Tag Archives: illness

Your unique value and worth…

Well dear friends, I’m back – and my latest news is that I got Covid for the first (and hopefully only) time. I tested positive on 5th October and have since had negative tests, but it seems that I’m suffering from a form of long-covid, and I hope and trust that in time it will pass and I’ll be back to strength again. But it has been somewhat of a rough ride at times with the exhaustion, shakiness, fatigue, breathlessness, inability to do much at home and the ‘brain fog’ and mental stress, emotions and anxiety and confusion in sleeping and waking hours. I know people have different symptoms but in addition to the cough and cold like symptoms earlier on these have been some of mine and in the early stages they were quite severe and I was unable to get out of bed for long and had restless sleep or attempts to sleep. I’m finally sitting up and able to blog, so that is progress. Perhaps writing will help me to shed some light on what I’ve learned.

There is Light

Being unwell can be a scary place to be, especially when our bodies and minds feel like they are vulnerable, weak and not doing what they were created to do in being healthy and able. We feel the value and fragility of life. I’m feeling much more myself now, but I’m not there yet. I’m sitting up or able to rest in bed and do a few more tasks at home without as much fatigue as before, which is wonderful, but I still need to conserve a lot of energy as I fully recover. For the most part I’ve been on my own during this time, with a bit of time staying with family in between, and am on my own today again. In the early stages I was on my own (I don’t say alone), but so thankful for regular phone conversations and emails with family and friends and doctors, even though I couldn’t speak for long.

Being unwell with Covid has made me grateful for the things that give life and that are easily taken for granted on ‘normal’ days. As many of you know who read my blog for mental health encouragement, I have had many struggles with anxiety and panic attacks over the years, and in the past, c-PTSD, so I know what it is like to struggle to breathe or to experience mental distress. However, with Covid I’ve been reminded of just how precious something so simple and profound as our breath is. I wrote previously about how our lives are like a breath, a vapour, and when we can’t breathe properly, we are reminded of our frailty, our vulnerability, our need. I’m reminded of the things I have at times taken for granted (although I’ve been more aware of being grateful for them since seeing a good friend suffer for a while in hospital and with long term health conditions) like being able to walk for long periods of time, or being able to walk at all, to sit up and eat and do things for myself, of feeling young and healthy and alive.

Despite the distressing side of those experiences, I have also been held and lifted and drawn closer to Christ and felt the reality of God’s Peace and Presence with me at times of need. I know this may seem strange to some of you reading this, but there Is a Real and Living God Who we can have relationship with through Jesus Christ and He was there for me, counselling me and carrying me through. I’ve been able to receive this in this season as I digest the truth of His Word in Romans that I have received the Spirit of adoption (not the spirit of bondage again to fear) by Whom I can call out to God as His child. This reality has been precious to me, even as I wrestle and struggle with my broken humanity of weakness, distress and fear, there is a Peace in Christ that transcends that and all understanding, and it was made real to me afresh that beyond ‘religion’ there is something so much more, and that nothing can separate me from the Love of God in Christ Jesus. Often we (or perhaps I) feel better about ourselves when we are fit and able (although as I mentioned I have ongoing battles with anxiety and an overactive brain that can be distressing at times), when able to connect with and interact with other people, when able to look nice and go outside and enjoy walks, or lunches with friends, when we’re able to help other people, or are looked upon favourably and complimented and feel healthy and well. When we’re unwell, we’re not at our best and our bodies and minds can make us vulnerable physically, mentally, emotionally. It has been a huge source of comfort to know that I’m known and completely loved even when I’m struggling or not feeling my best, and that this goes beyond human opinion. I know there will be brighter days ahead when once again I’ll feel and look good and healthy and vibrant and able to go out and connect with others, but none of us know how long these things last, and for anyone no matter what health or circumstances may take we can know a love that will never leave, and that has been my Light in this, as well as the care of friends and family. But to be known and valued at the depths of who we are….that can only be found in Christ, and I have that greatest treasure…in sickness, and in health….ultimately in life and in death.

And that is where our unique value and worth is found. No matter what people may have said or done, no matter what age or health may do, there is a perfect love that is boundless for those who are in Christ Jesus, one that comforts us in the night watches, one that will last beyond the grave and usher in eternal life where there will be no more sickness, sorrow, pain or death. This knowing, this relationship, this love is the greatest treasure of life and sometimes we find it in times of weakness or fear. He Is Real, He knows you….

