A Blessing in Disguise

Five years ago, the term ‘mental health’ was absent from my vocabulary. ‘Health’ as I knew, was purely physical. Pushing myself to meet the unrelenting high standards I set for myself was okay, as long as I did not fall ‘ill’.

Photo by John T on Unsplash

Unknowingly, pressure from all areas: academic, athletic and social, was slowly making me ‘ill’. Mentally ill.

In late 2017, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. I remember looking up my psychology textbook for the diagnostic criteria: Low moods, check. Loss of interest and motivation, check. Insomnia, check. Thoughts of wanting to sleep and not wake up, check…

Am I depressed? Do I really have a mental illness? No, it can’t be. “I don’t have a mental illness.” That was the lie I kept telling myself.

Until one day, I broke.

Looking back, it is clear to me now – a life full of vigour, optimism and enthusiasm had slowly turned a gloomy shade of grey. Life became meaningless and in the wake of a failed relationship, I lost hope. Thankfully, my school counsellor brought me to the A&E on the morning that I decided that I could not go on with life anymore.

The following months were not easy. I struggled with daily routine. But thanks to medication, therapy, and support from my family, mentors, friends and fellow peers, thoughts of wanting to end my life eventually went away, and I saw light again.

Today, I can say with absolute certainty that I am not only living, but thriving in recovery. Depression was my blessing in disguise. By emerging from it, I have found my purpose in life – to share my recovery story and help others to overcome similar struggles.

To those out there who are struggling, please know that it is not the end of the road; help is out there. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness, but an act of bravery and strength. Life can be better than you imagine if you learn to accept your condition and accept help. Trust me – for I am, among many others, a living testament of these words.

Sharing by Amos, a client of Clarity Singapore

Let Jesus Guide our Hearts

“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”
— Mother Theresa

Three things asked of us during Lent are praying, fasting, and almsgiving.

Growing up, I always thought almsgiving was the odd one out. It seemed like our parents’ responsibility; we were just the middlemen dropping money into the bag. It seemed like the simplest task to complete; the other two took up a bit more time and effort.

One Sunday during Lent, as a child, I recalled Jesus saying, that when we give, the left hand must not know what the right hand is doing. So as offertory drew near, my right hand started to carefully extract just one coin from my pocket, while my brain and my left hand did their best to ignore. My parents saw my struggle and was thoroughly amused at their son’s naivety when I explained myself.

A reusable cup carrier done by our Caritas Young Adults

In 2014, I was overseas for work and I needed to withdraw cash from an ATM before dinner. A lady wrapped up in a thin blanket with her child sat at the side and asked me for money just as I withdrew it. As I obeyed my brain and walked away, what she said is still etched in my mind till today. “We are human too!” she exclaimed.

That incident changed me. As a young adult today, I realize that the brain and the left hand always interferes with giving. Either the brain is casting doubt and causes inaction, or the left hand empties the pocket first.

In a similar incident back home in Singapore recently, I was withdrawing cash in my neighbourhood to buy food back for the family when a lady asked me for money. This time I asked her whether she had lunch and I said, “Wait for me, I will go get you a pack of chicken rice.” As I handed her the packet of food, the puzzled look on her face told me that no one has ever done this for her. But as she started to share her situation with me, I quickly excused myself thinking that I have done my part.

Almsgiving is actually the most difficult task of the three because we are called to give without being calculative, and to give more than just money. Perhaps we can give more of what is most precious to us this Lent – our time. Don’t let our minds and our left hands guide our giving, and let Jesus guides our hearts this Lent!

Mark Tang
Chair, Caritas Singapore Young Adults Committee