*Is this really happening? How on earth has this become our new “normal”?*
Once we have got over the initial panic and fear and taken action to establish some kind of safety for our loved ones and our friends, and once we are safely tucked away in our homes (most of us reading this at least, I presume), we will be faced with a range of thoughts and emotions.
As I have explored in this series of posts, we will be juggling with the practicalities of daily life, and also the bigger life questions perhaps running in the background of our thoughts. We need to consider a new routine, a new way of living, a new way of being as a society, that seems to be becoming increasingly restricted day by day, for our own good it seems.
But at some point, once we do begin to feel a bit safe and settled, we are healthy, at home, have food, are able to help and support others in some way, the ‘craziness’ of this situation may hit us.
It’s important to be kind to ourselves and each other as we process things, bit by bit, and to prioritise self-care. This is *not* normal, this is nothing like any of us could have anticipated, and no one can tell you what the right or wrong way to process this is, because none of us know.
As with many of my words of encouragement, I will once again reiterate the importance of community. The reality of faith and God in my life is what is getting me through, but not all of you have that. We need each other. These are strange and crazy times, and we need to figuratively put our ‘I’ pads away, and become the generation of ‘we’ and not just ‘me’. I’m thankful for technology that is helping us to do that.
What is helping you to process things?
Words of Encouragement (7):
*What do we do when we hear news of tragedies?*
I pray that each of you, your friends, families and those in your life will never personally experience the tragedies of this Coronavirus. Many of you have faced enough heartache in your own lives already ❤
Yet, we are hearing more and more of things that are just awful, and we may be able to hold things at a bit of a distance, but the terrible reality is that ordinary people are experiencing things first hand in their lives, that of their family members, colleagues and others. I don’t think we will see this abating any time soon, so what do we do?
Friends, I don’t have the answer to that. I can turn to Christ for comfort, as some others also can, but not everyone does. I think the important thing for all of us is that we take particular care to take care of each other and to make sure we inform other people who are being careless or reckless in these days that this is a serious situation. A young nurse treating patients who died of the virus took her life today. A 21 year old girl died. We want to pause for each one and for their families and not let them become just numbers. But this is unlike any of us have ever experienced.
There are no easy answers, but it goes to show how important it is that we ‘put our shields together’ in these days. Shields of faith, shields of hope, of truth, of courage, of kindness….we need to shelter and protect one another because this reality is taking its toll on people’s mental health and we need to become a strong community that can hold each other up in these times no matter what our differences are. We need to take care of ourselves, but we also need to know that we can mutually support each other, so let’s keep drawing close, lending a helping hand, a listening ear….and make sure that we as a community don’t allow this to get too much for any of us mentally or emotionally….and a word for my younger friends…..you can always talk to me, message me, these are tough things to hear about, it can be scary, but I and other adults are on your side, we’ll be there for you and you’re not alone. ‘Grown ups’….you’re not alone either.
Shields up, everyone! ❤ x
The news is all around us, and it’s hard to avoid. I have an anxiety disorder and complex PTSD and clinical depression and I have been working hard over the past few years to get stronger and to really make progress in this recovery and wellbeing journey. However, like many of you, the news and the uncertainty of Covid-19, and the reactions of other people, can add to those inner feelings of anxiety and unease. Last night, after chatting with my family on the phone, I spent some time just laying down and listening to healing Scriptures, and I woke up in the morning feeling His Peace – the Peace of Christ – so that when I read the news it didn’t really shake me. I remember the times before I knew The LORD in experience, I couldn’t find any true and lasting relief for my anxiety and often crippling fears (symptoms of C-PTSD and GAD that I hadn’t yet been diagnosed with) no matter how hard I tried. And I did try! The soothing feelings I experienced in nature, as lovely as they were, didn’t last beyond my time being in such natural surroundings. When I had to re-join the world of other people, my peace quickly dissipated. Now, I have a true Peace, an experiential Peace and the reality of The Living God Who Is holding me and guiding me (and often times carrying me) through the trials and tribulations, ups and downs, and joys of life, in His Perfect Love. I pray that we all will come to know this in reality.