Recovery

I’m thankful for the strength and health to be able to write a blog post again. I realise that having the cognitive functions to be able to do so, to be able to remember things, to be able to touch type and form words and sentences with meaning that might actually help or encourage another precious soul are gifts and blessings far beyond my ability to appreciate. I’m so blessed with all the things I can ‘normally’ do without thinking about them, and maybe sometimes we realise this only when we see our vulnerability to not having them. Perhaps recovery will take time, but I hope it will be a full one.

I have become more mindful of people who have longer term health conditions, and who physically have to deal with things without the chance of restoration that I have. I have no doubt I’ll be back to health even if it takes a few more weeks, but I have friends who may have life long conditions now who once were extremely fit and healthy and active. While I will recover and be able to tidy up again without getting tired, or go for walks and breathe normally again, there are dear friends of mine, and many more who I don’t know and perhaps some of you reading this who will not be able to do so. And the insight of the weakness, fear and vulnerability of not being able to do simple things for oneself has been humbling. While I am optimistic and hopeful and feeling certain that I’m slowly but surely going to get better, there have been times when it has been worrying and I’ve not known how to manage, but there are people who will have to live with life long conditions and need care and help from others. I can’t imagine that and my heart goes out to you / them as I’ve gained this little bit of insight.

May whatever lesson life is showing you just now lead you to the deepest, purest most sacrificial love of the One Who identified completely with our weakness, frailty, sin and death so that we can go free. May it help you to grow in compassion for those who are suffering and to grow in depths of enjoyment for all those little things you have in life that are in fact the big things – like being able to see these words on a screen, to understand them and not forget or be confused, like being able to be present in this moment, to feed yourself and go outside for a walk if you can walk, to breathe and feel your lungs working, to go through your day even with its pressures and not collapse with fatigue. May these as well as the other many wonderful things we have like friendships, family, sunsets, community, love, faith, good food, health, homes, jobs, encouragement from people who care for us, bring even greater joy to your soul even in this troubled world.

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

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Trauma & Recovery ~ be patient through the process.

It’s 00:50 hrs. I can’t sleep. I’m in the midst of the healing process – not always comfortable – and I’m trying to distract myself. I’ve come a long way. A very long way. It’s miraculous that I’m here writing this, and sometimes I forget that. I forget it perhaps because in part I have tried to ‘block out’ the reality of what I had to go through to get here, in order that I can press ahead with my life. But if, like me, you’ve been through or are going through your own recovery process, then you’ll know that sometimes you just have to stop a while, before it all stops you.

Bits and pieces

My great desire is to be a voice of encouragement to someone else going through tough times, like me. Maybe that someone is you, and maybe you have something to share with the world to encourage each other too. I pray over this blog, and I believe that if you’ve stumbled upon it, then it’s not really ‘by chance’. In some way, beyond our understanding, maybe we are meant to connect, to allow our paths, our stories, our healing journeys to coincide.

If you’ve been through trauma, or any kind of suffering, perhaps in your younger, formative years, such that it affected your very sense of self and identity, and if you are a survivor, then you might recognise certain patterns in your psychological survival mechanisms after the circumstances have passed.

I’m not an expert, I’ve read and researched a bit, but I write mainly from painful  experience, authentic, real, lived out experience. People wouldn’t know just from looking at me. Maybe you know what I mean?

First the trauma, maybe repeated trauma, maybe over a period of years. You’re in fight / flight / freeze mode, and ‘exist’ in that way even after the events have passed….long after….your body, mind, brain, nervous system – they’ve all been conditioned that way.

You’re not whole, your insides….well, they’re all in bits and pieces, just like your fragmented memories, your overwhelming emotions, your identity, your life.

‘Getting away’

Fortunately, life comes in waves, in seasons, and nothing stays the same. The darkest of days endure too long, but they also pass. However, even though the events, the seasons, the lived reality passes, it’s still in you, part of you, and you can’t just ‘shake it off’.

So you try to get away. At least, that’s what I did. You can’t always get away physically but perhaps you do. Some of the ways I tried to ‘get away’ from the mess and hurt of it all was to put my head down and ‘over achieve’. I focused on my studies, I aced them, but I couldn’t cope with human interaction. I was so, so very broken, and so terribly afraid. Can you relate? Maybe that’s part of your own story too?

Getting away also in some ways meant telling myself those things are behind me, even though I was crippled and shackled by the piercing pain, I tried to imagine my way out of things – to dream of a future, to overcompensate in trying to think of myself in a new way, whereas all of that was just trying to assuage a wound (as if trying to heal a disease with a band-aid / plaster) that was far too deep to be assuaged, without first coming to the surface in all its awfulness, exposed and therefore painful, leaving me vulnerable, but only then with a chance of real healing.

