Mental Health

Diagnosed with Graves’ disease at 15, all I wanted to do was die

Chen Rui Ping // September 29, 2020, 9:19 pm

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All photos courtesy of Chen Rui Ping

I had always thought I was a failure and a mistake.

Diagnosed with Graves’ disease at the age of 15, I started hating life when I had to take medicine and go for blood tests regularly, unlike my peers.

Worse still, my condition led to a huge growth on my neck. I couldn’t stand being talked about when taking public transport and being seen as weird. I disliked who I was.

From then on, my wish was to die when I reached 21 years old, and I had no motivation to study.

After completing my GCE O-Level examinations, I entered into Temasek Polytechnic but I couldn’t complete my studies. I was kicked out.

HOPE AND A FUTURE

When I was 19 and in my lowest pit, my friend, Yew Ling, invited me to her church.

She invited me a few times and was pretty persistent (I am thankful that she persevered, if not I might not be here today).

A verse captured my attention when I visited her church. It was Jeremiah 29:11.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I was perplexed at how that could even be possible. How could I have hope and a future in my current state? “I just want to die!” was all I could think of.

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But Yew Ling invited me to join her cell group, aptly called Agape.

This group of people changed my perspective of agape love and what it means to be family in Christ. My cell group leader, Huai Chieh, and all the cell members were very loving. Apart from their prayers, care and concern, they also accompanied me every Sunday to receive prayer from the pastors.

The cell even arranged a daily prayer chain for me when I had to go for a major operation. This was 11 days before I turned 21, when I asked God to save me while being wheeled into the operating theatre. By God’s grace, I survived that operation.

I was extremely touched by my cell members who lived out what agape love is all about, and I believed this was none other than the work of God.

I had caught a glimpse of His unconditional and undying love through the people He sent into my life.

It took me about a year to recover from that particular operation.

What was in store for me next? I managed to secure a job, but I felt something was missing. I was searching for meaning and purpose in my work, so I decided to pray for God’s direction and an open door.

This was my prayer, “Lord, here I am. Send me!”

Thereafter, by some divine arrangement, I got into my current workplace. Here I met great friends and mentors, and I appreciate them for all that they have done for me and for being a great blessing to me in many ways.

WALKING WITH THE WAYMAKER

In 2010, I attended a Breakthrough Women’s Weekend where I shared my regrets and fears.

I remembered a friend, Mandy, praying Psalm 71 over me and verse 20-21 stayed with me: “You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.”

Now, one regret I had was not completing my diploma studies. In the initial years, I tried to use my own ways to get a diploma but it didn’t work out.

But one day, I came across a course called Diploma in Social Service. I told God that if it was His will, to lead my Executive Director to ask me to attend the course. What a prayer to pray! But I soon forgot about it.

From the depths of the earth You will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.

Six months later, to my astonishment, I received an email from my boss.

He wanted to send me for that very course I had prayed about!

God is faithful, and He remembers prayers that I myself have forgotten, answering them in loving ways. After completing the course, He even opened the way for me to pursue a Higher Diploma in Social Service. His provision is truly amazing.

After this, I didn’t know if I should further my studies, because I didn’t think I was very good in them.

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Once again, I prayed and asked God to direct me and send a confirmation. Despite receiving a few confirmations and advice from friends, I still wasn’t sure.

My mentor, Pastor Evelyn, then told me to read the Bible story of Gideon who kept asking and asking God for confirmation. She told me to ask God a simple question, “God, do You really love me?”

So I asked God that night, but I fell asleep while waiting for an answer. That night, I had a dream. It was my first dream of God, and in that dream, I remember asking God for two confirmations which He eventually granted. I woke up shocked.

Though the second confirmation in that dream had not yet come true, I decided to go ahead with the application in faith and trust in God.

Soon I was offered a place at UniSIM (Bachelor of Social Work) and on the day that I had to confirm my place, the last confirmation from God came true.

God had answered my prayers time and time again. There was no reason for me not to go ahead with my studies. When He answers my prayers, there is no way to say “no”!

It took me a total of nine years to complete my diploma, higher diploma and degree.

It was certainly challenging.

Apart from having to juggle work, family and studies, my health was also an issue. I suffered from chronic migraine, a retinal hole in my eye, thyroid issues and rheumatoid arthritis.

However, God’s grace was sufficient to carry me through those years. Indeed, what Jeremiah 29:11 says is true. God has great plans for us when we give our lives to Him, when we give Him our fears, regrets, pains and worries.

Additionally, because of my health issues, I always had fears about travelling because I’ve fallen sick so many times in Singapore.

Yet by the grace of God, my first plane trip was to Cambodia with a group of friends at the age of 25. That was so memorable. I was truly thankful for friends who were not worried about travelling with me despite my poor health.

Since then, I have travelled to places such as Cambodia, Seoul, Perth, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Indonesia. I was also able to go for mission trips to places I thought I would never get to go. God is so amazing.

GOD OF THE IMPOSSIBLE

God has changed my life completely.

I’ve gone from being hopeless to being hopeful, from having no future to having a future ahead of me. I never thought I would ever get a diploma, much less a degree.

Our loving Father turned what I thought was impossible into something possible. He surrounded me with a supportive family, a mentor who is willing to invest in me and faithful friends who stay by me, encourage me and accept me for who I am.

They are always there through the seasons of life. I want to thank every single one of them for not giving up on me.

If I had given up, or ended my life, I would not have experienced God’s grace, love and mercy. I would not have discovered what He has in store for me.

A friend, Jeslyn reminded me of the verse Joel 2:25: “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.”

Indeed His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Even though we may not see it with our physical eyes, we can be certain that God is still working in our lives.

His love and faithfulness endure forever, His grace abounds, and His mercies are new every morning. To God be the glory!

This article was first published on Stories of Hope and has been republished with permission.

THINK + TALK

  1. How do you feel about your future? 
  2. Is there an area of your life that you can pray and commit to God for – believing that He can turn an impossible situation around? 
  3. What steps can you take in faith to discover His purpose for your life?