Tag Archives: Trauma

Self Care In A Pandemic (76): When It’s HaRd To Keep Going…

I know that blogging about mental health and self care in a pandemic is good for other people, and it helps me too to write and explore my thoughts. Yet, you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged for a few days, or perhaps a week or so since my last post, I can’t quite recall. Sometimes, friends, it’s hard to keep going, even with the things that we know are good for ourselves and for other people. And that’s ok.

It’s ok to have peaks and troughs, ups and downs in life. For many of us, the pandemic and lockdown is just one aspect of what we are going through just now. Many of us are overcoming longstanding mental health issues in addition to some of the cares and concerns of present day, and that can be tough.

For the most part, I’ve found that the tools and techniques I had previously learned to help me to overcome complex post traumatic stress, anxiety and depression were helpful in sharing with others and sharing ideas of how we can progress through this pandemic. Yet lately, I’ve been struggling a bit with some of these recurring issues. Sometimes it is hard to keep going, and I’m sure there are many among you who know what I mean. Our minds can at times be scary places and can throw up all kinds of traumatic memories, sensations and even things of their own imaginings, and when we are in lockdown it can seem all the more intense.

So what do we do? Let me remind us of two truths:

  1. We are not our thoughts and feelings.
  2. This too shall pass.

When I was a child I thought I was my thoughts and feelings and I thought I was all of the horrible things that people called me. I had no concept that the rush of anxiety and the hormones my body was producing and the intense emotional, psychological and physical pain I felt made me feel awful together with the abusive words and treatment from other people against my very personhood. I thought I was awful and horrible and disgusting because people and my own body and brain made me feel that way, and I did not know how to de-escalate those feelings. The result was a very dark season of my life when as a child I thought there was something terrible about me and when everything felt so bad and the reality was that I was severely traumatised. I also for the first time no longer wanted to be alive. I’m using that language so as not to trigger anyone.

Well, by God’s saving grace, I survived. I’m overcoming things. Yet at times my brain and body throws up those awful experiences and it’s my job as an adult to know that those things are separate from my worth as a person and to learn ways to de-escalate those feelings.

Perhaps you are struggling with unwanted or uncomfortable or awful thoughts and feelings and you need someone to remind you that you are not your thoughts and feelings and you are not the bad things that you may have been told. That’s not how your worth is defined as a human being. You are worthy because you are human and the God Who Created you loves you and wants to restore you, forgive you, clean you up, heal you and give you a future and a hope. That’s not to say that there won’t be ups and downs but Jesus Is strong enough and loves you enough to get you through.

So, regardless of what you believe right now, know that your worth is simply in your humanity. You are not what you feel, you are so much more than that, you are valuable and important. That is a FACT.

Secondly, this too shall pass. There have been times when life has been hard as a child and then later in adulthood when traumas resurfaced that my brain started throwing up those horrible thoughts and feelings about not being able to cope and about giving up on life, etc. If I gave in to those thoughts and feelings, then I wouldn’t be here writing these words of encouragement to you. Those thoughts and feelings came and over time and with effort and God’s grace, they went, or lost intensity. I no longer feel that way. So if you are feeling overwhelmed, helpless or stuck in this pandemic or in some difficult circumstance or by your own mind, know that it is a temporary state and just as the seasons change so too will the way you feel, and you can take steps (read my many blog posts to find some suggestions) to feel better. The sun will shine again my friends.

In addition to this, I’d like to encourage you to do the following:

Engage your logical brain especially when your thoughts and emotions start to overwhelm you. It can be tough to do things that are good for us when we’re not feeling just quite right, but you can do it, I believe in you. Maybe you could do a crossword puzzle, or play a non-triggering computer game such as solitaire. Maybe you can go outside for a walk if that is available to you and start to notice things of a certain colour, or count how many birds you can see. Maybe you can set yourself some small tasks around the house, or if you are in a better place you can engage with some of your much loved hobbies from playing an instrument, listening to music, dancing, exercise, reading a book, cross stitch, gardening, cooking, or some kind of arts or crafts. When we engage with our senses this helps to activate certain healthy brain areas.

Connect with other people and let someone know how you’ve been feeling. It’s understandable that you may feel you don’t want to ‘offload’ onto others if you think they are going through their own things, but it is important to have human contact and to be able to bounce ideas off other people and to know that those connections are in their own way a form of ‘grounding’ in present reality. We don’t always have to talk about our ‘stuff’ but it is important to keep in contact with other human beings. If you don’t have someone to talk to then you can always call a helpline. And if you aren’t up for that, always know that you can read my blog for encouragement and advice and know that you’re not alone in whatever you are going through.

Try to maintain a routine outside of your head. It’s all too easy to get lost in our minds and trying to figure out or to solve our problems from the inside out. I’ve struggled with this a lot over the years and that’s ok. One thing that does help me get from one moment to the next is to have tasks to do outside of my own head and it gives my mind a focus knowing that I have to get up and do this or that rather than allowing myself to lie down under the weight of whatever it is I am thinking or feeling. Perhaps these could include eating something healthy, reading a book, doing a bit of exercise, getting fresh air, playing an instrument, writing a blog post, or watch something non-triggering and uplifting such as a nature documentary. Sometimes the things we do to help ourselves can also uplift those around us or those we are connected to online, such as in the blogging community.

