Real Life

To the man walking down the street at 11:30pm, staring at the woman putting out the recycling collection, in her cheepo jogging trousers with a hole in the bottom and her broken Birkenstock-look-alikes, swearing when the lid fall off the shampoo bottle …

Yes, this is real life.

This is real life when you have the first physical sensation flashback you’ve had in years.

And you don’t do anything, your face remains the same and you carry on listening to your friend talking. You swallow the panic and the intense nausea. You space out but try and act engaged.

You call your husband when you leave and forget why it was you called him and what it was that was so important you had to call him, when you’d be home in 5 minutes.

You go home, even though you need to go grocery shopping, and one of the first things to leave your mouth?

‘Why can’t I even react to a flashback like a normal crazy person?’

You try to take a nap, but can’t – or you drift out of waking and dreaming so quickly you can’t tell if you slept or not.

But you go get groceries and you cook your husband supper. Because that’s what you do.

You push away thoughts you don’t want all evening. Because that’s what you do.

And then you remember at 11:30 at night that you haven’t put out the recycling for the collection in the morning. So you do it in your comfy clothes that don’t get worn outside. Even though they have holes in and you’re grumpy.

Because that’s real life.

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.

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?!

When Anxiety Wins

This evening I was meant to be baking a birthday cake. 

The cake didn’t get made.

Was is just because of exhaustion? No. If I had just been tired, I would have made the cake. 

I was anxious. And my anxiety won. 

Now I’m going to have to make it tomorrow morning before work … ever heard about chronic lack of sleep and mornings? Yeah … 

My husband just asked if I’d made the cake this evening and when I said no I felt like I had to justify it (what’s new?) and said that after work, shopping for cake bits, phoning my Grandma, supper and doing a couple of days worth or washing up, I just didn’t have any energy left to bake a cake … I can imagine him thinking that, as I knew I needed to make a cake, I shouldn’t have phoned my Grandma. 

PLEASE NOTE: this is what I’m thinking, not what he said! I am probably wrong (as I usually am in these cases) and he is just looking sympathetic of my exhaustion. This is my anxiety/issues talking, not him. And later it turned out he really did understand …

This week I have been thinking of my Grandparents a lot and thinking that I should call them. Maybe because it was my birthday this week, so I normally get a card from them. Maybe because I am mourning the loss of my immediate birth family and that makes me think of my Grandparents who have been so faithful and supportive.  Whatever the reason, I meant to call them every day this week …

When I didn’t get a card from them on my birthday I (mostly) dismissed it, but the next day I was battling the paranoid thoughts that something awful had happened. It’s a long story, but basically my parents have kept emergency stuff about my Grandparents from me more than once, so I worry it will happen again …

This evening when I got home from work I was relieved to find a birthday card from my Grandparents.  It had the usual birthday cheque inside and a very typical amendment to the contents made by my Grandad!

Despite the relief of getting the expected card, I felt like I should ring them. I was exhausted and knew I should really make this cake … no, I NEEDED to ring them. 

I got on with some aimless bits and bobs, downloaded some programs to watch, but some fish fingers in the oven for supper (L was out) but got more and more panicked as the minutes went by.

I became convinced that if I didn’t phone them this evening, I would regret it for the rest of my life; that if I didn’t phone them this evening something awful was going to happen to them and I would always blame myself for not talking to them one last time …

Logically irrational? Yes. A very real, panick-inducing force? Absolutely. 

So I phoned my Grandma. The expected 10 minute chat was half an hour. Lovely, upsetting, exhausting. 

I knew when I put down the phone and started a late supper that the cake wouldn’t be made tonight. I was done. 

My week, my working day, my needed tasks, the panicked pressure to call family, the attention and emotional energy needed for a Long talk with my Grandma….

It was always going to be a slim chance of me baking after work, but my anxiety decided for me. 

Do I really think my Grandparents are going to be in some horrific set up tomorrow? Of course not! Not really … I mean, a little part of me …
Anxiety how I hate you. 

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. 

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!

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.