Whether or not you know The Lord Jesus Christ, I’d like to encourage you in terms of the effects that this current world situation might be having on you, especially if you are in recovery of any type. This could be recovery from mental health conditions such as depression, managing anxiety, or it could be to do with fear of open spaces, of viruses and health, recovery from addiction or eating disorders or social phobias, or whatever the case may be. I don’t know what you might have been working hard to overcome, but if you have been working hard to overcome something, please don’t let this pandemic ‘situation’ throw you off course.
This ‘wise advice’ is for myself as well as for many of you, because when we are so caught up in what is going on around us, our own wellbeing might begin to take second, or third, or even last place, and that’s not good for anyone.
As well as following the medical and government advice and all the protocols to look after your health in terms of this pandemic, please, please don’t neglect to keep up your routines for your own recovery for whatever that might be.
You might find that you will have to work harder at things because of the additional things that everyone is dealing with, but remember your coping strategies, your tools and techniques, and be organised in your mind and write down and plan your routine as much as possible so that in this seeming chaos, you don’t forget to keep doing what you’ve been doing to get better, stronger, healthier and to stay well.
Take care everyone, and I will write more encouraging posts for you as the days progress. x
I’m not in isolation or lockdown or anything like that yet, and am thankfully fit and healthy and well, however, more and more it looks like the country and the world is moving in that direction whether you have symptoms of Covid-19 or not. The rationale is to contain and minimise the spread of the coronavirus.
It strikes me that people are responding very differently to the thought of having to stay indoors or limit their activity for an extended period of time than when they might be in a similar situation say during the Christmas holidays for example.
I’m still out and about going to work, although keeping my distance as much as possible, but the government is recommending that employers allow staff to work from home, so it is a wait and see time for us until we get definitive direction. In the meantime, we have to keep showing up.
However, I digress. There is a difference if you have to stay indoors and you are the only one in that situation, but there is, or at least there can be, a sense of community and camaraderie and shared experience when you know a large percentage of the world are in a similar situation. That’s part of the reason why I love Christmas, and the holiday season, because despite the diversity of beliefs, there is a sense of a shared experience.
Now, I know this whole pandemic is a different situation entirely, but let’s just think of how we can help and encourage each other to stay happy and healthy and mentally well during what might eventually turn out to be an extended period of time indoors. How can we help each other to counter the fear and anxiety that is so rife? Many people may find themselves completely symptom and virus free, but be advised by their employers or governments to stay at home, for the greater good. At any other time and in other circumstances, many of us would jump at the chance for some work from home days, or the chance to take a break away from it all in the comfort of our own homes. However, in this climate of fear, we are reacting very differently, or so it seems to me.
Ok, so maybe you are well and yet having to stay at home. I’m kind of hoping that I will be able to work from home too, but like I said, it’s ‘wait and see’. My heart goes out to those whose livelihoods and jobs are at risk, but if you don’t have those issues and simply have to stay indoors, how can we make the most of the situation?
I think if I have to stay inside for an extended period of time, I might put up my Christmas tree! Perhaps that seems strange to you if you live in sunnier climes, but I live in Scotland, and although the days are lighter and we have some dry days here and there, spring hasn’t really ‘sprung’ as yet, and we do get more than our fair share of rain, so some days it does still feel a bit ‘wintery’.
If you are new to my blog, I have written various series’ on self care, staycations, mental health and wellbeing, retreats of various types, and keeping cosy, so hopefully you will find some inspiration to make the most of an otherwise uncertain time.
Think about the things you would ideally do if you were organising a ‘staycation’ for yourself in your own home, or town. How many of us so often feel the need to ‘get away from it all’ without the practical hassles of travel, and to just have some ‘down time’ to think and reflect and nurture our own souls? How can we be people who seek to be encouragers and a positive influence when all around us is panic and anxiety and uncertainty?
For me, if I were to have to stay indoors, these are the things I would focus my attention on:
Drawing even closer to God, enjoying His Presence, allowing Him to continue His work of healing and restoration, and building up myself in my true identity so that I will be stronger and a vessel for His use in greater measure than before. Spending time with the One Who Loves me most and learning from Him.