So if you are finding it hard to keep going right now, remind yourself that you are not your thoughts and feelings, you are worthy as a living being, a human being and try to give yourself some positive affirmations. Also remind yourself that this too will pass and you will move forwards and feel better again just as you have in times past. Try to engage your logical brain, stay connected with other people who are good influences in your life, and set yourself some small self care tasks that will help take you out of your head. If like me you sometimes feel like you ‘shouldn’t’ be struggling, or you feel bad because of your mental health struggles, then know that it is completely normal, all human beings have faulty minds in some way or another and encourage yourself that you are looking for healthy ways forwards, even by reading this blog you are doing so, so give yourself a ‘well done’ and a pat on the back for that because small steps matter.

Remind yourself that you are not alone, and take a look through my blog archives for plenty of helpful material on managing your mental health and self care in the pandemic and otherwise just generally in life.

Even if all you feel able to do today is the smallest of steps then that’s ok, because small changes add up. We all have our ups and downs, and I had to take some time out of blogging over the past few days because I was finding things difficult again myself. That’s ok. I am proud of you for reading this blog post especially if you have been finding things difficult. That could be one of the tasks you have done to care for yourself and there are plenty of posts you can come back and read later on too to help keep you going and give you ideas for how to persevere.

Well done, my friend. Let’s keep taking those small steps forward to care for our bodies and our minds in what has been a challenging time and to remind ourselves of how far we have come and that we can keep going.

You are worthy, you are important, you are here for a reason and you have the strength to take that one next step and the next, and the next and on and on……

All you have to do is live a moment at a time and you CAN do that.

Be blessed. Stay safe and know you are important, worthy and loved. x

Photo by Miggy Rivera on Pexels.com

Self Care In A Pandemic (66): Revisiting Those Habits – New Month, New Goals…? …

Hi Friends,

I hope you’ve all been keeping well and finding the courage to move forwards over the past few days since we last checked in.

If you’ve been following along with my ‘Self care in a pandemic’ series, you may remember that at the start of the year I wrote a post on how to create effective habits. If you need a recap, or missed it the first time round, here’s the link.

Self care In A Pandemic (47): Effectively Tracking Habits to Create New Daily Disciplines… ‹ Life as it happens to be ‹ Reader — WordPress.com

As it’s a new month, and the very first day of February 2021 what better time to start thinking about making a fresh new start to things, regardless of how the past month has been for you.

Did you maintain any new habits in January 2021, or did you start something and manage to stick with it for a little while at least? Don’t worry if you didn’t, if we are blessed to have another day, we’re blessed with another chance to try and persevere.

In January I set myself eight new habits to try to maintain everyday, and I’m pleased to say I did pretty well over all, and the only ‘sparse column’ was for continuous learning / studying which I did towards the start, middle and end of the month, but not everyday as with some other disciplines.

How tracking my habits helped me on rough days:

If you feel discouraged reading any of the above, for example, if you haven’t had a particularly good or productive month, then please don’t. You’ve made it to February – in an ongoing pandemic – and you should be proud of yourself with that. You may have had to dig deep and show all kinds of resilience just to survive, so please don’t feel discouraged by any comparisons.

I’m going to be honest because it is so important when discussing mental health and let you know that I’ve had some difficult days this month. I’m on an ongoing journey with my mental health and am still working out ways of coping, managing and overcoming my struggles related to depression, anxiety and c-PTSD. On those down days, having some ‘marker points’ in my days when looking at the habits I’ve been tracking have helped give me a sense of direction and the ability to keep taking small steps forwards, looking outside of my mind, and doing something practical, even if I’m not able to maintain those habits everyday.

They have provided that little bit of leverage needed to persevere from one moment to the next, one day to the next, and keep going, all the while knowing Christ as my True Source and Strength.

Have you had anything in your day to day that has helped you keep to a routine, even if not rigidly, and has this helped you to persevere through your difficult days?

Have you managed to keep or exceed your expectations and have you found any benefit to your mental health from tracking your habits?

Do you feel like you’ve not done very well and have drifted into February and want the chance to ‘begin again’?

Well, if the first of the month isn’t a great place to start, then what is? 🙂

A new month….new goals? …

I think as human beings, we all relish the idea of new starts, especially if there are things that we want to leave behind. However, it’s important to realise that one of the keys to making long lasting changes for the better in life is consistency. Small, meaningful, incremental steps taken daily or on some kind of regular basis, all add up and can make for a brighter future.

This can be especially true if like me you are overcoming some kind of psychological trauma, and trying to unpick the lies and hurts you experienced in childhood. We can wish for a ‘sudden transformation’ but this can be hard to come to terms with mentally if we have been so conditioned into thinking a certain way. For example, if you have experienced years of verbal abuse, it can make you wince if you receive a compliment, because, well, you just don’t know how to receive it in experience. It is alien and unknown to you and it can be really hard to think it’s not a mockery when your personhood and identity has been injured by lies for so long.

Perhaps there are issues in your own life that you can relate to when making a sudden drastic change can feel overwhelming. That’s ok. What we need to do is find a way of retraining our thinking bit by bit, day by day, little by little, and as the Bible says ‘be transformed by the renewing of (y)our mind(s)’. Romans 12:2.

Habits can help with this. Habits can help with moving past trauma. It’s not a ‘be all, end all’ answer, as we need to implement a variety of things into our life and I’m still learning and discovering what these might be, but they can help us move forward a little at a time when our minds and nervous systems threaten to keep us ‘stuck’ in a negative loop of trauma and past thinking. There are times to think about and process the past, but I’ve found that having concrete goals that are to do with the here and now can help me to move forwards in a healthy way in this what can be a very difficult journey.

Even if you’re not dealing with overcoming any particular mental health issues, you can benefit from tracking your habits and setting new goals.

