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.

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The day I got into a fight with a street preacher and what I’m learning since …

When I first published the post below, on the ‘fragz’ blog a bit back, lots of people read it and loved the fact I had been so bold as to confront a street preacher who was behaving outrageously, in front of a large crowd. What only one person picked up on, in this blog was the last couple of lines, especially the very last one. They say this –

‘I believe that Jesus loves people, including this merry man. That He is full of grace, and mercy, and that He cherishes and sees all as worthwhile.

I just hope/long for the day when l fully believe that that includes me too’ 

And as I sit here tonight, trying unsuccessfully to come up with some words that reflect the journey I have been on, especially in the last 12 months I was reminded of this blog and those lines. 

I  got into a fight with a street preacher, on behalf of someone else. And I truly believed those truths that I shouted out. About that person. But not about me. I didn’t believe any of it was for me. 

But as I prepare for a weekend which involves saying good bye to the old and rising with Christ and into the new I’m realising that slowly, and painfully at times I am starting to recognise those things I talk about are for me too. That Jesus IS for me too. That grace, and mercy IS for me. That I am worth something to God.

The post below was originally posted October 2013

‘I was reminded the other evening about the day, a few years ago, when I got into an eyes red rage fight with a street preacher. Actually, maybe it is unfair to say that we had a fight, because I never gave him the chance to speak. I’m amazed actually that I didn’t punch the guy.

It was in the middle of a city centre. That I was visiting. And waiting for a friend to arrive for coffee.

A few minutes earlier, as I was arriving at our meeting place, I could see the crowd gathered, so being the nosey that I am decided to go and see what was going on. I stood at the back of the circled crowd of about 60 people, with shopping bags in one hand and a smoke in the other. And I watched. And I listened.

I was starting to get a bit bored, but decided to stick it out a bit longer because my friend had text to say they would be 5/10 minutes as they were running late.

So I stuck around and continued to watch and listen. And that’s when it got a little bit more interesting.

Because that was when someone else, who had also been watching and listening decided to have their say too. Someone who looked like maybe he had been sleeping rough. Someone who looked like maybe he could do with a good wash, a shave, some clean/non ripped clothes and a good meal or five. Someone who maybe looked as though he had been in a few scraps. Someone whose words were slightly slurred, because they’d perhaps had a little bit too much of whatever cheap alcohol he had been able to lay his hands on.

Someone who looked like they just needed some love and care.

Someone who felt that he needed to respond to what the guy on the stool was shouting. Someone who felt that life’s darkness and pain was better dulled with alcohol and drugs, and someone who felt that we could find our own happiness. He was someone who needed to tell the crowd to just be happy being who you are.

This guy made me smile. Because despite his obvious dishevelled-ness and alcohol induced merriness he had a beautiful twinkle in his eye (the eye that was not black and healing from wounds) and an apparent desire, however big or small to cling on to whatever life was offering him.

I’ll never forget seeing the shock in his face, and I’ll never forget the horrified feelings I felt when, whilst addressing the crowd with his own ‘be happy’ message, the preacher guy, having stepped down from his stool grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him backwards, so he could get back up on his stool, and tower above the merry man, whilst still having a grip on the merry mans shoulders.

And with one hand gripped on his shoulder, which appeared to make the merry man powerless to move, with the other hand he started waving and pointing at the merry man below him.

And then it started. The preacher man, holding and pointing started shouting at the gathered crowd, which was getting bigger as each second went by.

Addressing the crowd, pointing at the merry man he was shouting at the top of voice –

‘do YOU want to be like this’, ‘do YOU want to end up looking like THAT because if you don’t follow God you will’

and a couple of other things I don’t recall. I simply could not comprehend or believe what I was witnessing. And then he yelled

‘do you want to be like him? a nothing, worthless, a no one’

What? Did I just hear that right? Well I didn’t have to question long because a second after he said it the first time, he repeated it again, pointing at the merry man and asking the crowd if they wanted to end up like him, a nothing, worthless, a no one.

The look of bemusement and bewilderment in the merry mans face will never leave me.

It was at that point I saw red. It flashed across my eyes.

I grabbed my bags, stormed through the crowd, up to these two men, one on a stool with a firm hold on a vulnerable merry man and intervened. And when I say intervened I got hold of the merry man and moved him out of the way, and put myself in his place, but instead of facing the crowd and having this guy looking down on me and berate me, I got my finger in face and started shouting back as loudly as he had been shouting at the crowd.