Praying and interceding for other people, not only in terms of the concerns around Coronavirus, but taking time to think and pray about and appeal to God for the many people and situations that we so often don’t think about because we are ‘too busy’ with getting through the day to day things of life, and ‘cares of this world’. Focused prayer for people’s salvation and also for the needs of those who are caring for others, making decisions, ‘on the front line’ in some way, or who are ill and suffering or in need. Finding ways to advocate for those who suffer from injustice and abuse whether through prayer and practical means.
Reaching out to other people, and seeking to be a ‘good steward’ of the resources He has given me, and making a positive impact on the world, whether by blogging, keeping in touch with and encouraging people over the phone or email or other means.
Taking time for self development, nurturing myself and allowing God to continue to heal me, and also doing my part in looking after my emotional and mental health.
Working hard, obviously, if working from home did become a reality, and doing my duties to the best of my ability.
Taking time to continue writing my novel.
Read the books that have been waiting for me to get to them! 🙂
Exercise and healthy living.
Take time to be grateful, mindful and thankful for all of the blessings I do have in my life.
Finding ways to encourage and pray for other people, and to offer help where it is safe and wise and healthy to do so.
Home organisation and decluttering.
Arts and crafts projects, adult colouring in, continuing to learn to draw.
Music, playing worship on my violin.
Photography projects – finally compiling my photography work into one place.
Continue work on my blog to help bullied children (which I haven’t been able to while maintaining a daily routine of going to work, etc.).
Having pamper days for self care and looking after my body as well as my mind.
Learning new skills and online learning.
Tidying out my spare room!
Cosying up like at Christmas time and watching some nice films or box sets.
Live a ‘hygge life’.
Encouraging others and being kind!
So, what about you? What positives can you glean from this situation, and how would you, or how are you spending your time ‘away from it all’?
What are your struggles, and what are the things you have learned or that you enjoy that you can share that will benefit others reading this?
Let’s stick together and become stronger in the midst of all of this uncertainty, and bring out the best in each other as we make our way through this uncertain world.
I am thankful that my faith, certainty and hope is in the unchanging, solid rock of Jesus Christ, the source of life and pure love.
Take care and stay well, healthy, and safe, everyone. x
We all must be familiar with the news of this unfamiliar virus Covid-19 by now. It is fair to say that a lot of things have been revealed about human behaviour during this time:
Fear of the unknown.
Feelings towards dying (a good time to consider our need for eternal salvation, and lift our eyes above our immediate concerns!).
Panic that leads to hoarding and buying more than we need.
A lack of consideration for the impact that our behaviour will have on others, such as the most vulnerable who may find that they cannot even find their basic necessities when they go to the shops.
A desire to help.
Self protection and self preservation.
Isolation and loneliness.
Fear and concern for other people.
The realisation that viruses don’t respect borders and at the end of the day no matter where we are from, we are all human and vulnerable to things that are bigger than us.
It’s a mixed bag, isn’t it!
And I don’t condemn or judge any of you / us who have experienced a range of these emotions or attitudes. Initially I saw the panic buying and I avoided it completely. Then the practical side of me considered the possible reality that I would have to stock up on what I need…but not to the extent of hoarding. Simultaneously I want to help other people and have been looking online for ways to do that.
We oscillate between self protection and wanting to help others, or at least I imagine most of us do. Our immediate concerns are for ourselves, our nearest and dearest, for avoiding causing harm to others and where safe, to help other people.
What can we do to help?
Keeping ourselves safe and well and hygienic actually is a help to others if we can curb the spread of this virus. Keeping away from frail or vulnerable people if we are at risk of compromising their immune system in some way. Keeping up to date with scientific advice to avoid the spread of misinformation. Helping each other with anxiety and fear, and most of all casting our cares upon God and seeking His Wisdom and love for humanity.
We can also do practical things where it is safe to do so. I’ve seen and heard of people doing things that encourages me. Such as parents who home-school / home educate their children sharing resources and advice with those whose children’s schools have been closed. I’ve heard stories of small local shops providing free care packages to vulnerable and elderly people and care homes, at a cost to themselves. My local church has set up an online support group where people can ask for or offer help in line with specialist advice to keep people safe. People checking in by telephone or email or text or Skype with those who are self isolating. Donations to charities. A local college recently set up a crowd funding page to raise money to prepare care packages for vulnerable people and they had to ask for people to stop donating because they had exceeded their target by far, and were donating the extra money to local food banks and homeless charities.
