Tag: Christmas

2018

I haven’t managed any Christmas or New Year posts, at least not as I wanted to. Some wonderful things happened over Christmas so far yet I feel totally blocked when it comes to writing. After intense emotion I feel exhausted and shut down, even if the emotion has been good. Then shut down leads on to dissociation and being unable to be with anyone. That’s BPD. A lifetime of experience of Christmas and New Year as a very unstable, frightening time (abuse, rejection by family and so on, continuing well into adulthood) must add to why I find this a strange time. I need to pray and act to change this for my fiancé as well as me.

I wanted to be able to write about the immense gratitude and astonishment I felt at the wonderful parts of this Christmas and to share all the hope there is for my fiancé and me this coming year. I see that I’m going to have to take that slowly as it’s overwhelming.

So instead, I’m going to share what comes to mind now that I’m thankful for in the year just past, and how I’m resolving to make more space for gratitude in 2018.

  • I started working as an “expert by experience”, sharing my experience of my mental health conditions, my life, therapy, and getting (or not getting) help. I’ve been working with medical students, researchers and clinicians. Doing this has meant battling massive anxiety and some of my symptoms temporarily being triggered stronger in a scary way. But it has been a massive positive in the end. It’s given me the chance for my mental health not to be solely something problematic – for me to be something not solely problematic. If I can help students gain an understanding of mental health, if I can contribute to shaping research materials and methods, then my experience is working to the good.
  • This is a mixed one for me. It’s about 3 weeks short of 1 year since I was discharged from the specialist personality disorder service, because I had come to the end of the treatment course they offer. It’s mixed because of the difficult relationship I’d had with the PD service and because all mental health support abruptly ending like this was really really hard. I was left without the ongoing support that several doctors all agree I still need and with some conditions (such as my PTSD) left untreated and no prospect of getting therapy for them. Despite this, during the past year I have stayed out of hospital. I have needed crisis support on a few occasions and once this involved several days of help from the crisis team at home. However I haven’t been admitted as an inpatient. And I’m still here, somehow getting by, sometimes more than getting by. Though it’s hard to hold in mind, this is a massive change from say, 4 years ago, and I owe massive thanks for this.
  • This little fluff ball joined the household and she’s brought me abounding snuggles, purrs, laughs and love (as well as her fair share of moody or mischievous moments).
  • My greetings card making has very gradually taken off and it has been so great to see that other people enjoy and appreciate my designs.
  • I’ve discovered a relationship I never thought I could know in my fiancé’s care for me and his love that continues constant through all the things I’m ashamed of and hate about myself. Never did I imagine this kind of relationship, this kind of life together, could be.
  • Every week I look forward to the Day Centre where I go to keep elderly people company and lead art and craft activities. There I am “okay”. There I am part of the team and I am deeply thankful for that. We pray together. We are strengthened together. We share a little of how we really are that day and it’s okay. We find hope not the need to hide. We find creativity we often deny ourselves. The voices that crowd my head sometimes leave for a time as I’m engaged working for our elderly people’s happiness.
  • This year 2018, I want to really notice gratitude – preserve time each day to notice what has happened, what I’ve done, what I can give thanks for and to record this. One of the ways I do this will be keeping a handwritten daily and weekly diary, not much, just a few lines or words some days, but enough to maybe stop everything slipping by so fast, to help me to be present here and now. Too often dissociation means scary voids behind me when I try to remember the day or week just passed, whilst my physical and mental exhaustion mean overwhelmed panic at the next day and the future. Neither fosters gratitude or being present for my fiancé – or for God. I’m going to protect time each day to reflect and give thanks.

I’m praying for blessings of hope and for time to notice the good for you as we step into 2018.

Ginny xxx

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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

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

Furthest away from those closest

[Begun writing yesterday 30th December]

I’m really sad, angry, lonely and hurting. I feel excluded, blamed, not believed, not wanted, a disappointment, right when I am trying the hardest, giving the most I can, in the most pain and most need to find some understanding; not necessarily help but simply acknowledgement and belief of what I’m experience and some love nevertheless from those closest to me whom I might hope to trust.

