Life can leave us with all kinds of internal wounds. You know what I’m talking about, right? A broken heart can be the result of all kinds of different things, not merely the lovelorn heart that we often read about in literature. Our hearts or spirits can be wounded or crushed because of not feeling loved, rejection, low self esteem, feeling like we don’t measure up, wounding words, verbal abuse, mental abuse, physical and psychological abuse, or just feeling ignored, hurt, used or left out in the world. Even when things seem to be going great, our hearts can get wounded because of friends taking us for granted or a harsh tone of voice. In this pandemic year, we are faced with many more challenges to normal. We see and hear of people dying from coronavirus and other things, we may feel isolated or alone or just disconnected even when around people. Empaths may be having a particularly hard time of it in feeling the pain of others. Then there are the circumstances related to ill health, mental health, financial worries, and so forth.
My heart was wounded and my spirit crushed pretty badly in childhood, over and over again and the effects still linger. I owe my life to my Saviour Who ‘heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds’, (psalm 147:3) and it is ‘by His wounds we are healed’ (Isaiah 53:5). There is no love so healing, so understanding, so compassionate and loving as the Love of Jesus. He knows and has felt every pain. He can make it right in His perfect way and time.
Over the past few years I have learned that I need to take better care of my heart because no other human being is going to do it for me – in fact, most people in our lives will hurt us in some way, even though there are people who love us deeply – it’s just the way things are in this broken world.
Ultimately, it is Jesus Who heals our wounds as we let Him in. Our Creator, Whose Heart was broken for us at the Cross and in His Life can more than Handle Healing and Renewing our broken hearts and making beauty come forth from them. There is nothing He cannot Redeem with His Sacrificial, Perfect Love poured out for us all.
God Is also a very practical God, and there are other ways we can strengthen our hearts too. The Source of Healing Is God Himself, by His Spirit and His Word, yet complementary to that we can all strengthen our hearts in different ways.
Healing and strengthening can come from friendships of mutual respect, love and care. There will be some people in the world that have said horrible things to or about you but isn’t it wonderful and healing and soothing to receive the kind words of a friend who will say you are valued, important, unique and wonderful (and if no one has ever told you that, then please receive them from me today). It strengthens our heart to give such true words to others too.
During times of depression, anxiety and mental distress, and chronic pain, I found that my brain found relief through creative activities such as arts, crafts, adult colouring in, music and such like. These kinds of activities engage areas of our brain related to healing, pain relief, pleasure and concentration or ‘flow states’. Over time, these have been like a medicine to me, and a source of joy and healing under God’s care.
Nature can strengthen our hearts, as can doing things that are helpful for our body and mind such as reading good books, looking after our health in what we eat, getting a healthy amount of exercise and positive self talk. Our hearts can also be strengthened through learning more about the lives and testimonies of others.
If you need some inspiration, know that the person writing to you was once so broken, crushed and defeated that I felt I could not and did not want to go on in life as a child, and then in adulthood have suffered from the recurring effects of that, but now I am finding a way forwards, and am moving through the stages of victim, rescued, survivor, overcomer to hopefully soon the next stage of ‘thriver’ by the Grace of God.
So if you are feeling defeated or down, know that there is hope for you. Take some time aside from the needs, demands and cruelty of others and give yourself time and space to strengthen your heart, daily. Please choose wisely as not everything we do is good for us -sometimes we want to numb out pain, but ultimately that leads to more problems or even destruction.
‘Guard your heart above all else for out of it spring forth the issues of life’.
Be blessed, be hopeful and take some time out to nurture yourself today. Perhaps like me you find that writing strengthens your heart too – if you haven’t written anything or blogged in a while, why not take a few minutes today to pick up a pen or type some words on your keyboard, whether or not you will share them with the world, with a friend, or keep them to yourself, it is a start and it might just give you a bit of ‘heart exercise’ that you need today.
