‘Life as it happens to me’ has me at a point where I am attempting to climb a proverbial mountain. I am by nature a ‘night owl’. I love the idea of being a morning person, and the few times I have been able to have a good stretch of time in the morning has been really good. I know that there is research about people’s circadian rhythms that mean some people are more inclined to being either ‘larks’ or ‘owls’, and it’s hard to fight against it. Hard perhaps, but maybe not impossible…I’m sure it has been done. I am also a very creative person, and so it is not easy for me to turn my thoughts and ideas off and have a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed and ready to go in the morning.
The thing is, for me, there are extra dimensions to this ‘problem’. I went through a period of time when I was not able to have a full night’s undisturbed sleep for three years. It was exhausting, frightening and just a horrible time for me.
Additionally, I have anxiety, panic attacks and complex post traumatic stress which means night time can be difficult and if I get to sleep early I might still have nightmares, be unable to settle into a good sleep and wake up at various points during the night. So in the morning, I am not able to get up with my early alarm, and added to that I have the anxiety of getting ready and out the door, and am very rarely on time for things because of these added challenges to my body and brain. However, I have overcome so many other things in my life and this although I have tried time and time before is on my list. And friends, I need help!
I have read things, watched videos and sought advice on how to overcome this aspect of my life, but it is not something I have ever been able to sustain despite my efforts. Some aspects of healing of my conditions take time, but I am determined to get on top of things but it can get discouraging.
I need help to keep me accountable, to help me get on track in the first place, then stay on track, and although I’ve probably heard most of it all before, I need advice and helpful tips and tricks. I wish there was a switch that could just make things work, but there isn’t and society has its framework geared towards ‘morning people’. Any help, advice or stories from your own experience if your natural rhythm is more nocturnal would be so welcomed. I share a lot of advice on other life issues, but this is one I have no expertise on, so please help this frustrated little owl! 🙂 Thanks friends. xx
I’d like to add a disclaimer that this isn’t advice for sufferers of eating disorders or others who have negative relationships with exercise and / or body image. These are simply my own thoughts for things that have helped me.
There have been times in recent years, and even months where I have felt like my brain, my mind was exploding, deconstructing, self-destructing, and taking my nervous system with it. There was a point in my childhood at school where I was on a daily basis experiencing emotional, psychological, verbal abuse and on a few occasions physical attacks from my peers. This was mainly in the first two years of high school, and so the friends that I made after that either did not really know what was going on for me, and I didn’t know how to articulate it, so people assumed I was just quiet, shy and studious, which I was but a lot of the lack of speaking and problems socialising was because I was walking around severely traumatised. But something in me broke. The damage in those two years had been done, I was in such pain I didn’t want to live, I hated myself and had a distorted self image, and didn’t care anymore whether I lived, but this remained unexpressed so no one really knew, and I just quietly kept my head down, got good grades, got on with things, and tried to keep it together but the pain never went away and I never felt even moderately ‘ok’ inside even though appearances on the surface might have told a more positive story. The trauma had no where to go, I can only say that it felt, including physically with chronic pain that I couldn’t really explain to people, like my brain had ‘broken’, and was malfunctioning and this as an adult manifested as complex PTSD. Because I am a smart young woman, people didn’t really consider that this was the case, until several medical health professionals and consultants provided a diagnosis to this silent daily suffering. Eventually I just wasn’t coping and had to reach out for help and the help I have had over the past few years has enabled me to see a way forwards although some of it was gruelling work at the time. Your brain is not ‘broken beyond repair’ – it just sometimes takes a lot of incredibly hard work and support to get to a point of breakthrough.
I was never much of a person for being into exercise, and still I am not a fitness fanatic, but I do try to do something a few times a week, even if for a short amount of time. I have learned that exercise isn’t just about keeping the body fit, or boosting those ‘feel good’ chemicals. It also, importantly, helps to retrain the mind, in a positive direction, and helps keep mind and body ‘in step’ if you’ll pardon the pun, and I think helps to rewire new neural connections. I have noticed that people, even your ‘average’ person, who engage in some kind of fitness often become focussed, determined and press through their personal limitations even if this is on a modest and moderate level. When people reach a personal best there tends to have been a psychological barrier that was broken that enabled them to persevere, well before crossing a ‘finish line’. I don’t exercise as an escape or as a ‘fix’, but I do know that it is something that over time is improving my mental agility and speeding up my recovery from severe childhood trauma. This needs to be a balanced for some people though, who might take exercising to an extreme – I can safely say that I’m a bit too ‘lazy’ for that ever to be a problem for me.
