a lesson in faith

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In the past week, I have been finding myself facing battle with an old friend–depression.

Yet it is in stark contrast to the youthful, immature depression I once knew, when I believed the cloudy gray life I lived was all that there was and that there was no true escape. Fast forward to now, after years of self-growth, self-improvement, and therapy, I have now what I would call a “mature” depression. When I get in my depressive episodes, I am acutely aware that I am roaming minute to minute in the gray, with the knowledge that I am not the depression, and I am not really stuck. Feelings pass. Situations change. The things my depression are trying to convince me of are false. But it does not make the depressive episode any easier to bear through.

It is like someone hijacked your brain and is steering your thoughts and feelings down paths you know is not realistically accurate. But because you’ve been taken over by D, your stumbling down them regardless. Then you are left feeling so overwhelmed–overwhelmed by sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, and a feeling of bleakness about your life and where it’s headed. I know that I am doing great things with my life, that I am making a valuable mark on this earth. My mind is aware. But still, it is difficult to fight through the feeling of dissatisfaction with yourself and the world, or the feeling that things will never change.

I was driving home from work today, and I found myself asking God, “How do I get myself out of the black hole I’m in? What are you trying to teach me through this? What are you trying to bring forth through me?” I know well enough by now that God teaches us through pain. But at that moment, I could not gather what I was supposed to learn. So sitting in traffic, I paused and listened. Then I could hear God replying back, You need to have faith.

With that, I had an epiphany. Here I was, fighting and fighting to make things work, to get what I’ve always yearned deeply for, but to no avail. Losing friends, people going MIA, stress where ever I go… it has felt as if nothing I do would give me the life I have been aiming for. Things have been falling apart instead. So I have felt hopeless and helpless, like I am stuck with this unsatisfying life I have been trying so hard to change. But then it became so clear. There are no options left at this point, because faith is all I have left. Nothing else is working, because God wants me to choose the one last option. I can either stay where I am, or walk out onto unknown waters.

This has always been my problem. I am Peter, who is afraid and does not trust that God will allow me to walk on water. I am fearful that I will sink and meet my death. So of course God sees it fit that I learn to have faith–to face my fear of sinking. The God who calms the storms. The God who can move mountains. The God who splits seas. I must have faith.

So, my fellow readers–for those of you who know what I speak of, who are also struggling: when it seems as if there are no other options, perhaps that is because God is bringing you to the one option that will help get you through whatever you are going through. Allow your courage to rise, and have faith. You’ve been through worse, and just as it has before, this period too will pass. Life is impermanent. You’ll get through this.  And in the meantime, let yourself go, walk out onto the water, and have faith that God will give you strength to conquer the waves.

finding my way back

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I feel as if I have been wandering aimlessly for months. Led astray without a second thought. It usually isn’t until the ground collapses beneath your feet when you recognize what you’ve been without. And how I’ve missed Him so.

On your spiritual walk, to be in a good place in your life is more dangerous than to be in a difficult one. When things are good, you feel good. But then pride sinks in. We think we can live without God, that we’ve got everything figured out. I don’t need help, because things are consistently good. I’m doing such a good job. Maybe I don’t need God. God loves me to shower me with blessings, so I can cruise. All those positive thoughts mask you from the reality of our human condition: we cannot function in all the ways we need without God. Funny enough, it’s only when things start to break down from happy neglect that we are reminded (yet again) of our deep need of Him.

Various aspects of my life were going well and I was in that good place. But as things begun to break down, it was as if I woke from a months-long slumber. Like someone, or I, placed the snooze button on in my life, and God was throwing ice cold water on my face. He has a tendency to do that. But I saw that He was not doing that out of malice, but ultimately out of love. He loves me too much to allow me to sleep, and not fight for my life… to not live with passion and chase after my purpose. As the blurriness cleared from my vision, I saw God standing over me, His hand outstretched, His eyes gentle and forgiving. Walk with me. You must continue your purpose.

I started to cry as soon as I recognized how I’ve been walking along my path without him. That was why I was feeling so aimless. I was neither hungry or thirsty, so it was even harder for me to see; I was shrouded by too much worldly good. Thanksgiving rolled around, and I reflected on all the good people and things in my life, but I gave no thought to God. Yet rather than turn away from me, He reaches out to me with love, wills me to not go astray. He reminds me of my deep-seeded need for His guidance and love, and pulls me back into His embrace. God has given us each a thriving purpose that he desires us to work for, to fight for… just as He fights for us.