With love and prayers, for your peace, salvation and wellbeing. x
Life can leave us feeling crushed sometimes. Disappointment after disappointment can pile upon our fragile hearts so much so that we begin to lose hope. Discouragement can sometimes be worse that what we are afflicted by because when discouragement sets in, as I well know, we lose faith that things will get better for us.
Can anybody relate to this?
Whatever you may be going through right now in life, if you have ‘serendipitously’ (or purposefully) stumbled across this post, I want to plant some words of encouragement in your heart and mind.
I know what it is to be crushed. To watch other people’s lives progressing, sometimes almost seamlessly, while feeling I am face down in the dust, having to get up over and over, punch after punch, hard knock after hard knock.
If you can relate to this, whether that be because of ill health, chronic pain, mental distress, family breakdown, hurt, pain, abuse, loss, loneliness, divorce, bereavement, self-hatred, addiction or whatever other of the many things you might be facing in this broken world, then listen up, my friends.
When we feel crushed, it can feel so very personal on so many levels. Our spirits and hearts may be crushed, and our minds feel ‘broken’ and we’ve all but lost hope. It seems far too great a leap to even think that things can get better for us sometimes, don’t you think?
This is precisely where we need to start to gently and gradually work towards a vision for our recovery. As unbelievable as it may feel or seem to you right now, it matters so much.
How can you do this?
Faith. The Rock on which I stand and on which my Life is built, is and always will be Jesus Christ, so in the first instance I will point you to look to Him in your desperation and to call out to Him – He not only knows what to do, but He knows you personally, having woven your substance into being, giving you the breath of life, and He not only knows what to do, but He also has the power and ability to heal you, restore you, and give you a purpose to use your pain for good. Ask Him, however feebly, to Help you.
2. Inspiration. Regardless of where you stand in relation to my first point, this second one will help you to bridge the mental and emotional gap between where you are now and where you believe you can be. It is quite simply to find living examples of people who have defeated the odds, and to listen to their stories, to watch their videos, to read their books or blogs, to talk to them in person. This really helped me in a dark and difficult time in my life when I was diagnosed with c-PTSD.
One person I found a great deal of inspiration and courage from was and is Katie Piper. In her early twenties she was a young, attractive, blonde, outgoing woman, interested in a life as a TV presenter and she was also involved in modelling. Her career was built around her looks and her bubbly personality. She unfortunately got into an unhealthy short-term relationship and when she realised there were ‘red flags’ with this person and called things off, he retaliated. First she went through horrendous physical attacks by this man, who also raped her. Then he set her up by getting a friend of his to pour acid on her face. She was covered in severe burns from head to toe, and when her parents saw her in the hospital they couldn’t recognise their daughter because she was so severely disfigured. It was a world away from the world which she had once known and any hopes and dreams of her former career and life were instantly burned up with that acid. She couldn’t walk, talk, eat, was in excruciating pain and wanted to die. She now has gone through years of intensive burns treatment, is a writer, has published books about her experiences, set up a burns charity and foundation with the doctor who treated her, thereby helping countless others, has been involved in documentaries helping other survivors, and is now happily married, a wife, mother of two lovely daughters, has her independence again (after being terrified to leave her house) and appears on TV, radio, awards ceremonies and helps other people, as well as now branching out into other roles that have nothing directly to do with her ‘survival story’.
I find this incredible, because at her lowest Katie had all but completely given up. I read her biographies and watched her videos, because to me it seemed far ‘worse’ than anything I had ever gone through. This is not a call to ‘compare’ traumas, because we can’t really do that, pain is pain at the end of the day, but it helped me to have someone to look up to through her writings, almost like a ‘big sister’, and also because her story was so far removed from mine it wasn’t ‘triggering’ in the way other sources that I turned to were. I previously obsessively watched YouTube videos on bullying, bullycide and these negatively affected me because they were my experiences. But looking to other people who made it through their different tough times I was able to find inspiration and motivation. If they could go through all that and make it through then I could surely get through my ‘stuff’. Another person I found encouraging was Nick Vuijicic. I won’t go into his story here because you’ll understand my point of looking to people who haven’t given up and whose lives have the power to inspire your own recovery journey, but look him up.