There are times when I can sense aspects of the trauma ‘getting to me’ again. And I am reminded that what ‘broke’ within my mind as a child doesn’t need to stay in that irreparable state of heightened fear, pain, helplessness and distress. I no longer have to be in a psychological ‘free fall’ unable to stay grounded or to cope with the explosions in my brain that make no sense logically in my adult life where things aren’t an actual threat to me. There is a verse in Scripture that admonishes one to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:2). Scripture also elsewhere talks about the importance of physical exercise (but in the context of training ourselves in godliness and righteousness as even more important). There are also several passages that use analogies of spiritual discipline being like running a race, preparing for battle, being ready, focused and alert. I believe that although renewing our minds with Truth is the most important thing for us mentally, exercise also has an active role to play in moving towards psychological breakthrough. You are proving to your body and mind that you can do it, even when you feel you are otherwise malfunctioning. You are training your mind to persevere, to push through barriers, and to succeed. Even when I feel that sense of things resurfacing, like this evening, I don’t necessarily have to engage in exercise to know that it is there for me and it has already been of benefit – I can remember the times I have persevered physically and mentally, I have pressed through I did overcome, and what seems insurmountable psychologically in relation to trauma is put in its place as I take my thoughts captive (as the Bible says taking thoughts captive ‘ in obedience to Christ’) and exercise my mental agility to push through and take control and work towards recovery, mental strengthening and over time, a better quality of life.
I want to encourage those of you who have been trying so hard, but are struggling to ‘make progress’ in your recovery from trauma. Trauma is a complex issue, and although I am not a medical professional, I am a sufferer and survivor, and working on being a victor of severe complex post traumatic stress….or C-PTSD, but I personally don’t find the ‘D’ for ‘disorder’ a particularly helpful term.
Trauma can be the result of a one off event, or it could be caused by cumulative traumas and stresses which result in ‘complex’ trauma. No matter how seemingly ‘big’ or ‘small’ the trauma seems to someone on the outside, the impact is how it affects you individually and how it triggers your threat responses of fight / flight / freeze, and the anxiety, panic, fear and heightened emotions that result. When you are overpowered, shocked or in danger this can have a significant impact on your nervous system, and particularly when trauma occurs in childhood, especially if it is repeated and severe, the effects can be devastating and last well into adult life. What might not affect one person could have a huge impact on another, so it is not our place to judge whether someone should be ‘better’ yet.
However, often the biggest judgements come from ourselves. We feel that we have been trying *so* hard for *so* long that we surely *ought* to be better by now. Can you relate to this frustration and self blame?
The thing is, it is not so simple a situation of cause and effect that if one does A + B + C then after X amount of time, one will be ‘fixed’ or at least able to function on a ‘normal’ level. It just doesn’t work that way. Traumatic experiences cause our brains, nervous systems, emotions and bodies to react in a self protective way. Sometimes, especially in childhood, we ‘dissociate’ to block out and try to manage the pain, we’re ‘not really there’, but as we grow into adulthood, this survival mechanism becomes a maladaptive coping mechanism when we find it encroaching into daily life. Whether your trauma was a natural disaster, bereavement, childhood bullying, abuse, or a car accident, or ……you fill in the blanks….or a cumulative result of various stressors, your brain simply did not have the chance to process what happened, and so parts of you may remain ‘stuck’ in the trauma. I was in this situation for several years, and only recently have felt like I have been coming out of it and able to use my overwhelming experiences to help other people, rather than merely try to hold on and get through life somehow.
If you are in a place of feeling like the same cycle keeps repeating itself, the same flashbacks, memories, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, anxiety and panic attacks, insomnia, fear, agoraphobia, dizziness, dissociation, suicidal ideation (sometimes the brain’s way of trying to escape a situation we can’t cope with – there is always help, suicide is never the answer) feeling trapped between past and present, as if living in a waking nightmare where you are not in control of what seems to be ‘exploding’ in your mind, no matter how much work you put in, then please, please be gentle with yourself.
