Tuesday, February 17, 2015

When memories die hard

"We treat them with exposure therapy, to prevent avoidance behavior. To overcome, they shouldn't have to go around it or avoid it, they need to go through it and learn that it's okay."

This is one of the toughest lessons I've had to learn - to not run away.

I guess I thought I was doing great back home, but I really just wasn't. I had occupied my time with church and my hipster cafe job so I wouldn't have to spend hours thinking about my problems, my unforgiveness.

But now I have nothing.

Sure I have to study and do my homework, but when I get so tired and my mind cries out for rest, I drift off. I've lost count of the number of times I've drifted back to Malaysia and replaying the events of last year in my head, only to be awakened when my professor asks a question. Even when I pay attention to my class, I somehow end up drifting back to the past and a lot of it back there really hurts.

Abnormal psych hasn't been an easy class. Academically I'm doing really well (like honestly I haven't gotten a 100 in a test since I left primary school), but mentally I tend to get pretty distracted and depressed on some days. When I learn about the mental disorders that people are diagnosed with and how they're being offered treatment for it, I get angry. I think about that one time my youth pastor remarked that "Psych majors like to dramatize everything" and I almost drop an F-bomb mentally.

I remember the time I talked about my problems and told him I was going for psychotherapy. He immediately got alarmed and thought I was going to be on drugs, though I sure as hell wasn't. He said I should've sought spiritual help. The thing is, I did and it didn't help at all.

What was I suppose to do then? I had issues and I wanted to deal with it, so I could overcome them and be the person God had created me to be, without the anxiety and the anger. My parents got my vote and they even went with me for therapy and it helped, though only briefly, because I came here.

I find it strange that someone would think that I had never reached out to the church. I have, but all I tend to receive is nothing but criticism for "overreacting" or "taking it too seriously". I was tired of hearing the thoughts in my head go "Oh, I'll come along" when I felt miserable and wanted to deal with it. Also, I understand that putting my focus in serving others and loving others did help, but it still couldn't destroy years of self-conditioning, which made me mistrust everyone and not be vulnerable to anyone. I've made progress, but even so, these things still go on and take time.

I was so mad. And a part of me, still is mad, though I've declared time and time again that I forgive him for saying such things out of ignorance.

There is this girl in my class who asked my professor this once, "How can you tell if it is a psychological disorder or a spiritual or demonic thing?" My professor couldn't give a proper answer, but his best bet was that if the disorder does not go away even after treatment, he would refer them for pastoral care or something of the sort. He didn't diminish those possibilities, but said that we'd have to be careful about how we diagnose things.

This mentality just doesn't exist in church back home, especially a charismatic Pentecostal one. There is so much emphasis on miracles, signs and wonders that people find the thought of considering secular medical or mental health care as the prime option is close to sin. People don't seem to think that perhaps God might want to heal a person through medical means. I know it took my mum ages to realize that I needed more help than just counselling at church, or to just go to some healing service or prophetic event. I don't doubt that God works through these events, but I do believe that we must consider the possibility that God might work through other means as well.

I think people just don't see how serious things are. Say, if this was domestic violence, how would you counsel someone who's going through that? During my gender psych class, I got to hear clips of pastors who suggested that women went to the elders and leaders of the church in order for them to deal with their abusive boyfriends or husbands. Worse still, I heard a clip of a pastor who even told the woman to undergo the abuse for a season, and pray about it until he repented. I found it more appalling that they had even said, "It depends on the level of abuse." What on earth does that even mean?! ABUSE IS ABUSE. If what we do unto our neighbor is what we do unto God, would that person not have sinned for even abusing that person? It was not meant for anyone to just continue to be abused. Now that I think about it, it's insane. It's insane that a prestigious church leader would allow that to happen, and it makes you question where the church is headed to with such ignorant talk.

I'm not saying my situation is as bad as domestic violence. I'm not saying that I need to be pitied and the whole world needs to be at my aid. I'm saying that my problem is real, and I had every right to get help, and well, even my parents gave their blessing. My mum has become more open minded and now she sees why a field like psychology even exists. It exists because it helps people overcome, it helps people grow. We might disagree on a lot of things, but I'm glad we're on the same page when it comes to this.

Being here has been insane for me, emotionally and mentally. Now that I don't have a hectic schedule that drowns away my sorrows, I have to deal with my problems. I need to deal with my lacking walk with God. I suddenly have time to hear the voice of the world and the voice of the enemy.

But I thank God that I can also hear His beautiful voice. I thank God that the Holy Spirit has never left, even when I don't feel like it. Even without the worship team blasting Jesus Culture and a 30 minute long session of glossolalia, I feel His presence here. I know His presence and oh, it leaves me in awe. I try hard not to bawl in church because people here are a lot more conservative but it's hard. God's presence just enters and I cry, because I can feel it. It's crazy.

So don't ever tell me other denominations aren't spirit filled. That's a whole lot of loony going on there. GOD IS OMNIPRESENT. And the Holy Spirit surely is, because the Spirit is the Spirit of God.

Right now, I'm struggling. I'm struggling hard. I'm not gonna lie and pretend that I'm having a blast every single day, because I'm not. I go through pain. That's not to say that I'm ungrateful. I am blessed to be here. I am very, very blessed and I do not regret it at all. Going to the U.S. has been a dream I have always wanted to fulfill and God made it all happen. He placed this desire in my heart, and I can see a little bit of why he did that now.

He wants me to overcome. He wants my mind, to renew it so I may be transformed.

I cried out to Him today, afraid of ever returning to Malaysia. When I think of the people who have hurt me, I am angry. I wonder how I will ever serve him if I ever step foot into my church ever again. Won't I only drown in hatred and things would return to how they were?

But God is faithful. I choose to believe that God will give me whatever it takes to overcome. I will keep on forgiving them, and I will be able to love these people again with a pure heart, some day. I will overcome my anxiety - my heart will cease to palpitate with every class discussion, and I will not feel sad anymore despite being in a crowd of people.

Yet, with all these troubles, Paul's words come to mind,

"So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

- 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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