The day I hit a Pastor.

Once in a while people who know me, or who have known me a long time will joke about the fact I once hit a church leader. A Pastor. The person who led the church I was going to at that time.

When and if the topic comes up I often laugh and joke about it with them. Usually its brief, and I never go into detail as to actually why I hit him, usually citing ‘he was a tosser’ as the reason.

But the other night, for some reason it came into conversation with a friend, who happens to be part of the wider leadership team of my church, and who is also my home group leader (it one of those round the dining room table conversations at stupid o clock in the morning ones). We had been talking about the church and people who hold a role of authority/accountability when it comes to the leadership of it.

For the first time in the many many years it has been since I did what I did as I was talking about it properly I suddenly became overwhelmed with emotion, and became teary eyed. It came out of the blue. I was not expecting it. Its never happened before.

And I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on that.

I’m not proud of the fact I smacked a Pastor. I’m not proud of the fact I’ve hit anyone.

And yet I realised how devastating his betrayal was.

How devastating this persons behaviour and actions were to me at the time.

I was a teenager. An older teenager granted, but a teenager none the less. A teenager who had stopped being abused by my biological father but who held the memories and scars of what he did to me close. I was a teenager who was self harming, smoking, drinking, having nightmares every night but a teenager who gave the impression I was not afraid of anything.

But I was. Because I was also a teenager being physically abused by my biological brother, at home. And I was afraid of him.

I was afraid of men. Not that I let them know it. Which led to, at times getting into situations I probably could have done without. And that just eventually ended up compounding the fear of men I already felt.

I was known as a ‘challenge’. I was known as ‘difficult’. As ‘too tough to handle’. A label that has followed me around since.

I used to get picked up by one of the youth leaders to go to the church which was about 20 minutes away from where I lived. I used to go on a Tuesday night, and a Sunday. Tuesday nights were their weekly prayer meetings. And the ‘youth’ would also go, and meet up and do other things. One Tuesday night we were late.

I will never forget walking in to the building to find a circle of people, most of the church (about 30 people – it was a small ish community) sitting there looking at me. And the Pastors wife standing up, and telling me they wanted to pray for me. That I would be able to forgive my biological father. My abuser, for what he had done. Because if I didn’t then I couldn’t claim to be a Christian. And if I was proclaiming to be a Christian then these things would not be issues. And that they would be erased from my mind.

See, just a few days before, for the FIRST time in my life, having been being abused since a small child I had worked up the courage to tell someone. One of the youth leaders. What had happened and what was still happening.

And they in turn took it to the Pastor (which years later  I totally understand and accept they had to do)

Who, instead of doing anything else decided to ‘take it to the church for prayer’.

So MY SECRET had become public knowledge. The whole church knew.

And I was being told I needed to forgive and forget.

As I stood there, on the outside of this circle, having just walked in the door the said Pastor came up behind me. I was in shock. I was stood transfixed at the Pastors wife stood up in front me and the circle of people all looking at me to realise someone was coming behind me.

And as he came to my side, he put his arms around me, and drew me in for a hug. Big mistake.

I impulsively got my self myself out of his ‘hug’ and hit him.

I went into melt down and was taken out of the church into the car park where I punched walls until I calmed enough to be put into a car and taken home.

I skipped church the following Sunday.

A week on – another Tuesday – the youth leader came to pick me up. Except he didn’t pick me up. Him and his wife gave me a letter from ‘the church’. I was not welcome any more because of my behaviour.

I never saw any of them again.

The impact of the actions of that man, and the church have actually been massive and long running. It was years and years before I plucked up the courage to tell someone again about the abuse I suffered. And even then I was unable to tell them the full story. Just mumble about ‘life being hard’.

I found myself in a position of working along side ministers as I worked for a group of churches and unable to trust them. Unable to be honest. Unable to be vulnerable. And unable to look them in the eyes. For fear of them abusing their position.

My trust in men had already been shot to pieces because of the men in my life who were supposed to care, protect and love but who instead took away my innocence and subjected me to horrendous physical pain.

My trust in ‘Godly men’ was shot to pieces by this Pastor.

So why am I writing about this?

Because as I’ve been driving to and from work this week, thinking about it all/reflecting on it I’ve had to lay it down. I realised that deep inside me I still held anger towards this man and the church. And I’ve had to lay that down. And I want to say out loud that I choose to forgive him, for his actions.

I am choosing to forgive him. Not forget. But forgive.

And move on.

I’m writing about this because I want people to know how wrong actions can lead to major consequences. Which may seem small to you, I don’t know, but which have been massive to me.

I am writing this because I want people to know/realise/understand that whilst people do make mistakes, and maybe this was a mistake on his part, maybe he just didn’t know what to do about someone disclosing abuse that this isn’t how to do it.

There is a right way. And a wrong way. And if you don’t know the right way, find out. Pretty damn quick.

