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.

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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.