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Importance of Support Network

Posted Sep 13 2008 11:49pm

I realize through my recent relapses, the importance of having the support and prayers of my family and friends, besides professional helps from Doctors, Counsellors and Support Group. The people I love, and who love me, will see me at my best. When my symptoms reappear, they may see me at my worst.

Whenever possible, I will share with them my condition. I give them articles, pamphlets and books to read about bipolar disorder so that they will understand that my behaviour is not always under my control. It will also help them to understand why I am sometimes so different.

A friend recently told me that he used to wonder why I was at times very warm and friendly but at other times very cold and indifferent. After understanding my condition and different mood swings, he was able to understand why. He is very compassionate kind and understanding. He even offered me a listening ear should I need to talk to someone when I am feeling down.

My Doctor suggested to me recently, that I should tell my family and friends that I am like a bear -) For certain period of time in a year, I will hibernate -) Bears hibernate during winter in which they pass the winter in inactive.

I thank God for the support of the following people in my life:

1) My family.

I am thankful to my mother who just learnt of my illness late last year for being very understanding and supportive. She took care of me recently when I was down with a relapse of depression and could not work. She prepared meals for me and encouraged me to go for walks, to go out and get some some sunshine, to do things I enjoy. She emphasized the importance for me to take my medications regularly and to go for my follow-up with my doctor. Thank God for her.

I am thankful to my sister, Irene and her family, and my 2 younger brothers, Boon and Lian. They are most caring, supportive and kind. They told me that I must never go through another relapse of depression alone but that I must let them know.

2) My church and faithful friends (Pilgrim Covenant Church, Singapore).

I thank God for my dear pastor, Pastor JJ Lim, my elders and deacons, and all my church friends for their prayers, encouragements, supports and kindness in many ways. Pastor JJ has been most prayerful, supportive and encouraging. He counsels me whenever I have difficulties with spiritual issues. Even when I feel no one else will understand, I know he somehow will. So I can call and talk to him when I am most down. I thank Pastor JJ for always being so kind and supportive.

A very dear church aunty, Aunty Ruth, assures me of her prayers every day and will call me every now and then to check on my condition. Whenever I am better, she will take me to the beach near her home for walks. I love to go to the beach. I am beginning to enjoy God's creations in many wonderful ways and I enjoy fellowship with Aunty Ruth and her helper, Retno. I am grateful for Aunty Ruth's friendship and kindness.

I am thankful to many friends in my church who shows much care and concerns for me. Some will write to me while others make effort to talk to me or bring me out whenever I am better. Some will also give me space when they sense that I am very unwell and prefer to be alone. Whenever I am better and ready for fellowship, they have received me back into their fellowship willingly and very kindly. I thank God for their kindness to me.

I thank God also for providing for my every needs in the last few months when I was not able to work through my church and friends. My church sometimes give me love gifts to help me with my expenses and that of my mother. Some kind friends in my church also gave love gifts anonymously and very generously on the Lord's day when we go to church. With these kind provisions, I was able to seek better medical help and also signed up with a ladies gym to do regular exercise. These have helped a lot in my recovery. Two kind friends, bro Arthur Koh and another friend, have been giving me large supplies of Omega-3 fish oil supplements in the last 9 months or so, which will help to stabilise bipolar in the longer run. I am grateful to all of them for the kindness and generosity.

I am thankful to bros Arthur Koh and Daniel Tay for educating me on the benefit of Omega-3 fish oil. I am grateful for Daniel's many kindness in giving me articles to read and recently he gave me a diary as I am learning to manage my symptoms by keeping a mood diary.

I am grateful to bro Paul Phua who is doing some counselling courses and has offered some counsellings help to me. Thank God for providing him to be such an encouragement and support in my time of need.

I am thankful to elder Thiam Chye and sis Gek Eng for their prayers and encouragements. In particular, I am grateful to sis Gek Eng for taking me out for lunch and try to understand my condition, listen to me and for her willingness to help others like me. May God continue to use her to minister to others who go through experiences similar to mine.

I am thankful for Aunty Janet and Mr Ng's kindness in giving me lifts at times, giving me gifts and also giving me books and articles to read on my condition.

I thank God for my two dear friends, Theresa and Wee Chin, for their love, prayers, encouragements and for taking me out for dinner whenever I am better. They also give me the joy of visiting sis Theresa's Uncle, Mr Lou, at the nursing home - knowing that I love to minister to the elderly. I am grateful for their consistent friendship and bearing with my absences and inability to keep in touch when I was very ill.

I am also grateful to sis Grace Yong, who knows my passion to serve in the elderly ministry in the evening services of my church, and has kindly offered to fetch me home after the evening services if I am well enough to attend. Grace also writes to me whenever she can. She loves to bake and will sometimes give me bread, etc.

I am grateful to sisters Ruan, Joyce Lau, Bee Ha, Priscilla and Freda for their prayers and encouragements. I am thankful for Freda's gift of a Journal recently so that I can write down my thoughts and feelings. I am grateful for bro Chee Kong and sis Audrey's prayers and encouragements. I am thankful to bro Linus and sis Shan Shan for keeping me in their prayers and seeking to understand my condition better. I am grateful to sis Ming for her prayers and for suggesting alternative treatments.

