It made me quite angry actually, the way they made a joke out of the whole affair.

Its supposed to a good occasion, and I’ve nothing against celebrating good occasions-but they’ve made a joke out of the whole affair. Oh, the travesty of it all.

A friend asked me today, “Would you celebrate Valentine’s Day?”

What with the commercialized packages- the glamourous advertising for jewellery, flowers with prices marked up to more than ten times their cost, and strange activities thought up by what must be the most desperate of minds for creativity. I only wonder how the experience of the couples who signed up for the candlelight dinner on the Gourmet Love Tram at the night safari must have been. Perhaps they thought $500 was a really good price to pay for novelty, in order to experience gastronomical discomfort and strange olfactory sensations. Im sure it was memorable.

There is so much advertising. Each idea trumping the next, trying to outdo one another.

The travesty of it all.

Flowers are found on bushes, on trees, and in wild, wild fields of nature. We pick them because of their beauty and allure, and give them to each other as gifts of affection, love and appreciation. Flowers must be chosen from the heart for the specific person in mind, and they must be exciting, wild and free. One cannot, should not, must not ever pre-package flowers. Flowers are free, always should be. In our attempt to express the unarticulated love we have, we can only do our best to try and capture that sense of freedom in a bouquet. A bouquet that stems from sincerity, and spontenity.

Bouquets make or break flowers. They have the power either to entrap flowers with their predictability, grotesquely outrageous prices or unthoughtfulness, or the power to set them absolutely free. Free. Bouquets are set free by sincerity, love and thoughtfulness.

Pre-packaged flowers, handpicked by a third party and chosen and wrapped by someone else with someone else in mind and chucked away in a freezer- are not Free. Behind glassy fridge doors, they really have become imprisoned, because they were not given to whom they were meant for.

The nerve of florists to pre-package them so that pubescent boys can come pick one up conveniently like an answer to a multiple choice question at marked up prices so they can impress a squealing girlfriend (is that what they call it?), and the audacity of grown men to buy them at exorbidant prices appall me.

The travesty of it all. It is an indictment of what we call love, what we call gifts.

It is the prices which sicken me most of all. They are marked up so much they buy us into believing it is the way to show our love. Some of the men who spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on frivolous bouquets with the intention to impress also happen to be ones who wave off perspiring secondary school students selling flags in the hot sun to raise money for worthy causes, only grudgingly finding a coin or two when they have their girlfriends’ arm around theirs.

Scumbags.

How anyone could find celebrating their love on a day where everyone is expecting everyone else to be doing the same thing romantic at all baffles me, to say the least.

But I restrain myself. For I’ve never celebrated it before. And I must apologise, and also add a disclaimer. Because there are always exceptions, and one must not be quick to judge others. Perhaps a couple had met at the zoo and a tram ride at the night safari perfectly encapsulated their feelings for each other; perhaps the knight had bumped into a dragon and had to slay it to save the maiden, and henceforth had no choice but to pick up a –gasp- pre-packaged bouquet before the clock turned twelve.

And if those expensive, expensive gifts were bought with sincerity and a lot of love, then who am I to judge anyone.

But if you ask me, I’d rather a gift of the monetary equivalent on a cheque instead addressed to children in Uganda, instead of some commercial package specially designed to rip unsuspecting couples off. Now, that would be hot.

Like I said, there are always exeptions. And I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot by ruining my own story for romance.

But surely we can agree, that there is a difference between spending on someone you love, and indulging in nauseating extravagance.

We come to realize at some point, that all the gifts that were most memorable really don’t cost much at all. A drawing, a card, a thoughtful act, quality time, or best of all, a free hug given out of the blue, not for any occassion, just spontaneously, randomly.

Because perhaps it really is true- that the best things in life come for free. And we needn’t try too hard to impress.

I had friends from church come over to my place yesterday. It was a very simple affair, with simple presents and simple things. It was most delightful.

After everyone had left, there was a lot food leftover, still. I packed up a box and delivered it to Grandpa Zhou.

“Wait a minute,” he said. “Don’t go, say grace for me first.” I did, after which he dug into his smelly, old green bag and handed me a red packet, from the same red packet envelope I had given to him for Chinese new year. For Chinese people, it is a tradition for married couples to give red packets to single youth, as a symbol of sending their blessings and wellwishes.

“You have done a lot for me. I don’t know how to express my gratitude, but I hope you will accept my little gift of thanks. It really is nothing, but thank you for all you’ve been doing for me. I hope you don’t mind my poor Chinese writing behind.”

He had written the Chinese characters of my name and his well-wishes: Wishing you a Happy Chinese New Year, may your medical skills shine like Hua Tuo’s. From Grandpa Zhou. Hua Tuo was an ancient doctor from China who established himself as one of the forefather’s of medicine.

I laughed. There was money inside. “You’re giving me money?” I laughed and smiled at him, and thanked him in return. For worse than receiving the wrong type of presents, is returning them to someone who gave it to you. I accepted it.

It contained 6 dollars.

Simple presents, simple people. Thoughtfulness, spontaneity and sincerity. The beauty of randomness.

Because perhaps, just perhaps, the best things in life really don’t cost much at all.

Raggedy-Anna’s Papa is a Big Teddy Bear. They loved each other so much, talked about everything and anything in the world. How she loved and adored Big Papa- she gave him a Big part of her heart. After all, he was Big Papa, wasn’t he? He promised he would keep it and guard it forever and ever with his life, like a Big Teddy Bear would. Big Papa. Strong and secure and trustworthy, like Big Teddy Bears are supposed to be.

One day, however, Big Papa took the Big part of her heart, put it in an envelope and mailed it away in a brown envelope. He told her he forgot the address, said he didn’t know why he did it, but anyway he couldn’t find it anymore so Raggedy-Anna must find a new one and move on.

