a bad day, storms, rainbows and God.

Yesterday was not a great day.

I was running on super tiredness having had no sleep. Well, maybe one or two hours, but I had had nightmares from hell. Literally. Well, it felt that way anyway. I was grumpy.

And I had to do my usual 90 mile round trip to the hospital (the one I am currently doing at least 3 times a week). I had a meeting with my Consultant. I didn’t quite get what I was hoping for.

As I got to my car the torrents of rain fell, the lightening and thunder started. I don’t do storms well. I was feeling quite frazzled anyway and then discovered the great big dent in the side of it (thank you whoever rammed their car into the front of mine) that had been put there during the three hours whilst I had been inside the hospital hearing what I didn’t want to be hearing.

So I had a rant. Sent a text message to someone who I knew could handle the swearing. Rang my Mum. And posted a Facebook status.

By the time I got to into the next town on from the city my hospital is at, I had to stop, and delete the Facebook message. Why?

Because as I drove into Newark in front of me I saw THE MOST stunning, bright, beautiful coloured (obviously) rainbow I have EVER seen. I have only ever seen such a full rainbow once, and never seen one quite so bright, and extravagant before. It was one of those ‘gasp’ type things.

And then, and I know some of you will think I have gone mad, and I have not written about this before, but I felt like I had this presence in my car. And I did. In a really visual way. (feel free to ask me if you want to know more) and my body physically felt like something electric was going through it (I will also explain that to anyone who wants to know/ask).

I ended up crying. Not from an an angry place which I thought would be the reason why I would eventually end up in tears, but because I was so overwhelmed by the love of God. And by the fact that the last time I had this visual thing I saw, and felt that presence, it had come with a really strong and visual message, reminding me I was forgiven. And that I am protected.

As I drove on under that rainbow, it felt like I was driving through it. The rain had subsided, and I was reminded of Gods promises.

I was reminded that He is faithful. That He does provide. And that He can heal.

Even on the stormy days. Even when the clouds are black. Even when it is pissing down with rain and my brain is overloaded and desperately wants to cry, scream, shout, tantrum God broke in, as He seems to often be doing these days.

He IS being faithful to me, and He always has been, even when I wondered away, He never did.

He is providing for all my needs. Seriously, only just a few weeks ago I had looked at my bank account and wondered how the rest of the month was going to work food wise/petrol for non hospital visit stuff. And I just had to to pray and give it to God. And trust He had got it. A couple of hours later, literally, on the same day I got given some money. That has kept me going for the last few weeks. I have been off work for more than a few months now. I don’t quite know its all working. But it is. For which I am so thankful.

And He has and is healing me. In so MANY different ways. We sometimes see ‘healing’ as this big ‘supernatural’ one minute you are ill the next you are not. But I don’t believe it always works that way. I had the privilege to share at a friends seminar at a conference recently briefly, and during those few minutes I acknowledged that I totally totally totally believe in miracles, and that God, at the click of a finger can and does heal. But I know often He doesn’t too. I don’t know why. I also know Gods healing goes far beyond any ‘physical’ thing.

Not long before I was due my bone marrow biopsy results I had a phone conversation with a friend who I love to bits and who always grounds me well, that went a bit like this –

‘Wendy – I’m scared – (I was having a BAD day). I’m scared I’m going to end up being in the same place as a few years ago. What if I end up being so low I can’t deal with life any more again?”

Wendy replied with ‘yeah, but you won’t. Because you are NOT the same person as you were then’.

And she was right. So so right. And that hit home, just the next day as I was in my car and had another ridiculously mad experience of God.

I might be physically sick, I might have had a few years of being physically unwell, and I might still have nightmares, and the odd flashback, and I might still have to work through some stuff BUT what God has done over the last 24 months in my life, my mind, my soul and my spirit HAS BEEN HEALING. Supernaturally so.

My pastor Chris tweeted a quote this morning by Gav Calver (Director of Missions for the EA) who was speaking at some leaders day they’ve been having locally.

It said this ‘nothing is ever just an event. We are all on a journey’.

Yep. Thats it. Thats me. On a journey. A journey just like you, and everyone else. Mine is a bit different to yours, and everyone else’s. As is yours to mine. Because we are all unique. And I’ve been discovering God is pretty unique too, so much so that He is able to meet each and every one of us in our own individual and different ways because He knows exactly how to respond, and how we will respond. How cool is that?

As I got home, the rain which had cleared came back. The storm I had driven through in Nottingham, left in Newark had followed me back to Sleaford. And it was torrential. I sat in my car, on the drive, watching it. The lightening. Hearing the thunder.

Yet I saw the rainbow I had seen just half an hour before flash across my mind.

So I deleted my status. Why?

Not because I want my life to look ‘rosy’, because it sure ain’t ever going to be. And not because I don’t want to continue being as real and as honest and and blunt as you all know me to be. Because trust me, that will continue I promise.

But because actually yesterday I realised what I need to do was to give the glory to God.

(I know I know, some of you are probably rolling your eyes at me, wondering where the old Helen went, and thinking I’ve lost the plot, but its OK, I can handle that)

I wanted the status I put up instead to despite it being a tough day give God the glory He deserves. And to reflect that He is doing good things. And to tell people about His promises.

Because I am thankful each and every day that He keeps them, and what for He has done, is doing and is going to do in my life.

 

World Suicide Prevention Day, today, tomorrow and forever.

When I came round I realised I didn’t actually remember getting there. I was devastated.
I was in a hospital. I wanted to be in a coffin.

I remember being walked to the mental health unit. Where I was put in a room. It had sofas. And comfy chairs.

I chose the floor.