Breakdown or breakthrough?

Have you lived this too? When you can no longer cope with normal day to day things, when getting through and surviving really is just a facade, and your body, brain and all that you are just won’t let you go any further? The ‘disease’, the trauma in you, is screaming to get out, to be released….and ‘sorry kid, it’s going to hurt a heck of a lot for a long time before it gets any better’.

That’s the short, sweet and sugar coated summary of my experience. It HURT. Goodness, did it all hurt! You know what I’m talking about? Friend, you’re not alone.

What might breakdown look like? Unrelenting panic attacks, inability to function, severe depression, fear, anxiety, flashbacks, C-PTSD symptoms, suicidal ideation, dissociation, nightmares, poor health, weakness, being awake in a ‘nightmare’, avoidance, crying, helplessness, crippling pain, re-experiencing childhood trauma, poor relationships with food and other ‘crutches’ or control mechanisms, relationships falling apart, psychosis, and oh how the list can endlessly go on.

But if you imagine the state of play when someone has a disease, or needs to undergo an intensive operation, then you know logically that things have to get a whole lot worse before they begin to get any better. And perhaps the breakdown is a gateway to a breakthrough. Pus is released, the ‘boil’ is lanced, the intensive operation gets to the ‘root’ of the problem, and only through this messy, painful and unpleasant ‘recovery’ process can things begin to heal.

And truly, we need a Great Physician to do that deep healing work, that purification, bringing the forgiveness, healing, love and restoration that only Christ can bring.

When you want to move forward but your body and mind won’t let you.

I have to encourage myself right now and I hope I can encourage you too. It’s admirable that we’ve got this far, and that we have a vision of leaving it all behind to positively press on into a brighter and purposeful future where we can use the pain and trauma to do good in the world and to help other people.

We’ve got the vision, the goals even plans, but our bodies are in some kind of psychological and emotional toxic shock and we are ‘stuck’. Recovery doesn’t happen over night. We get help, we learn tools and techniques, we cry out for Help and we receive a touch of Grace. But recovery is seldom a linear process and that is a tough and frustrating reality.

Building blocks and stepping stones.

But just for a minute, in case you are getting discouraged, think of how far we have come already. Sure, it would be great to not feel that turmoil of mind, and just press ahead and accomplish what we want to, but we need to be aware of what our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits are saying to us for they might be all telling us to slow down, even to stop….and to heal.

It takes time, practice and patience. It is frustrating, and tough. But these building blocks are stepping stones to the future, and we can’t miss out these ‘baby steps’….of learning to crawl, to breathe, before we can consider walking, running, or even some day taking off in flight, to soar far above the rubble we’ve left behind.

What about right now? 

I’m advising myself, that sometimes we’ve just got to sit through it, bear with it, ‘tough it out’, and let the healing process have its place. We need time and space to get better, and sometimes that means admitting what we perceive to be a (temporary) ‘failure’ – of realising what we can’t do, at least not right now, and giving ourselves the time to recover, train and grow strong so that someday we can do it.

Right now, I’m holding on, being Held, muddling through, finding perspective. You know what I mean, right?

This is it, and this is where ‘life happens to be’ right now – no great offerings of advice, just telling it as it is, and hoping that together we can find the strength and courage to take that one next step in the right direction. I’m rooting for you, and I hope you’re rooting for me too. Be blessed. x

brown and white bear plush toy
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A sensitive mind at work…

Friends, I admit I’ve been struggling a bit. The mental, emotional and spiritual renewal continues and with C-PTSD, etc. things sometimes get more challenging before they get better. I’m pleased to think that I’m through the worst of it after many years of suffering. And I’m generally doing pretty well. However, the ups and downs still come and go, and I can feel the physical pain in my head, in my mind and the churning over and reprocessing of thoughts and experiences. I’m in a place where I’m quite aware of what may be happening and what ‘tools and techniques’ I can employ to help myself.

If you also have health challenges and go out to work where you have to encounter other people, you know that this can in itself present a whole host of challenges for you to overcome or manage. Sometimes these can be very significant, such as in my previous experience, needing help to advocate for reasonable adjustments (which I’m pleased to say I finally have been granted), to managing your wellbeing in the workplace, in amongst the unpredictability of other colleagues who may not understand, in my case, ‘hidden disabilities’.