Raggedy-Anna has been very afraid of all sorts of Teddy Bears ever since. They look all the same to her. She has many Teddy Bear friends but none have access to whatever part of her heart that’s left. She keeps a Safe distance from them because she is so Very afraid. Afraid they might promise her what Big Papa promised, and then smash it into bits and mail it away and tell her to get along now and good-bye and see you again.

So she keeps a Safe distance.

Even though some of them might be, maybe, perhaps be- angels in disguise. Her maker’s still finding the missing piece. Meanwhile, she’s seeing some doctors, and they’re trying to help her by looking for that brown envelope at the post office. That envelope with a Big part of her heart. It is such a tiny envelope.

Big Papa, why did you do that? I know you do love her so very much. But why.

She’s still waiting to for her missing piece. She’s trying very hard to search for it too.

Meanwhile, she keeps a Safe distance from all sorts of Teddy Bears.

“… You need to constantly remind yourself that there is no stigma attached to taking medication at all for what you have is an illness. It’s not a condition, nor is it an affliction, and certainly it’s not a sign of weakness nor is it a sin or a punishment. It is an illness treatable by medication. And if anyone tells you otherwise, it’s because they don’t understand…”

Why do I feel a weight lift from my chest when I read this letter. I read it over and over so I believe it more each time. I read it over and over.

And if anyone tells you otherwise, it’s because they don’t understand…

If only people understood.

Most don’t and will not-it’s the way things are. It only makes things harder, but we press on anyway.

Onward and upward.

To those of you who have tried to, chosen to, and are trying to understand, thank you.

I read it over and over.

” The meds will take effect only in 3 weeks to a month’s time… People take it for at least 6 months. We’ll see how things go, and if we need to readjust the dosage. “

“It takes a month? A whole month for it to work? And I take it for 6 months?”

“Yes, a month for it to work. Side effects include headaches, nausea, stomach discomfort, slight sedation… “

“Uh-huh. And that’s supposed to help me feel better?”

Nervous laughter.

“Well, not everyone gets side effects. But yes, it takes a month.”

Have you got stuck in a maze before? I wonder how it must feel like. You run all over the place, frenzied and exhausted, but get absolutely nowhere.

It was a tough day. Walking through the catacomb of corridors in the Big Gray Place, I walked from one block to the next to the next to the next. There was so much waiting, and walking. The whole afternoon was burned away. It was, to say the least, frustrating. They lie when they tell you a hospital is a White place. It is Gray- don’t let anyone fool you about that. A hospital is a Big Gray Place.

The Professional People work in a team, so I have to see a team of people, specialising in different areas, from different places and different times, and medication is found in a pharmacy four blocks away, at a different place. They give you directions like it’s just across the road or next door, but resentment breeds slowly inside of you when you find yourself all alone in a Big Gray Place, having to navigate your way in a maze, a statistic in a line with a queue number in hand, queue after queue after queue, with multiple appointment cards and lots and lots of people shuffling past you. Everything is everywhere, faces change, queue numbers hop, people are doing a different something at a different place at a different pace.

Mess.

Before all of this, I had walked into the waiting room, awaiting my turn. I had a headache from insomnia, was very anxious and felt very low. I watch people file in and out of the Big Gray Clinic, each one burdened with a Story of their own. Why am I here today? Why am I -still- on this journey? Why am I awaiting my turn in a Big Gray Place? I knew.

A middle-aged lady smiled at me. She looked familiar- have I seen her before? She smiled and came to sit next to me.

“You’re Wai Jia, right?” she asked very gently. “I’m… I’m S’s mother. She often reads your blog. Thank you for helping so many girls.”

I nearly start to cry.

S is a girl I met only once at the support group. She specially travels to Singapore for treatment because she lives in Malaysia, which I presume does not have the facilities for this kind of support. I met her only but once. And there we were, two people from different countries, by some divine arrangement in the same building again, with her mother recognising my face. She is in the room with a counsellor, and I write her a note to pass to her mother just in case we don’t meet.

Just before my turn, she comes out of the room, calls my name and runs to hug me. ” You look so good today,” she smiles. I haven’t had a good night’s rest for days.

” I’m going to visit N now upstairs at the ward, we’re really inspired reading your blog.” She smiles, and I nearly cry. What am I doing here, still. I know the answer to that question.

I enter the doctor’s office held together and leave the room, fragile. I am in tears- I am relieved and grieved at the same time because she wants to give me meds. I remember a lady I once met who told me the bravest thing she ever did was to take this sort of medication, because her decision to help herself went against stigma and pride. I am in tears but am determined to stick to my word.

“Wai Jia!”

Just as I walk out of the room, I find a little drawing with kites and a rainbow stuffed into my hands, and myself in a warm hug before you scuttle off again- you leave for Malaysia this evening. I really needed that hug. You drew it for me while I was in the room and waited for me to pass that to me, didn’t you? Sweet child, thank you.

It’s funny. It’s funny how the things of man are so scattered, disparate, confusing even. There are so many Professional People to see now, so many appointment cards to keep, so many dates to take note of, so many places to go to pick up different sort of things, so many corridors to walk through and queue numbers to take, faces to talk to, things to sort out.

The necessity and yet, the mess of it all.

And yet, I walk into one place, the waiting room, and find all that I seem to need for the moment right there. A once-stranger friend from a different geographical location altogether, her parents, a word of thanks, a hug, and a neatly folded drawing. All neatly in one place.

It is like my White Place. It is like God, a one stop station for all our thoughts and clouds. No separate appointment cards, no different specialists for different things, no navigating through a maze and a crowd to find the right place and the right person. Everything is there. Mister God, I have ALL these things to tell you, will you listen to me?

He is always there, with everything we need. All in one place.

This is the beginning of a long journey. And I am willing to walk it through. It is messy because we are human, but it is necessary. I must.

