In my early twenties, I experienced what I hope to be the worst ever episode in my life.
I could not hold down a job, I faced immense social anxiety and I struggled with my mental health.
Making connections, much less building relationships, was extremely challenging for me.
I am a failure. I will never be able to stick through with anything. My parents are ashamed of me.
Unhelpful thoughts like those would play in my mind like a broken record.
Right before graduating with a Master’s at 23 years of age in 2012, I was plagued with fears of not being able to secure a job.
I was severely anxious about leaving school to enter into the workforce as both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees were very unconventional, Theatre Studies and International Performance Research respectively.
Not having experience then in navigating through uncertainty, and suffering from an acute lack of confidence, I believed that finding a job would be insurmountably difficult.
The worrying became a spiral.
Eventually, I did complete my Master’s in Singapore, barely passing.
Following that, I continued struggling emotionally for years. It led me to go from one job to another.
It was only in 2016 that I started a full-time role as a teacher, one which I have stayed on in to this day.
Lifelines but no breakthrough
I called myself a Christian back then but I had not experienced a personal relationship and encounter with God.
I was also not fully accountable in community. I had well-intentioned cell leaders, members and older ladies in church who reached out to me, but I was not always receptive or teachable.
I had tried releasing my thoughts and emotions to the Lord and went for some deliverance sessions, but I still felt stuck and blocked.
For a long time, my breakthrough did not come.
This is not to say that no one helped me during this season of my life (23 to 27 years of age).
My family remained loving and supportive. My mum especially, stuck around. She came for my water baptism in 2013.
I had a cell group of reliable friends who remained faithful and patient through my emotional highs and lows.
I had bosses who gave me second chances when I needed time to work through difficult emotions.
God gave me a community of loving and caring persons.
Back then, it still did not feel like that was enough, but I do acknowledge His hand in my relationships then.
I still struggled holding on to a job due to my obsessive fears about failure and being socially rejected.
The same situations would happen at work. I would think that my colleagues were trying to exclude me deliberately.
I would have thoughts that they were trying to get me into trouble on purpose.
I felt like I could not trust anyone.
It is hard to say whether my thoughts then were justified.
Teaching and healing
The job that I eventually managed to stick through with was ironically – given how demanding it is – teaching. I have been a teacher for six years now.
Many say that there are manifold emotional and stress triggers in the teaching profession.
I do agree, but there are also many aspects of the work that force one to be a better and stronger person.
A teacher has to be a role model, so I had to model responsibility and independence for my students, in spite of not feeling like I was up to the mark or task at the start.
The work environment was good. My experience with my teaching colleagues has been that everyone is nice. Some colleagues are natural nurturers too.
It helped that I knew of many teachers who were interested in maintaining their fitness and in hiking too.
Influenced by them, I started taking an interest in maintaining my fitness and started to jog and cycle.
I fondly recall receiving my first ever medal from running an 8×50 metre marathon relay for Sports Day (imagine receiving a medal for running 50 metres!).
Over time, prioritising my fitness became a habit, and this was panacea for my intense and unruly emotions.
In 2019, I experienced a breakthrough when a counsellor introduced me to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help me work through some difficult thoughts and feelings.
Through the leading of the Holy Spirit too, I discovered that I had unresolved hurts from my university days which I needed healing from.
It was helpful to be able to identify recurring negative thought patterns.
Looking back, God placed me in the right environment to heal and become stronger.
I am thankful for the individuals in my environment who sowed hope and encouragement into my life, through their kind gestures and words.
Sharing is part of overcoming
I used to feel ashamed about this season of weakness and vulnerability. For years, I refused to speak about this to anyone.
It was only when I began reflecting that I started to appreciate the difficult experiences which I had gone through.
Sharing our testimonies is also part of our overcoming process.
Overcoming may not happen in an instant, sometimes it takes reflecting, processing and sharing with others to fully overcome.
If you have an overcomer’s story, I would encourage you to share and pass it forward. You never know how someone else might be encouraged by it!
God never wastes our painful experiences. The lessons we glean can be wisdom for another and our testimony can be a beacon of hope for someone else.
- How’s your mental health in this season?
- What are some ways you can assess how you’re doing in this area?
- What are some resources you can tap on for help when it comes to mental health?
- Who are some friends you can depend on in this regard?
- Know someone who is having a difficult time with regards to mental health? Reach out to them this week.