Tag: Catholic

The peculiar significance of treacle

Every year I forget how evocative certain Christmas smells are. Not just the more obvious things like candles and oranges and mincemeat and brandy, but certain specifics. It was black treacle and spices the other day, as I was making gingerbread dough. Suddenly as I counted out the syrupy spoonfuls I was taken back to being stood in front of another cooker, aged maybe 7, stirring the pan dissolving the sugars, with my mother watching. Chain smoking, of course. A knot of emotions expanded inside me as they did then. Excitement for Christmas. Some kind of enjoyment of doing a grown up thing. Delight at wanting to make pretty biscuits. Wanting to get it right and please my mother…. well, the desperate need to get it right, impeccably following the process she had shown me. That meant tenterhooks and anxiety and churning emotions, too often teetering on the edge of me ruining everything again (I thought). One mistake, one deviation from her instructions, her watching would explode into anger, ridicule, accusations and threats. Hours of shouting and violence would follow. And everything, I had made her do, and each time I’d have that sick terror inside that this time it was over and the threats were being fulfilled. Looking back and seeing how little was needed to tip us into that disaster, it’s bizarre. Laying a biscuit onto the baking tray in the “wrong” way (ie not the precise arrangement she required), not getting the bow on a package right fast enough, touching the wrong switch on the oven – even simply letting any of my anxiety show. It sounds almost as if it should be funny. But it isn’t funny when someone has you isolated, under their power and in fear; not in fear of them but in fear of yourself. Because one sure thing to me at the time was that it was my fault.

So, standing there measuring the treacle it all came back. As I’ve been making the biscuits over the last day or so, I keep being catapulted into so many emotions and suddenly reliving snatches of good and bad … And to tell the truth I’ve been pulled into the bad too much. Exhausted.

I’m fighting it, because there’s no way my abuser’s having this Christmas. This Christmas is for God and the present and my fiancé and it’s about all the good we can do and are thankful for today. I speak briefly, quietly to God as I roll the dough, cut, bake , ice, package these cookies. I’m pushing through the dissociation to do all I can to hope for this Christmas and for every flashback find twice as much I’m thankful for today.

Ginny xxx

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O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree…

I’m going to start to put up the Christmas tree later. Usually I’d be looking forward to this. This year I’m not. I can’t seem to feel any excitement or happiness or hope. it’s very hard to get any creativity going even when I’ve been making presents for people. I feel guilty for not being joyful, as it feels ungrateful for the good people I have around me and most of all ungrateful for God’s gift of the Christ Child to us. Feelings can’t easily be changed but at least if I can’t feel I can try to do, so I’m going to make my preparations for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and do as many things I can to bring happiness to other people, completing each tiny task with love, out of thanks to God.

So, the tree is going up later. This will be the first time my cat sees the Christmas tree (I did have a foster cat staying with me last year but it was a different cat) so it remains to be seen will her reaction be. Will I find her half way up it or flinging the baubles across the room, I wonder? It’s an artificial tree so hopefully the appeal won’t be as strong as if it were a real tree. Just as well I don’t have a puppy, where this might be the result:

(Not my cartoon – I just stumbled across it and I’m afraid I don’t know who the artist is!)

When do / did you put up your tree?

Ginny xxx

Hospital

My friend has been admitted now (see my last post).

He was in much more danger than I realised. I’m not putting specifics to keep confidentiality and to avoid any unhelpful triggers for readers.  He only told me after we had parted earlier. He didn’t want me to know and be scared. Then he went to A&E but didn’t go in. He was scared. He felt huge guilt too I think. He was confused and distressed and we lost contact and he was walking or lost in the hospital grounds I think. I got there as quickly as I could in a taxi phoning security to search for him. Thanks be to God for Security whose officers tracked his car. Thanks be to God that he did make it into A&E. I still don’t know exactly how.

Again I didn’t want to leave but he really preferred I did as his anxiety about hurting me (which he has never done) was so high. I spoke with the nurses and we all agreed is best for me to come back in the morning. He’s being cared for…he’ll be on a drip…he’s not alone…

I’m scared. He was so weak and drowsy and in and out of consciousness / awareness.

