Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Email 8 - 14 April 2007: My purpose in starting this website and posting friends’ replies

(A brother-in-Christ emailed me and suggested that I should use Person instead of Brother/Sister to mask the identity of the email writers on my website. He asked if I have the explicit permission of the writers to post their replies on the web. Some may not be comfortable with the idea. He also suggested that some of the emails may need editing to remove private and sensitive information or in some rare cases, information that I think is not suitable for public consumption, with the knowledge of the respective email writers. I thought, dear Reader, you may have the same queries in your mind too and so I have written to explain my position to this brother-in-Christ and I am putting my reply here for you and others who may be thinking of the same to understand why. Do email me personally if you wish to clarify further and if you know who I am. Thanks.)

Dear brother,

Thank you for your kind email and precious suggestions. They are very useful to me as I attempt to share my journey with others.

Actually, initially I intend to make a booklet and get the permission of various brethren to print their replies to me. I found that their replies are very encouraging and also can minister to other saints. As we all belong to the same church and to some extend do know each other’s life in different degrees, I was hoping to print the actual names of everyone so that we can get to know one another better that way too and learn from one another. I have been learning much through the different kind replies I received. And I am grateful to God for each one of them whether they be an encouragement, an admonishment or a rebuke. I felt God has something to teach me and us. So I wanted to share these blessings with our brethren besides keeping it as a journal for myself to remember God’s goodness and the kindness of so many brethren. I thought it will help our church to grow closer to one another as we have been praying for that for many years. It has been my recent blessed experience that after some 7 years of being in our church, I am finally being drawn closer to some brethren through these sharings. I didn’t know I could receive so many encouragements from so many brethren. In fact because I was experiencing a manic mood swing due to the effect of the antidepressant when I was so happy about my mother going to Hokkien service and my father’s marking of Hymns and Bible passages, almost every day I thought of some brethren whom I would like to share God’s goodness with and I started sending my emails to them. I lost count of whom I send to. Different brethren came to my mind daily. It was only when developing this website that I was overwhelmed and greatly encouraged to realize that I have written to more than 26 brethren in our church because when I used alphabet A to Z, I ran out of them quite soon. In fact I have to start using AA, AB and now I also lost count :)

This is so different from my experience 5 years ago when I had a severe relapse of major depression and attempted to share with our brethren. At that time I wrote to about 10 people out of which only 2 or 3 replied to me with encouragements. The rest either chided me for not having faith in God and being very emotional and weak all the time or they simply ignore my email and avoided me on the Lord’s day. It was a very very difficult experience for me as I didn’t know that my condition was an illness. I believed what our brethren said that I really didn’t have faith in God and I was being emotional and weak. I hate myself for being like that and I tried very hard to change with much prayers and tears.

Believe me, it takes a lot of prayers and courage for me to open myself up now to share with our brethren. The reason why I did this is because I recognised God’s goodness and mercies to me in preserving me through this difficult illness and I praise and thank Him for providing such a supportive Christian employer and two very supportive colleagues. The recent relapse was the worst I ever experienced. Now that I am better and can think more clearly, I am horrified at the way my condition has deteriorated over the years. I didn’t share this with many people as I feared many will not understand and might be stumbled. The reason why I finally sought medical help this time when I was so reluctant to do so in the past was because I attempted suicide one night in my anguish. It is difficult for me to explain the details to you. I can’t remember everything now. What I can remember is on 11 December 2006, I was so down, distress and confused over many things and life seemed so meaningless to me (a faulty thought and perspective) and the pain and anguish was so overwhelming that I felt I just can’t go on anymore. I know I should not commit suicide as it is a sin to take one’s own life and it dishonour God, but the emotional and mental pain was so overwhelming and unbearable that I lost all my senses. I didn’t care anymore. What is life? It was meaningless to me. God seemed so far away from me. He seemed to have forsaken me. What’s the use of living as in hell daily? In a moment of weakness, I decided to end my life on 11 December 2006. Even though I felt God has forsaken me, I didn’t want to die in such a way that will dishonour God’s name and stumble my mother and other non-Christians or even our brethren. I tried to think of a way to die that will look like natural death. I have no idea how to do that. When I went to sleep that night, I thought to myself that if I hold my breath long enough and don’t breath in, I might lapse into unconsciousness due to lack of oxygen and hopefully I may then die in my sleep. I tried doing that repeatedly the whole night until I was so exhausted. Somehow I fell asleep. Obviously my method didn’t work otherwise I won’t be here writing to you :) Even my psychiatrist laughed when I shared with her. She said thank God I chose that method. When I shared with Pastor 2 days later, he also thanked God that I chose that method as it won’t work!

