God’s Grace in my Schizophrenia
A Brother in the Lord From a Christian Disciples Church
Let me tell you about the glory of the work of the Lord as I have experienced it through my many years of affliction.
When I was about 18, I had a mental breakdown. I didn’t know it at that time, but my mother told me the doctors used shock therapy to restore me. They put two metal pieces on my chest and used electricity to shock my brain. I was revived and I thank God for giving the doctors the wisdom to use these methods to help patients like me.
The breakdown was the turning point of my life. Unlikely as it may seem to you, I can see that what happened to me was for my good. And I thank God for letting me experience this illness. Living with this illness has proved very valuable for my spiritual growth. God loves me and He knows what helps me spiritually.
When I recovered from the breakdown, my mother brought me to see the best specialist in Hong Kong. She gave me unreserved love and care to help me overcome my life’s biggest challenge – what is called schizophrenia, where you hear a voice talking to you all the time. I kept hearing a voice scolding me for whatever I did, and I also had hallucinations. This went on for so many long years.
My follow-up treatment continued in the form of daily medication. According to the reports, my brain cannot produce certain types of chemicals so these drugs are used to maintain the chemical balance in my brain. Again, I thank God for pharmacologists such that such chemicals can now be produced to restore the balance in my brain.
If it were not for such medical treatment I would not be able to do what I have been doing for the past 30 years. After my breakdown, I began my studies for a diploma in accounting. I had to repeat some courses and re-take some examinations because of my poor mental health. But finally, through much encouragement from my beloved mother, I completed a 4-year diploma course in accounting, with a minor in music. After college I got married, and we’ve been married for 25 years. We have a son who is in his 4th year at university now. He’s doing accounting too.
I was born in communist China. With the help of my uncle, our family managed to emigrate to Hong Kong. We left China when I was four. With me were my mother, my father and my sister. My elder brother and elder sister had to wait two more years before they could join us in Hong Kong.
My brother plays the guitar. When I was in Grade 8 he taught me how to read the scores for guitar and from there, I continued to learn from books. After about a year, I found I could play difficult pieces. The following year, when I was in Grade 9, I began learning a Chinese stringed instrument called the Pi Pa. I was able to learn many pieces in three years. While I was at college doing my accounting course, I even dreamed of majoring in music! When I found out I could do music as a minor, I enrolled for harmony, counterpoint and composition. However, the times for these music subjects clashed with my accounting course subjects. How then could I take up music?
I made a special request to the music professor to give me private lessons. Of course I had to pay extra tuition fees, but my credits for music would be counted towards my total credits. I managed to get good grades for my music subjects. Actually, I learned much more than the music major students because of having private lessons.
I have worked in the accounting field for most of my working life. However, I have also worked as a warehouse-keeper. I did that for a year, doing hard-labour jobs. (That was about ten years ago, when I had to be back in hospital for a week in order to get used to a newer drug.) I have worked in computer assembly, and in shipping and invoicing jobs, and I’ve been a sales representative – in fact, I’ve taken on any job that has come my way in order to be gainfully employed.
All my siblings – my elder brother and two elder sisters – are healthy. All except me. I feel that God loves me more than my siblings because He lets me experience His goodness through this trial. I don’t feel sorry for myself for having to be on medication for the rest of my life, nor do I feel sadness for having to endure the symptoms of this sickness. You always hear a voice confronting you, judging you and even scolding you. You think there really is someone there talking to you, but it is a hallucination. I can only try to ignore it all.
I know that these are my symptoms, so I just keep doing what I have to do – studying, working, attending church – getting on with life. I have to lead a disciplined life and ensure I get enough sleep, and most of all, I must stay away from alcohol. I have learnt to simply view it positively, and tell myself, “This is my life. I have to face it whether I like it or not.”