I’ve decided to include the goals I had for January which I managed to track as habits on a daily basis, and include these in my February habit tracker. I have also included new ones so that I have a total of 20. They don’t need to be big things, and they don’t need to be as numerous. Start with one or two areas of your life that you want to make incremental changes to if that suits you better. I know that some people don’t like to track habits and goals and if so that’s fine, feel free to find another blog post in my series that helps you better, but for those who are inclined, this can help you with your mental health and help with that sense of purpose that we talked about in another post, as well as providing structure to your day. You can break free from that structure as and when you want, but if your mind is struggling with what feels like muddled days all merging one into the next, then this could be good for you.

Brainstorming:

If you feel like you’re back at square one, and don’t know where to start, then why not take a piece of paper and a pen, or type something up on your computer and just have a few minutes brainstorming session.

Write down anything and everything that comes to mind that you’d like to implement into your life that will help you to move forwards. Maybe it’s exactly the same as what you have been doing and you want to strengthen and persevere with the same goal / goals and that’s absolutely fine. Get strong in one area before moving on to another if that’s what will work for you.

Once you have brainstormed, then pick out a few key ideas. If they seem very big at first then break them down into smaller parts and set about doing a little bit everyday, or a few times a week, whatever works for you.

This can also be helpful if your goals seem attainable but a bit vague. Turning your goals into trackable habits can be extremely helpful in making progress. For example, maybe you want to ‘read more books’ for a number of reasons, perhaps also because you feel that this will benefit your mental health, especially in a lockdown! This is something I’ve been getting back into and making progress with. It’s not a small thing to be honest. All my childhood I was a voracious reader. I studied English Literature in my undergraduate degree with Politics and for most of my life have been a big reader, but this had not been the case for many years since after graduating. A few years ago I had a traumatic breakdown when childhood memories were ‘exploding’ out of my mind and were stopping me from living a normal day to day life -it was quite simply terrifying as my body and brain was processing the experiences of traumatic bullying in childhood, years of night terrors, and chronic adult stress from a variety of situations that I couldn’t process at the time. As someone who used to love the peace of solitude and thinking my thoughts, daydreaming, reflecting, reading and writing, it became a terrifying living nightmare to no longer be able to feel safe in my own company and mind. I’d try to sit down and read a book but the adrenaline and cortisol would be coursing through me, I’d be having flash backs of the bullying, and I’d feel like a terrified child shouting out for help and my mind felt so broken. It was heart-breaking for me to not be able to read a sentence of a fiction book properly because all around me was so scary in my mind and I could not process even a sentence. So getting back into reading now is a joy and something I need to continue to persevere with because those triggers can happen when I’m reading and I need to keep on strengthening new neural connections as I strengthen my mind.

My apologies that I digressed somewhat, but hopefully the above insights will help encourage someone else who might feel a bit defeated or discouraged with trying to persevere. Things can get better, please don’t give up.

Reading more books can seem quite vague in terms of goal setting. Even giving yourself a number of books to read can feel overwhelming and you may feel discouraged if you’re not able to meet that goal. Instead, if you change it into a habit, then you will be more likely to feel encouraged and make and maintain progress. I have the dates of the month written as rows down the side of my notebook, and I have corresponding columns for the goals I want to track as habits across the top of the page. Included in that is ‘reading’. I don’t specify how much to read, but I can tick off or make a note of progress as I go down through the days of the month. It’s ok if there are gaps, but I can come back to it and it is encouraging to me to see that I am reading often, even if some days that is little, because compared to where I was before, it is big progress. As I persevere, I find that I am enjoying it, I am more able to push through triggers, and it is good food for my mind.

So what about you? Do you have anything you’d like to persevere with, start afresh or embark upon for the first time as we head into this new month?

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, but if it helps to add structure to your day, and give direction to your mind, then why not give it a go? And as ever, please feel free to share your thoughts and learning in the comments, I’d love to hear from you and you might just encourage someone else out there who needs to hear what you have to say.

Stay safe and never give up, keep taking small steps each day, and enjoy seeing the progress you make, even if you have some hurdles and difficulties along the way. x

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

Self Care In A Pandemic (63): Build As You Heal…

Hi Friends,

For those of you who are more familiar with my blog, you’ll know that I have been overcoming complex PTSD, depression and anxiety from adverse childhood experiences particularly in school and among peers, and cumulative stress throughout the years into adulthood.

I’ve come a long way, and would consider myself not a victim, or survivor anymore but an overcomer. I am still working on this stage, but perhaps one day I will be able to think of myself as a ‘thriver’, that’s one of my goals. I’m not there yet, however, and there are still daily mental battles that I am overcoming. This could easily become a negative obsession were it not for the fact that having had some help I now have some tools to move forwards with to help me be present in my day to day life.

It got me thinking that we all have our ‘stuff’. We all have things that we have survived and need to overcome. Some among you may be familiar with this road, like myself, and others among you may have for the first time experienced something in this pandemic that has hit you hard and even traumatised you as well.

For a long time I had no idea how to heal. The answers are complex, and I rely on the grace of God. There are however things that I can share with you that I have learned. Sometimes we go over our stories again and again in order to try to make sense of them, to find meaning, to reprocess, to create a new narrative. This is hopeful. At other times we are so impacted by our inner pain that we go over and over it because trauma actually has us ‘stuck’ there. Stuck trying to get free, flailing as if drowning, trying desperately to come up for air. I was there internally for a very long time until I got outside help.