The next day when I went to work, God providentially worked in all my colleagues heart to express deep concerns over my condition. They could identify symptoms of severe clinical depression in me and persuaded me again to seek medical help. One of my colleagues kindly fixed up an urgent appointment for me with the psychiatrist on 13 December 2006 and she also kindly paid for my consultation charges which was very expensive. We had to go to a private psychiatrist because I didn’t want my mother to know of my condition and so I cannot go to the hospital. To get a referral letter from Polyclinic to see the Specialist will take a while as the Specialist Clinics in most hospital have a long waitlist. So it was with the kindness of my colleagues that my life was indirectly preserved and I finally receive medical and counselling help. God used my colleagues to help me in this difficult trial. (Author’s note: I have just read some partions of a book entitled “Broken Minds” by Steve and Robyn Bloem, and found it very very encouraging, informative and very vivid in describing the suffering of a person with severe clinical depression. I have typed out some excerpts to share on the “Bipolar Page” under ” 4) Books on Depression a) Broken Minds” : http://www.believersencouragement.com/Bipolar.htm

One part that I like to preproduce here to share with you is the battle of the sufferers to take their own life which is a temptation I often have to fought in a severe depressive episode. I believe other brethren suffering from similar condition struggle with this too. Steve described in a very vivid manner the great temptation that overcomes him and other sufferers and called it “A Sin of the Broken Spirit.” He shared his own distressing experiences and God’s grace in preserving him from suicide. He also provided a list of the strongest reasons he had given to convince himself not to commit suicide. This will be helpful to anyone who is contemplating suicide during a severe clinical depressive episode or those with suicidal thoughts for some reasons. It may be helpful to carers of such sufferer in his attempt to dissuade him from taking his own life and I trust it will be helpful to any pastor or elders in ministering to such a one with a broken spirit. Please read the excerpt at the end of this email.

If you are in Singapore, and you are suffering from Depression or some form of similar mental illness, or you know of someone suffering thus and is suicidal, please know this is an emergency situation as life can be endangered. Go to “Contacts” page to find the relevant parties you can contact for help. Know that you may be used of God to save a life!)

One of my colleagues was very puzzled over my condition and the lack of support from our church. I didn’t dare to share with many people in our church after the unpleasant experience 5 years ago. So this time initially I didn’t dare to tell anyone except Pastor as he is most supportive and understanding all the time. But my colleague’s remark one day really saddened me. She asked me why I have no support from my church though I have been so involved in the elderly’s work. She know of my involvement in the elderly’s work because I have re-scheduled my working hours several times to visit the elderly people along the weekday after work. She and my other colleagues were very patient and kind to allow me to try out different timings. I went earlier to work on some days so that I leave office earlier to go to visit some of the elderly. I have to do these within my working hours as my mother will not like me to do so and so I have to keep it from her. I was over-straining myself actually but because I enjoyed the visitation so much, I wasn’t conscious of my tiredness. I sleep like a log each night. But my body was breaking down. I started catching cold, cough and virus infection easily. I missed work and church every now and then. But I still refuse to give up. I couldn’t slow down. Finally my body and mind broke down. I suffered a burn-out and then severe clinical depression sets in. My colleague knew that my severe relapse this time was because I over-strained myself in the elderly’s work. She therefore expected that our church will be very supportive to me. I was very sad by her remark and I ask myself why not? I prayed earnestly about it. I asked myself why in my deepest trials, I cannot bring myself to share with my brethren who are supposed to be the ones who can pray and encourage me? Is not that what we are encouraged to do as a body of Christ? To weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice? When one member of our body suffers, did not all the member suffer with it? (1 Corinthians 12:26)