There is no set or objective time limit on recovery. The tangle within you may seem to be going nowhere and you may just keep feeling ‘stuck’….that is because your experiences remain unprocessed, and that is ok, it is normal, and it is not your fault….if only I had someone to tell me that earlier then I would have been saved from a lot of distress and self blame as to why I couldn’t simply ‘leave the past behind’ and get better already. The trauma gets ‘stored’ as it were not only in our brains but our bodies and nervous systems too.
So what should you do? I would encourage you that if you feel you are going through something like PTSD or trauma of any sort and can’t integrate past and present memories and experiences such that they are significantly interfering with your ability to cope with every day life, to get help as soon as possible….and know that it is never too late. I didn’t get help for trauma and was undiagnosed for over two decades, but I am making good progress now, even though the process was frightening and very tough….there is hope my friend.
Please don’t feel like you have to ‘tough it out’ on your own….it just doesn’t work that way….it isn’t a case of not being strong enough….I thought I should just be able to persevere through it, but my system was falling apart and I was pretty much malfunctioning and in constant heightened distress….that’s no way to live my friend, and if I can help someone to not have to go through what I did then I am blessed in that.
Please ask for help from a medical professional, and tell your friends what you are going through. Even if you’re not sure if you are traumatised, at least ask for an assessment, check up or diagnosis….there are plenty of treatments available out there. You need to feel safe and calm, so if you are not in danger then you can try working on various coping techniques. If you are in danger, please contact someone for emergency help whether that is the Police or a support service or call a helpline.
If you are physically safe, then here are some things you can think about doing.
Let someone or a few people you know and trust know what you are going through, and how serious you feel it is. Don’t worry about whether or not they will understand, they may not, but please reach out for help, and if you don’t have anyone, or don’t feel confident to tell someone you know then reach out whether that be to an organisation, a helpline or a professional.
Seek professional and medical help. This is so important because really we can’t cope with this on our own. This may be a huge step for you as it was for me, but please know that this is totally normal just as if you had a broken leg you wouldn’t hesitate to get help, please don’t see this as any different. It can help to have someone there for support so if you have a friend or family member who can be there with you don’t feel like you have to go it alone.
3. Write it down. It can be so difficult to try to articulate what we are experiencing, and writing things down can help on many levels from being able to communicate to others the level of distress we are going through, and what the specific symptoms are, to being able to offload and try to begin to process things for ourselves. Your notebooks like mine may be splattered with tears, but it could just be that important part of the healing process in telling your story rather than keeping all that pain buried which will just keep resurfacing or manifesting itself in some way or another.
4. Create a self-care ‘toolbox’. That is to say, be aware of what makes you feel better in a healthy way, and prepare in advance to have something at hand for when you are not doing ok.
-It could be practicing breathing exercises to calm your nervous system and reduce the ‘fight / flight / freeze’ reaction,
-having positive affirmations to encourage yourself throughout the day,
-exercising when you can and getting fresh air and eating healthily,
-having a list of emergency contact numbers ready so that when things are overwhelming and you just don’t know what to do you already have something prepared and ready. Have a few key ‘go to’ people, people who know your situation and are available when you are feeling distressed to talk on the phone or visit you if you feel in harm or danger. If you don’t feel you have anyone, note down some helplines on your emergency contact list.
-Have something comforting and tactile, whether it be a blanket, or a smooth stone or object in your hand to help keep you ‘grounded’ and present.
-Make a list of healthy distractions for those tough times when your thoughts get the better of you whether that be some safe and happy comedy programmes that won’t ‘trigger’ you, some craft or creative thing to do with your hands that will take your concentration away from your intrusive thoughts, a sweet you can keep in your mouth and concentrate on the texture and taste.
-Work on your 5 senses and noticing things around you to bring you into the present.
-Have a routine as much as possible and write down even the simplest things you need to do to keep your mind focussed even if it is as simple as eat something, brush teeth, etc. Sometimes our brains need that extra little prompt.
-Think of healthy wholesome things that make you feel good, so that you can build up those positive neural connections, and be aware of your triggers that lead to a slippery slope of rumination, negative thinking and heightened distress. Have something calming to listen to whether that be classical or instrumental music, nature sounds such as waves or birdsong, or whatever you find helpful…remember to keep it calm, and preferably without too much talking or lyrics so that your mind can relax.
-Practice muscle relaxation by clenching and gradually releasing one part of your body at a time, from your feet working up to your head, noticing your sensations as you do.
