Church One Morning 

Originally published 23 October, 2016
It’s never a great start to a Sunday morning service when you’re fighting hyperventilation and keep telling yourself that you’re going to be strong and stay in the sermon.
I desperately wanted to get up and leave … but there were people I wanted to see after the service… and I knew we wouldn’t be in church for the next two weeks. So I stuck it out. I wrote ‘to-do’ lists in my diary and planned our long-over-due holiday next week. I tried hard not to think about the sermon and how I was negatively reacting to it. I tried to block it, and all the negative thoughts and feelings spiralling crazily out from it, from my mind.
By the time the service was over I was worked up, angry, tense, short of breath, emotional, completely exhausted …
And how do I explain that to other people? Some don’t need to know one way or the other, but I can imagine some people wondering what the flip had me so dazed, tired and disconnected.
How do I explain that? How can I say that I found the sermon massively uncomfortable and triggering and I’m still coming down from that? In what world but mine do hebrew root words, talk about covenant relationships and the umbrella of God’s law set off a panic attack?
But this is my world!
In my world, talking about hebrew roots, the torah, covenant relationships, shalom, the umbrella of God’s law/will, God hating injustice … I’ve actually had to calm myself down after writing that sentence.
Each one of us has our mix of triggers; our own combination of events, words, sounds, situations or smells that will set off a reaction. This is one of mine. Your’s might be another.
It leaves me feeling isolated and alone. I look around me – to the friend to my right who is enthusiastically taking notes on her phone, to my husband on my left who I know is mostly not paying any attention to the sermon – and I’m by myself having my panicked reaction to the words and phrases the preacher is using.
I leave the room longing to express my feelings to my close friend who knows so much … but even this is beyond our shared experience and empathy. I say the words that sent my pulse erratic and it means nothing.
I don’t blame her, I don’t blame my husband – in one way I’m glad they don’t get it! But I’m still here feeling sore, lonely and misunderstood.
Why would anyone get why this was so difficult for me? Oh yeah, they wouldn’t. Because they weren’t brought up a fricking Messianic Jewish Fundamentalist Homeschooled Girl in the South West of England.
Church can be a very painful and lonely place.
I hope that today church was an encouraging and happy place for you!

This Day, This Week, This Life

This week I have got up in the morning. I was assertive and persistent to get needed blood tests; I went and had the blood tests. I have washed my hair.. maybe once, maybe twice, I can’t remember. I’ve fed my husband every day. I made it to coffee with friends for 10am this morning. I have done maybe one load of laundry. I have woken up from nightmares not knowing where I was too many times. I have tried to bury myself and my thoughts in books and their stories every day. I have breathed. 

This week, this is what my CPTSD life looks like. 

Perfect & Me

I’m sipping (aka gulping) a big cup of tea, eating reheated Dominoes and staring at a blank page.

Ok, ok, I’m not actually eating the pizza anymore … my OCD just won’t allow me to eat greasy food (just about any food) and use my laptop at the same time. I’m going to say it’s a big win that I’m eating pizza and let the grease-phobia slide …

I’ve been wanting to write again for a long while. What starts as a realisation crystallising in my brain or an injustice that burns inside transforms into words bubbling up into my mind almost faster than I can think them. The thoughts and sentences almost make my fingers physically itch to be typing. I hurry through whatever I’m currently doing, race for my phone or laptop … and freeze. Like stalling in an unfamiliar car, my words stutter to a jumpy stop and my brain coughs out whatever piece of writing I had visualised and it dissipates in a cloud of anxiety.

My anxiety has been on the increase in the last 4 or 5 months (whole other story!), but this particular anxiety is nothing new.

What if it’s not perfect?

What if my words are spelled wrong, the sentence structure if off, my phrases are clumsy or I use thew wrong punctuation? What if I just can’t write very well, so I sound confused, my meaning isn’t clear to anyone and it’s just a boring mass or words?

Worst of all, what if I share too much, people brush me off or they don’t understand? What if putting myself and my feelings onto words on a page gets rejected?

This whole perfection thing isn’t exactly new to me. I have quite a pretty pile of insecurities about myself, but the desperate desire to be perfect comes out the strongest in my writing and my craft. I love to scrapbook, journal, paint and generally create things, but so many times I get frustrated by the battle between my urge to create something beautiful and unique and my desperation that it must be perfect.

In my calmer times I could passionately argue that these things aren’t meant to be perfect; that in creativity and personal expression there is no such thing as perfect; that the beauty is in how unique the picture or piece of writing is and how well it expresses the feelings and thoughts of the person creating it; that you should be writing and creating for your own emotional and physical health and enjoyment; that if other people don’t understand or ‘get it’ that’s their problem, not yours.