My employer ever told me before that when a godly minister overseas suffered a burn-out and went into severe depression, he had to stop all preaching and ministry for some months. During that time the whole church prayed and encouraged him. The church was wonderfully supportive. She felt sad that this will not be the case in Singapore churches. Depression is still a stigma here and so misunderstood. The views of the people in Singapore are generally still very narrow and they will not be supportive. I felt very very sad. I cannot express in words the pain in my heart. I felt very alone. When a minister’s wife from overseas had her severe relapses of depressions, we all pray for her as a church even though she is not our church members. When another minister suffered a burn-out and depression, for so many years we pray for him and even upto now. But when our own member suffers the same fate, he/she cannot expect the same support…. I don’t know if you can understand how sad I felt then…. (Now I realized I have misunderstood many kind brethren’s carefulness to avoid saying the wrong things to me as avoiding me or despising me. These are part of my faulty thinking patterns but I was not aware of it then. May God and our brethren forgive me.)

In my sadness and disappointments , I could have chosen to be very bitter and maybe even leave the church. Or I can choose to pray to God for the courage to share my experiences, my mistakes, my sufferings and God’s abounding grace to my beloved brethren. Believe me, I love our church. No matter how our brethren treat me intentionally or unintentionally, I strive always never to bear grudges but to understand that we all have our limitations. As far as we desire the fellowship and love of all our brethren, we cannot expect the same level of friendship with everyone. When I first left my old church, I studied into many issues including women should not lead in the church, singing of Psalms exclusively in worship, head covering for women in public worship, family worship, etc. I also came to the conviction that the church should not have fellowship groups but should attempt to fellowship as a whole. I am glad that Pastor shares the same understanding and have always been admonishing us not to form clicks but to try and fellowship with one another. Maybe I am very naïve. I have been trying to do that ever since I came to our church in year 2000. That is why I took the time and trouble to make the small hand-made calendar for the whole church whenever I can. I not only made for you but usually I made around 70 to 80 calendars yearly for as many family and individuals in our church as I can. I usually have to start this project in November in order to complete all the printing, cutting, stapling, pasting and posting on time for the new year.

Even last December, despite the severe relapse of clinical depression, I still greatly desire to make the calendars for our church. It is a token of my love and appreciation for all our brethren. I often regret that I couldn’t fellowship well with many people. It’s been 7 years since I came to our church and yet I only could enter into a deeper level of fellowship with limited number of brethren. I felt I have failed in obeying God’s commandments to love my neighbour as myself. If I did that, surely they will love me in return to some degrees. But I was not disheartened. I was determine to continue to love as best I can, by God’s grace and enablement. So doing the calendars yearly was one of my feeble attempt to do so. But I was so unwell in December 2006. I was struggling to cope with life and work. I even have to make the painful decision to stop from attending and serving in the evening services until I am better. That was one of the hardest decisions for me to make because I enjoy ministering to the elderly very much and I know they value my friendship too. I felt I was selfish to not care for them but I couldn’t even take care of myself. My brother has gone to overseas and my mother needs my emotional support and care. I was struggling to cope with work though my colleagues were so supportive. How can I stumble them further? I had no choice but to stop from the elderly’s work first as there are many brethren serving there. Even then I was worried that my non-involvement will discourage our brethren and I took the trouble to write to quite a number of our faithful brethren who has been serving faithfully. During that time what I needed most was rest. But I couldn’t rest. On my mind was the desire to do the calendars for our church. But how to do it within 2 weeks? It was mid December already. How to cramp 2 months work into 2 weeks? But if I don’t do it, I felt I was not loving my brethren (of course, these are faulty thoughts! These are symptoms of my disease. Now I can see more clearly).

