11 years later and this is me …

I dont know how many of you have been to see ‘The Greatest Showman’?
I have, twice, and really must get hold of the DVD. Its my one of my favourites.
As I write this I am listening to the soundtrack.

The iconic song from the film by Keala Settle, and album has partly inspired this post which I almost just called ‘This is me’ which I have on repeat right now.

However with it being 11 years tomorrow (or today depending on when I hit publish) , the 20th August it felt apt to bring the two together.

‘I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are’

The lyrics to this song are so powerful and I relate to them massively.

My life changed forever on the 20th August, late afternoon, walking past a building site I had walked past SO many times before.
It took me on a journey I had no idea about. The journey of being a victim. A rape victim.
I had no idea what to do, how to be, how to move forwards.
I just put one step forwards at a time and some how managed it.

Looking back there are things I wish I had done differently.
I wish I had told people, my friends, especially those in London who had no idea and no idea why I suddenly moved after deciding to settle there.
I wish I had told my Mum instead of feeling this fierce sense of protection for her, and not wanting to expose her to my mess.
I wish I had found other ways to cope without drinking and self harming, and trying to die a few times.
I wish what had happened hadn’t happened.

But it did and at the time despite now wishing I had done things differently I have found peace with the fact that I did the very best I could at the time to survive.

I’ve learned that by doing just that, my very best over the years, I’ve changed.
I’ve changed from being a victim to being a survivor.

For years the darkness was present and often overwhelmed, as did the thoughts, the ones in my head that told me I needed to hide, to hide who I was and my feelings, because no one wanted to know or cared, or wanted me, this person in ‘broken parts’.
I spent years being ashamed of both my physical and mental scars.

Yet, somehow deep in my soul was this ability to not be totally grounded down to dust.

‘But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious’

I was fragmented, lots and lots of different fragments (hence the name of the anonymous blog I wrote for many years which many many – more than I ever imagined people read) but I wasn’t dust, and I started to find my ‘place’.

A place to be, and belong, in life. Not as an anonymous person hiding behind my stories.

As me, Helen, the survivor.

As me, Helen.

I am bruised, for sure but I am also who I am meant to be.

I’ve learnt to laugh again, and love again, and find joy in life again.
I’ve learnt to let people in, to accept support, to accept I am who I am, and that is who I was and am meant to be, shaped by my experiences but not beholden to them.

This last year in particularly I have learned to embrace being a rape survivor as part of my story. It isn’t all of who I am, but it is a part of who I am and that cannot be changed.

Last year, at the 10 year mark I had decided to stop ‘marking’ the anniversaries as such, and as it has drawn nearer I’ve realised by doing that it feels like I am erasing that part of my story. Which I don’t want to do. The date is seared into my memory and I’m not going to just not talk about it because I want to ‘forget it’. That will never happen.
Having got this far, to this point, of acceptance, I am not now going to erase it.

So here I am, marking the 11 year mark, with writing something.
Tomorrow (or today depending when I publish) I shall spend the day cooking for a weekend away with friends, and a cuppa with a friend.
I shall have some time reflecting.

I shall also, in my head, and maybe verbally who knows, shout ‘screw you’ to my rapist, and his friend who was there.
Screw you because you didn’t beat me. And you have not silenced me.

Physcially maybe, and mentally for a bit sure, but overall?

No … so SCREW YOU.

‘I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me’.

Those of you follow me on Twitter and social media (although I’ve been pretty quiet blogging wise lately as I’ve dealt with the physical health issues I’ve got going on) will know I’m pretty passionate about talking about sexual violence and violence against women.

As part of that I sometimes share my story. I know some people think I’m mad … and some people wonder ‘Why’ I put myself out there in that way …

Well …

I do it because I am not afraid any more.
Im also not afraid (and never have been) of what people think of me.
I genuinely dont care. If people don’t want to read what I have to say, they don’t have to, (although I hope people do!)

People with voices and the ability to speak out need to be seen and heard.
It is 2018, and despite the successes (?) of online media campaigns such as ‘Me Too’ society still needs to see and hear survivors of sexual violence.

It is 2018 and stigma still exists.
Prosecutions and convictions are abysmally low and victims/survivors are failed every day across the country by local services and police.

So we have to, if we are able, speak out and challenge and bring about change.

I also do what I do so other people know they are not alone.
Being a victim of rape, or any sexual violence can leave you feeling incredibly alone and isolated and I spend a lot of time in contact with other survivors who find life hard, supporting them as a friend, and as someone who understands.

