The initial cheers for our frontline workers (medics, virologists, drivers, supermarket workers, cleaners, crematorium staff, care workers, the list goes on…) across the globe felt like a crescendo of encouragement, ‘rallying the troops’. In this pandemic, countries are not warring with each other, but rallying together against a common global enemy.
Perhaps being isolated, you have felt helpless and alone in this strange catastrophe. Yet, the scenes we have witnessed and been part of, open a window to the many others who are all ‘on the same team’.
Now, we’re collectively fighting Coronavirus, and I sincerely hope that the ‘troops on the frontline’ feel a bit more refreshed and appreciated in their ongoing battle.
Let me just get back to the image of everyone clapping outside their homes, or from their homes. We are not isolated, although tucked away inside, we are not alone, and we *all* have a part to play, no matter how small that might feel to you at the moment, we all have a crucial role to play in ‘blocking those gaps’ against this unseen enemy, by staying at home, by good hygiene, and by supporting other people in a variety of ways, and also by taking care of ourselves.
You may be wondering why I have titled this post ‘swords and spades’. I’m glad you asked ! 😉 Some of you I’m well aware will already know, and that gives me a boost of confidence for a variety of reasons 🙏👌.
For those of you who don’t yet know, if we look back in history, there was a man named Nehemiah who was an ordinary and decent man, living in 5th Century BC, who found himself in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. We have witnessed news of wars and terrorism all across the world, and Nehemiah lived at a time where he was living in the midst of constant attacks from groups of people who wanted to destroy and crush those he knew, those he worked with, those he loved, an entire group of people just going about their lives. As enemies descended upon them with distressing regularity, they found their daily lives to be changed and challenged.
In front of *their* own homes, each and every one of them had to be part of a defence and recovery mission. Literally, with a sword in one hand an a tool for building in the other they had to both defend themselves against attack, and also collectively build together what was constantly being broken down. Just as in a previous post where I talked about the image of us bringing our ‘shields’ together in mutual defence and protection, I am sure you can see the analogies here with our own situation, from these actual events in history.
What figuratively are the swords and spades you are able to use, each from our own homes, in a collective and united effort?
What are your means of protection, and what are your instruments and skills to rebuild what is being broken?
Remember that you are part of a great and collective effort against all of this distress and unseen attack, and no small effort is wasted. Keep going, you fight and build with millions around the globe, so be encouraged! You are making a difference, but you shouldn’t let your guard down. Keep protecting, keep rebuilding.
(For those who are also fighting and defending on another level, a different ‘frontline’ where the battle is real and fierce, remember it is fought and won on our knees! Have vision and remember the stakes are even higher in this one, so pray and allow the Light to break through the darkness. Our Commander in Chief has got this. 😉 🙏👌💪
I wonder if, for those of us who don’t work on the front line, we would ever choose to put our lives at risk to save others. To be honest, that’s a bit of a loaded question, because the point of it is the aspect of choice, and not simply duty.
If you were a doctor or nurse, for example, and we sincerely applaud you and your colleagues if you are, you may find yourself duty bound by the Hippocratic Oath to serve your fellow human beings, even at risk to your own life and that of your closest family. But would you choose it? If pre-Covid days you were given a glimpse into the future and shown what was to come, if you were told you would have no PPE, if you knew that you would be walking into certain death, would you do it to save someone else?
For those of us who don’t work on the front line, could we imagine for a moment being in such a situation and raising our hands to volunteer to save someone else? Not because it is the right thing to do, or because we have a sense of duty, or because we find ourselves in the situation and persevere through it, but would we knowingly choose to die, to save the life of another, even those people who don’t know anything about us, or care about us, or acknowledge what we are doing for them? People who perhaps have recklessly put their life in danger by not following the rules, and who didn’t care about causing harm to others? Do any of us care that much? Do any of us love others more than we love our own life even those who don’t realise what we are doing for them?