Now that I am working on things by myself again, I have made considerable progress with my inner mental road map as I look to the examples of others who have or are overcoming something difficult in their lives. I’ve written about this before, and you might like to look out my post on mentors for more insight.

As we heal, as we continue on our own recovery journeys of whatever type they may be, we can also seek to build. As we try to make sense of what happened to us and the sometimes devastating impact it had and continues to have, we can see opportunities to use these experiences for growth not only in our own lives but to help other people to – to build.

I’d like to encourage you (and myself) today to consider what thoughts are going on in your mind that you are grappling with as you try to recover, make sense of, heal or move on from something.

Many of us have experienced verbal abuse at some point in our lives. For those of us who are particularly sensitive this can be crushing and can destroy our sense of self worth. We may have to spend decades trying to survive these inner wounds until we can get to a place where we can start affirming our own worth and begin to believe it. That is why I say, ‘build as you heal’. While I am overcoming these effects in my own mind and life, I can remind myself that there are still children out there who are going through things like I went through. I can remind myself that there are adults still struggling with the things I did a few years ago at the peak of CPTSD. I can remind myself that there can be greater compassion for people who have suffered even if and when their suffering is different to mine. And as I seek to continue my own healing journey I can think of ways that I can use this for good, and to build up other people.

I may be able to show more compassion, understanding and care to the young people in my life. I may be able in some small way to encourage my friends who are parents, or to build up adult friends who have traumas of their own. I can write, and blog and encourage you. I can think of the examples of others who have gone before me who have used the most awful experiences in their lives to heal and build and build and build.

Can you think of any striking examples of people who have overcome their own struggles and sufferings to go on to help other people in notable ways?

The ways you and I heal and build don’t need to be so notable because the smallest most silent and seemingly invisible acts of kindness can transform destinies. A broken person might have their life course changed by a simple act of kindness that shows them their humanity and worth is recognised. You never know, you might just be the person to do it.

Let us not wait until we are fully whole in order to begin to build. Our families, friends, communities and our world needs kindness to be built up into their foundations. Kindness and love.

As you continue healing, think of the lessons you can learn that you can pass on to others. I personally believe that when we are struggling in our healing journeys that this perspective can actually help us personally as well. If I am so caught up in my own suffering then I may believe the lies that were said about me. But if I think of another little girl suffering the same thing, I can grow in strength and perspective by saying, it’s not her fault, she’s precious and valuable and beautiful and made in God’s image, and then I can more logically begin to apply the same reasoning to myself as a child.

The wounds of childhood can run deep. They can crush us. But they can also be transformative. They can teach us to overcome, and to be the helpers and healers of the future.

Maybe your wounds are from adulthood, maybe they came as fiery darts to you in this very pandemic. Don’t be defeated by them. It is The Truth that sets us free. The Truth of our dignity and inherent worth and value to our Creator God. There are other people languishing in the same kind of deep pain that I and perhaps you have languished in. As we heal, let’s build, not only for ourselves but to be the ones who can and will lend a helping hand …. when the time comes.

Stay safe. Be blessed. Heal….and build. x

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Self Care In A Pandemic (61): Take A Minute…

When seasons change, are you in a hurry to rush to turn the metaphorical page? To start your new chapter, and head on into the next new thing without looking back?

I’ve been there before. I suffered a lot of pain growing up with a couple of markedly traumatic years in school. I put my head down and just wanted to press ahead and forget everything that was behind me and move forwards. Then later when I finally got my first apartment / home of my own, after facing a range of different challenges, I wanted also to press ahead, and to do things to serve God and help other people. I had it all planned out in my mind. Let me just give you a quick ‘spoiler’ and let you know that the story didn’t unfold that easily for me and was in fact a very painful time. I had gone through so much that overwhelmed me, big and little things accumulating over the years, that I couldn’t just press ahead. I had a traumatic episode of complex PTSD, severe depression, anxiety and panic attacks and although I pressed ahead even when experiencing all of these horrible and terrifying symptoms, holding on a full time job and doing outwardly well by the high quality of work I was producing, I was falling apart. God needed to bleed all that stuff out of me (which is a work in progress) in order for me to heal. Now I am able to build myself up after being broken down and broken apart. At least, God Is rebuilding me and giving me wisdom in how I can be part of that rebuilding process.

Sometimes we want to turn the next page, especially if we’d been on a particularly difficult chapter or few chapters of experience and life, and put it all behind us. Our bodies, brains, nervous systems, spirits and emotions may not let us. We need to heal before moving forwards sometimes, and it can be a painful revelation after having put so much energy and effort into surviving life, only to feel we are back at ‘rock bottom’ once again. It can be hard to see the ‘breaking apart’ as an important part of the healing process – of being progress in its own form.

I was touched to see (watching from the UK) last night, Joe Biden’s memorial service for the thousands of American lives lost to the pandemic. I watched this morning on the news a professor talking about the importance of Truth and Reconciliation in order to move forwards. Truth must come first, and this is a process.

Regardless of what your politics are, and what you may believe, the point I’m making is a humane one and not a political point. There is dignity in taking that moment to show honour, respect to those lost, and also in so many realms of life, of taking time to recognise and perhaps mourn for what happened in order for us to move on.

Perhaps you in your own life want desperately to move on from something. Maybe like me you need to press ahead, but then those painful emotions will catch up with you in a crippling way. You need to allow the wound to be exposed (but in the right way) in order to find deep healing.

