If you’ve been enjoying my ‘Self Care in a Pandemic’ series (I think we’re on number 40 something already!), don’t worry, this is just a momentary pause in the proceedings while I share a book recommendation with you.
Today I finished re-reading Katie Piper’s very helpful book “Things Get Better”, for the second time.
I’m inspired and uplifted by Katie Piper’s input into the world. You may already know her story and journey of recovery from victim to survivor to thriving overcomer, as I see it, but if you don’t then I’ll leave it to you to do a little internet search to learn more about the woman in her own words.
I first read her autobiography, “Beautiful” a year or so ago, and I then read the continuation of that “Beautiful Ever After”. These are autobiographical accounts of how she suffered after extreme attacks, and how her experiences of life from rock bottom to receiving medical and psychological help, then finding faith which she mentions briefly, and finding in herself a fighting spirit to recover and then to set up a charity to help other people. She thought she would never have any kind of life again, but now is thriving doing work to help other people and even has a family of her own.
This book, however, “Things Get Better” is one which could probably be classified in the ‘self care’ genre. If you are struggling with anything in life, you are bound to find inspiration and practical advice to help you take the next steps forward, and know that you are not alone.
It has really helped me, as Katie starts out the book with a chapter on her experience of ‘Rock Bottom’ in life. Can anyone relate? She describes her recovery journey, and how to overcome set backs and plateaus and keep moving forwards.
If you are facing recovery of any kind, or have issues in your life that you are trying to overcome that you need some help and direction with then this is a very accessible book that may just help and encourage you to find and take your next step in your healing journey.
Even if you don’t think these things apply to you, it might be a fascinating read if you are trying to relate to someone else who is needing some help or support in hard times.
So, that’s my first book recommendation of 2021. I gained from it so much that I read it twice, and so I thought I’d share it with you as well in case you are also able to benefit.
Take care, and keep an eye out for the next blog post in my ‘Self Care in a Pandemic’ series. x
<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80"><strong>An example of positivity:</strong>An example of positivity:
<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">When lockdown initially started in the UK, one of my role models, Katie Piper (please, please look her up if you don't know about her already – she is a fantastic example of an overcomer if ever you needed one!) was asked on a breakfast TV interview how she and her family are coping with being 'stuck at home'. When lockdown initially started in the UK, one of my role models, Katie Piper (please, please look her up if you don’t know about her already – she is a fantastic example of an overcomer if ever you needed one!) was asked on a breakfast TV interview how she and her family are coping with being ‘stuck at home’.
Katie, a self-confessed survivor and thriver (despite being the physical victim of a brutal assault and acid attack in 2008, with the multiple traumas and stages of physical and psychological recovery that follow from that) was very quick to challenge the language of the question asked and turn it on its head. Instead of complaining about being ‘stuck at home’, she was quick to show her gratitude for being ‘safe at home’. Katie’s awareness of the power of language and thought is, I believe, a crucial aspect of her resilience and recovery. She is now an ambassador for burns survivors, has a charitable foundation to help others who experienced similar things to her, is a wife, a mother of two little girls, an author of various biographies of different stages of her recovery journey, and of self help and encouragement books. She has her own beauty product range, has hosted various television documentaries looking at the lives of people who suffer from being stigmatised by society for being ‘different’ in some way, and has also had a stint training with the Police for another television programme she was involved in. She has been on the television programme ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ in the UK, and has run marathons for charity, and continues to push through the negative attitudes of a society that still judges people based on appearance. Recently after an eye operation which was required because of ongoing injuries due to the acid attack, Katie was ‘trolled’ on social media by people abusing her verbally because of the damage done to her face. Personally I and many others think she is a beautiful and brave human being and she continues to speak out and raise awareness about social stigmas and the way we should treat each other. She has another speaking tour planned for 2021, obviously depending on how things are with the pandemic, but at the age of just 37 years old she is a formidable force of recovery and positivity.
I’m currently re-reading a book of hers that I read earlier this year. It’s called ‘Things get better’ and it starts out with Katie describing her ‘rock bottom’ after her attacks and awakening from a coma, so marred by the acid that she was barely recognisable to her own parents, and she longed for death. In severe psychological and physical trauma, the prognosis for her by most of the experts was extremely bleak. She was not expected to walk properly or be able to live independently and it was considered hugely likely that her mother would have to be her full time carer for life. Now just look at her go!
Katie, despite being desperately crushed and broken by her experiences, found a way to challenge her thinking patterns from victim to survivor (and in my opinion to an overcoming thriver, if not ‘superstar’ 🙂 ).
How can we look at things differently?
I wonder if you and I can take something from this incredible example? I think as a starting point it’s good to be honest with ourselves with where we are in how we are thinking and feeling about things in this pandemic. But let that be a starting point rather than an end result.
Maybe we’ll find we have some things in common with what we are being challenged to overcome.