We have to start somewhere. We all have a selfishness in our hearts, and protecting ourselves and our loved ones is a good thing, but selfishness is not. Yet being honest with ourselves is the first step forwards. Realising that we are a global community is the next. And sharing ways to help and encourage each other safely will help us a little further down the path of kindness. We all need each other.
I need you. I need your advice and suggestions and encouragement. Because I don’t want to live selfishly through this time.
So my small step for today is to write this blog post. To encourage you no matter where you are that you can make a small change today, and if you need help, to encourage you to reach out to someone while at the same time staying safe and well.
Most of all I can pray – for each and every one of you reading this, for your loved ones, family, friends and those in your neighbourhoods to be protected, for your ultimate healing and salvation and also for your protection on earth also. God bless and let’s all help and encourage each other to live kindly in these uncertain times. x
Well friends, tomorrow is the concluding day of the first month of 2020! A brand new year, a brand new month and a brand new decade. How has it been for you? Have you survived and / or thrived through all of the expectations that this ‘newness’ may have presented you with?
What have been your highlights, and your learning points? And are you excited to soon be starting a brand new month?
As you move forwards from here, let me share with you a few things to consider to make for a more fruitful month in February.
1. Be honest with yourself as you look back over the past month.
Oftentimes we feel the pressure from others, ourselves, society and social media messages to be ‘doing great’ at the start of a brand new year. At the start of a new decade, perhaps some of the internal pressures we place upon ourselves to ‘rise and shine’ and ‘live our best lives’ is even greater. Or perhaps such things don’t affect you all that much.
Either way, as we reach the end of the first month of this year, it is important to be honest with yourself. Most people start a new year with new expectations, goals and plans. Take time to think about where you have got to with yours if you had any. Also, be honest with yourself as to how the past month has actually been for you. You can think about things in the following ways:
Circumstances: Overall, were things good or bad this month? Accept what has passed and identify any issues that you need to resolve that have been difficult for you, both practically and emotionally. If things have overall been good, take time to reflect upon these, enjoy the memories of the experiences, be grateful for them and think of steps to climb even higher as you progress through the year.
Mental and emotional health and wellbeing: This is quite a personal one, and you hopefully will best know the questions to ask of yourself. Taking time to assess your mental and emotional wellbeing will help you and others as you move forwards, otherwise you can get stuck in a rut, or even pulled under if you don’t take time to address any issues that you may have that need your attention and care.
Think about how your mental and emotional health has been in January. Are there any triggering factors that made things difficult? Are there any things contributing to your positive mental and emotional health? What can you take forwards from here to build upon as you head into February?
Physical health: Time to think about your well being physically including in terms of activity levels, nutrition and other forms of self care. Are you looking after yourself or are there things that you can be doing better?
Sleep: After the time off during Christmas and the winter seasons, it can come as a bit of a shock to the system to get back into a routine. By now, most people are back ‘in the swing of things’ and sometimes this can mean powering full steam ahead which can be detrimental if you’re not getting the rest and sleep that you need. Check in with yourself and make sure you are not overworking yourself or wasting the precious rejuvenating hours that a good night’s sleep and rest can bring. Don’t worry if you struggle with this, you’re definitely not alone – it’s one of the biggest things that I need to work on!
2. Social connections, priorities and other people.
As well as taking time to think about how well you have been taking care of yourself over this past month (so that you can make improvements as you move forwards through the year), it is also important to consider your wellbeing in terms of a wider perspective. Taking care of ourselves on an individual level is one thing, but we also need to think about how connections with other people affect us whether positively or negatively, and to consider which aspects of these connections need to be nurtured, and which others need to be ‘pruned’ or cut away.