As I said at the beginning, I’m amazed I didn’t punch the guy. Or swear. But I didn’t. However, my mouth ran away with me (what a surprise I hear you say) …

I shouted at him how dare he. How dare he speak to someone like that, how dare he lay his fingers on someone, how dare he pass judgement on someone. How dare he abuse and mistreat the vulnerable. How dare he suggest that someone was not worth anything? How dare he?

I shouted at him that the Jesus I knew would love a person like this. That the Jesus I know and I have read about in the Bible would love, cherish and care for a merry man like him, that the Jesus I know about is a Jesus who believes in people, all people, including this merry man being worthwhile, precious, valuable and definitely not a no body. That the Jesus I knew about was a Jesus of grace and mercy and kindness. And on I went, for about 5 minutes, telling him and the crowd about the Jesus I believed in which was everything opposite to what he had been preaching.

I ended by shouting at him that the Jesus I knew about would LOVE this man.

At this point, the merry man had wondered off. I stopped to draw breath and realised I had run out of things to say, so I picked up my bags, turned on my heels, leaving the street preacher speechless, and a crowd clapping and shouting as I stormed back out of the circle and back down the street we were in.

Why am I writing about this now? Well, simply because I have been thinking about it. Every now and then over the last few years I’ve thought about the merry man, wondered where he is now, and hoping he is ok. I hope that he knew he was/is loved by someone. And I’ve thought about the street preacher and the continued untold damage he is doing in ‘Gods name’ and hoping those that he affects negatively are being scooped up by gentle souls who can whisper the real truths into their lives.

I think about the anger it stirred in my soul. The red rage that flashed because someone in front of my very eyes was being told they were not worth anything. That person could have been anyone. It could have been me.

It has been me, over the years.

I don’t believe anyone, who ever they are, where ever they have come from, wherever they have been, whatever they have done is worthless.

This is what stirs my soul into action, to speak out against injustices when I can/when I see it, such as this time, or other times when I speak out loudly on behalf of other people.

Its what stirs my soul to work with vulnerable people, be it young people, the dying, people with mental health issues, people with learning disabilities, people on the fringes of society for whatever reason.

I believe that Jesus loves people, including this merry man. That He is full of grace, and mercy, and that He cherishes and sees all as worthwhile.

I just hope/long for the day when l fully believe that that includes me too’

6 years on from an overdose …

Today is the 11th of April 2014 and it is a really significant date for me – why? Because, on the 11th of April 2008 I took an overdose. An overdose that was not a ‘cry for help’. An overdose that was fully intended to make me sleep, and never wake up. Ever. Again.

Sometimes I can really accurately describe the feelings of darkness and desperation that had consumed life and overwhelmed my mind. And some days I can’t. Sometimes I can write down, talk through or speak out the thoughts that were running through my head in the time leading up to that day, the heavy heart and the pain I was in, but sometimes I can’t, like tonight – I simply cannot find the words that could adequately express just how bad it was. I’m not sure there are any.

My mind, and my body, battered and bruised from years and years of heartache and trauma could not take any more.

I remember it very clearly. I remember leaving my flat and walking to the bridge just around the corner. And I sat on the bench by the phone box for a few hours. Eating pills. One box after another. I had several bottles of spirits which I drank until I started to feel whoozy. And I walked from that place, the 3 minutes it took to get home saying sorry to God. For being a failure. For being a coward. For being a screw up. For being a mess. For being this wreck of a person who could only see one way out.

I was really really angry with God. Because I blamed Him. Because I was being told that God is good, and would do nothing to cause harm to His children. And that He ordains all things to happen so good can come of them. And I was angry, because my head was telling me this meant that God had orchestrated the abuse. He had orchestrated the violence. And the rape. So ‘good could come of it’. And that was not a God I wanted anything to do with. My favourite name for Him at that time was ‘sadistic nazi bastard’. Something I screamed at Him time after time. But yet, still, as I walked back to my flat, at the same time as my anger with Him was a deep sense of having gotten something really very wrong when it came to God and understanding Him. So as I walked that walk home, I said sorry, sorry for what I was about to do, sorry for not being brave enough to let my mum know, sorry for … everything. Because I was to blame too.

And so, I got home, and smoked. Ate more pills. Drank more vodka. And whiskey. And ate more pills. Until I needed to lie down. And then I just kept eating them – until I slept.

And I slept.

Until I woke up. In hospital. And how that happened is a whole other story in itself – but had it not been for the person who just happened to be passing my house (they usually drove a different route home) and thought to check on me I would not be writing this blog now.

So that was it – 11th April 2008 – 6 years ago.