I curled up on it, under a huge open window, and the rain started to fall. The lightening started to strike and the thunder started to roll. And I just sobbed. I rarely cried then (I know, if you know me now you’ll find that hard to believe!). But I did that day.  I didn’t care. About anything. I was alive and I didn’t want to be.

Somehow they let me home. With strict weekend Crises Team contact and my CPN visiting daily.

Fast forward three months later. It had been a long few months. It was the night before my birthday. I was still devastated to be alive and I did not want to spend another year on this earth. Living in and with the darkness that had overwhelmed my mind. With the pain and torment that was overtaking every single bit of me and my life. I

I wanted out. I was tired. My mind was tired. And my body was getting tired. Of the nicotine, alcohol, cutting. So I made plans. Plans that would ensure it would work this time. So I didn’t end up feeling like even more of a failure than I already did by not being able to successfully kill myself AGAIN.

As I walked to the bridge that someone I had known when I was a teenager had hung themselves from I prayed. I know. I didn’t really believe any more. Or so I used to say. But I did really. I just was angry with God for ‘letting’ what happened happen. But more than anything felt like I had let Him down. That my whole life had been a let down. To God and everyone else. So I prayed. And said sorry. Sorry that I couldn’t make anyone proud. Sorry for being a failure. And I asked that God that He would just look after my Mum. It was all I wanted. My mum to be looked after.

As I stood at that bridge I wondered what would happen if it didn’t work. It was the first time a seed of doubt had entered my mind. The first time a ‘what if …’. It didn’t work last time, so what if …. And then a more general ‘what if …’ came by. At the same time as some headlights of a car passing by (I was hidden by a tree).

What if …

What if some how there could be a light found once again. Even if it was fleeting? What if …?

I don’t know how I knew the Samaritans existed. Maybe it was just something I knew. Maybe I had seen them advertised. Maybe someone had told me about them. I don’t know. But something in my soul stirred.

I hung up the first time. And the second. But on the third go, after being silent for what felt like the longest 5 minutes of my life (maybe it wasn’t that long, I don’t know),  I finally spoke. And the person on the end of the line was still there. Just waiting. His name was Steve.

Steve stayed on the phone with me for over an hour. And then another hour. And then while I walked home. And laid on top my bed smoking cigarette after cigarette. He stayed on the phone while I was silent. And while I cried. And while I talked out everything that was in my head. It wasn’t pretty. Steve stayed on the phone most of that night with me. Until the sun started to rise. Light started to flood into my flat, through the crack in the black out curtains. Until imminent danger had passed. I am still, to this day thankful for Steve, the Samaritan. Whoever he is.

It was the last time I would actively try/seriously consider/make moves to kill myself. And it was the night the smallest glimmer of light entered into my life.

That was 8 years ago.

And I don’t know where to begin trying to tell you how different life is now.

Some of you reading this will know me, and will be able to agree with me on that.
Some of you don’t know me but all I can say is I am alive, and thats a good thing.

Living looks very different now to back then.

I won’t pretend its been easy. It hasn’t. It took another 18 months to truly come to a place of accepting I was alive. It took a few more years to be in a place where self harm, smoking, and getting very drunk were not features of daily life. It took even more years to start processing the terrors of life that had took me to the brink.

Its taken 8 years to get to this place now, and I’m still journeying. But it is a journey worth journeying.

Why am I telling you this? Why am I writing this?

Because its World Suicide Prevention Day today, and social media has been buzzing with tweets and statuses. I don’t even know how many. Millions. And I love that we have this day and it does some amazing awareness work, for sure but …

I know, there is a but. Which might not please everyone.

BUT as I read through the tweets on the hashtag this morning, and as I reflected on my contact with Steve and the Samaritans I thought about how many people are ‘marking’ this day with a tweet, and will then never think about it ever again? Or not again until next year comes around?

How many people tweet/facebook status a simple ‘you are not alone’ and a ‘RUOK’ today, but not the rest of the year? We are encouraging people to ask their friends if they are ok, today. Which is great …

But we need to be doing that every day. We need to be asking our friends every day if they are ok. We need to be watching out every day for people we know who are vulnerable and for the people we are in contact with.

We need to be signposting them to organisations that can help. Professionals. Trained people. As well as being listening ears and friends.

AND WE NEED TO KEEP TALKING ABOUT SUICIDE.

We need to keep talking about the issue, not just once a year. Not just on the 10th September. Not just every now and then, when a famous person, or a high profile media story breaks.

We need to be working towards erasing the stigma that mental health issues and suicide bring EVERY DAY. It needs to become part of who we are and not just a topic that we jump onto when its popular.

Because whether you like it or not, this isn’t a popular topic. People don’t normally want to talk about it. People don’t understand it. People misunderstand. People believe the myths. People don’t know where to begin.

Both in society, and within the church/faith groups.

And that leaves people like me with no where to go, and feeling like there is no one to talk to.

That needs to change. Must change.

If everyone tweeting today on the World Suicide Prevention hashtag supported this cause every single day of the year how much of a difference could we make in the world?

If everyone tweeting today using that hashtag (if able to) donated just a couple of quid to an organisation such as the Samaritans, how much of a difference could that make?

I urge, and beg actually that if this is something you have engaged with today, but you don’t normally, please don’t stop. Please continue. Please use your voice. Be active. Do something. It might not be donating money to a cause, sure, I understand that, but maybe it is? Maybe it is volunteering for a local helpline? Maybe it is getting some more education on the issues. Maybe its advocating for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Maybe its … there is SO much you can do … as well as tweeting once a year.

I used to believe there was no hope. I’ve discovered there is. And it was and is because people were and still are willing to reach out, and hold my hand (kinda) and walk alongside me.

And thats what people have done for me, and continue to do. They’ve not given up.