And to say that just because you are in leadership of a church it does not mean you can do what the hell you like.

Lets talk about Rape – Part 2

Both this blog, and the ‘lets talk about rape … Part 1’ were written some time ago, but were both popular blogs at the time. However when ‘Fragmentz’ ceased to exist, so did the blogs. I had been asked a few times recently to repost them and declined, however having read tonight about Judy Finnegans comments today on a chat show regarding the rape footballer Ched Evans is convicted of, and serving time in prison for it felt relevant to put them online again. 

RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE. 

I’d like to challenge her, and anyone else who thinks its OK to categorise rape to come and live the life of a survivor, even for just a day or two. 

Also to the people who tell me rape culture does not exist -YES IT DOES. 

 

‘i woke up this morning … and little did i know, that by the end of the day i would be blogging about a topic i have already written about once. I always intended on writing a Part 2, and in fact had a draft already typed, but thats deleted now. I’m starting over, because this week, the word ‘rape’ has been front page of most media types due to some french bloke i’d never heard of until his arrest for allegedly raping a hotel maid, and now comments made today by the justice minister.

two things i’d like to start off by saying :

first one is: this blog is about RAPE. As i start writing, I have dont have any idea of where my writing will go, but i feel it fair to warn you of the topic nature, if you hadnt picked it up by the title, so if your sensitive to it, or it potentially could trigger you, consider yourself warned.

second thing is: i am not a profressional. I dont write for a living, i dont have any academic qualifications that give me a right to have an opinion, i’m not a ‘well known’ person who’s opinion matters to people. i’m just me. a little dot in this huge world who takes some space, and attempts to write about issues that mean the most to me. i write about my life, and the life that goes on around me. I am perhaps not going to be writing anything any different to the many blogs always written, lots today by people. i definitely not able to express words and thoughts as eloquently as the things I have read today.

if you want some background and an idea as to why i am writing about this topic, now, then please feel free to check out ‘lets talk about … rape’ – link is below.

lets talk about rape

in my previous blog i gave some definitions of the word rape. essentially it is imposing sexual intercourse on someone who does not consent. that could be a man against a man, a woman against a man, woman against a woman, and the most widely talked about variation of a man against a woman. it is really really important to acknowledge that all variations exist, and do happen, and that rape as a whole is so very under reported anyway, and so by default some of the variations, for example males being raped are even less reported, but still happen.

Last week I got embroiled into an argument on facebook. as some of you will know, getting into debates/disagreements with people on social networking sites such as FB or twitter is not a rare occurance for Fragz, although lately the occasions have become much less. Anyhow, last week, someone who is on my facebook, and an odd exception to the ‘i only have people i’ve met on my FB account’ rule, posted the most offensive thing i have ever read my friends post. I am used to people updating status’s with stuff i dont agree with, lame jokes, filthy stories about whatever, however i have never been so offended by anything as the status that said ‘i’m sorry, but woman should take responsibility for being raped, after all men are men arent they’. WHAT? When I dared to totally disagree with this line of thought, i was told i was mis hearing what was being said. I disputed that too. I was not mishearing what was being said, i was simply disagreeing. I heard what was being said. I just didnt like. I still dont. This person’s argument was that if a skantily dressed woman is raped then they should accept some esponsibility, especially if they walk around looking like prostitutes (their response, not mine!!). Their trying to condone their thoughts just seemed to make it worse, because in my view, it is not acceptable for a non sex worker to be raped, and it isnt acceptable for a sex worker to be either. end of.

I was blown away and stunned by the response this status got, and the fact i was the only person arguing a womans right to say NO, and that ‘men being men’ is NOT an acceptable reason for raping someone.

Rape is rape. Whether you are out having a drink, whether you have gone to a dance, whether your walking home at night, or in the day. Whether you spend your time on the streets, or whether you meet someone for the first time while out and get chatting. Whatever the situation, whatever happens, if you DO NOT WANT SEX and someone forces you too, in my mind that is rape.

There is no ‘serious’, ‘more serious’ or ‘less serious’ rape, as has been suggested by Ken Clarke, the justice minister no less today.

I am aware some people will be saying that his comments were taken out of context, some will be saying, including himself that this current media storm is ‘spin’, however, my own view is, that if he didnt feel/think what he said, then why say it? he knows the position he holds, he knows he is talking to the media, he knows what he says is going to be reported. he says he knows that rape is rape, but to be honest, does he really? someone who says rape is rape, AFTER suggesting there are more serious ‘rapes’ than others, and who is also suggesting sentences for convicted rapists are cut, doesnt seem to have a clue, does he?

I am not sure that he really understands the effects on a person, a woman, a man, a child, who is raped. the life changing, heart breaking, never going to be the same effect is has.

