The Books that Save Me
I am a girl. I am a daughter. I am a student. Beyond all that, I have a secret. A secret that lies within the library books, a secret which is a stigma yet a power which made me be a better person. As a little girl, I would be immersed in the words of Dahl, Wilson and Blyton. My imaginations of these childhood fantasies were vivid and real, one thing books does to me is that it makes me calm. I have not realized the danger of my imagination.
It began on a rainy day; I did not get what I wanted. Suffice to say, it made me upset. My imaginations in this case were a danger for my mental and physical state. Thoughts came rushing in my mind, pulling me away from reality. It was a deep and dark moment. I did not wake up for school. I did not want to meet people. I was alone and scared of slipping away into the depths of abyss. My parents were worried. They did not know what to do with their beloved only child.
As the rationality of her mind was overshadowed by her imagination, she turned to a safe haven where she could unleash all her disappointments and shame in the place where she could call home, the library. Here she learned about the power of books in shaping and correcting her imagination. She stumbled upon the book “Unquiet Mind”. She read this book about a psychiatrist who had mental illness. She did not know what she had then, but somehow she could relate and be comforted that at least in the world, there was someone who felt like she had, hopeless and going crazy, for there was no end in the voices inside her head.
Her grades were falling. She had fewer friends. No one would like to approach her because she was so gloomy. Her family tried to help but they could not understand why she was like this. She could not stop the feeling of being trapped in darkness. She could not stop her mind from racing with negative thoughts. But alas, all she could do was go to that safe haven, the library. Again, she found solace and comfort in books. The smell of paper, the crispness, the texture, everything about a book makes her calm and seem to relax her. She read C.S Lewis in “Mere Christianity” and learned that above all, there is someone there, someone greater than all of us, looking over her.
I am in my car. The sun shone on my head and I feel comforted. I do not know why but I feel that the books I have been reading are like speaking to me. It made me realize that however bad it may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed that, quoted from the book “Theory of Everything” by Jane Hawkings. I had lost hope. I thought no one would understand how I feel, how trapped I feel. Books are like a friend to me. They speak to me when I read, it is a two-way street, and it is interactive. How can I explain what books are like to me? It is just like love on a sunny day eating ice cream.
Then again, this girl became upset again. Her thoughts poison her very soul. She was desperate to seek new hope in her despair. She happen to stumble on the passage in Psalm 88, it exactly resembles her state of mind and soul. The book spoke to her, it gave her comfort and made her realize one thing. There are many people in the world that suffered like her. She thought that she was the only one who is suffering.
Everyday, this girl goes to the library after classes. Because not only did she gain comfort, she acquired the thing called friendship. It changed her perspective in life, and allowed her to accept who she is, despite her failures and weaknesses. The books told her indirectly to love and appreciate herself, and not to look at her suffering as though it is the worst thing that happened in the world, because let’s face it, there are many people who suffered more.
I am back again to the library. I do not know why, but now my thoughts stopped racing. They seem to flow like the water, I accept my thoughts but I am not again alarmed by my imagination. I learned that imagination is a wake-up call to my conscience, which leads me back to sanity. Though sometimes I feel upset, it does not drag me away from life. I fell down and got back up again. I could not say whether those books are God’s way of talking to me, but I learned one thing from these books, that God has a good plan for those who believe in Him. Whatever He plans, it is the best of us, even though sometimes He allows suffering to happen in order for good to come out of that.
This girl has grown beyond measures. She has learned to identify her suffering with the suffering of others. She has learned that even after a tragic event, people can still succeed in what they do. She has learned that despite all, God is there. What all of you may not realize is that, she has depression. It is now common among teenagers to experience that. However, some teenagers never recover from that state. She is lucky enough to have advices coming from the books in the library that brought light into her life. Books are written words and ideas from different kinds of people. She learned from these various authors the value of accepting yourself and despite of having difficulties, to have hope. Beyond those pages of books, she knew in her heart that someone, up there was watching over her. For being able to show her that sufferings are part of life, and for showing that she is loved, she learned to be kind to herself, throughout it all, the library was her sanctuary, the books were her mentors, but above all He is overseeing things to happen, He made her read those books, and He made her realize that she was valuable beyond measure.
Women and charities are interrelated. Based on a study by Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the University of Indiana, women are as much as 40% likely to donate than men. (TIME, Newcomb, 2011) Women are sympathetic. Therefore, they tend to donate to the organizations they feel strongly about. One of the main organizations is the mental health organization created by women. WISH is a mental health charity founded in 1987 in the UK. They provide services to women at prisons or hospitals and help them come back into the community. The stigma about women getting sick and becoming mentally ill is an issue. More mental health conference are held, one of them is lead by International Association for Women’s Mental Health.
