TW: There is mention of suicide ideation, depression and anxiety in this article.
Last year in April, after the release of my previous article, navigating the murky waters of JC life made me feel extremely insecure about myself again, especially regarding friendships.
Because I constantly dwelled on my insecurities, I quickly spiralled into depression.
I was desperate to escape from it and be my old self again, but nothing could prepare me for a painful incident that was to follow.
I’m not comfortable with sharing the details of what happened, so I’ll just say that this particular incident left me feeling incredibly betrayed, broken and traumatised.
I was already diagnosed with clinical depression over the June holidays which I somehow miraculously recovered from, just two weeks after the diagnosis.
But I still had to confront the damage done. There’s passive suicide ideation, and then there’s active suicide ideation; in the span of five months, I had actively thought of ending my life during five separate periods, periods that lasted for a week or two.
During those months, I was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I experienced depressive symptoms again, but it felt like they were amplified tenfold.
Dark thoughts of hopelessness and condemnation would relentlessly torment me whether I was in school or at home.
Socially, as extroverted as I am, I became quieter as I was constantly afraid of how others would think of me.
The scariest part was, I didn’t feel moody all the time. There were periods where I felt joyful and lightheaded, where I thought those depressive thoughts were finally gone and I was able to finally enjoy life.
When these thoughts returned with a vengeance, I became very disillusioned with myself, wondering if I would live the rest of my life in this state.
At the same time, people whom I had been close to had hurt me in ways that made my life feel like hell on earth.
Whenever I saw these people whom I felt had wounded me, my first thought was to run away as far as possible.
I felt no one understood the kind of torment I was going through. I believed I was unwanted, like a leper from the Bible, and that I was secretly despised by many including my close friends, which made me feel incredibly worthless.
I tried my utmost to keep moving forward in life, and even sought a therapist for guidance and assistance, but all these emotions still made me feel like ultimately, there was no other option but to end it all.
The day after I got diagnosed with PTSD, the urge to commit suicide was so violent that when I got home from school, I couldn’t help but blurt out to my parents and brother, “I can’t take this anymore, I really want to kill myself.”
My brother was especially shocked as this was not the first time I had expressed suicide ideations to him.
That night, my dad brought me to his church’s prayer meeting, where many people, from pastors to youth leaders, started praying for me while rebuking the enemy and his lies (beyond spiritual help, I was also receiving professional and medical attention in this same period).
I wished it stopped there, but it didn’t. I still struggled tremendously with anxiety and thoughts of self-harm.
In many social situations I felt like I was walking on eggshells because I struggled with disassociating negative experiences with certain people from the rest of my social life, which caused me to develop trust issues.
I lived under distress almost daily and carried much unforgiveness, especially to those whom I felt had wronged me. I felt extremely victimised by the whole ordeal.
But God, in His grace, sent many people to encourage me. These were people like my family and also my teachers, mentors and close friends.
I even managed to reconnect with my therapist, whom I hadn’t contacted in years. She guided me through certain thought patterns I had that were affecting my daily living.
The therapy sessions I had also enabled me to learn more about myself at a deeper level. Turns out, much of the mental disorders I faced had roots in negative thought patterns and emotional sensitivity brought about by autism.
For instance, autistic individuals tend to perseverate, or constantly ruminate on particular events long after they’ve happened. This caused me to spiral further, especially when it felt like your past wasn’t letting you go.
Additionally, the heightened emotional sensitivity symptomatic of autistic individuals caused me to struggle with overthinking and be very affected by what others say or do.
I’ve been called “mentally retarded” straight to my face in front of others.
At the same time, learning to be more socially aware and other social skills through these sessions helped me mature as a person.
I realised I was admittedly incredibly emotionally immature, and my biggest red flag was dumping my emotional baggage to my peers at inappropriate moments.
I lacked the rationality to remember that my friends probably had enough struggles themselves from the tribulations of JC life. To unload such baggage on them when they’re stressed enough is just plain disrespectful, no matter how much you’re struggling yourself.
I truly am so deeply thankful for true friends who not only sacrificed their time and space for me during this ordeal, but did not count my mistakes against me.
Ultimately, I had to confront the reality of being an autistic person.
Even after rereading my previous article, I still struggled with embracing my autism after being made more aware of all the potential mental issues I would face, not to mention the discrimination people like me continue to face in wider society.
I cannot count the number of times the word “autistic” has been used as a joke and as a derogatory term among my schoolmates, along with the misunderstandings people have of autistic individuals.