As the world watches the changing of administrations in the American presidency today, we are looking at a man who gives honour to that ‘moment’ to pause and reflect, to grieve, and to be honest about things. I’m impressed with Joe Biden as a human being who has overcome adversity and grief and loss and personal struggles in his own life, not by running to push past them or ignore them, but to take time to face them, confront them, feel the human emotions, learn from them, and move forwards with compassion to help other people.

Like I said, this is not a political post, but in my own journey of healing, I look for examples of people who have gone ahead of me from whom I can learn. As I seek to share my learning in my ongoing journey, I also am avidly seeking to learn from the wisdom of others.

So I have been reminded of the important lesson to take a ‘moment’, however long that moment may be. We can’t always rush our healing journeys to fit in with our personal time lines. That can feel devastating when we are living through it, I know that personally, especially when we feel crippled by our emotions and experiences and traumas, even though we have worked four times harder than those around us, only to survive, while they all seem to be moving seamlessly ahead in their lives, even thriving, having never had to experience the things we have had to endure and fight to overcome.

Yet there are others like us. There are others who have found the strength to overcome. And from that they have also found the Grace to be more compassionate people who lift others up, because let’s face it, in this world we all have trouble, we all have battles to overcome and burdens to bear.

The Greatest of all Who has gone before me, before us all Is Jesus Christ. There Is none more compassionate and loving than He, even though He Is Greater than all. He has suffered more than all, having taken upon Himself all of our sufferings, and at the Cross He declared Victory, “It Is Finished”. Yet, He Is The One Who gets down in the dirt, in the dungeon beside us, and holds us and heals us right where we are. He Shines His Light into the Darkest of Places and He binds up our broken hearts and heals our wounds with His own. There is no pain or suffering He does not understand. Jesus Christ, Loving Saviour of the world.

As we face this day, let us take a minute. To remember those around us. To take a moment for ourselves. Let us also challenge ourselves to take a moment before we speak because others are going through their own struggles, anxieties and healing processes too, even those with whom we may disagree. Let us take a moment to be human, to feel what we feel, and to allow love and compassion and Truth and Light into our lives.

Let us take a sacred moment before we turn that next page.

God bless. x

Photo by Sunsetoned on Pexels.com

Self Care In A Pandemic (57): Be Aware of Where You Are At…

Hi Friends,

Something caused me to create this title. Something got me thinking. It was something very simple but prompted me to think that it’s maybe something that you might benefit from hearing.

While we’re all making our way through this pandemic, some of us working through various things in our lives that we already needed to overcome, we may also come in contact with the influences and experiences of others.

Sometimes these are mutually positive connections, at other times we may be seeking out positivity and encouragement online or from people we don’t personally know, such as through reading books, blogs, or seeking out inspiration online.

But what about when information or input comes our way when we haven’t actually sought it out? It might be some negative influence, but let’s just say it’s actually something that is potentially helpful, but we may not be ready for it.

I’m personally on a journey of overcoming trauma from childhood victimisation that devastated me internally. Peer abuse, bullying or whatever you want to call it is abuse and it can have long lasting consequences. Let me affirm that I am no longer a victim, I am an overcomer and I am on a journey learning how to take these experiences and learning to thrive from them. But I’m not quite there yet. I’m still learning, and although I have overcome the worst of the complex PTSD I experienced, which was absolutely horrible, I know that I have survived and overcome not just the experiences of those dark days as a child, but the worst after effects of them. There are still remnants of that damage that Jesus Christ Is healing deep down, bringing forgiveness, restoration and new life deep within, but it is a process and sometimes it seems a long one. Light is breaking through though. There are many things that it is my responsibility to do as well such as ‘being transformed by the renewing of my mind’ and this has to be a daily choice, a discipline and an action. I have to take control and steer my mind and thinking as well as trusting God for the areas deep within me that I cannot touch. I have finished years of trauma counselling and I am ‘going it alone’ and finding new ways to find strength and ways to use these painful experiences to help others. I am also seeking out inspiration online from people such as Lizzie Velazquez, Katie Piper, Nick Vuijicic who have all overcome adversity and dark times.

However, sometimes information or input can come our way that we might not be ready for. It might be good advice or content, but it might be triggering on some level, or it might just be a few steps ahead of where we are, or it might be focused on a different area of life than where we are in our own life journey.

This is why I say, be aware of where you are at. There’s the pandemic, but there is also your own personal life journey. You may or may not be personally ready for every piece of information that comes your way, whether online, on the news, from a friend or an acquaintance or whatever the source may be. You may need time, healing, space, and all of that is ok. In fact it is wise to consider what you allow close to your heart or into your mind, even if it is on the surface a positive thing, and especially if you are on your own journey of healing, recovery or overcoming something and learning how to thrive.

So, while you navigate your way through this pandemic, also be aware of where you are at personally. Perhaps you need to take some time to slow down, to think about this, and to take steps for strengthening yourself, regardless of where other people are at. It may be a learning curve but it’s one worth taking.

Guard your heart above all else, for out of it spring the issues of life.

Take care friends, stay safe, be blessed. x

Photo by Victoria Borodinova on Pexels.com

Self Care In A Pandemic (55): This Too Shall Pass…

Hi Friends,

I hope you’ve all been keeping as well as can be since my last post, last week. For a time I was writing a few posts a day, with a desire to keep up the momentum of encouragement. I feel that encouraging words are so important in these days, when words can and are being used for harm as we have seen in recent events across the world stage. However, although having the space of one week since my last encouraging post may not seem like a lot, I do want to be a consistent voice of hope and courage for those who need it.