Imagine the pain and rejection these women have to endure. There is the ridicule and mocking from their peers regarding their disability. What if you have a friend or a family that is mentally ill? There must be a support system in the society. It may be through either support groups, psychiatrists, counselors, family or close friends. There is not much awareness and information raised about mental health in Indonesia. We rarely see people with mental health issues being embraced and accepted in society. There is a harsh sentiment around this issue and they treat mental illness as if it is a disease. That is why there is a need for more compassionate and sensitive people to care for these people.
Another scenario is when a teenage girl undergoes depression. Who can understand what she is feeling? Many of these girls feel like there is no end to this black cloud and they cannot seem to get out of it. Talking to the counselors may help but they are just there to advise you. It is up to you to make the decision to get better. The counselors are not there 24/7. Young girls grow to become teenagers and teenagers become adult who will soon become mothers. Indonesia should understand how important mental health is and create centers for women who need support and encouragement when they are mentally ill. Is it not important to have a stable woman in the family (as they are mothers whom which children look to)? Would they not lead better and meaningful lives? It is an issue that is still sensitive. More people should take the stand and contribute to the growing sector of the mentally ill women.
(This article was published in Student Globe in 2013)
Student Globe is Jakarta Globe’s sister company.
As I ponder to myself, I am not focused on my goals. I have so many different plans. Essentially, all I want to be is a success. Going to Ivy League schools, working in top-tier firms, getting lots of money. But I realised that is not what is important, my focus in life is to build my character and to be able to serve others through the talent I have. Whatever I do, whatever I achieve, I hope to contribute to society.
You can make plans, but if it does not succeed, do not lose hope. Maybe some things do not happen the way you want it to, but know that, whatever happens, essentially it is for our growth and character building. I realised that I do have high expectations, and that is good, because it is what drives me to push through the hard times, but I also reflected on this, and think again, that I have to lower my expectations so it will be realistic. What I am capable of, what my experience is, what skills I have and connect it to which dream school I could apply. If I do not get into the schools I applied to the US, I would not be upset, because nevertheless, I am a work in progress. I have achieved more than what my teachers, friends, and parents expected. It may not be much to the world’s calibre because the world has a certain definition of success: to go to an Ivy League school, have lots of money, be a slim figure, have a good career and so on. At least, I managed to finish high school and law school. That is my biggest accomplishment to date.
I do not have to be down because of rejection. Rejection is another word for failure, and failure is another way to success. If you keep pushing through and keep going on when you fail, and try again, you will ultimately reach success. Perseverance in adversity, is important. Whatever I experience in this life makes me learn, that failure, success, ups and downs shapes me to be a unique individual. Everyone experiences that also, and I believe every person in this world is unique.
In regards to people, there are some people who are rejected by society. The mentally ill, the sick, the poor, all those are not accepted in society. But we as human beings, must learn to accept these people. They are in their situation right now because of circumstances that happen. Aside from my desires to succeed, I have a yearning to help these people. I do not know what specific legal field I have to be in to help these people, and how I am going to utilise my other talents like music and art to be a blessing to these people. But I know He has a plan for my life, and I want to follow whatever He decides for my life.
To close, ambition itself is good, but do not get carried, and do not be upset when rejected. Ultimately, His plan is the best plan for each of us, it will help us to love Him and love others more, and also build ourselves to be more like Him.
As the saying goes… the grass is always greener on the other side. I used to like to compare to other people. Be it compare myself with their intelligence, material wealth, physical beauty. Those action of comparison may lead to jealousy and envy. What I learned is that comparison does not make you any happier… it just makes you more bitter. It may push you to achieve things but what is the pursue of all things with no end? I am still learning not to compare… what I did was realise how blessed I am and start being grateful for what I have. It is hard to be grateful when you have been through something difficult…but each breath counts. Each individual has unique talents and portions. If these individuals focus on their wellbeing, they can achieve things; whilst if you keep comparing with other people, how are you going to focus on your path and achieve what you were planned to do? Comparison is the thief of joy. Joy can come in being satisfied in your current situation, be it in hard circumstances or easy circumstances, knowing that God has everything planned for good for those He loves and that He will finish the good work in us.
Amidst all the pain and suffering, this verse reminds me to focus on God’s love. What He did for me at the cross. All my guilt and shame, sins, He took it upon Himself, that I may be clothed in Christ. It was not easy to accept God loving me a first because I asked myself, ‘How could God love a broken person such as myself?’ But I have no right to question that and in His mercy and grace, He showed me He truly loved me and accept me as I am. As God regards me as an apple of His eyes, He leads me beside quite waters. I used to question God’s love because He did not give me what I want but as the Bible says His ways are higher than ours and God knows best what is good for me. To focus on God’s love is to give thanks to Him and to trust Him that He who started the good work on us will finish it until completion.