Once, I’ve been called “mentally retarded” straight to my face in front of others.
Honestly, I felt like no one in wider society was able to empathise with my struggles, which compounded the sense of loneliness.
But I knew that, regardless, I had to stop victimising myself. Instead, I had to adopt a victor mentality knowing I’m already an overcomer in Jesus.
I had to be proactive in finding the peace and security I needed and to get my life back on track.
God showed me that the main reason I felt condemned due to autism was the social deficits it caused, which made me feel I would “fail” in my social life and be abandoned by others.
He not only comforted me amid my fears, but also assured me that even though I was not born with social intuition naturally, through His Spirit who teaches me all things (John 14:26), He will supply me with spiritual intuition both to sense His leading and to pick up social cues.
God also blessed me with wisdom to search up material online in my free time regarding mental health, as well as emotional intelligence. I was also blessed with people who recommended books that greatly enriched me and helped me build my character.
I started to prioritise my mental and emotional well-being, which included cutting people who I felt were toxic and unnecessary out of my life while keeping those who brought edification close. This was undoubtedly freeing, and my life has since continued to soar as a result.
There is hope
To anyone who is reading this, your life is too precious to let toxic relationships trample on you and drag you down.
Don’t you ever forget that you’re a prince or princess of God’s kingdom, created in His image. Child of God, you are fearfully and wonderfully made, a masterpiece of your Heavenly Father.
You were bestowed with dignity and a unique individuality from on high, so do not let the world rob that away from you!
Recognising that God no longer holds my sins against me because of what Jesus did on the cross empowered me to do the same to others.
Another crucial area that God worked in me was to release forgiveness to those who hurt me and who I felt were not able to fully put themselves in my shoes.
Even though I still struggle with residual hurts, the Gospel has been a catalyst in my healing journey, allowing me to continue to let go of the past and move forward.
Recognising that God no longer holds my sins against me because of what Jesus did on the cross empowered me to do the same to others.
Understanding His grace afresh and knowing I can receive what I do not deserve because of Jesus’ sacrifice moved me to be gracious to my offenders.
Instead of viewing them through the lenses of justice, where I desperately wanted them to get the bad they deserved, God helped me to view them through the lenses of compassion, knowing that hurt people hurt people.
Plus, all of us have our red flags. We all have the potential to be toxic, whether to ourselves or to others, because of sin.
As I’ve reflected, I know that I’ve made mistakes that have wronged and alienated myself from others.
I was so bound by a victim mentality that I came off as someone desperate for support without taking much responsibility for my own life, which had the unintended effect of pushing others away.
I crossed my friends’ boundaries even as I was seeking help because I lacked the social awareness to do what is right at the right time and place.
Being caught up in how I was victimised blinded me to my faults. But I came to accept that ultimately, I am no better than the people who have done terrible things to me.
All of us have wronged God and others to differing extents. All of us are both victims and offenders in this broken world. All of us have stumbled and fallen one too many times.
But here’s what’s incredible: whenever we fall, we fall into the grace of God.
I especially love the song “Pride of a Father”, which was inspired by the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The song’s chorus goes:
When You see me, You see my heart
Through the eyes of Your mercy in the light of Your Son
You love me with open arms
And the pride of a Father
That is who our God is. He loves you. He welcomes you. He forgives you. And because He’s forgiven you of your offences, you can forgive others of theirs.
Does that mean what they did is excusable? Of course not, but that is what forgiveness and grace are all about: letting go of the need to be compensated for wrongdoings committed against you and instead, blessing those who have let you down even if they do not deserve it.
Truth be told, releasing forgiveness has also been medicine to my mental and emotional well-being! Don’t ever believe the lie that holding grudges and keeping score will somehow make you feel better or stronger, because you cannot heal and hate at the same time.
Ultimately, it’s best to leave the judgment to God.
For me, every time I am reminded of how I’ve been slandered and mocked, and how those involved had not been held fully accountable for their actions, I simply pray, “God, You will deal with them Yourself. I surrender control of this situation and leave it to You to judge.”
At the same time, I’m reminded of my own need for mercy and forgiveness from God because of my own sins.
Today, life has never been better.
Just when I’ve thought I’ve reached my peak, God always takes me higher. He has truly taken me to greater heights! While I still struggle with residual PTSD symptoms when triggered by certain situations, these no longer affect my daily functioning.
In fact, when the enemy tries to remind me of the bad things in the past, I have the opportunity to remind myself of how I’m not a victim of life but a victor in Christ!