We are surrounded by heroes. Some of them, filled with fear, are persevering through a situation they didn’t and wouldn’t choose for themselves to be in, yet they are risking their lives to save others, and that is so humbling. Even more so, are the people who know that they will suffer, they will die, but they *choose* to save someone else and lay down their own life for the greater good. These people are astounding.
We’ve heard the stories of people, young men particularly, who chose to fight in the second world war to protect their country and the freedoms of those they loved. Some were forced to join the fight, others willingly stepped forth knowing that they were stepping into a horrific situation where they would be in constant danger, they would see people close to them killed and they would not come out of it alive, and if they did they would be maimed and traumatised, their lives changed forever, and not for the better. We regularly remember them and others like them, who lay down their lives to protect others. Regardless of what our thoughts are on war and politics, the sacrifice of others humbles us because it is so alien to our everyday motives for self-preservation and protecting our own lives, those of our families and shielding those closest to us from harm. Who among us can honestly say that we would choose to give up everything near and dear to us to save other people, people who may not even know or care what we personally did for them? How few among us can honestly answer ‘yes’! It is most likely that none among us, not even those front-line workers who find themselves thrown into this undesirable reality, would ever say yes. There have been times in my life, and I won’t go into details here, and perhaps there have been in yours, where I have been thrown into ‘fiery trials’ of immense pressure and personal suffering, and persevered through them, knowing that it was important to do so not only for myself but also for the good of others. But hand to my heart I didn’t choose to go through those painful trials. If for example it was the only way to help the people I love, then yes, I would choose that painful path, but if there was any other, easier way, then I would choose the painless path. There would be less growth, but there would be less pain also. Perhaps we would reluctantly ‘choose’ a difficult path because of the good that would come out of it for others and for our own characters, but it is highly unlikely that most of us would stick our hands up and volunteer to suffer.
So why have I entitled this post ‘true love’? Partly because our society exalts romantic love above ….well, most things really. If you consider the greeting cards you have seen in your lifetime, how many of them celebrated sacrificial love? How many of them were ‘thank you’ cards for brave men, women and children who put themselves at risk for others? I have never seen such a card that wasn’t hand made, and even then, before the Coronavirus, I’m not sure if I’d seen a hand made card celebrating sacrificial love. Perhaps this will change after this pandemic has passed. Perhaps greeting card companies will be printing cards celebrating the love shown by people who put their lives at risk to save others. Maybe as a society we will change the way we think about ‘love’.
Our society is obsessed with romance, and in a very selfish way. Yes, some may find ‘true love’ romantically, but how deep is this compared to sacrificial love that willingly chooses to put someone else first, even at great loss to oneself?
Just think about the vast majority of people who enter into marriages and relationships with a ‘try it and see’ kind of attitude. Think of how many lives have been touched by divorce. Think of the celebrity relationships that end because one partner no longer feels ‘fulfilled’ by the other. That’s not true love, that’s convenience, it is status, it is ‘how will this benefit me?’ Love that seeks its own benefit, is ultimately not true love, it is not the deepest or purest form of love, yet it is what we celebrate the most.
Why? Because it is prettier, it is sanitised, it makes for cuter Instagram pictures and Facebook posts!
Would people rather look at or be part of a love that sings of roses, and chocolates, blue skies, sunshine, candle-lit romantic meals, and happy company? Or would they want to look at the deeper, truer, steadfast love that never quits? A love that speaks instead of blood, sweat, tears, agony, anguish, immense personal pain, trauma, sickness, terror, fear, heartache, loss? Is this kind of deeper, truer love celebrated on greeting cards and Facebook posts? This messy, ‘ugly’, sacrificial, painfilled love that goes beyond, so far beyond the realm of ‘duty bound’ – it is a Love that *chooses* knowingly, intentionally, willingly, to suffer at great cost, for the sake of the beloved, even when the beloved is unworthy of such love, unworthy people like you and me.