The past week has had some challenges for me, however. Starting back at work saw some stressors, even with working from home. I had some difficult moments but various things got me through them. We have also had sad news recently of bereavements of friends of family in some tragic circumstances. I realise that some of you reading this may have faced or be facing quite overwhelming challenges in your lives. It can be hard to know what to say to comfort others or even ourselves during such times. It can be hard to know what to say in this pandemic where there is such loss. ‘This too shall pass’ is one of those old phrases that we often hear, sometimes passed down through the generations to give some kind of solace and comfort.

This moment won’t be as difficult as it is now, this too shall pass, things will change.

I find that only a small consolation, but what gives me True Hope is knowing that as things change and move on, my Unchanging God and Saviour Jesus Christ does not change, will not leave me, and holds me secure. It Is a Peace that goes beyond circumstances, but one I need to remind myself to focus on too.

When I was a child and was being bullied relentlessly in the first year of secondary school, I did not know that that season of life would ever pass. The following year I stepped away from the people who were destroying me, and I was all but completely alone, which was a significant challenge for a child in itself. Abuse, and then neglect, at school. In my third year I met nice, normal people who became friends, and although I didn’t entirely feel like I fit with the new group as much as they did with each other having knowing each other for years already, I didn’t feel scared for my life anymore. I could continue with life, with school, with getting by. Decades later, the impact of those two pivotal years is still felt. I’ve had major struggles with anxiety, complex PTSD, depression, disassociation and fear, low self esteem and even suicidal ideation when the PTSD resurfaced. And here I am today, with a home of my own, with a full time job, with the family I was born into, with friends, having travelled, and writing a blog to encourage other people. I’m still recovering from some of the mental and emotional scars but I’m able to see hope and a future in Christ, and I can use those difficult experiences for good.

Why am I sharing this again now? Because at the time, in that first year I felt crushed, broken, terrified, and in so much pain and agony internally that I didn’t want to live anymore. It’s a big burden for a child to bear. But I did bear it, and hear I am today. With wounds or not, that terribly dark season of my life that I didn’t see a way out of, not having any perspective as a child that things could or would change, has passed.

And this too will pass. Whatever it is you are going through, it will pass. This pandemic will pass. A while ago I started reading ‘The Murmur of Bees’, hardly knowing what it was about. It turns out that as I turn the pages I am reading about not only a revolution, but also about the Spanish Flu of 1918. Reading some of those pages feels like reading some of the news headlines and public health advice of today about quarantining, staying at home, keeping distance from people and sadly about bodies being sent to mass graves. I also read about the hope of finding a vaccine for the Spanish Flu. And guess what, it too did pass.

That’s not to diminish by any means the personal tragedies and losses that people felt along the way, but in terms of world events, things did change, they did move on, and perhaps there is a cyclical element to what happens in the world, but they didn’t stay the same, and in many ways they did get better.

Despite saying that I also believe that there will be a Judgement, when Christ returns to earth again, but we are being given time to repent, to seek His Forgiveness and to turn to Him for eternal life, new life in this world, and a Hope that cannot be denied. True Believers know of this Hope, of the Indwelling of The Holy Spirit, The tangible Peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding and the solid Hope of Eternal Life with Him, and a gradually transformed (or sometimes immediately transformed) life with Him on earth. Turn to Him for True Hope.

Perhaps there is a time in your own life that you can look back upon, a time that seemed like endless misery that you thought would never pass, but it in fact did and you are living new days. You may well bear the scars of those days, that season, you may still be in recovery from it, but you are no longer there. You have a chance.

Those days passed, and these will too. Look up, look to Jesus, and find True Hope. And even if you are not a believer, please try to hold on to hope that this too will pass.

Peace. x

Photo by Jacub Gomez on Pexels.com

Self Care In A Pandemic (52): Muddling Through…

There will be days in this journey when we’re just ‘muddling through’. If you’re struggling in this way and feeling a bit down on yourself, remember that muddling through is so much better than giving up. We can afford to lie down and rest for a while, but we’re not the ones to give up. And when we are renewed in our strength we’ll find ourselves more able to reach out a helping hand to others. There are so many needing a helping hand and a caring friend right now.

I’m muddling through a bit myself at the moment. My brain likes to remind me from time to time that I’ve been traumatised and it’s not a fun place to be. There’s power in taking that one little next step. There’s power in resting in faith and reaching out to God to help, strengthen and heal us – to admit that in and of ourselves we aren’t sufficient – we need things like forgiveness, and healing and renewal, and….LOVE. We need love. The Love of Jesus Christ to help and hold and heal us.

Even those of us who do know His Perfect Love, who have been rescued, ransomed, healed, restored to God and forgiven and given a new life, we also muddle from time to time. We might forget His Great Promises, or even if we remember, we might just feel overwhelmed or a bit lacklustre because of our traumas, our fears, our frailty as human beings and because of all the big things going on in the world.

It’s easy to want to run away and hide, but Love will find us if we are open to being found and rescued. Sometimes we get caught up in our struggles, but we will find a way to take that next one step.

Right now I have just finished my lunch break (I’m back to working from home) and am doing some work tasks while listening to a podcast on extraordinary people – people who have overcome the odds. It helps to give ourselves a bit of perspective, and to know that we are not alone in this world or in our struggles.

So many people have overcome so many difficult things simply by persevering in taking those next steps, and I believe, with help from Above.

What next small step will you take today? Balance your times of rest with times of action and keep moving steadily forwards a little at a time, even if that forward movement is a bit like mine at the moment and feels like a wobbly muddle rather than a determined sprint. That’s ok. I think.

