Several years ago, the sudden illness and death of his much-loved mother led to an onset of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression in Jeremy Chan’s life. This is his story of battling for control of his life as a great darkness descended.
“Jerry, I want to go home.” I can’t forget the plea in my mother’s voice, although four long years have passed since she was hospitalised for three months in January 2014 at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. She had a persistent fever that would not go away. The doctors could not diagnose her condition nor release her. She wanted badly to go home, but it was safer to remain in hospital.
Since late 2013, my mum, then 79, mysteriously showed signs of extreme tiredness. Once an active, sporty person, she now could not walk more than 10 metres, and dementia was setting in. My wife Janet, cell group and church had been praying incessantly, but nothing changed. I had a busy sales job in a tech MNC, and every day was a mad rush from work to her flat to clean up after her (she was incontinent and refused to wear adult diapers). She and my dad, 83, lived on their own and refused to let us hire a domestic helper for them.
On 13th April 2014, mum was finally diagnosed with a stage four bone marrow cancer so rare it had no known cure. We had one more painful decision to make: either to start her on a very expensive designer drug with no guarantee of full recovery, or to let nature take its course. We decided on the latter and within five days of transferring her to the nearby hospice for palliative care, she went home to the Lord. It was on the Good Friday of 2014. Since then, I have not attended a Good Friday service.
Thereafter, I was stricken with cutting guilt, shame, and condemnation. The torture of coping with the last seven months of my mother’s decline made me angry as I felt God had let me down. Why couldn’t He have intervened to heal my mum?
The Great Darkness
I was so severely affected that my relationships with Janet, the family and people in church began to suffer. No matter what I did, or how much I prayed or read the Word, unbelief set in. I was severely depressed and suicidal. I stopped serving in the worship ministry because I could no longer worship. My daily cry to God was ‘Please, stop the pain.’ My world lost its colour. I woke up every day cloaked in gloom.
I finally visited a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition that led to plunging depths of clinical depression over the next four years. My pace of life literally slowed down, especially my walking speed, a condition known as Post-Motor Retardation (PMR). I was constantly tired and fatigued. What I couldn’t control were the sudden and random flashbacks of indescribable torment and mental anguish. These PTSD symptoms happened sometimes on public transport or at worship services. They were difficult to manage. When these occurred, all I wanted to do, was to run and hide.
My constant lethargy and vacant silence wore Janet’s patience down too. Medicine did not help lift my moods. It took 16 months of different drug prescriptions before the dosages became helpful. Things did not go well in the office too; deals fell apart, and customers delayed orders. I prayed for favour, but nothing changed. My friendships in church became more strained when it became clear that even close friends did not truly understand how imprisoned I was to my thoughts and despair.
I will Soar with You Above the Storm
In 2016, I decided to take no-pay-leave and seek shelter in Tung Ling’s SOM. It was the best decision I had ever made. At SOM, I found a spiritual oasis, a quiet in the storm. I felt God’s love for me like never before, through daily devotions, inspiring teachers, friends, consistent prayer, and new insights every day. One morning at SOM, an intercessor laid hands on me and told me he saw a picture in his mind of Jesus calling me out just like He had called out Lazarus from the grave. The burial clothes fell from me like chains that had been cut.
But just as things were starting to look up, my dad passed away suddenly at age 87 in December that same year. The next year, 2017, was a roller-coaster of mood swings and a battle for control of my mind against the looming darkness.
I, however, continued to pursue spiritual and emotional rest in Him.
Father You are King Over the Flood
In 2017, I discovered the sport of go-karting as a form of therapy to top-up my emotional tank. I also began to meditate on scripture which proclaimed my identity in Christ: that I’m deeply loved, highly favoured, and set apart for Him.
By April 2018, I had weaned off all medication. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I still have intermittent flashbacks, but I am in better control of my emotions. I am grateful to Janet, my wife of 17 years, who never stopped praying and encouraging me, even in the darkest hours. Caregivers in her position need support in what is a very exhausting role.
This year’s theme at SOL is ‘Open.’ Such a welcoming word. It describes my faith that He will reopen doors for me in His time. We cannot, and should not, rush Him. He has already written our names in the Book of Life for those who believe. And therefore, I will be still, and know He is God.
Jeremy Chan (SOM 2016, T2 | SOL 2018)
Bethesda (Bedok-Tampines) Church