5. Be kind and gentle with yourself. While you are working through things, or awaiting professional help, or working with a professional trauma specialist things can and likely will get tough. This is why you need to exercise self-compassion and create a positive narrative and framework for how you see yourself and your experiences. Use your imagination, explore and create…it can be tough, but it also can be overcome. Things I did to try to make sense of overwhelming experiences were to think of what I would tell a young child going through what I did, what if it was another adult experiencing trauma what would I tell them, or a friend or loved one….show yourself no less compassion and be kind. I also imagined how I might feel towards a puppy that had been hurt or was in distress and looking broken and bruised and not very ‘loveable’ – how would I treat it to help it to gradually see how special it is, and to encourage it to get well and accept love and care – find your helpful ways of thinking of your situation and yourself so that you don’t have to also contend with those self-condemning thoughts that something is ‘wrong’ with you somehow to be going through all of this.
And lastly, know that you are not alone…you are never alone….even if it has felt that way for a very long time. There are stories of inspirational people who have gone through incredibly difficult things and are now doing well and even helping others….don’t feel like you’re not ok if you haven’t got there yet, but be inspired that it is possible, the human spirit can endure great hardships and overcome much and find meaning and purpose. This is not the end of your story or mine…in many ways it is just beginning so stay strong, reach out for help, and keep taking that next step….like athletes we need to stay in training and that includes our minds as well. xx
This week in the United Kingdom is Mental Health Awareness Week. Although this particular Awareness Week for 2019 ends tomorrow, the need to be aware of mental health is so important each and every day for a myriad of reasons, personally and societally.
Mental Health affects everybody, just as physical health does. And we each find ourselves somewhere on the scale between mental wellness and mental illness just as our bodies at different points in our lives can be well or ill. Similarly, we may each be prone to various physical or mental conditions that affect our health and wellbeing.
Somehow though it has become easier and more acceptable to talk about an injured limb, organ or other physical condition than to talk about an injured mind or brain. Thankfully, the societal and personal stigmas surrounding mental wellbeing and mental illness are gradually being addressed and it seems that we are slowly beginning to accept that these things aren’t shameful, just as it isn’t shameful to have broken one’s arm, and that it is incredibly important to dissolve unnecessary stigmas and talk and raise awareness about such a vital part of human life. We have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. On a personal note, I had to confront my own stigmas and challenge those of people close to me and listen to the advice of those friends who saw me at a particularly low point and told me that I needed to get help. Years of childhood and adult stress, a chronic situation that our bodies and brains aren’t supposed to be under, resulted in me experiencing full blown symptoms of complex post traumatic stress, severe clinical depression and severe generalised anxiety disorder. I didn’t, however know or understand what was happening to me, and it was very, very frightening. I blamed myself and felt ‘responsible’ for my mind, without realising that these kind of injuries can’t simply be ‘thought better’ and were not one being ‘weak minded’ as for me anyway, they were a result of my body and brain’s ‘default’ being to exist in fight / flight mode, imbalances in chemical regulation physiologically including with the hormones cortisol, adrenaline and the chemical sertraline. I have two first class degrees, and additional awards, and hold down a full time professional job within an organisation that focuses on helping the society and community and individuals facing difficulties on many levels, so having worked so hard to overcome the damage that a severe period of bullying in childhood and adult stress had done to me, and working in a profession that helped ‘really’ traumatised people with actual severe life situations, I felt and thought that I ‘ought to be’ able to function normally. And yet, the reactions my body, brain and mind were experiencing were in fact very normal reactions to difficult life events…and I had in fact done so well to have come so very far, and still be helping society on some level, even while I was experiencing frightening flash backs, severe low mood, fear, anxiety, chronic pain, intrusive thoughts, disorientation, dizziness, dissociation, insomnia, nightmares and severe depression. I had to fight hard to do simple things like even wash a cup or make a meal or walk across the room. I felt like my brain was exploding and there was no off switch or mute button or way to turn it down to get relief. So out of absolute helplessness and necessity for my survival I reached out and went to the doctor (something I was frightened to do, and something I was also advised against in case it affected my career – it didn’t – in fact I have since been very supported at work), and with the encouragement of some friends I finally took that brave step a few years ago and I am so glad that I did. Despite waiting lists, the help from the NHS I have been given both in terms of medicine and psychological support has been incredibly beneficial. Don’t get me wrong, there was no ‘quick fix’ – it has taken several years of commitment, showing up, doing the hard work to be in a place where I can manage my symptoms rather than them ruining my life. And I realise that I have a ‘toolkit’ to be able to get stronger and stronger and help other people too, so this blog post is a real victory, and I thank God for that.
