Actually, besides medication, counselling / talk therapy / psychotherapy / Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is one of the most important tools for a person with bipolar or depression to get well. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which is a form 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.
Through CBT, I do realize that I have quite a number of character traits and faulty thought patterns which might have contributed or aggravated my relapses. I will share more about it in my next post on the topic “Correcting my false thoughts”.
I am also quite a perfectionist which means my expectation of myself can be rather high, and indirectly I stressed myself up unknowingly. I am also not an assertive person. I have problem saying “no”. So I also put myself through a lot of difficulties or take on more than I can handle. I used to have difficulty relaxing or taking breaks. In some sense, I am a workaholic. I am also fulfilling the role of care-givers in quite a number of context, and having little respite. All of the above or the combinations of some of these, could well have weakened my body and mind, and lead to the relapses of clinical depressions.
At the moment, I am not seeing any professional counsellers. I do seek my Pastor’s counsel and some other friends or family members’ counsels when necessary. I also read books and internet articles to understand my condition better and how best to manage it. Thank God that there are a lot of resources available on the internet. One such website is Bipolar and Depression Support Alliance which has very useful information on symptoms, treatment, resources, etc etc.
When I was first diagnosed with depression in January 2007, I have benefitted from a group of counsellors at Counselling and Care Centre, Singapore. I am thankful to God for providing me with a team of very compassionate, kind, understanding and encouraging Christian counsellors who are trained to manage bipolar, depression, OCD and other brain condition. My time with my counsellor, Sarah, was most meaningful and useful. Sarah and her team were helping me to trace the history of my relapses in the past 18 years which I could remember better, the possible causes of them so that I can learn to manage my illness better. That was actually a journey of self-discovery, of knowing God, myself and others better. Each session with Sarah and her team have yielded some positive results. Accumulatively, these knowledge of self and God’s mercies in them, are changing my life in many wonderful ways. Thank God! My counselling session ended in April 2007 when Sarah who was a trainee at that Centre completed her training. I am deeply indebted to Sarah for the help that she has rendered to me. They have been invaluable to me as I journey on.
I have tried out some other counsellors and am, in particular, indebted to Dr Spencer Lee and Yvonne Ying of Association of Christian Counsellors of Singapore for their valuable helps for some weeks in July and August 2007. They are most compassionate and helpful.
The above counsellors are all trained in cognitive behavioural therapy, etc and they have been helping many people who suffer from depression, bipolar and other mental illnesses. The reasons why I sought their help, besides receiving pastoral counselling from my Pastor, was because I needed someone who understands mental illness and therefore able to help me to manage my illness and symptoms. I am thankful to God for providing them at such times when I needed them the most.
Now I am not seeing any of these professional counsellors but just receiving pastoral counsellings from my Pastor, elders and brethren in my church. I am learning to look to God and use other available means too ie reading God’s Words, prayers, medications, regular exercise, Omega-3 fish oil supplements, learning to manage stressful situations in my life, learn to pace myself more slowly and realistically, learn to take breaks and to relax whenever necessary, etc.
I have written 2 emails to Sarah and a tribute to her as follows:
Warm greetings to you in the name of our merciful Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ!
Just a short note to thank you and your team for the help and support you are giving me as I seek the Lord’s guidance to understand and manage my condition better. I really appreciate what you are doing to help me. Your sincerity and warmth really touched my heart. Though we have met only for 3 sessions so far, I thank God that I have been helped by every one of the session. I appreciate what we have been able to discuss so far and the way you & your team are helping me to see things from a different angle. I am learning to be more thankful daily!
I thank God for His goodness and mercies in leading me to your centre and placing me under you and your team. The care and helpfulness of all of you and the other staffs at your centre really impressed me. Thank God for using all of you to help me and others who are in need of help.
May God continue to use you, your team and all the staff at Counselling and Care Centre for His glory. May all of you continue to be used in many wonderful ways to help others and especially God’s suffering people. I am praying for all of you too.
Many thanks again for your enthusiasm to help me and your prayers. It is one of the factors that gives me a lot of encouragement and motivation to come for the sessions. I thank God for you. May you continue to serve our Lord joyfully and faithfully for His glory.
Wish you and your family a blessed Chinese New Year.
With sincere thanks & prayers,
15 February 2007
Sarah’s reply to me:
Warm greetings to you too in the name of our loving and gracious Saviour, Lord Jesus!
Thank you very much for your lovely, thoughtful and heartwarming email. I am touched by your gracious gesture. It is a privilege to be used by God to extend His presence for His precious ones. And you’ve been a great joy to come alongside with. I thank God too for you and for giving me this privilege.
I am greatly encouraged to hear that you have been helped through our sessions. Your words give me impetus to continue and persevere in the work with and for others in the offering of presence and support .
Thank you for praying for us and your continual prayer support is much appreciated. Glad to hear that you have experienced the help of prayers. Indeed, our Lord is the source and the enabler of all we do. All praise and glory to Him!
I shall relay your email to my team. I am sure each one will be encouraged by your words.
Wishing you and your family a Blessed Chinese New Year too.