In a maze, sometimes you can’t even see where you’re heading, how long it will take to reach the end. But I know one thing for sure, that at the end of a long, long day, after the exhausting frenzy running this way and that, one can still return to the same spot, the same White Place, to the same Person, and find everything all in one place. Everything in one stop.

No queue number, no waiting time, no appointment card, no different location and no different sort of explanation and different sort of labels for different sort of medication.

Everything you need for the moment folded neatly into one note, one place, one Person.

Just, there.

What a relief.

I saw them.

They were very large, very black and very, very dry. They were being carried off by little black men.

I saw them- two trees, withered, leafless and charred black. They had been uprooted and were bring carried off by little black men. Where to, I do not know.

I woke up at an unearthly hour from a dream last night. I dreamt that two trees had been uprooted in my life- two black, barren and dry trees. Little black men carried them off, and I ran after them a bit, just to see what they were up to.

As I ran to take a closer look, I saw a huge crater appear before me, and where the two black trees had been uprooted, a huge tree stump, ten times larger, stood in their place. This was a leafless tree too, but only because it had been pruned. It was a very, very large, but it shone gently, brimming with life and glowing with vibrancy. It would grow, in time, to flourish, lush and green, and to bear good fruit.

I woke up.

Those two black, wicked trees had been uprooted by God. The new tree was a good tree, waiting to bear good fruit. I crawled out of bed and opened my drawer to pick up a gift given to me by a friend a few months before, a comic of a lush tree grown from a withered, barren one, a metaphorical illustration of our growth in God. (Isaiah 44:1-4)

The tree stump would grow to be just like that, I thought, with good fruit too. In time.

I asked God for faith and fruitfulness. And He is teaching them to me, but faith and fruitfulness of a different kind. I went to see the Professional People today, the people who are supposed to understand, supposed to know how to help me.

” We have a lot of work to do, ” Miss B said it to me at least three times with the same emphasis in her sentence, looking me in the eye. “There have been a lot of deep hurts and we have a lot of work to do. We’re going to take away everything you put your validation in and it’s going to be very scary. It’s going to be very, very scary.”

Seeing the Professional People means I have to be completely honest with them, and not to try and be strong. We talked about a number of things, laying lots of ground rules down- that this would be hard work, that it wasn’t going to be easy, and that I ought to be prepared. We talked about why I was in that room, about Leonardo’s past work with me, about where we needed to go from here. We talked about how understanding the past can only give you an awareness of your present situation, but cannot help you heal. That was what Leonardo was good at, examing the past and helping me understand why- and that was why his work with me had to be over- he couldn’t do anything more. He had helped me to understand the past, helped me to forgive and release certain deep hurts which I never knew existed, but the healing didn’t last, because staying in a Big Brick House day in, day out, can wear down your resolve like grated cheese.

Barely 5 minutes into the conversation the tears came. This was hard.

We talked about control, in all the wrong places. About how a little child had absorbed every possible message of feeling unloved and insecure and about how that grew big. Grew like a big, black, barren and wicked tree, I thought.

We no longer use the term Anorexia. We are past being underweight, so Miss B uses the term Ed. Ed, like a boy’s name- it stands for eating disorder. “We’re not here to talk about vanity or much about food. Ed is nothing about that. We’re going to look at the deep hurts and issues that underlie Ed.”

Okay.

She said it was great I had made much progress on my own, but still there was still “a lot of work to do”, and it was the right thing to be in that room. I was in that room, not because Rainbow didn’t happen, but because of underlying black, black roots which made it and many other Tiny incidents such Traumatic ordeals.

We talked about how Ed is like an abusive boyfriend, incandescently charming but ruins your life once it turns abusive. It destroys you in every way, but you return to it, time and again, because of its charm, because of the false ideals it promises you. We talked about insecurity, of feeling unloved in the Big Brick House, and of how everyone needs to feel loved in spite of any circumstance, in spite of whether the right people were loving right, in spite of being unable to change that, in spite of deep, deep hurts.

It was a long session.

This is not easy for me to do. Tomorrow they will decide if medication is necessary. Wednesday. I am afraid the doctor will decide on it, and afraid if she doesn’t. I am afraid of taking it if she does give it, and afraid of not taking it. What do the pills mean, and do they make me a different person. They say no, it doesn’t. It takes away the illness so I can have more of me back. That’s what they say. And then a little voice behind my head whispers to me and suggests- perhaps you really are this way.

I don’t believe it, because This is not me. This intermittent intense fear and sadness which punctuates the day, every day, this waking up-waking up-waking up through the night and being unable to go back to sleep, this having to prep and armour myself even to meet people at church… This isn’t me.

And then the voice asks: What if this sadness has a purpose? What if the meds take it away, and nothing is solved? You need this pain, you need it to get better, get stronger. You’re taking the easy way out, no?

I am tempted to believe this one. Tempted, because many great men of the bible were put through great depression for great purposes. Tempted, because I believe in the glory and strength birthed from suffering and affliction. Tempted, because I tried it once when I was twelve, and it did nothing right. It made crying harder, and I felt stuffed in, and not myself.

I tell myself it is different this time. It is different because This is debilitating me, this crying, and it is affecting the people around me who love me, and whom I love and perhaps it is the responsible thing to do. It is different because we are not using it to run away or solve the problem- Miss B will take care of that- what the meds do is to treat the illness so one can think, respond better to deal with this very, very stressful process and other demands of life. It is different because of what I have on my plate, medical school, and perhaps it is the responsible thing to do so that I can function and cope well enough to be competent. It is different, because perhaps one ought to see medication and treatment as a means of how God heals.

Yes?

