A Penan woman carrying her grandchild during a trip to Lusong Laku few months ago.
A Penan woman carrying her grandchild during a trip to Lusong Laku few months ago.
On Sunday morning, I took a walk at a local mall here in my town. There I met two people – two friends, to be exact.
I was coming down from a digital shop where I met a friend. We greeted “Peace be with you”, and I responded the same. I asked her “How are you now?” and she said “I’m in a healing process…” we talked a little while and I had to rush down because my mother was waiting for me downstairs. She lost her husband few weeks ago and is still grieving, but with the support of fellow legionaries and friends, she remained strong.
As I reached the ground floor of the mall, I met another friend, my ex-classmate. Now, she is working at a local university. She said “I’m getting married next Sunday…please do attend my wedding day,”. We talked a little while and we left.
Madam Tiong wore a bedraggled cloth living at a dilapidated house, not far from the town. It was used to be a home. That was more than 10 years ago. People said Madam Tiong was mentally-challenged, others who knew her said she had always been like this. The house, which she lived was abandoned. There was nothing but a mattress, few dirty clothes, few pails, some cooking utensils, a fire place for cooking, if she cooked. She did not live alone; she had a companion. A white dog, without any given name. Cute and tiny female dog. She did very well in protecting her owner though. She barked at strangers, but she knew the bad from good. She belonged inside the house.
There was not much in the house. The door was not locked and it was never locked. The door was made of a rusty zinc roof. The stairs were so steep that it could actually be a ladder than a staircase. The way to the house was to climb up; same thing to go down. Wooden floor could have seen better days. Somebody must had steal those woods because some parts of the floor were missing.
Upon entering the house, on the right what used to be a kitchen and a dining room, now filled with all kinds of junks. Rusty and broken pots, a stove somewhere, plastics, poops. Part of the walls were already gone. Up there was a leaking roof. There was a toilet bowl just in front of the entrance door. Squatting one. Not the kind of the bowl with water and flush in it. This bowl has a hole that looked straight the grass below. It was not front door after all, it was a bathroom. The floor looked like it was about to collapse anytime. There were pictures of her ancestors towards the end of the house. Could hardly believe the empty space was a living room before. Inside her bedroom, there were some instant noodles, can food, biscuits, eggs, rice and many other things. All donated. There on her bedroom wall, just behind the door was her wedding picture.
Oh yes, she was a married woman. Her husband got sick a year ago and died. The house was in fact her husband’s. Her husband used to work odd jobs and was a lazy man. The neighbours knew the couple very well and nobody liked them. They used to steal chicken and vegetables from the neighbours. Now that the husband had died, they looked on her with pity. Every day, they allowed her to help harvest their vegetables; in return, she received free meals. It was a good bargain for her.
Madam Tiong was rather a mysterious woman. Long time ago, she was a wealthy woman, as people said. They said she was married twice and had two children of her own. One she gave up for adoption and one she threw him at the river. The baby drowned. Nobody knew why she did that, and the family rejected her ever since. Nobody knew the authenticity of the story, but people could say anything and believe anything these days.
Madam Tiong lived without water and electricity supply, but she loved to stay there nevertheless. She did not mind taking her bath at the drain and the body smelled as if she needed a bath real bad. No, she did not want to go to homes. She was scared of being bullied. She said she was being bullied before and she did not want that to happen anymore….
Depression is a liar. It will tell you whatever it can to keep you embroiled in the darkness. But there is joy in the light. There is hope in the future. And there is someone loving you every step of the way.
Those were the words that Tina Zahn used, to end her book titled ‘Why I jumped’. On July 19, 2004, Zahn drove over a hundred miles an hour to get to the top of Tower Drive Bridge (now Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge) in Green Bay, Wisconsin. And when she reached there, she jumped two hundred feet below to Fox River. Her life was supposed to end that day, until miracle happened. Just when she took that plunge, a hand grabbed her wrist and she was pulled to safety.
The whole drama was caught on camera and you could actually find the video in Youtube.
Zahn in her book showed her readers what was it like to live in depression, to live as if there was nothing to live for except just trying to survive.
She started her story from the time she was five years old. An innocent, joyful and a carefree kid excited to explore the world. She was going to start school that year, going to make some friends and just be a girl. No. At five years old, all of that shattered and it was the beginning of a living nightmare.
“No, honey. I love you. You know that. I just want to show you how much I love you. How much you mean to me. You love me, don’t you, Tina?”
“Of course you do, and I want to show you how to prove to me that you love me.”
“I’m going to teach you how to love me. I’m going to show you how to please me. But this is going to be our little secret, okay? We’re not going to tell anyone, understand?”