I’m hurting. Shaky. Scared. Exhausted. I don’t know what to do with all I’m feeling for him and the overload in my mind and chest. Hurts to breathe.

I know I have to accept right now I can’t do anything. The doctors caring for him can do something. God can do… more than something. Still I feel so horrible for everything I can’t do and all the good I see in him where he only sees what he calls poison.

I place him in your hands dear Lord Jesus. Hold him please tonight. Whatever happens now.

Ginny xxx

Descent into emergency

Kyrie eleison. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Help us in our need dear Jesus, please, Lord hear our prayer.

6.45pm

I feel so scared and powerless right now.

My dear friend is in complete crisis. I’m so scared he isn’t going to make it. I don’t want to tell all his business here. That wouldn’t be right. But he’s been through some horrific things and his mind and body is in utter pain. He could die, through what’s happening to him physically and the risk he’s at mentally.

I won’t leave him on his own right now. He’s massively distressed. He’s too scared to go to A&E tonight. I’m trying to insistently but lovingly persuade him to speak to the out of hours services to see if he can get to another place of safety, or to speak with his GP. Please God he is going to see the GP in a short while in an evening clinic they have. Please God we get there. He is letting me stay with him now. He so did not want me to at first but I could see the danger. Please God, please may he still accept my company and please may he get somewhere safe tonight. (There are very concrete reasons I can see he’s at risk but they are not my business to write here.) I’m in his car waiting for him whilst he’s speaking to someone who he felt he had to go see about an issue that came up earlier; I don’t think this is going to help any right now for him but he really felt the need to do it and I didn’t want to force him not to. Please God please may he come back soon.

I’m barely hanging on myself. I’ve been losing the grip the past week especially. Dissociating, losing time, self harming, huge panic attacks and flashbacks including physical sensations.

A neighbour has started being aggressive and verbally abusive. He’s been pressing me for money for months. He’s been doing the same to other vulnerable people on the estate. He’s been citing endless disastrous circumstances but it’s now coming to light that something else is going on. I’ve sensed things wrong for a while but now it’s becoming clear what he’s telling me does not add up and isn’t the whole story to say the least. It’s getting out of control. I believed and wanted to help him to get help, supported him with getting referred for a support worker and foodbanks. Now it seems nothing is true. I’m afraid for a vulnerable person he lives with. I’m going to have to contact the police I think.

8.40pm

We have spoken to the doctor and are waiting to hear if my friend can get into a safe place with support. There is no space at the moment. Even if he does it is only open til 1am. We’ve gone back and forth with the doctor and out of hours services. All doing all they can but of course there are these limits… and in the end I don’t know who can keep him safe when he’s as far down as he is now, hating himself and hurting himself so much and so afraid of everyone. I’m ripping apart inside. I’ve been where he is, or similar. I know perhaps I cannot do enough. I care for him deeply as a friend. I wish I could rescue him but know despite all the love I can give perhaps I cannot.

9.15pm

I didn’t want to leave him. He has gone to the hospital. The doctor was worried for me and said I should not go with him. He insisted I not go with him. He promised not to hurt himself and that he’s going there. I couldn’t do anything else especially since it’s his car and I can’t drive. We are keeping in touch by text. I believe his promise but I know from being there myself that when you are going to end it, that blackness and blank terror and loss and self revulsion and pain overrides everything, no matter how firm and true and faithful your promises. The doctor told me to go home because she was worried for me but I so did not want to leave him. I cannot save him in the end but I can be there.

9.25pm

He is at A&E now. The situation is far worse even than I knew but thanks be to God he is there. Thanks be to God he’s going to be taken care of…dear Lord I pray he’s met with compassion there as well as getting the physical medical treatment he needs. Please Lord, please can they still help him. Please enfold Him in your love, whatever comes now, if it’s the end or not, please show us Your saving help. In the darkness of pain and not knowing, danger, even death, You are our certain hope and Saviour.

Mother Mary, St Joseph, please offer to your Son in the way most pleasing to Him, everything I offer, everything I do, everything I pray….