I hate the idea. I hate it to its core. But I must write this and resolve to take them if the doctor decides or else I will weasle myself out of it. It is the responsible thing to do. I am exhausted. I can no longer cope with this crying. I usually do so alone, but when I crumbled at school last week, albeit hidden in the arms of a friend, I knew something had gone terribly wrong. I can no longer cope with not sleeping for more than 4 hours straight, no longer cope with This and preparing for the onslaught of 5 exam papers. I hear the little voice say it’s taking the easy way out, that I’m too soft for this extent of suffering. This time, I take a knife to its throat and I tell it to shut up because the little voice is not the one having loved ones see it suffer, not the one having to be a medical doctor, not the one who is losing oneself. I use my angry voice and tell it to shut up.

I’m writing this so I’ll stick to my word. That if they give medication, I will have to take it. I hate it but I will take it, in spite of the little voice, and work through whatever that needs to be worked on.

I asked God for faith and fruitfulness. And He is teaching them to me, but faith and fruitfulness of a different kind. I always talked about faith in terms of projects, the faith to see God see them through. I always talked about fruition in terms of them too, fruition in terms of money raised, people saved.

Now, I am learning faith and fruitfulness of a different kind. Faith, to see myself healed and Fruit, being the fruit of the Spirit, of love, patience and faith, fruits produced from trials. It is one of my greatest challenges, to see myself fully recovered, in spite of all the negative messages absorbed through the years. But this is true faith- to believe in something the eye cannot see.

I live in a Big Brick House that holds all the memories and hurts birthed from a big, black tree. There is not a single day that goes by without the plagueing doubt that I may never be normal, may never be totally restored, may never have a normal, healthy relationship or a whole, healthy, happy family of my own. My big, black family tree stares at me right in the face, and everything points back to the same big, black roots from which the withered trees grew.

And this is the measure of faith God is challenging me with now- the faith to see myself well, whole, free, and happy.

It was a beautiful dream, wasn’t it?

I watched the two black trees being carried away by the little black men, the two big, black, barren and wicked trees completely uprooted by God, with nothing remaining. I wondered what they stood for. For unforgiveness, for black love, for something perhaps known as an ancestral curse?

I watched the giant tree stump planted in place, deep into the crater. There was no rain, no sunshine, no leaves nor fruit yet- just a giant tree stump, glistening, glowing, breathing, rooted deep in that spot, waiting to bear fruit.

It was the vision I could not bring myself to believe.

A beautiful dream-

– about Faith.

It was a good tree.


Drawings by Ty

Isaish 44:1-4

Romans 11:16

Somedays you open your eyes and find, in puzzlement, another day awaiting.

Another day of waiting, of struggling, of releasing, of learning, of pressing on.

Another day to get through.

Another day of marching on. Sometimes in candour, sometimes with stoic acceptance- but always with valour.

Another day.

There is no other choice.

Onward and upward we march.

There is no other choice.

The day ends, and the march, the proud, stoic march

Dissolves.

When we’re on our knees,

That is, perhaps,

The strongest we’ll ever be.

Photo by OY

2 Corinthians 12:10

I’d like to talk about the frustration of This all- this This, this This that I do not wish to call by its name because of all the connotation, stigma and misconception people have about it.

The past few days have not been easy. There have been many ups and downs, and coming to terms with the fact that This is an illness. While a good attitude and a close relationship to God can being relief, comfort and a new perspective, an illness cannot be willed away. It is the hardest thing for me to do- to have to come to terms with it, to have to accept that.

Today I want to talk about the frustration of this all, not out of vengeance but because This has been so misunderstood. And I’d like to share with you the frustration of This, the frustration which makes it all the more harder to cope.

It has been frustrating, to say the least, to have a million people give their take on what you’re going through. I think you need a more positive mindset. I think you need to get closer to God. No, I don’t think you need a doctor. You seem fine most of the time. Have you unconsicously been thinking a lot of negative thoughts-maybe that’s the problem. Would you like to read this/do this/do that- I think you just need a new perspective. What’s so hard- just solve the problem and you’ll be okay in no time. Solve the problem, you’re good at that, aren’t you?

And the best one is. Relax, smile- be happy.

These are all well-meaning people, people who pray for me every single day, people whom I love and who love me to the moon and back. Therein lies the frustration- that while I appreciate their love so much and am grateful every single waking moment for it, they don’t understand and I cannot expect them to.

Aunty Af, my publisher’s wife, is the only one who knows closest to what the Full Story is. She told me, “There will be many, many well-meaning people giving you advice and sharing their opinions. But you’ll have to forgive them for not understanding because they don’t know the Full Story, but they say and do all this out of love.”

It is frustrating to feel like everyone’s trying to fix you in their own capacity and using their opinion to do so, and even more so when nobody but Aunty Af really knows the Full Story. I’m thankful to tears that people have been so kind, spending time, effort, prayer to show their love, support and concern for me. But it has been difficult, to say the least, to know that few understand. Few really understand.

I want to give you the inside story.

Depression. There, I’ve said it. When people ask, “have you been a little depressed lately?”, they often mean it as an emotion, interchangeable with feeling transiently sad or troubled. They ask because they are concerned, and are eager to help, to console and to comfort. Someone who is truly depressed has been feeling it for weeks, months, years. It is more than an emotion, it goes far back and deep, it is an illness and beyond the capacity of someone less than a trained professional to deal with. A normal person, friend, family can show support, love and concern which is of utmost significance to someone with depression, but they must realise it is not within their capacity to fix or to cure.

This is a package for trained professionals- if you’re not trained to sew back the stitches right, don’t start the surgery. For all your well intentions, someone could bleed to death.

Tell them to get help. Persuade them, be supportive. But don’t take it upon yourself to fix them, because as much as it’s hard to accept, it’s not your responsibility.

The frustration comes with being misunderstood. The most well-meaning of people believe there must surely be something wrong with your faith or your trust in God, and try every possible method to feed you with sound, biblical teaching. These are the most well-meaning of people, people I love and who love me to the moon and back. But how do you explain that it’s not that simplistic, that there’re plenty of God-loving people in the bible who had to go through a season of depression- Job, David, Jeremiah. How do you begin to explain that you know God has a purpose for this, that this is necessary as part of the healing process, that it will take time and has got nothing to do with how strong your relationship with God is, or how much you know and love Him.

