‘Me too’

I feel so privileged to introduce you to my amazing friend, Jennifer, who is going to be blogging here.
I am in awe of her strength and character and this post, her very first blog post ever shines a light on those traits. I’m looking forward to being able to publish more of her thoughts in coming months. Why not have a read and let us know if anything resonates with you?
When I first read this post it bought tears to my eyes … we all need that ‘me too’ but what do we do if we cant say it? 

The all Inclusive, “Me Too.” by Jennifer Bowater

I’ve recently been introduced to two little words with a lot of meaning.

These two little words are an ethos if you like of a beautiful friend of mine that is working with a collective of women writers with the outlook of championing each other on. (You know who you are!) It’s because of her that I have recently searched the countless encounters of my life for my “me too” moments and discovered that they were few. These are my thoughts as to why and in writing and exploring these thoughts I hope I can change the future of my “me too” moments, and possibly yours as well.

Like I said above, I personally haven’t had very many “me too” moments. My life hasn’t been exactly relatable. My childhood was pretty broken, as were my teenage years, and my struggles into adulthood and entrance into motherhood were very different than a lot of people around me. Because I couldn’t join in with the “me too” moments, I found myself becoming isolated (partially my own doing of course). I’m actually an introvert (shout out to the INFJ’s in the room) so it was mostly ok, but also it was detrimental to my mental health.

In those rare times I was willing to share my early motherhood days with others, (which feels like eons ago now) I wish I could have heard and had more of these precious “me too” moments. Or at the very least, I wish I heard more praises being uttered than criticisms. Above all, I wish I had praised more than criticized.

All too often though, I think we inadvertently shame each other for doing a good job, or for being able to do something we possibly didn’t have the time or space to do ourselves, or for achieving beyond the (sometimes supposed) chaos of family life. Did you ever wonder if that “chaos” didn’t exist for everyone? Is that ok to ask? Gosh I hope it is, because I know the loneliness and self-loathing that the lack of apparent chaos brings. That sounds backwards doesn’t it?

So, self-deprecating became my best friend and one of the only ways I could relate to a lot of my peers. Over time, that has a real effect on your self-esteem and the value you place upon yourself. I know this because that is precisely what happened to me.

I think this is probably a good time to give you a little insight into who and possibly, why I am…

Firstly, Hi, my name is Jennifer Bowater and I’m a serial organizer. Ha! (I’m also an American living in the UK…you may have noticed by some of my spellings.) Basically, I control my environment wherever possible.

I love (NEED more like) routine, I thrive when presented with a challenge, I’m naturally an ordered person, an introvert and a fighter (for myself and others, I am a lover of Justice), and I know my inner-self pretty well…probably from all that introvert-contemplating I do. 😉 

These seemingly good qualities are mostly the result of, shall we say, an unconventional upbringing. We were on the run from the police as a family for a few years, which ended when my father was finally caught and imprisoned when I was nine. My mother then hid from her responsibilities and essentially gave my brothers and me up. I eventually acquired my own juvenile (jail) record and sought drugs to ease the pain of life. That’s the condensed version anyway. Ultimately, I had to take care of myself from a very young age…and I didn’t always succeed. So as you can imagine, these experiences have shaped me. I was fortunate enough to have some good people come along in my life and I had a catalyst moment that changed my narrative. (But that’s a whole other story or two, for another time.)

So, in a nutshell, I control my surroundings to keep myself safe and to keep my anxiety at bay. Or, I do these things because I’m driven by my anxiety? Hmmm, it’s a conundrum. And It’s probably only natural that my parenting style and general “adult-ing” would very much be a by-product of the life I’ve had and survived thus far. Everything in it’s box.

Again, not exactly a tale many people identify with, ergo, no “Me Too”. Every characteristic or trait I have is for a reason and consequently has a split personality. #TheGood and #TheBad. Luckily, I have recognized this and those VERY FEW (I’m an introvert remember) people close to me have as well. It’s a classic case of your strength is also your greatest weakness and vise versa.

