Jesus gave me mental freedom: Catherine's testimony
To appreciate the full extent of Catherine’s transformation, this should be read in conjunction with her testimony on pages 3 and 20 of HEART AUG-SEPT 2017
I struggled with mental health issues through all of my teenage years up until the age of 24. Everything changed when I invited Jesus into my life and he began to to work a miracle in my life. He showed me that there was a way out of the downward spiral I was stuck in.
For the first time I had a glimmer of hope after years of severe depression. I had isolated myself from the world due to anxiety and everyday was a battle. This sometimes became so unbearable that I felt suicidal and had to be admitted in to psychiatric hospitals for my safety. I didn’t want to die, I just couldn’t cope with the life I was living. I was then diagnosed as bipolar after an episode of acute unwellness. This began a five year long cycle of being admitted and discharged from hospitals only to be readmitted where I would continually lose everything I had tried to build. I was lost, confused and terrified and the label of Bipolar became my identity at that time. I was told by medical professionals that I would have this condition for the rest of my life. All they knew to do was to treat and manage it through prescribing me high doses of medication but nothing worked.
First encountering God
But it was during my last hospital admittance that I first came to know God in a deep intimate way. It was this that paved the way to my current wellness and stability. I was in one of the same hospitals that I had been in before but everything was different now that I had the Spirit of God living within me. This time I knew God was with me and that I wasn’t alone. He came and met me right where I was at in that dark and hopeless place. He gave me strength, stability, comfort and peace of mind. I knew he was protecting me.
I came to realise that Godly love is nothing like what I thought love was. This love was pure, strong and empowering. There was no pain and hurt in it as I had previously experienced. He placed it before me, knocking on the doors of my heart, never forcing it upon me.
I had an encounter with God where I told him that I accepted his love. He then told me to place my hand on my heart and let him love me. It was in that moment that I yielded my heart to him and I felt a fire-like warmth moving through my hand and flooding my heart and body. It was an intense warmth that felt familiar and I can only describe it as it had a sense of home about it. In that moment nothing else mattered. My location and situation were overshadowed by realising how much I had come to love this Heavenly Father who had been here all my life but who I was only just truly getting to know.
I could feel this when I was surrounded by very unstable patients who often became violent. Having been badly attacked during a previous hospital stay I had to learn to trust him and in this protection. Instead of running to my room he told me to stay, feel his powerful presence and fire and that surrounded me. He would also remind me that Jesus walked the floors of this hospital with me and that he surrounds me with his angels. There was something so precious birthed from this. It developed a raw deep connection with him where I literally depended upon him to get through every second of those days. It was the continuous two way conversation and getting to know him more each day led to me accepting him my constant guider and companion. All of this led to such an accelerated rate of recovery that the medical professionals couldn’t understand it.
It was here that I also came to fully understand that it was this love that Jesus had for mankind that enabled him to endure the cross. He died so that I could live and this is what caused me to repent of suicidal intents and thoughts that I had in the past. He told me I was forgiven instantly and I began a process of repenting of all things the Holy Spirit revealed to me. This was freeing and I felt physically lighter and more at peace afterwards.
I also came to love his Word and I immersed myself in it. I had meetings where the professionals would tell me that I still had months left in hospital because there were no places in a recovery unit. I would leave in tears crying out to God for a way to leave sooner. But in these moments of despair I would run to my room, put worship music on and read the Bible out loud. I would feel God’s peace fill me and wash away the stress and upset that I was struggling with before. There was such power in this that it became my lifeline. It was the physical piece of heaven I could hold in my hands in what felt like hell going on around me. In the past this reliance was upon smoking heavily but after my pastor prayed about the addiction it went. I could therefore sit in the enclosed hospital garden reading the Bible instead of smoking to cope with all the other patients.
Experiencing God’s love for me and others
As I accepted this love that God had for me he started to fill me with that same love for others around me.
That love changed me on the inside as I also came to realise what I carried inside of me. I realised that I was on assignment here and because Christ now lived in me, I could shine his light in that dark place.
I began to pray for the patients and staff around me including for their protection and salvation. I also began to understand the power and necessity of forgiveness. I realised that I was not in a battle against the people themselves but the powers of darkness in operation there. This is something I have been able to carry forward to situations further on which helps stop me holding onto any bitterness or resentment – something which has been vital for me.
Finding my true identity in Christ
Another key point has been finding my true identity in Christ. The Holy Spirit patiently worked with me to enable me to rip the label of ‘bipolar’ that had been placed on me off and replace it with ‘Child of God’, my true identity. This revelation came through daily allowing him to reveal any lies of the enemy that were effecting my view of myself and my abilities. I would then renounce these and declare the truth that he gave me. I felt such release and power in this and backed with related scripture it renewed and settled my mind.