It was someone else very much older and wiser in God who had to tell me all this- I was burdened with so much guilt.

I cry every night because of This. But I’ve never tasted the sweetness of God’s love in this much fullness as of now, never felt so close to Him, never realised how much one can love Him in times of confusion, distress and not understanding why at all.

It is frustrating enough to have to deal with the questions you have for God- why God, why. But it becomes nothing compared to the frustration of being made to feel like an unfaithful child of God, that there must have been something you didn’t do right, there must be some kink in your understanding of God that has caused all this, that surely, if you sorted that out, God would come in and heal you right there and then, faster than making popcorn in a microwave oven. I’m sure they didn’t mean all that, but it can and does, however one didn’t mean to, sound like it.

I agree some people have a lot of negative thinking which can be corrected. I agree that knowing God can bring you joy, character and strength. I agree that having a deeper understanding of God can bring relief, comfort and healing.

But I also agree that God has emotions. That we go through different seasons in life. That sometimes, it is not necessarily as simplistic as being a result of negative thinking, or losing hope in God. That sometimes, people have deep hurts inflicted on them in the past, and need to go through a period of feeling, of working through the emotions, of resolving them, and of being healed. All of this is healthy. All of this is also painful. Can one say then that he who is struggling with the depression felt during this process must have a lesser relationship with God than one who does not and is hence suffering because of it? We all have different challenges- can one say he who has had to deal with past hurts inflicted on them by no choice of their own but by unfortunate abuse is more condemned than he who has not?

It is painful enough to have to doubt yourself, question yourself with all these questions and struggle with the condemnation you feel- that possibly, could it be because I didn’t do something right, that I made God very angry and brought this upon myself?

People have good intentions. And I’m so grateful for their love. But I want to be honest, give you the inside story of the great deal of miscommunication and misconception about this, so you can better understand and not impose this additional pain on someone you love going through a similar experience.

People think people who have depression haven’t got it together, that they’re weak and emotionally or spiritually incompetent. Can one say one is a lesser being because of the hurts one needs help dealing with because normal human beings weren’t designed to accept abuse and need help to release deep hurts? A lot of things need to be worked through.

Forgive, release and let go- you need to pray more. That’s when a wall goes up. People who don’t understand the degree of abuse inflicted will not understand the process one needs to go through to reach that point of full restoration. One can feel very much condemned when one is told to pray and press in more when one is perhaps praying much, much more than one can imagine. Yes, God is big and faithful and has the ability to heal in a nick of time, I’m sure. But He delays and tarries and allows the passing of human time, because process takes time.

I do agree. That God helps us to let go, helps us to forgive, helps us to do what is seemingly impossible in human terms. But I think in our culture, people want that instanteous relief and restoration. People like us, we don’t seem to see or value process as much. We subconconsciously think- come on, let go quickly, commit your troubles to God, and wow, because He’s so great and amazing, He’s gonna give you freedom, blessings and joy RIGHTHERERIGHTNOW, now and forever more!

And if it’s taking longer than RIGHTHERERIGHTNOW, then whoa, you’re not pressing in enough! Have more faith!

I think it’s hard for people to come to terms with- that this is a process and takes time. I can understand that. Because as much as it hurts me, I know people I love who see me hurt are hurting too.

I can only talk about This with ease with Aunty Af, because she understands. That at the core, I’m impossibly optimistic and love God and do my best to be all right but that this needs professional, possibly clinical help for now, and later on, counselling, spiritual and otherwise- because this is a necessary process I need to go through in order to understand and work through the abuse. That it’s not that I’m incompetent, or cotton wool or don’t trust God enough, but that different people have different walks because of different circumstance through no fault of their own, and that God uses time, too. He took 7 years with David. For a good reason, too.

I freeze up when anybody else asks me about This. I ask you to forgive me- because I’m so very scared you will not understand, that you might heap upon me a lecture on spirituality or emotional competence, or worse, give me a pep talk. I freeze up because I am so very scared you will not understand this is not a matter of will but an illness apart from me, that a wall will be built between us because of This, when all this while, I just do my very best to be normal and happy with people.

People think- if you believe in God’s healing power and all that, then why do you -still- need therapy? Bring it to God. Right?

I have been very, very blessed- sometimes, nobody understands. Aunty Af is a beautiful woman with a deep understanding and love for God. And she understands that This that I have, has not been brought about by pessimistic thinking or not seeking God enough or immaturity or anything I have done for that matter- but simply, something I am dealing with because of the deep hurts that have surfaced from undeserved abuse in the past, that the abuse was not my fault, that this depression is normal, and that God works through process too, that He heals, and loves and restores- not necessarily in that magical instantaneous way that so many of us imagine, but through people, through trained help, through doctors, loved ones, through time, through working through emotions.

Perhaps what makes it so hard is for loved ones to see someone they love in a place of hurting. Please get out fast… No, I don’t think it’s that serious… right? … I don’t think you need professional help… Okay fine, go for therapy, take the meds if you need to, resolve what you need to- and get out fast okay? I miss you being strong, miss you being dynamic and out-there. When will you be okay? Come out fast, okay?

We missed the point. It’s going to take a while, maybe a long while, depending on how things go, what gets uncovered. I can understand why people choose to deny and trivialise the matter- I seem all right and pretty put-together to some people all the time because I make it a point to help myself and help others by -trying-. I’m doing everything I can.

I even asked the doctor, “How do I know if it’s really an illness, and not just pessimism or something I’m not doing right?”

“It seems clear to me you’ve done everything you can, love. Whatever that’s still there- that belongs to the meds.”

“But I don’t want meds. I don’t need it… right? It doesn’t solve anything.”