With grateful thanks and prayers
21 February 2007
Thanks for your kind and encouraging reply! Glad that the email has encouraged you. Thank God.
May you and your colleagues continue to press on in the good work that you are doing for God’s glory. I know your work can be very difficult and draining at times. I am glad you work in a team and can discuss and pray with your colleagues. Do take care and may our Lord continue to bless your labours in Him. May you continue to find much joy in helping and supporting others.
Looking forward to see you again soon on Monday, 26th Feb 2007 for our next session! Trust our Lord will continue to bless our time together. Many thanks again for all your help and support.
“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” Hebrews 6:10
“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9
16 April 2007 was my last session with my Counsellor, Sarah because she has ended her training attachment and will be returning to her actual work. I am grateful to God for placing me under Sarah’s care for the last 3 months (since 29 January 2007). I would like to express my deep appreciation and gratefulness to Sarah for helping me to embark on a new journey in my life which is changing my life and my relationships with God and the people in my life in many wonderful ways. Sarah, I will never never forget you. I thank God always for you. I hope you get to read this Tribute I have written especially for you. May God bless and keep you.
Warm greetings to you in the name of our beloved Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ!
Thanks once again for your prayers, listening ears, counsels and encouragements. I have learnt much from our sessions together in the last 3 months. Thank you for your willingness to help me and to go along this journey of self-discovery with me. I will forever thank and praise God for you and your team in the way our Lord is wonderfully using you to help me.
I am thankful to God for causing our paths to cross in such a wonderful way at Counselling and Care Centre during your training sessions there. Surely this is not by coincidence but by God’s providence that I should be seeking help at this particular point of time and you should be under attachment there.
I am grateful to God for hearing my prayers and provided someone like you who is very gentle, caring, sympathetic and encouraging to be my Counsellor. You always see something positive and encouraging that God is doing in all my difficult trials. You constantly seek to help me to see the many mysterious outworking of our faithful God, Who loves us dearly and gave His Son for us, in the various paths I have gone through in the past or are going through now. You have helped me to discover some faulty patterns in my thoughts and feelings which have affected my life and various relationships for so many years. Thanks for slowly helping me to recognise these faulty thought patterns, and change these faulty ways of thinking to more biblical ways, by God’s grace. These are beginning to have such tremendous effects on my life, my relationship with God and others around me. I am thankful to God for providing such a help in you and your willingness to walk through this difficult journey with me. By God’s grace, each session yields some positive outcome. Accumulatively, these new discoveries of self and God’s mercies in them, is beginning to change my life in many wonderful ways. I do look forward to each session with you because I get to know myself better each time, can see more clearer God’s love, mercies and faithfulness and am enabled to improve in my relationships with various people, and also learning to improve in managing the various challenges in my life. Thank God for His mercies and faithfulness!
I trust that when you return to your actual work environment, God will continue to use you to be a blessing to others in need just like the way you have been to me. I have no doubt at all that they will be blessed as I am in their acquaintance with you. You are a very special person who is always gentle, kind, encouraging, uplifting, full of faith and hopeful in the Lord. I will never never forget you and hopefully, by the grace of God, will never forget the precious lessons I am now learning through our sessions together too.
Thank you for sharing my joy and sorrows as I recounted my past history to you. I could sense the deep anguish and pain you feel for me in all my sorrows and trials, and also your delight and joy with me in all my joy. I felt very privilege that you cared for me in this way and I thank God for your kind friendship. It is a tremendous source of strength and support to me in this difficult trial. I know you are praying with me and I want to encourage you, as well as give praise and Glory to God, for His faithfulness and mercies by assuring you that the Lord in His faithfulness is strengthening me each day as I look to Him. Thanks for helping me to identify some of the possible causes of the relapses of my illness and discuss with me how I can better manage them. The many precious lessons we have learnt together in the past months is helping me now to cope better with my illness, with the various challenges in my life, and improve in my relationship with God, my church, my family and people around me. Praise God!
It was hard for me to say goodbye to you yesterday, being our last session together but I know it was necessary in God’s sovereign plan for us. I wish we can remain as friends and keep in touch always. But as you have explained to me that due to some professional ethics, yours and my contacts have to be restricted to this centre and as yesterday was our last session together, our contacts have to terminate there too. I hope I will get to meet you again one day, if God wills, on this earth or if not then, by His mercies, in Heaven when we both see our Lord face to face.
Please take care. I will remember you in my prayers always. May God keep you in His loving care always and bless you in all your various callings. May He continue to make you a blessing and encouragement to His suffering children.
With sincere thanks and prayers,
17 April 2007
Contact Information for Counselling Helps
i) Counselling & Care Centre
Block 536 Upper Cross Street
#05-241 Hong Lim Complex
Tel: (65) 6536-6366
Fax: (65) 6536-6356
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Webwsite : www.counsel.org.sg
ii) Association of Christian Counsellors of Singapore
c/o 422-A Telok Blangah Road
Singapore 098848 (Near Grace Methodist Church)
Tel: 6274-7480 Fax: 62760024
My Coping Strategies:
4a. ExerciseCorrecting faulty thoughts patterns