For those of you who are more familiar with my blog, you’ll know that I have been overcoming complex PTSD, depression and anxiety from adverse childhood experiences particularly in school and among peers, and cumulative stress throughout the years into adulthood.
I’ve come a long way, and would consider myself not a victim, or survivor anymore but an overcomer. I am still working on this stage, but perhaps one day I will be able to think of myself as a ‘thriver’, that’s one of my goals. I’m not there yet, however, and there are still daily mental battles that I am overcoming. This could easily become a negative obsession were it not for the fact that having had some help I now have some tools to move forwards with to help me be present in my day to day life.
It got me thinking that we all have our ‘stuff’. We all have things that we have survived and need to overcome. Some among you may be familiar with this road, like myself, and others among you may have for the first time experienced something in this pandemic that has hit you hard and even traumatised you as well.
For a long time I had no idea how to heal. The answers are complex, and I rely on the grace of God. There are however things that I can share with you that I have learned. Sometimes we go over our stories again and again in order to try to make sense of them, to find meaning, to reprocess, to create a new narrative. This is hopeful. At other times we are so impacted by our inner pain that we go over and over it because trauma actually has us ‘stuck’ there. Stuck trying to get free, flailing as if drowning, trying desperately to come up for air. I was there internally for a very long time until I got outside help.
Now that I am working on things by myself again, I have made considerable progress with my inner mental road map as I look to the examples of others who have or are overcoming something difficult in their lives. I’ve written about this before, and you might like to look out my post on mentors for more insight.
As we heal, as we continue on our own recovery journeys of whatever type they may be, we can also seek to build. As we try to make sense of what happened to us and the sometimes devastating impact it had and continues to have, we can see opportunities to use these experiences for growth not only in our own lives but to help other people to – to build.
I’d like to encourage you (and myself) today to consider what thoughts are going on in your mind that you are grappling with as you try to recover, make sense of, heal or move on from something.
Many of us have experienced verbal abuse at some point in our lives. For those of us who are particularly sensitive this can be crushing and can destroy our sense of self worth. We may have to spend decades trying to survive these inner wounds until we can get to a place where we can start affirming our own worth and begin to believe it. That is why I say, ‘build as you heal’. While I am overcoming these effects in my own mind and life, I can remind myself that there are still children out there who are going through things like I went through. I can remind myself that there are adults still struggling with the things I did a few years ago at the peak of CPTSD. I can remind myself that there can be greater compassion for people who have suffered even if and when their suffering is different to mine. And as I seek to continue my own healing journey I can think of ways that I can use this for good, and to build up other people.
I may be able to show more compassion, understanding and care to the young people in my life. I may be able in some small way to encourage my friends who are parents, or to build up adult friends who have traumas of their own. I can write, and blog and encourage you. I can think of the examples of others who have gone before me who have used the most awful experiences in their lives to heal and build and build and build.
Can you think of any striking examples of people who have overcome their own struggles and sufferings to go on to help other people in notable ways?
The ways you and I heal and build don’t need to be so notable because the smallest most silent and seemingly invisible acts of kindness can transform destinies. A broken person might have their life course changed by a simple act of kindness that shows them their humanity and worth is recognised. You never know, you might just be the person to do it.
Let us not wait until we are fully whole in order to begin to build. Our families, friends, communities and our world needs kindness to be built up into their foundations. Kindness and love.
As you continue healing, think of the lessons you can learn that you can pass on to others. I personally believe that when we are struggling in our healing journeys that this perspective can actually help us personally as well. If I am so caught up in my own suffering then I may believe the lies that were said about me. But if I think of another little girl suffering the same thing, I can grow in strength and perspective by saying, it’s not her fault, she’s precious and valuable and beautiful and made in God’s image, and then I can more logically begin to apply the same reasoning to myself as a child.
The wounds of childhood can run deep. They can crush us. But they can also be transformative. They can teach us to overcome, and to be the helpers and healers of the future.
Maybe your wounds are from adulthood, maybe they came as fiery darts to you in this very pandemic. Don’t be defeated by them. It is The Truth that sets us free. The Truth of our dignity and inherent worth and value to our Creator God. There are other people languishing in the same kind of deep pain that I and perhaps you have languished in. As we heal, let’s build, not only for ourselves but to be the ones who can and will lend a helping hand …. when the time comes.
Something caused me to create this title. Something got me thinking. It was something very simple but prompted me to think that it’s maybe something that you might benefit from hearing.
While we’re all making our way through this pandemic, some of us working through various things in our lives that we already needed to overcome, we may also come in contact with the influences and experiences of others.
Sometimes these are mutually positive connections, at other times we may be seeking out positivity and encouragement online or from people we don’t personally know, such as through reading books, blogs, or seeking out inspiration online.
But what about when information or input comes our way when we haven’t actually sought it out? It might be some negative influence, but let’s just say it’s actually something that is potentially helpful, but we may not be ready for it.
I’m personally on a journey of overcoming trauma from childhood victimisation that devastated me internally. Peer abuse, bullying or whatever you want to call it is abuse and it can have long lasting consequences. Let me affirm that I am no longer a victim, I am an overcomer and I am on a journey learning how to take these experiences and learning to thrive from them. But I’m not quite there yet. I’m still learning, and although I have overcome the worst of the complex PTSD I experienced, which was absolutely horrible, I know that I have survived and overcome not just the experiences of those dark days as a child, but the worst after effects of them. There are still remnants of that damage that Jesus Christ Is healing deep down, bringing forgiveness, restoration and new life deep within, but it is a process and sometimes it seems a long one. Light is breaking through though. There are many things that it is my responsibility to do as well such as ‘being transformed by the renewing of my mind’ and this has to be a daily choice, a discipline and an action. I have to take control and steer my mind and thinking as well as trusting God for the areas deep within me that I cannot touch. I have finished years of trauma counselling and I am ‘going it alone’ and finding new ways to find strength and ways to use these painful experiences to help others. I am also seeking out inspiration online from people such as Lizzie Velazquez, Katie Piper, Nick Vuijicic who have all overcome adversity and dark times.
However, sometimes information or input can come our way that we might not be ready for. It might be good advice or content, but it might be triggering on some level, or it might just be a few steps ahead of where we are, or it might be focused on a different area of life than where we are in our own life journey.
This is why I say, be aware of where you are at. There’s the pandemic, but there is also your own personal life journey. You may or may not be personally ready for every piece of information that comes your way, whether online, on the news, from a friend or an acquaintance or whatever the source may be. You may need time, healing, space, and all of that is ok. In fact it is wise to consider what you allow close to your heart or into your mind, even if it is on the surface a positive thing, and especially if you are on your own journey of healing, recovery or overcoming something and learning how to thrive.
So, while you navigate your way through this pandemic, also be aware of where you are at personally. Perhaps you need to take some time to slow down, to think about this, and to take steps for strengthening yourself, regardless of where other people are at. It may be a learning curve but it’s one worth taking.
Guard your heart above all else, for out of it spring the issues of life.
I hope you’ve all been keeping as well as can be since my last post, last week. For a time I was writing a few posts a day, with a desire to keep up the momentum of encouragement. I feel that encouraging words are so important in these days, when words can and are being used for harm as we have seen in recent events across the world stage. However, although having the space of one week since my last encouraging post may not seem like a lot, I do want to be a consistent voice of hope and courage for those who need it.