I am also grateful for my 2 doctor friends in my church ie. Dr Josiah Chai and Dr Gideon Ng and my pharmacist friend, sis Nancy Fong, for their willingness to help me source for better and more affordable medical treatments.

I am indebted also to sis Kathrine for her love and prayers, and many kind gifts of bread, etc. My mother is able to remember her now as she always give me bread and other food stuff. Thank God also for her love for the elderly and less privileged people, and for serving together in the elderly's ministry.

I am grateful for others who share my passion for the elderly's ministry and who give me much joy in serving with them, and bearing with my absence when I am very ill. I thank God for their faithful service through doing Mandarin Translation works, driving our church van to fetch these elderly, and fellowship with the elderly when they come to my church, and many other works e.g. elder Michael, elder Raymond and sis Winnie, bro Gideon, bro Hwee Kwan and sis Freda, bro Chee Wai, bro Martin Tan, bro Chee Yean, bro Daniel Tay, bro Joseph Lim, bro John Quik, bro Yew Hoong, bro Moses, and many others. Thank God also for the many sisters that faithfully cook for these elderly. It is a joy for me to serve with them.

I especially grateful to my old friend, Esther Chew from Canada and her sister, Grace (whom I have never met) for their prayers, encouragements and generous love gifts which they sent from Canada and also through Esther when she visited Singapore in early January 2008. Thank God for bringing me into contact with Esther again after an interval of 10 years and for her kindness in many ways.

I am thankful for my 2 dear friends from Brunei, bro George Wong and his wife, Siew Geok, for their prayers and for faithfully sending me many encouraging emails and attachments which are very uplifting.

I am greatly indebted to my good friend, Dr Chin Ming Shu, who was also my ex-employer for 4 years, and my ex-colleagues Miss Louise Clarke and Dr Shirley Low. Ming Shu, Louise and Shirley are psychologists/child psychologists who works with children with special needs. Due to their training and work, they know about depression and are most sympathetic. In fact, it was through their promptings during a recent severe depression episode in Dec 2006, that I decided to seek medical help. They have been most supportive and kind, in bearing with my unproductiveness when I was very unwell and sharing my workload then, and they always encouraged me to use all the available means to get well. They also kindly gave me time-off to see my Doctors and Counsellors. They remain my very dear friends although I have stopped working for them since Sept 2007.

I am also grateful for Susannah and Tong's friendship. Susannah and Tong own a stationery shop near my old office. They are Christians and most supportive, prayerful and encouraging. Susannah taught me some techniques and tips on how I can learn to manage my condition better. Thank God for them.

I am grateful to Pastor Maurice Roberts , Pastor John Sherwood and sis Kim Eng in London for their continuing prayers and encouragements.

I thank God that I am in a community of people who love God and love me, who accepts me in my condition and weaknesses, and continue to extend their love and friendship to me. To the Lord and to them I owe a debt I cannot repay. I can only pray that God will bless them and their family with rich spiritual and temporal blessings, and continue to provide for their every need. I will also strive to live for God’s glory and to serve Him and His people, to the best of my ability, as the Lord enables me.

3) My Doctors

I am grateful to Dr Pauline Sim who first treated me in Dec 2006 and continue to treat me when I returned to see her help again in Oct 2007. I am also thankful for Prof Ong Thiew Chai from Tan Tock Seng Hospital who treated me between April to August 2007.

Dr Pauline Sim is a very concerned and kind psychiatrist. She always has a smile on her face. She listens attentively to my description of my symptoms and experiences. She reassures me that with the right medications and other helps, my condition will improve and I can lead a close to normal life and be productive. She is always very positive, hopeful and encouraging. I thank God for using Dr Sim to help me. Dr Sim teaches me how to manage my condition by teaching me how to adjust the dosage of my medications when my mood swings, how to recognize early signs of worsening symptoms and what to do, how to prevent relapse from worsening, etc etc.

4) My Christian Professional Counsellors

In Jan 2007, I have received professional counselling help from a group of counsellors who are trained to manage brain conditions such as bipolar, clinical depression, OCD, etc etc while my Pastor counselled me on spiritual matters.

The professional counsellors are trained to use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which is a form of counselling with a focus on understanding how our thoughts affect our behaviours. Bipolar alternates between 2 extreme mood swings ie. mania and depression, and our thoughts and behaviours are shaped by these mania and depression episodes which can at times be very confusing. CBT helps to make sense some of these confusions, and help to pick up skills to manage these mood swings so that one can be more functional.

I am thankful to God for providing me with a team of very compassionate, kind, understanding and encouraging Christian counsellors at Counselling and Care Centre, Singapore from Jan to Apr 2007 and their willingness to help me. My sessions with my counsellor, Sarah (and her team), were most fruitful and encouraging. Through her counselling sessions, I embarked on a new journey of self-discovery, of knowing God, myself and others better. The benefits I derived from my sessions with Sarah continues to help me as I journey on. I am grateful to Ruth for her counsellings and encouragments between May to June 2007, when she took over from Sarah.