All that to say, I’ve had a revelation about this “me too” business…

It might not always be possible for us to say “me too”. Our experiences in life can differ so greatly from one another that we may find it hard to connect or to find that common ground, and that’s ok, because I also realised that we CAN ALWAYS say “me too”. “Me too”, to the mere fact that we are fellow humans, that we are fellow humans with untold stories and backgrounds, with flaws AND with downright beautiful strengths (and a whole plethora of stuff in between).

And I just wonder ever so quietly if “celebrating” (too much) of each other’s mistakes or perceived failures is all too easy sometimes. I mean it’s an awfully big challenge to celebrate someone’s brilliance instead, isn’t it? Especially, if it’s in an area we ourselves may struggle to come up top trumps, but can you imagine what will emerge when we put our insecurities aside to lift up another? Not just for the other person’s sake, but for our own sake too.

So, today (and hopefully everyday) I say “me too”, but in a different way, and I promise to celebrate with you, not just commiserate. I promise to praise you even when it’s difficult for me to do so, because that is where my heart really is. 

And the next time I find myself unable to say “me too”, because I may not have been there yet, I will listen, I will be present and I will be real. I will keep my promise. Whatever that may be, I hope I can do the right and just thing for that very moment.

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healing, hope and Jesus.

Its been a while since I last wrote something …

In fact over a year, and part of me has wondered over the last few months whether or not I have lost the ability to write. Or whether I’ve just lost confidence.

You can let me know after you’ve read this maybe?

I’ve been working on some thoughts for quite some time now and have never actually managed to feel like I had sorted them enough to publish for people to read – thats if I still have any readers! Anyone still out there?

And then I realised over the last few days especially, that perhaps I am never going to have them ‘sorted’.

I’ve also struggled with pressuring myself about the fact that I felt this stuff should be/needed to be ‘deep’, and theological and and and … but maybe they don’t need to be, and maybe they are just simple ideas and maybe some simple truths that don’t need over complicating right now, if ever?

So, healing … why has healing been on my mind ALOT lately? Good question! And where to start? Those of you who were regular readers or who know me will know that my health has been difficult lately.

I had no idea when my respiratory system first went kaput that it would have such a big impact … I mean, don’t get me wrong, asthma is asthma, and brittle asthma can be really cruel, and I’ve nearly seen Jesus much quicker than planned on a few occasions, but I thought it was liveable with, that it didn’t need to change my life too much.

I had no idea what was to come (story of my life eh?) …
I had no idea that 4/5 years down the line my health would have gotten worse in so many other ways.

See, the thing is, the day I had my very first full on asthma attack I didn’t know at that point that some kind of switch clicked in my body, and that a few years later it would have gone into full autoimmune mode where I am allergic to the world and where lots of different things don’t and won’t work properly in various difficult and dehabilitating ways.

I definitely didn’t know that I would end up on 21 tablets a day, taking them four times a day, before pain relief and that life would become a constant merry go round of hospitals, doctors, treatment and long term toxic medication to try and get on top of it and get my immune system to stop attacking itself/my body.

I didn’t know I would have lost my job, and 18 months later still be unable to work, because some days I can’t get out of bed, or some nights I can’t sleep for one of a hundred reasons making mornings a nightmare, and that I would need a cleaner (a godsend!) because some weeks my body is so sore just hoovering or washing up is hard work. I didn’t know my brain which could be sharp at times would often descend into a haze where I couldn’t remember what I  was doing, or saying, to the point of stopping mid sentence sometimes and forgetting where I was at.

I didn’t know that all of this was going to impact my mental health so significantly, so much that sometimes I don’t go anywhere because I cant make my brain believe I should leave the house.

I didn’t know how much I valued my health until suddenly I didn’t have it anymore.

And then I had to think about healing in a different context. In the context of physical healing. I had to start thinking about and acknowledging the concept of God healing or not healing physically because so far my journey has been FULL to the brim of healing mentally and emotionally. But now I need physical healing.