Ginny xxx

 

 

What is it okay to protect for ourselves?

I still can’t figure out why I’m crumbling so much trying to support my friend. Partly it’s because the trauma he’s suffered and needs to talk about is so close to my own experiences and I don’t know how to cope with my own emotions about my trauma, and bad as I feel about this, I can’t always cope with someone else’s experiences, the even stronger emotions this gives rise to in me and the overwhelming emotions they are also feeling. It’s as if I absorb the pain and feel it 3 times over – my own pain and distress, my pain for them, and their pain and distress.

But this isn’t the only reason. When there’s no link whatsoever to my experiences I’m still feeling panic, dread, boiling frustration (inappropriately), unease, fear… and terrifyingly, too many emotions that are too close to those I felt when I was caring for my mother (who was also my main abuser). My conscious feelings towards my friend are nothing like what my feelings towards my mother were so why are these experiences occuring? Very raw feelings, as well as flashbacks, hallucinations and panic attacks are increasing. For some reason the situations with his health deteriorating out of control, hopes for things being understood resolved and treated then being delayed time after time, his near desperation, his rapidly overtaking weakness and physical degeneration, even his need for me, is triggering the feelings I had when I was with her. This scares me. It’s nonsensical. He’s nothing like her. The situation is not the same. Yet I can suddenly feel just as desperate to escape. I don’t know why because he is generous, good, caring, honest, he wants to help me, he does not judge me, he worries for my wellbeing and he supports me greatly in the faith we share.

Why does his need for me scare me so much too? He tells me I’m the only person he trusts to tell certain things or to give comfort. I am thankful and sort of honoured that he trusts me but I don’t want to be the only person. That isn’t safe for him. I am only one person. Yes, I care, I pray, I do not judge (well, wish not to, with God’s help), I can empathise deeply; but I’m only a normal person. I can’t keep him safe, heal him, I am not the total good he thinks I am. God gives hope. God gives safety under His care. I am only one person. I am thankful he trusts me but I don’t want him to trust and confide in me and not the doctors or other professionals who can help. If I’m honest, I cannot be the only person because it isn’t safe for me either, as well as for him. I cannot be the only person who knows when he is in danger. I cannot carry that or keep him safe. I cannot be the only person he can turn to because despite my best desires I cannot infallibly be there and there will come a time I don’t do the right thing or the thing he most needs or that I hurt him unintentionally and I don’t want him to be in danger then.

Which brings me to: what time or mental or emotional resources can we protect for ourselves? He needs me desperately and constantly. As well as practical help, there is rarely more than a couple of hours that I’m not listening, emotionally supporting or encouraging him or at least trying to. I might be coping more stably, or having lower levels of the currently overwhelming emotions, if I had more breaks, time separate from him, time to meet my own daily tasks and duties, time to keep my commitments to others, time to pray, time just to rest. But what would he do then?

When is it okay to protect time and mental resources for myself? The Lord is with us always. He always listens, always answers and always holds us in His Heart. Jesus gives His life for us. We are called to emulate this, to join in the sacrifice He made and pour ourselves out in love. If I’m to follow Him, to offer my life too, then I need to be there for people in need, always not only when it’s easy or convenient. I have felt the hurt myself of people I’d counted good friends cutting off or cutting back contact when I got more ill and being alone when I most needed contact with friends and to know I wasn’t going to be left for my weakness.

So I just cannot limit my availability to someone in desperate need. But I’m crashing up against my own physical and emotional limitations. What is the loving response? Admittedly my friend is not my only calling and responsibility. I have a calling to my family, my volunteer work, to run my home responsibly, to manage bills and finances and so on. In a way I have a responsibility to my own health and wellbeing too, though that’s hard to admit. Though that’s a fight in my head to. I should deny myself to reach out to bring God’s love to others. Then again the Lord created me, wants me, loves me – perhaps not only so that I can be denied and weakened? At the moment every responsibility except to my friend is falling to the side. I have no reserves left for anything else. That really does not feel right. I feel more guilt for it, especially not having the energy for family, for contemplative prayer or for treating my home that I’m blessed to have with due care so everything is in disorder.