The past week has had some challenges for me, however. Starting back at work saw some stressors, even with working from home. I had some difficult moments but various things got me through them. We have also had sad news recently of bereavements of friends of family in some tragic circumstances. I realise that some of you reading this may have faced or be facing quite overwhelming challenges in your lives. It can be hard to know what to say to comfort others or even ourselves during such times. It can be hard to know what to say in this pandemic where there is such loss. ‘This too shall pass’ is one of those old phrases that we often hear, sometimes passed down through the generations to give some kind of solace and comfort.
This moment won’t be as difficult as it is now, this too shall pass, things will change.
I find that only a small consolation, but what gives me True Hope is knowing that as things change and move on, my Unchanging God and Saviour Jesus Christ does not change, will not leave me, and holds me secure. It Is a Peace that goes beyond circumstances, but one I need to remind myself to focus on too.
When I was a child and was being bullied relentlessly in the first year of secondary school, I did not know that that season of life would ever pass. The following year I stepped away from the people who were destroying me, and I was all but completely alone, which was a significant challenge for a child in itself. Abuse, and then neglect, at school. In my third year I met nice, normal people who became friends, and although I didn’t entirely feel like I fit with the new group as much as they did with each other having knowing each other for years already, I didn’t feel scared for my life anymore. I could continue with life, with school, with getting by. Decades later, the impact of those two pivotal years is still felt. I’ve had major struggles with anxiety, complex PTSD, depression, disassociation and fear, low self esteem and even suicidal ideation when the PTSD resurfaced. And here I am today, with a home of my own, with a full time job, with the family I was born into, with friends, having travelled, and writing a blog to encourage other people. I’m still recovering from some of the mental and emotional scars but I’m able to see hope and a future in Christ, and I can use those difficult experiences for good.
Why am I sharing this again now? Because at the time, in that first year I felt crushed, broken, terrified, and in so much pain and agony internally that I didn’t want to live anymore. It’s a big burden for a child to bear. But I did bear it, and hear I am today. With wounds or not, that terribly dark season of my life that I didn’t see a way out of, not having any perspective as a child that things could or would change, has passed.
And this too will pass. Whatever it is you are going through, it will pass. This pandemic will pass. A while ago I started reading ‘The Murmur of Bees’, hardly knowing what it was about. It turns out that as I turn the pages I am reading about not only a revolution, but also about the Spanish Flu of 1918. Reading some of those pages feels like reading some of the news headlines and public health advice of today about quarantining, staying at home, keeping distance from people and sadly about bodies being sent to mass graves. I also read about the hope of finding a vaccine for the Spanish Flu. And guess what, it too did pass.
That’s not to diminish by any means the personal tragedies and losses that people felt along the way, but in terms of world events, things did change, they did move on, and perhaps there is a cyclical element to what happens in the world, but they didn’t stay the same, and in many ways they did get better.
Despite saying that I also believe that there will be a Judgement, when Christ returns to earth again, but we are being given time to repent, to seek His Forgiveness and to turn to Him for eternal life, new life in this world, and a Hope that cannot be denied. True Believers know of this Hope, of the Indwelling of The Holy Spirit, The tangible Peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding and the solid Hope of Eternal Life with Him, and a gradually transformed (or sometimes immediately transformed) life with Him on earth. Turn to Him for True Hope.
Perhaps there is a time in your own life that you can look back upon, a time that seemed like endless misery that you thought would never pass, but it in fact did and you are living new days. You may well bear the scars of those days, that season, you may still be in recovery from it, but you are no longer there. You have a chance.
Those days passed, and these will too. Look up, look to Jesus, and find True Hope. And even if you are not a believer, please try to hold on to hope that this too will pass.
When life was busier, before this pandemic struck, most of us were caught up with the societal pressures of deadlines, of having to get up and leave the house by a certain time, get in the car or catch a train or bus to be at work on time. Some of you may have had to juggle this with dropping your kids off at school, with being home by a certain time and attending meetings or appointments on schedule. You’d then have to make the dinner and so forth, and because our usually fast-paced lives are coupled with the information overload of the internet age, we often don’t find the time to stop and think and process or feel our feelings.
Some of us like myself faced burnout after years of enduring stressful situations. I reached a point where many of my painful emotions bubbled to the surface and overflowed in a way I couldn’t deal with on my own, and had to get support with. It turns out that I was dealing with complex post traumatic stress mainly from severe trauma from childhood bullying, involving verbal, mental, physical and psychological abuse, and from resultant depression and anxiety. It was not a fun time in my life, and it took a good few years to get to a better place, although I am still on a journey to getting stronger.
My trauma psychologists informed me that I was being triggered by many things and that overwhelming emotions, thoughts, feelings and flashbacks were the result. I was given a helpful analogy that sometimes when we try to supress or keep down those painful emotions and experiences it is like trying to hold an inflatable ball under water, it takes a lot of effort, and after a while when we’re tired and lose our grip it will bounce right back up to the surface and beyond as we can’t control those feelings by keeping them down forever!
Perhaps the lockdown situation in this pandemic has been a space where you find your mind and body trying to process and reprocess all kinds of pent up thoughts, feelings and emotions, and sometimes you just don’t know how to handle it. Maybe you’ve been trying for so long and you just can’t stand the pressure anymore?
If so, know that you’re not alone and that there is help out there. Some of you may be in a place where it is important that you do reach out and get professional help and support. Others of you may not be in such a place, but you may be finding it quite scary to be feeling some overwhelming emotions. As a society, we’re so used to avoiding painful emotions, numbing them out, distracting ourselves from them, when sometimes what we really need is to feel them, let them surface, let them out and process them so that eventually we can heal, move on, get stronger, and help other people. I never thought back then I’d ever be able to get through to the other side, it all felt so overwhelming and bleak, so know that you’re not alone, it is possible, and there is so much hope for you. My Hope Is in Jesus Christ, Who gets beyond the symptoms to the root cause in a way no mere mortal can and provide that deep healing and Peace that can only come from the Hand of The Creator Himself.
There is a time and time and a space for things to surface, and maybe if you have the chance during these restrictions, now might be the time for you to begin to feel, to allow yourself to feel difficult emotions and to begin to deal with things you’ve ‘shoved down’ inside yourself for so long.
It helps to have support with this so that we don’t allow our emotions to negatively impact others such as through angry outbursts or blaming others, but maybe a first step is to learn to gently sit with those painful feelings, to write them down perhaps and then to calm and quieten yourself by sitting in stillness in nature if you can or by speaking to a friend or someone who cares even if it is a stranger on the other end of a telephone.
Our fast paced lives may in time resume, but if it is your time just now, think about taking the opportunity to begin to allow yourself to feel and to heal from those difficult emotions and experiences you may have had in life. You’re not alone, so many people have come through so many things, so keep your head up, keep your heart strong, reach out for help, (I pray you will let the True Healer, Jesus Christ in to deeply heal those broken places) and begin to move forward into greater freedom in your life one step at a time.
I’m still on that journey, but I am just one testimony among many that there is Hope, which means there is also Hope for you.
One of the things I realise that I love about Word Press, and this ‘blog life’ is that I very rarely feel any kind of fear or anxiety when logging in. And because a lot of online fear and anxiety is caused by unkind words of other people, I’d like to commend each and every one of you for your positive influence on the internet. I have never encountered another blogger who has tried to cut someone else down or cause harm or offence. We all have this open platform to share, and I can with real gratitude say that I am part of a community of bloggers who are encouraging, inspiring, motivated, helpful, understanding and positive. Whether or not you or I feel good, we seek to use our blogs as platforms for something good, wholesome, creative, informative and expressive. What a blessing and privilege to be part of this! 🙂
However, more and more on other platforms (which I don’t use), people experience all kinds of negativity, and as such it is important to be aware of and know your online triggers and to safeguard yourselves from these, as well as gaining understanding so that we can safeguard the younger generations coming after us.
