Tag Archive | Catholic

everything will be ok?

everything has wound down for now and i can finally exhale- it felt like my life was on hold for the last 2 weeks. my vulnerability had left me holding my breath. i guess a lot of my past has shaped a lot of my fears and inhibitions. there has been several firsts in my feeble journey to recovery for the last 2 years, and if i wasn’t scared, i was disappointed.

my resolution to avoid incarceration lasted for a little over 2 years. i was in and out of hospital too much between 2010 and 2013 and lost almost 2 whole years spent in psychiatric wards. thus the decision to stay “out in the wild” in October 2013 after one last discharge. to be honest when i was “committed” (i wasn’t, but if i had not consented, they would have), i was very disappointed with myself for letting myself fall this much. but when the situation arrived thus far, how was i to fight and say no? i recognised that i was acutely sick in the eyes of psychiatrist and i needed help. i was such a mess that if it didn’t happen then, it would have happened sooner or later. so i let go and i let God, and surrendered myself wholly to His will.

it was definitely over 2 years ago when i halted my ECT sessions at #41 when i felt memory slipping through my hands like sand, too much for me to bear. the amnesia from #1 never went away, and only built upon each other with each consequent session. to say the least it affected my studies back then, my work, and then also my personal life. there was no lack of resentment for the retrograde and anterograde amnesia. but on the other hand i was also grateful that it saved me from my sinking sadness (and severe depression) many a time. when i was offered ECT as a first-line this time, i gave it little thought and said yes in a heart beat. there was everything to risk, and nothing but memories to lose. so this time i stopped at #44, and sometimes i ask myself if it was worth it. but right here and now, i think it was a good move made. i don’t think i can ever say no to ECT indefinitely.

it was my first time “coming out of the closet” telling my Catholic community whom i dearly call Sinners, that i was in. never in my life had i ever come clean with a group of friends with my hospital admissions. what it has always been was that my best friend would inadvertently find out about me being inpatient before i even told her. i knew none of my friends took interest in the fact that i was always in and out. besides it was never something that i could say without shame. closer friends told me before “you’re admitted AGAIN???”. and it hurt. however life has changed since joining Sinners in July and they have been my pillar of strength and support. admitting to them that i was going to be inpatient because i have been feeling a certain way… was me letting my guard down with my brothers and sisters in Christ, letting them see the vulnerable side me, and letting them stretch out a helping hand to me. the outpouring of love from Sinners, and also staff from Office For Young People, gave me this inexplicable feeling of warmth and love that i’ve never felt before. and God used them as His glorious instruments to tell me how perfectly loved i am. for all of these i have no words but my utmost gratitude.

it is also my first time being down with pneumonia. i hadn’t had a true fever for about 10 years (yes despite all my DMARDs), so the fever (up to about 39.2) caught me by surprise first. then the faint patch seen on my chext x-ray on my right upper lobe was the shock. my white cell count (16.6) had skyrocketed (neutrophils and monocytes were also twice the upper limit) i could never have fathomed that me and a case of pneumonia could go together. at least not at this age. all the doctors who were involved in my case before my diagnosis thought it was me restarting MTX 3 weeks before my initial admission. after my diagnosis, they all seemed to think it was that, and that it was hospital acquired (i was already in the 2nd hospital before i made the transfer to the 3rd hospital). they had asked my rheumy as well and her orders were to hold off MTX until i see her in December. that was something i was bummed with. i received several doses of intravenous tazobactam/piperacillin. my vein got “burned” and now it hurts even when i’m home. they discharged me only when they were positive i wasn’t getting anymore fevers..

coming out of all of these different than when i first got admitted is really God-given grace. i prayed and i read and i wrote and i drew and i sang and i meditated, in my bid to maintain any semblance of sanity especially in my first week of hospitalisation. as usual, with matters of the mind, things get really heavy and suffocating, and anxiety-provoking at times. i don’t know how i pulled through, but i know it could only be that my good Lord carried me through. no?


right now, the most pressing issue is school. i had decided to defer my current 2 modules, seeing that i have/will miss 3 out of 5 weeks of lectures. but i was just informed that these 2 modules won’t be offered till next September, and that means i have to defer my Honours year as well. i don’t think this was part of what i signed up for, so i think i’ll have to get an extension for my 2 papers which are due end of this week (can you imagine i haven’t started on it???), and read the lecture notes for my exams the week after.

i’m so screwed???



unspeakable joy

i just returned home from a 4 day 3 night Catholic-Christian retreat, and i am dead beat.

i would like to first say that i do not what came over me when i picked up the phone to call up the retreat organisers when i knew the application deadline was more than already a month ago. but now know that God brought me to this retreat because He wanted to mould me.

