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.

Ladies, Luke and Lunch

On Sunday afternoon, around 40 women from my church, are going to be getting together and creating an audio recording of the book of Luke.

To say I am excited about this would be a bit of an understatement!!

This kind of came about because of me. No, it’s not that simple and so far from just me.

Last summer my church did a spotlight/focus group for anyone that was feeling disillusioned with church or God. Baring in mind my history – and my bewildering urge to step up and be vulnerable so others feel safe to share – I went along …

Long story short, I had coffee with a leader from church and I ended up telling a bit more of my story and trying to answer her (very familiar) question of ‘why are you still in church?!’

Once I explained I couldn’t read the Bible because it brought back too many memories from my childhood and the constant replay of my father’s voice in my head, she asked if I’d tried an audio version of the Bible …

After explaining that listening to the Bible read by a man was just a reinforcement of the “men are the final authority on God and life and you are just a feeble woman” message I grew up with, she challenged me to find a version read by a woman …

Numerous hours and frustrating clicks on my keyboard later, I found one woman read, second hand, audio version of the New Testament available for over $150, through US Amazon only.

I decided this had to be corrected and honestly? I was kind of surprised no one had noticed this gap before… I mean, how could it have slipped everyone’s notice that there wasn’t a female-voice audio Bible?!

Instead of heading down the route of crowdfunding, awareness campaigns and professional recording studios, I mentioned my plan to the amazing S who had first suggested I find this female audiobook. After one of the most spine-tingling ‘I’d been thinking the same thing’ moments ever, we had the plan I’d just dreamed of.

And so, two days from now, after notices and then an interview in one service and an interview still to come in the second service, over 40 of us women are going to come together and create what we believe is the first of its kind in the UK – a women-read audio recording of a book of the Bible.

I know I am absolutely not the only one out there who struggles with reading the Bible – for whatever the reason – and the number of any of us that would struggle to listen to it in a male voice can only begin to be recognised.

We still haven’t heard back and got the all-clear from the publishers of the TNIV, but I hope that this can be free to anyone that wants, or needs, to hear it, and can be given, free of any charge, to any organisations that seeks to heal and support anyone who has been hurt by men, of whatever gender, background or faith.

Anxiety is Exhausting

Being anxious isn’t exactly a new thing for me. But I’ve lived with it a long time, I get familiar with the regular feelings of anxiety and it kind of melds into the background normality of my life – maybe not normal or healthy for most, but it’s become my normal.

I’m about to do something pretty big and pretty brave – watch this space for more details in a few weeks.

I’m very excited about it and am convinced it is the right thing to do… but it involves me being pretty open about my story, in front of two-services-worth of my whole church …

That is just one part of the project, not even the most important part for most, but it is the motivation behind it and without doubt, the most scary part for me!

So right now, my anxiety is screaming, rolling around on the floor and demanding I pay attention. As I said, anxiety is something that’s become normal for me, but right now it’s more than I usually have to deal with. The constant reminding myself to breath evenly; trying to ignore my fast heart rate when I’m meant to be sleeping; the tightness in my breathing and the pain in my chest; the feeling deep in my throat like I’ve been breathing in too much freezing-cold air; the constant effort to un-clench my jaw and relax my shoulders… it’s exhausting.

Not just the exhaustion from the physical symptoms, but the exhaustion from a mind that won’t stop whirling with possible scenes of the events, what the repercussions might be, who might not understand, what people will say – if maybe I have made some horribly big mistake and I shouldn’t be doing this or maybe even that none of ‘it’ ever happened in the first place.

Despite being excited for this project, despite knowing it’s the right thing to do, despite wanting this to be a first step towards more… my anxiety is trying to cripple me, and it is exhausting.

Feral Families 

So I responded to a thread on Facebook.

Not something I normally do. I know that it’s a more public forum when it comes to people you know in your day to day life. At least with blogging there is some sort of a sense of being a faceless person – or at least of being able to pick and choose who knows who you are … 

This post was talking about a documentary on Channel 4 called Feral Families. These parents had taken their kids out of school and were teaching them at home … or letting them do their own thing … mostly with a no-rules attitude. 

Someone had watched it and was surprised that they weren’t as adverse to it as they thought they would be. Comments followed from varying view points, but the biggest concerns seemed to be about the children’s futures –  would their lack of education and/or standard life skills be a problem for them when they were adults? Would they regret the way they were raised?

Enter myself. I am a grown up product of an alternative education. Granted I have had added religious and abusive factors which has affected not only the way my parents handled the homeschooling, but also my experience of it and how I look back on it now. But still I am someone that has grown through homeschooling, come out of the other side and can give an answer to those questions about what the future kids will feel – not the only answer, but a valid one none the less.

I’m not sure if I was overly honest, overly critical, overly supportive, overly biased – it is very hard to tell. But these are many comments. 

I decided to watch this program after reading this thread … especially as this is quite a personal topic for me. I was homeschooled from 3-16 and ‘left school’ with no GCSEs or A Levels, poor 11-year old maths and basically no chemistry or physics. I was one of 4 siblings and we only had 3 face-to-face friends between us. There was no way we would have been classified as no-rules, as it was a religion-based choice. However ‘schooling’ was a loose term and my education was basically down to my own efforts from 13. There were other complicating factors in my childhood, but I left at 21, have lived mostly-independently since then, have held down jobs and even got accepted onto a university course. Mostly by my own determination, but I was taught very good reading, writing, communication and reasoning skills. Will I homeschool my own kids? Not unless there’s some overwhelming issue that makes it a necessity!!

On the flip side, when I was 16 I started working as a mother’s help for another homeschool family. She brought in a tutor for the subjects that she didn’t feel confident she could teach herself and would drive hours every week to make sure her three children went to clubs and socials with other homeschooled and regular-schooled children. All 3 have since got multiple GCSEs and A Levels. No 1 has gone to a good university and now has their own flat and job. No 2 decided they wanted to do their A Levels at a local college. I have a lot of respect for the persistence and strength of the Mum. 

If you have read this far – thank you so much! I felt the need to present a bit of an insiders perspective of the story! 🙂

Having re-read my comment, it might sound like I am supporting this parenting style (although I can see some benifits – definitely not!). Despite my parents belief (and I think a widely held belief of the small number of parents who started homescholing in the ’80s) that homeschooling would set us apart and universities and employers would snatch us up because of the self discipline it would demonstrate, I have found this to be far from reality! To answer Jen Ann and Joanne Hall – yes, it has a massive inpact on the child’s future! Job searching has been a massively stressful and largely unsuccsessful mission. Eventually I have found jobs in childcare, where I have the most experience – thankfully I enjoy it! But not allowing your children to take the exams by which every educational facility and employer filters their applicants – disabling. And I don’t use that word lightly.

Thank you for responding! 🙂 I don’t advertise my background and I think that sort of answers your question in itself! I am more ashamed than proud of my unusual upbringing. As I said there were other complicating factors which I hope makes my experience abnormal for homeschooled/homeraised kids. I believe everyone’s past experiences and how they handle those shape the person you are today, so would I change that person? Difficult, but I’ve fought really hard to become the person I am so … no. Most of the time! Even at 8ish I was desperate to go to school and be like other children, so I think I would have been better in a more standars route. But each child is different and I have heard amazing stories of children flourishing from being at home. I felt that at the time of programming, the children were still at the age that *of course* they prefer being at home and getting to do whatever they want – what kid wouldn’t?! Do you regret it later? I have. I think a parent should look long and hard at the motivation for the choice and should put extra effort into thoughts of their children’s future, because have they taken on a massive responsibility or what?!

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!

dscf1412

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.