Mental Health

I saw hope even when it felt like I was drowning

Alex Tan // November 7, 2019, 6:33 pm

Hope even when it hurts 1

It was during a season of transitions that I fell into depression.

It wasn’t a sudden fall. It was happening, but I just hadn’t realised it. At the time, I was in NS (National Service) and in the process of joining a new unit.

While this was happening, my family situation became more unstable. My parents argued more than usual and for the first time in their marriage, they decided to physically separate.

Talks of divorce were already in the air prior to this, but that was the first time my mum decided to leave the house for an extended period of time.

Healing the hurts: How God restored my family

Personally, I was also in a weird phase of my relationship, where it seemed like we broke up but neither of us really confronted the other about it. So we didn’t really get proper closure and were in this state of being neither here nor there.

As all these changes were happening, I suddenly came to see the magnitude of the problems in my life. I found myself overwhelmed, and as I tried to cope with the situation, I started to doubt God. Questions like “is this really how God loves” began to creep into my heart.

The negative thoughts kept piling up, and I became quick to judge others and started saying mean comments about everyone around me. Yet no one seemed to notice that I was struggling. 

I was hurting, and I could not hear God’s voice.

The promises of God started to become more and more untrue to me. Even though I was still serving and involved in church, it was all on the surface. In my heart, I was losing focus and upset with God.

It felt like I was drowning in a pool. And while I was sinking deeper and deeper to the bottom, everyone I loved was at the surface enjoying themselves. No one noticed that I was sinking.

Why wasn’t I like them?

I had this image of what a Christian should be – loving, encouraging, joyful – and I knew that I was nowhere near that ideal. Instead, I saw myself as a hypocrite who smiled and acted like I cared when I didn’t.

Comparing myself with others around me only made me sink lower and more distant. 

The national swimmer who was drowning: Joscelin Yeo’s journey out of depression

Thankfully, a good friend eventually noticed and reached his hand out to help me. For the first time, I could finally open up to someone about everything. He then asked me if I wanted to seek professional help, which I eventually accepted. I went to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to receive care and medication.

After getting help, I began opening up more to my cell brothers and cell leader, but I still felt distant. I still kept to myself a lot and was struggling.

Although it seemed like I had finally made it to the surface of the pool, I still felt like I was just floating and going nowhere.

Comparing myself with others around me only made me sink lower and more distant.

Then God gave me a vision.

In the vision, I saw a long corridor. The floor was covered in broken glass. I saw myself on one side and Jesus on the other side.

He called out to me and asked me to walk towards Him. Obviously I hesitated – I was scared of getting hurt. A step forward would mean getting cut by shards of glass. Each step would mean suffering.

Still, I went forward. Each step hurt more than the previous one. It made me think: “Why do I need to go back to God? Why can’t I just do what I want and avoid all this pain?”

Then in that moment of deep pain, the vision changed from a third-person point of view to a first-person point of view. I began to see Jesus more clearly in front of me.

And as I drew nearer to Him, I was struck by the image of Him crying.

It then dawned on me that no matter how much I was hurting, God was hurting even more.

In the vision, I saw Jesus calling and crying out to me. He knew it would be painful to make my way back to Him. It pained Him to see me suffer. But He was there with me in the struggle and at the end of the road to give me a hug.

Every dark thought I failed to take captive, and every negative emotion that distanced me from my community and God, didn’t just hurt me – it grieved Him even more. 

No matter how much I was hurting, God was hurting even more.

I realised when I asked myself “is this how God loves”, I was actually doubting God’s love. In that painful season, I learnt what God’s love really looks like – a love that will never leave nor forsake us and comes from a promise-keeping God.

Although this vision didn’t heal me of my depression, it renewed my heart and spirit for God. Eventually, God also gave me favour with my superiors and fellow servicemen, and I received blessings in my situations that could have only been from Him.

My parents are now living together, and my siblings and I have grown closer. We also have become more intentional and involved with each other’s lives.

I still experience negative and even suicidal thoughts today, but I face these with great confidence in God.

God is there in our pain and frustrations. Knowing that He is with me through it all gives me such courage, assurance and hope. In truth, this knowledge is even more important to me than the miraculous healing I may receive from God.

Serving in church, being a Christian, loving and believing in God also no longer feels pointless. It took me awhile to get here and be this reassured, but this has been a journey I can look back on with a smile.

When depression drove me away from God

Moving towards Jesus is a conscious choice. I have to choose things that encourage me, like listening to worship songs and inspiring testimonies whenever I feel low. Walking with God has helped me to manage my thoughts and emotions as well.

If I want to choose God’s embrace, I need to be willing to step towards Him. That means trusting and surrendering my thoughts to Him despite my anxiety and pain. It’s as simple as being honest in my prayers to Him and saying: “God, I don’t know what’s going on right now, but please help me.”

When life overwhelms us, we can make a choice: allow those circumstances to sink us or draw closer to God.

I choose not to give up because He’s still there. If you struggle like I do, continue trusting in God. Trust God enough to try, to be vulnerable before Him and with people.

It’s not an easy path to take, but He is right there with you every step of the way.

THINK + TALK

  1. What were the darkest moments of your life?
  2. Are you still going through a tough time now?
  3. Can you see the light at the end of that tunnel?
  4. Are you allowing people to journey with you through your struggles?