“It doesn’t solve the underlying problem, you’re right. That’s where the counselling and therapy comes in, to help you work through the issues. But they help you to function, to think better, so you can better cope and better deal with the issues. You’ve got so much on your plate right now- what with all this and medical school to cope with. But I’ll let you think about it, okay? “

Resolve what you need to and come back. Is that not what I am doing. Why do people say it like it will happen tomorrow, or day after, or maybe next week. I am trying my best, doing everything I can. Do you not see.

I’d like to be all right and be a good person and graduate from school and fall in love and be in a healthy relationship and get married and have children and be a missionary doctor- hopefully somewhat in that order- and help people and be happy. I’m doing all that I need to. I will get there, but it takes time. Do you not see that.

Relax, smile and be happy. Deal with it. Lighten up. This is the biggest wall built ever.

If you understand depression as an illness, you will be open to medicine and doctors and treatment, because you understand the medicine doesn’t take more of the person away- it takes the illness, depression, away so you can have more of the person back, more of the person to function properly so he can deal with the issues head-on. You respect and support him, because you don’t look down on him as if he brought this upon himself, and you see the depression apart from the person. If you see it, however, as an emotion, as a transient feeling precipitated from himself, and see depression as part of the person’s personality and psyche, a sign of a loss of hope in God, you will scoff at medicine, see the person as being weak, or incapacitated or not understanding God’s ways.

This is part of my frustration. This being misunderstood. Reproach is a suffocating blanket.

What I find ironic is that evidently, God works through process and time, and that thinking He chooses to heal overnight really is not understanding the way He works at all. I’m sure He can if he wants to, but some things are birthed through only time, time and process and waiting on Him.

If you are depressed and no one seems to understand, please know that you are not alone. Please get help. In spite of how other people trivialise your issue, in spite of feeling misunderstood, in spite of all the stigma, please get professional help. Don’t let it take you away. Get help.

If you know someone who is depressed, please understand that they are in pain, that it is not necessarily their fault, that they are trying their very best and don’t need you to give them a lecture about the ten ways to be happy- they probably know. Please understand that while being close to God and learning about God can bring much comfort and relief and hope, that sometimes, God can put different people through different seasons to learn different things and if they can accept that, it helps that you do too. Please understand that your encouragement about God brings comfort, but that it only helps if you say it out of genuine encouragement and to spur the person on, and not if it was said out of correction, in an attempt to fix, to straighten out. Please understand that you cannot fix them, that it is an illness, that it will take a long while to recover and you cannot hurry them in spite of your own hurting for them- it is difficult for them to let you see them like this. As much as you are hurting, they are hurting more. Please understand that they need you to be there. That your being there and loving, supporting, praying for them means the world to them.

I’m thankful for all the things you’ve said and done for me, even though I may have felt frustrated and misunderstood- because I understand it was well-meaning and done out of love. Aunty Af says that throughout this process, so many well-meaning people will give me all sorts of advice, and so many will misunderstand, will impose their opinions, will try and fix me, and that I’ll have to forgive all of them for all that because they did so out of genuine love, not to cause harm.

Please understand that one doesn’t need to be suicidal before one gets help- it is too late by then. That when I smile and have good fun, it is not that I am trying to hide, but that I am still me. I am still essentially me. And that This is apart from me, and not a part of.

Understand that it helps that you support and respect what I’ve chosen to do, because no one but God and myself knows the Full Story, how serious some of this stuff can be as Aunty Af knows. That as hard as it is for yourself to hear, I may have to take meds, and it is harder on me than for you to have to accept that. That I am battling against stigma and misconception and reproach and it helps that you don’t add to that.

For all your love and prayer, I am deeply thankful. This is deeply misunderstood, and so I do not get angry even at points of frustration. This was deeply misunderstood even by myself- I have only gleaned fresh understanding about This because I am in the midst of it. I understand that everything was well-meaning, and done with love. I only write this so you understand the inside story, the truth of the matter, hoping it may give you a new perspective.

As hard as it is for you, it is for me, too. Likely more so.

Understand that this won’t be forever. Understand that I appreciate so much everything so many of you are doing for me. Thank you for your patient and longsuffering love, for your messages of affirmation and prayer- to each and every one of you, especially to those of you who have held my head in your arms, who have had to hold me in tears, who have prayed for me every night, who have loved me as who I am, apart from This, who have not tried to fix me, but simply been there for me. Thank you to you too who may have tried to fix me, who may have misunderstood, because you are well-meaning, with good love and good intention.

I know you want me to be better soon. I am doing everything I can. God needs to take His time, too, and He will finish the good work He started.

Thank you for walking with me, and for loving me.

A happy Chinese new year to you. Love.

I thought it was downright unfair. He caught me when I wasn’t looking, and pushed me from behind. Had he attacked from the front, perhaps I wouldn’t have been as mad. As I lost balance, I was overcome with shock, anger and pain. It was the suddeness of the fight, the weight of the wrestle and the blow to my pride that hit me so hard in the face. He threw me onto the ground, slipped his fingers into my pocket to take what he wanted, which was so many things precious to me, and wanted to take flight.

How dare he. How dare he take what belonged to me.

So I didn’t let him go.

He was heavier than me so I grimaced under the brunt of his weight, but when he tried to flee, I didn’t let him go. Gritting our teeth, and forcing his trunk to the ground, I tried to pry his hand open to take back what had belonged to me. They were mine. Those things were mine. They belonged to me. How dare he.

He was in pain, and I was ready to inflict more. He had given me scrapes, bruises, tears and a sore back and I wasn’t ready to let him go. During the midst of the struggle, there was so much fog that I couldn’t see his face. I wanted to see that face, see the face that robbed me of what belonged to me. How dare he.

Straddling him and sitting on his chest, I summoned all the strength I could find within myself and threw his shoulders to the floor, held up his neck so I could see his face. I was hurt, angry and in pain. I was in a large amount of pain, emotionally and physically. How low he was, I thought.