This is what I would say to someone else who expressed my doubts and fears and I would 100% believe it to be true. When it comes to myself however, it’s an entirely different story. I hold myself to an impossibly high standard and have very little grace or understanding where it comes to my own failings – real or not. Of course, when I do end up with a piece of work that I really think is beautiful and expressed exactly what I was feeling, I then turn around and lecture myself on being proud and feel guilty for thinking what I made or wrote was good … thank you so much to that stupid ‘christian’ value.

The need to create artwork and make pretty things for people gets the upper hand over my fears 2/3rds of the times (if we don’t count the number of tries before I’m satisfied or the amount of swearing that sometimes flies around my desk …) but somehow with writing the anxiety wins a lot more often. Maybe because putting myself into words is a lot more obvious than putting myself into colours and textures. Maybe because my older sister was always ‘the writer’ so anything I did when I was little was held up to her standard. Maybe because being vulnerable is actually harder when you’re sending it out there into the blue and I can’t try to read the expressions on your face or interpret the tone of your voice.

Whatever the reasons are for my need of perfectionism and my worry of other people’s opinions when it comes to my writing, here I am writing anyway. It takes courage every times I share and am honest with someone by my side, and I’ve been doing a lot more of that lately, so I can learn to do it again through words on paper … or on a screen. Whatever.

Here’s to imperfect words and vulnerability that builds people up!

Life Still Happens 

A lot of life has happened since I last wrote here. I admit that having my last blog scrapped was a bigger blow than I thought … a first dent in my writing armour, maybe not the first … but I gave up, ran out of writing steam, lost my words …

I lost my words and there were times over the last 6 months or so where I really needed them, but at the same time couldn’t imagine being able to put my thoughts and feelings into words. 

But now I’m back to try. Back to try and find my words.

I hope you’ll be patient enough to read along with me. 

My Story Isn’t Over Yet;

Originally published 10th September, 2016

This post contains a lot of triggers for many different issues! Please, if you are feeling sensitive – stop reading! Please seek help if you are feeling at risk.

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I only realised this afternoon that today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I’m a bit behind, but now I know.

With that knowledge comes a sense of responsibility. A need to add my story, my words, to the many voices out there today.

This is how it happened for me.

About 7 and a half years ago I was in a pretty bad place. I’d gone on medication for depression about 4-5 months ago, I’d lost both my jobs and I’d gone from living in a shared house to lodging with a family, because I couldn’t cope by myself. I was between 7-7.5 stone (98-105lbs) and had started visibly self-harming just in the last month. PTSD and flashbacks weren’t in my vocabulary yet.

The breaking point came when a close friend of mine at the time told me about a recent rape experience. I was only just starting to let my own experiences rise to the surface and this struck just that bit too deep on a number of levels.

The most powerful feeling I remember having? Nothing. I was just numb. I can still see myself going through it as if watching someone else. I was detached from everything and everyone around me and wasn’t thinking of anything except buying the pills.

I took a lot of basic painkillers. Let’s leave it at a lot. Of the many mercies I received that evening: I didn’t take any more than I did; I didn’t take them with any alcohol; I didn’t start taking my anti-depression meds that were lined up next; I had a complete crises of faith.

I was sitting there on my bedroom floor when absolute panic came over me. The only thing I could think was, ‘Where am I going when I die?’ I didn’t know where I was with my faith, with God and whether when this was done with and I wasn’t here, I was going to heaven or hell.

I called a friend. The same friend whose horrific experience I had just heard about. She was the only person I knew who had been through something similar, so I thought would immediately understand and not panic.

It was past 11pm and she and her mum took me to A&E. She sat with me through the waiting, the drs, the throwing up, the questions.

I stayed on an old people’s ward for about 18 hours with a drip. I was discharged after meetings the next day, when I said I was going home with friends.

I thank God and the many good friends around me that that was the one and only time I was in hospital for attempted suicide.

I was asked on that night if I had really wanted to kill myself, or if this was a call for help. At the time, I clearly said that I wanted to die.

Now, I don’t know. I’m not sure if I would actually have fully gone through with it. Maybe in the back of my mind I always knew I could call someone. Maybe somewhere in my self-conscious I was trying to let people know about the sexual abuse when I didn’t have the words.

However much I can reflect back on it now with more perspective, at the time I was so desperate, and wanted to not be in my life so badly, that I tried to kill myself.

I am beyond grateful to God and to my friends then and now that I decided to live and keep on deciding to live every day.

This past week has been so horrible as I have battled yet another trauma from my birth family. I have had moments where I have felt so very desolate that I can’t picture what my life would feel like if I was to carry on.

But I carried on and I’m here.

Despite how far I feel from him or how angry I am with him, no matter how little I understand, I believe that God is here.

Tomorrow my husband and I will have been married for six years. We want to have kids. I have so many happy moments, even if I can’t claim complete days or weeks. I very much want to do some significant things with my life.

I still have moments of completely crushing sadness; moments where the enormity of what’s happened to me overwhelms me.