This is all very uncomfortable and I’m so tired. I need to seek guidance.

Ginny xxx

Update long overdue!

It is a really hectic, up and down time at the moment and I’m much overdue posting. It has been hard to gather my words. I don’t make a habit of 2am posts – certainly not the best time of day for coherent writing – but I did not get to finish this earlier and it felt important to write before a big change coming up for me in the morning.

Belatedly, wishing you good things this New Year. I think I can just about say this since it’s still January! I’m praying that positive times and opportunities come for you and God’s blessings are shown to you to encourage you each day.

January is always a strange time, cold and empty in a way, after Christmas. Right now, so much seems unsettled, in the world, for my loved ones and in my personal life. I’ve written that before not long ago and of course it has not magically changed with the new year; if anything it seems all the more apparent. I’m trying to give generously of time and resources and friendship, for example to friends in need, and that’s how we encounter Christ in every day. But I’m feeling twisted apart inside because I come up against my limitations, what I cannot give and cannot resolve.  The family in my block, both of the partners seriously ill, whose Benefits have been suspended unresolved for weeks so they have no food, heating or electricity. My friend who has already suffered terribly and now faces more surgical procedures, my friend who has been homeless for almost a year and whose life may be in danger… to the thousands on thousands of people seeking asylum, the fear taking hold giving weight to insular policies that seem to offer protection but perhaps already spiral out of control. (The Mexico border “wall” seems to me to teetering somewhere between bizarre Divergent- trilogy-esque images and more than echoes of the Cold War era eastern block policies.)

I steer away from political issues in this blog but I think this turmoil hits ever closer to home. We hope that in times of hardship we come together and hold onto what matters most but I’m starting to think a certain level of hardship and fear brings only divisions. Then again, in my faith I believe somehow this must not be true because Jesus became Man to suffer and experience everything we suffer and go through. And He is all Love. Love came here, into the darkness and despair. Nothing changes Jesus. The despair and dark and hurt didn’t change Him, didn’t change love. So Love is here, Love suffers and struggles, but isn’t extinguished, so even in the hardest times, it’s love that remains – not division and conflict . I mustn’t lose sight of that.

This post has diverged somewhat from the update I originally planned. Probably to do with the fact that it’s 2am. I’m going to try to get back on track.

Since Christmas, I feel I have not been able to catch up at all. Usually, I have a big clear out, going through cupboards and drawers and so on and decluttering. I haven’t managed this at all. I’m frustrated with myself that I can’t keep on top of the housework at all. My emotions are bubbling over and have been for some time and I feel I have no resilience to cope with straightforward things. Saying that, maybe a lot is happening at the moment. I’m about to be discharged from the personality disorders community service I’ve had therapy in for the past 2 years. I’ve been trying to find support and things I can get in place for after my discharge. This has not been easy and actually it has been quite distressing because I have been promised a lot of treatment I haven’t had and I’m left with major mental health issues unadressed. On the positive side, I have made contact with a peer support worker and Recovery Coach who are going to help me short term and I think this will be really valuable. I have also signed up for some courses at a Recovery College, which I’ll post about (and explain) next week.

My physical health is not going through a great patch just now. The cold always makes the pain worse so that’s part of the reason. I have had to give in to the fact I need a wheelchair sometimes now and I’m looking at getting a mobility scooter. At least this will help me be less isolated and take a little stress away perhaps, because I’ll be more able to take part in things outside my home, like my volunteer work.

Practically at home, I am going rapidly up the wall at the company who should be repairing my boiler. I have had problem upon problem since November and now have no heating or hot water. I feel they have handled the whole thing terribly (7 canceled appointments for a start, having to phone 6 times to arrange a very simple thing, and so on, then them accusing me falsely of missing appointments). Ggrrr!! I know this is just part of life but in the state I’m in at the moment, I can’t cope with this, and feel very frustrated with myself for that. My emotions explode out of all control. Then I get angry with myself because so many people are going through so much worse.