He is the potter, and i am the clay. i needed to seek Him first. then i needed His renewal and reaffirmation.

it’s almost 10 years since my last such experience (i was 16 when i attended the compulsory confirmation camp!). attending Mass everyday, having praise and worship, sharing during group sessions, constant prayer, love amongst each other, and healing…

it’s unspeakable joy.

of course at the retreat, i had to find my direction with God when it comes to my illnesses, especially my self-harming ways. my first step was to declare to myself- “only SHORT-SLEEVES through this retreat, Steph! no more hiding! be you!” and i never regretted it. i grew on a retreat staff, as the priest directed me to her. she seemed to know things about me. subtle things that most would miss out. and her wisdom as a missionary, her visions, as God worked through her, gave me so much joy.

but i am home now. home was the place i cried a lot about in the retreat and now i’m back here. it’s reality. reality bites. and my heart is restless.

i will write more, and i will post photos, hopefully tomorrow, before i start work the day after. i’m going paddling for 2 hours early in the morning. although it makes me physically tired, it makes me happy and it takes my mind off things. and i’d like that before i give myself up to my calling from God.

i love you Papa God!

a mission

me posing in an attitude derrière in front of the house we built

i have just returned from a mission trip to North-East Thailand, and i must say that it was really a blessing to have been a part of it. the mission trip was organised by Habitat for Humanity and our local Catholic Humanitarian and Relief Initiatives, to build a house for a family in the impoverished village. There were 19 of us ‘troopers’ in all, and we spent 4 days building the house from ground zero till the roof.

i say that it is a blessing because there were many lessons to take from the trip. for one, as it was largely a Catholic mission, everything we did, we gave it up to God. we prayed together several times a day, and had formations (reading bible verses and Catholic social teachings, with sharings and reflections) after every time we returned from the site. we even attended Mass there. all of these reminded me time and yet again, that everything is in God’s hands. there is nothing that He cannot do.

we were meant to spend 5 days building. when we first got there, there were only 4 beams, each in a corner, and the roof. there were 19 of us, but some of us were much older and had to do less menial work and take more breaks. but we worked hard together anyway. it was tough. VERY TOUGH. we twisted iron for the foundation. then it was sand, cement, gravel, soil, bricks, water. we heaved as we carried the buckets of them in human chains. we easily memorised the recipe for a tub of cement. with shovels and hoes, we took turns to mix the cocktail of sand, cement and gravel. i can tell you, it was such a feat. each time we thought we were done, there were more to do. it was just endless buckets of sand, cement and gravel. and at the end of each day, we had to wash and scrap the 20 odd buckets and tubs to prevent the cement from hardening on them. when the time came for us to lay bricks, we thought it’d be better, but hey we still need cement to lay the bricks! we laid the bricks, trying our hardest to make them as aligned and solid as possible because they were going to be the walls and the exterior that would protect the interior. we climbed on scaffolds and sat on them precariously as we worked our way up. it was really teamwork, and by God’s grace, that we built all the walls up so quickly.

our Thai counterparts were very hospitable. they were very friendly towards us, despite our language barrier. we even became like friends. the Habitat representative from Bangkok ate with us, built with us, negotiated with us, and stayed with us in the same hotel. he made it a point to remember all our names, even if we didn’t know his. i was very pleasantly surprised. we had our last meal with them and the  receiving family, and it was heartwarming to see all of us trying to communicate with each other- us and our Thai counterparts, us and the family. although i have to admit, it was pretty frustrating not being able to communicate properly with them.

the day before we flew back, we returned to the site. the home-owners wanted to thank us. the home-owner and his mother both tied strings on our wrists, bestowing on us happiness, health and peace. they gave each of us a Thai pillow too. we took photos with them and the the house. and it dawned upon me that the little that we gave, meant so much, and even the world, to them. they were just grinning from ear to ear. we gave them our time and toiled for 4 days, but it was a house that they received. reprieve probably from the poor and living conditions they were in. all the pain i was in was nothing in comparison. and for all of these, i was utterly grateful.

i had my own struggles, and it was difficult. RA meant that my joints could give in to the disease process anytime. but if anything, my fingers were the ones that suffered the most. carrying the bucket handles, gripping the handles of the shovels and hoes, holding onto the bricks. my fingers were screaming for me to stop, but i didn’t heed. i trudged on, and i guess in a way, tortured them relentlessly. the only thing i tried to do for my fingers was to try  using my bigger joints like my wrists, instead of using my small finger joints. i applied anti-inflammatory gel (topical Ketoprofen) on my fingers everyday in a bid to make things better, but it was futile. my back suffered too, from poor body mechanics, and from bending over too much. the one that really got to me however, was fatigue. RA’s fatigue, and that of depression’s, proved difficult. i was constantly tired, gave up socializing time for sleep, slept on bus rides and even during breaks, and on one night, dinner even. i was trying to rest as much as i could, but all the sleep in the world couldn’t make the fatigue go away. i even got teased through the trip for being “sleeping beauty”. no one really understood why, and as much as i could, i kept mum. in the end, i told a few of them why. RA first, and when i became a little more trustful, depression. they were understanding, and i was grateful. i wasn’t being judged.

at the small Catholic church we went to, i knelt down, rosary in hand. i talked with God a few times. i haven’t done it in a long time. i ended up  crying as it became more of begging and pleading, than it was of talking. i was also dreading going home the next day, and i asked God to give me the strength to face up to my reality once more.

so here am i, at home. it’s been 2 days, and i already miss what we did in Thailand. i hope i never ever forget the memories made from this mission trip. it’s too precious.

a prayer

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going,
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end,
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following
your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if do this you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will i trust you always though I may seem to be
lost in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton, ‘Thoughts in Solitude’