And its what we need to do with people in a hopeless place. Walk with them. Its a hard road. But worth it.

I remember someone saying to me a few years ago when my head was starting to overload again (my Pastor actually) that they (he & the church) couldn’t just pick me up and take me through the crap, and put me down the other side, because it wouldnt work that way. But what they could do was hold my hands, position themselves either side of me and walk beside me, alongside side me. WITH ME.

Please please please be willing to do that. 24/7. 365 days. Not just on the 10th September.

World Suicide Prevention Day needs to be today, tomorrow, and forever.

Thank you x

If you are alone – hurting – broken -in pain – can’t see the light – want out – YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 

Contact the Samaritans
08457 90 90 90  (UK)
116 123 (ROI)

or reach our to your local suicide prevention helpline or a friend if you are somewhere else in the world xx

Flashbacks, tantrums and Jesus

10 days ago was an ‘anniversary day’. A day of ‘its 8 years on’.
This year I decided not to blog about it. I just shared a few thoughts on FB/twitter and left it at that.

There is not a day that goes by, no matter what I am doing, who I am with and how cheerful I feel where at some point it does not run across my mind somewhere, sometimes just fleetingly, sometimes for longer. The memory. Of that day. And all that was lost. But this year I had a positive day.
8 years on I am still here. I am learning to love and be loved again and I was able to not mourn for what I lost but be thankful for who I am and who I am becoming.

A friend of mine, Steve says this – ‘Its ok to look back, just don’t stare’. I love that quote. But sometimes I do find myself staring. I can’t help it. Like the last few days. After such a positive week last week, passing through the ‘8 year anniversary’ it felt like the rug was pulled from under my feet, when in the early hours of the Sunday I had a flashback. It came out of the blue. They always do come so out of the blue. No warning. Often no trigger. And it was like a stomach punch, and like having an elephant stamping on my chest. I threw up. I often do (classy, right?). Panic started to rise. Fear flooded in. And my mind and body was invaded. By thoughts and physical feelings I can’t stop.

It isn’t pretty, and yet in the ‘it is not pretty’ aftermath I realised it was not as messy as it can be. Somehow I made it to church. Somehow, although I cried through most of it, I allowed myself to be loved, hugged, and supported by friends without flinching, or wanting to punch anyone who tried to touch me. And somehow I was able to still worship God in my own way that day.

It can take weeks to fully recover, but it felt like this time round, recovering was coming a little bit quicker. Until …

Tuesday came … just 48 hours later. I was cooking some food to take to connect later in the evening (we eat together every week before we meet and if you’ve never thought about it, and its a possibility, do it, such a great community time). I had stuff to do after lunch, and places to be.

And then my mind was taken over. Again. And I was back there. In that place. And so it started all over again. I don’t really have the words to fully be able to express just how they make you feel. Or how they make me feel. Everyone is different.
But its traumatic. Its reliving the trauma. And with each one a different memory is pulled to the forefront more than anything else. And things your mind has chosen, or things you have chosen to block are unblocked. And you can’t stop staring. You can’t stop staring back. Because its there. Its as if it happened yesterday.

For me to have two flashbacks in the space of two days is unusual. Ive never had that happen before. And on top of the current spell of horrific nightmares its made the last few days pretty rough. Pretty tough going.

And yet Tuesday was the same as Sunday in terms of messiness. It was messy, but not as messy as it could have been.

My afternoon plans got cancelled, so after doing a few little jobs to help someone out I went for a drive. nd found myself in a garden centre having a cup of tea and listening to some music. Remembering.

And as I drove home, it started to rain. And as it started to rain, I started to cry. And I ended up stopping the car (driving and crying is quite hard) and getting out. And walking. Through some random field (sorry farmer). My clothes got wet. My hair got wet. My feet got wet. My tears merged in with the rain.

When I got back to my car I had a text (I probably should have taken my phone with me right) asking how I was doing. I looked at it, and wanted to reply. I wanted to reply with ‘I’m wet, fucking wet, and I want to throw myself on the floor, in the rain, and have a tantrum. Like a toddler. I want to scream. And shout. As loud as I possibly can. That its not fair. None of this is fucking fair’. The text was from my Pastor. He would have been fine with that, I’m pretty sure. But I decided to wait until I got home to reply. Until I was home, and dry and more calm. So I started to drive back. And as I thought about the tantrum I was so desperate to have, the cross came into my mind. An image of a wooden cross. With someone hanging on it. Jesus. And He was looking at me. And I was looking at Him. And that made me cry (again), I know I know (would you believe me if I told you I NEVER used to cry?). Seeing this image of Jesus hanging there thinking about my tantrum made me wonder whether Jesus ever felt like having one? Wonder if Jesus ever felt like stomping, sulking, door slamming, item throwing, screaming, lying on the floor banging his fists, kicking his feet, crying, swearing.

I wonder if Jesus ever felt like having a tantrum?

I wonder if Jesus ever felt like having a tantrum in amongst the pain He had to endure? Because He did have pain to endure. Much of it.

He knew what it was like to be hurt. Emotionally, and physically. He knew what it was like to lose someone, as we know when Lazarus died ‘He wept’. We know He cried over Jerusalem. And we know He was betrayed by a friend. Judas. That must have hurt like hell. We have to accept and acknowledge that Jesus had feelings. Emotions. If we don’t we can’t accept His full humanity. That He was a living breathing person walking on earth, as physically as you and I do now. So He knew pain.

And He knew the pain of the cross. The pain from the thorn of crowns. The nails, the spear going into his side. The whipping before hand, the scorching sun beating down on His bruised body. I can’t imagine it.

So yeah, He knew pain. And He took it. Sure, He might have said ‘really?’. He might have asked ‘why’? But He took it.