I haven’t properly been outside the house for a long time. I’m missing nature, the fresh air, being in parks or by the beach, and I’m struggling with the low light levels of winter. Maybe you have similar feelings of being cooped up, restricted or ‘stuck’ or feeling ‘down’ in some ways.
How can we look at this differently? Well, for a start, I am thankful that I have windows from which I can look at the outside world from. I’m thankful that in this cold and somewhat bleak winter season in Scotland I am safe and cosy indoors, that I have a home, and I can enjoy fresh air if I want by opening the door and stepping outside, even if not to go ‘out out’. I am thankful that I have been gifted with an imagination and a memory, and that I also have photographs that can prompt me of reminders of enjoyable times. I can think of times spent at the coast, of sunsets at the beach, I can remember the glistening of sunlight on water, and I can remind myself of walks in the park, and of travel adventures that I was blessed to go on in times past. I can choose to enjoy the cosy things that being indoors can afford me such as daydreaming about such times, imagining a positive future, or watching something inspiring, reading, spending time with family (now that I am blessed to no longer be in complete isolation as I was for the first half of the year), writing my novel, writing my blog, emailing my friends, drawing, colouring, playing my violin, spending time with God, and so the list goes on….
(not to forget getting cosy and watching Christmas movies! 🙂 ).
From what appears at first to be a negative, we can draw out so many positives by looking at things differently, and choosing to keep doing so!
2. I’ve been struggling with my mental health a bit, and I’m sure you can probably relate to this somewhat.
What positives can I / we draw from this? I’m appreciative of the time to think things through, to process, to read inspirational books and to help other people through my blog as I seek answers myself. The extra time being at home gives me a chance to do some of that deeper psychological work to build mental resilience and mental fitness that will help me and other people going forwards from here.
What positives can you draw from your challenges? Have you found opportunities opening up with other people to talk about mental health issues, which are extremely common in society, but not talked about enough? Have you been able to challenge stigmas or assumptions in yourself or others regarding issues with mental health? Are you able to talk about things more freely or with as much openness as you would a physical condition such as a broken leg, something which society does not stigmatise, or are you able to see the need to move further towards such open and honest conversations for the good of everyone involved?
Have you been able to reach out and ask for help, or are you able to provide some support to someone else? Have you grown in awareness of something you might not have been so aware of before, because of some of the issues that have come to light through the course of the pandemic? These can all be positive stepping stones individually and societally.
3. Missing people:
For the first half of the year I was in almost total isolation, and I am proud of myself for managing as well as I did, and for writing to encourage other people through that season of aloneness. I built up my own resilience, and showed concern for others, and made it through the more difficult days positively and having achieved various goals. I’m with family now, but I am missing my friends.
I wonder if you can relate to any of this? Do you live alone? Are you with people but feeling stressed or lonely? Are you missing friends or family that you would have wanted to see this Christmas or holiday season?
Can you reframe your thinking about this?
Can you identify ways in which you have shown resilience, compassion or grown in character or understanding? Have you grown in awareness of the needs of those around you and of more vulnerable members of society? Could you grow in gratitude for the special times you have had with other people, or have you become wiser in the company you keep and where you spend your time in terms of relationships and friendships with other people so that they become more deep and meaningful and so that you make wise decisions about people who may be ‘toxic’ or draining influences?
If you are happy and flourishing at home with your family, could you spare a thought and commit to an action of kindness for someone who is not? There is so much suffering out there, maybe you could add one small act of kindness towards alleviating that for someone?
If you are struggling are there positives you can find, or are there people you can connect with remotely, or are there other things such as skills you can use your time alone to build?
Sometimes it can seem very hard to find a positive from a negative situation or feeling, yet if we learn to see things as challenges rather than obstacles, we can grow in resilience, in fortitude, in positivity, in character, and we can learn to lead the ways as encouragers for those around us.
And remember that it is perfectly ok for you and I to start small. We may be inspired by people but we shouldn’t feel overshadowed by them. Our lives and our choices matter, even the smallest of choices. Personally I know that it is only by God’s Grace and the Sustaining Power of The Risen Lord Jesus Christ that I can do anything, and I am grateful each day for His mercies new every morning and His renewing strength at work in my life. It is a Strength that allows me to be weak, to be honest, to be vulnerable and also that gives me the grace to persevere knowing that I am never alone, and it is not all up to me.
What are you struggling with today? Be honest with yourself. Is there a way that you can change your obstacle into a challenge to be overcome, triumphantly? A thought may seem like a little thing, the smallest of steps forward, but it is incredibly powerful, and it is well within your grasp to choose how you will think about your issue at hand.
Stay safe, be strong, live this day with renewed hope. xx
I’m sure I’m not alone in being someone who has had adverse childhood experiences that have shaped me throughout my life in some way or another. For me, my experiences have included racism from a very young age, fear, anxiety, and the trauma that comes from physical, mental, verbal, and emotional abuse from my peer groups at school and in my neighbourhood growing up (“bullying” is such a tame word for what as an adult would be considered hate crime, physical assault, emotional manipulation and so forth), leaving me feeling crushed, broken, worthless, despised, disgusting, rejected and in so much pain and self-hatred (which was from the lies I was told about myself that I internalised as ‘reality’) that I no longer wanted to live.