I’ve had to search hard. Far and wide. To the depths of my soul to try and work out what I believe about healing, and the idea that God can heal physical ailments.

Does He? Well, I know the bible says He does, but does He?

And if He does then why does He heal some people, and not others …

And why do some Christians and the church make it so complicated … with statements such as ‘well you just need enough faith’ and ‘well, you need to claim your healing’ and so on …

And why do some people insist on ‘running after Jesus’ for healing, as if the only place Jesus can heal you is at some big event with some big speaker with a big crowd instead of believing that if God had it on His heart to cure you He would whether you were at some rally or at home, in the bath, or laid on the sofa flat out watching crap day time TV (it really IS crap huh?)

And … well, there are many ands, I could be here all night writing about them …

Where does it end  …?

Well, I think, and this is by no means explaining my whole thought process whatsoever, because again I would be here all night trying to do that, and you would be reading for the next two hours, that it has to end by simply  believing God can heal, and acknowledge that sometimes He doesn’t, and make the conscious choice to not get blinded by the ‘ands …’.

Which leads me to hope …

That big word. That big thing. HOPE.

We use the word ‘hope’ a lot today don’t we?

‘I hope I’ll get that new iPhone for Christmas’
‘I hope the boiler man comes to fix it soon’
And so on …

The dictionary says that hope means a ‘feeling of expectation and desire for a particular  thing to happen’ and that sounds about right doesn’t it? We hope for good things for our lives don’t we, be it materially or other wise?

I have to be honest about it, (it’s my nature to be be a realist, right?) and acknowledge thats whilst I can have some HOPE Jesus does supernaturally heal me, or through my doctors and medications that maybe He won’t …

And then where does that leave me?

I’ve been ‘told off’ a few times over the last few years by well meaning people who feel like I am not trusting Jesus enough for my healing. Or that I should just not ‘claim it’ as mentioned above … but as my good friend Wendy Beechward says ‘its not a lottery ticket where you can just pop along to the shop and claim the prize’.

I’ve stopped asking people to just pray for my healing now.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, please do pray for it if you feel inclined, and I know I have trusted people who pray often for me to be well, and would, like myself love nothing more than to see it happen, and I am SO thankful for that, and occasionally I might seek prayer myself solely for healing BUT I also need more than anything right now prayer for managing. Learning to live with my illnesses and the life changing  effect they have on me. Learning to accept my limitations and a different way of life. Learning to accept that this is long term unless God does do a miracle (which I totally believe and know God can do, but lets face it, they are not every day occurrences are they?) …

So where is my hope you may ask? It makes me sound pretty pessimistic eh? Sure …
I get it, it doesn’t sound very hopeful does it? It perhaps doesn’t sound like I have much hope that God will heal me … well the thing is I KNOW He will.

Eventually.

I KNOW GOD WILL HEAL ME.

EVENTUALLY. It just might not be in my earthly life time.

See, my hope is in Jesus.

My hope is not in Jesus healing me. Or Jesus making me well again.

My hope is in Jesus.

In Him alone.

Just Him.

Not what He can do for me.

My hope is in Jesus and that when I die, be it sooner rather than later, or as a 90 year old I will go to glory with Him, and be seated at His right hand, spotless. Clean. Healed.
For there will be no sickness or pain. There will be no tears or sadness. Or anguish.
Or confusion. Or any of the other things that sometimes this journey brings with it.

My HOPE IS IN JESUS, the One and only who has redeemed my soul, and given me a NEW life, and bought me back from the brink of darkness and death emotionally, because despite my current black days because life is a challenge, and the depression I seem to currently be struggling with,  compared to 9 years ago when I had just left London …. well, wow! I am not the same person. And that is because of Jesus.

My hope is in Jesus, the one who loves me, and sees me as His child, and who I see as my Father, who can do immeasurably more than I can even imagine, in this life time and the next.