He took the pain. For me.

And I realised driving home that I am not in this alone. I really am not in this alone because I have amazing friends covering the land, and a local community of people surrounding me who have become family. I am not in this alone because I have people who love me, and who I love greatly too.

And I am not in this alone because in my pain, whatever pain that might be, I have Jesus.
And He gets it. He gets my pain.

I still don’t have all the answers (and I know and have finally accepted I never will) and I still have a walk to walk.

But suddenly in that moment, the ‘journey’ took another step forward.
My understanding of God and my relationship with Jesus took another step forward.

And I have to remember that, when it gets choppy.

And as I said at the beginning of this blog that no matter what, 8 years on I am still here. I am learning to love and be loved again and am I am thankful for who I am and who I am becoming.

And I am thankful for the cross. For Jesus. Who gave it all so I could live.

‘Because you lived I have life
Because you loved I have life

Within and despite all the pain and strife,

Because you lived I have life
Because you loved I have life’

Hearing God swear.

If you are easily offended by swearing (and/or the thought of God swearing) this is your warning.

I went on holiday a few weeks ago. I spent quite a lot of time praying and talking to God. I read Pete Greig’s ‘God on Mute’ book. Which made me cry numerous times.

I don’t have answers. No one has the answers. People are honest with me about that. Which I am thankful for. Friends, church leaders, people walking with me. Who knows why this is happening? I don’t. And reading Pete Grieg’s book reassured me. That even the founder of a 24/7 prayer movement doesn’t have all the answers. And in his own suffering and issues facing him, his wife and family he admits to asking the hard questions.

So I sat on the beach, asking some hard questions of God and as watched the sea, the sky, the waves, people I made a decision.

I decided that if I’m really sick, as in really really sick, as in if I have Mast Cell Leukaemia which my haematologist will give me more of an idea about next week I didn’t want treatment. Having googled far too much in those initial 48 hours I understand and realise and know about the severity of it.

The statistics are not great. Its considered ‘progressive’/’chronic’ so by the time its been detected its often too late to anything about it. And even then its aggressive. So even doing anything about it would most likely be fruitless.

So I decided I didnt want treatment.

IF (its a big if at the moment) I have MCL and I’m going to die, then I don’t want to die having spent the last however long of my life being even sicker because of treatment. Because of chemo. I don’t want the side effects ruining what I might have left of life.

I would take the drugs I needed to to die peacefully. Pain free. And happy. I decided that.

And as I decided that. I cried. And felt lighter. And more peaceful. And at that moment my two friends arrived on the beach to join me. I had my sunnies on, so they didn’t see my tear filled eyes. As they settled in, I decided to walk the shoreline. I wet my feet. Saw the indentations of my footprints as I strolled along. And I walked.

I had my old iPod with me, which was playing Tim Hughes music. Old Tim Hughes music. And I reflected on the fact that in the days of old, I used to go and sit by the shore line on a beach near my house and hurt my self. And then to make it hurt even more, I would pour salty sea water into my wounds. Its a miracle they never got infected. 7 years ago, I was in a bad place mentally and I used to sit by the beach wishing I was brave enough to walk in and drown.

Anyway, 2015, walking along the sun drenched beach in Portugal having decided if I have cancer I would have no treatment, I thanked God for all He had done in my life. For who He is, and for HOW far He has bought me. I’m not where I want/ed to be, but I’m not where I was either, and thats good.

And in that moment I heard God.

 

And He was saying ‘WHAT THE FUCK?’. Ha. Yep. For real.

It stopped me in my tracks. Literally. ‘What the fuck?’.

And yes, I was like, ‘Er you are not supposed to be swearing at me, thats MY job, to swear at you’. And I have. Many a time.

And so I was shocked. And jolted. A bit like a lightening strike, not that I’m sure those things actually happen, I don’t know. Maybe they do? Maybe they are not actual lightening strikes, but maybe they are moments that stop you dead in your tracks, and jolt you. Like this moment for me. And as I’m typing these words, I have a song playing called ‘holy moment’. And bizarrely, and in an unusual way, actually, it was a holy moment. It was what I felt like a ‘direct communication’ moment. I had talked to God. A lot. And now He was talking back.

To be honest, I can’t really fully put into words what I felt, and how it felt. But I ended up on my knees.

I figure ‘holy moments’ are supposed to be really reverent. I don’t know? I’m not sure what holy moments are meant to be and whether they are meant to include bad language. I don’t know what holy moments are meant to be, but to me, it was this.

It was a holy moment.

God was using my language. Back at me. And made me stop in my tracks. And made me realise I had said a lot to Him. But I wasn’t listening back.

It was a life lesson moment. A life lesson moment of stopping and listening to Him.

I was over awed.

Anyway, God made me hear him. By swearing at me. Unconventional, sure. But hey, this IS God.

So, why was God shouting ‘what the fuck?’. Well … because actually He had a point. What was I thinking … making my own plans?. Deciding my own future. Deciding what I was going to do. I, I, I. It was about all about I. I this, I that, I the other. And actually God wanted in. God wanted an in on my decisions (and some of those decisions aren’t mine to make anyway)

He was reminding me that He has a different plan for my life. That His plan for my life is not for me to curl up, wither away and die.

His ‘what the fuck?’ was reminding me that I am a fighter. As I wrote in my previous blog. I always have been, still am, and actually always will be a fighter. It is not in my nature to just ‘give up’. Even through gritted teeth as times, I have continued to fight. For a better life, a better future, a better world. I don’t know how well I’ve done, but I keep going.

