Okay chaps, get ready.
This is the week where I possibly had THE biggest revelation on DTS, that has actually changed my whole perspective on how I’ve been living my life.
I’M SO EXCITED TO SHARE THIS WITH YOU!
For week 5 (Fear of God), we watched a series of preaches by an American pastor called Sy Rogers. Though honestly I don’t really feel his series covered much of the actual topic we were supposed to be studying, I loved his teaching so much and got hit hard with so many truth nuggets! Including my new favourite bike analogy:
“If you fall off your bike, you don’t magically go back to the beginning of the ride and re-cycle the route! You get up, shake off the dust and get your butt back on and continue the journey! ” (paraphrased)
Sometimes it’s easy to think when we fail or sin, that we lose all the progress we’ve made, but that’s such a big fat lie from our jealous acquaintance the devil, who is always rooting for us to fail.
We don’t lose the ground we’ve already made, and we’re not going back to the beginning when we have to go over something we’ve struggled with before – it’s simply a deeper revelation or another layer of what God is doing in us.
Sy also talked about renewing of the mind, and the biological process we have to go through to form new habits and patterns in our lives. I found it really useful to see how our body actually changes physically as we repeatedly make decisions to think a different way and alter our previously learned conventions.
It’s tedious and hard in the beginning – the brain learns by repetition and reinforcement, so we have to try and actively creating new thinking patterns many times before it actually makes a difference – but with perseverance, it is possible to restructure our brains and the way we live for good!
With these things coming together in my mind throughout the week, on the last day we were asked to get into groups and pray for each other. I started talking with two other girls about overcoming bad thoughts and how sometimes when depression takes over, it can even seem too overwhelming to try to fight at all because we literally have no energy and nothing left to give. One of the girls gave an amazing analogy about how during these times, all that is required of us is to hand over or “shoot up” our thoughts/emotions to God and HE will deal with them – a bit like in clay pigeon shooting when the machine shoots up the target into the air, and then the shooter destroys it!
God is our gunman.
When we are wounded in battle and overwhelmed by the war, he fights on our behalf.
He is the lie destroyer, and what’s more, he always hits the target: every single time.
After chatting in our group for a bit, we started to pray for each other and the Holy Spirit met with me big time! He started to reveal to me that for a long time I have made depression and anxiety part of my identity and used it to define a part of myself; but that isn’t who I really am now. He brought back the picture I had a while ago of me in a cage – the door had already been opened, but I was still struggling to step into freedom. Every time the light shone on me, I ran straight back behind the bars and shut the door behind me! I started to hear the phrase: “A cage is not a home” over and over again, and I realised that I had been giving so much room for the enemy to work in my life by believing that depression and anxiety belonged to me and were part of me.
I can say with great certainty now that THEY ARE NOT.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Now it was time for the hard bit. Having a new revelation about how I’d taken on lies as something to shape who I was, meant I had a decision to make: Was I going to come out of the cage for real and leave it all behind or was I going to carry on shivering behind bars?
It sounds like a no-brainer put this way, but the fact is the cage had actually BECOME my home for a while.
Home = familarity, safety, security.
A cage definitely is not a good place to live, but at that time I had no memory of what a house even looked like, and so that had become my reality of home during that season.
These next bits are still a little hard to share, but running back into into my cage when things got hard actually felt a lot more safe than becoming vulnerable enough to let people in to love me; if this ever did happen, I didn’t know how to fully receive it and always felt I had to immediately give something back to them.
Letting thoughts about my ugliness, worthlessness and never being good enough continue to wash over me, was a lot more comfortable than taking a stand against lies I had known since I was 7 years old.
Agreeing with what the world had spoken about how I looked and that how my body looks = my worth, felt a lot closer to me than the truth of what the Father speaks over me.
The fear of being a burden; being both too much and not enough at the same time made isolation the preferable option over potentially enticing an anxiety attack or even worse: someone choosing to leave me alone – one of my biggest fears.
The bars of selfishness and wallowing in sadness meant that it didn’t matter if other people cared about me or not because I was protected against them ever letting me down or hurting me again.
Entertaining thoughts of suicide and self-harm, then talking about them out loud now and again kept the “man up, stop being dramatic, get over it, you’re just tired” comments at bay. Reminding people of my pain was my guarantee that people would take me seriously instead of writing it off as “Holly’s being emotional again”.