Fast forward years of shyness, insecurity, fear of other people, withdrawal, depression, anxiety, an emotional breakdown, getting help, a course of medicine, trauma psychology, God’s loving restoration, new and positive friendships, and a lot of ongoing work on my part, and I am able to see things with greater perspective and not be in a constant state of breakdown, fight, flight, freeze or panic. It has been a long road, friends and it is an ongoing one.
I have ‘mentors’ who have helped me to follow my God-given desire to not allow these experiences to defeat me, but instead to be used as a source for healing for myself, and for good in the world and hopefully to help some other struggling soul find a greater insight into their worth as a human being and find empowerment even as I continue to discover these things for myself. My blog is a big part of this, as humble an effort as it may be, if you could see me back then as a broken and defeated child, then this is a miracle of God’s grace.
So, my friends, my question to you is, ‘what’s been eating you?’ and what are you doing with it? It may be a long road, but we do have the power of choice to allow it to make us better or bitter. Life can be unfair. This pandemic feels so unfair for so many people going through the worst of it. But what about you? What are the things that you are wrestling with today, in your life, in this season?
I have found inspiration and courage in my journey as I mentioned above, from my ‘mentors’. Maybe you’re thinking, wouldn’t it be great to have a mentor, and that I am somehow privileged to have these people in my life. But let me just clarify that I have never met these people, I have read their biographies, I have watched documentaries about them and I have followed them on You Tube, but something deep in their life stories, their strength to find the courage to keep going in extremely dark and tough circumstances is a testimony to me. These two ladies are Katie Piper, and Lizzie Velazquez and they have no idea that I exist! I also look up to Nic Vuijicic and there are so many more people from history and from present day that we can look to and people who I take inspiration from. Ultimately, my Source of sources of The most humble and yet greatest Overcomer, Is My LORD and King, Christ Jesus. Yet, I find something too in the stories of mere mortals to whom I can relate in our broken and fallen state.
So, back to you, my friends.
What is your experience of life at the moment? What is your experience of life in the pandemic? Are you feeling stuck in your struggles? Then lift your eyes to the reality that no matter how bad things have been or can get, life is full of overcomers, and you are one of them too.
It’s maybe not what you want to hear if you are in the place of suffering, and please hear me, I’ve been there. Who could possibly understand your pain, your experiences, who but you? Who but God? Christ Jesus knows, He loves. Yet whatever you believe, the thing is to dig deep. Overcoming only rarely happens in a flash, in an instant. For the most part, it is small, incremental, determined choices that have greatest effect when they stem from some greater vision.
I needed, in my pain, in my broken sobbing, in my frustration and anger and feeling the screwed up unfairness of it all of being victimised, and tormented by other people, to know that somehow there would be a meaning, a purpose, a future from it. Because without that, the ‘out’ we seek is death, and longing for the pain to just go away. Yet, friends, our paths have somehow converged to meet here today, and we meet with hope. There is a future, there is a greater plan, and there is a purpose, and if you feel hopeless, helpless and purposeless, I urge to to look to Jesus Christ, the One Who Redeems all things in time, and even if you aren’t there yet, then look to the examples of others who have overcome.
Ask yourself, what can make this better for you? Ask yourself whether you want to be like Miss Havisham from Dickens’ Great Expectations, or whether you want to challenge the unfairness of life with refreshed vision and renewed hope.
I wrote down my vision that I wanted good to come out of my suffering and pain. I wanted to be able to be more than a victim, and I wanted to reach out and help lift someone else up ….someday. At the time, in my brokenness, it was all but an impossible dream. How could the helpless become the helper? Small steps forward everyday, by God’s grace, I have this blog, I can use words to help, encourage, inspire and heal, when for most of my growing up, words were used against me to mock, belittle, shame, hurt, curse and destroy me. We can live out our turnarounds. If I can, you can. Look up Katie Piper, Lizzie Velazquez, Nic Vujicic. Look up the more well known names of history who stood up against racism even at such great cost to themselves, look up those who discovered great things even though they were ostracised in their time, look up those who overcame disabilities, read about the lives of Helen Keller, Rosa Parks, find your own ‘mentors’ and discover your vision.
What are you going to do with your difficult experiences of the pandemic?
Are you struggling as a parent? Can you have a future vision to create some support network for others like you – even if that vision is for something in years to come, can you start small by sending an encouraging text to an anxious parent that you know?
Are you battling mental health issues? Can you have a future vision of being an ambassador for mental health issues by taking the first and often most difficult of steps by admitting you need help and reaching out to ask for it?
What is it that is challenging you right now? I believe that you are far better than choosing to be bitter. Take one small step, and seek for the greater Vision. And ask yourself, how can this make me better, and how can I make things better….even if the fruit of that will take years of small, determined and incremental steps of faith to appear? x