I couldn’t sleep. I called Pastor and another sister to ask their advice. Both of them advised me against doing the calendar. They felt that I should rest and recover first. Pastor suggested that I can attempt something simpler if I still want to do something for our brethren. He suggested maybe make a small bookmark each for our brethren. Actually, I was very reluctant to forgo the calendars. I know some brethren really look forward to receive it and some brethren have told me in the past how they were encouraged by it. So I want to encourage our brethren and I didn’t want them to think that I don’t care for them anymore. But I was in no state of mind or body to do it. Despite Pastor’s and the sister’s advice, I was still determine to try and do the calendars. But instead of enjoying the process of doing them as I did in the past years, I felt very very pressurized this time. I was so tired every day after work and I still tried to work on my the calendars. Finally when I was extremely exhausted and have to sleep through the Christmas public holiday, then I realized I couldn’t do them. I finally abandoned the whole idea and left the half-done calendars alone. They are still there among my things now, half done. I couldn’t even attempt the bookmarks Pastor suggested. I was simply not fit for anything…..

I am thankful to God that even though initially I didn’t share my actual illness with many people, there were many brethren who showed genuine concerns for me. As I was rather unwell for some months and have been missing worship every now and then, more and more brethren began to express concerns for me. It was because of their love and concerns that I finally decided to open up. How can I hide my sufferings from people who love me dearly. They will feel very hurt if they finally know that I have been suffering silently and not trusting them enough to share with them so that they can pray with and for me. So I started by sharing with a few trusted brethren. Thank God they all responded very encouragingly. As the months went by, I shared a little with a few more brethren each time. I was heartened that the experience this time is so different from 5 years ago! Thank God! At last I could return to my office and testify to my colleagues that I was wrong about not getting our church’s support. I told them that there are a few brethren who are very supportive and I should have shared with them earlier on. My colleagues were very relieved to know that I do have support from my church after all.

Recently, when my mum went to the Hokkien service in March, I was so thrilled. And then 2 weeks later, God mercifully allowed me to discover my father’s markings in the Hymns and Bible passages. As I was very happy, my mood swing to high and elevated mood due to the effect of the antidepressant. I didn’t know that I am prone to bipolar and antidepressant was not suitable for me. During those few weeks, I couldn’t sleep or sleep for mostly 3 hours every night. I woke up very alert and have a lot of happy thoughts of God’s goodness to me. I had to share with someone. I need to verbalise my thoughts and feelings. That was when I started writing to our brethren, one by one. As I was extremely elevated in my mood and have more energy than usual, I began to write very long email and shared with many brethren. I lost count of whom I shared with as I said previously. I am thankful to God that many brethren responded very encouragingly. I learn so much from these brethren. I am also very encouraged that through these correspondences I was able to catch up with some brethren whom I have lost touch with. I was also able to deepen my friendships with many brethren and even develop some new friendships. I do not know why but I wanted to share with as many people in our church as possible as I have experience so much kindness from them towards my parents. So I wanted to share these joys about my parents with them. And God, in His grace, also gave me courage to share my illness with them. I am thankful to God that many brethren are very supportive and expressed that they will pray for me. They have also benefited from my sharings in some ways. Like you, some brethren simply cannot understand this illness and what the sufferers go through but they are learning to be more sympathetic and more prayerful. I thank God that something good comes out of my sufferings and sharings.

At first, I wanted to compile all the correspondences into a booklet and obtain the brethren’s permission to print them. But I then realize that it will take forever to compile that booklet because I am going through a journey and it can be a rather long one :) I want to share this journey with you and our other brethren. When will I then compile this booklet? An idea then came to me. Why not put it on the web so that our brethren can read whenever they want to and maybe others on the internet can benefit from these sharings too as I journey on. I often benefit from other sufferers sharings on the internet. As many of the replies from our brethren are very very encouraging, informative and edifying, I decided to put all on the web. I didn’t want anyone to feel left out. But I was advised not to put our names on the web. That was why I decided to use brother A or sister B to represent the various brethren. I thought this way others won’t know who the writers are and can still benefit from every brethren’s writings and not just mine. I didn’t think it matters that we can identify among ourselves whom the writers are as we belong to the same church. I thought there is nothing to hide. We are one body in Christ. So I didn’t ask the various brethren for permission as I presume most will not mind. Some brethren did implicitly told me to go ahead and publish their replies on my webpage when they learnt that I am developing a website, as they felt that others could benefit from their writings too. Thank God for these brethren.