Children born in this generation are born into an online world. Of course, not everyone in every part of the world has access to the internet, yet for the most part children in relatively affluent countries do, and they have never known anything different. They perhaps lack the perspective of young people and adults who have either grown up with lesser exposure to the online world, or experienced the internet as a ‘new’ invention, or for those older still have been part of a time before the internet (yes, hard to believe, lol! 🙂 ). I’m part of the generation growing up with less exposure to the internet (I remember dial-up modems 😉 ), and I am grateful that in my young childhood I either had my head in books, in imagining adventures, or I was outside playing and making things with my friends. I have perspective.
I was bullied and I also know how harmful and long-lasting the scars and pain and damage from other people’s cruelty can be, well into adult life. However, I was never exposed to anything like young people (and adults) experience nowadays online.
Lately, news stories and discussions have been affecting me, ‘triggering’ me as it were, so I have decided to be more mindful of my boundaries and what I choose to be exposed to. I have also been learning more about what the younger generation faces when it comes to ‘trolling’. Unlike when I was bullied, an incident may have replayed again and again in my mind or among a small number of people, now the situation is that bullying and ‘trolling’ can be replayed again and again for example in online videos, memes, photos etc. which can be viewed by millions of people. How hard must that be when someone’s open shame of being cruelly treated is ‘permanently’ on show for a whole online world to see!
This is heart-breaking, and without writing anything specific that could be triggering to any of my readers, can lead to great tragedy. This is why it is so important for us as adults to become more well informed, to know how to set boundaries for ourselves, and to teach our children and young people in our lives how to handle life in an online world so that their experiences will be uplifting and positive and so that they can discern the truth from lies. I as an adult am still unpicking my way through the bullying of my childhood, but I knew the people who were being cruel to me, and by God’s love, grace and forgiveness, I have forgiven them, whether or not they ever realised how much damage they caused. However, today people, thousands of people can anonymously use their words like knives as they sit behind a computer screen and attack other people through their keyboards (thinking that it is somehow their ‘right’ or that because they are not face to face it somehow won’t cause as much harm – I honestly don’t know or understand the mentality of such cruelty at all) – complete strangers, and this can be devastating.
I used to think as a child, everyone is saying these mean things about me so they must be true, and it really messed me up psychologically, but as an adult I am reasoning out these lies and realising that I’m not the only one. The world is full of cruel people and no one deserves to be treated that way. We all need so much grace and forgiveness. For children nowadays, the ‘everyone’ may really seem like every one in the world is against them because of the sheer multitude of people who can comment or hurt a person with their words online. We all know this needs to stop, but what about navigating our course and helping others do likewise?
If I can summarise what I’d like you to takeaway from this post it is to know this: you, yes you, are truly valuable, unique, loved, one of a kind, and so very important. Keep being kind and encouraging others to do so. Thank you for being part of this online community that is supportive and encouraging. Know your ‘triggers’, whether this is in the articles you read, watch or listen to on the news, or whether it is more personal things that you are exposed to if you have other online accounts where people are unkind. Find ways to manage your exposure, and grow strong in your mind to know that the unkind words have no place in your life and do not reflect your true identity. And as you grow stronger and wiser seek to be a voice and an advocate and a mentor for the younger generation who are exposed to so much ‘flippant’ and careless negativity and cruelty online. You really are special and you truly make a difference, so keep holding high the banner of Kindness, and you will be blessed in return. With love and peace to you all. xoxox
I’ve started a new blog to provide free help, support and advice for children who are being bullied. I also hope to provide help for adults like myself overcoming the effects of childhood bullying, and advice for parents, friends and carers.
My new blog is one day old, so please be patient while I get things going. It is so important that our children and young people get the help they need, and if you know a young person who can benefit, please look at this along with them or share the link. There are so many bad influences online that I have created a safe place for children and adults to find healing, encouragement and help. It means so much if this helps even one person. Please share the encouragement. Thank you.
When I was a little girl, I had a vast and vivid imagination. If it was a rainy day and I didn’t have anyone to play with, I would create stories in my mind and go on imaginary adventures. When I was in primary school I had a dream that when I grew up I would be an artist, a painter or a cartoonist…this gradually progressed to me wanting to be a writer (as well as all of the above 🙂 ), and I busied myself with creating short stories. When I was in primary school at around 8 or 9 years of age, my class was asked to write a short story. I was an avid reader as a child and drew inspiration from a book I was reading and a television programme that I watched. Inspired by these wonderful imaginary worlds, I created a story all of my own and enjoyed doing so. It turned out that my teacher enjoyed my story too, so much so that she complimented me on writing to the level of a first or second year high school student – which when you are 8 years old is a massive compliment because high school students are so far removed from our little childhood world that they seem almost like adults! For those who have different terms in your education system, the equivalent would be a student aged between 11 to 13 years old. My teacher gathered the class to sit in a semi circle on the floor around her as she sat on a chair. You can imagine the scene, a group of kids sitting cross legged looking up at their teacher, so glad that their maths time is over and they can enjoy being read to! This was the normal way we’d sit when the teacher would read to us as a class from some fiction book. Only this day, she chose to read my story to the class instead! I was a humble, quiet child, but I was so happy on the inside, and it is a pleasant childhood memory that I am glad to have.
As I moved schools at age 9 and went to a new primary school I found things difficult for a while and leaving all that was familiar to me behind I became a lot quieter having lost my close friendships and finding myself as the new person and having to start all over again. Being a visible minority also made it harder for me but eventually I found my fit and was respected amongst my peer group. I continued to enjoy reading and writing and although I was always in the top groups for other subjects such as maths, it was a lot harder work for me and I struggled and remember tears being shed over fractions and long division. I could get very good marks, but not without the struggle and tears and a bit of stress. English however, that was a dream to me. I enjoyed writing poetry, prose, short fiction as a child and all but the poetry has continued into adulthood.
With my move to secondary school aged 11 years old came another big step out of my comfort zone as I had to go to a school outside of the catchment area of my primary school because a family member was already there, and this meant leaving behind classmates once again. As you’ll know by now if you’re a regular (and much appreciated 🙂 ) visitor to my blog, this was a traumatic time for me, and I was bullied physically, verbally, mentally, socially and emotionally by my peers as well as being unfairly treated by a couple of teachers. This totally scrambled my mind and my emotions and has left me with a lot to work on well into adulthood, but by the grace of God, He Is bringing out things from it for His Glory, and my restoration and for the good of other people.
Writing became important to me on a much deeper level. I was alone, scarred, scared, terrified, shy and friendless and felt I had no one to turn to, other than my family, but even then I couldn’t articulate the enormity of what I was going through so I became quite withdrawn. I was inspired by reading Ann Frank’s diary ‘whom’ she named ‘Kitty’ and as a child in school I poured out my heart to my ‘only friend’ at the time, a notebook of my own ‘whom’ I also named as a friend to comfort myself that I had ‘someone’ to turn to. My short stories turned from imaginary worlds to exploring ideas of people like me who were bullied for their appearance or something ‘different’ or seemingly undesirable about them, how it felt and also touching upon mental health, depression and suicide, although I wouldn’t really know what to call it all at the time.