I no longer have to wallow in self-pity, or make others feel sorry for me, because I know that Jesus has won the victory!
I was so bound by a victim mentality that I came off as someone desperate for support without taking much responsibility for my own life.
Indeed, in the last few months, God has been renewing in me a hunger for His Word, allowing me to be reminded of His promises and how I have a hope and future.
God’s Word has also enabled me to have a more steadfast identity in Him, knowing that I am who He says I am and not what others say of me.
I have never been more assured of the truth that my sins no longer define me (which is also a reason I shouldn’t be judging others by their sins), that I am the righteousness of God in Christ.
I am highly favoured, greatly blessed and deeply loved!
Despite A levels coming up, I have honestly never felt healthier and happier in my life. I may not have much in terms of accolades or portfolios, but I know God is more than enough for me!
My experiences with anxiety, depression, suicide ideation and PTSD have also made me more empathetic to those battling mental disorders, and I want to dedicate this article to all you warriors out there who are courageously soldiering on amid the mental warfare and societal stigma you may be facing.
I see you, and your dear heavenly Father sees you too. You might feel that everyone, including God, has deserted you but God has never and will never forsake you!
At the cross, God turned His back on His only Son — because Jesus took the sins of the world upon Himself and was being judged in our place — so that He would never turn His back on us, His many redeemed sons and daughters.
Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” so that we as His adopted children may cry, “My Father, my Father, why have You so blessed me?”
You may have felt like taking your life, but I want you to wholeheartedly know that your life is deeply precious to God. Why then would He have come to be your sacrifice? Jesus died your death, so that you may live His life.
You may have self-harmed before, but those cuts on your arms and legs are the cuts that Jesus took to the Cross as He was whipped and scourged for your salvation. His cuts, His wounds, His stripes have healed you, and I pray that you are forever loosed from the desire to hurt yourself.
Allow me to share a conversation I had with my therapist.
During one particular session, I was telling her how deeply guilty and ashamed I felt because of past mistakes, and hence how unrighteous and lousy I was.
I remember her cutting me off and asking me, “Samuel, today, where does your righteousness come from?”
I replied, “Jesus”, and she exclaimed, “That’s right! We are declared righteous today because of God.”
She then proceeded to say, “Today, when God sees us, He sees Jesus.”
You might feel that everyone, including God, has deserted you but God has never and will never forsake you!
Hallelujah! What a powerful truth that is for each and every one of us who puts our faith in Christ. We are made righteous not by our actions, but through faith in who Jesus is, and His death, burial and resurrection.
When God looks at sinful men, He sees the work of His Son in redeeming us from sin and brokenness. He sees us in the light of His grace that declares us forgiven. He sees the precious blood of Jesus shed on the cross that has restored us to wholeness and freedom from all shame and condemnation.
He doesn’t judge us by our sins anymore, but He judges us by His righteousness, which, upon believing in Christ, we can receive as a gift!
All these are because Jesus voluntarily went through excruciating pain and suffering on the Cross as He experienced the fiery judgment of God that was meant for us.
Every stroke of divine wrath and punishment fell on Jesus as He took our place of curse that we may take His place of blessing.
God loves you. Yes, you.
Yes, you may have done or experienced things that were so terrible that you can’t help but regret.
But I pray this truth will set you free as it did for me: Jesus bore your punishment; you don’t need to punish yourself anymore.
Dear reader, God loves you so much. And He has proven His love by sending His only begotten Son to die for our sins, so that upon receiving Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we may inherit eternal life.
You may have felt unlovable and rejected by the people around you, or heard something about God that made you feel like He despises you and that you can’t draw near to Him.
I invite you to read the truth for yourself. Indeed, God’s Word powerfully declares:
“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39)
I’m sharing my story, even under my real name, not only to show that you do not have to be ashamed of your darkness and past, but more importantly to testify publicly of the good news of Jesus Christ.
I’ve learned how to better manage my emotions, read social cues and have gained a deeper awareness of who I am.
But what ultimately made the difference and uplifted me to thrive in life today are the gospel of God’s grace and embracing a relationship with Him.
Whether you’re not a Christian, or have been a Christian for many years, I invite you to receive the Lord Jesus, even afresh, into your life. And your life will never, ever be the same.
To end off, I am proud of the individual God has made me to be.
Whatever deficits I may have, He compensates with His strength. When I am weak, then I am strong! And I am confident that He has many exciting journeys ahead!
Regardless of what may come or what others may say, I will never be ashamed of being #actuallyautistic.
Because that is my God-given individuality.