Restored by God
Esther Chiew—Vancouver, Canada
NO SENSE OF REALITY
This past year has been one of the
roughest and toughest of my life but also the most blessed and joyous. I
sincerely thank God for my health and sanity. I now understand that we will be
victorious no matter what we face, as long as we are standing on the side of
In the summer of 2009, I started
to suffer from insomnia. I went to the doctor and he prescribed a very strong
sleeping pill. However, over the following few months, I went back to my doctor
three more times for new prescriptions because the pills lost their
effectiveness after a while and I would suffer from insomnia again.
By the end of August, the sleep
deprivation started to manifest itself after I hadn’t slept for several days.
My sense of reality was completely skewed: I had no sense of night or day, the
time or date, and I couldn’t tell the difference between what was real and what
My mother and sister supervised me
all the time because they knew that something was not right, and they wanted to
make sure that I was okay. I started to feel less and less like myself and more
like my body was just an empty shell.
In addition to these problems, I
wasn’t eating. They had to sit me down and practically force-feed me. I wasn’t
eating and I wasn’t sleeping. All I would do was clean certain areas of the
house over and over and over, like someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Despite these issues, I was
already enrolled in classes and had bought textbooks in preparation for my
final year of university. When September rolled around, it was time to return
However, on the first day of
class, my mom wouldn’t let me go by myself. She ended up driving me to the
campus and, instead of letting me go to class, she brought me to the
Many different nurses, doctors,
and psychologists evaluated me. They confirmed that I was disoriented and
didn’t know where I was or what day it was. None of them knew what was wrong
with me, but they all said I needed serious help now.
NO SENSE OF SELF
I woke up some time later in a
room I didn’t recognize. My mom had taken me to Vancouver General Hospital and
I was admitted as a patient.
I was very paranoid because I
didn’t know where I was, and I believed that the staff was trying to take me
away from my family. I refused to tell anyone my name for fear of capture, and I
also refused to acknowledge that I knew who my friends and family were.
I didn’t want to take my
medications so the nurses had to force me to swallow the pills. I also refused
to eat, and I would wait for my mom to force-feed me. I didn’t want to eat
because I thought that the food was poisoned or drugged.
My mom came to see me every day
during visiting hours. I could see the pain and tiredness in her, yet she
didn’t miss a day. Every night, I could hear her crying as she sang hymns for
hours until she thought I fell asleep. This is truly the love of a mother and
for this love, I am eternally grateful.
There was nothing to do at the
hospital, and I wasn’t interested in doing anything. My life was reduced to
eating, walking up and down the halls, and waiting for my parents to appear. I
felt completely helpless. I could not eat, sleep, or bathe on my own. My mom
had to feed me and help me shower every day.
The person in the hospital had no
resemblance to me. Other than my face, everything about me was different: My
personality had melted away, my faith had disappeared, and my Christian self
seemed like a distant memory.
I felt like a ghost. It seemed like
I simply existed but was powerless to change anything. I was completely detached
from my life, reality, faith, and God.
By this point, I had been moved to
another part of the hospital, and it wasn’t as nice as the ward I was in
before. With the older rooms, colder temperatures, and unfriendly patients, my
I thought of ending my life many
times, because the suffering was just too unbearable. I tried to hurt myself on
multiple occasions. I would scratch until I bled or tie rubber bands or towels
around my neck. I even ran out to the sidewalk and tried to throw myself into
I knew what I was doing—I could see that I was harming
myself physically, but I wasn’t able to stop. I was numb to pain and a voice
inside my head told me it would be too hard to start my life over.
I tried to understand how and why
I ended up in the hospital. I replayed and magnified all of the mistakes I had
made and the sins I had committed until I convinced myself that I deserved this
I felt desperate, hopeless,
guilty, and unworthy to even turn to God. I no longer knew who this God I had
believed in for twenty-one years was, and I even began to doubt His existence.
I no longer remembered how to pray.
Thoughts of hurting myself and ending my life kept
recurring, and I knew, even in that mental state, that all of these incidents
were actually spiritual battles. I weathered those dangerous moments because God
was protecting me from harm.
