It’s not a difficult thing to head into town in Singapore. Singapore as a city is largely divided into four major portions. The urban center lies more or less at the southern tip of the island, with suburbs all around. The major industrial zone to the west of the island city-state and the world-renowned airport to the east of the island make up the other two major zones. It takes no more than a bus ride and at most an extra half hour hop onto one of the multiple metro lines to head into town.
But for someone with a mental health struggle, that bus ride and metro ride can end up being a living nightmare. However, I decided that for the sake of self care, I would head into town recently. I wanted to physically step into a Christian bookstore, and grab a couple of new Bibles for my kids. Their old ones have been well used, and are heavy. It would “do me good” to get out there, stretch, look at healthy stuff to buy, and breathe.
It’s a very dark room. I’m near the entrance, having just stepped in. Everywhere I look, there are cobwebs, thick lines and ropes strewn all over. Except that they’re not made of sticky strings, but rust. Thick cables of rust, that as I reach out a hand to brush them, crumble into piles of ochre dust that coat the already dark and ugly floor. Not that I can see through the muck to the floor itself.
And there’re so many lines and ropes. They are grotesque and loom everywhere. I don’t even have to see them to feel the weight of all the rust cobwebs over my head. The ones I touch crumble. But there are so many, and what if they don’t crumble when I touch them? Can I bear that eventuality? Can I put up with it? Do I dare try?
4 years and a couple months earlier, I returned from my first hospital stay, unsure of my future, but sure that things would improve. Shortly after, my mood dipped again, and I started to realise that this was a long haul thing – especially when I couldn’t focus on my tasks, my suicidality went up again, and I struggled with simple things. I could no longer be certain that things would even improve – for as long as my malady was acting up in my head.
Just last night, my wife turned to me and said, “Remember that my love for you isn’t transactional.” Immediately I slunk lower into bed, and my initial reaction was to want to turn my back on her. With conscious effort, I pulled myself up, and made a little noise instead.
That’s progress already. Two years ago, I would have begged, insisted, maybe yelled, that she not say something like that. It would have felt pointless and it would have made me feel way worse than I did. I didn’t know back then but my critic would have raised a stink. As it was, last night, it tried to – but I managed to actively remind myself that this was her viewpoint, and I had to respect it.
If I were to be honest and talk to her about my love for her, I would say the same thing. I love her for who she is, and not what she can do for me. What she does for me is only a bonus and an outworking of the person she is. But yet, applying that to myself is not something that’s possible or easy. There exists in my mind a duality, also a contradiction. Others whom I love don’t have to earn that love, but in *my* case, I need to earn my place in the lives of others, or I do not deserve their love. I am a hypocrite.
And therein lies a contradiction and duality in people struggling with mental health issues that I hope to explain a little with this post. Warning – this is also a rather Christian post, if you are someone coming from a secular background. I still hope it can help a little – feel free to take the Christian taugeh (beansprouts) out.
The thing about depression – as with many similar conditions, or even for people without depression, is this thing called overthinking. Along with oversensitiveness, this is almost unanimously something that everyone seems to want to get rid of. “If only I could stop overthinking!” “Am I overthinking this again?”
So I want to make it my unenviable task – to reclaim overthinking from the annals of the “DO NOT TOUCH” books, and see just how depression and overthinking are linked, in a layman way, and what to do about it – if we don’t aim to get rid of it.
I find it hard to blog nowadays, as my therapy inches along. For the first time ever, I’ve struggled to speak about the issue we’re dealing with, whether in therapy or to my long-suffering wife. In therapy, I force the words out while clenching on to my plush toy. To my wife, I’ve tried to speak, but failed miserably, staring at the laptop to avoid looking at her because the words just would not come out.
I changed therapists again recently, as my therapist resigned from the institution. I didn’t ask where she’s going because even if she’s going into private practice, that’s not something I can afford. My new therapist and I have had some growing pains, but she told me something I struggle to agree with. Even turning up for therapy – despite being scared, despite feeling like this might be more trouble than it’s worth, no matter how tired I am, was something that she said was brave and worth acknowledging.
Time itself is ephemeral, days, months and years even more so. We keep time and dates simply to help us organise ourselves in our heads, and as societies. Yet somehow, at the end of every year, the urge to take stock is there. We should, after all, always look back and see how we’ve done this year. As we should every year.