The last few years I’ve been able to recognise this date, and celebrate ‘being alive’.  And its always emotional because for the first few years after not dying I was devastated. I was angry with myself, and the feelings of failure I was already feeling were even more intense than before, because I could not even manage to kill myself properly. And I was still alive. And I didn’t want to be.

But for the last few years, especially the last 3, the last 3 times I’ve seen the 11th of April come around its been a different story.

As the 11th of April has come along, it has become a time of celebration. A day of celebrating ‘being alive’. And being glad to be alive.

The most important words – being glad to be.

Because there were times when I was alive, just, breathing, just but I was not happy about it. But now I’m breathing, alive, and glad!

And as the calander years pass over and I mark this day, a sense of gladness and thankfulness is the running theme.

Because I am glad to be alive. I’m truly thankful to still be here.

This afternoon, after I finished work I drove back to the bridge (I live somewhere else now) and sat there for an hour, listening to music, watching the water, and the life pass by. And remembering that day, 6 years ago. But also remembering some of the events of the last 6 years too. Some of the life giving moments that have given me hope. Life giving people that arrived in my life, shortly after, who, despite distance have kept me going. And people who, like my housemate and best friend have seen me through.

As I sat tonight by the bridge, I realised why today, this year, this 6 year mark is so much different than any other year. Why it feels so much more emotional than ever before. And my memory went back to last year, October the 31st, when I had the most serious asthma attack my body has had to cope with (I was only diagnosed with asthma about 2 years ago, but its been pretty dramatic since). On the 31st of October, as they were talking about moving me to intensive care, and ventilating me, I was overcome with the seriousness of the situation. I was getting tired. My oxygen levels were continuing to worsen, and my heart rate continuing to increase because of the drugs they were giving me. I was told by the Consultant I was in a dangerous place.

I needed someone to pray with but I didn’t know who to call to ask to come from my church, I had not been there that long, and if they even could because I live a good 1/2 hour away from it. So I texted a friend who also happens to be a priest. Not expecting him to be free at all, but he turned up, 10 minutes later. And as I cried, and he prayed I realised that possibly death was closer than I wanted it to be. I had spent years dreaming of how to kill myself, and living with suicidal thoughts, but a few years later having moved on from those thoughts of wanting to die here I was close to dying BUT I didn’t to … I really really didn’t want to die.

It hit me, lying in that bed, praying, being so poorly, that I did not want to die. And yet it was entirely possible that I might.

I’ve been incredibly physically poorly over the last 18 months. And especially so in the last 6 months. More poorly than I ever thought you could be. And yet, whilst battling all this physical ill health, with several complex things going on, one of the most overwhelming things I’ve been realising through it all is that actually, I am alive and have a life and I DONT WANT TO DIE.

I DO NOT WANT TO DIE.

Coinciding with being so poorly has been landing on the doorstep of a new church, and the start of a new journey with God – that has and is tough at times, but also life giving. And is continuing to make me realise I do not want to die any more.

I want to live. I want to continue moving forwards. I want to continue the journey that has been started of healing, and restoration. Its been painful, but breakthroughs are happening. And I’m in no doubt that there will be some more painful times to come, but I’m living in and with hope that life will be different. Can be different. IS DIFFERENT.

Life is so very different to this day 6 years ago, I could be here all night telling you how. But trust me, it is.

And I am so thankful and I am so glad to be alive.

I took an overdose 6 years ago, but today 6 years on

I AM GLAD TO BE ALIVE.

 

God in my …

Today has been a day of many conversations – and has left me with a head full of thoughts on a variety of topics, a couple of which I was planning on writing about this evening, to get my thoughts into some kind of order.

However now I’m sat writing, what I’m going to type is not at all what I actually had in mind.

As I sat down to my laptop tonight and opened her up she launched into action from where we left off last night. The music I had playing last night as I went to sleep before I shut Mildred (yeah I named my laptop, and my car, and, well lets leave it there…) kicked into action.

These were the words that started to play from the random playlist Spotify was obviously working its way through –

‘God in my hoping, there in my dreaming
God in my watching, God in my waiting
God in my laughing, there in my weeping
God in my hurting, God in my healing

Be my everything, be my everything’ – (Tim Hughes)

And I got a bit teary eyed. Now if you’ve been following my journey even just slightly over the last 6 months, you will not be surprised to hear this. I think I must be known as the ‘weeping woman’ in church for my inability to go and not cry (although I have managed a couple of services lately!).