I was born into a Christian family; I am a third-generation Christian – both my grandparents and my parents are Christians. In the early years of my illness, I searched the Bible to see if I could find out why I had this illness. It was when I came to the book of Job – where God took away everything from Job, even his health – that I realised something of God’s kind purposes for us. It was not as if God was gambling with Satan and sacrificing Job’s life in the process. On the contrary, God had wanted to give Job more spiritual blessings, and to let him seethe LORD [Job 42.5, 12]. God used the events in Job’s life to bring about blessing and transformation in his life. Perhaps He saw that Job was self-righteous, I don’t know. But what I do know is that I am very self-righteous and God let me experience this for my own good. I have to depend on Him and seek His help constantly.
Since coming to understand Job’s story, I have always been really comforted by the words of the Lord and I have not needed to ask Him why He let me go through all the difficulties in my life. Everything has a reason and all things work together for good for those who love God [Rom 8.28].
My grandmother brought me to the church when I was small. I was baptised in the early troubled years of my mental problems. At that time, I was hoping to study abroad. I thought if I were baptised I would stand a better chance of receiving help from foreign missionaries. Hence my baptism was done out of the wrong motive to further my studies, and not out of a heart full of love for God.
It was only much later, after emigrating to Canada some 18 years ago, that I found out I did not even have the Holy Spirit though I had been baptized as a teenager! So I requested rebaptism and I received the Holy Spirit. The Lord was very gracious to me, and through the Sunday sermons and personal help, I began to be transformed from my old man to becoming a new being in Christ. So you see it is not because of my family background that I believe God; it is a willing response to God’s loving-kindness to me.
All through those years I had had problems with my Christian life yet I had never sought to fix them. However, I now have the power to live the sanctified life in Him. Because I now have this perfect heart to love Him and submit to Him, He can really work in my life and transform me to become a new person who presses on towards that perfect standard set by our dear Lord Jesus.
As I serve Him wholeheartedly in His church – as treasurer, translator, pianist, singspiration leader and Sunday School teacher – I feel my life is precious to Him. I have peace because God’s will is being accomplished in my life.
I truly thank God for my sickness; it keeps me closer to Him and I experience His guidance. He has even worked through me to let me have the opportunity to help those in need. One important recent decision I made is mortgaging my house for about 75% of its value, and giving most of this money to help a close relative out of financial difficulties. I have learnt from my Lord to help those in need, to help the neighbour [Luke 10.36-37]. It is truly more blessed to give than to receive and God knows that I am not chasing after money. If you ever have an opportunity to render help, make sure you don’t miss it! For in doing so you would have “saved in your heavenly account”, so to speak. As the Lord Jesus taught us, you shall have “an unfailing treasure in heaven” [Luke 12.33].
Even now, as I write my testimony of God’s glorious work in my life, I can feel the Lord comforting me. With this illness, I know that I am nothing and we human beings are like ashes, but even so God cares for us and sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins on the Cross and complete His plan of salvation. God deals with everyone differently – He chooses – according to His perfect will – for you to be poor, rich, clever, or whatever you may be. As for me, I shall always be thankful to Him that, except for my brain lacking some chemical, I am perfectly normal. I can see, I can hear and I can walk and run. And I can feel that He loves me in a special way so I can experience Him more than other normal people.
He gives me what I can bear. To me, my way of healing is that I keep myself busy; I would not let myself just stay home and do nothing. Some who share my sickness unfortunately choose to live without doing anything. Doing nothing is the worst thing that can happen to anyone because God wants us to use our time wisely, to use it for eternal purposes, to seek Him, to know Him, and to be His best friend.
If what I am writing can encourage you, I give thanks to the Lord. To be seriously sick is not really as bad as it may seem; it does have a positive side. My story is that God gave me this mental breakdown to humble me and to teach me many lessons in life that others perhaps would not have the chance to learn. I praise Him for His greatness and His wisdom in choosing such an unworthy one as myself to experience Him in such a wonderful way.
I have been hearing a voice against me for so many years. Now in recent years I hear a totally different voice – it is the voice of God comforting me all the time!
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church