I’d like to invite Ken Clarke to live the life of a survivor of rape. Maybe to live the first 5 years of their life or longer after the event. To live through the pain, hurt, anger, desprair, self loathing, blame, nothingness, dirtiness, the depression, the flashbacks, the nightmares, the tears, the sleepless nights, the fear of going outside, reliving time and time again what happened. Maybe he would like to live a life with feelings, that for some never go away. For some, maybe the moving on can happen, but where the memories never leave. memories that are always there, even if not in forefront of a mind, memories that are never far away, ready to come flooding back at the click of a finger. maybe a smell, a sense, something that triggers the mind to flood back the memories.

Maybe he would then understand that rape is rape, whether it was violent or not.

I am unable to do this topic justice, really. I just get sidetracked. So I’d like to recommend, if your interested, two beautifully written articles, one by Johann Hari, and one by Laurie Pennie.

johann hari – the prejudices that allow rapists to go free

laurie penny – ken clarke comments rape

both blogs express eloquently what i wish and want to, but am unable to’

Lets talk about rape … Part 1

Both this blog, and the ‘lets talk about rape … Part 2’ were written some time ago, but were both popular blogs at the time. However when ‘Fragmentz’ ceased to exist, so did the blogs. I had been asked a few times recently to repost them and declined, however having read tonight about Judy Finnegans comments today on a chat show regarding the rape footballer Ched Evans is convicted of, and serving time in prison for it felt relevant to put them online again.

RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE.

I’d like to challenge her, and anyone else who thinks its OK to categorise rape to come and live the life of a survivor, even for just a day or two.

Also to the people who tell me rape culture does not exist -YES IT DOES.

 

‘yep, you read the title right. rape. thats what this blog is about. if it is something that just reading the word or thinking about it makes you flinch, for whatever reason, i understand if your unable to read the following post.

I just felt it fair to warn you right at the very beginning so you can make the informed decision as to whether to read on or not. I really do not wish to upset anyone, and whilst writing this blog, and rereading it for the umpteenth time I have considered and re considered whether to actually publish/post this, however I came to the conclusion that I would not be being true to myself and this blog if I didn’t.

so, on we go …

.
.
.

when I logged into my computer this morning, like every morning, the first thing I do is to check out the BBC News website, just to glance over, to check out whats going on in and around the world. One of the headlines I saw was
‘ Rapist attacked woman twice in 12 weeks in south London’. I then clicked to read the story which you can find here …

i dont know about any one else, but as I read this, and the story, all i could do was think of the woman. the victim. the person who was raped. the survivor. and even as i am writing this, right now, i am thinking of her, and sending her my silent thoughts and prayers, that she may somehow learn to live through her ordeal and somehow come to a place of peace.

throughout today, my mind kept returning to this story, and to the woman involved. thinking about what a horrific and life changing moment it is for it to happen once, but to happen twice?

then, this evening, i was watching tv, and law and order UK came on. never seen it before, but nothing else was on that i liked the look of. the story line was complex, i don’t deny that, and please dont think i am trying to make light of any of the other issues the episode this evening used, however, towards the end, rape was one that was bought in. the woman, already in prison for other offences (all fictitious) was then in court accused of murder, of someone who was raping her. there was a scene, which was almost tearjerking where the barrister trying to help her sat with her in her cell and talked to her about what some would see as the human aspect of being raped.

the aspect of not having a choice. of not being in the wrong. of not asking for it to happen. for losing a part of something that is yours. something that you hold dear, that is yours, that gets taken away. it nearly made me cry.

i thought and thought about blogging on this topic, decided not to, then decided to, and went round in circles.
as i was deciding i looked up the definition of rape online. and found a dictionary which says this :

noun, verb, raped, rap·ing.
–noun
1.the unlawful compelling of a woman through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
2.any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
3.statutory rape.
4.an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation: the rape of the countryside.
5.Archaic . the act of seizing and carrying off by force.

point 3. is Statutory rape. this would appear mostly in US law and is the act of sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent. I would like to point out, that that is something i am not writing about at present.

In fact, what i am really focussing on, as i write this blog, is the act of rape against a woman, which essentially is having sexual intercourse without her consent.
there are lots of ways this occurs, such as stranger rape, so a random attack, maybe in the street?
it could be marital rape, so within a marriage this act occurs.
it could be date rape, where drugs are used, so persons are not aware.
it could be something that happens within many boundaries.