Thanks for your reminders to me now that some brethren may not feel comfortable and also I should edit the contents and remove personal or sensitive information. I have just updated my website to remove most of the replies from our brethren. I will write to them individually for permission to publish their replies on my website. I think I will still not print their names for privacy purposes. I have put some replies which are quite short and neutral. I will write to our brethren to confirm that they don’t mind my publishing these replies on the web.

Sorry for this long email. I am still going through a “manic” episode, so I am having racing thoughts and verbalising my thoughts and feelings in this way is helpful for me. Thought it might help you to understand my rationale a bit better. I am grateful for your suggestions and I value them. I will try my best to implement them. Please do not feel constraint in writing to me. I will ask your permission in future before I publish your replies :)

May the Lord bless our church as we seek Him in worship and fellowship tomorrow. I am thankful to God for placing me in our church and blessing me with the fellowship and friendship of so many kind brethren. I hope others on the internet will be encouraged by the many encouraging replies I can post on my webpage and to realize how blessed it is for a sufferer of this illness to be so supported by one’s friends and brethren. May they do likewise to other sufferers. To God be the glory.

Thanks again for everything. Please forgive me if I have offended you in anyway through my writings. Please understand that I have no such intentions. I esteem you highly and pray for you & family daily. May God continue to bless and keep you in His loving care, and continue to use you for His glory to be

a blessing to His beloved people.

With appreciation and prayers,

“A Sin of the Broken Spirit

Looking at the cold statistics, we cannot forget that the numbers refer to real teenagers and young people - individual men and women of all ages - for whom daily existence has become so awful that self-destruction is preferred. Many of these people are married with young dependent children, just as I was when suicide seemed so appealing. So the human cost goes far beyond the people who die. The dying are parents, spouses, siblings, and children. They have coworkers and fellow students and teachers. They play in the park and shop at the mall. When they die by their own hand, they leave a lot of emotional carnage among the living.

The reason so many mentally ill people commit suicide is not that they are uncaring of others or morally bankrupt. They fall prey to a disease that poisons their minds. Their mood is utterly dark and alone, and a shadowy doorway beckons as the only escape from hell. Suicide has been called a movement away from the pain. Scripture in fact recognizes the unbearable pain that leads to the temptation to suicide. Proverbs 18:14 states, “The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, But as for a broken spirit who can bear it?”

Grace alone answers the question, and it comes in different forms to bear the broken spirit through tribulation. Acccording to 1 Corinthians 10:13, God will never allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to resist. That is true of all tempations, but we still fail to resist and do yield to sin. The difference with this sin is that, heinous though self-murder by a Christian may be, it is the sin committed by a broken spirit.

It could shock some to read that a young Christian father and husband, ordained to the gospel ministry after graduation from a conservative, Bible-teaching institution, could seriously be tempted to suicide. After entertaining such thoughts, shouldn’t I be disqualified forever from the ministry? If you believe that, then you must in fairness say that no man who has ever broken any of the commandments is qualified. Humans from a broken world are the only sort God calls to lead His church. To be human is to know, and occasionally fall victim to, temptation. Most are not faced with a temptation to take their own lives. My personal struggle with that temptation has been a tough one. By God’s grace, I have never actually attempted suicide, but in the midst of a severe depressive episode, the temptation to do so remains a formidable fiery dart in the Devil’s arsenal.

According to 1 Corinthians 10:13, God will never allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to resist. Too often God’s gift of grace in trial and temptation is presented as a grace that alleviates suffering so that the believer can bear it. But it may be that He does not change the struggle but gives strength of mind to bear up under it.

Some counselors do not appreciate the depths of struggle and are quick to condemn. In so doing, they can help Satan push a believer toward suicide. The King James Version offers an apt translation of 1 Thessalonians 5:14 : “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded…” The Greek here literally means “small souled.” A clinically depressed person does feel, as I sometimes have felt, feebleminded. I think we get the meaning in this verse turned around. We comfort the unruly and save our harshest warnings for the weak.Extracted from pages 56 and 57.