His ‘what the fuck?’ was reminding me that I am not alone, and that I am a fighter, and that He is with me in this too. His presence is in my life. In January I had several life changing experiences of God over a space of 4 days. I’ve never been the same since. And during the first experience I had I felt strongly in a way that needs a whole blog on its own God saying ‘I have bought you safely this far, I am not letting go now’.

And when I look back, through it all, and I mean THROUGH IT ALL, not just this ill health, but through the abuse, the violence, the rape I realise and see that He is right. He has bought me safely, through it all. He isn’t going to stop now. He isn’t going to let me fall. He isn’t going to let me go. And He isn’t going to let me let go.

And so, by the time I had walked several miles up and down the beach after that ‘moment’ I realised I have to let God do what He does best, and be God. And let Him be in control. And trust that He has a reason, and a purpose. That whatever will be, will be.

But I have to keep walking with Him. Hand in hand (I know, its soppy, sorry, and hell, I have such a big issue with handholding anyway, but …)

By the time I got back to my sun lounger, still on the beach, my friends were chatting away, one was about to get ice creams, and I sat back down and smiled and joined in with them.

Gods ‘what the fuck?’ stopped me in my tracks. He will not stop fighting for me and so I must not stop fighting either. IF I am really sick, if I am to die sooner than old age, I will go down in the way that I know best. Fighting. With my family and friends. And with God.

For He is good.

Some thoughts about Fathers Day 2015 (& God)

In July 2014 I turned 30.
I hadn’t been in touch with him since a few years prior. I didn’t even know he knew how to get hold of me. As far as I was aware he didn’t. But he found me – on my 30th birthday.
And instead of celebrating during the day I was thrown into a meltdown of ‘he knows where I am’ and ‘WHY?’
Why now? Why not the many birthdays or Christmases before as he flitted in and out of my late teens/twenties?
We ended up having one or two text messages. He hasn’t been in touch since. But I knew he wouldn’t. He never does until its convenient for him.

And I’ve accepted that.

I’ve also accepted that it’s been painful.
It’s been painful to know he chose to abandon us as young children.
It’s been painful to know that subsequently the times I HAD to go and stay with him during school holidays he was abusive.
It’s been painful to know that I was and am not important enough.
It’s been painful to know that I am and never have been, and never will be good enough for him.

 

Its been painful to know that the dream you have as a little girl of your ‘Daddy’ being someone who would love and protect you was broken early on.
Its been painful to know growing up that the one who is supposed to shield you from the atrocities of life was one of the ones perpetrating some of them against you.
It’s been painful over the years to try so hard to be what I simply can’t be, in order to ‘win’ his love. Or to ‘win’ that relationship that would be functional, loving, and ‘normal’.

It’s been painful in many more ways. It’s been painful. It really has.

And yet today, Fathers Day 2015 I will choose to go to church, and worship God, who is ‘Father’. MY FATHER.

Last year during a seminar series my church run each term, I was challenged to my core, not long before I was due to be baptised. The person speaking said ‘who gave you permission to view your heavenly father in the same way as your earthly father’.
I went to bed crying that night. It hit me that I had spent many years comparing God to my biological father. And if I’m comparing God to him, then am I saying God is an abuser? I used to call God a sadistic Nazi bastard especially when I was being told/was starting to believe He ‘orchestrates all things so good will happen’ (I’ve subsequently learnt God actually weaves all things into good, which is different to saying He makes things happen so good will come of them) because I thought that meant God deliberately makes the horrendous moments exist (He doesn’t)

I couldn’t and still cannot see God as an abuser.
And so I had to separate God and my biological father.
It hasn’t been been easy. It has involved dealing with stuff. It still involves walking through some stuff. And sometimes it’s still painful. But this year, for me it feels like the sting is not quite as harsh.

A few weeks ago, in church I had a teary eyed/lump in throat moment watching a child being embraced by an adult in the service. Being embraced by someone who is a father. A grandfather.
He wasn’t this child’s father/grandfather but this child went to him.
I watched as she held on to him.
I watched as she sought comfort.
I watched as she sat on his knee, as she stayed still.
Loved. Safe.

Its all some of us ever long for isn’t it?
In a world that is often very hard and unkind.
To feel loved. And safe.

It’s all I’ve ever longed for, actually.

But I know I’m never going to find that with my biological father. So I’ve stopped striving for it.

I have to lift my eyes towards my heavenly one.
My God.
Who is safe.
There is no other.

He won’t abuse me. He won’t hurt me. He won’t leave me.
He won’t abuse you. He won’t hurt you. He won’t leave you.

As I wrote in my blog on Fathers Day last year
‘I don’t have an earthly father who loves me. In fact I have an earthly father who has caused untold pain and damage.

But I have a Godly one who does love and is love’

IF today is a day of rejoicing, celebration, happiness and gladness, I am really glad. If you have a Dad, a biological one, or one who takes on the role, as a step, or as a role model, or as a male figure in your life, I hope you are able to enjoy spending time with them/or celebrating them in some way. I join you in wishing those people Happy Fathers Day.

IF today is a day of remembering loved and lost ones, then I hope in your grief you are able to remember the good times.

 IF today is a day of pain, hurt, sadness, anger, darkness or any other negative emotion and IF today does nothing but remind of someone you have never had, or of someone who has hurt you beyond your wildest dreams then I am sorry.

I have am and will be thinking of you today.

Planning my funeral before my wedding, and fighting on.

I always imagined walking down the aisle, with my Grandad, to ‘Gabriels Oboe’.

My most favourite piece of music.

I never imagined at the age of 30 I would have planned my funeral and that instead of planning for walking towards someone who felt I was worthy of marrying, I would be thinking about the fact that I want my coffin taking in and out of church to that same piece of music.

At the moment it feels like death might come before marriage.

And I never imagined that.