A close friend has serious housing issues as well as a huge number of health problems. I’m trying to be there and do what I can. Cook hot food and support him with form filling and trying to get him a support worker who could help. It is a little way I can try to help and use the knowledge I’ve gathered from my own housing issues in the past.

I’m going to stop here. Later this morning is my last group therapy session and this will be a really really hard lot of goodbyes. I’ve been writing thank-yous and goodbyes, some of the hardest cards I’ve ever had to write. I’m sure I’ll write more about this last session and ending therapy, in the coming days. At the moment I’m struggling to find the words. I’ve cried so much today.

Ginny xxx

 

 

When Love sees you – How was your Christmas Day?

When Love sees you – How was your Christmas Day?

How was your Christmas Day, and Christmastide so far?

There can be so much pressure from all sides at this time – different places and people, trying to keep everyone happy, trying to conceal when we feel anything but happy, a sense of distance from other people, endless rush, emotions all felt more keenly, on top of what we struggle with day to day. There can be great joy, laughter, hope and good surprises too, and I pray they abound for you.

I discovered this song, “When Love Sees You” online recently.

It’s written as Our Lord Jesus, who is all love, telling us what he sees when he looks at us and telling us what is happening when we feel hope is lost or that we have failed or when we don’t know what good the little we have can do. It lifts me up because it tells me that God coming to us just like He did at Bethlehem and as He does in prayer every day, isn’t about success and perfection. It’s about Him meeting us, as we “show [God] the pieces, broken and bruised” when we’re hurting; when we’re hopeless to answer needs around us “shaking our heads at two fish and the bread*”; when we fall in “sinful disgrace” and everyone around judges and condemns us; when we are overwhelmed and cry at His feet. He is in love with us, He sees His beautiful creation and beautiful work He’s bringing about in us, and He’s right here with us and always will be here.

God bless you this Christmas.

Ginny xxx

“When Love Sees You” from Music Inspired by The Story sung by Mac Powell

*ie at the feeding of the 5000 when the only food brought to Our Lord to feed the crowds was two fish and two loaves, yet everyone ate their fill. The Lord accepts the little we have that we give generously and in His power makes it into something wonderful.

Christmas Day – “O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing!”

Christmas Day – “O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing!”

Christmas morning! We’ve arrived. Christ Our Lord gives Himself to us in tender love and mercy. Come, let us adore Him, the Christ Child in the manger.

What a year it has been, personally for me, for my loved ones, for this whole world. Falling over the same stumbling blocks and falling into the same sins, or losing sight of hope in the face of fear, flashbacks, overwhelming emotions that can block out everything I want to believe in, it does not take much to make me despair and think God’s mercy has run out for me and He will cast me aside and say I do not know Him. Looking at what’s happening, here, in my family, in the UK, in stricken countries like Syria, never have I felt so helpless here and now faced with such need, fear, suffering, the very present threats of acts of terrorism, the devastation and loss wracking so many people. It is so hard to know how to respond and easy to feel very afraid.

At the vigil Mass last night, we sang “It came upon a midnight clear” after Communion. This is not one of the carols I know best but never did this verse seem so apt:

Yet with the woes of sin and strife, this world has suffered long;

Beneath the angel-strain have rolled two thousand years of wrong,

And man at war with man hears not the love song which they bring –

O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing!”

So often I, we, cannot hear the song that Our God sings to us His beloved. Shame, fear, despair, self-disgust, pride, all can make this “still small voice” harder to hear. I was praying, feeling despair and the voices were saying to me, how could God look at me now, how could He look at my foul disgusting weak lazy heart. The Lord answered me in prayer, “My gaze is longing Love.” And He called me to draw near in prayer to the manger at Bethlehem, with His Holy Mother and St Joseph’s protection.