Anyway, its a really powerful song. One thats been sung a couple of times in the church Im at now since I’ve been there. And I’ve always had to leave. Just like I’ve always had to leave when a couple of other songs are sung. Because I’ve been unable to cope with the words. I’ve been unable to cope with what they mean. I can’t open my mouth to sing them (if I’m not much else, I’m not a hypocrite, so I aint gonna sing something I don’t believe) and I could not even bear to sit and listen to them. When my brain overloads or something gets too close to the bone my default reaction is to run away – hence always leaving the services.

Sometimes I’ve had to leave to protect them and myself from my anger. Because these songs have had the ability to make me angry. Really really angry, and I can feel it rising in me. So angry that I want to scream at them all, all of them singing the words, raising their hands, engaging. I’ve wanted to disrupt meetings and tell them how fricking wrong they are. How wrong it all is. I’ve stood in meetings battling with the urge to totally rage, shaking my head and literally chanting ‘No’ to myself, because I have been unable to entertain the possibility that any of the stuff I’m hearing is true. As I’ve left I’ve punched walls of the buildings and I’ve dinted my car by kicking it. I’ve ranted, and raged, to myself, and vowed several times never to go back. I’m not a generally angry person, honestly, but its like every now and then the built up emotion that I don’t know how to deal with or that overwhelms me comes out all at once.

Its not happened often. But the several occasions it has over the last 6 months has been when these songs I mentioned above have part of the worship. Why?

Because I have been so angry with God. So so angry. I was more angry at God than anyone – more angry at God than my biological father, who abused me. More angry at God than my brother, who physically bruised me, many times over many years, and I was more angry at God than I was the people who attacked me 7 years ago, on a life changing day where nothing was ever to be the same again.

I was angry at God. I often thought to myself I didn’t believe in God any more. But actually I’ve always believed in God. I’ve always believed He has existed. I’ve always believed He has been about somewhere, but I’ve not always believed that He has been for me. I’ve not always believed that He is a good God. And that He is a God who loves me. I’ve not always believed He has been with me. I’ve not always believed that.

And these songs, the song above in particular provoked such anger in me towards God. And I never really knew why.

Until tonight.

And I found myself, through tears singing to it.

God in my …

God in my …

God in my …

healing, hoping, dreaming, laughing, waking, sleeping, resting, dreaming

God in my everything.

 

And I realised why I could never sing those words, or even bear to hear them because –

– how could God be in healing I never believed was possible?

– how could God be in any sort of hoping when I had no hope?

– how could God be in my dreams, because I had no dreams for myself or my future

– how could God be in the laughter that does not exist any more?

– how could God be in the waking/sleeping/resting that was plagued with nightmares and desperate darkness.

– how could God in my everything because I was/there was nothing.

– because how could God?

 

And yet, I’ve come to a place – tonight, I’m in a place, where I can sit, and I can let those words flow over me, I can open my mouth and sing them, I can read the words, and feel the meaning, and realise that, actuality God IS in my everything.

And that there is an everything for God to be in. Including my anger –

Then it struck me –  I’m not angry with God any more.

I don’t have all the answers. I have not got it all sussed out. I still have many questions and things I need to work through. There is still miles and miles and miles of this never ending journey to travel, this journey of restoration. But I’m not angry with God any more, and its a start.

And there is a hope, that He is in. There is healing that He is definitely in the middle of.

And I am deeply deeply thankful to be in a different place to when I first walked through the doors of the church I’m at now. That painfully, steps forwards are being made. Life is changing. I am changing. I am being changed.

And I’m deeply thankful that the God I rejected 6 years ago, has accepted me back and is back in my everything, because I’m realising now that He never actually left it.

I’m deeply thankful, this week, as we head towards the 11th April which marks 6 years since I took such a serious overdose, my Dr’s were surprised I lived that I am still here.

God is in my everything, whatever that everything is, and I am glad to be alive.

Here is love

Here is love
For He has heard my cry, night after night,
Here is hope
For He has heard my cry, day after day.
Here is peace,
For He has heard my cry, week after week.
Here is grace,
For He has heard my cry, month after month.
Here is forgiveness,
For He has heard my cry, year after year.

Here is love,
For He has heard my cry, and He has come.

‘You make beautiful things …’

I’ve been rediscovering some Christian music the last week or so. Some old stuff I knew but had forgotten. But also lots and lots of stuff I had no idea existed.

My most favourite discovery has been ‘Gungor’.

‘Beautiful things’ is really moving, for me.  I’m a big believer in other peoples beauty and ability to rise from ashes. I’m now trying to believe it about myself. This song feels quite affirming and that slowly life is being found in chaos. And that one day something about myself and my story will be made beautiful.

‘All this pain, I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth, Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come up from this ground at all?
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us’

“All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

-Gungor ‘Beautiful Things’