Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Email 1 - 26 March 2007 : To share about my relapse

Dear Friends

Greetings to you in the name of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanks for your prayers and fellowship over the years. Thank God for His mercies and faithfulness to us as His beloved people. Recently, I went through a very difficult trial and am still in it but have been wonderfully upheld by the Lord and the prayers of many brethren. Last week in particular I was enabled by the Lord to write at length to share with some brethren so that they can pray with me. I am writing to share the same with you now so that you too can pray with me. Do bear with me as these emails are very very long!

I do covet your prayers as I have been unwell recently . Actually, end of last year, I had a severe relapse of clinical depression after I suffered the burn-out when I over-strained myself in the elderly’s ministry in my church and when my work was going through various changes and my brother also went overseas to work at the same time. I have had several relapses over the years. The relapse this time was very bad and I had great difficulty coping with my work. The depression affected my thoughts and feelings and I was not able to think rationally nor feel correctly. My condition worsened over the months until I had suicidal thoughts. Thank God that my employer and my 2 other colleagues are very very understanding, kind and supportive. They were very concerned to see the changes in me and recognised that it was clinical depression. With their encouragement and support, I have finally decided to seek medical help for the first time due to the severity of my condition.

I was put on anti-depressant (Prozac 20mg) from end of January 2007 and thank God I was better and able to cope with my work and daily life after that. The medication did have some side effects which affects my sleep pattern and made me very very tired daily. I have to consciously slow down and not over strain. Thank God that as I am not feeling down anymore, I could still function though physically tired due to interrupted sleep.

Four weeks ago, my sleeping patterns have been further interrupted. After my mum went to the Hokkien Service for the first time, I was very very happy and excited. The whole night I couldn’t sleep. I found myself very very joyful and excited and there were many happy thoughts that flooded my mind. For many days I was also very elevated in my mood. Sometimes I sleep as little as 3 hours only and spend the rest of the night tossing. You can imagine how tired I was in the daytimes! 2 weeks ago my condition worsened due to increasing workload and accumulated tiredness. I began to experience severe tooth and jaw pain in the beginning of the week and I couldn’t sleep at night. I took painkillers every day to ease the pain. One morning I decided to go to the Dentist to find out what is wrong with my teeth. The Dentist did a thorough check-up and even x-ray but could not find anything wrong with my teeth. After some discussion, the Dentist suspected that my severe tooth and jaw pain is actually due to stress. The Dentist said some people when they undergo stress they actually clench their teeth unconsciously and their jaw muscles will ache after that. He advised me to monitor my own condition and take pain killers whenever necessary. He asked me to observe whether this severe tooth and muscle ache recur whenever I am too busy or stressed. I am learning to manage the various challenges in my life better. I am learning too to recognize early symptoms of my illness, step up my coping strategies and prayers, and seek help whenever necessary plus taking necessary rest and breaks.

I am also seeing a Christian lady trained counselor at Counseling and Care Centre regularly who is helping me to trace the history of my relapses, possible causes of it, understand it better and learn ways to better manage it. Thank God for blessing my sessions with her so far. Through my sessions with her, I am beginning to identify some faulty thinking patterns I have which might have either contributed or worsen my relapse of clinical depression. The Counselor is helping me to trace the causes of my relapses so that I can learn to better manage my condition. Just last week I found out to my surprise that actually my 2 other siblings also have experience bouts of depression in different degrees over the last few years. They didn’t share with me their experiences neither did I share with them mine. We cannot tell our mother as she will get worried. I also recall that from my mother’s side, one of my cousins had committed suicide 4 years ago by jumping down from her high flat at Bishan. She was mentally very ill and depressed for many years and on long term medications and at times warded in Institute of Mental Health. My mother’s second older sister has been on long term tranquilisers and some other medications due to anxieties and panic attacks. My father’s sister suffered from similar mental disorder and was on some medication at some point of time. As I consider these carefully, I realized that mental illness runs in both my parent’s families and particularly so in my family as 2 of my siblings and me have experience bouts of depression over the last few years in different degrees. This explains why I am so vulnerable to relapses when I don’t manage the difficulties in my life well. I am thankful to God for leading me to be aware of this so that now I can seek the appropriate medical help and counseling so as to learn to understand and manage my condition better and manage the challenges in my life better so that I can live for God’s glory and serve Him more effectively.

I am thankful to God for my employer and my 2 other colleague’s support. They have been very very understanding and supportive. They have encouraged me to make it a point to go for a longer lunch break daily so that I can take a walk after lunch. They also share my workload whenever I can’t manage. Please pray with me for strength and grace to cope and wisdom to prioritize my duties.

Thank God that I will be going for my review with the psychiatrist on Friday. I need to let her know the side-effects of my medication especially the way it is affecting my sleep. I hope she can do something to help me to improve upon my sleep. These few nights I have been sleeping on average of only 3 hours with a lot of tossing. Sometimes instead of tossing in bed, I get up to read, pray and write my journal. I am also borrowing books from the library to read up more about clinical depression and coping strategies. I have been enabled to exercise more regularly and consciously eat more healthily. I do trust that in the Lord’s timing I will get better. But the process can be very long and trying. I think to find an appropriate dosage of the medication that allows me to function optimumly may take a while more. Meanwhile, I need to endure these little sleep nights until Friday and not sure what will happen then. Please pray with me for the Lord’s guidance to the psychiatrist to help me in this area.

Thanks once again for all your prayers, encouragement and support. Thank God for His mercies and faithfulness. Please take care. May our Lord continue to keep both of you and family in His loving care daily.

With appreciation & prayers,

Some replies from my friends and brethren-in-Christ whom I shall keep anonymous unless they give me permission to put their names on this webpage:

Thanks for sharing your situation with us sister. We will pray with you. Yes, if the medication does help, you should continue. I guess you know your condition (besides the Lord) better than any outsider. I’m sure it is not easy to cope with this condition without the grace of God to sustain you. But thank God that he is faithful to His own.

Feel free to talk to us anytime if it helps you in anyway.

Praying for you sister,

Dear sister,

Thank you for your sharing, encouragements and prayers. I’m sorry that I did not reply to your earlier email as I was busy the whole week.

I am praying with you. Thank God for strengthening you and helping you to rest and trust in Him.

May these words from Ron Hamilton encourage you to continue to rejoice in Him in our trials.—–

” God never moves without purpose or plan When trying His servant and molding a man. Give thanks to the Lord though your testing seems long; In darkness He giveth a song. O rejoice in the Lord. He makes no mistake. He knoweth the end of each path that I take. For when I am tried and purified, I shall come forth as gold.”

Yours prayerfully

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