Put on the Armor

We should instead be helping the feebleminded to put on the armor of God so that they can stand against Satan. In the batle against temptation to suicide, the helmet of salvation and the breastplate of righteousness take on particular importance…….Extracted from page 57.


In the person contemplating suicide, the brain has been thrust into a swamp of sadness, where God seems to be either angry or missing. It is hard to fight Satan-stirred emotions when the mind does not seem to work, when the spirit is broken, when all positive feeling is gone.

In such times, God provides others who can come alongside. Pastors on the front line here, for they often are the ones who hear the depressed person’s last call of despair. We’ve already seen that doctors also encounter these cries. Professionals in the field of ministry and medicine need to be familiar with the indicators of suicide. Anyone who is ever in a counseling role needs training in how to talk to someone who is entertaining thoughts of suicide.

But anyone can suddenly find himself or herself in conversation with a suicidal person. If so, some general principles can help:

If someone does bring up such thoughts, encourage the person to talk openly and honestly about them. This person is already thinking about it and may already have a plan.

Any truthful deterrant you can give is appropriate.

Since the person may not consider suicide to really be “murder,” it is wise to gently remind of the sixth commandment….

… A nurse wrote, telling real stories of unsuccessful suicide in which the survivors ended up seriously disabled. ….

The thoughts and others like them were a potent restraint. Here is a lists of the strongest reasons I have given to convince myself not to commit suicide.
- It is a sin and would bring shame to Christ and His church.
- It would please the Devil and would weaken greatly those who are trying to fight him.
- It would devastate family members and friends, and you may be responsible for them following your example if they come up against intense suffering.
- It may not work, and you could end up severely disabled but still trying to fight depression.
- It is true - our God is a refuge, “and those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You” (Ps.
9:10). God, your Father, will deliver you through what you are facing. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:10 that God “delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us.”
- Help is available. If you push hard enough, someone can assist you to find the help you need.
- If you are unsaved, you will go to hell. This is not because of the act of suicide but because all who die apart from knowing Christ personally will face an eternity in a far worse situation than depression.
- If you are a Christian, then Jesus Christ is interceding for you before the Father, that your faith will not fail. He shares your afflictions. Psalm 56:8 says, “Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?”
- God will keep you until you reach a day when your pain will truly be over. Wait for God’s time for that, not your own. According to Revelation 7:17c, “God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” After going through some awful things, Paul was still able to say, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom.

Extracted from a book entitled “Broken Minds” by Steve and Robyn Bloem pages 58 to 60.

(Author’s notes: If you are in Singapore, and you are suffering from Depression or some form of similar mental illness, or you know of someone suffering thus and is suicidal, please know this is an emergency situation as life can be endangered. Go to “Contacts” page to find the relevant parties you can contact for help. Know that you may be used of God to save a life!)

I have written to some brethren to ask their permissions to print their email replies on my website. Several kind brethren responded with their willingness to allow me to publish their replies trusting that it will give glory to God and provide encouragement to other believers. Two of the several replies are as follows:

Dear sister

Most certainly – if you think it is helpful, feel free to include my email replies to your ‘blogsite’.

I can understand your point about the general lack of understanding here about people suffering from depression. Yes, it is sad that some still view sufferers in negative light due to a lack of knowledge about the syndrome. But I think the fact that you know about this is helpful to you. That way, you moderate your expectations of others and try to put charitable thoughts into others – such as, it’s not that they don’t care, they don’t know how to etc.

It’s good to see you in the morning service yesterday. Be assured of my family’s continual prayer for your recovery and your learning of more ways to cope with your difficulties.

In the Lord

Hi sister,

No problem, you can print my replies as attached. I’ve just visited your site and found it to be informative and useful. May the Lord use it for His glory. I’m recovering from flu which lasted more than a week, and was not able to attend church last Sabbath. Hope to catch up with you this Sabbath!

Take care,

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