I devoured books. I shone in my English classes, although a quiet student, partly because of my nature and also because I was traumatised and ‘stuck’ and not as comfortable with myself, and often hating myself for being so ‘repulsive’ which actually wasn’t true but it was a result of the emotional and psychological scars from the cruel treatment I experienced. Yet my passion for literature, and to be a writer only grew. I read classics and I found myself imagining being like one of the female writers of times past, pouring out her soul onto paper as it were, because without doing so she couldn’t function, and literally for a while I felt I had to write to live. I excelled in writing and gained academic recognition in high school and went on to study English Literature in University for my undergraduate degree, along with Politics. I then went on to study a Masters course in Gender Studies, Human Rights and International Development and won the prize for the best written dissertation on my chosen subject of human trafficking. This came after a time when my dream to get into the postgraduate creative writing course in my university burst and my application was rejected due to the high quality of the many candidates who applied. Basically, they were telling me I wasn’t ‘good enough’. And that did discourage me for a while.
Yet, glancing back to my late teenage years, just before I embarked upon University I was at an age, 17 to be exact, when I like my peers was looking to the future and wondering what we’d become. I had worked hard in school to gain good grades and do well, and tried so hard to ‘get away’ from the emotional and psychological trauma and distress buried deep within….yet I was still so broken despite things looking positive outwardly to some extent. People told me later that in my final year of school they admired me, wanted to be me or were jealous of me – quelle surprise! If only they knew the troubled soul beneath the surface, surely they would change their mind. I was admired physically as well which was confusing to me after being taunted mercilessly for being repulsive in my earlier high school years, and having equated my self worth with their comments and feeling worthless. I had fought hard internally to get to where I was and yet the emotional pain was severe and I hid it well. It didn’t just go away but actually became more apparent later in adulthood, when it all came to the surface and ‘exploded’ in I guess a cathartic way in breaking down, the pain couldn’t stay stuffed within anymore, but I had to face it to begin to heal.
Aged 17 I was still passionate about literature and passionate about becoming a writer. It was also a form of escapism for me. When you’ve been made to feel like you are ‘nothing’ sometimes you turn to the imaginary world to dream of some kind of success or the person you’ll eventually become…only on the hard rugged road of real life it is seldom that easy unless you are particularly fortunate to tread a gentle and happy path. I was broken and I wanted to write…but not only did I want to write novels, I wanted to write ‘self help’ or ‘self care’ and spiritual books…because I wanted to help other people. I was *so* broken that even though I wanted to be able to help others, I could not reach out because I barely had the strength to get through my own emotional pain and that was so demoralising and frustrating for me….was it all for nothing? I wanted to help….even ‘just’ one person, because I was one person, and I needed help.
Someone did stop to help me, to tell me about the Lord Jesus, and I just couldn’t fathom why someone was being genuinely kind to me, and I didn’t feel worthy of kindness because I was so hurt. I was like a wounded little bird tied up in chains unable to escape the inner pain and mental fear – fear was something that everyone who came across me would notice – I was sweet, and kind and gentle and creative, pretty and loving, but I was consumed with fear and unable to break free, barely able to make eye contact or hold my head up.
More than someone stopping to tell me about Jesus, I came over time to know that Jesus Christ, The Good Shepherd of the sheep, as the parable says left the 99 sheep that were safe to come to look for the one that was lost – and that one was me. Perhaps today, you identify and see that it is you. He didn’t merely come to rescue me but to lay down His Life to Save, Forgive, Cleanse, Heal and Restore me, and give me hope in this life and an eternal life of pure love in His Kingdom to come. Glory. Self help and human advice can only go so far, the love and restoration that Jesus has for us is so very real, and it may take time as you cry out to God asking why did you allow me to feel such pain, but He suffered the most to set us free.
When I was saved, God led me to lay down my writing and my dreams of being a writer as an idol. This was not an easy process, and I didn’t accept it easily until finally I did. I surrendered, and I wasn’t able to write for a long while. And all the while He was changing me from the inside out. I had started writing a fantasy adventure novel maybe the year or a few months before I was saved. And so I had to give this up. But God in His great love and wisdom had better plans. I used to imagine becoming a well known and respected writer, and opening up a box of my very own published works and being able to dedicate them to family and friends and share them with people. Was this the illusion, the escape, the reclusive ‘fame’ even that I sought? Yet over time, God changed me to want to do everything for His Glory alone because of the greatness of His Sacrifice of Pure Love for me. We all are sinners in need of a Saviour, no matter how ‘good’ we think we are, and I thought in my foolishness that I was good, until God showed me my heart and convicted me so that my very ‘bones cried out’ for mercy. Only the righteous blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us and forgive us for all sin, He had to endure the cross, and suffer the wrath of the Father so that we, the guilty, could go free….and be considered blameless and righteous ….and only because of Him. And after some time I gradually began to write again. There were people and friends in my life who were doing well with their writing and getting published, and I was struggling with life and a whole host of things going on that I was just trying to survive and so much felt utterly broken so I was pretty dejected and I guess in my heart my dreams were broken, and I didn’t feel like I mattered so much…it often feels like that when we are going through particularly intense hard times while those around us seem to be blossoming with the happiness of life and good circumstances and blessings. Yet God does not have favourites and that was a painful lesson for me to walk through as I felt that I wasn’t among them.
So, fast forward a few years, and now we have this term ‘Millenials’. According to my age group, I come within this category of being a ‘Millenial’ although I’m not sure how fond I am of terms that lump people together in such a way, as I am able to connect with people from across the generations, younger to older. As a millennial, in terms of the time frame I grew up in, I am towards the middle and older end of the spectrum as I can actually remember a time before mobile phones did anything more than call and text, and before the internet was much of a thing. The internet was around when I was in school but it was only just gaining in popularity and people were still getting to know what it was all about. I realise some of the younger readers won’t be able to imagine such a ‘land before time’ ….a time before the internet, would they even know what a ‘dial up modem’ is (anyone remember those?).
As such, when I dreamt of being a writer, my dreams were written with pen and ink on paper, were treasured in notebooks and drawers (yes, I did not have a laptop as a child or teenager…can you imagine? 🙂 ) and my inspiration was drawn from the Brontes, Jane Austen, ‘Jo’ from ‘Little Women’ who had to write in solitude and courage in the hope that one day their dream to share their heart and writings with another human being might actually come to fruition once they had found favour in the publishing world – which of course was not an easy journey.
Which brings me once more to the title of this blog post: “Do you notice your dreams coming true?”. As human beings, because we are on a journey through life, we are often so caught up in what happened before and thinking about what is to come that we seldom truly appreciate where we are right now, and the dreams we once had that are coming to fruition ….no matter how seemingly ‘small’ or ‘inconsequential’ they might seem to others. Someone might have the dream to walk again if that has been a challenge in their life…so while those around them might be dancing, running and leaping and may not even know how big a ‘step’ they have taken if they finally do accomplish their dream, it doesn’t make the fruition of their dream any less special, beautiful or significant.
Once upon a time, I dreamed of being able to write to help somebody….even one person…because one person matters. I could barely find a way through my own pain so I didn’t know how this would come to pass. I dreamed of someone, somewhere being able to read my words and be touched by them…and even though I’m a ‘Millennial’ I dreamed these dreams before the days of the internet and blogging were common place and as part of our daily lives as they are now.
In the past few days a friend of mine who has gone through a lot of difficult things in their life, who has accomplished much, and is yet working through the effects of their earlier life experiences, gave me the gift of sharing that they had read my blog and had been impacted by it, had appreciated my writing and had found help in their own life and would continue to read it. Now this is no small thing, for it really is the fulfilment of a dream I had many years ago…to write, and to help, even one person.
