When Your Heart Is Just Too Heavy

TRIGGER WARNING: This post talks about some issues that might be triggering, please consider before reading.

My heart is so very, very heavy and I have that aching tightness in my throat from needing to cry, but not being able to get out one tear.

I have read too many stories today of CSA (Childhood Sexual Abuse) and ChurchToo survivors. I have to read them – my heart demands I bare witness to their stories and hear their truth. But it brings pain – not just the pain that flows from their words and must be a daily part of their lives – but it stirs up my own pain, reminds me that the lid is still open on the well of my own experiences.

I also printed out almost an entire journal to read, that was recommended through the GRACE organisation – Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. The journal was titled ‘Child Absue and the Chrusch – Prevention, Pastoral Care and Healing. I didn’t really read it as I printed, but my heart broke again that it is even needed in the first place.

Why am I putting myself through such tough reading, such constant exposure to horrible issues? Because I can’t just sit and do nothing. There are too many hurting people out there, hurting people that all too often don’t find the comfort they need within churches, and if in my battles to make people talk about these things more and have a gentle, loving response to survivors, I can help at least one person to feel listened to, valued and loved, through one of the most horrific life-experiences, then it is more than worth my pain, my heavy heart, my sore throat, my nightmares.

For now, my heart is too heavy and it has exhausted me. Sometimes seeing hope is nearly impossible and the mountain seems overwhelmingly steep.

So for now, I’m going to seek hopeful-oblivion in an afternoon nap.

Another day

The main smell right now is of drying laundry that stinks of damp.

It’s been sitting in a washing machine or washing basket waiting to be hung up for too long, then put through again on an optimistic morning and left a day or two… then again … and now the damp smell just won’t leave. It’s too wet now to hang outside to give it a good airing, so I guess L and I are going to be smelling a bit musty for a week. 
At least, I hope it’s just a week. It’s not like this hasn’t happened before.  Seriously, if smells could be the soundtrack of your life? Damp laundry would be a major theme in mine …
I wasn’t going to write tonight. I thought about it and decided I didn’t have anything positive to say; I didn’t have any sort of conclusion to arrive at; I had no funny story to tell or any nice photo to share. 
And then I realised. 
That’s kind of what this whole thing is about, right? 
I’m here, past midnight, can’t sleep, lousy day, crap thoughts, bad habits, depressing weather, sad prospects, confused AF … but this is my reality. This is life with PTSD. This is life fighting to recover from 22 years of abuse. This is life not making it every day. 
You know what? This is life. This is life!! I’m still here! I’m still fighting. I’m still searching for God in all of this. I still want to try. I’m still living this life. 

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.

Oh Hello PTSD

“Power on through. You can do this. Power on through. You can do this. Power on through. You can do this.”

I was walking along the unfamiliar pavement, rapeating these lines outloud (to my embarrassment) to myself, getting that slightly burning wheeze that comes from cold air, fast walking, a general lack of fitness … and panic.

I’d pushed the button to get off at the next bus stop, but I hadn’t known until that moment that this bus didn’t stop at the bottom of the hill, but went round to the next road. I had already been running late, now I just couldn’t think about the time.

When I say ‘I just couldn’t think about the time’, I mean I actually could not think about the time. I had to tell myself my watch was running 10 minutes fast and that everything was going to be ok.

Otherwise I was going to run away.

I know, because I’ve done it before.

You know what? I made it! I made it to work, my boss didn’t say anything about the time, work happend, I left, I still had my job. In my book, that’s a win.

It turns out, I’m needed in my job, I want to be there, I feel like I’m in the right place. But I left feeling heavy, sad, disappointed – those last 3 minutes before getting there had been a big fight.

The buzz of the first two weeks of working again is settling into normality. The drive to prove myself capable and entitled to this job is melding into the reality of beating my fears every time I go to work; of knowing that most people don’t even know that ringing that doorbell is an act of courage every single time.

PTSD becomes a part of my everyday life. Has probably been for longer than I’d be able to admit. It doesn’t become easier, but it does become a wierd kind of normality. Do I forget it’s there? Um, no! I don’t forget the nightmares that happen every night or the 13 times I have to check the front door is locked before I can go to bed. Do I try to minimise it’s impact on my life and pretend that I can do whatever anyone else can do without it causing negative affects? Abso-flipping-lutely I do!

The reality comes sneaking up behind me and knocks me over the head. PTSD is a real and living thing in my life and sometimes, it can be cripplng.