I’d also like to highlight that rape among men happens too, there are men who are raped. its not as highlighted as woman, and maybe not so common, however that does not mean it is not a real thing happening out there.

if you want to find out more about the definitions, or what constitutes rape, or within what circumstances it can happen, do google. You can find a whole world of information out there, that might educate you, that might shock you, that might make you want to pray for people involved in this.

months ago, i wrote a blog about depression, and it was after i watched a programme about the illness in the sporting profession, and how rife it is. I wrote something on the lines of how indiscriminate depression is, as an illness, how it can find and attack all kinds and every kinds of people.

this afternoon, that was my exact thought about rape.

rape can affect anyone, and everyone, god forbid, but if could even be you, your wife, your husband, your daughter, your son, your best friend, your neighbour, your mum, your dad. who knows? it could be anyone.

as mentioned above it could be, and often is within the constraints of a marriage, but when it comes to random attacks by strangers, as well as the victim being anyone, it could also occur anywhere.

on the bus you travel home on, on the street you walk down to get to the shop, the shopping mall you buy your clothes in. it could be the train station you wait at everyday. maybe it could be at the festival you go to every year, and camp out with friends at while listening to great music ? (i was shocked to read several reports over the summer of rape occurring at a UK based music festival)

it could be outside or inside a place you feel the most safe. a hospital maybe, a church, who knows …. it could be anywhere.

i dont say the above as scare tactics. thats the last thing i would want to do to. i don’t know the statistics, but one thing that is clear is although it can happen to anyone, and anywhere, it doesn’t. the amount of people who are attacked and raped are in minority to those who are not. so pleased do not walk away from this blog being afraid of all the above places. thats not the intention (but obviously good personal awareness and safety is always wise) .

what i have been thinking about all evening, tonight, is about the victims of such attacks. the victim of a rape. how they are left feeling, how their lives are so changed by something that maybe only took a few minutes to happen. how one minute, life was ok, and you were walking to the bus to go and see someone, and the next your in a heap on a floor in the middle of an empty street, sobbing as they run away from you. one minute you had your phone in your hand, texting a friend to say how long you would be and the next minute someone is running towards you to help you up off the ground, and to call an ambulance, or the police.
how one minute life was pretty clear and defined, and the next in all the haze and commotion, you realise that your life has changed forever. because nothing will ever be the same again. ever.

the thing about rape, is that physically one may be able to recover quite quickly. depending on the nature of the attack. for others it may take longer. maybe physical bruising and pain takes longer to disappear and fade. but eventually they do fade, as do all physcial signs of what happens. and what your are left with is what is in your head. what is left are the memories, the thoughts, the flashbacks, the nightmares, the scin crawling moments where all you want to do is scrub your skin over and over until it bleeds or you feel clean again.

thing is, for many victims, and i dont speak for them all, in fact, maybe i dont speak for any other than one, but i guess for many, and i know for one, that actually, for them, to ever feel clean again, is the biggest of tasks.

its hard to explain that kind of thinking to someone who may not have the empathy or understanding. and thats ok, because not everyone will or does. its a big complex area. however, something kicks into your head. all you want is cleanliness, but whether you actually every achieve that again, who knows.

because the way you see it, the only way you can see it, is that something you had absolutely no choice over happens, took over, and that some of you was taken away.

you spend weeks and months trying to wipe it away, erase it but you cant. you spend days sitting in silence, with tears rolling down wishing you had done something different. wishing perhaps you hadnt walked down that same road you walked down every day. or thinking perhaps it was your fault because you dared to leave the house and walk the street you live on. you analyse what you could have done differently. what you did that made it your fault. you come up with one hundred reasons why it was your fault, even though every single one of those is wrong, and not true.

and then, because a few years before, the only way you knew how to deal with life was to cut your body, you decide that right now, its the only way again. so you find the knifes, and razors and start to carve your body up.
you also decide that maybe alcohol will change whats happen. so you drink. and drink.

and pretty damn soon, the physical scars are gone, and your left with an emotional mental heap with thoughts going round you can deal with , and cant process, and figure out.

perhaps it is the most life changing thing you will experience? maybe it is one of the most life changing experiences, because maybe, you were abused as a child anyway, and bullied as a teenager, and beaten by your siblings, and so, as an adult when this happens, maybe you shrug it off and think, well, i deserve it anyway.

maybe.

maybe not. maybe you would deal with it different. maybe you have?

somehow though, you have to keep going, keep breathing, taking each day as they come, day by day, and week by week and very quickly those days and weeks turn into months and years.

and although the pains and non visible scars dont go away, are not forgotten about, maybe you discover a way of living, that means you can move on. maybe you can learn to be at peace with yourself? and dare i say it, the person who committed this crime against you?

i dont know. maybe.

being raped tears a soul apart. being raped can break a person. being raped
rises up such a huge amount of emotions. rage. anger. pain. humiliation. embarrassment. silence.

often there is silence. a huge silence because you dont know what to say or how to say it. a huge silence because people around you dont know what to say. or how to say it.

and i guess, the reason i personally am writing this blog, is to be part of a process that is breaking the ‘silence’.

i mentioned i was writing this blog to a few a people today, i got a couple of positive reactions, and a couple of ‘oooh do you think thats a good idea’ responses.