I have been working on a novel for a number of years, and write for the glory of God and not my own ambition anymore. For when you are known and loved and noticed by your Creator, you don’t strive after recognition or validation by people in the same way anymore. You are freer to live out your dreams for the right reasons. So I will keep writing, and keep praying that I do all that I do because He Is Great and merciful, and the Love of my life, and so Worthy of honour, and glory and praise. I will keep writing and leave the rest with Him, whether or not people see what I create, that is in His Hands….Hands that were pierced for me, that hold me through all of life and eternity, Hands that I can fully put my trust in.
What are your dreams? While you continue to plan for your future goals, is there anything you need to take the time to stop and think about and appreciate today? Max Ehrmann in his beautiful prose-poem, Desiderata, wisely advises to ‘enjoy your achievements as well as your plans’. Sometimes we come to things after a lot of struggle and difficulty ….it is worthwhile taking the time not to compare, but to appreciate and be thankful for the unfolding of our own life story, and what we have managed by grace to achieve. I’d love to hear what dreams you have noticed are coming to pass in your own life. xx
Presumably, if you are reading this, then either you are struggling with this issue currently, have done in the past, know or help someone who is affected, or are interested in broadening your knowledge.
To provide some context, and as workplace stress and anxiety can be complex issues stemming from numerous factors including bullying, team dynamics, line management, industrial disputes, and so on, I am limiting this to addressing anxiety in the workplace as a result of an existing anxiety disorder such as GAD – generalised anxiety disorder – (or other related conditions), anxiety caused by environmental factors, or a combination of these. The topic is so wide ranging that we need to hone our focus in order to find some benefit. That being said, I’ll focus on the office environment and what you can do to cope better.
Investigate A good starting point if you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or anxious in your work environment is to make a list of what you are finding difficult. Breaking it down like this helps to avoid breaking down yourself! Considering our stressors in small, more ‘manageable chunks’ can help us develop a clearer course of action, and take things forward step by step.
For example, things that can be making you anxious could include, but are not limited to:
– Struggling with your work tasks, or needing training.
– Overhead lighting causing headaches.
– Noise from colleagues.
– A variety of sensory inputs such as movement, especially if you are in an open plan environment with a number of colleagues.
– Interruptions: colleagues turning up at your desk, unannounced, to discuss a piece of work, or to have a chat, can be quite unsettling if you are of an anxious and sensitive disposition.
– Team dynamics.
– Difficulty concentrating on your work tasks because of the environment, and too much going on, resulting in anxiety about getting your work tasks done well and on time.
-Feeling overwhelmed or overpowered by the environment and by more talkative, loud, assertive or aggressive people around you.
– The journey / travel to and from work. – Other: you fill in the blanks……..
Perhaps you could set yourself this task right now, as we go through this together, to write down a list of what is ‘stressing you out’ in the workplace context, with the above as a guide or starting point. Hopefully, making a list of key issues will be helpful in moving in the direction of finding solutions, or ways at least to alleviate the severity of the anxiety and distress you may be experiencing.
2. Know your Rights
Arming yourself with knowledge about workplace policies, and appropriate legislation, can provide you with the confidence to feel you know where you technically stand as an employee in relation to your company / employer, even if you don’t actually plan on acting upon this knowledge or raising your issues formally. Just having a better idea of workplace rights and responsibilities should boost your confidence a bit to be able to negotiate the situations you are in while knowing that you yourself are conducting yourself appropriately.
Within the UK, The Equality Act 2010 is an important piece of legislation that highlights the legal responsibility that employers have towards people from ‘protected characteristics’. This covers disability, which includes mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. You may have to have a clinical diagnosis by a health professional, but it certainly helps to know that your employer has a duty of care towards you to provide what are called ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace so that you are not disadvantaged due to your condition. This is likely to be easier, although not necessarily without issue, to raise within the public, third and voluntary sectors. Having only worked for these, I can’t really speak about the private sector, but my guess is that there may be more or different challenges in this respect within private companies. I have had challenges myself, but this has been more to do with individuals and their lack of understanding or will to help rather than the organisation’s stance. Overall, despite a few initial hurdles, I have been treated very well once being able to present evidence of my diagnosis, in relation to being able to have open dialogue about reasonable adjustments. Having very helpful Union Reps has also been beneficial in having people to advocate for me, especially as formal meetings and such like, as I am sure you are well aware from your own experience, can be particularly difficult if you suffer from anxiety and related conditions.
If you live outside of the UK, different legislation may apply, so do a bit of research and get to know where you stand. Like I said, you may not end up taking things forward formally, but it will help you to have more confidence when you know what your rights and responsibilities within the work place are, and are not.
3. Find an ‘Ally’
Problems are generally less daunting when you are not facing them alone. There may be various sources of support available to you within the workplace such as a trusted colleague and friend, a union representative, HR support, or if you are very fortunate, a good line manager. Even if you can’t identify any of these as being available to you right now, chances are you will have a friend or family member who knows of your challenges with anxiety, whom you could phone for a chat during your lunch break. Keep things in balance though, as sometimes during our more difficult times we can find it hard to cope, lack belief in our own abilities to manage and this can lead to being overly dependent on other people for reassurance, and therefore putting a stress on our relationships. Don’t be afraid to share with your trusted friends and family members, but make sure you establish mutually healthy boundaries, and recognise that they may not be able to be there for you all the time, or may also have challenges of their own to deal with, and try to maintain a healthy balance, working towards getting stronger and more resilient yourself.
If you have the opportunity, you may find it beneficial to participate in a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to address your anxiety issues, some form of psychological support or talk therapy, and / or on the advice of medical professionals, consider the option of taking medication to alleviate the harsher symptoms of anxiety. Don’t feel pressured to make a decision or do anything you don’t feel comfortable with. Ask questions, talk things through with your doctor, do your research and come to your own conclusions, but know that there are a variety of supports and helps out there for you, and that in the UK we are especially fortunate to have a free health care system in the NHS. The good thing about professional support with anxiety is that you will be speaking to someone who is knowledgeable, trained and can provide you with a context and explain that what is happening to you during an anxiety or panic attack is perfectly normal, and has biological as well as psychological ‘explanations’ and causes. You also know that your ‘relationship’ with your health professional is for your support, therefore you should have no personal burden to manage boundaries within this context as you will be guided and supported in this, you don’t have to worry about being ‘needy’, or reciprocating as the interaction will be purposeful and focused on helping you overcome your symptoms and understand your condition better. If you feel uncomfortable with the professional you are working with, you are entitled to ask for a change. Part of the difficulty with anxiety is that you might find yourself, as I did, experiencing a lot of things that don’t make sense to you, and not understanding fuels your fears and further heightens your anxiety and distressing thoughts such as wondering whether something is wrong with you, are you going mad, are you having a heart attack, going to die, what on earth is happening? The step by step approach that medical professionals can offer you can be the first step to overcoming your anxiety and taking control rather than allowing your symptoms to control you. This has helped me greatly, to realise and have someone explain that what I experienced was ‘normal’ and that there were biological and medical / scientific reasons for this. Then step by step, with help I was encouraged to work on my breathing to challenge the fight / flight response my body went into which made the anxiety worse, to work on breaking the unhealthy cycle of negative thinking as this directly impacts my body, and to realise that I actually could get control. Understanding is key to this process, so see it as a strength rather than a weakness to ask for help – because who knows, your knowledge may one day help someone else, and maybe even change their life for the better, and surely that is an act of courage and not an act of weakness!