“Depression”, “anxiety” and “mental health problems” put words to the deep feelings I could not describe. The labels justified my pain in a way that people could more easily understand than just simply saying: “I feel everything, all of the time” with the risk of them shunning me for the way I was created.
That old “nobody understands you” line seemed a lot more tangible and familiar than the possibility of somebody actually getting to know me fully and accepting me the way I was, without something having to change first.
My victim mentality relieved the responsibility of self-management and delayed the daunting process of stepping up and being the adult, leader and warrior I am actually made to be.
Sleeping in kept away the necessity of fighting and trying to make things better, then the nightmares reinforced the sleep pattern.
Self-hatred was the safety blanket that I used to tuck myself in at night and tears were the friends that never left me; the only acceptable expression of my inner anguish.
I just want to clarify at this point, that I am in no way diminishing depression, anxiety or mental health issues. If anything I feel like I have huge understanding of it from the last few years of battling through many highs and lows. I believe that mental health constitutes as genuine illness – more than most people have awareness of in fact – but as I believe that God can and does heal people of physical disease, I also believe he sets people free from mental health problems too.
I am not writing this post as a formula for healing or suggesting this is how everyone should go about it – everybody is unique and on different journeys – this is simply my personal testimony and story of how God is healing me, that I am sharing hopefully to encourage you and give you hope!
My feelings during this season were REAL.
The devil and his schemes against humanity are real.
Heck, the struggle was flipping real!
But my God is also real.
And so is my healing!
I believe the majority of mental health issues consist of a battlefield in the mind, and that day I decided to make a stand against the attacks against my headspace that had gone on far too long. This wasn’t about simply “willing myself” out of depression Peter Pan style, but it was through the power of God and his revelation about who I was made to be that set me free both instantly on that day, and started the deeper process of healing over time.
So how did this process begin? Simply put, I stepped out of the cage.
On that day, I died to my victim mentality.
I repented of my selfishness.
I asked God to show me who he thinks I am and to fill any gap I was trying to botch up with people’s affirmation.
I gave back God his job of keeping me safe.
I asked him to teach me how to be okay with my emotional personality, and how to manage it well.
I asked him to help me see myself through his eyes, and not how the world does.
I rebuked the enemy and all the schemes he had against me for so long, then gave back God his authority over my heart and mind.
I also felt convicted to declare my revelation out loud! After praying and sobbing for a while, I grabbed my one-on-one and one of our school leaders to explain it all.
I declared what God was doing in me in front of them and the truth about who I really am (thank you identity week for a reminder of those!)
It’s one of the hardest things I had to do on the school but that day I genuinely died to the hold depression and anxiety had on me.
I asked my leaders to pray, and honestly have never felt such a lightness as I did in that moment! Looking back I realise that was the beginning of the process God has been doing in me the last few weeks and I am so, so thankful for that day!
After praying, I chatted with my leaders a bit and they told me that in order to engage with the process rather than this being a one-time event, I had to continue to walk in the opposite spirit of what I knew whenever I felt like retreating back into the shadows.
When I felt like isolating myself, I had to make a conscious decision to find people to hang out with.
When I had troubles waking up and facing the day, I had to get a friend to make sure I was okay and coming to class etc.
And so over the last 2 months, that’s what I’ve been trying to do! It definitely hasn’t been a smooth ride, especially in the beginning – moving house can be a hard process, but I can definitely say there is a huge difference in me since then.
My enemy tactics are a lot stronger – God’s truth about me is now plastered all over my wall and it’s become a habit for me to shun out bad thoughts quickly now and remind myself of my identity!
I flipping started JOGGING in the MORNING before lectures! If that doesn’t say something’s changed in me then I don’t know what does!
Also an AMAZING outcome of this is that I am totally free from the hold make up had on me, and the eczema on my face has completely healed!!
I’m not perfect, I still get sad and sometimes I’m still tempted to go wandering back to those old familiar bars once in a while, but there is no denying, God used Week 5 to shake up things in my life.
I am so much more secure in who I am and what my calling is now.
I am genuinely a lot more joyful and less easily irritated by small things!
I have a lot more grace for people and am starting to zoom out of my own problems enough to sync up with God’s heart for the world that is so much bigger than myself.
I am genuinely changed for the better.
God is good.