See, I see hope as this thing, this thing that is so huge, so gigantic that I cannot even properly explain, and that actually when I spend time reflecting on it or writing about it as I am doing right now it makes my body tingle and excitement rise.

I cant tell you what it fully feels like.
Or what it looks like.
Or how big it is.

Just that its this thing which is infinitely bigger than myself and anything else I can imagine.

And its a pretty damn fine thing to have.

But it really is just Jesus.

So the next time someone tells me I don’t have hope or enough of it, or that I should hope more especially when it comes to my health, I will direct them to this blog maybe …

I’ve come to the end of what I want to say, and I’m aware it probably comes across as a ramble and that I could have put it so much more succinctly than I have but … this is it. 
For now anyway.

If you have managed to read this through to the end, thank you for taking the time to listen to me, and feel free to drop me a line – would be lovely to hear from you!!

Dear Junior Dr’s …

Dear Junior Dr’s and medics out there …

You often end up saying sorry to me.

Usually its when tears start to fall, even though I desperately try not to cry, when you insert the 6/7th needle into my arms/hands desperately trying to find an access point because my veins are not playing ball, as usual. OR if that hasn’t got me, it will be when you have tried to get my blood gas for maybe the 3/4 time. Or when a Consultant has come to do it, but still they struggle. Or when you’ve had to numb my wrist so you can just dig around a bit.

You say sorry to me when it all just gets a bit much and I can’t help but cry.

You say sorry to me when you have to come and talk to me about HDU or intensive care, and the possibilities of ventilation. Something I’m starting to understand and get more and more used to, however each and every time my respiratory system goes into close/melt down it still feels just as scary as the time before.

It seems like you say sorry to me a lot.

At the same time as working quickly, tirelessly and wisely to save my life.

Because thats what you do.

You save my life.

This time last year I was in hospital (a regular occurrence at the moment) but I was not responding to medications. You were making phone calls to move me to ITU. My OBS were insane, and my oxygen levels crazy. Things were going badly, fast. You called out the consultant who was covering the entire hospital that night. And you stayed with me a lot.

You were calm, cool and collected. Even when I asked if you needed my Pastors phone number because if I was going to die it would be important for me to see him.

You were calm, cool and collected when with the Consultant who came pretty quickly you explained the options. The option of a medication that I’ve once had a severe reaction, but which once I’ve responded to.
You were calm, cool and collected when tears silently fell (I was too tired, and too unable to actually breathe to cry properly) as you explained the risks. The risks of having this medication. And the risks of not having it. Neither looked good at that point.

And just before I lost consciousness for a moment or two I told you to do what you thought was best. Because I was too poorly to know or care right then.

And you did. You did what you thought was best. In that moment. That emergency life/death moment.

For me. You did what you thought was best, for me.

A couple of hours later I came round enough to realise I was still alive. I had an ITU nurse with me. And you. You were there. Apparently you hadn’t gone far at all.

You saved my life. 

Thank you.

Thank you for that time, and the times before, and the times since. There has been a few times you have saved my life.

And a few times where things have not gotten quite so serious but have still needed time in hospital, medications and you.

I can not do this thing called ‘living’ with out you.

I can not do this thing called living with out you, you the junior Dr who treats me when I rock up at the hospital, either by ambulance, myself, or via my GP who has admitted me directly onto the emergency assessment ward.

I can not do this thing called living without you, you the one who has trained and is training for years to be that emergency medic who helps me in a crises. Or you who has trained for even MORE years and become that Consultant who also gives me the care I need which so far has always got me back to a point where I can walk (slowly) OUT of the hospital and carry on for a bit longer.

I can not do this thing called living without you who has decided to specialise and become a GP, my Gp, who makes sure that on the days I am ‘well’ ish I can keep on. The GP who gives me half an hour appointments when I’ve needed to just sit and cry. Or when he has needed that time to explain where things are at and where to go next.