4. Figure out what is within your power to change
If you want to ask your employer for reasonable adjustments then it is very helpful to have an idea yourself what you would like these reasonable adjustments to be, and why they will help. The exercise under point 1 leads nicely into being able to find potential solutions to your workplace stressors. It may be helpful to talk things through with someone before formally making a request from your employer, so that you can put forward a stronger case, and feel less anxious if you have already ‘done your homework’. If you have a supportive boss, union rep or colleague this may be a good place to start to explore your options. Similarly if you are finding that your anxiety is triggered by the behaviour of your colleagues, such as if someone unexpectedly turns up at your desk and starts talking about work and this triggers in you feelings of surprise or alarm, of feeling unprepared or caught off guard, then if you think they are approachable and sympathetic then you could suggest that they give you some advance notice by email, so you can prepare and know what to expect and when, at a time and place that is convenient to you both.
However, we don’t live in an ideal world and having such discussions with managers or peers at work can be challenging at times if not downright problematic.
So taking that as our imaginary ‘worst case scenario’ to be our starting point, let’s imagine that all of our requests for help and reasonable adjustments have fallen on deaf ears, our managers are totally unsympathetic and our colleagues are forgetful and don’t really understand or care what anxiety is anyway, so don’t make much of an effort to help, and in the end there’s nothing we can do to make other people change or be understanding or supportive, other than raising the issue formally, which as a person with anxiety, I’m guessing you are hesitant – even in this imaginary situation – to do.
So, what can you practically do to find relief from workplace anxiety, and have a better time at work?
1. Be a solution seeker (here I will suggest what you can do on your own, as well as provide ideas for reasonable adjustments that you can ask for).
Noise: Let’s say for example, it is far too noisy for you to work comfortably.
One thing I do, and which is acceptable in my workplace (but probably wouldn’t be if you worked on Reception / the front desk, so consider your situation appropriately and professionally) is to listen to my MP3 player, using earphones, and having a playlist that includes calming nature sounds such as ocean waves, birdsong and tropical rainforest sounds, as well as classical or instrumental music, worship music, and other encouraging things that help me ‘get through the day’ when it is noisy or chaotic around me.
You can take a break from your desk or office space, and walk around, or if you have quieter ‘breakout’ spaces, take some time out there, or sit by yourself for 5 or 10 minutes in a meeting room until you feel more able to handle the external stressors. Depending on your workplace ‘culture’ things may be more relaxed as to how often, when and where you take breaks, so you may even have the chance to go outside and get some fresh air. Conversely, you may be in a more difficult situation where you are ‘micro managed’ and feel more stressed if you were to take a break, so you will know best how to adapt to your particular situation, context and workplace culture.
Reasonable adjustments that you could suggest to your employer might include being placed in a smaller, quieter office space (although this can be a tough one if there is a shortage of space, and / or unfortunately if egos are at risk if this were to mean that someone higher up the hierarchy might have to make changes themselves or adapt in some way).
You could ask for access to a laptop, and to take time away from your desk to work in a quieter part of the building or in an available meeting room.
This one unfortunately is a ‘no go’ with my employer for me, but you might find that your employer is open to you having certain work from home days if the office environment is difficult for you.
Team Dynamics: Let’s try another one that is potentially less straight forward than the noise situation.
This time, our imaginary situation is one in which you feel anxious within your work team. There are conflicting personalities, workplace politics, gossip, an unequal distribution of work, and you find it difficult to contribute effectively in team meetings because you are often overpowered and struggle to get your voice heard or to find a way in when people talk over you.
Let’s break this down again, so that we can view the situation in more manageable parts to be addressed one at a time. I’ll address a few of the issues, and you can try to tackle the rest so that you have a chance to build up on your already existing problem solving skills.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about changing other people, other than to lead by example, and I believe to pray for them, for God Is the One Who Is able to bring forth deep and lasting transformation, not us.
What you can do is to take a step back to examine the situation and dynamics, so that you can gain an understanding of what is happening and how it affects you.
Say for example, there is a power struggle between two of your colleagues, that only gets worse over time. You don’t contribute or have a part in this, but it does affect you. At times you find yourself feeling like a pawn in their game as each one tries to ‘score points’, with you being caught in the middle. What can you do?
In a situation like this it may be very difficult to speak to either one or both parties about the effect it is having on you. But you might find that one colleague is sympathetic and willing to reflect upon how their behaviour is having a detrimental effect upon other members of the team, and make appropriate changes. However, tensions may be so high between the two of them, that they are unable or unwilling to address your needs.
Therefore, you will need to take control of your own situation. Are there any ‘red flags’ you’ve noticed that signal things are about to escalate? If you can spot these before things worsen between your colleagues, and if the situation isn’t a meeting, then there may be an opportunity for you to ‘slip away’ before things get heated. There are two things I feel I need to address. The first is that you are not responsible to be the ‘fixer’, mediator or the diplomat. The reason I say this is because it is a role I have felt I needed to take upon myself since childhood, perhaps partly because of my caring nature and being distressed by conflict. However, I need to remind myself and perhaps you need to be reminded too, that you have a duty of care towards yourself, to get, be and stay well, and if situations such as this put you at risk then you need to look after yourself. This also applies in terms of your feeling the need to protect and comfort other colleagues within the team who are similarly affected. Make sure you are strong first or you might find that you all bring each other down rather than helping others up. It’s easier said than done, and I definitely speak from experience. Now the second point, is that I am someone who is on an ongoing journey and my anxiety challenges have not gone away or been ‘fixed’ yet, and although I do manage my symptoms much better than before, it continues to be a learning curve for me. So my suggestion to extract yourself before the situation escalates is based on what I would do myself with my current coping mechanisms, but I am also aware that professionals advise that ‘avoidance techniques’ can keep people stuck within the cycle of anxiety and unhelpful thought processes and reactions. You’ll need to find a balance that works for you as there is no ‘one size fits all answer’, and we are all continuing to adapt and learn as we go through life…so please note that I am simply making, hopefully helpful, suggestions to benefit us both as we walk through this together. 🙂
– Taking yourself away from this conflict situation if you find there is nothing you can do (and I am assuming that you are not actually the manager of the team, which if you were, your roles and responsibilities would be different and you might have to ‘stick around’) could potentially stop your symptoms before they start. You could go to the bathroom, go to another part of the office, discuss work with a colleague from a different team if appropriate, step outside for some fresh air for a few minutes, make a cup of tea, and do some deep breathing exercises. All of these are reasonable behaviours if you don’t take too much time. Perhaps when you return the situation will be ongoing, but hopefully you would have used your time away to prepare yourself internally to be able to handle it without allowing your anxiety to escalate. Small steps…it is a process.
– Another thing you can do is to be aware of how your colleagues might affect you especially if you can’t get away from the situation. They might have predictable patterns of behaviour such as drawing you into their conversation / conflict, asking you to take sides or to back them up, or to confirm a statement they are making. This can be very distressing if you are caught off guard, have no idea what you should or shouldn’t say, or how to remain calm in the midst of this. If you can do some thinking when you are not in the situation, then as with forearming yourself with knowledge, you can also forearm yourself with preparing yourself for how you want to react or what you can say. Just as ahead of a job interview you would take time to prepare and practice your reactions and responses, this can be a helpful technique to use in workplace situations. If one of your colleagues has a pattern of drawing you into their conflicts, then you can prepare in advance a way to express that you feel it is not your place to contribute to the discussion, or you’d feel more comfortable if this was discussed in a team meeting with the rest of your colleagues, or whatever the most appropriate answer might be. Knowing ahead of time what you want to say will also mean that you will have more energy to put into saying it confidently and assertively, setting boundaries with your colleagues, and following through. If you are anxiously thinking of what to say or do, this will deplete your energy and inner resources to make a stand and assert yourself.