i am aware, that some of this blog has gone into ramble mode, and i have to confess i am not too sure what my main objective of it was, as i started to write, other than to raise the topic, type it, write about it, and bring it into the blogosphere (i am sure others have done this too, so it isnt just me). i wanted to be part of the group of people breaking silence on the topic. i want people to talk about it. so it is not something others feel they have to be silent about. i want it talked about in our churches too. because right now, how churches meet the needs of survivors of abuse, and rape has alot to be desired for, if you ask me, though i acknowledge there are some good places.

i think i wanted to say out loud to whoever is reading this, that if you are a victim of rape it is not your fault. you didn’t ask for it. you didn’t want that happen. sex was not designed to be something that was taken away from you. it wasnt back then in jesus day, and it isnt now.

i have run out of writing steam, although i have more to say on this topic.
but please, if you feel you have something to say on this, please feel free to respond.

i shall be back to write about this again.

also, if this has stirred anything and you want to talk to someone, in the UK the Samaritans run a 24 hour service where you can call and find someone on the other end of the line : UK 08457 90 90 90’

My name is Helen – I have PTSD and am not demon posessed.

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.

 

 

abused and bruised,
a life time of being used,
beaten and broken,
pain left unspoken.

no one to come and protect,
just treated as an object.
this thing, being led to slaughter,
not a sister, or a daughter.

her heart turning to stone,
realising she is totally alone.
learning how to survive,
wondering how she stayed alive.

a small whisper starts to surround,
even on the blackest of ground,
an outstretched hand, a piece of rope,
to cling on to, and a rose of hope.

years of no tears, they start to fall,
seeping through every single wall,
starting to unlock the prison bar,
painfully soaking into every scar.

unravelled from behind the disguise
she looks up, into their eyes,
and sees mercy, love and grace,
and collapses into His embrace.

© Helen

7 years on …

7 years on …

Today, Sunday, is exactly 7 years on from the blackest day of my life.

7 years on from the day when my whole world was destroyed.
The day when darkness finally blew out the little flicker of light that existed.
The day when nothing was the same again. Ever.
The day when all that I had left (which was not much anyway after being abused as a child/teenager) was stolen from me.
The day when the final nail of the lid of the coffin I felt I was already living in was hammered down deeply.
The day when I was raped.

Today is 7 years on from the day when the last bit of dignity I had left got taken away.
7 years on from the day when I crumpled onto the local high street.
7 years on from strangers running out of a local shop to me, calling 999 for help as they did.
7 years on from the day when I decided, after years of fighting that evil actually really did overcome goodness.
7 years on from believing and feeling that there was absolutely nothing left.
7 years on from thinking my brokeness could never ever be fixed.

7 years on from packing my stuff and moving away from the city/community I lived in, without telling anyone why.
7 years on from closing down completely, and not allowing anyone to closely enter my space.
7 years on from the start of the spiral that would lead me back into self harming, to drinking, and suicide attempts.
7 years on from seeing my future, and the plans I had torn apart.
7 years on from, having spent several years working for a church, deciding I couldn’t believe in God any more.
7 years on from the day when I built even more walls and decided no one would ever break them down.

But here I am 7 years on.

7 years on and I’ve found friends and support online through blogging/tweeting which has been invaluable.
7 years on some of those online friends have become offline friends who I wouldn’t have survived without.
7 years on and I am able to express/vocalise about life and its pain as me, Helen, not as an anonymous identity.
7 years on and I’ve discovered faith again, and stopped fighting with God.
7 years on I’ve found a community locally that has taken me as I am which has been life giving.
7 years on and I feel accepted by them, despite them knowing my story.

7 years on and I don’t blame myself quite as much as I used to.
7 years on, and I don’t hate myself as much as I did.
7 years on I’ve stopped screaming at myself and the world.
7 years on I’ve stopped taking razors to my body and,
7 years on I have stopped trying to kill myself.
7 years on and I am glad to be alive.

7 years on and my anger is fading slowly.
7 years on and the tears upon tears that have fallen are starting to fall less often.
7 years on and the chains of torture are slowly but surely being unlocked.
7 years on and the light that got blown out has been relighted, and I can see it again.
7 years on and I am starting to dream again.
7 years on and I have hope.

7 years on and I am in the strongest place I’ve ever been in.
7 years on and I am learning to smile again.
7 years on I am learning to laugh again.
7 years on and I have learned to love again, and am learning to be loved once more.
7 years on and the fragments are less fragmented.
7 years on and I can see how much has changed.

7 years on and I will keep walking the journey of healing.
7 years on and I will keep on the path of restoration.
7 years on and I will keep on keeping on.
7 years on and I will continue facing my fears, one at a time.
7 years on and I will continue moving forwards;.
7 years on and I will look shame in the eyes, and hold my head high.

I will hold my head high because it is 7 years on and I have survived.

the beach, dying and being glad to be alive.

The other night I ended up at the beach.

The same beach I walked along a few weeks ago with a friend, the night before my baptism, watching the sunset, talking and praying.