It’s important not to let yourself get swept up in the current of other people’s priorities, demands and activities where they don’t align well with your own. By this I don’t mean shirk your responsibilities and duties. Not by any means! If you have responsibilities to care for other people such as parents, children, dependants and so forth, it would be unethical to simply disregard their needs just because you want something different. No, what I mean is that being part of a society, the people we come in contact with may make requests or demands upon our time and attention and before committing to anything and everything you need to consider the longer term vision of your own life, and year, and not overcommit, especially to things that don’t align with your vision or values. Be open minded, but also be cautious – your personal, ‘free’ time away from work and family is such a precious commodity, you need to use it wisely, so don’t feel pressured into saying ‘yes’ to everything. Equally don’t miss out on opportunities that you need to take.
Further to this, you also need to think about how you are spending time and who you are spending time with. Are there people in your life who are draining you? Are there those who inspire you? Are there others with whom you are mutually encouraged? Think about the specifics of your own situations and circumstances and be mindful of how you relate to people and the effect you allow them to have on you, and make more considered choices as you continue through the year.
3. Plans and projects.
You may have started the year with a whole host of great ideas, some of which you might have hoped to get off the ground or make progress with in January. Let’s (once again) be honest with ourselves. How practical has this been? Have you achieved what you enthusiastically set out to, or do you need to revisit your plans, projects, goals and timescales? Don’t be hard on yourself. Small steps all add up. Keep going, but also don’t tie yourself to something you have started that you now realise actually isn’t the right choice for your life. Take time to responsibly consider whether there are things you can let go of and how without negatively affecting other people as far as is possible.
What has worked and what needs improved upon or changed in terms of how you have approached your plans for this month? What lessons have you learned and what will you take forwards into February?
4. The bigger picture – Faith, and the people you love.
Don’t get so caught up in the minutiae or day to day routines of life that you forget to ‘look up’. Don’t forget to take time to appreciate, to be thankful, to consider the Source of all the good things and blessings in your life. Are you seeking Truth? Are you growing as a person? Are you gaining insights spiritually? And are you making time to simply be and spend time with the people you love?
Be blessed as you progress into a brand new month, and don’t be afraid to start afresh. x
A favourite Scripture among many Christians is from the book of Proverbs (Chapter 3: verses 5 – 6).
“Trust in The LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths”.
For those who have never encountered The Living God, who don’t know the Reality of the Risen Christ, and who don’t personally have a relationship with Him as their Lord and Saviour, then this advice might seem a little bit strange, inaccessible or contrary to their way of thinking and of living life. For without God in the picture, people trust in their own wayward hearts, they lean on their own faulty reasoning, ‘logic’ and understanding, and that of other people as they try to forge out a way forwards, yet never walking in the Truth.
Statements like these can be hard to swallow, might invite challenging discussion, but as someone who does know The Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, I also know just how much I need Him to navigate the path ahead for me, and to trust The One Who sees and knows with perfect wisdom the many things I can’t possibly figure out without Him. Who would walk into a jungle for the first time without a guide? Who would walk through the jungle of life without The Saviour, The Shepherd, The One Who declares in Truth: “I AM The Way, The Truth and The Life (no one comes to The Father except through Me)” ?
For those of us who do know Him, we have a responsibility to always seek His guidance and direction in our lives, in the day to day decisions, as well as the bigger situations we may face. How many times do we get into a mess trying to figure out things all on our own, when we only have to ask, and listen for that direction that He so freely gives? The Good Shepherd will never lead us astray.
We need to stay focussed on Him, because He has a plan, a mission, a purpose for our lives, and much of this is being played out in the spiritual realm – something that the secular world around us does not understand, accept or acknowledge, and something that others may not be ‘armed’ to know what they are actually ‘dabbling with’ when it comes to spiritual things that on the surface seem harmless.
WE need to stay focussed, alert, on track and listen for His direction, and guidance, through the Word and being led by His Spirit.
Sometimes there may be a lot of competing demands in our lives, things that arise from a variety of sources, and seemingly ‘good causes’, but before diving in, we need to acknowledge our Lord and ask what He desires and requires of us. Just because something on the surface seems like it is a good thing to be involved with, doesn’t mean that it is something that He wants us to focus our attention on, or maybe He has a different or a better way than the one we see immediately set before us.
