day I lost my dad

by Jolynn Chia

Faith

Are you favourite child material?

by Fiona Teh

Article list

Diagnosed at 14: Life with Pompe Disease

A dream of justice for the disabled

Should I be giving to every peddler I see?

Join the mission: #HACK for Jesus

Whose strength are you serving in?

“Our fight is simply to make it to tomorrow”: This is what depression looks like