The same beach that a few weeks prior to that I had spent a Sunday afternoon on, with another friend, in the sun shine walking, talking and laughing lots.

The same beach I’ve been to many times before the ones mentioned above.

 

The same beach I used to sit alone on and cry.

The same beach I’ve sat on and slashed my legs to pieces and then poured dirty salty seawater into the wounds, just to make sure it really hurt.

The same beach I’ve sat and smoked on and then used my arms to put out the cigarettes – scars I still bare.

The same beach I used to go to alone and scream at God.

The same beach I used to dream about dying on.

The same beach I used to stand by the water on and wonder what it would be like if I was to just walk in, and be washed away.

The same beach that leads to the seas that I used to wish would just sweep me away.

 

The other night I ended up at the beach.

And it was different.

 

It was beautiful. And as I sat by the water, watching the waves, and the sun setting, I was thankful.

I was thankful to be alive.

 

Tonight at a church seminar I went to we thought briefly about some of our fears. Several people mentioned theirs. And I mentioned my fear of dying.

A fear that has appeared since last year when I had an asthma attack that I really did think I was going to die from, and which my medics also thought serious enough to consider ventilation et al.

And it hit me that the reason I was so fearful of dying last October was because I didn’t want to. I did not want to die.

 

Which is a far cry from those nights when I used to sit on the beach desperate to.

It is a far cry from April 08 when I took an overdose.

It is a far from the night before my birthday that year when I decided to try again.

Those nights, when I was desperate to die, dying didn’t scare me. I wanted it. I was desperate for it.

 

The first few years after not succeeding in my overdose were years of real pain and anger that I was alive. The next few years were years of accepting I was alive and just having to deal with that. The last few years have been years of learning to live life again …

 

But as I sat on the beach on Saturday night, and over the last few days, and even tonight I’ve been reflecting on the fact I no longer want to die. I AM alive. And I want to be.

And the last 12 months have been astonishingly life changing in so many different ways.

And so the other night I ended up and the beach, and it was different because now I AM glad to be alive.

 

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A few thoughts on ‘forgetting the past’, scars and Jesus’ scars.

Over the years I’ve walked the walk alongside survivors of childhood abuse in various ways. Either as a moderator for an online forum hosted and ran by a national charity (the forum has been closed a good few years now) or as a member of an organisation that was survivor led and facilitated conversation and support for those affected by abuse, working online, offline and at festivals such as Greenbelt. I’ve been around the survivor of childhood abuse community for a while. And most recently, over the last few years the surviving rape one too, having experienced the trauma of that almost 7 years ago.

And I’ve been around the church for quite some time too, on and off. Since I was a teen and I first walked into one, drunk and desperate to get them to kick me out to prove that all christians were intolerant. Ive had an up and down ride with the Christian faith, and with churches, managing to succeed in being asked to leave one as a late teen after much rebellion and eventually hitting the Pastor after he behaved and acted incredibly inappropriately hence my mistrust of most men in christian leadership/authority.

So anyway when it comes to the church/Christians/abuse/survivors I’ve clocked up a bit of experience.

Ive heard a lot of stuff. I’ve sat and heard a lot of stories. And I’ve heard a lot of how people especially Christians who are also survivors feel there is no place for them within a church. The church.

And I’ve been able to empathise with them. Its a feeling I’ve known all to well too.

Today I was reminded, yet again, just how badly the church often responds to people who have been abused. How incredibly wrong its gets it. Be it from pure ignorance or in some cases plain arrogance and black and white narrow mindedness.

And how damaging it can be.

I’ve had many things said to me over the years. Stuff like –

‘if you really are a Christian then your memory would be erased,  literally’

‘if you really are a Christian then you are a new creation and the past no longer exists’

‘god made all this happen to you so good can come of it, and it will turn into good – eventually, just stop dwelling’

‘just forget about it’

‘just focus on God and don’t think about it any more’

and much more …

As you can see Ive focussed on just a few of the things I and countless others have been told just regarding ‘forgetting the past’ which is what I am focussing on right now. I could rattle off hundreds of other statements I’ve had thrown at me regarding my salvation and forgiveness but thats for another time …

So back to the above … back to the ‘erasing our memories’ theory. Previous leaders I’ve had in the past, previous Christians I’ve come into contact with would have me want to believe that if I cannot ‘simply forget the past’ then I am not a Christian. Or that I am in the wrong. Or that I am not living abundantly. Or or or … or many other things. I could be here for the next 24 hours recalling some of the things I’ve had said to me over the years.

And now I have no idea where they get this notion from. I struggle to understand why they think you could just forget. Perhaps its because they have not had the same experiences? Perhaps its because their understanding of pain and trauma is very different to mine, or someone who has been abused. Perhaps they blindly accept what people above them tell them and go with it …

I don’t know, but what I do know is that I don’t believe Jesus erases the past. Why? Well, because He didn’t erase His own did He?