The amazing thing is you’ll find so many more people whose lives testify to the tenacity of the human spirit, the determination to survive, and then to find ways to thrive, using those adverse experiences and pain in a transformative way, many touched and carried by the Grace of God, and seeing His touch in their lives. People, who like us become more outward facing, as they challenge the pain that draws them in and under, and defy it. People whose compassion is real because they, we, have gone through our own stuff too.
Find your people. They may surprisingly be closer than you think, because everyone has a story to tell. They might be famous people, or they may be the person you see every day but have no idea that they’ve themselves ‘overcome the odds’. Other people don’t necessarily see me, or you, or know our stories. They may think it’s all been plain sailing, but it has not. Similarly, there may be stories, lives of hope all around you. When you find them, if they are in that place where they want to share with you, listen carefully, attentively, and let that hope encourage you as you take your next steps forward, as you simply breathe your next breath.
3. Your future self. As you begin to dwell in the realm of possibility, inspired and encouraged by faith, and by seeing and hearing about the lives of real life people who didn’t let their circumstances defeat them, start to envision your own recovery. Who do you want to be on the other side of this? Forget the impossible, which is to say, forget that anything is impossible, it only seems to be.
So you can’t get out of bed in the morning. I couldn’t either. Your vision doesn’t need to be bound by that: what do you want to be on the other side of this challenge? A blogger, a writer, a motivational speaker, a mentor, a compassionate friend, someone who listens, someone who inspires? Be specific if you can. Do you see yourself in front of a group of people who are suffering, telling them how you did it, and that they can too?
Your vision is yours. As you think about these things, you switch the pathways that are focusing on your pain, on your ‘prison’, to focusing on your possibilities.
‘Neurons that fire together wire together’, so be aware of the thought patterns that you are allowing to keep you down or help you up. Keep thinking of the possible and you will overcome the prison of your pain.
Creativity has been a great natural pain reliever for me, because of where it allows my mind to go, and the new neurological pathways that form and get strengthened. It isn’t an easy or a quick road, or way out, but it is a healthy way out and forward and I can’t even believe how much of a difference it has made in my life. Because it takes me away from the suffering, even momently, into a different mental, emotional, and neurological and psychological space. Keep building up your creative outlets, focus your mind on what can be built rather than what is broken, and you will find some soothing in that.
5. Your People
Times may get tough. You’ll need people on your side, cheering for you, motivating you, listening to you or being there when you break down. I have had some really special people on my side, and now it is my turn to be there for others. Find someone, find a group of people, and if you don’t have anyone in your friends or family to be those people, know that there are groups, helplines, charities and networks you can reach out to. In my deep times of PTSD and depression when I felt it was too much for me to keep burdening friends and family although they were always there for me, I turned to helplines and found encouragement there, even if for a moment, and that is what they are there for, to help you through, to help you now. You’re not meant to do this all on your own, so find your people, and believe that one day you will become that person to someone too so don’t feel ‘guilty’ for reaching out and accepting help – we’re all human and we all need that human touch and support. Accept their help and appreciate them. Your turn to reach out and give back will come in due course.
Listen to inspiring, motivational music, find your ‘fight song’, the one that gets you up, keeps you going. Mine, which I still listen to almost every day is ‘Overcomer’ by Mandissa. I like the video that goes along with it because it shows real people, real overcomers. What you allow in to your mind will be shaping what you think about your identity and the possibilities, so make sure it is positive, truthful and going to help you forwards, rather than keep you focused inwards on the pain and suffering. You’re an overcomer.