I want to encourage you if you yourself are struggling….with anything…or know a friend, family member or colleague who you think might be struggling with their mental wellbeing to be brave and take that first step to reach out. I do believe you will be listened to and supported. I know it can be daunting, but there are so many resources out there, and there are professionals who understand what is happening to you even if they don’t necessarily know or understand your individual life experiences, and it could just change or save your or somebody else’s life.
I don’t know what the best resources are in other countries, but in the UK, here are some very helpful, caring, professional sources that you can reach out to – even if you don’t have any issues as such but just want to learn more whether that be to grow in awareness of mental health issues, or to gain understanding of someone you know, then these are a great place to start.
Please do leave a comment if there are any particular things you’d like to raise awareness of as I would like to write more about mental health and learn from you too as this is so important and might be just what somebody out there needs to hear.
I’ve also linked to a YouTube channel of a licensed mental health professional who is very relatable, so that’s something anyone can access which is good if you’re based in another country.
Love to you all and thanks for reading, and for being you. Never be afraid to reach out and ask for help – that’s what it’s there for, and everyone is important and valuable. Also, if you know of any helpful resources in your country leave a comment in case someone else is looking for help where you are. Thanks. xx
“There is no fear in Love. Perfect Love casts out all fear”.
If you have been hurt, especially as a child, you may find yourself as an adult, pouring all your effort into merely trying to survive the pain and the brokenness hidden deep within your heart. If you have been hurt repeatedly and if the wound is deep then perhaps you are ‘bleeding’, barely breathing. It is tough. There are no real words to express the depth of pain and fear that is all but crippling. Yet, maybe like me you are a fighter, a survivor, you’ve made it this far….so far…people looking upon you outwardly have no idea of the mental and emotional anguish you’ve lived through and survived, and are working hard to overcome. They don’t see that your survival is miraculous, and that your heart has to pulse so much harder to keep you alive, in every sense, but still you’re barely breathing. But maybe, like me, you’ve been touched by a Love so Pure, so Faithful, so Gentle that this Perfect Love casts out all fear. The Love, the healing, saving, rescuing sacrificial (agape) Love of the Lord Jesus, Who loved you and gave His life for you. This Love has rescued me. He has come to heal the broken hearted and bind up our wounds – mental, physical, spiritual and emotional. And yet this healing is a process. And it takes time. He knows each heart, and perhaps some He will restore with a single breath, a heavenly touch. Not mine, however, and perhaps not yours. He has brought me so far, and yet after all this time, there is still a deep wound, remnants of trauma still linger, and the pain and turmoil within bubbles to the surface from time to time. And He holds me still. He loves me. He Is Great enough for my deep wounds. He can carry me through and carry me home. But what of opening up to the possibility of imperfect love? Could such a thing be for hearts like ours that have been broken, lives that have been filled with seasons of pain and trauma, and our strongest times so far are ones of being in the process of restoration, but never *yet* knowing that ‘someday’ of wholeness that is to come? I don’t know the answers to this. Perhaps you have found a new reality for your timorous heart and you are learning to do more than survive or exist. Maybe you have some lessons for me? Yes, I am Held, life, spirit, soul and body by the Perfect Love of God found in Christ Jesus. And yet, it is only in trusting and knowing the One Who will never fail, leave or forsake us that it is possible to begin to trust mere mortals, knowing that even when people fail, God will not. Yet the heart is a tender vessel. One that needs constant encouragement. And one, if it does not feel safe, or find a safe harbour to rest in, one that will receive it safely just as it is, broken or hurt by others or the experiences of life, as it is, then that timorous broken heart will find a hiding place….the only safe place to hide is in Christ but even so, that broken little heart and mind may find it too hard to believe that it can be taken care of, for it has never really known this, and so it merely whispers, and hides and does not sing the song that it was born to sing…
For previous posts on similar topics, please take a look at my ‘Mental Health’ and ‘Self Care’ tabs.
