For the sake of prisoners, and the flight of birds / these are beautiful, beautiful things.

I reached Jalan Kukok at about 9am. Sorted eggs into trays, carried the goodie bags around, knocked on all the doors to try and befriend some of the old uncles and aunties. Nothing significant except that I got to make a few new friends during the volunteer appreciation lunch and thought about an angle to the stories that I can write for that social enterprise. I met a resident volunteer during lunch who shared about his history and his journey with mental illness, and two things struck me- how resilient he was, because despite all that he has gone through, he is still alive. And how different is our treatment journeys, because I go to a private specialist and he is a subsidized patient in a government hospital. I have the money to pay for one hour of therapy every few weeks, and he does not. There is no difference in the worth between me and him, we are both human beings. But the care we get is vastly different- I don’t have a social worker on my case, I don’t have an art therapist, I don’t attend counselling- but I am left with some dignity, because of my ability to pay for the time of a professor.

The thing about mental illness that hurts me the most is the wasted potential. Not in me, because I am still high-functioning. But in the potential of other people. A friend asked me yesterday if I am just able to shut anxiety out of my mind, because I told him that I didn’t want a late night chat, I just wanted to get to sleep. He didn’t mean it badly, he has just lived a very sheltered life and is just unexposed to what happens in other people’s lives. My response to him was that I cannot shut something out when it is my whole mind. My response is entirely my mind.

How fast a patient recovers is not just about taking medication on time daily, it revolves around the doctor-patient relationship, whether or not the patient is willing to open up about cause and effects, about symptoms experienced. It is difficult to diagnose someone if he is a clam. It is even more difficult to treat someone if the diagnosis, while mostly accurately, is only half the story. Because you have to struggle with things like dosage- how much medicine to administer- and how to evaluate the symptoms, given that the patient is a free human being and will ingest other things like alcohol or maybe he had a particularly stressful week. Some drugs are more stimulating than others, should you change the medication or should you increase the dosage to see if there are effects? And how can psychiatrists who have never experienced illness themselves, be on the lookout for hidden symptoms that the patient refuses to reveal?

But regardless of what other people experience, I have to live on for the next three years. I don’t know what I felt when I heard his story. A mix of humility, gratitude, and fervently praying that God will heal people soon. I admit that one of the things that I struggle with is how can so great a God, cause so many people to be in pain? The acute loneliness, bone-deep, something which you know all the time- I don’t know how I live through some days. (Actually I know, I mostly keep to myself and go to the beach.) Telling myself that I cannot look at the cause of, but the purpose for suffering. To constantly be kind, learn to be kind, practice being kind.

Or at least, to allow the love of Christ to be spread to the ends of the world. Because God is love.

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

– A poem attributed to Mother Teresa

Serving at children’s church camp

My fondest memory of the camp is two kids sitting on my lap, fighting over the space, while the third is beside me hoping to have some space. Or maybe it is Hazard running out (not his real name, but quite appropriate) and then looking hurt when I flinched because I thought he was going to run into me- ‘I JUST WANT TO HUG YOU!!!

Or maybe it is all of them, sitting at the lunch table enjoying their frozen yoghurt. Or maybe it is the songs we sang together, the table grace we said, the nap times we tried to have. Or maybe the craft times, or snack times with milo and plain biscuits. Or maybe it’s the silly games like round and round the garden. Or maybe it’s just being around them.

I like children. I like their wide eyes and sneaky looks and quiet smiles. I like the way they trust me.

Just because you don’t experience everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experience anything.

– Nicola Yoon, Everything, Everything.

(Unedited ramblings)

The process of recovery from mental illness is painful. And seven years from my first situation, I still have no idea if life is worth living. I became highly introverted and a loner, I cannot stand being in crowds because I will always remember the feeling of suffocation. I cannot know love, only the feeling of being left behind. To state it bluntly, suicide will always be an option, and I can’t reassure someone else that life as an adult will be great and that it will be worthwhile even if you live with mental illness your whole life. Because sometimes I don’t think it’s worth the fight. I am tired of waking up at night half crying half choking. I am tired of having this burden on me. I cannot see the world as I used to see it and it is painful.

Perhaps it is not something to be fought. Learn to make space for it in my life, understand that it might be terrible but also, bits of joy here and there.

Mental illness taught me how to be kind. It brought me back to God. It changed how I serve other people, how I empathize and what I valued in life. It taught me to be less anxious, by being extremely anxious. When you are physically ill- when I had asthma as a kid- I wanted to breath but couldn’t. Now I can, but I no longer want to. But I don’t speak, because people will not understand, because they cannot see it.

Be gentle, be loving, and be kind to one another.

A note to self:

It is a pity because you had so much. But people will only remember you as the girl who decided that following her instincts to die was more important than anything else. Too young, too soon. You have another three years, let your death not be a parenthesis. Share what you have with other people, write, live well while you can bear it. Learn to make space for your mind.

Seneca

All life is slavery. Therefore each one must accustom himself to his own condition and complain about it as little as possible, and lay hold of whatever good is to be found near him.

Children’s church camp ended today. I’m glad to have been a part of their memories 🙂 I pray that N, E and K, will grow up with the love of Christ in their hearts.