Gratitude is a far more powerful force than people give it credit for. Suffering will lead you to a greater appreciation of the things most people take for granted – the very ability to breathe your next breath in life. To do the simplest of things, this takes on a new meaning, a new value. Be grateful for the ‘small victories’ for they really aren’t that small at all. I can’t tell you how it felt that I could not move my body or do the smallest of things without feeling like my mind was exploding in a nightmare, depression meant I could barely function it was a massive achievement for me to merely feed myself, to wash a cup, and yet I’ve somehow maintained a full time job, done well and I’m out and about traveling and meeting friends again when I was terrified to leave the house before. Taking a spoonful of food might be our greatest achievement in a particular day. Sleeping through the night an incredible feat. Going to your next appointment. Tying your shoelaces. Brushing your hair when your hands are crippled with pain. Remembering to take your medication. Staying alive. These ‘small things’ can be massive, so appreciate them, and appreciate the many blessings you have.
There is so much on your side, your Creator is with you and for you, people who care for you are propelling you on, there is so much motivation in the lives of others who have made it through. You might feel like giving up right now, like it is an impossibility, but take heart, and simply take that next breath.
Friends, I admit I’ve been struggling a bit. The mental, emotional and spiritual renewal continues and with C-PTSD, etc. things sometimes get more challenging before they get better. I’m pleased to think that I’m through the worst of it after many years of suffering. And I’m generally doing pretty well. However, the ups and downs still come and go, and I can feel the physical pain in my head, in my mind and the churning over and reprocessing of thoughts and experiences. I’m in a place where I’m quite aware of what may be happening and what ‘tools and techniques’ I can employ to help myself.
If you also have health challenges and go out to work where you have to encounter other people, you know that this can in itself present a whole host of challenges for you to overcome or manage. Sometimes these can be very significant, such as in my previous experience, needing help to advocate for reasonable adjustments (which I’m pleased to say I finally have been granted), to managing your wellbeing in the workplace, in amongst the unpredictability of other colleagues who may not understand, in my case, ‘hidden disabilities’.
Today, I had an encounter with a colleague / friend who when I went to the kitchen was asking about train times and delays as we often get the same train. As we walked back to our desks through the open plan floor, she thought I had got a much earlier train, and expressed in her normal voice which is fairly loud as I walked passed colleagues her thoughts about my morning routine. She is a work friend and respects my high quality of work and knows about my conditions, and I have done work to help her, but perhaps she didn’t realise that talking about such things even in passing in a public environment was very uncomfortable for me.
She said, oh have you started getting up earlier and changed your morning routine. I expressed quietly that I still struggle a lot in the mornings with my health, not wanting to go into detail and she expressed that she knew that but didn’t think it would always be the case and that people can change. She wasn’t trying to be inappropriate but in front of people who may judge me or not understand or know about my condition it could be taken as someone being lazy or not committed rather than someone fighting hard every day to stay in work and manage some severe symptoms.
I kind of expressed that I have been trying but it is still difficult, and as she mentioned my morning routine I just said, ‘I’m trying, it’s still hard, maybe next year’.
Something so small can trip us up. There are big and little challenges at work, and sometimes people are just inappropriate when they’re just making conversation or not meaning to be. For people with existing mental health conditions, these ‘niggling’ things can build up to have an impact on how we are around our colleagues.
I personally want to retreat from people and just put my head down and get on with things. Thankfully I’m known among managers and other staff to be an excellent worker and always go above and beyond with a high quality of work. But not everyone knows that. And not everyone on the open floor who overhears these snippets of conversations knows that.
We all have different ways of dealing with things. Perhaps someone would raise it in conversation or a polite email with the person talking out of turn in a public place. I haven’t done that, I’ll let it slide, it’s more in my mind than it probably is to other people. But nonetheless, it did affect me.
And that’s all I really know to say. Not a post about what you should do, but just one to share and to find help any encouragement myself from simply getting it out my head, as it’s not good to keep things inside, but also it’s not always the best course of action to express this to the person in question…I don’t know….?. Sometimes just doing that externalising of our thoughts on ‘paper’ is the first step to growing in confidence and holding our heads high at work. Because even if other people don’t see what we go through just to make it through, the tears, the sleepless nights, the panic and anxiety attacks, the nightmares, the dizziness the fear etc etc….we know….and can walk in integrity knowing that we’re doing our best.