Also note that when a quieter, more anxious person is assertive – even if quietly so, this can take people aback who had previously thought you would simply acquiesce and allow them to sway or manipulate you. This in itself can help people realise, actually, they can’t take advantage of you, and is another way of setting healthy boundaries. Reasonable adjustments This can be a tricky one, but perhaps a potential reasonable adjustment in this situation could be to discuss your anxiety / panic disorder with your boss. You don’t need to mention the issues of conflict between them and their team, or between other colleagues, but you can express that you have panic attacks, explain what happens and how it makes you feel and request reasonable adjustments such as being able to excuse yourself if you feel an attack coming on when you are in a team meeting for example, or in discussions. Knowing you have the backing of your boss can be a reassurance in itself that alleviates your anxiety and makes you feel less trapped, and you don’t have to mention any other team dynamics at all if you don’t feel comfortable doing so at that stage.
Unkind colleagues: You may work with people who are unknowingly rude or overly frank in their conversations, who may have narcissistic tendencies or full blown narcissistic personality disorder, and / or who feel they gain power by putting other people down – this is usually because of their own insecurities. Such personalities are not uncommon in the workplace, and this can be particularly painful if the person treating you in this way is your boss, for there is an added power dimension that they feel gives them permission to unfairly pick away at your work, your personality, even your anxiety, or other issues. Bosses may often cross boundaries because of this unequal power dynamic, but that doesn’t make it right, fair or acceptable. Colleagues and peers can try to ‘get at us’ in similar ways too. They might be passive-aggressive, they may withhold information that is required for you to do your job, they may try to accuse or embarrass you in front of others, or they may not invite you to things that the rest of your team or group are part of and make no real attempt to hide the fact from you that you are being excluded. They may gossip about you or others, or they may offer the classic ‘complisult’ – a term I coined to describe someone who appears to be sweet as honey by giving you a compliment, but it actually giving you a backhanded insult. What do I mean? If you haven’t experienced it already then it comes in the form of something like, ‘Oh, you look really nice in that outfit…’ and rather than just leaving it there, continue to add ‘today. You must have lost a ton of weight, it fits you so much better now’. Em….’thanks’…. I think. People who do this often purposefully play on what they know to be your insecurities so because the insult is disguised as a compliment, you find yourself doubting yourself, focusing on the negative, asking ‘was I really fat before? What do they mean I’ve lost a ton of weight?’ and yet you defend them because actually they were being nice….weren’t they? Don’t be fooled. The complisult has injured many a precious, tender soul. If you can recognise it for what it is, you can choose to give it and the person no power over you to harm you or cause you emotional distress. Another one might be ‘well done, you finally got that right’. Is that actually a ‘well done’ for your good work, or a subtle yet sarcastic dig at you for being slow or ‘stupid’? Or, another ‘good’ one I’ve heard is ‘Ohhhh, you look so lovely today……not that I’m saying you usually look ugly of course’. Ouch. Often ‘complisults’ are given in public, to make you feel worse, and accompanied by a joke or a laugh so that if you see or take any offence it will be perceived as you being humourless, ‘overly sensitive’ (why is that even seen as a bad thing in this world?) or not being able to have fun with your colleagues or otherwise ‘deficient’ in some other way. Unkindness is unkindness no matter how well it is disguised. A sincere and kind person will say something nice, encourage and build you up, and leave it at that. There will be no doubting their motives because their character and actions follow through with their kind words, and they won’t intentionally do anything to hurt you or make you feel bad, nor will they be kind to you in order to gain something from you in return. These are the kinds of trusted people you want to have in your life, and the kind of person you’d want to be.
As to reasonable adjustments, I don’t see what you could do here, but if you can see something please let me know. Please note that I use the term ‘reasonable adjustments’ very loosely here because it is not necessarily a factor affecting your condition, but simply inappropriate and rude behaviour from a colleague that should not be accommodated for or accepted. However, unless a person’s behaviour is overtly unacceptable and also witnessed by others, then it can be difficult to address something that could be interpreted as a subjective opinion rather than a blatant code of conduct issue. If it is presented as ‘harmless office banter’ then it might be even more difficult to address. However, don’t let that discourage you.
You may have to do a lot of deep work personally to really get strong. People who pinpoint your weaknesses know that there is a wound or issue they can ‘get at’. Rather than seeing this as something that is defeating you, rise up, have faith and hope, and use it as an opportunity to address the lies you have been believing. You are precious, special, unique, intelligent, beautiful, fearfully and wonderfully made and worthy, no matter what people say. Work hard at replacing the lifelong lies with Truth. Believe me, I know how tough a battle this is, but if you start believing in your own worth, the arrows will eventually be unable to pierce you at all. Let’s believe we can conquer that mountain! And you may even get to the gracious place of forgiveness and strength in being able to see the other person with compassion, and as doing these things because of their own feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem.
If you are being bullied, harassed, unfairly treated or victimised in some way, I encourage you to keep a private log of what is happening. Make a note of dates, times, context, what was said or done, the effect it had, and were there witnesses present. Was information withheld, were you intentionally excluded, has this been a pattern of behaviour rather than a one off incident? If you can build up a picture, and evidence then you are in a better position to be believed. Make sure you have an email trail, or written evidence of unacceptable communication from your colleague.
Additionally, don’t suffer in silence. If you can’t raise an issue with the person in the first instance, seek out the help of a sensible, wise and appropriate mediator, such as someone with that role in the organisation, a union representative or maybe an HR person. Once again, arm yourself with knowledge of your company or organisations and policies in relation to bullying and harassment.
Can you think of any solutions you can seek in relation to some of the more ‘straightforward’ items listed under point 1?
What about lighting issues, or the journey too and from work? What about people interrupting you during your lunch break if you eat at your desk? Can you make any more positive changes? Remember you don’t need to stay at your desk all day, indeed it is encouraged that you don’t.
I encourage you to try this exercise with a situation that applies to you, or has done in the past, and one which is purely hypothetical. This will help you to exercise and train your ‘mind muscles’ and mental agility to seeking solutions to problems, and knowing that anxiety can be put in its place when we take the time to do so.
I think that’s probably quite a lot to think over for now, but depending on the response, I may return with a ‘Part 2’ to this topic. Are there any particular workplace stressors in relation to what I’ve written above that you would like me to try to address?….I’ll do my best, even if that means starting afresh and seeking out solutions together if our shared staring point is initially not knowing the ‘answer’. It is another step to getting stronger together and living out the hope that we are stronger than our symptoms of anxiety. 🙂 Believing is the first step to achieving. Xx
Also, just to let you know, working in an office isn’t all bleak, there are a lot of great things about it, and maybe that will also be a future blog post to encourage you with. 🙂 x
I want to encourage those of you who have been trying so hard, but are struggling to ‘make progress’ in your recovery from trauma. Trauma is a complex issue, and although I am not a medical professional, I am a sufferer and survivor, and working on being a victor of severe complex post traumatic stress….or C-PTSD, but I personally don’t find the ‘D’ for ‘disorder’ a particularly helpful term.
Trauma can be the result of a one off event, or it could be caused by cumulative traumas and stresses which result in ‘complex’ trauma. No matter how seemingly ‘big’ or ‘small’ the trauma seems to someone on the outside, the impact is how it affects you individually and how it triggers your threat responses of fight / flight / freeze, and the anxiety, panic, fear and heightened emotions that result. When you are overpowered, shocked or in danger this can have a significant impact on your nervous system, and particularly when trauma occurs in childhood, especially if it is repeated and severe, the effects can be devastating and last well into adult life. What might not affect one person could have a huge impact on another, so it is not our place to judge whether someone should be ‘better’ yet.