Today, I had an encounter with a colleague / friend who when I went to the kitchen was asking about train times and delays as we often get the same train. As we walked back to our desks through the open plan floor, she thought I had got a much earlier train, and expressed in her normal voice which is fairly loud as I walked passed colleagues her thoughts about my morning routine. She is a work friend and respects my high quality of work and knows about my conditions, and I have done work to help her, but perhaps she didn’t realise that talking about such things even in passing in a public environment was very uncomfortable for me.

She said, oh have you started getting up earlier and changed your morning routine. I expressed quietly that I still struggle a lot in the mornings with my health, not wanting to go into detail and she expressed that she knew that but didn’t think it would always be the case and that people can change. She wasn’t trying to be inappropriate but in front of people who may judge me or not understand or know about my condition it could be taken as someone being lazy or not committed rather than someone fighting hard every day to stay in work and manage some severe symptoms.

I kind of expressed that I have been trying but it is still difficult, and as she mentioned my morning routine I just said, ‘I’m trying, it’s still hard, maybe next year’.

Something so small can trip us up. There are big and little challenges at work, and sometimes people are just inappropriate when they’re just making conversation or not meaning to be. For people with existing mental health conditions, these ‘niggling’ things can build up to have an impact on how we are around our colleagues.

I personally want to retreat from people and just put my head down and get on with things. Thankfully I’m known among managers and other staff to be an excellent worker and always go above and beyond with a high quality of work. But not everyone knows that. And not everyone on the open floor who overhears these snippets of conversations knows that.

We all have different ways of dealing with things. Perhaps someone would raise it in conversation or a polite email with the person talking out of turn in a public place. I haven’t done that, I’ll let it slide, it’s more in my mind than it probably is to other people. But nonetheless, it did affect me.

And that’s all I really know to say. Not a post about what you should do, but just one to share and to find help any encouragement myself from simply getting it out my head, as it’s not good to keep things inside, but also it’s not always the best course of action to express this to the person in question…I don’t know….?. Sometimes just doing that externalising of our thoughts on ‘paper’ is the first step to growing in confidence and holding our heads high at work. Because even if other people don’t see what we go through just to make it through, the tears, the sleepless nights, the panic and anxiety attacks, the nightmares, the dizziness the fear etc etc….we know….and can walk in integrity knowing that we’re doing our best.

Sorry that this wasn’t more positive a post – it just got to me a bit but I’ll come back with more encouragement soon. x

two women using on black laptop computer
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Stay in Training – Recover with Focus.

We all know that life can be tough. For many of us, we’ve had to fight through some dark times in our lives, and having put so much effort into surviving, we find that in certain areas we are stronger – stronger than before certainly, and perhaps also stronger than had we not gone through what we went through.

However, I don’t agree with the phrase, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. It’s got a positive sentiment behind it, but the fact of the matter is that the things in life that can crush us, challenge us and hurt us the most don’t in and of themselves make us stronger: it’s what we do with those things, how we respond, whether we sink or swim, and that’s where the training comes in.

adult architecture athlete boardwalk
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What’s your problem?

I don’t use that sub-heading flippantly. It’s simply the case that we all have problems to differing degrees. However, for some of us, we have long-standing things that on a regular basis we have to work hard to first survive, then try to stay on top of, and ultimately to overcome so that we can move from surviving to thriving and helping other people along the way.

The thing is, as you may well know from your own experiences in life, that these processes are rarely linear. We have peaks and troughs, ups and downs, awful days and pretty good days. We might have days when we begin to forget that we have such problems, and others when there is no way humanly possible for us not to remember because those days are tough, so tough we may feel we can’t even go on in life.

So what is your problem? Is it chronic illness or chronic pain? Mental, emotional and psychological suffering? Poor health? Anxiety, fear, depression? The burden of being a carer? PTSD, panic attacks, social anxiety? An eating disorder, poor body image, OCD? Grief, abuse, relationship breakdowns, loneliness, isolation? Addiction? Confusion?……sadly, in this fallen world, the list goes on….

Whatever it is, my heart goes out to you, and I’d like to encourage you firstly that you’re not alone, and secondly that you are pretty amazing and have made it so far already. If you’ve made it this far with any of the above, or anything else you can think of that you would fill in the gaps with, then you probably have some idea of what tools and techniques you can use to help you on a day to day basis.

What’s your solution?

At the deepest level, I believe the root of our problems needs a solution that goes beyond anything we or others can do to help us. I believe we need God. However, on a practical and day to day level there are things we can do to help ourselves and other people even if that level of help is just to get by, to cope, to move forwards, to begin to get better, to be better than before.