Sorry that this wasn’t more positive a post – it just got to me a bit but I’ll come back with more encouragement soon. x
Remember you only have to live one day at a time, one moment at a time, therefore no matter how difficult things might be for you, don’t let it overwhelm you – just keep taking those small steps forward for they all add up.
I’d like to add a disclaimer that this isn’t advice for sufferers of eating disorders or others who have negative relationships with exercise and / or body image. These are simply my own thoughts for things that have helped me.
There have been times in recent years, and even months where I have felt like my brain, my mind was exploding, deconstructing, self-destructing, and taking my nervous system with it. There was a point in my childhood at school where I was on a daily basis experiencing emotional, psychological, verbal abuse and on a few occasions physical attacks from my peers. This was mainly in the first two years of high school, and so the friends that I made after that either did not really know what was going on for me, and I didn’t know how to articulate it, so people assumed I was just quiet, shy and studious, which I was but a lot of the lack of speaking and problems socialising was because I was walking around severely traumatised. But something in me broke. The damage in those two years had been done, I was in such pain I didn’t want to live, I hated myself and had a distorted self image, and didn’t care anymore whether I lived, but this remained unexpressed so no one really knew, and I just quietly kept my head down, got good grades, got on with things, and tried to keep it together but the pain never went away and I never felt even moderately ‘ok’ inside even though appearances on the surface might have told a more positive story. The trauma had no where to go, I can only say that it felt, including physically with chronic pain that I couldn’t really explain to people, like my brain had ‘broken’, and was malfunctioning and this as an adult manifested as complex PTSD. Because I am a smart young woman, people didn’t really consider that this was the case, until several medical health professionals and consultants provided a diagnosis to this silent daily suffering. Eventually I just wasn’t coping and had to reach out for help and the help I have had over the past few years has enabled me to see a way forwards although some of it was gruelling work at the time. Your brain is not ‘broken beyond repair’ – it just sometimes takes a lot of incredibly hard work and support to get to a point of breakthrough.
I was never much of a person for being into exercise, and still I am not a fitness fanatic, but I do try to do something a few times a week, even if for a short amount of time. I have learned that exercise isn’t just about keeping the body fit, or boosting those ‘feel good’ chemicals. It also, importantly, helps to retrain the mind, in a positive direction, and helps keep mind and body ‘in step’ if you’ll pardon the pun, and I think helps to rewire new neural connections. I have noticed that people, even your ‘average’ person, who engage in some kind of fitness often become focussed, determined and press through their personal limitations even if this is on a modest and moderate level. When people reach a personal best there tends to have been a psychological barrier that was broken that enabled them to persevere, well before crossing a ‘finish line’. I don’t exercise as an escape or as a ‘fix’, but I do know that it is something that over time is improving my mental agility and speeding up my recovery from severe childhood trauma. This needs to be a balanced for some people though, who might take exercising to an extreme – I can safely say that I’m a bit too ‘lazy’ for that ever to be a problem for me.