But when our eyes met and I saw his face, my mouth fell open and I leaped away. An angel’s face, it was.

Our eyes met and I fell away. He looked at me, smiled his warm smile- that ever familiar smile- and opened my palm to return to me what was mine. And then I understood.

“I just wanted you to wrestle me to claim back what was yours, that’s all.”

“… you have struggled with God (for your blessing) …and have overcome.”
-Genesis 32:22-32

The fog is clearing. And even as I come to terms with my own pain and desperation, I begin to understand that all This was necessary- this This, the depression and confusion and overwhelming sense of loss for the past 35 days- was a necessary tussle with God.

I am beginning to understand. What all this meant, what this all means. Why I felt what I did, why I do not feel what I did anymore. I have struggled with God, wrestled with an angel and I am in the process of overcoming the tussle. I do not fully understand it, still, but I am beginning to, in little ways.

This is how I understand it.

The first wave of depression crept in insidiously with each passing day of knowing that Rainbow would not come to pass this year. The disappointment came with having to deal with the loss, but what brought on the deep feeling of grief was not knowing, not understanding God’s heart toward me. I was unsettled and diseased. In the depths of my heart, I knew God had promised me Rainbow, promised me in a way I was convinced personally and in a way that would make others raise their eyebrows.

But now that it wasn’t going to happen this year as I had expected because they “won’t make it in time”, I didn’t know if I was supposed to surrender and decide that perhaps I had heard God wrongly, or to press into a deeper spiritual tussle with God. Did letting go mean I was undermining the integrity of God’s promise to me? Or had I not been prayerful enough-perhaps I needed to press in and wrestle with angels like a man called Jacob did in the bible, so he could earn his blessings?

I feared pursuing it further, feared taking action to hurry others, rush plans- for time and circumstance seemed to point this was not God’s time yet. Yet, I feared letting Rainbow go, for I didn’t want it to mean that I didn’t have faith to believe the vision I thought God had given me. Was I to give Rainbow up and surrender, or to pursue it in faith? If I surrendered, did that mean I was backing out on God, and if I didn’t, had I crossed from being tenacious and visionary to being caught in my own self-righteous striving?

In th fog, I felt stuck in a damned-if-I-do-and-damned-if-I-don’t situation. To make things worse, I felt caught between two camps, and foolish to both- the first mocking me for not taking action- “Wai Jia, you should try harder. Don’t give up, excercise some authority and responsibility,” and the second saying, ” Perhaps this is just not what God has planned- maybe you interpreted His promise wrongly, and you just have to let it go.”

The grief was partially caused by the loss, but worse, it was being in the darkness, not being able to fathom what God was trying to do with me, and feeling damned on both sides. It felt so lonely there.

Then, the second wave of depression hit. You recover well, think you’ve got it all together when suddenly, you wake up one day and realise in shock that you’ve something new to struggle with- the weight gain. It’s a stage of recovery where people fall prey so easily to relapse. Struggling with what it means, what you now look like, where to go from here. You know you finally look normal, but know that something inside is -still- broken. What is worse than looking and feeling ill, is feeling ill but not looking like it at all.

One day I wake up feeling like I cannot do this anymore- this getting up to meet people and smile and say hello and be nice and study and be all right. I was on a healthy dose of positive thinking and self-therapy until I hit a lid, and that was where professional help had to come in. Nobody does this by themself. I was entangled in pride, shame and guilt. Pride because I thought I was doing brilliantly by myself, shame because I thought perhaps I had slipped up and had not drawn close enough to God for help, and guilt because that voice of “please just be less complicated and save us the money” kept ringing in my head. That’s when the Tiny incidents became Traumatic ones, and everything came undone.

The third wave came like a tsunami and wiped out whatever emotional infrastruture that was left. Rainbow was gone for now, every self-initiated project with good intentions died on me, there was darkness in the Big Brick House, exams loomed ahead, Tiny incidents set off like fireworks… I felt exhausted, fell sick, couldn’t share my feelings with anyone because I hadn’t the faintest idea what was happening, felt condemned and confused with the different opinions people had on my situation, and had little energy at times to meet people, give up myself for them, lead discussions, be engaged in ministry. I had to cancel appointments, turn down requests to help. I felt useless, fruitless and barren.

The last straw came when they wanted to “just check if there’re any remants of clinical depression left”. That unnerved me completely. It made me doubt myself, made me question God, made me wonder if it was an illness and its implications, or if I just needed to quit whining and get my act together. Lonely and afraid of turning 21 this way, the fear of being diagnosed as depressed made me even more so.

Caught in a tailspin of events, I felt I had been thrown onto the ground from the back, and had everything precious to me in my pocket stolen from me in a moment.

How dare He, I thought. Day and night, I struggled. 35 days.

It is a time in the winter, a time in a furnace.

But even in the darkness, there were treasures to be found. In the winter snow, I found buds forming. In the heat of the fire, I found purified gold. I was able to reconcile- that God wasn’t punishing me, that He loves us, and allows trials tough enough to mould our characters but never enough to crush us completely.

I was pushed down and robbed by an angel.

In the heat of the tussle, I gained a profound strength from God, the kind that can only be purified through pain. On the ground in vulnerability and brokeness, I learned humility, the kind that develops in you an abandoned trust in God. In being emptied and crippled, I learned how God uses crises and delayed prayers to break us open, soften our hearts, and renew us- right from the very beginning.

And as I struggled and fought and wrestled with the angel and wouldn’t let him go because of what he had cost me, I learnt that in all suffering, we gain a tenacity for, a profound insight into and a sense of fervent pursuit for God’s face.

I am learning- that sometimes the greatest adversity comes to those God loves the most.

That the greater the suffering, the greater the purpose God has for it.

That the higher the heat and pressure, the closer we become to diamonds.

