Can I ask you something? … About Mental Wellbeing

Dear Catechists, did you know that we are conducting a course on the mental wellbeing of children and youths? The sessions will be held on 14, 21, and 28 March 2022 (7.30 PM – 10.00 PM).

For more details, please visit this link. Registration will close on 9th Mar, 2022, 11.59 PM.

This is a collaboration between Office for Catechesis, Clarity Singapore, Catholic Family Life, and Caritas Singapore.

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

My Journey through Depression

’’The world gave me many things, but the only thing I ever kept was absolute solitude.’’ Now, don’t get me wrong – there is a difference between isolation and loneliness. As the song goes, ‘’Sadness is beautiful, loneliness is tragical.’’ Loneliness as a condition, can be both a curse and a gift, a justification or maybe the doorway to God.

Photo by Eepeng Cheong on Unsplash.jpg

I have always been an introvert, preferring to escape through the world of books than to spend lots of time mindlessly talking to people. I am not aloof – just that I do not enjoy making small talk. As a student, there is nothing more welcoming than the sound of the last school bell, which indicated that school has ended. Being shy and reserved has its negative effects – somehow, I felt alienated from and ostracized by my classmates.

The turning point came when I was 19, when my father suddenly passed away from a long battle with cancer. Suddenly, I was forced to grow up quickly without a father-figure beside me. I feared getting involved in a boy-girl relationship (BGR), because I was apprehensive about matters of the heart and honestly, who would walk me down the aisle? I certainly did not want to get hurt. Like a caterpillar in a cocoon, I had deep anxieties and would suffer panic attacks in the night. As a teenager, even though I had argued with my parents and drove them to frustration like any angsty teenager, I still respected my father.

The first few months was hard, and I did what I would normally do. I was angry, and I also kept my feelings to myself. My so-called “friends” slowly left me one by one, as they could not understand me in this state of depression. While I was depressed, thankfully I have never contemplated suicide or self-harm as I was brought up in the Catholic faith, and it has been imbued in me that Life is a gift from God.

In today’s society, there are many social taboos – people generally do not talk about death, and there is a perceived stigma that people who are suffering from mental afflictions are weak and not capable of handling the challenges of life. While completing my studies and throughout my job applications, I hid the fact that I had depression, while preferring to keep to myself as I have always been quiet, stoic and uncomfortable in big groups.

Today, I am still seeing a psychologist to help me through this grey period in my life, and I would still take my medications on a regular basis. The good thing is that I believe in the humane side of psychiatry, and embracing God has helped me become a more cheerful person. I love going for long walks as it helps me get closer to nature. This close proximity with nature in turn cultivates a deep sense of awe for God’s creation, and also serves as a form of meditation for me and helps foster my creativity.

‘’Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know” as quoted by Ernest Hemingway, a famous playwright. We tend to over-analyze because we know what we want and never settle for less than that. Many people with high IQ suffer from psychological problems. Even if they are not suffering from mental health issues, they still have what I would call ‘’existential depression’’. I blame it on the fast-paced society we are living in now. There is often no time for important connection with people.

As a message of Hope, I would like to end this writing with the quote “Life is a tragedy, but not tragic”. As such, there is no right decision in life. If you decide on something and put your everything into it, it will turn out wonderfully.

Deborah, client with Clarity Singapore

Gonna Let My Light Shine

I am me. And just like everyone else, I want to be loved and accepted exactly the way I am; with my faults, my strengths, and with my joy for the world!

I was 18 when my world slowly turned dark. It was only in hindsight that I was able to see how I had a part in it too. At that time, I was massively involved in my projects in school that I lost sight of my own rest and joy. When I was sent to Institute of Mental Health (IMH), I slept for days. When I awoke, I was faced with a new world I did not understand; a place where I felt that I did not exist anymore.

How can my parents say they love me, and abandon me here? I was distanced from everything I knew: my friends and my schoolmates! Oh my, even my phone. Without my phone, I felt cut off from the world outside. They left me in a world where I felt I just could not exist!

There, I did not feel like me anymore. There, there was only a void in which I received no answers; I only had more questions every day. Why am I left here? How long will I be left here? What’s going to happen to me? All my questions were answered with, “You are sick.” Amid the confusion, I raged against my parents, the doctors, anyone in front of me. I also raged against God. The darkness crept in and swallowed me up.

It took many months of therapy and treatment before I could let go of my anger. I began to see when I needed sleep and rest, and I would step back. And this has made me stronger. This normalcy to ‘my old self’ brought tears to my eyes.

When I spoke with the counsellors at Clarity, I learnt more about myself. I understood how much mental and physical space I need, and also how much I could allow a person to come closer to me and still be me. I also saw how I was neglecting myself when I deserved more for myself. Then, slowly, with the little cracks of realisation, light started to come in.

I realised that God had put me in places that really stretched me, but He was also there with me. He had surrounded me with people who could help me. There was kindness, there was humility. And there was joy! You know, it is nice to love and be loved in return!

Now I participate in some group activities with Clarity. It’s nice to make new friends, and to laugh and share my thoughts and ideas. How wonderful it is to be accepted just the way I am.

Let your Light shine before men! – Matthew 5:16

A person cannot be a true friend or a loved one if they choose to hold a label over another person. Yes, the stigma is real. But it is only damaging if people allow this to cloud how they see a fellow human. Whether a person is rich or poor, whether he has bipolar or depression, he is still a father, son or a friend … with all his dreams and passions. We should have no labels.

So, who am I to complain? I have been given so much: a family who loves me, friends who accept me, and even myself. Yes, I have been given myself to love.

Everyone is so different. We make the world diverse. We do not need to be like each other. If we are exactly like each other, we cannot see how each person is beautiful in his own way.

Remember Dr Seuss: “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” 

Wendy (not her real name) is a client of Clarity Singapore
who is on the road to discover her true self.