Many of you will sadly go through your entire lives never experiencing first hand that kind of True Love, choosing instead to settle for the flowers and the fairy tales that will eventually fade, as beautiful as they are. But many among us have and daily continue to know first hand this True Love like no other, the most sacrificial and purest Love of all, and on Good Friday we do celebrate this love of blood, sweat, tears and agony, because it has changed our lives…not textbook, not religious change, but in reality. We celebrate the purest, truest agape (sacrificial) Love of all – that of God Who gave His Only Son as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for your sin, for mine that separated us from Him. That of The Man Christ Jesus Who knowing that the only way to rescue you and I was to suffer immensely. He chose The Cross….He chose you….the reality of His tangible presence, His True Love, has changed everything for me, and continues to.
This is Good Friday, and if you know that this commemorates the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross, for you, for me – you may wonder why on earth a day of darkness, pain, betrayal, agony, death, fear, blood, sweat and tears is celebrated as in any way ‘Good’. It’s one of the biggest questions you will ever ask in your life time. It is the day that True Love died…..but that’s not the end of the story, the Reality….and this Sacrifice has changed and continues to change the lives of people like me, and is an open invitation to every one to experience this True Love for the rest of their lives….it is an invitation that many people sadly will discard, for the sake of flowers and chocolates….the toughest choices were made by Jesus, but the choice still remains with each of us as to whether we will choose to welcome His True Love for us, or to discard His Pure Love Sacrifice for us individually.
When the time comes for me to die, I know I would rather have the love of blood, sweat and tears and sacrificial Pure Love holding me, than that of chocolates and flowers, that will melt and wither and do nothing for me. Yet the wonderful thing is none of us have to wait for death to experience the reality of this Pure Love now and everyday of our lives going forwards. Because it is not a Love that remains confined to the pages of a book, but the tangible, real Love that meets you at your worst, your messiest, your most unlovely, and chooses to go on loving you in a way no mere mortal ever could, a love that will never fail, forsake you or let you down. The difficult choice to love you like that has been made, and it will never be rescinded….but what will you choose in return?
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
Words of Encouragement (4.1):
*When home doesn’t feel like home*
In the last post we looked at the idea of creating a sense of order in the midst of chaos…exploring the idea of our homes being like a lighthouse in the midst of a storm.
I want to continue to think about the idea of establishing safety, this time acknowledging that being at home, whether alone or with other people, doesn’t always feel safe.
This touches very lightly the surface of some very deep and potentially dark issues, many of which are beyond the scope of this short post. There are all types of issues that could press upon your sense of safety within the home from feelings of depression and anxiety, loneliness, to domestic abuse, child abuse, and also even the stress of living in a space with other people with little sense of freedom, which overtime can lead to feelings of entrapment, fear and depression.
In a unique situation like the one we find ourselves in, in the case of this pandemic, we may not have access to the sources of support that would normally be available and this can be particularly tough for some people who are experiencing any of the things I’ve mentioned above. Devastatingly, some people can and perhaps will slip through the net, and my heart goes out to them.
Knowing this makes it difficult to write this post, however, I’d like to offer a glimmer of hope that there are helplines, support groups and other online resources that can help you through this difficult time. A quick ‘Google’ search shows me that there is a variety of resources in local areas, and perhaps with the many support groups springing up around the Covid-19 situation this may mean more opportunities to get some kind of help, even in the interim. In the UK you can phone the Samaritans, access online resources on mental health such as ‘Mind’, reach out to a friend by telephone if possible. Perhaps if you are concerned about a child’s safety at home, you could report this. If anyone reading this has particular knowledge of what to do and how to help people in such circumstances or who fall under other vulnerable categories, and who need a lifeline right now, please comment below with resources and contact details for organisations that can help, where possible. Thank you ❤ Let’s pray that as few people as possible slip through the net.