So I hope by beating the drum loudly if just one person knows they are not alone, and that someone out there cares, then it is worth it.

I’m thankful for the women who went ahead before me, beating  their drums, mentioning in particular the rather amazing Jill Saward who was a forefront campaigner on this stuff, and a close friend, who personally taught me so much. We miss you Jill.

So, here are , 2018 and its 11 years on for me …

I am happy (apart from when the health stuff gets bad)
I love life and living.
I’m loud, bubbly, outspoken, fiery at times, passionate about Jesus; and loving people,
I’m not where I ever thought I would be BUT I am where I am meant to be, and its a huge privilege to be able to use my experience to support others.

I am Helen, and 11 years later this is me.

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This Is Me – Keala Settle

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Kintsugi – Beauty in the brokenness and God.

(Originally written by me for Thorns and Gold – Tanya Marlow’s blog in Sep 2015)

I never knew life could change totally in just the space of a few minutes.
But it can and it did for me.

I’ll take you back a bit, to that day. Just over eight years ago.
I was walking down the street. Two men were standing at the end.
Not long later I was left in the corner of the building site wondering why they hadn’t killed me.
I had no idea in the moment that there would be many times over the next year where I would wish I was dead.

Life had not been easy beforehand anyway. I had tried to compartmentalise. I had tried to block it out. I had tried to ‘move on’. It wasn’t so easy. But I managed. I built walls. I became ‘tough’. I didn’t let the world scare me. So much so, someone once told me I had a heart of stone. I didn’t. It’s always been quite soft, I just had to protect it. But that day I could not protect my heart, or myself.

I was left feeling like I was nothing.
I was left unclean. Stained.
Used and abused, discarded like a rag.
It was brutal.

I was broken. Completely broken.
Shattered into thousands of tiny pieces.
Fragments.

After that day, the day I was raped, nothing was ever the same again and I did the only thing I knew how to, in order to survive. I closed ranks even more. I moved away from the area within weeks. Left the community I was part of, and went ‘home’ to the one I had grown up in. I didn’t tell anyone, for a long time.

I lost control. I drank. I smoked. I self harmed. I tried to kill myself. Twice.

But whilst standing on the bridge that I was ready to hang from, in an effort to make my second suicide attempt actually work, car headlights passing by stopped me, and a tiny flicker of doubt crossed my mind.

It was the last time I was to try and die.
And as the morning dawned the sun brightly seeped through the cracks of my black out curtains and flooded into my bedroom I decided I had to try and live.

Hope – the size of a grain of sand, so small I could hardly see it, though its quiet whisper I could hear – entered into my life.
Unknown

That was seven years ago.

Fast forward to September 2015. Now.
Sitting in the garden, watching stars and writing. And thinking about how life changed yet again for me in 2013 when I discovered gold.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of using gold to fill cracks in broken pottery, or to weld together broken pieces. The object is then seen just as beautiful as before, if not even more beautiful.
Beauty is found in the brokenness.

See, once upon a time I had known Jesus. I had known He was good. And He was love. But after that day I couldn’t believe it. I used to think I wasn’t a Christian any more. I used to tell people I wasn’t one, but the truth is I was. I did believe. I just hated God. I was angry.

Until, through a series of what I can only call ‘holy moments’ I met Him again, and He became my gold.
I reached out, and He reached back because although I ‘wandered away’, He had never gone anywhere. He had been there all along, and was still there.

He was there, in the darkest of dark nights.
He was there when my light went out.
He was there when I lost all hope.
He was there when I screamed, swore and sobbed.
He was there when the tears fell behind closed doors, so no one saw.
But He saw, because He was there. Right there.
Weeping with me. And He has wept with me since.

Over the last 24 months as I’ve lowered the walls, and allowed the gold to run through every part of my broken shards I’ve discovered more and more where He was. And where He is.
He was there, and He still here, with me now.
Weeping when I weep, but also smiling when I smile, and laughing when I laugh, which are all things that as life is being breathed back into my soul I am learning to do again.

And I’ve discovered that this gold, this vibrant, extravagant, powerful gold that is God is restoring my soul.

I used to think the word restore meant ‘to return to its original’ and thought it was not applicable to me, and that it never would be. I could never be restored back to my former self.

Yet I’ve learnt ‘restore’ can also mean ‘to bring back to health, good spirits’.
Kintsugi does not make something to be exactly the same as it was before. It restores something back to good health, with its visible gold.