In regards to endurance. Christ endured trials and suffering because of us. We can be strong in Him because He gives us strength in times of need. He who endured temptation will help guide our hearts to turn away from evil and put the enemy under our heel. And we ought to run with endurance the race that lies before us. And let us be confident in the end and boldly declare ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’
Smart is useless if we don’t have the discipline. I realised that now. For instance, if we try to achieve things without caring for our basic needs, we will be sick. Discipline to exercise, to have a healthy body is also difficult. Another thing is spiritual discipline for those religion where you ought to read the Bible and pray everyday. Reading the Bible ought not to be as a means of getting God’s approval but it is to deepen our relationship to Him and be renewed in our thinking also to be able to discern what is right and wrong. Years of wrong thinking or believing something negative about yourself can make you defensive, frustrated, lethargic. It is then also important to take the time to meditate, to reduce the chatter in the mind. Currently, I am doing what I enjoy, starting again, to draw and paint, which is also a discipline when setting aside time for it and to practice it. In addition, I am also preparing for my studies in class, reading bit by bit to finish my law books and supplementary materials.
One thing everyone has to do is to get up early, which is also a discipline! Setting aside time to do routine, quiet time, shower, breakfast, do art, music, writing, and studying. Keeping consistent while focusing on the goal of finishing my Master of Laws at University of Sydney. It requires effort to unlearn all the negatives in me, and starting to practice the good habits. However so, I am learning to do it step by step to reach the goal until the end when I finish the race in this lifetime.
Anger. Where does it come from? It may be due to the feeling of unfairly treated, frustrations, unfulfilled expectations… For instance, tired of studying and not getting results… tired of losing weight because it is hard to control food intake. Frustration because of the feeling of getting nowhere, and being in a place where you are stuck and unable to be productive. Unfulfilled expectation where you expect that person to do something for you but it did not happen.
In James 1:19,20 it says , “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
When we feel angry, we tend to not listen to other people, talk back and burst in anger. The words of truth says in relation to anger, we should listen first on what that person has to say, process it and take time to speak, and control our anger. How do we do that?
In the continuing verses, in James it is said, that we could refrain from sinning in anger by reading the word of God. As we are embraced in the truth, we begin to see what God wants…
Maybe we are so tired and weary that we become frustrated and angry… God says in Matthew 11:28-30,”Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In our anger and tiredness, turn to Jesus and learn from him to be humble (realising we need help from God and not our own power) and gentle (strength in control: emotions under control) by walking in step with him. That is the way to lead a life with no burdens and have a peaceful life with anger in control.
The song “Pribadi yang mengenal hatiku” is the title of my post. God knows… God understands what you are going through.. He knows the emotion you are feeling.. He knows your anger, frustrations, disappointments, presumptions. Basically, he created you in your mother’s womb, knows the number of your hair…and he loves you dearly. You are the apple of his eye.
In Psalm 42:11 really describes my emotion in the past few days. “Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Saviour and my God.” Negative thoughts overwhelm me and the presumptions I had of myself came back and made me angry and frustrated again.
When the lies keep coming, negativity arises… God reminds me, despite the turmoils in my soul & emotion, God understands… Put your hope in Him, friends… He will not disappoint… The presuppositions you had that you are not good enough for anything, God sees you as something precious in Christ. He will use you in great ways once you start accepting and believing what He says…
To close, let this verse remind you of God’s goodness in all circumstances. “In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul”-Psalm 94:19 KJV. When I have so much worries that they overcome me… When I feel stress and anger building up my throat. You alone Lord gives me comfort and peace. Your truth and promises release me from these burdens… Your comfort brings me joy and peace. Worries becomes peace.
How to know if you are a child of God? How to be sure of salvation? How to know when the Holy Spirit is sealed upon you? Only God knows because He chooses the ones He loves and is pleased with.
What then can we do about our journey of faith? Truly, people who is chosen before the beginning of the world will create fruits. But what if we do not see fruits? It is a process, a lifetime process of growing into a tree and bearing fruits. In Galatians 5:22, the Bible says: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” It is the fruit not fruits, so all of it has to be present.
So then, when we are baptised are we actually reborn? How are we certain we have the promise to be called His children.. When someone is being reborn, it is true to believe that, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” as stated in 2 Corinthians 5:17. In Galatians 3:27, “For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.”
Only God has the omniscience to decide who He will choose and glorify with Him. Then we must also work our salvation with seriousness as in Philippians 2:12-13. Then, isn’t faith enough? What you meant by that is only knowledge faith, but true faith births love which then focuses us to have the thinking and feeling of God which produces action which pleases God. So friends, let us not lose hope on this faith journey, on becoming closer and closer to God, and to love Him more and by loving Him with our action towards Him, others and ourselves.