I will follow this up with a post 4.2 for managing the stresses of being at home where your safety isn’t actually at risk, but when things sometimes just feel too much. Take care, stay safe and well.
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
Sometimes although it may seem easier in the moment to say ‘yes’ to people, it is actually kinder and healthier to say ‘no’ – know your boundaries and don’t feel bad for looking after yourself, for it will help others in the longer term too, even if that involves temporary disappointment.
Most people have a cause or purpose that is close to their heart. At the core of all of mine is the desire to live for the Glory of God because of His great love in laying down His life to forgive me, heal me, cleanse me, give me new life and make me His forever.
You could say that is the centre of the ‘wheel’ out of which come several other ‘spokes’.
Some of these other spokes include involvement in my church and various initiatives to help others; being there for my family and friends; nurturing and building up younger people where and when I can; writing my book; personal development; recovery. It also includes the desire to inspire other people, to encourage people to overcome mental health challenges and lead a better quality of life, to build people up, and to help those who are struggling with things such as bullying, PTSD, depression, anxiety and so forth. This is just one part of my life, but an important one, and one which my blog is a key avenue for reaching out with advice and encouragement, guidance, tips and tricks, sharing personal experience and sharing hope. Why is it important? Because people are important and my story of struggle has led me to one of being an encourager, of speaking ‘life’ through my words, and I am thankful that this blog platform gives me an avenue of opportunity to do that.
There are many other causes and things that are close to my heart or that I care about and seek to be involved with in some way or another, even if my efforts are little. At one point in time, and linked to the work I was doing about a decade ago, my ’cause’ or passion was focused on praying for and raising awareness about victims of human trafficking, and also other ‘spokes’ related to the persecuted church, environmentalism, reaching out to older vulnerable people, and homeless people, and being involved with international human rights charities. Each spoke had its own little place, nothing grand or deserving of any fanfare, just humble little parts of a bigger ‘wheel’ with God at the centre. Each for a season. And the wheels will go around in their time again and perhaps those seasons and ’causes’ will be revisited as a focus of attention.
I have a number of friends who are equally passionate about various things. Some friends work abroad as missionaries, others are passionate about taking up the baton of challenging human trafficking, for others their focus is veganism and have set up charities and groups to further their cause. Some due to their own health challenges are seeking solutions for others in similar circumstances to them, campaigning and advocating for the use of certain treatments. Others want to raise awareness of autism because of their experiences of being parents of an autistic child. Some are keenly involved with environmental causes. Others in raising awareness and fundraising for dementia, Alzheimer’s, cancer, stroke and so forth, because of how these things have touched either their lives or the lives of their loved ones or friends. Some people make their passion, their ’cause’, their charitable inclination into a ‘religion’ of sorts. For me, all these things are a part of a much bigger purpose and to be submitted to God and His plans, purposes and direction.
Whether or not you believe in God, you’ll be aware simply from living in this world that there are many people who want to make a change for the better. In your own life you may think of examples of how certain things have been important to you in terms of social justice, human rights, environmental protection, animal welfare, and so on and so forth at different times in your life. Some people seek to make a change through their jobs, through politics, through joining a group, or giving to charities. The point I’m making I suppose is that there is so much need in the world, and so many people we know have their own particular focus, which is positive in that many people are ‘doing their bit’ to make a change, and that way different changes can be made by a diversity of people all doing something. We can’t all be the same, and we don’t always even have the same focus as we did a few years ago, or that we might have a few years from now. Priorities change, and there are times and seasons in our lives.
While you may be surrounded by passionate people who want to make a difference and who may feel like their cause is of most urgent importance (I personally believe that, underpinning everything else that is temporal, praying for people’s eternal salvation and sharing The Truth of Jesus Christ is of utmost importance), your focus may be different to theirs at this moment in time, and that is probably a good thing as it encourages learning, growth and development. Everyone is building their own part of the wall rather than everyone focusing on bridging just one gap to the detriment of the rest of the structure.
