Dreams (for the future, not the sleep ones or the day ones) are a difficult topic for me.
As far as I can remember, I looked down on dreams. When others spoke of dreaming or dreams, I sneered. What are dreams, really, but empty hopes, I’d think. I’d look on for a while, and then I’d turn my back. Whether it was a news article, or someone speaking about it around me. Dreams are useless. Dreams are for the weak and to hold out hope for the empty masses.
It was only after treatment for depression started that I finally understood my connection to dreams.
I’d look on for a while, every time it was talked about. I couldn’t not. I had to.
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.
I’d gone in to office to return all my gear, and complete my exit clearance. It was a huge struggle, and a strain. I was prepared, but somehow dressing up in jeans (I normally wear berms everywhere now), and making sure I had all my gear in place to return felt so wrong. It was a terrible wrongness, that I was leaving my job in such a way, before I could do anything of value, before I could contribute, before I could have any real and lasting friendships.
I grieved as I stepped into office. I grieved at how familiar and yet how unfamiliar the place was. I quietly stepped past colleagues who might know me, and I went straight to my senior’s desk, and I sucked in my breath, and held myself steady, and I started to go through what I needed to do.
I held myself together for as long as I could. By the time we had gone through the HR and Finance levels, I was struggling to keep myself in one piece, and I told my senior I didn’t think I could last much longer. He immediately got the hint, and thank God the colleagues who had gone out for lunch also returned at about that time. Signatures were obtained, and I handed over all my cards and my technical gear.
It didn’t matter that I hadn’t been using that gear for months. That was the gear I was assigned. I was supposed to use it. Now it was returned, almost in pristine condition.
My lunch group saw me, and asked me out for a coffee. I was thankful for that. It was a sense of some normalcy even as I struggled to adjust to my new status. Unemployed. No longer gainfully employed. No longer an employee of what I felt was a good place to work and grow. No longer part of something bigger, at least for now. I grieved.
As we talked, I felt my energy ebb from me as I struggled not to focus on my grief and how I felt. I had wanted to head down to Ikea for a warm soup, but the weather was threatening to rain on my hopes, literally. So I headed back to Jurong East, and the shopping belt there, where I knew I would be comfortable at least.
I talked to my wife and our friend on the way. I was able, this time, to recognise that I needed to grieve. To allow the emotion to run through me. To accept the pain that came with the emotion, and to let it release itself and spend itself. But I could. Not. Cry.
The tears refused to come. I tried to relax and I tried to just go with the flow. But nothing worked. I was drained and exhausted, and I headed home without much hope. I refused to eat, only having toasted bread with kaya and butter, a couple of eggs and a cup of milo, along with a cup of milk tea I’d had earlier in the day. I simply couldn’t eat. I didn’t feel hungry.
While I was exercising in the forlorn hope that I could release the knot that was in my heart and in my throat, an old friend messaged me. We talked for a bit, and somehow the conversation got around to her telling me that my family and friends are around to keep reminding me that I’m not alone, that I’m resting for the longer road ahead. I couldn’t keep back the tears, but I still wasn’t being released. I let her know that I was thankful, but that I don’t deserve any of what I have.
She, in turn, reminded me of how my wife and I had helped her out of a bad time before. And that it’s untrue that I don’t deserve what I have. Somehow, that reminder that I have some good in me, that God gave me the privilege to touch others before, unlocked everything. And I started to cry. I’m tearing as I remember how the whole thing unfolded. An old friend who knew I’m depressed, reaching out to me, out of the blue.
This bout of crying was different though, from anything I’d experienced before. It wasn’t desperate. It wasn’t cathartic. It was cleansing. It was a release, of knots that had built up the whole day. I gasped in my sorrow, and wept tears of grief, that things turned out this way. I wept, for the whole situation, and poured out all my grief as the tears fell. And it felt good.
My wife found me crying, and sat with me till the storm had passed. I thanked my friend, and then I took some time to be quiet. That was when I decided to go to the cage and spend time with our pigs. I had been trying to find a good solution as to how to place the grass hay so that the pigs could access it easier, and eat better. We took out an old water dish that the girls had stopped using, to see if the hay could fit. It couldn’t. We then left it empty, and I was refilling the hay box when I finally noticed it.
Soul was ill.
She wasn’t moving around properly. She struggled to get to the pellets, she didn’t move with much enthusiasm, she was just doing poorly. She was easily scared, and she looked totally traumatised. She shied away from my touch, and managed to dart away in panic, but all the time, she dragged her bum along the ground. In concern, I took her out of the cage despite her panic, and watched her movement along the floor.
She was definitely unwell.
As she scooted and pulled herself weakly across the floor, she started to nose the old water dish quite enthusiastically. After she’d done that a couple of times more, I asked my wife to fill the dish. Soul started to drink, and she didn’t seem to be able to stop drinking. We then noticed that the water level in the bottle attached to the cage wasn’t as low as it should be. Heart had been drinking, but Soul hadn’t.
By the time we got Soul back into the cage, she immediately peed, and then walked around less gingerly. I was really worried still, but there was nothing we could do, until the vets were open the next day. There was an emergency number but it didn’t seem like a life or death situation.
But as we turned out the lights, and I sat on my bed, building a long overdue Nanoblocks toy to keep my hands occupied, I asked my wife, what if Soul died. My wife gave me her rational view, and displayed her trust in God. I struggled to trust, and I kept wondering how I would feel if we found Soul dead the next day. I was too tired to realise that my mind was wandering down rabbit holes of catastrophe, It was a while later that I asked my wife rather plaintively whether I was thinking too much.
I went to bed shortly after, still worried, but praying. Nothing complex. Just to pray that Soul would be alright.
What we figure now, is that something happened that day when I was out, to cause Soul to be traumatised and scared. We still don’t know what it was, but I’d removed the external fence so that the boys could do a clearing out of their toy stashes. It could be the noise of clearing up or it could have been a loud bang that my wife heard but didn’t know the cause of. Whatever the reason, Soul was so scared that she hid in the house, and refused to come out other than to snatch food. And so she went without water for an extended period, which caused her to have problems peeing. When she managed to drink from the water dish, she finally had enough water to pee.
Soul is better today, thank God. I felt better seeing her move without dragging her bum close to the ground, but she still exhibits signs of fear. She darts around more, and keeps her body low to the ground. She is less willing to explore the fenced area outside of the cage, but we noticed something really cute. After our Bible study session, I left the cage door open to let the girls roam the fenced area. Heart jumped out, and ran a few times round the cage, wheeking and squeaking. Then she jumped back into the cage, and nosed Soul, as if to say, why aren’t you coming out with me? My wife says it reminded her of this song.
That way, Heart managed to persuade Soul to slowly be willing to come out and run around. After I replenished their hay for the night, I was quite amused to have to cajole Soul back into the cage. She’s almost back to her normal self.
Nonetheless, this whole incident has made me question just how much I hold the girls dear to my recovery. It’s almost like they’re a talisman, and if they die before I recover, I seem to fear the worst for myself. I know that is unhelpful thinking, and I need to understand it better, especially since I am learning to turn over my burdens that I have no control over, to God.
I have no control over Soul’s life, or Heart’s life, much as I have that illusion. Ultimately, they are God’s creatures, and He will take them when He pleases. I only pray that it won’t be so soon, and that I can enjoy more time with them, and get better before then. That’s also true of anyone around me, or even my own life. I still haven’t learnt to live each day for itself fully.
I’m glad that I’ve managed to handle my grief properly, even if I needed help. Today was a good day, for that reason. Even my Bible study mates noted that there was a difference. I’m also glad that my Soul is still OK for now.