Something that first struck me properly this year over Easter. That when Jesus rose again on the third day after his death on the cross that involved nails piercing his hands, thorns on his head and slashes in his side He appeared to His disciples and SHOWED them His hands, and His side. Why would He do that? Why show His hands if there was nothing there to show? Later on, in John 20 we are told that Thomas disbelieved what the other disciples were telling him when they told him Jesus had returned, for he had not been there with them at that time. He said ‘unless I can put my fingers where those nail holes were, and put my hand into his side then I can’t believe’. Eight days later Jesus came back, and showed Himself to Thomas. The bible tells us Thomas then reached out to see His hands, and His side. The wounds of Jesus. And Thomas believed.

Jesus came back. WITH the wounds. With the holes in his hands. With the gaping side.

Why? Because they tell the story. I bet every single one of us has scars somewhere, physical or deeply hidden emotional ones that tell a story of our life. Some of us have a few. Some of us have many. But scars tell a story. Of something happening. Very rarely do we bare scars that have not come without pain. I imagine in fact nearly all of them come WITH pain.

And so Jesus’ scars on His back, on His head, on His side, and on His hands tell us His story. His story of the cross. His pain.

He didn’t come back with that story erased.

We see through the Bible that Jesus kept those scars. Going into Revelation 5 John writes ‘Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders’.

Jesus took those scars with Him to eternity. As @kellymoore777 said to me earlier on twitter – they are part of His royal robe.

And I believe we will take our scars to eternity with us too.

There is no erasing of the past.

My scars tell my story.

My scars are also starting to tell His story too. The story of healing and restoration that can only come through Him.

Scars are wounds that have healed. Are healing. And so I believe there is also hope to be found in baring scars. Because it tells of a story of pain, of open wounds, which have closed. Which does not mean we don’t remember what caused those scars in the first place, or the tangible pain we have felt when they occurred. It does not mean we do not sometimes go back to a place of feeling that pain. But there is hope in the healing of the wounds. Hope in the wounds of Jesus. That whilst He still carried the scars of His suffering, He still came back. He still had victory.

And I’m holding on to that. That, with His scars, that tell His story He has the victory.

And we can have the victory with Him too, WITH our scars.

And I don’t say that in a blasé way, I really don’t.

I live with scars. Many scars. Physical ones. And emotional ones. And I’m on a journey of really understanding what it means to carry those scars as a Christian. And I’m learning what it really means that Jesus himself was scarred. For me.

And its not easy.

But I just want you to know, if you have ever been told that you are not good enough, or that God does not want you, or that you cannot be a Christian if you do not ‘forget the past’- that is NOT the truth. It is so so far from the truth.

The truth is, as I am learning, painfully at times, that we can come before God as we are. With our scars. With our past. And whilst He will work within us, within our pain and scars, He will never expect us to ‘forget it’.

This is for YOU.

I just spent some time chilling listening to music and writing. I had a blog I have almost finished and was going to post. But for some reason I was reminded of one I have posted before. And I just feel it needs to be re shared tonight.

This is for YOU.

 

This is for YOU.

I dont know if you are a friend, some one I say hi to once in a while, or some one I have not yet met, but this is for YOU.

I don’t know if your a friend of a friend, or a tweeter that just happens to pass by, or maybe this just lands in your lap because its meant to, whatever the case may be, this is for YOU.

I dont know where you have come from or where you are going, but this is for YOU.

I dont know the intimate details of your desires, but this is for YOU.

I dont know the deepest darkest secrets that you daren’t reveal, but this is for YOU.

I dont know why tears fall from your eyes like a never ending waterfall, but this is for YOU.

I dont know what hurt you hide behind the smile, but this is for YOU.

I dont know what the scars on the arms represent, but this is for YOU.

I dont know what the slashes that you hide behind clothes mean, but this for YOU.

I dont know the story behind your tired and weary eyes, but this is for YOU.

I dont know what it is that makes you curl up and want to die, but this is for YOU.

I dont know your story, but this is for YOU.

This is for YOU.

YOU are wonderfully unique.

YOU are valuable.

YOU are special.

YOU are good enough.

YOU are forgiven.

YOU are strong.

YOU are courageous.

YOU are brave.

YOU make the world a better place.

YOU have a purpose.

YOU have a future.

YOU are important.

YOU can hold on.

YOU can make it.

YOU can live through the darkest night,

YOU can rise up from the ashes.

YOU can lift your head high once again.

YOU can live in hope once again.

YOU can learn to laugh once again

YOU can learn to love and be loved once again.

YOU can dare to dream once again.

YOU are not a mistake.

YOU cannot be replaced.

YOU matter.

YOU are being thought of, right now, right this very minute.

YOU, yes YOU, beautiful YOU.

YOU are on someones mind, my mind.