I’ve hit a bit of a wall in recent days. Without going into the back story or the journey so far in this particular post, in summary I am receiving treatment for Post Traumatic Stress / complex trauma, Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and severe clinical depression. It has been tough, however, recently I have made some positive strides, especially in terms of traveling alone again, going for a job interview two days after I got back from work, and managing the work of my team singlehandedly for three weeks while my boss was on holiday.
However, this last Friday and Monday were public holidays, which meant a glorious four days off work. The only thing was that they weren’t entirely glorious. A friend who was married earlier this year and who had moved to a different city was back visiting both for a work related conference and to see other friends, and asked to meet with me. I wanted to, I really did, and felt that I also ought to, but my desire to be a good friend, to socialise, and to make an effort was outweighed by my symptoms overwhelming me. Another friend asked to meet me on the Monday, but again I just couldn’t manage. It was a rough day – I ended up staying in my PJs all day, and for most of the time watching re-runs of ‘Parks and Recreation’ (possibly the greatest show ever made 😉 ) to alleviate the stress of the nightmares I have been having, low mood, confusion, dizziness, anxiety and disorientation. It was a sunny day, but I didn’t even make it outside. However, Sunday I actually accomplished some mini milestones; it was a rainy grey day all day, and yet I managed to travel by train and then by ferry to visit my good friend and her two young children, to see her little girl before her birthday. I used to make that journey fairly regularly, however I hadn’t for the past 5 years due to pretty much barely being able to function or manage the anxiety, depression, and trauma symptoms. So yay! And it was good to have the company. My friend, who I met in university, is only 5 years older than me, and yet she has been married for over 2 decades (they met and married young), and has two children, and is quite settled and happy in life. I knew her before she had kids, so it has been a blessing seeing her family grow and move from one stage of life to another. The kids growing up really signify to me how much time is passing. Not that I’m old, or feel old, it’s just that I haven’t met the ‘milestones’ that I thought I would have or wanted to by this stage in life, and although I have accomplished a lot for someone battling the conditions that I have, it is still sometimes pretty hard. Not to mention that just the day previously my news feeds were filling up with joyful pictures of newlyweds. It is lovely to see, but it sometimes brings up all sorts of feelings, especially being on my own with no company in the flat. I have longed for a family of my own. I strive to be thankful, for I am blessed. Perhaps broken, but also blessed.
I am looking forward to going back to work after this long weekend. I need to get back into a routine, and I need company. Recovery from trauma is tough, and living alone is great, but it would be nice to feel supported, and to share life with someone.
I wonder, do any of you relate? Whatever your life situation may be? I need to get my head back in the game, and overcome this fog and struggle that I’ve been feeling. But this is Life as it happens to be, after all. And so I remind myself that I am loved by SomeOne Who will never leave me nor forsake me, and I just need to keep taking the next step and overcoming each thing. I don’t usually long to go back to work, but it is a blessing to have companionship and human contact, and to feel productive.
So, que sera, sera, whatever will be will be. It has been a long road, but we all need to pause in our journey, take a breath, and take time not only to care for others, but also for ourselves. I hope you find a little oasis of peace in your day today, where you can do just that. xx
You may have read my previous two posts about my recent travel adventures on the Jacobite Steam Train through northern Scotland. However, this post is about different types of trains: trains of thought.
I did not choose this topic at random, but because I am struggling right now, and I like the freedom of being ‘real’ with you on this platform (pardon the pun 😉 ).
You see, for the past few years I have been receiving treatment for Post Traumatic Stress, Complex Trauma (trauma that is severe and repeated), Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Severe Clinical Depression – what a colourful array of conditions and symptoms! I have been suffering for many, many, many years prior to getting help, however.
Despite my conditions, I function at a high level. I work full time (although my workplace know of my conditions and are supportive to me), I have obtained two first class degrees, I love photography, and other creative outlets, have a strong faith and seek to encourage other people in my friendships. These are all real and genuine parts of me, they are not masks, however, underneath my pleasant and often smiling demeanour is a lot of pain, and emotional and mental distress. In case you are wondering a lot of this stems from bullying about my appearance as a child, racial hate crimes, physical, mental, verbal and emotional ‘bullying’ (abuse) at young and formative stages of my life, as well as various stressful situations in adulthood.
I try hard, but sometimes my brain and body go into ‘meltdown’, and I am harassed by nightmares, chronic pain, flashbacks, distress, confusion, low moods and painful memories and reminders of abusive words hurled at me that I absorbed as being true about myself.
