Written by: Jasmine Yow (Photo by: Isabel Phua)
How God drew me out of depression
The phone flashed purple, signalling a new WhatsApp message. I reached over my table and swiped the screen to reveal what my colleague had sent me.
“Charlie committed suicide.”
The fan whirred quietly in my room as I digested the news. Charlie was my first mentor in the university internship programme. I spent six weeks with him, voraciously learning from his experience. I can still remember him patiently teaching me on how to counsel a patient with a toenail infection and how we burst out into laughter at a customer who tried paying for mascara at the pharmacy counter. He was even one of my referees when I applied for a job application.
I quickly did a brief search online and found out that he had been cremated the day before. I didn’t even get a chance to pay my last respects. I looked at the blinking cursor on my computer screen, and thought, “That could have so easily been me.”
I was a quiet kid. Shy and reserved, it was difficult for me to make friends. I often found myself excluded from the activities the other children were involved in. This quickly escalated into bullying, with the others banding together to sneer at my hair, my face, my name. It got bad enough that the principal of my primary school had to step in to resolve it. I never understood why the others wanted to pick on me. I still don’t; perhaps they didn’t have a reason.
It affected me bad enough that even though the bullying stopped by the time I was ten, I had believed enough of their lies to see myself as unwanted, unneeded, and unworthy of anyone’s love or attention. I started entertaining thoughts of suicide. When I was eight, I thought of poisoning myself with rubber shavings in my water bottle. I have stood at the kitchen window, sliding the grilles to the side, peering down, and wondering if I would change my mind mid-flight after plunging twelve floors down.
However, I never managed to actualise any of my plans. I was sick of living, but too afraid to end it. While accepting Christ into my life (when I was twelve) seemed to help at times, God did not seem enough at my worst moments.
A trend started in secondary school where girls would cut themselves on their wrists and legs. Some did it for the rush; others did it for the bragging rights. I would watch, fascinated, as a friend rolled up her sleeves to see the marks lined up in neat little rows — red on white, red on white.
Surely there had to be some reason why they were all doing it? Did it help? Over time, the school found out, and teachers and counsellors started monitoring the ones who had been self-mutilating. But the girls simply started cutting themselves in areas where the teachers could not check. I thought of giving in to self-mutilation, but I didn’t want to get caught by the teachers. So I devised an alternate method to self-harm, just without the marks.
Once I started, it became a crutch, something to express my frustrations in a way that words could not. My shy and reserved self did not allow me to express myself in talking through my frustrations with others. God was a bystander all this time; I had locked Him out of my life as easily as locking my bedroom door. This self-harm went on for several months until one momentous day.
I had locked myself in the room, like any other day. I felt irritable and defeated after a bad day at school. On the floor with my weapon in my left hand and my exposed right forearm, I felt a slight pressure around my wrists, as if someone had clasped their hands gently around them. Then, a word impressed upon my heart.
The moment passed, and I looked at my hands. Nothing had changed. But with a single word, the inclination to hurt myself that had plagued me for half my life vanished. God had intervened, not at an altar surrounded by pastors and leaders, nor with well-meaning advice on how to better myself.
God showed me that He cared with just one word.
It has been eleven years since I’ve entertained my last suicidal thought. There are still areas in my past that God continues to rebuild till this day, but that oppressive shadow upon my life no longer threatens to swallow me up. No matter how far I wandered as I believed the lies people told me, I have found that His love is greater; I can run back to Him for shelter and safety in every moment of doubt (Proverbs 18:10). I hold onto His truths, as they encourage my spirit and hold me in good stead, in spite of my flawed logic and contradicting emotions. His love is truly better than life (Psalm 63:3).
Depression — expressed in any shape or form — is a terrifying thing that no one should ever deal with alone. Some people will need a good group of friends, a pastor, or family for support; some may need professional counselling, while others may require medication. No matter which path you take to find wholeness, I am certain that God will walk with you and love you the way He did for me. He will meet where you are — in your pain, your anger, your loss, your heartbreak.
To Charlie Saik, who let me dispense my first chlorpheniramine and taught me that neither customers nor pharmacists are always right.
To every person reading this who struggles the way I once did: may you find that God is indeed enough.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://selah.sg/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Bio_Jasmine.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Jasmine is a (licensed) drug dealer and an avid fan of Broadway musicals. She can often be found curled up in a corner, drinking teh peng, and reading a good book. Catch her dancing through life @jazyow.[/author_info] [/author]