There are times when I can sense aspects of the trauma ‘getting to me’ again. And I am reminded that what ‘broke’ within my mind as a child doesn’t need to stay in that irreparable state of heightened fear, pain, helplessness and distress. I no longer have to be in a psychological ‘free fall’ unable to stay grounded or to cope with the explosions in my brain that make no sense logically in my adult life where things aren’t an actual threat to me. There is a verse in Scripture that admonishes one to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:2). Scripture also elsewhere talks about the importance of physical exercise (but in the context of training ourselves in godliness and righteousness as even more important). There are also several passages that use analogies of spiritual discipline being like running a race, preparing for battle, being ready, focused and alert. I believe that although renewing our minds with Truth is the most important thing for us mentally, exercise also has an active role to play in moving towards psychological breakthrough. You are proving to your body and mind that you can do it, even when you feel you are otherwise malfunctioning. You are training your mind to persevere, to push through barriers, and to succeed. Even when I feel that sense of things resurfacing, like this evening, I don’t necessarily have to engage in exercise to know that it is there for me and it has already been of benefit – I can remember the times I have persevered physically and mentally, I have pressed through I did overcome, and what seems insurmountable psychologically in relation to trauma is put in its place as I take my thoughts captive (as the Bible says taking thoughts captive ‘ in obedience to Christ’) and exercise my mental agility to push through and take control and work towards recovery, mental strengthening and over time, a better quality of life.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, so please see this as a personal piece of writing, and follow up with your own research as required.
Living with chronic pain can be overwhelming. The sources of chronic pain are numerous, and can derive from neuropathic sources where there is nerve damage, from external injury, from psychosomatic pain and / or a combination of these as well as various other factors.
Psychosomatic pain can be wide ranging, but can include pain stemming from depression, post traumatic stress, complex (severe and repeated) trauma, grief, and so forth and can be just as intense and debilitating as pain from more physically identifiable sources. Neurological pathways in the brain can be triggered causing pain receptors to be stimulated with psychosomatic pain being as ‘real’ and intense as pain from nerve damage and / or external injury.
Living with ongoing pain can also have a massive impact upon a person’s mental health, outlook on life, general wellbeing, and relationships with others. However, just as pain can be triggered by non-physical factors, I believe, so too can it be alleviated similarly as well.
There is a light-hearted phrase that I find particularly helpful to bear in mind. That is: “neurons that fire together, wire together”. (Donald Hebb, 1949 – Canadian neuropsychologist). What this means is that our brain cells communicate with each other in a process that involves synaptic transmission where chemicals or neurotransmitters are released and absorbed by other brain cells, in a process that can be called ‘neuronal firing’. Whenever we have any experience, feeling, physical experience, or thought (yes, thought), this process occurs and over time ‘neural networks’ are formed, and such pathways can be strengthened, and can trigger the process of this ongoing ‘communication’ with other cells in the ‘network’.
Simply put, if pain sensations are triggered, then certain neural networks are activated, and pain is intensified.
As I italicised above, thoughts can trigger the firing of neurons and the wiring of neural connections. If you think about it, if you dwell on a negative thought or on a painful symptom, you are more likely to experience that pain with greater intensity, remember other times and experiences when you were in pain, and feel less resistant to overcoming it.
Similarly, if by thought you can activate the ‘pleasure sensors’ in the brain, you are more likely to remember other positive experiences, feel calmer and more able to manage your pain-related symptoms, and gain resistance and even the ability to withstand greater levels of pain.
I do believe that to some extent, what you focus on ‘expands’. From personal experience, focusing on pain tends to make it feel all the more overwhelming, whereas engaging in healthy distractions for the mind such as absorbing oneself in a creative pursuit, taking time to dwell on positive experiences, keeping a ‘gratitude journal’, practicing calming exercises such as controlled breathing and focusing on natural and beautiful things can overtime strengthen our ability to “activate” those neural pathways that trigger pleasurable sensations over painful ones, and overtime the exercise of this habit can greatly strengthen our fortitude to manage and overcome chronic pain, or at the least to alleviate it to some extent.
Please bear in mind that I am not advocating doing this to the exclusion of utilising medical help and prescribed pain relief. As mentioned previously the sources of chronic pain are numerous, therefore I would not venture to provide such foolhardy advice – there is a place for medical treatment of course. However, chronic pain can often leave people feeling overwhelmed, defeated and like victims of their conditions. Taking control of our thoughts and strengthening positive neural networks in our brain brings back an element of control into the process and can add to our feelings of fulfilment in life.
I wish you all well on your journeys and hope that you find relief and blessing, and look forward to hearing your thoughts.