4th April 2018
It’s been a while since the words in my head have threatened to spill out if I don’t commit them to some form of medium. The blog seems to be the best place, but if this gets too personal, I might just make this post private.
In other words, if you read this, it means I managed to still maintain that balance between helping others to understand depression and helping myself to express my innermost voice, without showing more of myself than I should.
So here’s the thing. I’m a misfit.
I’ve never settled in anywhere comfortably. I’ve never really felt like I was part of something bigger, or some identity that defined my purpose. It’s not that I didn’t try – but something never sat right. I remember being yelled at during my hostel days, for cheering too much. I don’t have many friends from my second job because I quit without a job, turning my back on what I felt were working hours and styles that were just not right. And even among friends, my way of life would always lead to me never really settling in.
That’s part of why I keep wondering whether there’s something inherently wrong in me that makes me sit wrongly with everything and everyone. In any group, there’s always at least one person who’ll vehemently disagree with me on one thing, and make me feel like I’m not able to fully be part of the group ever. My primary school life was like this. My secondary school life was spent with individual friends, never groups. The trend kept repeating itself.
And I figured, there’s something in me that’s just unlovable.
That’s why I’ve always tried to look for a mentor. Someone who lived by my values and my compass. A Christian. Gentle yet firm. Caring yet knows when to scold me. Someone to pat me on the back when everyone doesn’t, or to just tell me that the path that I’m treading, while lonely, looks right. Someone to point out that I’m doing the right thing, or when I’m flapping like a headless chicken, to just tell me that it’s okay.
I know. I’m a Christian. God should be my guide, and His word has all the answers. But sometimes, I just wish I had that mentor, that person to look to, for the practical answers and guidance. Someone actually who could listen, process, and then guide me, with practical words.
The fact is that growing up, a lot of what I know now was learnt through the school of hard knocks. With those knocks, I learnt more about myself and slowly ingrained my way of life. I wanted to be accepted, but I would only ever really be accepted by other misfits who felt that right is more important than popular.
My dearest wife is one of them.
A few nights ago, I was watching an episode of NCIS. There’s a character on that show, Leroy Jethro Gibbs. He’s the bossman in the show, never really expressive, giving tough love, expecting the best out of everyone under his direction, doing what’s right instead of doing what’s better. Everyone looks up to him, for his praise is always well earned, and his reprimands never unfair. He’s stubborn to a fault, but that’s because he knows – most of the time – that he’s on the right track. And his people love him, to a fault. They would lay their lives down for him, because he would do the same for them.
And on the episode I was watching, the medical examiner’s assistant had his miracle baby born. His wife and him had given up on having children, and had to face the heartbreak of going through an adoption exercise, right up to the baby being born, only for the birth mom to change her mind about giving the child up for adoption. And in that last scene, where Gibbs was the last character to enter the room, with his wry and rare trademark smile, entering only when the rest of the assembled team noticed him, in that particular heartwarming scene…
I wailed. I’m tearing as I write this now, in public. That scene just brought out that yearning in me, that pain and grief that comes from feeling lonely in the midst of people, that sense that something is permanently broken in me, perhaps too much for me to ever fit in. That search for a mentor like Gibbs, who I know some people have had the blessing to find. My soul had been broken when I left my job of nine years to do something I felt was right, only to be broken further when I was no longer in the warm and familiar embrace of what would be my temporal family in the workplace. And it felt like I’d never find such a family again.
My wife found me in a ball, still sobbing and crying. As she held my hand, the words finally flowed. Normally they’re halting, but I found my voice, and shared my pain with her. And in her wisdom and clarity, she said one phrase only, that helped to soothe me beyond anything else.
“I’m a misfit too.”
She’s right. We both are. Unfortunate, perhaps, for our boys, but we both are. We both interact better as individuals. Groups and rallying cries don’t matter as much to us as the individual people who are hurting or who are in need of love. But God was gracious enough to put us two together, and somehow we’ve held hands and hearts and never looked back. She’s been standing quietly and firmly behind me, even through the most trying and tiring of times, and her words brought me some measure of healing that I’ve not had in a long, long time.
