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.
“It’s beginning to look (a bit) like Christmas”: It may only be the beginning of November, but soon we will be made more aware of the festive and holiday season approaching. If you live in America there is ‘Thanksgiving’ in November, and among other Western countries you may be approaching Christmas, New Year and / […]
Well friends, we’ve reached a mini-milestone of our 40th Winter Survival Guide tip in this series. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on this and exploring how we can all stay healthy, well, motivated, positive, and happy as we reflect upon moving into the latter season of this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed, or are enjoying, reading through my series too, as my main goal is to help and encourage other people as well as myself to get through what can for many be a season that is not without its challenges, in the best way possible – basically to help us all look out for and look after each other! I hope you have found it encouraging and helpful.
I’d like to request a little feedback if you have been enjoying and reading this series. Would you like me to conclude it with this 40th post, or to round it up to the next ‘milestone’ of 50, and bring you ten more suggestions and tips for thriving this winter? I’d absolutely love to do that, and will have something to share with you to conclude the series of 50 posts before the end of November, so that you are well stocked up with helpful ideas and suggestions before the end of the month, and to take you into December and January!
So what do you all think? Would you like to read a few more posts in this series, or would you prefer if I just conclude it here?
That’s my first request for feedback.
Now my second one is for a bit of reader participation if you are up for it?
I’d like to actually update you with how I am doing in implementing some of my own suggestions and Winter Survival Guide tips, along with some photos along the way!
Would you be interested in that? And also, more to the point, would you be interested in taking this journey with me? You don’t have to do or share updates of how your are getting on with all of the suggestions or even in a particular order – I certainly don’t think I’d be able to do that myself. Even if you want to just let us all know of one or two suggestions you’ve taken forward, you could either share with us in the comments section of that particular Winter Survival Guide post, or you could write up what you did on your own blog and link to the relevant post in my Winter Survival Guide.
Let’s make this season as encouraging and fun for each other as possible, and help one another along the way if anyone is struggling, and share inspiring stories and experiences too! Is anyone up for it? I’d love it if you’d join me on this wintery festive journey, and share with us what it means to you.
So, please do let me know in the comments:
Would you like to see a further ten more posts to take the Winter Survival Guide tips up to 50, or would you prefer me to conclude it with the 40th post I’ve just written?
Would you like to participate in trying out one or some of my Winter Survival Guide suggestions and posting an update to encourage and inspire others and to build a bit of blogging festive community spirit and spread the joy? 🙂 x
It’s that beautiful and thought-provoking time of year again, filled with contrasts on so many levels. Autumn is passing, and winter is almost upon us. The vibrancy of leaves bursting into exciting shades of red, orange, yellow, gold, green and brown, will in a short time give way to bare or sparse branches, a stillness, perhaps darker, colder, greyer days, and maybe even a hint of snow.
Perhaps you live in a warmer and sunnier clime than I do, but here people are beginning to sense the change in the air, and it’s that time again to stay indoors, to get warm and cosy and prepare for in a sense a mini ‘hibernation’.
People approach such times of the year differently. You may have read my previous post to encourage and help those of us who might find certain aspects of these seasons at least a little bit challenging. The link is below for those of you who would like to read it or be reminded of some of the things you can do to prepare yourself.
However, I’m also going to start a series of shorter, more ‘bitesized’ posts to encourage us on various aspects of how we can survive and thrive during the winter season, so that you can dip in and out of the ones that interest you. So watch this space, I’ll be posting more very soon. Stay warm and cosy 🙂 x
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.
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
I feel that God Is working on healing the deep things in me, an ongoing perhaps lifelong process, and that now His Love is gradually enlarging my heart.
Whenever I see a new ‘follower’, or one of you liking my posts, my heart is touched to know that He Is using the painful things in my life, and turning them around, to hopefully encourage, inspire or help other people.
His Love Is at work in my heart and I am seeing this less as a part in my healing journey and more so in feeling somewhat awed to know that there are people, real people, you in this same country, and you on the other side of the world who might have their burdens eased a bit in their day. And that means so much to me. Not just because of the significance of it in my personal journey, but because of God’s Pure Love at work in my heart.
Is it possible to love people I may never meet? Is it possible to care so much about your wellbeing from the other side of a computer? I think it is really beginning to mean much more to me. That’s what you mean to me. People precious to and loved by God, and so He Is pouring His Love for you into my heart.
It touches me to know that you might find some comfort from this little blog, and I will seek and pray for His will to show me how to be an encourager, how to care for those He loves, how to help you when you are down and how to be a friend, albeit behind a computer screen, when you feel alone or in need of some advice on moving forwards.
I write a lot about a lot of different things from creativity, lifestyle, mental health, depression, faith, anxiety, and encouragement to name a few things. I write a lot from experience, so it is authentic, raw and real. If there are any things you would like me to write more about that might help you, please do comment and let me know.
Everyone needs compassion, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.
My love and prayers go out to each and every one of you. x
Boundaries can in fact protect relationships and friendships- you need the time and space to look after yourself if you are to be there for others, and to be a positive influence; don’t feel bad for taking care of yourself, it is a good thing for others as well as yourself, but also respect others enough to kindly communicate those boundaries when you can.
Difficult, dysfunctional and challenging people, including young people, can often be broken and traumatised and acting out as a result of that, and in great need of someone to see beyond the surface, and reach out to them with grace, love and kindness.