From July to August 2007, I was helped by Dr Spencer Lee and Yvonne Ying of Association of Christian Counsellors of Singapore. I am grateful for their prayers, counsellings, encouragements, kindness and determination to help me to manage my condition so that I can get well and be useful.

Now I am helped by my Pastor’s prayers and counsels, and that of some of my elders and brethren in my church, besides doing my own reading and researching on the internet to understand this condition and how best to manage it. I am deeply indebted to the above persons for their valuable prayers, counsels, encouragements and kindness during my most difficult times.

I am now learning to look to God and learning to use a combinations of available means which our Lord has graciously provided to cope with this brain condition. You can read more about these coping means/strategies from the category “My Coping Strategies” on my blog.

5) My newfound Blogging Friends

Since I started this blog, I am getting to know a few oversea friends who are either bipolar themselves or suffering from other condition which can cause depression at times. They are most understanding and supportive, as they themselves have gone through similar experiences. I am also learning many things from them as they have posted many useful posts on their own experiences and also links to other helpful sites.

I am thankful for these newfound friends who are sharing their experiences and learnings with me. My newfound blogging friends thus far are:

a) Marja Bergen : Her blog is Roller Coaster

Marja, from Canada is a writer/photographer with bipolar. She is the author of a book “Riding the Roller Coaster: Living with Mood Disorders” (Northstone, 1999).

I first came across Marja’s article published on the website of CanadianChristianity.com about her illness. I have reproduced her article with her kind permission under “Real Life Testimonies” of my posts. I hope, God willing, one day I can also write a book just like Marja :-)

b) Michelle Ozarks : Her blog is Ozarks sew n' sew

Michelle is from Missouri, United States. I got to know Michelle when she visited my blog and left a comment. Michelle also has bipolar, and when I visited her blog, I found out that she and her husband love to cross-stitch. I enjoy cross-stitch too. Michelle is the most faithful in visiting my blog and commenting on it. Thanks Michelle :-)

c) Desiree Sison : Her blog is Mood Swings

Desiree is from San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines. She has been stuggling with bipolar disorder for the past 15 years. The illness has been a part of her eversince she can remember and she has learned to manage it with the help of medications and counselling, etc. Well done, Desiree :-)

d) Anne : Her blog is Disabled Not Dead

Anne is from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, United States. I got to know Anne through Marja's blog. Anne is a Christian. She has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) since 1976. She volunteers in issues regarding employment discrimination, disability discrimination in workplace and schools, and is the chairwoman of a disabled persons advisory board in local community. Keep up your good works, Anne :-)

e) Merelyme : Her blog is Multiple Synchronicities & Sclerosis

Merelyme is from United States. She is also a MSer. Writing about her life experiences is her main passion. She also loves to read other's life stories. She thrives on creative expression including poetry, photography, and art. Glad you are creative, Merelyme, very much like us with bipolar :-)

f) Amanda : Her blog is My Bipolar Blessing

Amanda is a Canadian. I got to know Amanda when she visited my blog and left a comment. I am glad that Amanda called her blog "My Bipolar Blessing" and able to see blessings in her bipolar. I am learning to do so too :-)

g) Dream Writer : Her blog is Coming Out of the Dark

Dream Writer is from United States. I got to know Dream Writer through Marja's blog. She has been diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder in 2005. She now goes to college as a non-traditional student majoring in Psychology. Her goal is to receive her masters and become a counselor and help within the Mental Health area. Good of you, Dream Writer, to want to be a counselor and help others in the Mental Health area :-) Trust you will be a great blessing to others.

h) Susan Bernard : Her blog is Bipolar Wellness Writer.

Susan is a writer who lives in Los Angeles and she has survived more than 120 bipolar depressions! I am glad that Susan called her blog "Bipolar Wellness Writer" and she prefers to post in a positive way. She knows that the only real hope is to try and achieve wellness rather than dwelling on all the pain and suffering. But she knows it's not always easy. I am also learning to try and achieve wellness so that I can be more functional and useful :-) Do read more about Susan in her comments with this post.

I thank God for His love and mercies to me through all my life, saving me from sins and giving me much spiritual and temporal blessings. And even now in this bipolar condition, He has provided so much help and support, and I can know His love and faithfulness in very special ways daily. Before my diagnosis, I thank God that He has preserved me through some 10 or more relapses of severe depressions. I am thankful for my diagnosis which is helping me to manage my illness better. And I thank God for all my family members, church friends, other friends and my newfound blogging friends - for all the prayers, encouragements, supports and kindness. I pray that I may continue to learn to manage my condition better so that I can be functional and able to serve God and be of maximum benefit to my family, church, friends, fellow bloggers and the society. I thank God for the joy of walking with Him daily and serving Him in small ways, as He enables me. I thank Him that I can serve Him through this blog.

Oops, I hope I don't sound like someone who just won an academy award :-)

Anyway, once again, thanks to all of you! Sorry, if I missed out any names, there's too many for me to put all down here. May God bless all of you :-)

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