Well, maybe I did, once before. 7/8 years ago when my world felt very black … but since then I’ve started to live life again.

I rediscovered hope. I rediscovered faith. I rediscovered what it means to wake up in the morning and be glad to be alive. I rediscovered what it is to smile again. Properly smile, not the fake ‘through gritted teeth’ or ‘pretend’ smile. And to laugh again.

So at the moment it is all a bit weird – because I’m finding myself in a place where to be alive feels too good and too precious to give up on, but yet I have had to spend time wondering if eventually I’ll have no choice.

Sometimes when I start my day I wonder if this is going to be the day that I die.

I wonder if It’ll be the day I have an asthma attack that they actually cant get on top of.

I’ve more than a few now that have gotten pretty close …

I wonder if this will be the day when my body is allergic to something that closes my airways or that I react so badly to, I just die.

I wonder if there is something more serious going on that no one has been able to identify which is why I am now seeing more consultsants, and facing even more tests.

I wonder if, when a few weeks ago one of my Consultants told me about mast cell disorder and that there are indicators that could suggest something much more serious than that if I have cancer. And if I’m going to die.

I’m not sure if I have ever thought about dying so much.

I was never really conscious of breathing. You know, that thing we all do, thousands of times a day. We breathe in. We breathe out. We take absolutely no notice. Well, most of us don’t. I never did. Until the first day I found myself unable to breathe.

Then I became pretty conscious of it.

Someone from recently told me I am like a cat with ‘9 lives’. I think I’m pretty close to that now … and then what …?

What happens when the nine lives have been used up – is that death?

I don’t know. At the moment I don’t know a lot.

But I do know I don’t want to die.

 

I do know, that despite the scars of a life before turning 30 that I am glad to be alive. And I don’t want to die.

 

I also know that I am a fighter.

On those days when I don’t want to get up and face the world, somehow I have to keep fighting.

On the days when I have absolutely no energy and I wake up and bury my head under the pillow for a few extra minutes that I somehow I have to keep fighting.

On the days when yet another hospital appointment feels like it might tip me over the edge, I have to keep on fighting.

I have to keep on fighting. Because if I don’t, then I might as well be dead.

 

Some days the fight looks like crying.

Some days the fight looks like wanting to have a tantrum.

Some days the fight looks like allowing myself to be looked after by other people.

Some days the fight looks like looking quite well and being able to go out.

Some days the fight looks like sleeping all day because I have no energy for anything else.

Some days the fight looks like writing.

Some days the fight looks like being the positive, strong and resisilent Helen lots of you know.

Some days the fight looks like reading my bible, praying, worshipping God.

Some days the fight looks like asking God why.

Some days the fight looks like being surrounded by my church family and friends and being together corporately to praise and learn about the One who has given us life.

Some days the fight looks easier than other days.

Some days the fight looks harder than other days.

 

Each day is different. But I know with each sun rise in the morning, comes a new day.

A new breath. For that moment, for that minute, for that hour. For that day.

And I am thankful for that.

 

 

Some thoughts on being a bit sick, being in control and God.

This morning I woke up and within minutes I had burst into tears.

Because I had a blocked nose and so I thought that maybe I had the starts of a cold. Yep, a cold. A bit of an over reaction I hear you say … yep.

But the last time I woke up and felt like I might have the starts of a cold, by the end of the day I was in hospital. Because between waking up and ending the day I had an asthma attack. And then it turned out the ‘starts’ of a cold was pneumonia.

Ive been hospitalised again since then. Not that long ago. That was a straight forwards asthma attack, except it wasn’t very straight forward. It never is.  I don’t respond to drugs well and usually after hours of struggling to breathe and many drugs I end up at the critical point.

I came out of that hospital stay feeling like it was time to plan my funeral. Which I did.

Yesterday I travelled to the hospital almost 90 minutes away which I visit regularly. And spent the afternoon in what felt like a ‘House’ scenario, where lots of Consultants came in and out (up to 12, I think, but to be honest, we lost count – at one point there were 5 in the room).

My body isn’t working. The symptoms are wide and varied and I could be here all night writing about the various issues, the various blood tests, the various things that have come up, and the fact that as yet no one seems to know what is going on except that I am sick.

This makes treatment pretty hard. And it means for the last 18 months I’ve been on a roller coaster ride of being set on a treatment path, stopped, started on new ones, stopped and so on. Being told one thing, or another, then something else.

Its meant side effects like before last Christmas 2013 my hair started to fall out. It means that if I take medication to help me sleep at night I can’t function properly, or be on the ball enough to work the next day, BUT if I don’t take those tablets I get 90 minutes (if that) of sleep because my body goes into overdrive and I can’t sleep because of crazy reactions or pain.

Its meant days before going away to run the additional needs team/work at a family church conference I had to pull out because I was not well enough. Its meant bailing out of plans on a regular basis, cancelling going to day events, dates with friends, and other things.

Its meant time off work. A lot of time of work, and at the moment its meaning not working.   I like to be a busy person. I’ve always worked, and worked hard. And so for the last 18 months/2 years each time I get sick, I go back to work as quickly as possible, as if nothing has happened. Because thats what I do. And because I am already on a low wage, and have no other income.

And also because I haven’t wanted to accept my body cannot keep up. And that it does not function at 100%.

Because accepting its sick is hard.

Accepting my GP told me the other week that I need to start considering this all may be classed as ‘chronic’ and that life will be about ‘managing’ instead of finding that one treatment that would sort it all out.

Accepting its sick and may never be fully healthy again means accepting life has to change. is changing.

And its meant accepting, once again that I don’t understand what is going on. I really don’t. And I would like to. As would my Mum. And my friends. And and and. But we don’t.