My overwhelming desire to make a difference to at least a few people is stronger; the enormity of how much I want other people like me to know they’re not alone conquers.

I could have chosen to end my life; I didn’t.

If you need help right now, please phone a friend you trust, call The Samaritans free on 116123 or in emergency call 999 for an ambulance.

Project Semicolon: http://www.projectsemicolon.org/

A semicolon is used when an author could’ve ended a sentence but chose not to.
You are the author and the sentence is your life. 

To Write On Her Arms: https://twloha.com/home/

“To Write Love on Her Arms,” also represented a goal – to believe that a better life was possible.

God Wins?

Origionally Posted 4th August, 2016

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I was just reading a blog post with this very title – minus the question mark.

I love the blog and the writer and have enjoyed following her life for a good number of years now. I value her honesty and her attitude to life. Nicole, you’re great! So this is no criticism of the blog or the post, just reflections on my response to this particular post.🙂

I started reading about how God has provided for this family when they need it, specifically in the form of providing money when it was needed, through friends. At the same time as thinking “this is great!” I was also thinking, “but this kind of thing never happens to me…”

When have I ever seen God’s amazing provision demonstrated like this? Why can’t I say “God wins, God is good, God is there in the tough times” and not question it? The questions snowball and the resentment spreads further…

I have never had my next mortgage payment provided when I didn’t know how it was going to be paid; I’ve never had friends rally round and pay for cars, food and bills. I’m not in a place where I can see God’s hand in my pain, or even him carrying me when it hurt; God hasn’t miraculously healed anything for me and I can’t be forgiving of some things. Why everyone else but not me? Maybe I just don’t have enough faith?

But then a list started unfurling in my brain: that job, essential to getting out, came through despite the odds; a family came forward and let me live in their house when I couldn’t be where I was before; I was let out of my rent agreement early without charges; I was handed a bakery treat bought for someone else when I hadn’t eaten that day; there was that £200 given to all the interns when I was still living with my parents, so I got to squirrel it away in my bank account for leaving; I had friends’ sofas and beds to sleep in when I needed it; I called someone and got to hospital, instead of taking more tablets; I never got to the point where I took drugs; I never slept on the street; I married the most amazing man who understands; I have friends who believe in me; I’ve found the box of curry I thought we’d already eaten, on the night when I thought I just couldn’t take another thing…

Hang on a minute – this sounds a lot like God’s timely provision to me … right?

What about that day when I really thought I had taken all I could and just wanted someone to sort everything out for me while I curled up in the corner? God didn’t send anyone to step in and do the dishes for me and fix supper. I did the dishes, I fixed supper, then I went to bed and I got up to face another day. It wasn’t the solution I wanted, but surely God still provided by giving me the strength to just get through the next thing?

What about when the pain of all that had and was still happening was just too much, and I felt like my chest was going to burst apart from sadness, and I couldn’t stand to think what life was going to look like in another half hour? No one dried my tears and said it was all a mistake and it had never happened, and no one came and showed me a photo of how much better life would be in a year. I had to dry my own tears, take my own breaths through my own pain and live one more minute, just to start the next minute and get through that one too. It wasn’t what I wanted to happen, but surely the fact that I’m still here means that God gave me the strength to cope with the pain and live the next minute, even if not with joy?

I don’t feel like I have any victories to encourage people with – I feel like I’m still in the middle of a never-ending battle. I find it hard to see the evidence of what God’s given me. But what if each time I manage to raise my sword off the ground again and each time I just miss being slashed across my leg by the opposing sword is God at work too?

UnHappy Father’s Day?

Origionally Posted on 19th June, 2016

This is for you if Father’s Day is far from happy; if you can’t think about your father without it bringing you pain; if you roll your eyes when you see yet another card with words like ‘daddy’, ‘hero’, ‘the best’ on it.

This is for you if you can’t find anything to celebrate about your father; if you get a pang of jealousy when someone says how great their dad is; if you avoid the question when asked if you’re doing anything for father’s day.

This is for you if you feel slightly sick when you read another facebook post gushing about a great dad; if singing church songs about ‘Father God’ is confusing; if you know your children will never know their grandfather.

This is for you if you see a little girl with her dad and pray hard that he’ll never hurt her; if hearing how earthly fathers are meant to be a picture of our heavenly Father makes you question your faith; if sometimes – when memories are the darkest and the pain is too much to bear – you wish you never knew your father.

I don’t have words or answers. Just questions and pain. But I’m thinking of you and hoping that this year Father’s Day is a little easier than the last one.

Most of all, when you roll your eyes at yet-another dad advert, give your finger to a ‘family is the best’ movie or burst into tears over a spilt drink because it’s easier than crying over what really makes you sad … know you are not alone.

Here’s to too much chocolate, silly comedy and cold cider!

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