Feel free to share your encouragement with me so that I can come back here again and encourage all of you all the more.

Take care dear friends. Take that next small step forwards and if you are feeling strong, reach out to someone else and let them know that they can find the strength to take one more step at a time too. x

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Self Care In A Pandemic (51): Prepare To Overcome The ‘January Blues’.

Happy new year once again, friends. I’m thankful that we’ve all made it safely into 2021, and I know that some of us have experienced losses along the way and my heart goes out to you if you are suffering through grief, loss or trauma of any kind.

We recently looked at how to maintain habits individually as well as the positives of communal habits. I was reading a verse in Scripture in the book of Hebrews today where we are instructed to ‘encourage one another daily’. This is in terms of our faith in The Lord Jesus and so that we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, as there are so many negative influences in the world. However, I think that even for those of you who don’t share this faith, there is something important in thinking about how we can encourage each other daily.

I’ve written in previous posts about how to keep focused and maintain a faithful and positive mindset especially at this time of year, i.e. post Christmas and New Year. People often talk about the ‘January blues’ when there may be a slump in mood after all of the celebrations, after the novelty of new things and new resolutions wear off, after we’re back to work and the weather (at least in this part of the world) is still gloomy and any travel plans or adventures are still a while away. I think this can be compounded by the messages we receive in the media, as the ‘January blues’ are definitely not inevitable or inescapable.

This year, however, we are faced with additional factors that may be threatening our courage and faithfulness and hopefulness and positivity, especially with the year 2020 has been.

I’m not sure where you are in the world, but in the UK we’ve entered another Lockdown (Lockdown 3.0, I think) which is almost as strict as the initial lockdown we faced in March 2020. There are some exemptions for essential purposes and taking into account people’s mental health they can still have an extended household, but other than that we are under another STAY AT HOME order. It is important to take such advice seriously so as to ease the immense pressure that our health service is facing and help to stem the tide and spread of the virus, and the new strains of the virus.

This also comes at a time when many of us will be going back to work. Most will be working from home, but for some whose livelihood depends on people turning up to their premises, such as hospitality providers, this comes as another blow.

We’re back to hearing those same familiar terms that we first had to grapple with in our realities in early 2020: stay at home, furlough, extreme measures, and so forth.

It’s all enough to get anyone down. I truly believe that the only True Hope is in looking to Jesus Christ and allowing Him to hold our lives together. Yet, I also feel that it is important to encourage each other daily.

It could be so easy to allow ourselves to fall into a ‘slump’ with everything going on, and although it is ok to have ‘off days’, to take time to grieve and to take time away to heal from traumas, it is also important to keep going. To persevere. To never give up.

We need a Source Greater than ourselves to do this, we need God, our Creator, and we need to ask Him to help and rescue, to forgive and cleanse and heal and show us the way. However, on our part, we need to maintain an attitude of daily preparedness, daily disciplines, daily encouragement. When we fall down, we at least have some temporary ‘props’ to help us get up again, and to take the next step and the next and the next.

For example, if we have been working on creating and maintaining those new habits, and if we have been seeking to do this communally in some ways too, then when we have a bad moment, we will be more likely to be able to forge through and press our way out of that into the next moment which we can make more positive rather than giving up and allowing everything to fall in on top of us.

We need a few ‘go to’s’ so that when our minds are overwhelmed we can go to that positive activity or habit we’ve been working on.

I had my first day back at working from home today, but with the news I could easily have felt like crawling back into bed after work. However, I have been working on those habit lists / trackers that I encouraged you with the other day and managed to turn those thoughts towards positive actions. Instead of allowing myself to be discouraged I spent a bit of time exercising. I did some daily reading. I prayed and committed things to God. I did a few minutes of work on a creative project. Some of my inner struggles resurface, yet I know that I have tools and disciplines to persevere through them, and moreover can look up in faith for supernatural help from The Lord.

We don’t need to give in to the so-called ‘January blues’. I’ve been reading biographies and listening to podcasts of people who overcame immense adversity, to help me to overcome some of my personal traumas and struggles. These people have experienced severe loss, abuse, and challenges that would push any human being to the limit. They’ve had tough times and even rough years, they’ve had long processes of recovery, and yet they’ve managed to push through all of that, defy the odds, and refuse to give in to defeat.

They’ve found encouragement from the stories and testimonies of others, and they’ve also gone on to encourage other people. This is something I seek to do. Every time my pain threatens to derail me, I look up to Christ and know that He has the victory over all thing, and will accomplish His plans for my life. I know the calm and peace of His Spirit within and around me and feel that tangible Peace and Healing. And I know that I can take the next steps in life. I know that the things that hurt me can actually be turned around and used for good to help someone else, perhaps even to help you I hope. And I know you have it in you to do the same.

So if the voices of others are getting you down, if the news is defeating you, if your spirit feels low, then look up, and look also to the examples of people who pushed through difficult times, take one day, one moment at a time, and commit to a vision for something better. Don’t give up. Be encouraged, and encourage others. Daily. Even while it is called today.

I believe in you. Look how far you’ve already come. And don’t give up. Have faith, take courage, and press on into victory…even if it is just one shaky step at a time. x

Photo by Allan Mas on Pexels.com

Self Care In A Pandemic (49): It’s Ok To Feel Those Difficult Feelings…

When life was busier, before this pandemic struck, most of us were caught up with the societal pressures of deadlines, of having to get up and leave the house by a certain time, get in the car or catch a train or bus to be at work on time. Some of you may have had to juggle this with dropping your kids off at school, with being home by a certain time and attending meetings or appointments on schedule. You’d then have to make the dinner and so forth, and because our usually fast-paced lives are coupled with the information overload of the internet age, we often don’t find the time to stop and think and process or feel our feelings.