However, often the biggest judgements come from ourselves. We feel that we have been trying *so* hard for *so* long that we surely *ought* to be better by now. Can you relate to this frustration and self blame?
The thing is, it is not so simple a situation of cause and effect that if one does A + B + C then after X amount of time, one will be ‘fixed’ or at least able to function on a ‘normal’ level. It just doesn’t work that way. Traumatic experiences cause our brains, nervous systems, emotions and bodies to react in a self protective way. Sometimes, especially in childhood, we ‘dissociate’ to block out and try to manage the pain, we’re ‘not really there’, but as we grow into adulthood, this survival mechanism becomes a maladaptive coping mechanism when we find it encroaching into daily life. Whether your trauma was a natural disaster, bereavement, childhood bullying, abuse, or a car accident, or ……you fill in the blanks….or a cumulative result of various stressors, your brain simply did not have the chance to process what happened, and so parts of you may remain ‘stuck’ in the trauma. I was in this situation for several years, and only recently have felt like I have been coming out of it and able to use my overwhelming experiences to help other people, rather than merely try to hold on and get through life somehow.
If you are in a place of feeling like the same cycle keeps repeating itself, the same flashbacks, memories, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, anxiety and panic attacks, insomnia, fear, agoraphobia, dizziness, dissociation, suicidal ideation (sometimes the brain’s way of trying to escape a situation we can’t cope with – there is always help, suicide is never the answer) feeling trapped between past and present, as if living in a waking nightmare where you are not in control of what seems to be ‘exploding’ in your mind, no matter how much work you put in, then please, please be gentle with yourself.
There is no set or objective time limit on recovery. The tangle within you may seem to be going nowhere and you may just keep feeling ‘stuck’….that is because your experiences remain unprocessed, and that is ok, it is normal, and it is not your fault….if only I had someone to tell me that earlier then I would have been saved from a lot of distress and self blame as to why I couldn’t simply ‘leave the past behind’ and get better already. The trauma gets ‘stored’ as it were not only in our brains but our bodies and nervous systems too.
So what should you do? I would encourage you that if you feel you are going through something like PTSD or trauma of any sort and can’t integrate past and present memories and experiences such that they are significantly interfering with your ability to cope with every day life, to get help as soon as possible….and know that it is never too late. I didn’t get help for trauma and was undiagnosed for over two decades, but I am making good progress now, even though the process was frightening and very tough….there is hope my friend.
Please don’t feel like you have to ‘tough it out’ on your own….it just doesn’t work that way….it isn’t a case of not being strong enough….I thought I should just be able to persevere through it, but my system was falling apart and I was pretty much malfunctioning and in constant heightened distress….that’s no way to live my friend, and if I can help someone to not have to go through what I did then I am blessed in that.
Please ask for help from a medical professional, and tell your friends what you are going through. Even if you’re not sure if you are traumatised, at least ask for an assessment, check up or diagnosis….there are plenty of treatments available out there. You need to feel safe and calm, so if you are not in danger then you can try working on various coping techniques. If you are in danger, please contact someone for emergency help whether that is the Police or a support service or call a helpline.
If you are physically safe, then here are some things you can think about doing.
Let someone or a few people you know and trust know what you are going through, and how serious you feel it is. Don’t worry about whether or not they will understand, they may not, but please reach out for help, and if you don’t have anyone, or don’t feel confident to tell someone you know then reach out whether that be to an organisation, a helpline or a professional.
Seek professional and medical help. This is so important because really we can’t cope with this on our own. This may be a huge step for you as it was for me, but please know that this is totally normal just as if you had a broken leg you wouldn’t hesitate to get help, please don’t see this as any different. It can help to have someone there for support so if you have a friend or family member who can be there with you don’t feel like you have to go it alone.
3. Write it down. It can be so difficult to try to articulate what we are experiencing, and writing things down can help on many levels from being able to communicate to others the level of distress we are going through, and what the specific symptoms are, to being able to offload and try to begin to process things for ourselves. Your notebooks like mine may be splattered with tears, but it could just be that important part of the healing process in telling your story rather than keeping all that pain buried which will just keep resurfacing or manifesting itself in some way or another.
4. Create a self-care ‘toolbox’. That is to say, be aware of what makes you feel better in a healthy way, and prepare in advance to have something at hand for when you are not doing ok.
-It could be practicing breathing exercises to calm your nervous system and reduce the ‘fight / flight / freeze’ reaction,
-having positive affirmations to encourage yourself throughout the day,
-exercising when you can and getting fresh air and eating healthily,
-having a list of emergency contact numbers ready so that when things are overwhelming and you just don’t know what to do you already have something prepared and ready. Have a few key ‘go to’ people, people who know your situation and are available when you are feeling distressed to talk on the phone or visit you if you feel in harm or danger. If you don’t feel you have anyone, note down some helplines on your emergency contact list.
-Have something comforting and tactile, whether it be a blanket, or a smooth stone or object in your hand to help keep you ‘grounded’ and present.
-Make a list of healthy distractions for those tough times when your thoughts get the better of you whether that be some safe and happy comedy programmes that won’t ‘trigger’ you, some craft or creative thing to do with your hands that will take your concentration away from your intrusive thoughts, a sweet you can keep in your mouth and concentrate on the texture and taste.
-Work on your 5 senses and noticing things around you to bring you into the present.
-Have a routine as much as possible and write down even the simplest things you need to do to keep your mind focussed even if it is as simple as eat something, brush teeth, etc. Sometimes our brains need that extra little prompt.
-Think of healthy wholesome things that make you feel good, so that you can build up those positive neural connections, and be aware of your triggers that lead to a slippery slope of rumination, negative thinking and heightened distress. Have something calming to listen to whether that be classical or instrumental music, nature sounds such as waves or birdsong, or whatever you find helpful…remember to keep it calm, and preferably without too much talking or lyrics so that your mind can relax.
-Practice muscle relaxation by clenching and gradually releasing one part of your body at a time, from your feet working up to your head, noticing your sensations as you do.
5. Be kind and gentle with yourself. While you are working through things, or awaiting professional help, or working with a professional trauma specialist things can and likely will get tough. This is why you need to exercise self-compassion and create a positive narrative and framework for how you see yourself and your experiences. Use your imagination, explore and create…it can be tough, but it also can be overcome. Things I did to try to make sense of overwhelming experiences were to think of what I would tell a young child going through what I did, what if it was another adult experiencing trauma what would I tell them, or a friend or loved one….show yourself no less compassion and be kind. I also imagined how I might feel towards a puppy that had been hurt or was in distress and looking broken and bruised and not very ‘loveable’ – how would I treat it to help it to gradually see how special it is, and to encourage it to get well and accept love and care – find your helpful ways of thinking of your situation and yourself so that you don’t have to also contend with those self-condemning thoughts that something is ‘wrong’ with you somehow to be going through all of this.
And lastly, know that you are not alone…you are never alone….even if it has felt that way for a very long time. There are stories of inspirational people who have gone through incredibly difficult things and are now doing well and even helping others….don’t feel like you’re not ok if you haven’t got there yet, but be inspired that it is possible, the human spirit can endure great hardships and overcome much and find meaning and purpose. This is not the end of your story or mine…in many ways it is just beginning so stay strong, reach out for help, and keep taking that next step….like athletes we need to stay in training and that includes our minds as well. xx