That it’s perfectly okay to be profoundly aware of one’s inadequacy, weakness and fraility, perfectly okay to feel broken and empty and robbed- because any form of personal bankruptcy bought through this kind of fire and robbery builds a true kind of trust, faith and humility before God.

I am learning that sometimes, we need to know what it means to be completely useless, broken and empty before we can learn what it means to be fruitful and humble at the same time. For fruitfulness without humility is a dangerous, dangerous thing. For we cannot handle glory until we learn to handle pain-If Rainbow had come through just as I had expected, I would have become a proud prick, full of myself. It is God’s grace that all This has happened instead. Great faith without brokeness becomes presumption.

That it is a blessing in disguise to go through this, because it is precisely this kind of pain and perplexity that can enlarge our hearts, widen the breadth of our capacities, and deepen our love for the things which are real.

Now I’ve learnt, that not understanding why is part of the suffering, part of the only kind of suffering that can make you the kind of person who loves God, loves people not for what you get in return, but simply, for who they are, who God is. If I knew why I was suffering, and when it would end, the motivation would keep me strong, resilient. But not knowing why, not knowing when it will end, builds in you faith and love for God and people, not for what you may receive when the suffering ends, but simply, for who He is, who they are, what this process is about.

I am learning- that if we build our lives on the foundations of position, books, projects and accomplishments, suffering in any way will pull us away from them. In times of crushing distress, when these foundations crumble, we will, too.

And I am learning, that if we, however, build our lives on the foundation of God’s love, then suffering of any kind will only pull us deeper, closer into God, into His love, into a deeper faith and joy- so close we can hear His heartbeat.

God is teaching me that true faith doesn’t waver, either when we’re energized by the miracles we think we’ve seen or when we’re completely undone.

That suffering perfects our love- do I claim to have faith in God and the beauty of this world only when I feel my prayers are answered (Kitesong) or do I love and trust Him just the same, just as much when I am thrown down onto the floor, hapless, and robbed of what I think to be my right?

Perhaps it seems like I am making all this up, trying to find comfort for myself in whatever way possible. Perhaps it seems like I am trying to find a new perspective just so I can hold on.

But I am getting help and doing what I need to do. And as I pinned the angel to the ground and straddled him, held his neck up and asked him why, quite ferociously, he smiled at me and only said, “I just wanted you to wrestle me to claim back what was yours, that’s all.”

He paused. “I just wanted you to seek my face out.”

And the fog started to clear.

As with all trials.

He shrugged and smiled at me.


“… you have struggled with God (for your blessing) …and have overcome.”
-Genesis 32:22-32

My little doll, she moves like clockwork. You can wind her up behind, and she dances beautifully, smooth like clockwork. She performs beautifully when she has an audience. But nobody knows she has a faulty part inside, a missing piece.

Nobody knows our little secret-

-that sometimes in the dark, my little doll cries. Sometimes in the dark when I wind her up to dance, she doesn’t. She just, cries.

“What is it?” I always ask her.

But she is inconsolable. She performs so beautifully when she has an audience, she dances smooth like clockwork. Then after the show, when the performance ends, I hear a tiny, tiny clink and then I know something isn’t right. It’s the missing piece.

I realise, it could be anything- a passing piercing word, a roll of the disdainful eye, a flutter of a roach’s wing… that jams the tiny, tiny cogs and wheels inside, and she falls right apart.

Nobody knows there’s a faulty part inside, a missing piece. Nobody knows our little secret. That my little doll never dances when she’s alone, never dances in the dark, no matter how much you wind her up. She only cries, inconsolably.

Many times, I sent her away to get her fixed. No one could fix her up right- I almost lost hope. Finally, I found someone who had a reputation for fixing things, little dolls expecially. It was an old Italian man at a run-down toy shop far away.

I only have but one little doll. I would never give her up for anything in the world. But the old man returned her to me and said, he didn’t have the part. He’s searched everywhere and he can’t find the equivalent of her missing piece.

“I’m sorry,” he said. ” I can’t fix her… … But she’s fine most of the time, isn’t she? Isn’t that good enough for you, that she’s fine most of the time, and always when she has an audience?”

He wound her up right before me, and she danced beautifully again, her cogs and wheels within her running smooth like clockwork because she had an audience. My little doll dances beautifully, smooth like clockwork when she has an audience.

But being “fine most of the time” isn’t enough. The old Italian man never saw how my little doll cried when she was alone with me. How inconsolable she was, and she wouldn’t tell me why. I’m not sure if she knew why herself. How her large pearls of tears would roll off her porcelain cheeks. If only he saw her once, undone, I know he would run to the edge of the earth to find my little doll’s missing piece.

“Where can I find her missing piece?” I asked the old Italian man.

“You’ve got to send her back to whoever made her. Only he’ll have a spare missing piece. “

It was my only chance.

My little doll started to cry. “That’s such a long way away! My maker’s such a long way away!” she said petulantly, “And… oh, how it’s going to hurt! It’s going to hurt when he opens me up!”

“It’s our only chance,” I said. ” You’ll be fixed, and you’ll dance beautifully again, with or without an audience.”

It was a long way to the factory, but the signposts made it easy to find. When we got there, her maker winded her up, and this time though she had an audience, she did not dance. My little doll’s audience was her maker, and she did not dance. She knew he knew- there was no point pretending it was all okay, that she was running smooth like clockwork, when she wasn’t.

“This missing piece has been missing so long it’s going to take a long while to find it. It’s going to take some time,” her maker said, “And it’s such a tiny, tiny part in such a very important place… Its not going to be easy to fix her.”

“It’s all right- take as long as you want…” This time, it was my turn to cry. How long would he take my little doll for?

My little doll was wound up, and in her maker’s hands, she neither danced or cried.

It was our only hope.

” Take however long you need- Would you just fix her for me, Mister God- please?”

Would you just fix her for me, Mister God- please?