But I have chosen not to be defeated by these things, although recovery is a long road. In my pain and despair, prior to seeking professional help, I would try to ‘fix’ things or figure them out and it would lead me down very unhelpful trains of thought such as obsessively reading about stories of adults who were bullied as children and that sort of thing. It ultimately didn’t pull me out of my pain and trauma.
Since then, I have been focusing on more positive distractions and techniques to ground me in the present…I’m still at a vulnerable stage of my recovery so reprocessing these experiences needs to be built on a more stable foundation of grounding and staying emotionally safe and well. I have been doing pretty well with these – I have been pouring a lot of my time and attention into healthier pursuits such as doing my best at work, exercising, going for walks, eating more healthily, not isolating myself from friends and family but working on my relationships with others, taking time for ‘self care’, pursuing my hobbies of photography, creative writing, arts and crafts, adult colouring, and now blogging !, and building myself up in my faith and in prayer.
However, not all journeys are smooth and straightforward, and this train has run into some trouble and parts of it have broken down and are in need of servicing. I have been feeling more overwhelmed by, I guess a ‘flare up’ of the traumatic symptoms, and at the moment I’m struggling again.
Today I found myself face to face once more with some of these troubling memories and emotions and feelings and physical sensations that brought back a lot of negativity in my perceptions of myself as I was when I experienced these things, and I found myself beginning to follow old trains of thought – I was so close to going online to read about and watch videos about bulling, but I know that that will ultimately be harmful to me.
So I chose a new train of thought, I chose to continue on a more healthy journey, and I came here to blog instead.
But this blog isn’t all about me. It’s about you, about us, and about community and building each other up, being encouragers and supporting each other on our individual and shared journeys.
If you struggle with your mental health, know that you are not alone. Be aware of the train of thought you choose to pursue, and if you are on the wrong train, get off at the nearest station and switch tracks.
How do you do this? Start building up your ability to choose positive thoughts. Perhaps you can focus on a healthy hobby, or write down a list of affirmations and positive statements about yourself. Take your attention away from the thoughts that distress you and instead focus on something beautiful like the clouds moving across the sky, the sound of birdsong, the gentle lapping of waves, the laughter of someone you love, the sweet scent of flowers or perfume, the taste of your favourite food. Build a ‘narrative’ for yourself, filled with positive things. Use your imagination, and keep choosing the Imagination Stations of positivity rather than staying on a train of thought that will only lead you through a long dark tunnel.
What helps you? Do you have anything helpful that you can share that might benefit the rest of us? If so please feel free to comment and discuss. We’re all passengers together in this journey of life, so let’s make sure we help each other choose the right train! 🙂
I shall leave you with an inspiring quote to ponder:
“whatever is true, whatever is honest, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8).
One seven letter word. Survive. A sharp intake of breath. The word is potent. Tears silently fill my eyes. Breathe out slowly. Count to three. Remember what you have learned. What have I learned? I try to remind myself and my cheeks grow warm. My lip trembles.
Aren’t we all survivors, in one way or another? Don’t the jagged rocks of life cut and bruise us all? Perhaps some are more agile climbers, while others have gentler meadows to traverse, and sometimes our challenges come and go with the changing terrain of different seasons.
I close my eyes. Blink back the tears. And I remember how strong I am. One small potent seven letter word cannot shake me. Can it?
I am a survivor. More than a survivor. You want me to label my pain, my mountainous challenges, my conquered fears? I can but try, but they speak so little of the lived experience and the experienced Grace.
Daily, I survive. I survive the ongoing scars of childhood bullying, of verbal abuse, hitting, spitting, racial hate against my fragile little person. I survive nightmares, and flashbacks and traumatic memories. I survive anxiety and panic attacks and depression and fear. I survive loneliness and complex trauma, post traumatic stress – yes, like soldiers have. I survive exploding pain and breaking down and starting again. And again.
But I do not survive alone. Yes, I am a survivor, a blossoming thriver, one among many, in a world full of woe. Yet, I do not mean this.
What I mean is there is One Who holds me. Whose love carries and heals me. Who restores and gives life and makes all things new. I find His unfathomable love at the Cross, where His sufferings met with mine, and He took them all, and He took and embraced and saved me. His Name is Jesus.
I do not need to survive. I am loved, and I am held, and I am renewed, and one day by His love, I will be free.