He told me that I had a sound mind so I began to declare that. The more that it came out of my mouth, the more it settled in my heart and I truly began to believe it. I begun to trust him that I would never have to go back into another dark, hopeless hospital again. Also that this freedom that he was enabling me to walk into was real and permanent. With the support of a loving local church that treated me in a way that aligned with my true identity, I begun to live out of it. I was transformed by Jesus instead of just being treated and medicated. I wasn’t defined by my past nor was my future dictated by it. I now had a good future in front of me. I learnt that God had personal call for my life, that I mattered and had a divine purpose.
Realising and exercising my authority in Christ
I also realised that I had authority in Christ over the very things that used to ensnare me. Anxiety used to prevented me from being in any public place due to it causing me to have panic attacks. However I learnt to take authority in the name of Jesus over the spirit behind this. I accepted Christ’s peace instead and I can now do things such as serve on my local church’s host team and share my testimony with others. It’s through being closely involved in my church that I’ve been able to learn to trust people again and open my heart to receive the help, both in guidance and prayer, from my pastors and church leaders.
Breaking other unhealthy coping mechanisms
God has also allowed me to walk out of the grip of using unhealthy coping mechanisms by teaching me to rely on him only.
I used to use eating disorders to deal with the chaos around me. It was the one thing I felt I had any control over when the world was controlling me. I also used it as a distraction how low I felt. I would swing between extremes of eating as little as possible to comfort eating and bulimia. However food soon began to control me and it was damaging my body. God is still taking me on a journey of correcting my thoughts around food but he has opened my eyes around this matter. He taught me that my body is a temple to him which in itself gave me motivation to honour that and him. I therefore began to eat when he guided me to and exercise my body to look after it, not just to work off anything I had eaten and lose weight. He also taught me that I have self-control but that I also don’t have to rely on my own efforts in this. his grace continues to give me the supernatural strength to control my eating and establish a healthy lifestyle.
This correcting of view leading to a change in action also occurred when the Lord spoke to me about self-harm. Anytime I would think of causing any wound to myself Jesus would show me the lashes he took on his body. This showed me that he took those so that I wouldn’t have to live in the bondage that was causing me to make stripes on myself. This was also backed with love and not a harsh telling off or condemnation. his supernatural peace would then overtake. As I felt how much he loved me I didn’t want to hurt myself because I knew it would hurt him. I now have a fresh respect and gratitude for all the pain Jesus went through on the cross so that I can walk free.
I am also learning to accept my appearance. Having been badly bullied throughout all of my school years, God is restoring my view of myself. When I saw myself as ugly, worthless and unloved he tells me I’m beautiful, worthy and loved. The Holy Spirit has shown me that God has formed me completely uniquely and I am just as he wants me to be.
Self-esteem and worth
I am also learning that I am worthy of love, good things, acceptance from others and their time. It was from this that I came out of self-sufficiency and I begun to trust others around me. Now instead of believing that I am useless, faulty and a lost cause he’s enabled me to believe I am precious, accepted, valued, unique and able. It is still a daily process of living out of these truths but I now know the authority I have in Christ. I therefore don’t accept the enemy attempting to put these lies upon me again. I now continue to partner with him in accepting and believing these truths
Now looking back it is incredible how far God has brought me. Instead of a dead end I now have hope and I can dream again because I know he has a good future for me. I have a comfort and security in knowing that I am his and he is always with me. I can now focus on his presence in times of stress or when I’m feeling anxious and he is always faithful to reassure and calm me.
Where I was previously depressed I have had the privilege of experiencing the joy of the Lord. This was particularly incredible and strong when God made a way for me to lead my Grandmother in the salvation prayer. This made me realise that it was this hope of salvation that enabled Jesus to endure the cross. I now have good days where I feel happy and I am beginning to learn how to laugh, have fun and live life again.
Jesus enables me to press through any anxiety or fear through the power of his love. He’s taught me draw on his ability and not to look at how able or unable I feel. He has become my anchor which allow my o keep moving on despite any circumstances. His grace and peace cover me. I am also learning to find all my comfort from Christ instead of going to food or another unhealthy coping mechanism I went to in the past.
I now hope that I can help others out of the darkness and struggles that I was in. I would love to contribute to helping them get to a point where they give their lives to Christ through realising that he is their healer. I know that he has truly set my free and I am now walking in the freedom that Christ died to give me. I now know I am stable, I am loved and I am worthy.