I can not do this thing called living without you, the junior Dr who has specialised in Respiratory medicine who see’s me on a very regular basis and who also makes sure that on the whole, apart from the crises moments I can have some quality of life. And I do. I have a quality life. Accepting I am chronically ill is hard, but I am alive.

I have good days. But I am alive. I have bad days, but I am alive.

Because of you.

I never find out much about you, really.

As I sit writing this I realise that I never find out much about you, your life, your family, what you have going on outside of that moment, that moment where you are a ‘DR’.

My Dr.

Sometimes I don’t even remember your names, especially you who have been my emergency ‘crises moment’ medics.

I don’t know about how many hours you have worked that week, or how long you have been on shift without a coffee, or a meal break, or even a loo one.

I never get to find out just how tough your day has been, how many difficult decisions you have had to make, how many lives you have already saved, or how many lives that day that no matter what you or anyone else could do it has not been enough.
I never get to see the tears you might sometimes shed over that one person.

You never complain to me. You never moan to me. You never yawn, or look tired to me. You never get frustrated or short fused with me even though you are probably more tired than you have ever felt in your entire life.

I never get to see that side. But I know about it, because I have friends who are Dr’s.

And because I am not stupid.

I never get to see it because I am your patient, and you are a professional. And your focus is on me.

For which I am grateful. So so grateful.

 

And now I want the focus to be on you.

Which is why I am writing to you.

I want to say thank you to you.

Thank you for all you do.

Thank you for the hours you put in, for the blood, the sweat, and the tears (and if anyone tells me they don’t exist, I don’t believe them).

Thank you for the price you pay to save my life.

 

You deserve so much more.

You deserve fair hours.

Better pay

And I support you.

And so should everyone else.

 

With much love from a very grateful patient,

Helen x

Guest Post – ‘The story I never tell’

When I first started blogging many years ago it was because I felt like I had no where to go to express or speak what I needed to. So I started to write, under a pen name. I was able to get my story out. And in doing that I started to find, and have found a voice again. My voice. 

And so today, it is such a privilege to be able to give someone else a voice and to publish a guest post by them.

This is the story they never tell. 

‘I’m not one for small talk. I despise pleasantries. I’d much rather jump right in and get to know someone on a deep level. That means asking personal questions that some people get taken aback by. I’m quite a direct person and people can take offence at my abruptness. I don’t mean to be rude. I just can’t be bothered talking about the weather when we could be talking about their hopes and dreams instead. I’m also quite an open person. I over share and I’m not private at all. I don’t mind people knowing about me. I’d rather be vulnerable if it helps other people to know that they are not alone. That is the reason why I’m writing this, but for once I’m not using my real name. This is only the second time I’ve shared a personal story publicly and anonymously. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to guest post because I’m not a blogger myself.

The thing is, there are two very common questions that I get asked in return which, although I’m very good at hiding it, make my heart ache.

“Are you married? Do you have kids?”

For most single and childless women approaching 30, this is a tough couplet. For me it feels even tougher, since the answers to both are loaded with secrecy and heartache.

I fell head over heels in love once. It was a glorious time but it was short lived. One of the biggest regrets I have is never having the courage to tell this person just how much I loved them; that I wanted to marry them. I lived with them, I said I love you and got the same in reply. Then just like that, there was someone else and our relationship was lost forever. You see this person was a woman. We shared the same bed, wore each other’s clothes and went for romantic walks along the river. Then she left me for a man. It’s a great fear for some gay women that their bisexual partner will leave them for a man. Being left at all is hard but when it’s for a man it feels even worse. We met in church and it was easier for her to be with a man. She had a choice. I didn’t.

She used to say she would marry me when it became properly legal. I often wonder if she would have kept her promise until March last year when it could’ve become a reality. Civil partnership didn’t feel real enough at the time. I admit to recently stalking her on social media after having enough self-discipline to block her for years. I kept a couple of mutual friends with the sole purpose of seeing tagged photos every so often. She is still with the same guy. They are very happy together. No relationship I’ve had since has ever come close to what we had. I sometimes wonder if I will ever marry because I will always compare people to her and everyone else will seem like second best next to perfection.

