Mental Health

After a long battle with depression, I’m stepping into a new season of recovery

Stephanie Chuah // October 16, 2020, 5:31 pm

STEPPING INTO A NEW SEASON OF RECOVERY

When a WhatsApp message announcing the restarting of our church’s physical worship service came at the end of June, it signified a long-awaited moment for many since the lockdown started.

Perfect timing, I thought.

If it was any earlier, I would have cringed and bawled my eyes out at the thought of going back to church, or going back out into the world for that matter.

I was barely recovering from depression and wasn’t sure if I could handle any external stimulations yet – positive or negative.

It started a couple of years back or perhaps even earlier.

Since I started working, I had always been stubborn and strong-willed, always focusing on other people’s behaviour rather than what I can control. It unknowingly snowballed over the years into depression.

I thought it was just tough times (that I was being a “strawberry“), until my leader suggested that I seek professional help. And so, I did.

I probably only had two appointments with the psychologist. Although it alleviated my pain for a while, work was still overwhelming. I was so focused on what my next career move could be, so much so that I had completely put aside self-care.

One night last December, I couldn’t sleep. With all the negative thoughts blaring in my head, I tried desperately praying in tongues. Within seconds, the roaring was gone!

For the first time in months, I felt calm. That night, I could smile as I experienced His goodness. 

Though the whole Christmas season was painful, little silver linings appeared as devotion posts in social media, relieving some of the pain, loneliness and grief. However, no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t re-experience what had happened when I prayed that night. 

I had the usual signs of depression. “I’m tired” was always on my mind and lips, even though I had done nothing much that day.

Feeling like a failure and a burden to others, going to work was always a huge dread. My interest in what I once loved to do waned, and I experienced a loss of appetite, memory, concentration and, most of all, hope. 

I also felt like I didn’t have the right to be depressed, when so many people were having it worse.

The pandemic was of little help. I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland, falling into the dark pit, except that mine seemed like Bitterland, with no end in sight.

I was also barely hanging on to God’s hand. As online devotions and encouragement from different ones failed to get through to me, I feared that I would give up on Him. Anything related to Christianity brought pain as I couldn’t experience Him like how others could.

What I learnt about God from my depression

When we were allowed to go back to work physically in May, I quit my job in the middle of a pandemic (after two failed attempts a few months ago). It might sound like the worst decision, but I needed it so badly.

Thankfully, my boss agreed to it. He also reduced my notice period to one month instead of three, and offered to pay for my visit to a psychiatrist that he recommended. 

As I sat in the clinic’s waiting room, reading the posters on the wall, I started to tear. This is real, I am going through a depression, I thought. And yet, God provided.

If I had gone to the psychiatrist any later, I wouldn’t be able to claim for it as it was my last week of work. I later found out that it was supposed to be a rest day for the clinic, but they opened for business because there were so many new cases.

After a week of medication, I felt significantly better! All the struggles and pain were gone. Just like that.

Medication could bring my mood up, but it couldn’t take away my shame. Only Jesus could.

Looking back, I am thankful for many things. Like having the full support from my dad on my decision to quit and to continue the psychiatrist sessions (because they cost a bomb). I’m also thankful that I hardly experienced any stigma from my mental illness. 

I have been resting and practising as much self-care as I can, mentally and spiritually. As I give praise, I’m reminded of His promises. Nowadays, I am even aware of the gift of life and His amazing grace when I wake up to a new day! 

I thank God for staying by my side, for pulling me up when I was going to give up on Him. If it weren’t for His grace, I wouldn’t be here today. And I would still be in shame about my experience.

Medication could bring my mood up, but it couldn’t take away my shame. Only Jesus could.

Slowly but surely, He brought hope to me, brighter than ever before. When I feared my faith would fail, He held me fast.

Struggling with mental health? You can walk this journey with medical help and Christ

This was my journey up to the time when the message came in, announcing the restarting of physical worship services in church. I’m thankful I could say “yes”.

I believe that this is the season of recovery for me, the season to be stronger.

It’s not the end – it’s just the beginning.

THINK + TALK

  1. Is there something you need hope for in your life?
  2. Do you believe that God can miraculously turn things around – even in a short time?
  3. Is there someone you know who could benefit from hearing this testimony? Share this story with them!