I shook my head. I didn’t understand at all
A victim of sexual abuse, she couldn’t tell anyone, so no one should know. Since that day, all her life was a pain – physically, emotionally and mentally and she spent years hiding that pain that it became a never-ending cycle for her.
As a kid, she fear of being at home and the only safe haven was her grandparents house in Michigan. In her life, she made one bad decision after another – which led to many hurtful events. She was being betrayed, had two abortions, and since then, was haunted by the fact that she had killed two lives; she was also physically unwell and was diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD).
For years, she tried to ignore the pain, trying to bury them beneath the surface but they came crawling back. Because no should know. She stop speaking up for herself, she worked to the point of exhaustion, and because her fear of rejection, she pretended to be the person she believed other people wanted and expected of her to be. In short, she was very good in pleasing – seeking to be loved. She was no longer in control of her life and the whole time, she was miserable.
She had medication, she was very active in church, but soon, she lost that richness of spirituality. Her PPD worsened after the birth of her second child. Zahn was trying to get well, her family was trying to help her to get well. When nothing seemed to work she was convinced that there was no hope left for her to get better, that the pain in her life would be never-ending. She concluded that there was only one option; death.
I needed to end the pain somehow. I just wasn’t sure how to accomplish it. The medications weren’t helping. If anything, they seemed to make things worse. I couldn’t form thoughts, couldn’t get my brain cells to function through the heavy blanket of medication to create opinions or speech. I was just a lifeless “thing” – breathing but worthless. I knew everyone would be better off if I were dead. It would end my misery and relieve their burden.
She had one thing in her mind – plunging off a 200-foot bridge.
I had to make it to the bridge. If I could make it to the bridge, the pain would stop. I just had to make it to the bridge, the pain would stop. I just had to make it to the bridge, and the hopelessness would end.
It came refrain, running over and over in my head as I raced down the highway: make it to the bridge, and the pain will end.
As mentioned, the suicide was failed, but what came after the suicide attempt was her courage to step into the light of grace. As the suicide failed, she decided to overcome and be a victor – she was a victim no more. Her road to healing started when she finally faced her past, learning to forgive and most of all she realized that there is hope.
That she was able to rise above the depression, to accept love and to be loved just the way she is. However, it wasn’t going to be easy, healing takes time and her part was not to give up. She could not give up. She was blessed with a loving husband, loving friends who cared and prayed for her in times of needs and most of all, a realization that God is there. There were times she sunk back to depression but this time, she knew how to get back up again.
“We don’t come back from depression alone, which is why depression can be so difficult. It convinces you that no one cares, that no one understands, and that there is no hope. The truth is people do care, and even when they don’t understand, they still love you. And the truth is, there is hope.
Zahn did not write this book so that people would feel sorry for her. Rather it was a message of hope. She wanted to tell to people especially those who are suffering depression that if she can make it through all the traumas, everyone can.
Why I jumped is a book that I picked up at a Catholic bookstore about a week ago. I think Zahn was very courageous to actually come out and talk about her suicide attempt and to really share her story to the world. I had never heard of Tina Zahn until this book. After I found out, I searched her video in YouTube, and I think my heart almost stopped when I saw her jumped.
Being a person who never been through all these and could actually see life differently, I didn’t always understand why some people would rather give up something so precious than to think it through. Reading this book, it didn’t just open my mind but my heart as well. I think it is a good book for people to understand what would make someone want to do like Zahn did. And this book also goes out to those who is suffering from depression. Just as Tina Zahn said, there is hope.
I also would like to share this (Tell Your Heart To Beat Again by Danny Gokey):
Just let that word wash over you
It’s alright now
Love’s healing hands have pulled you through
So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
Cause your story’s far from over
And your journey’s just begun
How could you face a friend? That despite the childhood that we spent, The memories that we shared, We are strangers today. How is it possible for us to meet each other in the eye? Only what comes between us is shy. There was no smile. Is it a way that we wave our friendship goodbye? How can I face you my friend? When the last thing I want to do is judge, But stand for what is just, I guess the hardest thing to do right now is trust. Handcuffed? Camera? Many pictures I took, Those of the accused, But of the one that is you, No, that I could not do. Hiding, Avoiding, That is what we do, For it is better than pretending not to look. For how do you face a friend? Whose life had become a mess, All that left was the hope to mend, But, how could I be so judging? Many friends you had lost, You might be miserable, You might be stressed, You might be trying, You might be crying, For you, I’ll be praying.
This is especially for Elisha, who requested more pictures. Lucky you I found some of the photos. Not the best, but I’ll put it up anyway just for you. All the best for your upcoming concert.
Check out some of the Flame Ballet i posted in 2012.