On top of this I have marriage after marriage to attend. The vast majority of them are straight, although I’ve been to more same-sex than different sex weddings this year. I’m at the age when there’s a conveyor belt of weddings. I’ve spent more on dresses this summer than I care to acknowledge. Every time without fail the inevitable question comes, “So when are you getting married then?” However jokingly spoken these words never cease to cut me deep. Innocently asked, mostly by people who have no clue that I would never marry a man even if you gave me a million pounds!

A few years passed. I had one casual relationship, then I met the second woman to whom I had a deep attachment. We worked together. I told her I got over being a lesbian and that Jesus had saved me but I was in so much denial. She was separated from her husband and had a toddler. I began to spend more and more time with her outside of work. I slept over at her house. I got to know her child. I grew to love them both deeply. At one point I spent more time with her daughter than she did and she started calling me mummy. At first I thought this was weird and I discouraged it but after a while I felt honoured. We joked about being lesbian mummies, but it wasn’t really a joke, so we began to discuss adoption. Her husband wasn’t really around; he barely saw his daughter and his idea of supporting her financially was to give her 10p in pocket money.

What does it mean to be a parent; is it just biology? Is it the one who brings a child up, wipes their mouth, changes their nappies, kisses them goodnight, reads them stories, takes them to nursery, and pushes them around in the buggy pointing out everything from aeroplanes to daisies? I believe it can be one or the other but it can also be both. Had I adopted her as was the plan, I would have had exactly the same rights and responsibilities as her biological mother. Had I been her biological mother’s male partner, despite not being her ‘real’ father, raising her as my own I would have also gained respect.

Then something happened. Something really bad happened. Then lots of really bad things happened all at once. Suddenly we were no longer a happy little family. Our plans turned to dust. I will never see her again. I will never see her daughter, our daughter, again. They are not dead, but for very complicated reasons that I cannot explain here, it is not possible for me to see them ever again.

Earlier this year, I heard about a charity called the Mariposa Trust who run services called Saying Goodbye for parents who have lost their children through miscarriage, stillbirth or in early childhood. When I heard about the work that this charity does I had all sorts of emotions going on. I’ve never been pregnant. I’ve never even had sex with a man. I’ve got no idea how it feels to carry a baby, although one day I hope to. I cannot explain to you the depth of the emotional bond that I had with this little girl. I saw her as my very own daughter and it breaks my heart that I will never see her again. It may sound dramatic to you but it feels as though she is dead. I feel like a part of me has died. I wonder if she still remembers me, still thinks of me, or still asks her other mummy what happened to me. I wonder if she’s got another parent now, male or female. I wonder if she’s got brothers and sisters. I wonder how she’s doing at school.

It’s approaching her birthday. I remember the last birthday I got to spend with her, how her face lit up with all her friends on her special day, seeing her beautiful smile break across her face. That is how I will remember her: in her birthday princess dress, jumping on a bouncy castle, with a huge grin, stuffing her face with chocolate cake, and lying next to me at the end of the day, falling asleep in my arms. I don’t even have many of the photographs I took of her because my camera got stolen and my phone died. That’s another huge regret. I ask myself over and over again why on earth did I not back up my phone or make copies or print the photos? Why was I irresponsible enough to leave my camera somewhere where it could be taken?

I feel guilty writing this. I think what justification do I have to write about how my heart feels like it was ripped from my chest? I’ve never been pregnant, never carried a child or a given birth. My child hasn’t died and yet I feel this inconsolable ache. I’m going to a Saying Goodbye service soon. I’ve wanted to attend one for quite some time now but felt like I didn’t deserve to go. I felt unworthy. I’d be called out as an imposter. I’m going to go because I have lost a child. She may not be dead, but she is lost and gone for ever to me.’

 

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.

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.

 

 

#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’