YOU are precious and YOU are loved.

Some Father’s Day thoughts …

As soon as the words ‘Fathers Day’ burst into our shops and onto our TVs and radio it instils a sense of something in us. Each and every one of us has a reaction to it whether we like it or not.

Some of us might think ‘must remember to buy a card, must get the kids presents to give their dad, must do this, must do that …’ and so on. A day that interrupts the busyness of normal life but yet is a day to have as an occasion.

Some of us probably think ‘must book that pub/eating place so we can all gather to celebrate’ or ‘must get the whole family together for a meal’.

Some of us probably spend months and weeks searching for THAT perfect card and gift to give to the one person in your life who has been a constant. A constant source of care and love.

For some of us Father’s Day is a day of joy and celebrations.

Yet for some of us as soon as those words appear that tell us Father’s Day is imminent in our lives, it fills us with the dread of knowing that for next few months and weeks in the run up to it and including it we are not going to be able to escape the reminders that evoke feelings of pain and hurt.

For some of us it’s because we have lost our children or because they are not with us for many reasons.
For some of us it is because we have lost our fathers. Men we held highly, and loved who are no longer here.
For some of us it’s a reminder that we haven’t known who our father is. Never had a man in our life to call ‘Dad’.

And for some of us, it’s because we have had a man who is a biological father who has been in our lives at some/various points but whose behaviour and actions have left us with scars so deep that at times we’ve lost hope and belief that they/we can ever heal.

I’m one of those people. One of those ‘us’ in the sentence before this one. One the people who usually melts down at this time of year because all around all I see is ‘treat your father/love your dad’ and it reminds me of what he did to me. It reminds me there is no relationship there. It reminds me I have only seen him two times in 10 years and that when we walked away from each other at a meeting several years ago we would never be in contact again. It reminds me that he was vicious, violent and abusive. It reminds me that year after year of trying to be the daughter he would have pleased with it was never good enough. It reminds me of the desperation I have felt in past years of wanting to see that relationship repaired and rebuilt. That maybe if I did x and y that I could be his daughter. Properly. It reminds me that none of that is going to happen.

I say it reminds me – it doesn’t actually remind me because I never forget. How can you? I think what it actually does is magnifies it. Makes the wounds wider and bigger until the dust settles and some normality can be regained.

Today can be one of the toughest days of the year. One of the toughest days of any of the ‘celebration days’ we hold in the UK. For many of us.

For me.

And yet today, for me, has been the first Father’s Day in my history where whilst the sting is still there it feels as though maybe the power of it has been taken away slightly.

I went to church this morning – not something I ever do on Father’s Day. Not since 10 years ago when I walked out of a service because it had no idea …
But I knew weeks ago that today was going to fall on the first service after my baptism. So I made the conscious decision to be at it. Ironically because of a mix up on the coffee rota I ended up being at both of them when I didn’t need to be.

A week ago at my baptism I acknowledged publicly that I believe God is my father. Which only one or two people in the church would have realised the deep deep significance of. The last month or two has been a journey down the road of discovering God as that. And it’s been massive. It’s been overwhelming. It’s been life changing. Realisations and revelations that I can’t even put into written words have occurred and with the support of just a couple of people I’ve been able to speak out loud and process and move on with. I’ve been able to start the journey of recognising/realising and acknowledging that God is a Father God.

And today during the worship during one of the services I got overwhelmed. And outside for some fresh air did I go. And whilst I was tearful, and whilst it had all gotten a bit too much at the same time it all felt OK. I was OK. Usually my head is chaos. Usually my mind is throwing around one thousand different things and it breaks down because it can’t process and it can’t cope. Usually I leave a service because I wanna scream and yell. Usually I leave a service because I can’t cope but I’m so all over I don’t even know what I can’t cope with.

But today, I KNEW what was overwhelming. And for the first time it felt OK. Because weirdly I was feeling overwhelmed by God. I was overwhelmed with being in the midst of a community who know me. Who really really know me and who still accept me. And by being in the presence of a God who also really really knows me and accepts and who for the first time in years I feel fully at peace with. That was overwhelming. And it’s not the kind of overwhelmed I’m used to experiencing.

I don’t have an earthly father who loves me. In fact I have an earthly father who has caused untold pain and damage.

But I have a Godly one who does love and is love. And I’m at the beginning of the journey of discovering a whole different life knowing that and discovering more and more of Him.

And it’s made today more manageable than any other year.

IF today has been a day of rejoicing, celebration, happiness and gladness, that I am really glad. If you have a Dad, a biological one, or one who takes on the role, as a step, or as a role model, or as a male figure in your life, I hope you have been able to/have enjoyed spending time with them/or celebrating them in some way. I join you in wishing those people Happy Fathers Day. It’s been a real privilege to text a couple of people today who have been positive male figures in my life.

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

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

I have been and am thinking of you today.