I found it hard to admit that I had been emotionally wounded yet again.
I could not accept that my depression had relapsed, and here I was, reliving my darkest nightmare just four years after my rededication to Christ.
Worse yet, it was ten times more consuming than the last round, accompanied with bouts of insomnia and suicidal thoughts.
How had I arrived here of all places, Lord? I didn’t want to believe that I was going through it again. A close friend who survived depression had told me that after my water baptism there was no way a relapse could happen. I have since learnt that this could not be further from the truth.
Imagine the horror of realising I was depressed again. It had been one of my greatest fears all this while. I was in turmoil for fear of judgement – of accusations that I wasn’t trusting God enough, not praying enough, that my faith was merely not strong enough.
What went wrong, God?
Back in July 2017, a time when I was in peak spiritual health, my mom was diagnosed with Ameloblastoma, a rare kind of tumour that starts in your jaw and becomes progressively cancerous if untreated. The family was in deep distress as we considered the high recurrence rate and the long medical battle ahead of us.
Amidst this, I was thankful to God that it was still a benign tumour, when it could have been cancerous.
Despite being anxious initially, I committed to surrender the situation to God. Being the only believer in the family, I braced myself for the tough and painful trial ahead – to intercede and pray on behalf of my single mother and little sister.
Just having completed my studies in university, I decided to put my job-hunting plans on hold for the sake of the family. I started helping my mother out with her business, as visits to the doctor increased. Due to financial difficulties and other delays, the operation could only take place in late November.
It was a dreadfully long wait of five months, while I struggled to support my mother with her frequent emotional outbursts, controlling demands and decisions that challenged my faith. Despite it all, I fought to stay afloat, clinging onto God the best I could.
It’s gonna be okay, I told myself. Everything’s gonna be okay.
The month after her surgery was physically and emotionally exhausting. As the sole caregiver, I persevered, trying to be understanding, patient and loving to her almost 24/7 for three weeks straight.
As most people were enjoying the Christmas season, I was even more isolated in my struggle, unable to tell others what was going on behind closed doors. Soon enough, I fell into despair.
On the last day of the year, at my church’s watch night service, I made one last desperate plea for help. If there was any hope left, God was my last chance.
But my peace was short-lived and the trial seemed to take a turn for the worse. My mother began micro-managing everything I did to the smallest detail, with cutting commands and words. Yes, she was recovering well, but my heart was increasingly crushed as the days went by.
There was so much pain in my life that the colours in my world faded off little by little. Nothing mattered anymore. It became draining to get out of bed, to breathe, to talk or reach out to people. Words started to fail me as I couldn’t even describe what I was feeling. The words of Psalm 88 were so real to me.
“I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength … I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief.” (Psalm 88: 3-9)
The haze I walked in drew a seal on my memory, I could no longer recall the many great testimonies of God’s goodness in my life.
I was so lost and alone; the guilt and shame wrecked me while I wept soundlessly into my pillow every night before sleep found me at dawn. I trusted God’s sovereignty, yet I still doubted if I would have the will to live long enough to see Him bring me through. I had lost the desire to stay alive.
One day, I broke down in church and cried out to Him. I believe that He heard me and sent a pastor and sister-in-Christ to remind me that I am still worthy – His precious and beloved daughter. “You are the apple of His eye and a conqueror,” they told me. “Don’t lose hope! You will emerge victorious in this.”
In their words He came to me, meeting me right where I was, trapped in the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23:4)
I gathered the newfound courage to believe that God still loves me, even when I thought all hope was lost. I began to reach out to seek help, receiving church counselling while staying accountable to a small and trusted group of leaders and friends.
Every week, with every little step I took back to God, it felt as though He was encouraging me with assurance that I was doing well. The haze began to lift, and I could now identify the lies of the devil and the truth of God’s everlasting promises.
To those who have walked or are walking the same path as I have, remember that when the enemy tries to bring you down, always put on a garment of praise and proclaim the goodness of God. Even when you don’t feel like it. Confront the spirit of heaviness and death instead of letting it overtake you.
As I stepped into His light, I could sense that my emotional scars began to heal. God has since turned the situation around at home, restoring my relationship with my mother.
I recently joined Project Semicolon, a mental health movement supporting those who struggle with mental illness, addiction and thoughts of self-harm and suicide. This project was founded on the concept of the semicolon, that where someone could have ended a sentence – or his own life – he chooses not to instead.
The thing is, as a Christian, I’m not even the author of my own story. God is. And I don’t want to put a full-stop where He has simply put a semicolon. It is His to determine and my decision to lay down my life as spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1)
Today, I am on the journey of healing, taking the time to rebuild my life in the power of God’s transformative love. Your story may be different from mine, but I want to leave you with the ultimate treasure: The promise that You are loved and known by God.
Suffering will not change who you are in Him, and if you turn your eyes to Him, it will only take you closer to Christ. Because of Jesus, there will always be hope even in the darkest moments of your life. Take heart as you wait for the light to return (Psalm 27:14); Jesus knows your pain and you are never alone.
This is a submission from a participant of our Greater Love Giveaway. From now till the end of March 2018, we are giving away a pack of limited edition Thir.st “Greater Love” Stickers in exchange for every story. Stories must have a personal/local angle and be of 800-1000 words. Send us yours here.