I remember my father, a
truth-seeker, telling me one day how great God was. He reminded me that the
Lord would not forsake me and that I couldn’t give up because He loved me. I
was too lost and confused to see it then, but looking back, I thank God that my
truth-seeking father understood how faithful God was and had faith in Him.
GOD’S LOVE AND GRACE
Over time and after many tests,
the doctors concluded that I had Graves’ disease. The disorder, where the
thyroid is overactive, is actually quite common. The problems I had experienced—insomnia,
anxiety, paranoia—were symptoms caused by my thyroid producing too many
As I improved through prayer and
medication, I was gradually allowed to leave the ward. Depending on my
behavior, I was allowed to go out for one, two, or four hours with my parents.
Eventually, they let me stay out on an overnight pass, and I was allowed to
sleep in my own bed at home.
Despite my diagnosis and
treatment, recovery was slow and difficult. I remember that there were times
when I put a knife or scissors to my throat when I was at home.
There were also a number of times
when we were returning to the hospital that I got sudden panic attacks and felt
claustrophobic. I demanded that my parents stop the car and let me out. I even
tried to open the door in the middle of traffic. It got so bad that one parent
had to sit next to me, holding my hands down, while the other drove.
These were trying times for my
whole family, and all we could do was pray and believe that God would help us.
When I was hospitalized, I did not want to see anyone other than my parents. I
did not want people to know where I was or see me in that condition, because
the person in the hospital wasn’t really me.
Nevertheless, church members
visited me regularly. Looking back, I think every other patient in the ward was
jealous because I had so many visitors each day. They came to show their care
and concern, and seeing them reminded me of the person I used to be.
They would pray for me at the end
of each visit, and at first, I couldn’t even kneel down with them. I was too
paranoid to close my eyes and I was much too restless to kneel in one place. On
top of that, I felt ashamed and unworthy to come before God.
Slowly but surely, after many
visits, I was able to sit still, close my eyes, and pray in tongues with them.
All of these hospital visits are a testament to the grace and love of God
manifested through the loving brothers and sisters.
Each day my parents would read the Bible and sing hymns
with me. They would also play hymns on a little stereo in my room. At first, I told
my parents to stop, but they persisted. Eventually, I was able to actually
listen to and meditate on the word of God.
I was never mad at God for what had happened to me;
instead, I was ashamed of how little faith I had during this time. Through the
visits from church members and my parents’ continual love and guidance, I
regained some hope and faith.
After a month in the hospital, thanks to the grace of God,
I recovered and was discharged and allowed to go home.
RELYING ON GOD
When I returned home, I discovered just how many people
were praying and fasting for me. I thank God for everyone who interceded for me
and ask that He remember their love and prayers. It was a very scary time, but
I believe that through these events, everyone saw how wonderful our Lord truly
If God had not been on my side, it would have been a lost
battle because I barely had the will to keep fighting. However, I held on to
the remnants of my faith, and God kept me safe.
Looking back, I can see that God
was always there, carrying me through and fighting my battles for me, even when
I thought I was alone. As it says in Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and of good
courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the
One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
I am doing very well now. I love
life, school, and all the people in my life. I sleep, eat, and enjoy going to
church even more than before. Each time I sing hymns, pray, or wash a dish, I
thank God because He has allowed me to do these things.
Before I got sick, I often felt
overburdened and unable to handle my responsibilities at church. Now, everything
that used to be a chore has become an opportunity, a blessing, and a privilege.
It is so important to rely on God and cherish the opportunity to serve Him.
I have learned many lessons
through this experience and am certain that I will continue to learn and grow
in Christ. I now see that each day comes with happiness, sadness, trials, tribulations,
triumphs, blessings, chastisements, peace, and trouble.
As it says in Psalm 40:1, 2:
I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
If we are never put in the dark, never
fall into the slimy pit, never face any trouble—then how can we see the beauty
and wonder of His glorious light? How can He lift us up and set our feet upon a
Rock? How can He be our wonderful Savior?
Being a Christian does not mean
that we won’t face any troubles and that our lives will always be smooth. Being
a Christian means that when you are in a crisis, there will be a Rock for you
to lean on and a throng of supporters helping to pull you out of the pit.