Schizophrenic Episode: Seeking Religious Help With Schizophrenia

April – May 2013

Since that day my family came frantically looking for me at Singapore Botanic Gardens to bring me home
I was taken to visit different religious places
After hearing my woes of hearing voices
Feelings of being possessed
Or being chased by evil spirits

My father said to me
There’s nothing to be afraid of
As long as you did not do anything wrong or anything against your conscience
You don’t have to be scared of those things
And then he also said
Sometimes we get too stressed
Our brain suddenly goes haywire
Like an electrical circuit
Somewhere in my brain
Some wires might have fused and broken
We just need to fix it

Been to an old lady’s house a few times
Who my father said was a medium
I remembered the first night we visited
She gave my father a stack of incense papers
And instructed him to go back home and chant a few things and perform a small ritual around me before burning them
He did exactly what he was told
After he left our house to burn the incense papers downstairs
I sat on my bed feeling a burning sensation on my chest
As if my heart was also burning in the fire along with the incense papers
How scared I was
And then my father came back after he was done
He said as soon as the incense papers finished burning
A mysterious swirl of wind came to take them away
He quickly left, not looking back
Subsequent visits to the medium’s place
She said I looked much better
But why deep inside I still feel depressed
Why I still hear voices
Still so scared

Been to a Buddhist temple a few times
There was a Thai monk residing there who did prayers for people who would come to seek him for help
My father brought me to him
Everytime he prayed and chanted for me
I kneeled in front of him
With my palms together in front of my chest
Holding a string around my hands connecting to his
My upper body involuntarily rocking lightly back and forth
As I listened to the “hidden words” amongst the continuous strings of his incomprehensible chants
Everytime he finished
He said I would be fine
One particular time
My father had asked him if it would be okay and safe for me given my condition to travel to Vietnam for holiday with my friend during the upcoming summer break
(original plan was to travel to Vietnam before it was eventually changed to Fukuoka)
The monk looked at me knowingly
He assured
Don’t have to worry
This “one” is very strong
It will protect you
What did he mean??
Did he think that I already knew there was a spirit who had been protecting me all along?
But why deep inside I still feel depressed
Why I still hear voices
Still so scared

Been to a church once
Somewhere my father’s friend recommended him to take me to after hearing about my situation
But it wasn’t exactly a church
More like some counselling place for Christians, I think
Located at the second floor of an old building which I vaguely remembered my father told me used to be a cinema
There were many rooms with some other youths sitting outside on the chairs
Like a clinic waiting to see a doctor
My father and I went into one of the rooms
There were a couple of counsellors (or should I call them pastors?) sitting behind a table across the room
We sat down on the chairs facing them
Like having a job interview
They asked me questions
And I answered
Telling them that I had been hearing voices
That I had been chased by evil spirits
Do you think they are here in this room with us now?
They asked
I looked around
Slight crinkling sounds on the walls or windows
I guess so.
I answered, feeling unsure
Then they told me a story
About Adam and Eve
About some fallen angel thing
My father and I sat there and listened, bewildered
Completely clueless about what they were trying to say
We left
My father told me
It didn’t seem like a conventional church
Don’t fall too deeply in their religion
Just take what they said with a pinch of salt
But why deep inside I still feel depressed
Why I still hear voices
Still so scared

Been to a Chinese temple once
Located in the middle of a neighbourhood surrounded by HDB blocks
That evening
They were having a ritual for a medium to channel a Chinese deity into his body
So that worshippers could come up to him to ask any issues of concern
The Chinese deity was called “Xuan Zai Ya” whom I hadn’t heard before
From afar
As I watched them perform their ritual
With all the loud clinks and clanks of their Chinese instruments
And all the dancing to invite the deity to possess his body
I was very amused by the scene I saw
Why did it look so funny to me
I felt an incredible urge to laugh at them, secretly
When it was my turn
We asked the deity why I had been hearing voices
Speaking in a dialect that only my father could understand
He said there’s nothing wrong with me
I’m just having a mild depression
You need to smile and laugh more
And everything will be okay
Was his advice
Back home
Whenever the voices or hallucinations got worse
I would hear a male voice shouting “Xuan Zai Ya, Xuan Zai Ya!!
As if to announce his presence coming to my rescue
But why deep inside I still feel depressed
Why I still hear voices
Still so scared

Been to a terrace house in Johor Bahru with my family once
Transformed into a mini temple that housed many deity altars
After lighting our incense joss sticks and praying to each of them
My father had a talk with the master that owned the temple
The master gave me an amulet called the Tiger Tooth (虎牙) and told me to put it on and hang it around my neck
It would help to ward off the bad spirits, he said
Back in Singapore
For a few nights I hadn’t been able to sleep well
Kept feeling the Tiger Tooth buzzing on my chest throughout the night
I felt so trapped together with the spirit which I believed had already possessed my body
It felt terrible and hard to breathe
Hallucinations got more severe
Even more depressed
Still hearing voices
Still so scared

Not long later
I decided to admit myself to a wellness centre
At the Institute of Mental Health
Seeking medical treatment
For a mental illness which I eventually was diagnosed as “Schizophrenia”
With psychotic medicine that they prescribed me to
For my week-long stay there
My mum brought along the Tiger Tooth to stay with me
No longer on my chest
But placed on my hospital bed side
After I was discharged
I hadn’t seen that same Tiger Tooth anywhere around me ever since…

(my mum had probably kept it away at a forgotten place since then)

In 2019, I passed by an ordinary jewellery shop that sold a necklace that resembled the original Tiger Tooth amulet that I used to have in 2013.

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