Jaryl pray FEATURE

Drawing close to God and affirming his identity in Christ has helped Jaryl Wee remain resilient in the face of mental health challenges. Photo courtesy of Jaryl Wee.

With his tousled hair and easy grin, Jaryl Wee looks every bit the self-assured youth on the cusp of adulthood. But he has not always had an easy time in life.

He was an orphan in Myanmar when his Singapore parents met him for the first time in an orphanage.

“When they saw me, they were like, ‘We are supposed to adopt this baby.’ They didn’t know why they had such a strong conviction.”

But as Jaryl grew up, he often felt he was being compared unfavourably to others. The expectations he thought others had of him affected him so much that it “caused a lot of lack of confidence”.

Jaryl was so overwhelmed by panic that he once ran away from home. Photo courtesy of Jaryl Wee.

Things came to a head one day when he was in polytechnic. By then, he was already leading a Christian ministry, Poly Revival, in his school. The Christian student-led network aims to inspire generations to live authentically for Jesus.

“I woke up one morning and I had such an anxiety in my heart. I had a mini panic attack. Then, I had a complete mental breakdown and I ran away from home because I didn’t know what to do,” said the final-year polytechnic student.

It was at this lowest point of his life that God met him.

The expectations he thought others had of him affected him so much that it “caused a lot of lack of confidence”.

Jaryl shared his experience on the episode of Salt&Light Family Night (November 29) dedicated to the topic of building resilience in the family. With him on the panel were Margaret Ong and Dr Joseph Leong.

In Margaret’s case, she had cared for her husband for 14 years since he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. After years of managing his delusions and hallucinations which often resulted in erratic behaviour, she had to make the painful decision of committing him to long-term care at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). Medication was just not working for him. Worse still, he was suffering from their negative side effects. She has since written two books chronicling her journey and gives talks on being resilient.

Dr Leong is a senior consultant psychiatrist with Promises Healthcare. He worked at IMH since 2000 and has helped many with serious mental health issues, guiding them through life transitions, troubles and trials. Dr Leong is known for his warmth and exceptional, active listening skills. Using talk therapy, psycho-social rehabilitation and community partnerships, he has helped many recover, even those who have suffered the greatest setbacks.

Dr Joseph Leong believes that recovery from mental illness is possible for all. Photo courtesy of Dr Joseph Leong.

Some 100-odd viewers gathered on this last edition of Salt&Light Family Night. These were the tips the three panellists shared about building resilience from within.

1. Revel in God’s love

What sent Jaryl into a tailspin of despair was self-doubt. Negative comments about him made him question if he was really called to head the polytechnic ministry.

“Don’t you dare tell me your life is without purpose. Look at how I have brought you up and raised you to be in Singapore.”

“I told God, ‘I don’t think You have a great purpose for me. Why do You ask me to walk with young people? I’m so incapable. I’m a disgrace.’”

But God reminded him of his adoption story which had him “crying for hours and hours” because that was when he really understood the love of God.

“I had read Psalm 139:13-14 and Jeremiah 1:5, and how God knows us before we are born. I knew that in my head. But when the story of my adoption came to me, I broke down and cried.

“This is the love of God over my life. It was like God was saying, ‘Don’t you dare tell me your life is without purpose. Look at how I have brought you up and raised you to be in Singapore. You have a purpose.’

“That brought me so much hope. Now I can say I am His child, I am His beloved son whom He loves and cares for. It is from that place of identity that God brought me to a place of starting to be resilient in these mental struggles.”

2. Be still with God 

Another way Jaryl remains resilient is by quieting his soul so that negative remarks do not weigh him down.

“We may not feel we are qualified to be His son. But God in His word calls you His son.”

“The struggle is a daily one. We do so much. But God sometimes just wants us to be. To be His son, to be His daughter and just to stay there.”

He does this by constantly meditating on God’s Word regarding his identity in Christ, especially Romans 8:14-17.

“We may not feel we are qualified to be His son. But God in His word calls you His son. When I recognise that …” he trailed off in awe.

For Jaryl who was once an orphan, this adoption into God’s family is something he understands well.

“People are going to say what they are going to say. There’s going to be criticisms. If our identity is not in who Jesus says we are, it’s a weak identity.”

3. Build your relationship with God

Said Margaret: “One of the pillars that helped me build resilience is growing my spiritual faith. I have to get closer to God because I am so overwhelmed by problems daily and by unpleasant surprises confronting me all the time.”

Over the years, she has learnt to build in a rhythm of reading the Bible and praying that has helped her strengthen her relationship with God.

4. Push through your own negativity

When her husband began exhibiting disturbing behaviour as a result of his schizophrenic delusions, Margaret refused to let fear of being stigmatised get to her.

Despite losing her husband to schizophrenia, Margaret has chosen to see purpose in her pain. Photo courtesy of Margaret Ong.

Instead of hiding him away in case he acted up, they went out as a family. She even took him with her to work events abroad.

“I want to turn my struggle into meaning and serve God’s mission for me.”

“My kids were concerned. They asked me, ‘Aren’t you afraid that Dad will act out? What are you going to do?’

“I tell them, ‘I am surrounded by mature people. If I reach that point, I will explain about Dad’s illness.

“I rely on God to ensure that everything will be well.’”

When her two sons saw that their father had gone on several trips without incident, their confidence was built up and they felt freer to invite select friends home.

“If he acted up, we treated it as a symptom of his illness beyond his control. It’s not him. My kids learnt through that.”

5. See a deeper purpose

Believing that “there must be a greater meaning and purpose” in her struggles has helped Margaret weather the adversities.

“I want to turn my struggle into meaning and serve God’s mission for me.”

In the hope of doing this, she has written two books on her journey as a caregiver: One Husband, Two Men and Still My Husband.

“If I can impact the life of one person who benefits from my experience, I would have served God’s purpose.”

6. Remember God’s faithfulness

Dr Leong added that remembering positive experiences is very important.

“Keep a spiritual diary to remember God’s faithfulness in your own life.”

When life overwhelms, looking back on how God has pulled you through can give much hope.

7. Submit and surrender

Finally, submit and surrender to God. This will free us from the burdens of adversity.

“The most powerful prayer is the prayer of powerlessness. It is not that I am strong but God is strong.”

Said Dr Leong: “Then, we can find that rest and recovery because God will take care of us.

“He said, ‘Come to Me all who are weary and I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11:28-30)

“We always talk about being stronger. But for me, my God is great and He will rescue me from all my troubles.

“He tells us, ‘My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). It is not that I am strong but God is strong.

“The most powerful prayer is the prayer of powerlessness. There is nothing I can do but I trust You have been faithful in Your Word. I recall all Your faithfulness in my life through trials, troubles and tribulations.”

This report is Part 1 of the Salt&Light Family Night episode: How do I build resilience in my family?

Look out for Part 2 coming up soon.

A full recording of this episode will be available at the end of next week. You can watch past episodes of Salt&Light Family Night on our YouTube channel here.


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“The love of Christ helped me fall in love with my husband all over again”: She cared for her husband with schizophrenia for 14 years

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About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told, which led to a career in MediaCorp News. Her idea of a perfect day involves a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.