Mental Health Awareness Month: How God Released Me From Negative Strongholds by Sonia Dee
Welcome back to the blog. Thank you for always taking the time to come over and share in the journeys of black African women (bAw) seeking to see themselves right – through the eyes of Christ.
We’re still in #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth and so I thought I would share my testimony in terms of my journey in embracing a healthier mindset and attitude. From adolescence, I had struggled with what you can call negative strongholds and mild depression.
The definition of a stronghold is, “a place where a particular cause or belief is strongly defended or upheld” (Oxford Dictionary online). My strongholds strongly defended thoughts such as:
- You’re weak
- You’re a victim
- No-one loves you
- You’re average and you’ll always be average
- You can’t have meaningful relationships
- You’re not smart or beautiful enough
And and and. Basically, it was not a good movie reel that consistently ran through my mind. I can’t quite put it into words, but it felt as though I had a dark cloud hovering over my mind and heart on most days. There would be very brief days of “sunshine” which would be brought on by drinking (in varsity) or attention from a boy/person I admired, or a movie or song. I used escapism a lot.
I would say it was last year when God ushered me into a season of rescuing me from these strongholds. Today, my days of sunshine are genuine, long-lasting and far outweigh the darker moments and thoughts. I am so full of His love and light, and I can’t keep that to myself.
Below are a few of the experiences and choices that God used to personally set me free. It may look different for you, but my prayer is that you may gain something from what I share. I would encourage you to take the time to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten you about your personal journey with mental wellness.
- I Had To Own My Negative Strongholds
If you think of the process of selling a house or apartment, one of the key things that needs to be in place is proof that you are the owner of that property. No-one is going to take the property off of your hands unless they have the legal proof that you are indeed the owner.
You also must go through a process called due diligence where you declare everything about that property – especially the snags. This way, the buyer knows exactly what they are taking on and it makes it easier for you to make the sale.
In the same way, I needed to own my negative mindset and attitude. For a long time, I shunned the fact that I was inclined to fall into depressive states and that I looked at life through gloomy lenses. God revealed the need to be honest about the current state of my mind. That was the only way He could “purchase” these negative strongholds and take them off of my hands.
2 Timothy 2:25b – 26 says, “…. God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (MSG)
I needed to come to my senses. I didn’t like owning up to the fact that I was a Debby Downer, but I had tried to act like I had it all under control and it wasn’t getting me anywhere. So own your stuff.
- I Had To Confess My Sins
So listen, the truth is that worry is a sin in God’s eyes. Look at scriptures like Matthew 6:25-34. When we worry we are essentially saying God is not who He says He is. We are choosing not to trust Him and instead to trust anything and everyone else but Him.
Once I had owned my negative mindset, I needed to confess that to someone. Not just anyone, mind you, but a person God knew could handle what I needed to confess and had my best interests at heart. Hence, I went for counselling for half of 2018.
It was difficult at first for the perfectionist and control-freak in me to confess that I was failing in a part of my life. But God gave me a counsellor who looked like me (black African woman), who loved Him, and who had walked a similar path to mine. She made me comfortable to open up and as I sat in that chair week after week pouring out my struggles, I would walk out with my shoulders held up a little higher each time.
One of my favourite scriptures says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
My counsellor was rooting for me to become whole. She didn’t know me from a bar of soap and so she could listen objectively. She prayed for me at the end of every session. That was a healing balm for the broken parts of my mind and soul – to hear someone plead so earnestly for you like they were asking for themselves.
I would encourage you to find someone to confess to – a friend, family member, church family member and especially therapy. If you ask God, He’ll lead you to the exact person you need to do this with.
- I Needed To Take Stock
I once did a Life In Recovery course at my church about 8 or so years ago, and one of the things we had to do in our journey was to take stock of our addictions.
God called me to do that through my counselling process and through journaling. It’s a painstaking process, and in a society that likes quick fixes, it can seem burdensome and unnecessary. Yet, I found myself taking nights out to write every negative thought I had made home in my mind.
The beautiful thing is that the Holy Spirit reminds you if you just ask Him. With guidance from my counsellor, I would record the damaging feelings and thoughts that would arise in different situations and with different people.
What this did was it caused me to stare my enemy in the face and removed the power that those hurtful mindsets had over me. It also gave me the opportunity to clearly recognize what I needed to replace in terms of my thinking.
Unless you bring your issues to the forefront where you can look them in the face, you run the risk of being controlled by emotions and thoughts that bring you down more than build you up. I would encourage you to do the work of identifying what your strongholds are.
- I Had To Change My Tapes
For 20+ years, I had been listening to the same “songs” over and over again in my mind. Songs about my uselessness or how unkind other people were etc. You know how it is, you may not even like a song but if it’s consistently played on the radio you find yourself singing it involuntarily. This was the case with my damaging thoughts.
I had to change the station and be intentional about the tapes I recorded to listen to throughout my days. For me personally, those tapes were scriptures like Psalm 139, Romans 8:17, Isaiah 62 and Deuteronomy 28:1-14 to name a few.
It was also affirming statements such as, “Sonia I am proud of you. I trust you. I love you. I accept you.” For some of us, we will never hear those words until we have first said them to ourselves. And I would say them looking in the mirror. Initially, I would cry as I said them and struggled to believe them. Now, those words flow naturally in my mind in moments when I need them most and they are becoming a natural part of me.
Record new tapes that you listen to repeatedly. It could be bible verses or affirming statements. It could be music. It could be books. It could be sermons or testimonies you listen to. Do whatever it takes to develop a new language in your mind.
- I Asked For The Holy Spirit
Last, but definitely not least, I have asked God to pour out His Holy Spirit over me consistently for the majority of this year. Pastor Toure Roberts so beautifully explained the gift of the Holy Spirit and how God will never deny us of it if we ask.
He helped me to understand that what I had been desperately searching for – peace of mind; uplifting thoughts of myself and others; hope etc – I would find through the Holy Spirit. Now, when I find myself spiraling or grappling with a less than ideal thought, I just whisper these words, “Come Holy Spirit”. And the clarity, peace and wisdom that floods me is unmatched!
I urge you to invite the Holy Spirit into the broken parts of your mind. You don’t even need to tell Him what to do. Just ask Him to fill you and watch Him work things out for your good (Romans 8:28).
“Flowers grow back even after the harshest winters. You will too.” – Jennae Cecelia
Thank you sis for taking the time to read this post. I sincerely hope it speaks to just one person today. Whoever you are, God wants you to know that He is ready to set you free from the negativity if you’ll let Him. Don’t stress about the how. Just surrender to Him. He cares about your mental health too.
I am not perfect in my mental health but I am much much further than I was before. And now, instead of being consumed by the waves God has taught me to surf