Are you letting competing voices draw you away from hearing The Voice of your Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ?
The world busies itself with all sorts of things to be done, but sometimes rushing into things isn’t the best course of action. Wait, listen, trust in Him with all your heart, lean on His understanding and not your own, acknowledge Him in everything, knowing that without any doubt, He *will* direct your paths.
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.
I sometimes feel that writing is a gift through which we can better understand our life’s journey.
It gives the seed of a thought expression, the opportunity to ‘dance’ into life and then perhaps more profoundly to be noticed and nurtured and watered into life by a reader.
It is quite an exquisite thing to realise that one’s thoughts can connect with those of another.
I’m writing just now to discover those seeds of thought that perhaps need to be planted and watered in order to find their true expression.
What I’m thinking of right now is the gradual movement into a season of more peaceful healing. For years I have been in recovery from complex PTSD and literally battling demons, but greater is He. My Creator, God.
Sometimes when our painful symptoms are alleviated we might think that we can press on into the next stage, whereas what we may really need is simply to slow down and gently take the time to fully heal. It is a real gift to be given time and space to work things out, to allow the healing waters to soothe the troubled soul and mind and to restore what has been broken or frozen in fear by the darkness. God Is Good. The healing that once seemed impossible is beginning to bud and bloom and a new day is sure to follow.
Every now and then we need to remind ourselves to take the time. To accept that the wounds may be deeper than we would like to face, and to give ourselves that time to be restored by the hand of our loving Creator. There are things we can do too for ourselves, being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Yet, the tracks of years of thinking in one way may take time to be washed away as we lay down new tracks, those of life giving thought, as we think of what is true, noble, good, pure, excellent, praise worthy.
There is a time for healing. A time for all purposes under the sun. And perhaps this is your time as well as mine. Give yourself the gift of accepting that time. You may have to face difficult things but soon enough the path will get smoother, either that or you will get stronger and the challenges will no longer seem insurmountable. There is a place of peace and restoration promised to us in Christ for the healing of our hearts, for the mending of the broken-hearted and the grace that gives us the gift of complete forgiveness…which as we let ourselves receive it and as the chains that fettered and bound us gradually fall away, leads us to walk ever gently into true freedom.
Don’t be disheartened if it takes time. Give yourself the gift of that time, and I will learn to give myself that gift also. The darkness and the lies are never greater than the Beauty of Truth and Pure Love that has come in Christ to set us free. So know that you are valuable, worthy of healing, of forgiveness and love, and take time today to rest in that.
The past few years have been characterised by exactly that: the past. Despite all of my determined efforts to push past life’s hurts and to build up my life, my body, mind, heart and spirit simply could not do this. Life had other lessons for me to learn, which in a sense meant being broken open for all of the hurt to begin pouring out.
The past few years have been intense at times: I went through a process of a lot of the pain and hurt and anxiety and depression that had been stuffed down and bottled up within me, ‘exploding’ to the surface in what felt like a breakdown. I was diagnosed with complex post traumatic stress, severe clinical depression and severe generalised anxiety disorder. It was pretty awful, and it had felt that way for a very, very long time indeed.
Do you notice that I said ‘had’? That is monumental. I notice even at the early stages of this new year a shift within me – within my thinking and within my heart. I may not be completely healed or whole or well or recovered yet, but the nightmare of explosions within my mind keeping me trapped and frightened in this unreality between past and present has in fact passed. Or at least it feels like that just now, and that is incredible. I didn’t know if my mind and heart would ever feel calm again and at one point I was feeling like giving up.
The noticeable shift is that my heart and mind are naturally inclining towards the now and the not yet rather than to the past. The past difficulties I have faced now are part of a bigger narrative, they are being processed, redefined and finding their place and in working on this I am allowing myself to find my true identity and to walk in it.
And as naturally as if I had always been this way (which I never had) I am able to ponder the present and the future (the ‘now and next’ as my mum says) without feeling crippled, pulled back or limited by the pain of the past.
It is perhaps for many people a simple thing, taken for granted to be in the now and the next, but it is a beautiful miracle for me, one which I would like to pause and to appreciate with you right now, even as we move into the not yet.