I have a variety of friends who have approached me at different points to get involved with the things that they are passionate about. These might be small things or potentially things that may involve more time and commitment. I wonder if you are the same? These requests might come in the form of signing a petition, attending an event, writing for a website, giving time, money, ideas and so forth. It’s great when we can do our bit, but we can’t do it all and it’s important to know that it’s ok to focus on what is important in our lives without feeling the need to be pulled in all directions.
Everyone has a part to play and everyone will play their part (even if it is just one small scene in this time of their lives) better if they are focused. If many people are asking many things of you don’t be afraid to take a step back to assess your priorities in this season of your life. You are only meant to carry so much. The desire to inspire is wonderful, but acknowledge that the priorities and causes of other people in your life may be different than your own, and that’s possibly a good thing. Keep focused on the part that you were called to play, and inspire others as you go. x
Triumphing over trauma is a process. It isn’t always a ‘linear’ one, but it is very much a possibility.
One of the first key steps in overcoming trauma, or at least beginning on the road to recovery, is the very practical one of establishing safety and security. I don’t know if anyone can recover from trauma while in the midst of it – I don’t think that’s possible, is it? Establishing safety is therefore crucial.
Safety means getting out of the harmful situations and into a place of protection. It means that your physical wellbeing isn’t threatened by external forces. At this point you may be more than likely to experience the unprocessed experiences of your trauma through flashbacks, nightmares, chronic pain, sensory overload, breakdown and a whole host of PTSD symptoms. If you’ve come through this you’ll know how tough this can be and it’s vital to get support from a professional as well as to build up a network of caring individuals that you can turn to, whether from charitable organisations that exist to help trauma survivors, or friends and family members. This can take years, so don’t give up. It really does take time, but healing and recovery is possible.
Safety also means that your basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, etc. are being met and that you are able to establish some kind of stability, routine and perhaps also crucially to work through a care package with a professional.
It might take months, it might take years, it might take decades, but if you continue on the positive path of recovery then at some stage you will hopefully be ready to reintegrate socially, making connections and contributions to society. Routines are very helpful in any recovery process as it establishes a system for the brain to follow, which helps prevent ‘relapse’.
So say you, or someone you know, has passed through these stages and you are now ready to not merely survive, but to Triumph over trauma. How do you do this? Sometimes people say things, and they become helpful little nuggets of truth to help us along our way. One doctor once told me (and this wasn’t even a particularly helpful doctor as her manner was very abrupt and even hurtful at times, but even so she has left a productive input in my life in some way) that I needed to begin building up positive experiences.
It seems obvious doesn’t it? Yet when you’re in a tough and dark place and your brain has been ‘put through the mill’ of negativity time after time, then it can be very difficult to see how that is even a possibility. However, what the doctor said stuck with me, as obvious as it may seem, and I set out on a path to build up positive experiences for myself and this wasn’t easy to do because of the negative forces I was fighting against.
However, this my friends, is a significant key to becoming Triumphant over trauma. It’s not the only key, nor even necessarily the main one, but it is very important. Your brain in trauma is overcrowded and clouded with negative ‘reference points’ and your thoughts will keep lapsing back to these traumatic experiences, emotions and memories unless you give your brain, your mind, somewhere better to go.
Initially, as another doctor taught me, this might be in the form of visualisation, of very simple and short ‘positive experiences’ such as through ‘grounding techniques’, breathing exercises and focusing on gratitude. These are ‘easy breezy’ for many non-trauma sufferers, but for those who have had their brains turned inside out and upside down in somewhat of a nightmare, it takes real effort, perseverance, commitment, diligence and determination and will most probably also be accompanied by several tears, some sleepless nights, anxiety or panic and so forth. Push on through….the view is worth it on the other side!