We need to use the good days as well as the bad to take time to really figure out the healthy things that help us through. For some people, I realise you are all but completely dependent on other people for help and support, and I can’t imagine how tough that may be, but I hope and pray that the people caring for you are kind and supportive in every way.

For those of us who can for the most part do things for ourselves, even if we need help with that, then we need to be resolute in figuring out what is beneficial and what we need to maintain to help us in our recovery, in getting stronger, in our lives.

What could some of these things be?

Perhaps for example: emergency contact numbers, supportive friends and family, a daily routine, remembering to take your medication, a healthy meal plan and exercise routine, hobbies, mental health and self care resources and so forth.

Do I need to train on the good days?

Basically, yes. You do and so do I. By ‘training’ I don’t mean going to the gym or physically working out. What I do mean is that we need to persist in the healthy habits that help us move out of crisis, out of survival and into maintaining a more balanced day to day existence. Because no doubt, or at least in my experience it has very much been the case, those more difficult days can sometimes come ‘out of the blue’ and when we are not prepared, we might have an emotional response to coping with those difficulties that can be detrimental for us. If we stay in training, if we keep up our healthy habits, routines and practices, then on those difficult days, we are more likely to turn to those for help, we have a ‘fall back’, something that has become intuitive and habitual that can help to guard us against those less helpful, or even very damaging coping mechanisms.

So for example, my ‘healthy’ coping mechanisms are staying in a routine, breathing exercises, time in nature, keeping in contact with family and friends, taking medicine, training my mind with brain training exercises, meditating on Scripture, prayer, walks in the fresh air, creativity, some physical exercise and eating well. They can also include writing down my thoughts, blogging, photography, things to get my mind off my pain and my struggles and to grow stronger in a positive focus. I also have certain songs that are encouraging as music can have a really powerful effect and can make a real positive difference when we allow the right things into our minds. I might also turn to other forms of writing, I might plan my day, work to keep my home and environment about me tidy and calming, and read and think about affirmations that I have already prepared.

On tough days, all of our helpful coping mechanisms can ‘go out the window’. However, we are more likely to be able to reach out and grasp for at least one helpful coping technique if we ‘stay in training’ on the good days as well as the bad. I can see how far I have come, or at least begin to be able to see, in thinking about what I have listed as my healthy coping techniques. A few years ago they would most likely have been reaching out for professional help via crisis helplines, support workers, and key family and friends who knew about my struggles. Now, a few years on and I don’t even think of calling those helplines, I don’t need to, and part of that is the resilience and strength that comes from daily training and forming new and healthy habits and means of coping.

What about you? Reflecting back on your own journey, can you think of ways that you have grown and changed that might encourage you as you move forward?

Why do I need to work at it, even on the good days?

Why? Because when we struggle, ‘relapse’ or get into difficulty, we usually have emotional and psychological reactions, and sometimes these can be quite intense. We seek immediate ‘fixes’ or ways to numb the pain, block it out, cope with it, or to feel better some how. If we aren’t training regularly then we are more likely to fall into (or fall back into) unhealthy ‘fixes’.

For me, my unhealthy responses tend to be comfort eating, escapism through ‘binge watching’ shows, negative self talk which can trigger relapses into depression, PTSD, anxiety, etc. I also tend to isolate myself, retreat, avoid company, and try to ‘fix’ things psychologically by maybe watching or reading about other people’s stories online, but when I’m vulnerable I can end up in a dark place. Knowing this, and having experienced it, I realise that it is crucial to keep working at it on the better days, because then my healthier coping mechanisms will have formed pathways and patterns in my brain that make it easier for me to turn to them as a ‘fall back’ than to these other things.

Some people may turn to much more dangerous ways of coping with their pain and struggles. This might (*TRIGGER WARNING*) involve drugs, alcohol, self-harm, anger, lashing out, etcetera. This can quickly cause one to relapse and fall back into that hole they had tried and worked so hard to get out of.  This is why we need to work at things everyday. And by doing so, we give not only ourselves a better chance of getting better, making progress and thriving but we also give other people the chance to benefit from the help we will be able to give them if we keep working at getting stronger.

Wherever you are on your journey, think about the positive things that you need to keep doing in your life to stay on track. Don’t be discouraged if you have fallen into that pit – call out for help, and keep getting stronger, stay in training EVERY DAY, and never give up. I believe in you. x