Its meant having to think about physical ‘healing’ and how God works, and does not work in that sense. Its meant avoiding conversation with the trigger happy ‘Jesus WILL heal’ you people because I just want to say ‘what if He doesn’t?’ or scream at them, and its meant having those gentle, but painful conversations with friends and tissues, and with people wiser than I am.

The conversations that go ‘Does God heal, Yes, but sometimes He doesn’t. Why?’. The kind of conversation there isn’t any answers to. And thats OK because I prefer the ‘there are no answers’ answers to a load of crap. Important but painful conversations that will have to continue to happen for the foreseeable future.

The other thing its meant, which actually makes me teary eyed just typing out now, is accepting I am not in control.

I am not in control of my body.

I am not in control of what it is doing, not doing, when it is doing it/not doing it.

I am not in control when I can’t breathe. I am not in control when its gone into stupid allergy mode in the middle of the night and my skin is red raw. I am not in control when I am in pain and I can’t stop it.

I am not in control when I end up having to go into hospital. And I am not in control of what they do to me whilst I am there.

I like to be in control. Its important to me. And I know some of you will be reading this going ‘of course, its important to everyone’. It is. I agree.

But having survived things being done to my body over the years in which I had absolutely no control over, over the years, especially the last 8 I work harder than maybe some people do at maintaining some kind of control. I hold it tightly. People don’t always ‘get’ it. But thats ok. Because I manage it. I control it. Pretty well actually. I choose who I let touch/hug me. I choose who can do that without even asking now. I am in control of it.

But when I am sick and in hospital I am not in control.

In fact I am not in control of anything.

I am not in control of yesterday, today, or tomorrow.

I am not in control of the days, months and years to come.

So where does leave me right now?

Well, right now it leaves me clinging on to the One who is in control.

It leaves me clinging on to the God who I know is faithful, and has my life in His hands, even if I don’t know what that means.

It leaves me having to look at the tattoo on my wrist every day and remembering I am clothed with His strength, and dignity and that I can and will laugh at my future days to come. Whatever those future days to come look like.

Because He is control. And has ‘got this’.

I don’t talk about ‘spiritual battle’ often. In fact I’m not sure I ever have. Yet something someone said at the weekend (although I’ve heard it all before, many a times in different contexts and usually switch off) which I actually heard. And it made sense.

I’ve realised over the last few months, in fact more and more so over the last 18 months since re engaging with God that He is in control.

But I’m realising with that comes the ‘enemy’. Who also wants to be in control.

I text a few people Wednesday night before yesterdays appointment – amongst other stuff I wrote I said this

‘… I’m not letting/refusing to let the bastard drag me down totally. I know that God has got it, whatever ‘got it looks like’.

And so tonight, after someone rung me and asked me how I am, I sit here, still with all sorts of emotions, but refusing to let this get the better of me.

And refusing to ‘spit my dummy out’. Which I’ve done a few times in the last few weeks.

Ive decided that on Sunday instead of going in to church late to avoid people, and sitting alone to avoid talking to people, and trying to be shield myself from difficult conversations and instead of sitting and asking God why why why? I will go to church with my head and heart held high.

I will go to church, and choose to worship Him for who He is. And for what He is doing in my life. And for what He has already done. And for what He is going to do, even if I don’t know what that looks like.

I’m not saying I’m not gong to continue asking the questions. Sure I will. I’m not saying I’m not going to cry. Sure I will. I’m not saying I’m never going to ask why? again, sure I will.

But I feel like the battle line is drawn. And for the first time in my life I am giving up control.

I am choosing to choose to let God be in control.

Posted in God

#MHAW

#MHAW – Mental Health Awareness Week 

Its Mental Health Awareness Week this week. I will be blogging on a couple of things throughout the week (I hope) but felt like I wanted to re share something I wrote last year. I wrote it on World Mental Health Day after an exchange with someone on twitter. 

Stigma against people with mental health issues is well and truly alive. And it also exists within faith communities. For me that is the Christian community/church. 

There is some amazing work being done out there to address this – something I will write more about in my next blog, but there is still a way to go. 

This is what I wrote about having PTSD and depression, and not being demon possessed or a freak. 

‘Its been a while since I’ve written, but today is World Mental Health Day – a day in which millions of people have been tweeting using the #worldmentalhealthday hashtag, and under many others too – and I felt compelled to put a few thoughts down.

There have been some amazing blogs written today and I am under no illusion that this is going to be one of them. It isn’t.

This morning, on a rare day off I spent a few hours on the sofa, listening to music and catching up on the online world – on Facebook, twitter, emails, blogs etc. I saw a few tweets and then got into a conversation with some friends/people I’ve been connected with for a long time. And we were talking about it being World Mental Health Day.

And I got thinking about my experience. My experiences. Of mental health issues, and specifically of having mental health issues and being in a church on and off over the years.

I tweeted under the hashtag myself. A tweet that celebrated the amazing CPN I had involved in my life for 18 months, who I learnt to trust and like, without whom I’d have been dead (literally – he broke into my flat when I didn’t turn up for an appt and found me unconscious having OD’d).

And a couple of tweets that acknowledged the pain of churches that have gotten it SO wrong over the years whilst acknowledging that there are some that do get it right.

Then I wrote and tweeted this –

‘My name is Helen. I have PTSD & struggle with depression. I am not a freak and I am not demon possessed. #WorldMentalHealthDay #EndTheStigma’

Why?

Because I am not a freak.

And because my experience over the years has been of being told if I just prayed more, had more faith, or trusted God then I would not struggle with depression, or the issues surrounding the PTSD.

I’ve been told many times that I have demons. I’ve been told I am demon possessed. I’ve been told if I honoured God more/was more in love with Him then He would ‘take away’ the blackness.