Over time the positive experiences you are building into your life will grow in possibility. You can focus on your senses and begin to actually enjoy living, even if only for a few seconds at a time at first. Taste your food. Smell the sea breeze. Feel the fresh air wrap around you. See the colour of the autumn leaves. Hear the bird song.
You may then be able to integrate such positive experiences with ‘self care’ such as taking a bath, and taking care of your self. Gradually you may build up to include hobbies as creativity can help reduce chronic pain (such a blessing to me as a mental and physical pain reliever!) as it engages certain parts of your brain linked to concentration and pleasure sensations. This might involve tactile hobbies too such as gardening, knitting, cross stitch, photography, music, drawing, painting, singing, dance, adult colouring, cooking and so forth. It could also include ‘brain training’ by doing puzzles and quizzes and building up your time with these from seconds, to minutes to even hours as your concentration and ability to regulate your nervous system improves and is strengthened.
Hopefully in time the positive experiences will also come to include trusting friendships and social and emotional connections, social events even if just little baby steps at first (it certainly was for me), and then as you build and build and build upon your resilience, your mind will be mapping out many new neural pathways and connections of positive experiences that will at first soften the ‘relapses’ and then gradually over time become new ‘reference points’ for you mentally and emotionally. And after that, what could possibly stop you from being and living Victoriously and Triumphing over trauma?! 🙂 x
Have you ever seen those pictures in magazines or online, of people relaxing in their ‘dream home’, on their ‘dream holiday’ or with their ‘dream family’ in their ideal ‘dream life’?
We all know they are posed by models, but what kind of image do they present to us? The people invariably look relaxed, peaceful, calm, serene, content or happy.
We look at such pictures and we are only partly taken in by the blissful surroundings. The other thing that resonates with us is how peaceful and calm the people in such pictures look.
Isn’t this part of our dreams for ourselves? We have all experienced situations when we have looked externally to someone or something to make us feel better, happier, calmer or more at peace. Have you also experienced the accompanying disappointment when things don’t quite match up to your ideals? Perhaps the family holiday you planned didn’t turn out quite like the ones in the pictures, and instead you picked up suitcases of stress, frustration and weariness. Maybe that new outfit or piece of clothing made you feel happy for a moment but soon the novelty of it wore off, and it felt old after a while. Maybe escaping by yourself to a quiet place in nature was also accompanied by not so pleasant weather, by insects and other less peaceful aspects of the great outdoors.
Peace of mind and happiness only partly relates to our happenings. When we envisage the life of our dreams, we need to take this into account. Some situations in life are just bad and we need to find a way out of or through them, there’s no doubt about that. However, perhaps we have gone through some tough times or struggles or inconveniences in life and have managed to order our external worlds and yet that hasn’t necessarily brought us the peace of mind that we have been searching for.
One example of this in my own life is when I bought my first flat, moved in, and then had a bit of a breakdown and c-PTSD, depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Things like this happen in life sometimes, and even if you are fortunate enough to get through life without any major challenges, you still have your own mind to manage on a day to day basis.
Whatever your journey has been so far, as we step into the new, we all could benefit from greater peace of mind.
This means being aware of the internal reactions we have, and finding a way to manage or overcome some of the more difficult things. It might take a bit of work, but the kind of mental resilience that helps us live more mentally peaceful lives is worth the time, effort and sometimes the tears and facing up to our fears.
It’s an on-going effort for all of us as humans in a world where we suffer, we are faced with ‘information overload’ sometimes, we face stress and challenges, yet as we move through this new year into what we hope to be one where our ‘dreams come true’ let us remind ourselves and each other that this does not depend merely on our circumstances but also on how we think. Is this the year for you to seek help and support to enable you to manage some of the difficult things in your mind? Is it the year to build up on what you have been learning in creating resilience? Is it the year to seek out inspiration? Is it the year to inspire from all that you have learned? Wherever you find yourself, things can be better, your mind can become a calmer and more peaceful place and it is worth putting in the effort daily to make it so. 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.