I could very well go my own way, inadvertently closer to darkness, but He loves me so much to not let me. Sometimes it takes aspects of your life to break down to realize what’s going wrong. It is God’s way to reach out to us, to show us His love, to remind us that He is there and we are not meant to go through this life alone. And in knowing that, I feel so very grateful and humbled.

The Day I Almost Killed Myself

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Writing this story is not, by any means, a simple feat. To memory, I can only recall telling this story two times in my life. I still continue to feel fear at how people may respond to one of the most painful moments of my life. But Maya Angelou once said that there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you… and I am beginning to realize how accurate she is.

I was eleven years old. During that time, I was an outcast, a “loser,” a black sheep, a reject. Coming from a poor, immigrant family, my parents could not afford me nice clothes or shoes to wear like all of the other “cool” kids. My mother forbade me from wearing make-up. And it did not help that I was a little socially awkward, and the only “Asian” kid in my class. I stood out like a sore thumb, and people picked on me and made fun of me daily, though I did not know them and they did not know me. Although I had a group of friends initially, they soon ostracized me for reasons unknown and began to pick on me too. I had no one. And the thoughts that reverberated in my mind were, “What did I do to deserve this? Why do people hate me so much? There’s nothing I can do to stop them. I’m hopeless. There is no one. I am alone.”

My parents were always at work, and my siblings abhorred helping me… because one of the family rules I had growing up was, “Don’t ask for help. Figure it out yourself.” So I had no one to turn to. No one in my life to help me, to tell me that someone’s treatment of you didn’t define who you are, that it was fucked up what they did to me. That I was beautiful, not ugly, stupid and weird like the kids at school were drilling into my head.

One day, after a group of girls in my neighborhood had thrown rocks at me for the umpteenth time, I remember I was sitting on the couch in our living room, sobbing and crying, drowning in my pain. I was home alone and thinking, “Is there no escape to this? Will this be my life?” My thoughts turned darker as I sunk deeper into my depression, sadness and pain, and I begun to consider something that no person should ever consider, especially one so young. I want to die. If I kill myself, the pain will stop. If I kill myself, I can finally escape.

And so, I went to the kitchen, tears still streaming down and stinging my eyes. I let out a sob as I opened the drawer and pulled out a kitchen knife. I pricked the sharp tip with my finger, my view getting blurrier. Gripping the handle, I thought of stabbing myself deeply in the heart, with the intent of meeting Death and ending all the agony and suffering. It is the only way. Please God, just let it end.

But as I raised the knife slightly closer to my chest, my vision was suddenly blinded by a translucent, white light. It was one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had in my life. Clouded by the fuzzy white, I heard a voice, strong and clear, ringing in my ears: Anna, put the knife down. Do not do this to yourself. Put the knife down.

To my very bones, I knew and recognized that voice as God’s.

Instantly, the urge to drive the knife into my heart vanished and I slowly placed the knife back in the drawer. The pain was still beating heavy, but it became evident then that I could not follow through with my intent. One moment there, one moment gone, I knew God had just intervened in the precise second that I needed him, when I wanted to give into my demons and take my life. At that time in my life, there truly was no one to turn to in my world. But I was never alone. I realized later that in His intervention, God kept me from making my most fatal assumption. He saved my life.

This is my untold story. This is one of my deepest pains, bare and open for you to see. I’ve held it inside me for fifteen years of my life, afraid of others’ judgment. But I no longer wish to hold it inside anymore, and have the shame eat at me, perpetuating my agony. I hold no shame, and I own my pain. Although I did not know this at the time, the pain was molding and shaping me, turning me into the sensitive, insightful, compassionate person I have grown to become. Although I still struggle with my demons as a result of my experiences, as C. S. Lewis argues, pain shapes us into the person we have the potential to become, like a piece of silver being refined in the fire. We are made perfect in our suffering, even though many times when we are in our suffering, it is difficult to see. For me, it was very difficult indeed, and I was so young. But that did not deter Him. He came for me before I could give up.

But this is not a story of shame. It is a story of success. Because I am alive today, dedicated to making a positive impact as a therapist, and with my words.

For anyone who also has an untold story inside them too, I urge and encourage you to speak up. Speak out. Do not let the shame, guilt or pain take the wheel of your life, keeping you bound. Your experiences are completely valid, regardless of what anyone says. There is a purpose, a function to your pain. And you are not alone. Please tell me, and others, of your story. You deserve to be attended to. You have a voice that deserves to be heard.

I am a survivor. I am a fighter. And if you are alive today, reading this, so are you.