I’ve been pondering and praying over this issue since then. By God’s grace, I’ve also convinced my doctor to reduce my night meds to see if I can function better without the fog of medically induced sleep. I’ll be going off them in a couple of weeks, but for now, I feel more alert in the day, and I awake feeling much more refreshed. So this blog post is a culmination of my thoughts and prayers.
In my last therapy session, my therapist gently reminded me that in my search for a mentor, in my need for validation from an authority figure in my life, I may have simply missed that which is closest to me. I’m trying, even though it’s hard, to get some of that validation from my closest support group which includes my wife and our best friend. I’m also trying to learn to take things objectively, and to do things right instead of do things better. I’m taking baby steps in these two things, because to make the leap to say that God is my ultimate validation is even more difficult. I still don’t believe that I’m worthy of His attention, whatever scripture says. I’m a fool, but He has kept me so far from falling into the deep beyond. I don’t think I’ll ever fully just be happy getting validation from God since that’s a little less obvious than I’d like it to be. I need, however, to trust the wisdom of my God-given and blessed wife and close friends.
The other thing that’s surfaced is that I do belong to a very special group that meets at my place regularly. My Bible study group has been really amazing in their love and support for my wife and me. No matter how weird we are, they accept us, and on days that I simply can’t drag up the energy to leave the room to join the study, they respond purely in love and acceptance, worrying about my state and praying for me, rather than trying to cajole or pressure me to leave the room and join them. They have given me safety whether I deserve it or not, allowing me to have a space for outbursts when I needed to, gently praying for me, and always caring for us in a myriad of ways. I’m really thankful for that, even as I know that this acceptance is temporal. None of my DG (Discipleship Group) members demand anything of me, beyond what I’m ready for, not even a smile. It’s a privilege to be so loved. I wonder at that particular discovery, considering it’s something I’ve known, but not really known.
I need to learn to tamper my expectations of life itself. I may never have a mentor. I may never fit perfectly into any group. But of what I have, I’m already very blessed. These are and should be good enough. As I file the rough edges off my inner critic, I need to reassess all my standards, and take things as God has given them, not insist on unreachable standards.
I want to go back to work, but I don’t know what work I’ll do. I’m looking at getting a certificate in Peer Support, but that doesn’t guarantee me a job, nor do I expect or demand a job just because I have that certificate. My inner critic is riding me hard, and it’s easy to fall into demanding myself to start work as soon as possible, but my other side, the side that wants me to learn from this whole debacle, is quietly insisting that I learn to sit back and let God do His work in my life. Not to say that I’m being lazy and laid back. Conversely, I trust that when He thrusts me back into work, it will be unquestionably Him at work. My current state fluctuates between moments of feeling that things may be back on track, and wanting to just nurse a very very sore chest. The ache is unbearable at times, and those times, I just wonder whether I’ll ever heal. My wife thinks God has something else in store for me, which I won’t be able to expect, and I’m learning to trust her wisdom.
I guess on the whole though, I’m on the mend, and I know it. The main issues have been pulled into the open and I still have to learn to manage it and deal with the issues bit by bit. I’m alternating between pushing myself hard to recover, and just taking things as they come. It’s hard not to want to push, and I feel the damage whenever I overextend myself. But I want to push. I have to. I just mustn’t break myself pushing.
So I’m thanking God that I’m getting better. My sister from the UK came to Singapore and I spent the whole day with her family and mine, and I only fell apart the next day. I consider that a huge improvement!
On a separate note, another friend whom I’ve not met for a while, asked me if going to places to seek peace would help. I pondered that for a while, wondering why it didn’t seem like a solution until it hit me. I don’t lack peace. I hate myself, and I’m broken, but I know peace despite that. I have pain, and bouts of confusion, but peace isn’t something I’m looking for. I don’t know why but in all my writings and comics, peace has never been the issue. I need to recover from the brokenness, but I’m at peace with where I’m at. I hate depression and what it stands for, but I don’t hate falling to it, and recovering from it. Going to church represents normalcy for me, and even if I don’t manage to go, I know God is watching over my family and me, and helping us to get through the darkest of nights. How else have I lasted till now?
I’m getting there. Bit by bit. God please continue to be merciful.