Some of us like myself faced burnout after years of enduring stressful situations. I reached a point where many of my painful emotions bubbled to the surface and overflowed in a way I couldn’t deal with on my own, and had to get support with. It turns out that I was dealing with complex post traumatic stress mainly from severe trauma from childhood bullying, involving verbal, mental, physical and psychological abuse, and from resultant depression and anxiety. It was not a fun time in my life, and it took a good few years to get to a better place, although I am still on a journey to getting stronger.

My trauma psychologists informed me that I was being triggered by many things and that overwhelming emotions, thoughts, feelings and flashbacks were the result. I was given a helpful analogy that sometimes when we try to supress or keep down those painful emotions and experiences it is like trying to hold an inflatable ball under water, it takes a lot of effort, and after a while when we’re tired and lose our grip it will bounce right back up to the surface and beyond as we can’t control those feelings by keeping them down forever!

Perhaps the lockdown situation in this pandemic has been a space where you find your mind and body trying to process and reprocess all kinds of pent up thoughts, feelings and emotions, and sometimes you just don’t know how to handle it. Maybe you’ve been trying for so long and you just can’t stand the pressure anymore?

If so, know that you’re not alone and that there is help out there. Some of you may be in a place where it is important that you do reach out and get professional help and support. Others of you may not be in such a place, but you may be finding it quite scary to be feeling some overwhelming emotions. As a society, we’re so used to avoiding painful emotions, numbing them out, distracting ourselves from them, when sometimes what we really need is to feel them, let them surface, let them out and process them so that eventually we can heal, move on, get stronger, and help other people. I never thought back then I’d ever be able to get through to the other side, it all felt so overwhelming and bleak, so know that you’re not alone, it is possible, and there is so much hope for you. My Hope Is in Jesus Christ, Who gets beyond the symptoms to the root cause in a way no mere mortal can and provide that deep healing and Peace that can only come from the Hand of The Creator Himself.

There is a time and time and a space for things to surface, and maybe if you have the chance during these restrictions, now might be the time for you to begin to feel, to allow yourself to feel difficult emotions and to begin to deal with things you’ve ‘shoved down’ inside yourself for so long.

It helps to have support with this so that we don’t allow our emotions to negatively impact others such as through angry outbursts or blaming others, but maybe a first step is to learn to gently sit with those painful feelings, to write them down perhaps and then to calm and quieten yourself by sitting in stillness in nature if you can or by speaking to a friend or someone who cares even if it is a stranger on the other end of a telephone.

Our fast paced lives may in time resume, but if it is your time just now, think about taking the opportunity to begin to allow yourself to feel and to heal from those difficult emotions and experiences you may have had in life. You’re not alone, so many people have come through so many things, so keep your head up, keep your heart strong, reach out for help, (I pray you will let the True Healer, Jesus Christ in to deeply heal those broken places) and begin to move forward into greater freedom in your life one step at a time.

I’m still on that journey, but I am just one testimony among many that there is Hope, which means there is also Hope for you.

Take care, be blessed. x

Photo by Mateus Souza on Pexels.com

Self Care In A Pandemic (9): It’s ok not to be ok…

I was doing pretty good today…until I wasn’t. For a number of years I was finding life difficult and overwhelming on a number of levels. I’ve worked pretty hard, and God’s grace has carried me forwards, and I’ve recently been in a place of building myself up. However, sometimes as we seek to press forwards, despite all of our best efforts, there can be an internal challenge to get to where we want to be and feel how we want to feel. Sometimes we just want to feel ‘ok’, but that might seem like an impossible dream.

If you’re struggling just now, I’m sending you a great big virtual hug and lots of compassion.

Especially in this pandemic year we may find that we go through ups and downs and that’s ok. Some of the things we struggle with might be to do with what’s happening this year, but then other things may be internal and seem to come ‘out of the blue’ and can be ‘triggers’ of some form or another. It can be tough, especially if you feel like you’d been making progress. But it’s ok. It’s ok to learn to sit with those uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and emotions until they pass (and eventually they will), and to take the next step to begin again. You’ve come this far, and if you need a well done from someone, then I am giving it to you right now, friend.

*Well done* – whatever it is you have faced or been going through or are going through now, it is something you are or have persevered through and possibly in the most difficult of circumstances for you – so well done. I’m proud of you, even though I don’t know you, but I know what it is to be human. I know what it is to struggle, to suffer, to feel weak and broken, and I also know what it is to get up again. And again. And again. And chances are if you’re reading this and relating to this, then you do too.

It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to be doing fine for a while and then not to be doing fine. You’re human, that’s part of what it is to experience our frail and fallen lives in this world. It’s ok to ask for help, it’s ok to need grace and it’s ok to be humbled to a place where you need to ask for help. I believe there is an amazing grace for us all, in fact, I know that the Grace of God has saved me and brought me this far and is giving me Peace and renewal day by day. It’s not always been easy, perhaps it isn’t meant to be. But I have a Saviour, a Friend, a King, to turn to and Who loves me through the dark times as well as the more joyful moments of life.

Whatever you think or believe or whatever you don’t believe, know that the moment you are in will pass. You will find the strength to not be ok. You will find the strength to sit in those uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, and to get up again. So take heart my friend, this too will pass. You are not alone. ❤ x

Photo by Du01b0u01a1ng Nhu00e2n on Pexels.com