The nativity is the sweetest song of love for us. God who brought this whole world into being, who shaped the seas and land and skies, who brought each of us into being in love, is come in humility, even vulnerability, as a little Baby, reaching out to us, fully sharing our human lives. He was born into darkness, poverty, homelessness, a world confused and at war. The Priest told us in his homily last night, when we look at the Christ Child, we see the certain knowledge that God never gives up on us. He delights in each of us. He delights in us so much that He chose to be born as one of us. And I think He chose to be born, needing us, needing our simple answer “yes” to receiving Him, yes to resting in His loving gaze, to holding Him in our minds and hearts, to carrying His hope into the world, to encountering Him anew each day but most especially this Christmas morning. So we learn to “give back the song which now the angels sing” in the words of the carol.

You are in my prayers today. I feel deeply thankful to you for reading, commenting, your thoughts, prayers and support and the experiences you share on this journey. I know that for many of us Christmas and New Year is not an easy time and it gives rise to deep, erratic emotions and maybe painful memories. I struggle at this time. Through all the joy of the gift of God this day, I feel overwhelmed and unstable, emotions heightened, the pain of losses and traumatic effects associated with this time and deepened, and the needs, expectations and rush of the holiday period are not easy to face. I’m very blessed not to be alone, to have two special friends to celebrate with quietly today, and to have these couple of friends and the blogging community here with whom I can share honestly. Thank you.

I’m wishing you plenty of moments of happiness; peace deep in your heart through whatever path you are on; that you can experience friendship, care and support; that in the hardest times there are little things to give you hope bit by bit; most of all, that you know the love of God who delights in you.

“…And ye, beneath life’s crushing load
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
For lo! The days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
The blessed angels sing.”

[From “It came upon a midnight clear” by Edmund Sears (music by Richard Storrs Willis) – see here for full lyrics ]

Wishing you a blessed Christmas.

Ginny xxx

[Image from “The Nativity Story”]

 

 

Getting ready for the day centre – trying to keep reaching out

I’ve had a really bad dissociative episode this weekend. After therapy group on Friday my mind just shut down and didn’t even seem to slide into my safe escape world. I was frozen and gone and my body wasn’t working either. I think I slept quite a lot and several times was locked into hallucinations, conscious but unable to move. This afternoon I started to be “here” again though I’m longing to escape into sleep. Every movement hurts so much. Returning from these episodes is scary. I’m fighting through fog to speak to anyone and I’ve lost so much time. Where have the last 2 days gone?

I forced myself to go out this afternoon and bought supplies I need for volunteering at the day centre tomorrow (I go every other week to do craft activities with a small group of elderly people). As I was leaving, I bumped into a neighbour who wasn’t well so I picked up a couple of things she needed too. This evening I’ve been preparing for tomorrow. I am dreading it and don’t know how I’ll be able to leave the house, I feel so bad. I feel guilty for dreading it because they need me at the centre and all the elderly people there are struggling with far worse than I am. By God’s grace the harder I have to force myself to go, the more love I will put into it, and in my weakness He is strong and He will lead me.

Tomorrow at the day centre we are going to make mini Christmas trees from empty squash bottles, tinsel and decorated card, and make stars for the top from felt and pretty buttons. If there’s time we’ll make paper stars (or snowflakes). Here’s one I practiced making with scrap paper just now. They’ll look much prettier tomorrow made from glittery paper.

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I thought it would be nice for people to have ornaments to take home. I particularly like the star because you can start with scraps and still make something pretty. It’s a bit like what I’m trusting in God to do with my life – bring something beautiful from the mess of my heart.

Ginny xxx

An evening of baking

What a week it’s been. I feel frazzled. Every day my anxiety has been hitting hard and every challenge exhausting, needing rest and feeling every chance for it is snatched away by the next problem. Therapy was really hard today and I’m very worried for someone else in my group. I told the PD Service and I don’t think they heard or recognise the danger I can see so clear and imminent for the person.

It’s Advent. It’s a precious time. It’s slipping away from me so fast. I really need stillness, to acknowledge what I’m feeling and to draw close to God in prayer. Every day passes and I have the same weaknesses and struggles.

Tonight part of me wants to curl up and escape – but I’m baking because some friends from my old job are coming for coffee tomorrow morning. I put some Christmas carols on and feel a little bit of peace creeping into my heart in the simple repetitive tasks.

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Ginny xxx