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.