Trigger warning: This article contains mention of suicide.

Growing up, I never thought I had a mental health condition. 

I just knew I wasn’t feeling my best… I was always down and having trouble navigating life. 

The dark days began when my brother left to study overseas when I was 15 years old. I was happy for him, but I felt all alone with my parents.

I felt so guilty to feel this way as it was a blessing beyond our dreams for my brother to head overseas to study. 

Tearful nights became a norm.

I recall crying myself to sleep and on the rare times I was able to catch some sleep, I would inevitably wake up to cry again. Some days, I had no idea why I was even crying.

This crying was in private, and I was “happy” in front of everyone until I could not hide it anymore.

Ruth and her family, taken after she had completed her Master of Arts in Counselling from TCA College. She says that the financial and emotional burden that comes with an illness is immense, and her academic journey has only been possible by God’s grace, which has helped her father to provide for the family.

It was torturous, painful, lonely and dark. Soon, I was not able to care for myself.

I could not brush my teeth, shower or even communicate. My mum often said that it was as though I had become a baby again. 

I felt that there was no hope, and the pit felt so deep, it was like there was no way out.

Beyond feeling frustrated and stuck, I was also scared of everything.

I recall not being able to leave my house or even my room; I went to the mall one time and just sat there hyperventilating as it was too overwhelming for me. 

This low mood had been there for a while, but it began to heighten.

Finding out I had bipolar disorder

Eventually, I was often thinking of ending my life and attempted to do so various times. 

Some days I would go to the top of the building because I wanted to “fly”. 

I would even stand in the middle of the road, asking the trucks to hit me because I believed I was invincible. 

I felt like a failure who could not live nor die, and there was a lot of guilt because I could not live the way I felt I needed to. 

I always wondered if I was cursed, if I did something wrong to make God so angry, or if He did not love me.

By the time I turned 16, I was more symptomatic. For instance, my words in English were all jumbled up.

Still, I somehow made it through my O-Levels — though I chose to drop out of junior college later.

I always had a headache at that point, and eventually a doctor noted something I had said about wanting to “end it all”.

The doctor then decided to refer me for further treatment in the Institute of Mental Health at 17 years old.

That was when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Learning to see beyond my condition

Even with the official diagnosis, it still took a long time for me to accept that I had a mental health condition.

I was only challenged to consider life beyond my condition much later when I was in my mid- to late 20s.

It was a difficult process through recovery because I spent so much of my life feeling like there was no hope.

I was not a Christian by birth, though I had exposure to God and church in my primary and secondary schools (they were mission schools) and the Girls’ Brigade.

Ruth at her graduation with whom she describes as “the most unexpected person God has sent me”. Ruth recounts how her former officer from the Girls’ Brigade has been a light amid the darkness for her family.

Girls’ Brigade was the place where I encountered the gospel and accepted Jesus, so I was very excited about God and life in Christ as a kid — even more so after I was baptised in 2004.

But I was truly not ready for what came my way just a year later when the suffering began. I knew there would be hard times in life… just not to this extent.

I always wondered if I was cursed, if I did something wrong to make God so angry, or if He did not love me.

That was how I felt. But the Bible always suggested otherwise, so I thought I had nothing to lose by considering the hope we have in Christ.

That was why I decided to give the relationship between God and me another chance.

How things turned around

What I found was that God has always been patient with me, and He did not rush me.

He supported me through the pain and waited for me to reach out to Him. God has always been and is always good.

In my multiple attempts to take my life, I was often frustrated that I was still around.

But each time, I felt in my heart that God had something new in store for me.

When I considered that these awakenings or new beginnings were little pieces to the bigger puzzle that Christ had for my life, it made me curious about what my Promised Land looks like — what God had in store for me.

The pain sometimes takes us away from the truth, but that does not change who God is. He is and will always be for me.

Before, I had gained a lot of weight in a short period of time that made my joints hurt. It was so difficult to lose the weight despite all my efforts.

I was also diagnosed with various other medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, vitamin deficiencies, low levels of various chemicals and, at one point, even some of my organs’ functioning was also decreasing.

Physically, I was also not really able to rest much. I had days when I could not lift my arms or get off the bed, could not walk, or walked like my legs had no strength in them at all.

But God gave me a miracle in the last three years!

My health started to get better, and I even managed to start exercising. This turnaround has truly been a miracle to me.

Ruth has finally fulfilled a long-term dream to be fit. With the help of a trainer, she has learnt to navigate exercises, challenge herself, and face her fears and anxieties regarding food.

I never imagined to be able to have this energy again, and that I would no longer require to be on tons of medication.

That said, medication is important, and not needing them is not an indicator of recovery.

However, it still marvels me that this was made possible for me by the grace of God. When I feel I need more support, I do seek out a doctor and medication still.

Knowing now that both physical and mental health are equally important, I am putting more effort into caring for my health through better eating and exercise, and taking time for self-care.

Restored and redeemed

Today, I am doing so much better and am glad to enjoy a renewed relationship with my Father.

As I look back, this journey has given me a chance to learn who Christ is and who I am in Christ in a very intimate way.

After all, I did not know how to reach out to the world and could only cry out to God in the way I knew.

How I view life now is that God has my end in mind; He is preparing me for what He has for me.

My duty is to have faith and trust in Him. So I continually remind myself that I am still me, and my condition does not define me.

And whenever I am tempted to lose hope, I remember Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

I clung to the book of Psalms in my journey, especially Psalm 121 and Psalm 139. The book of Ruth also spoke to me very much.

Gospel songs, particularly ones in Tamil, also spoke to me and always gave me hope.

Through these slow and gentle ways, God reminded me He was with me.

I could feel that He was with me, and it is an experience I cannot put in words.

I constantly reminded myself of that, and it always gave me just a little more confidence to move through each day.

Journeying with others in the mental health space 

The journey has been tough.

I’ve been in and out of hospital, struggled to keep up in school, and didn’t know how to maintain social relationships or manage family connections.

But God was there with me through it all.

Without this journey, my faith in Christ would not be this firm as I have experienced Christ in my good times and my darkest times.

In her work at the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAHM), Ruth has many opportunities to share her experience with others. She first joined SAHM after attending a Peer Specialist course. Here, she is pictured (back row) with her colleagues.

In this season of my life, I am working as a Team Lead at Oasis Day Centre under Singapore Association for Mental Health, where I support in case work and counselling.

I am excited about what I can do on the ground and fully believe this is where I need to be in this season, learning and sharing in the mental health space.

I am thankful for God’s grace, which constantly reminds me that I am truly not alone, even though there are times I may feel lonely.

Where I am now has also given me an opportunity to journey with clients to let them know that they too are not alone in this.

I truly believe all things come together for good; God works for the good of those who love Him.

I want to share the hope I have as a Christian living with mental illness.

Trust and have faith — God is always with us!

If you’re feeling troubled and would like to chat with someone, help is available at these centres:

  • Samaritans of Singapore (SOS): 1-767 (1-SOS) (24-hour) | [email protected]|
  • Institute of Mental Health: 6389-2222 (24-hour)
  • Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
  • National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868
  • Care Corner Counselling Centre (English and Mandarin): 6353 1180
  • TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252
  • Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service:
  • Tinkle Friend by Singapore Children’s Society: 1800-274-4788 | (online chat)
  • Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6385-3714

Do also check out this list of resources if you require help for other issues not relating to mental health.

  1. What is one truth about God that you need to internalise today?
  2. Is there anything that’s causing you to lose hope? What encouragement can you draw from the hope you have in Christ and the community around you?
  3. Do you know someone who could be looking happy on the outside but feeling hopeless on the inside? How can you journey with them?