My identity used to be built upon worldly things – achievements in grades and co-curricular activities, having expansive relationships, and being highly involved in volunteering programmes. I saw these “trophies” as glories in my life. However, I soon learnt that these were all temporary and unstable. As much as I wanted to excel in all of them, I had absolutely no control over achievements, people and circumstances. How could I anchor my identity on them? This led me on a search to what I could secure my sense of self on. I found my answer in this: physical appearance. My worldview of beauty informed me that to be beautiful, I had to be thin. I wanted to be thin. I wanted to be beautiful. My appearance was also something, perhaps even the only thing, I could have control over. I could restrict my food intake and exercise to lose weight. I gradually fell into a cycle of restricting what I ate, and exercising. Within a short frame of time, I lost a significant amount of weight. Receiving validation from others on how I looked and how disciplined I was with exercise further reinforced my behaviour. Not long after, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. This mental illness gathered full control of my thoughts. My mind was flooded with thoughts of food, calories and appearance during my waking hours. They were also highly critical, sounding something like this: “You know you will be nothing if you are not thin, right? So stop eating you slob and start exercising now!” I was a slave to these thoughts as they dictated my schedule. Knowing about my condition, a colleague extended an invitation to her church’s Christmas service in 2014. Without any expectations, I accepted her invitation. However, I was in for a surprise when the voices in my head miraculously dissipated during the service. That was when I realised how sweet-sounding silence was! This piqued my curiosity and I began to yearn for this peace in my mind.
On Sunday a week later, a voice sounded, “Why not go to church?” An online search suggested Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church. Challenging the supposedly higher being who had seemingly spoken, I replied, “if you are real, then let me experience that peace again!”. Lo and behold, that peace fell on me during church service, and on subsequent occasions after that. This kept me going back to church every week. An announcement on the church’s bulletin led me to attend Alpha that same year. By then, I had a truckload of questions: Who am I? Why is life so hard? Am I born to suffer? What are these voices I hear? I was desperate for answers. I did not receive any answers then. Instead, God used Alpha in a way He knows best – to put me in a community. The truth was, my illness had caused me to withdraw from people. At the same time, many avoided me, as they could not understand my condition. As a result, friendships and relationships were lost.
On Sunday a week later, a voice sounded, “Why not go to church?” An online search suggested Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church. Challenging the supposedly higher being who had seemingly spoken, I replied, “if you are real, then let me experience that peace again!”. Lo and behold, that peace fell on me during church service, and on subsequent occasions after that. This kept me going back to church
every week. An announcement on the church’s bulletin led me to attend Alpha that same year. By then, I had a truckload of questions: Who am I? Why is life so hard? Am I born to suffer? What are these voices I hear? I was desperate for answers. I did not receive any answers then. Instead, God used Alpha in a way He knows best – to put me in a community. The truth was, my illness had caused me to withdraw from people. At the same time, many avoided me, as they could not understand my condition. As a result, friendships and relationships were lost.
Alpha created the opportunity for me to meet my current cell leader, Jia Lin and pastoral team member, Irene. These two ladies played very important roles in guiding me into a community I could belong in. In 2017, a series of events led me to develop anxiety and depression. In the midst of my agony and distress, I wrote a poem in an attempt to express myself:
As I write the final chapter,
Do not cry for me.
Life will get better,
This soon you will see.
As I write the final chapter,
Do not say goodbye.
God delivers for sure,
Don’t believe the devil’s lie.
As I write the final chapter,
Give me your joyful smile.
Life has been clearer,
See the growing contentment now
As I write the final chapter,
Give me a resounding clap.
I fought a glorious battle,
This is my final lap.
I felt like this was my final chapter and I naively believed this was God’s way of deliverance. I even wanted people to smile and clap for my “bravery” because I would be in a better place. I was disillusioned. It was unsurprising that a suicide assessment found me at high risk of suicide. I was then admitted into hospital against my will. However, in the valley of the shadow of death, God called out to me through Isaiah 43:19:
Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.
It was as if God was saying “Excuse me girl, do you not know that I am the King of miracles? I will make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Stand back and watch Me work this miracle.” My instantaneous reply to God was, I want to know the miracles and new things You will create! The King of miracles was faithful to His promise. When depression and anxiety depleted me of all energy, when days of fighting despair and panic left me with nothing but an empty tank, and even when the acts of eating and organising my days became too tiring for me, God sustained me and steadily restored my health. He guided me onto the road of recovery. He created a new road!
God gave me a new song through a poem too.
I will not live for man’s applause,
the glory all God is yours.
Presenting a sacrifice for your cause,
I will not count it as lost.
I will not run through open doors,
nor barge my way through with force.
Waiting patiently for your tender call,
I heed the voice I adore.
I will not set my life on pause,
nor let trust be turned and tossed.
Clinging to the promises that befall,
I will walk by faith knowing you are boss.
Lastly, the great and mighty One secured a new identity in me – as His beloved child. Instead of focusing on what I can do to be loved or enough, I now think, “I am already loved, what can I do to spread God’s love?”, “I am already enough, what can I do in service for God in
the work and ministries where He has placed me?”, and “I am already protected, what can I do to build others up?” Self-obsession was replaced with people-orientation. Recovery was also made possible by the two angels God placed in my life, Jia Lin and Irene. Both of them walked me through periods where tears were my food day and night. They taught me how to process my emotions biblically and submit my thoughts to the Lord. They reflected to me who I was in Christ and constantly reminded me that I was fearfully and wonderfully made. They too gave me the much needed space, which also allowed for the Spirit to work in me and through me. Through them both, as Jia Lin is in-charge of Alpha and Irene is the church’s pastoral staff for Witness and Evangelism, I was also able to share my testimony at Alpha. Being vulnerable and genuine about my illness further opened the door for God’s flood of healing. There was no secrecy in me anymore. I am as what you can see and hear.
Recently, I prayed for God to break my heart for what breaks His, and He placed a burden in me for people with mental health issues. As I continued praying and discerning, God spoke to me through Joshua 5:12, where He told the Israelites that He was going to cease the manna and commanded them to eat from the produce of the land. At that point, God seemed to be addressing me personally, telling me that His miracles for me were in the past and He wanted me to enter the promised land and claim it. To me, the promised land was in the field of mental health. I decided to heed the voice of my Lord who had spoken with great clarity. Finding myself lacking the necessary skills to minister to others, my first step was to better equip myself. Hence, I enrolled myself in a Counselling course at Singapore Bible College. Who would have known that a broken person can still be used by God? Who would have known that my scars could be used to tell of His power and glory? His thoughts are too high, I cannot fathom! To all who think that they are broken and shattered beyond any hopes of repair, God’s miraculous work has yet to begin. Stand back and watch Him do His thing!
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