I’ve been told by a Pastor that if I was truly a Christian my story would be erased from my mind, and I would not suffer because of it, therefor depression should not be a part of my life.

I’ve been told by another one that I was too much for him, their church, and probably God because the ‘Devil’ really had hold of me.

I’ve been told many things.

And we wonder why people fear being open and honest about mental health issues they face.

We wonder why the last place a person would think about going when in mental health distress is a church.

And we wonder why people end up more hurt and damaged by the responses of people, who not only misunderstand but who are often wilfully ignorant of the wider issues.

Not long after I posted the ‘my name is Helen. I have …’ tweet I got a reply.

From a ‘well meaning’ Christian, who firstly started off by joking. It wasn’t massively funny, and I spent a couple of minutes before I replied trying to work out if they were being totally stupid or if behind their words were deeper meaning.

It didn’t take long to find out.

To find out that they believe I need ‘deliverance’.

It didn’t take long for them to tell me I am not experiencing freedom and victory (because they know me oh so well right? As if).

It took a matter of minutes for them to become another one of the very many people I’ve had in my life speaking dangerous untruths. Thankfully I am strong enough to respond/respond/answer back now. A few years ago I was not.

A few years ago, for me personally, someone coming at me with those views were damaging. Damaging to me, to my life, and to my relationship with God, and the church. It contributed to making it non existent.

After our little exchange, and after being told I don’t live in victory I got thinking about what ‘victory’ means. And what it looks like. And how it looks different and unique to every single person.

Victory to me is waking up every morning and being OK that I am alive.

Victory to me is putting one step in front of another and keeping on walking.

Victory to me is not self harming for 4.5 years, and not trying to kill myself.

Victory to me is being 7 years on from the day I was raped.

Victory to me is overcoming each and every battle as and when they come to confront me.

Victory to me is when someone (I know) touches me/gives me a hug and I don’t flinch, freeze, want to cry, or hit them.

Victory to me is in the overcoming of big things, but also in the very small, tiny day to day things too.

Victory to me is looking the world in the eyes, holding my head up high and knowing I have survived.

So how dare someone tell me I am not experiencing victory, because I do. I experience victory every single damn day.

And thankfully too, God is now in that victory too.

Mental Health Issues are so misunderstood and stigmatised in society generally, and that is no different within the church.

Whether its deliberate or just pure ignorance its not good enough.

And we cannot continue to brush the topic under the carpet.

People like me are everywhere. We are next to you on the bus, in the shops, in your work places. In your schools, your hospitals, your libraries, your Dr’s. Everywhere there are people, are people with mental health battles happening. And that includes in the church. My church. And your church.

If you are reading this I urge you to, if you haven’t already, begin to educate yourself. Begin to assess how you respond and support someone with mental health issues, especially within your faith community.

And I beg of you to consider spending time on working out how you effectively support someone.

Because believing we are demon possessed is wrong. And damaging, as I said above.

Learn to love. Learn to accept. Learn to walk along side us.

Learn what we need. And for each and every one of us it will be different. What I do guarantee though is that it won’t be being told we have demons.

We don’t.

My name IS Helen. I have PTSD & struggle with depression. I am NOT a freak. AND I AM NOT DEMON POSSESSED’

a health update

Dear friends, 

I was going to blog this but then realised I could attempt to succinctly just post it on Facebook.

I’m always so thankful for all the love and support you all give me and I’m sorry if I don’t always manage to respond to social media messages at the moment. 

I’m also always so thankful for the prayers a lot of you put up there especially over the last 18 months/2 years since the health dramas kicked in. 

The last 6 weeks have been tough with a really serious asthma attack a month ago, passing out in church, and various other issues. I’ve had several appointments with my medical people since too. 

Last week, on Tuesday one of those appointments was quite tough. 

And I (we – glad my Mum was here) was told by my GP to expect my next appointment in Nottingham which is a multidisciplinary to be one where they tell me they have exhausted all treatments. 

My body is completely autoimmune which is attributing to various issues and it’s unlikely any will ever ‘go’. 

It needs to be managed. 

And I’ve been told I need to face the reality this is going to be considered chronic. 

It will change and impact how life looks for me massively in weeks and months to come. 
Today in church we sang – 

‘We believe in God the Father

We believe in Jesus Christ

We believe in the Holy Spirit

And He’s given us new life

We believe in the crucifixion

We believe that He conquered death

We believe in the resurrection

And He’s coming’ back again’

and another song about Him being the lifter of our heads which moved me because of bible verses I’ve read on that theme this week. 

I believe in those things above. And I believe and know He is faithful.

I believe He heals but I know he doesn’t too. I don’t know why. But that’s OK for now.

So my point of this long update is? I wanted you to know where things are at health wise BUT I also want to affirm my trust and faith in God.

He has done good things in my life. 

And despite the hardness/difficulties/emotions all this stuff brings right now I know He IS good and doing good things. I am holding on to that. 

Thank you to the people who’ve journeyed this with me since Tuesday and continue to do so.
You are amazing

Thank you to the people who are not so close but who still often cheerlead me. You are amazing too.

An Easter Poem

A baby sent.
A life lived.
A miracle maker.
Grace giver.
Leader.
Gatherer of people.
Lover of the lowly.

Mocked.
Nails in hands.
Raised up on wood.
A crown of thorns.
Blood.
Pain.
Agony.
Death.

Waiting.
Tears.
Questioning.
Silence.
Stillness.
Confusion.
Wondering.
Darkness.
Mourning.

Shaking ground.
Rolled away stone.
Light bursting.
Violent hope.
Breakthrough.
Death defeated.

RISEN!
ALIVE!