This morning I made it to work and everything was ok. This evening I didn’t make it out to homegroup and I sobbed into my knees with frustration and shame after my husband accepted a lift there (despite not wanting to go) and I stayed at home.

I felt like I had failed and I felt so small and pathetic. Once again I had oh-so-very-publicly demonstrated that I am Not Normal.

I meant to go. I even got the bus home instead of walking so I’d have enough energy to go to homegroup and be normal and stuff. But the car giving a lift only had one spare seat, so was very happy to come back for me … but I would be causing an extra lift (I HATE it when people have to put themselves out for me) and I’d have to do it alone with a man …

My throat started to close up and I actually froze mid-conversation. Dam. I thought I was being normal … right?

Both me and my ever-lovely husband knew right then that I wasn’t going to be going. I tried to tell myself it was still going to happen … somehow.

But I got supper just that bit too late. The doorbell rang while L was atill eating. I wanted to run and hide but had to answer the door … I have this cringe-worthy need to fill any silence that could be interpreted as awkward when I’m tired or nervous … I was both … I knew I wasn’t going, I guessed that the kind-but-still-male person knew I wasn’t going … and knew that I knew that he knew … and L went when he had worked longer, harder, more frustrating hours than me …

And I stayed at home and sobbed into my knees. Even though I hate crying.

Oh, hello PTSD.

Still the Freak Show

“So what do you do?” That little chilly tingle slips down my spine as I reluctantly turn to smile at the person standing next to me. I always hope that they’re going to be so interested in what my husband does for a job that they’re going to forget about asking me.

If it wasn’t that question, it would be another. “Where did you go to university?” Maybe they’ll ask that one too.

When I cut it back to the absolute truth, the answers are really simple. I don’t and I didn’t.

I’ve never had the guts to be that direct with anyone, although there have been many times when I have been so weary of trying to make my words paint a picture that doesn’t exist, that I long to scream those words and run from the room. Back to hide in my own space where I (almost always) understand me and my history and don’t have to feel like the freak show. Again.

With most people, I have no intention of giving the reasons behind my lack of current job or why I didn’t go to uni and what kept me living with my parents until I was 21. It isn’t something they need to know (even if they think they should) and I’m not going to tell my story to just anyone. But that doesn’t stop the curious looks – and sometimes the curious questions too. And it doesn’t stop me feeling like the outsider … like a pair of jeans in a Christian homeschooled girl’s wardrobe.

There are people who I want to understand me. I care about their opinion and I want to be a part of their lives. Those people for whom a polite half-truth just won’t do. Those people who have become close enough to see through the self I present to everyone else. Their questions come from a place of caring and love, from wanting to really understand because they want to understand me and the experiences that have brought me to where I am now.

But how do I explain, even to an honestly caring friend, a life experience that has so little in common with their own upbringing that it might as well have been from another era? A childhood that in part actually did come from another era?

How do I explain why I obeyed and even at times furvently pursued the very controls that I then ran away from? How do I show them that the headscarf-wearing, Christmas-is-evil spouting, who-was-Bart-Simpson girl is the same as the let-women-preach, why-can’t-gays-be-Christians, nose-pierced, Iron-Maiden-listening women they see in front of them?

How can I explain why maxi-dresses make me feel stupid and ugly instead of pretty and fashionable? Why a sermon on the Old Testament stresses me out rather than fascinates me? Why someone enthusing about homemade bread and natural cleaners will have me rolling my eyes cynically instead of joining in the discussion?

How do I even begin to explain why PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), flashbacks and nightmares are a part of my everyday life? Why a talk about forgiveness would have me leaving in the middle of church and fighting tears all the way home? Why babysitting a toddler and watching their adorable innocence would make my thoughts so unbearable that I have to recite good memories to myself?

I haven’t found the answer yet. I don’t know how to explain these things. I don’t know how to explain that you can get debilitating culture shock from leaving your parents house. Or how a quote from the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt can make you laugh with glee and cry inside at the same time.

I read an article on Homeschoolers Anonymous the other day that explains why The Village is such an eerily good representation of some of our childhoods. It doesn’t get it all, but it goes a long way to allowing others a small moment of comprehension when viewing our lives.

I haven’t found the answer yet. But I haven’t given up. I’m searching for those words; trying to paint that picture. I don’t want you to hear my stories and say “you poor thing”; I want you to hear my stories and know that I am not the only one. I don’t want you to pity me; I want you to be there as an ear, a voice or a hand for the ones who are still living inside those woods of fear, however they were planted.