And so restoration with God does not mean I am being restored to look exactly how I did before.

I am still being restored. I am being brought back to life.
My soul, my spirit, my heart that was left so cracked is being ‘filled’ in. I am being pieced back together again, to look a little bit different to before, but with just as much beauty running through, if not more.

I have discovered the beauty of gold in my brokenness.
I have discovered the beauty of God in my brokenness.

Smear Tests and being a survivor – #SmearForSmear

Roll up roll up … according to Twitter today, having a smear test is quick, easy, and nothing to be embarrassed about.

Apparently research has shown that women are too embarrassed to go for a smear test. This is being tweeted about today under the hashtag #SmearForSmear – a campaign which encourages women to post selfies of themselves with smeared lipstick on. Its to highlight that the number of women going for their routine cervical screen testing is falling.

The hashtag has been trending all morning, and all you have to do is have a quick look to see the mass consensus – that there is nothing to be ashamed of, that there is nothing to be embarrassed about, it doesn’t matter what your ‘lady garden’ looks like or doesn’t look like, that its quick, that it could save your life, that the nurse has seen it all before,  that its worth it and so on.
All of these things are true.

Except the ‘its easy’.

Because for many many women, it is not easy.

What isn’t being talked about is that for A LOT of women, having to book an appointment with someone you may have never met, having to go and undress your lower half and lay on a table exposing your self while said person probes and pokes around down there as you wonder where to put your hands, or what to say to them is far from easy.

It is 2018, and whilst numbers of women going for their smear tests are seemingly decreasing, the number of women who are victims of child sexual abuse, sexual violence and rape is on the increase.

‘Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year; that’s roughly 11 rapes (of adults alone) every hour’ (taken from Rape Crises)

That is just one statistic, in the UK – of women affected by rape. That isn’t including any other sexual assault or violence or statistics about women who have been abused as children. I don’t know where to begin with finding out those kinds of numbers but be assured, it will be phenomenally high.

Yet it isn’t really being talked about in relation to going for cervical smears.
There is just a small handful of us today tweeting about the impact being a survivor can have and how it can make something that is ‘easy and quick’ for some a traumatic nightmare for others.

Last year, I had to start some chemo based drugs to try and get on top of some autoimmune problems I am living with. In order to start the drug, I had to have a recent (and clear) cervical screening. I remember when the Consultant told me. I froze.
I asked if there was any other option, any other way around it. There wasn’t, apart from not having the treatment, and then there were no other options after that either.
So I had no choice.
Something I had avoided for years, and years, and more years, had come up and I had to have it. All the pieces of paper in the post I had ripped up, all the conversations with my GP saying ‘no’ came to an end.
I booked an appointment with a nurse I had seen once or twice, to have a chat. We made a plan, which included a double appointment, taking a friend, and diazepam, lots and lots of diazepam.

I made it. She was lovely (I am lucky – not everyone has that experience), and being stoned off my face helped.

BUT I still felt as if I had been re violated. As much as my mind told my brain it was fine, it wasn’t fine. I had flashbacks of the procedure, AND of my trauma. I had nightmares. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to see anyone. I hibernated, and hid away from the world. I stopped going to church, and talking to people. For weeks and weeks and weeks.
And I couldn’t tell anyone why. I felt silly, and stupid but however hard I willed, I couldn’t stop my brain from working the way it worked.

I was able to move forward from it eventually, but it took some time, and the test came back clear and I was able to start the chemo drugs.

I am pleased I had it done, because it needed to be done. I am pleased I was able to move forward from it, and hope the next time it might be less traumatic. But who knows?

When it comes to being a survivor of sexual violence, we live life doing what we can – to survive. And we live life dealing with whatever is thrown in our way and however our brains decide to behave on any given day. We have no control over it often.

This also affects women who have experienced trauma in other ways, such as traumatic child birth delivery.

It is important that the voices talking about sexual violence and trauma and how it affects having a smear test are not ignored.

It is important my voice is not ignored.

I want there to be proper conversation, research and consideration about the issues around this.

I want the shaming of women who are not able to go for a smear test easily to stop, and for people to be aware and more considerate of the real issues, including the ones I have mentioned, and how the ‘being embarrassed’ thing doesn’t actually cover it properly.

I want women to be able to access having smear tests knowing that their issues and concerns have been taken into account.

I want there to be change.

Its 2018 – surely its time?

‘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.

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’