I’m on the journey home now after staying 3 days with my dad and step mum and I am ashamed but I could not have coped with one day more. Again and again in my flashbacks I was back to being the child with my mother and my father and the constant terror and trepidation and dread. I live the same situations over and over. I’m terrified of the next time she’ll think I’ve done, said or thought something wrong and get angry. I am exhausted from any time with my step mother and her utter insistence on her right and my wrong. Even simply talking with her and Dad, it’s as if we’re back where whatever happened I was the problem, I was the one behaving oddly, I was the one causing damage – when actually my mother was the abusive one, she could get away with anything, when I was crying for help nobody heard, nobody helped me and my father appeared to agree with her entirely. Similarly now, he can’t believe my step mother and everything she does is anything but fantastic and wonderful. I know I’ve said before, in a family situation he is utterly loyal but to the exclusion of the point of view of anyone but her, just as he was with my mother. I think that’s at least in part how I went unheard for so long when I was clearly massively distressed and when I needed his help, and when I told him what she’d done.

It was a bad enough time through all this but it has also become very clear how little my step mother believes or understands about my physical health and disabilities, how much she blames me, holds me responsible as though being ill is a choice, how annoyed and disappointed she is I don’t live up to her requirements. I’ve known for a long time how she doesn’t understand but it came home this week. It isn’t only me that it’s directed at. She shows the same attitude to my step sister over her mental health and to one of her friends who has a lot of physical health problems. It is beyond me how anyone can show as little belief or understanding of what someone is going through, as little compassion and as much blame, but then I have been ill or physically disabled most of my life so admittedly that gives me a different starting point.

She is not open to hearing what day to day life is actually like for me or even seeing it when it’s right in front of her . I don’t make a big issue about my health. I try to make sure it affects anyone else as little as possible. But when she is lecturing me about why don’t I do this or that, things are only a problem because I imagine they are, and so on and I have to try to explain eventually why I may not be able to do something, she refuses to hear and insists on her solution and gets angry if I can’t do it. When I’m physically unable to do something when I’m right there with her, for her it’s something I’m doing deliberately, it’s a real problem for other people, I “just have to do it”, I am not making enough effort… it’s like when my mother accused me of pretending not to be able to do things if I didn’t succeed academically as she required, and the resultant rejection and punishment of me is similar too.

I wrote a lot about what my step mother said to me and did which I’ve deleted because listing a load of hurts and speaking badly of someone does no good. When I was leaving, she started up again about “New Year, new you”, how everyone needs it needs to be a healthy year, we don’t want any more of this, I’ve got to be completely different  and I’ve “simply got to” make sure of that, and it’s all about positive thinking, it simply has to be mind over matter, as if it’s a choice not a number of lifelong health conditions. She loves telling me what I’ve simply got to do, always things which I literally physically or mentally cannot, so she exerts a great amount of pressure and certainty that I’m a disappointment when I can’t meet her simply-got-tos that she heaps on me even when they’re medically not possible.

In the face of all this, my father blanks me, ignores what I’m experiencing, denies what has happened or ignores what I say if I express as much as the fact that some of what she says is hurtful, to the point of refusing to answer and acting as though he has not heard or changing the subject. He literally will not hear a single thing against her, or even not 100% agreeing with her. It’s just like how he withdrew and ceased responding and cut off and rejected me and to say the least did nothing whilst my mother continued all kinds of emotional physical and sexual abuse. Then he is able to say he doesn’t know what’s happening.

***

My step mother’s growing obsession with weight and Slimming World is hard for me too. The fridge looks like a diet advert, even though it’s Christmas, brimming with vegetables and low fat yoghurt and very little else. Food is such an issue and has to be done her way. She will not stop telling me how I’ve “simply got to get healthy… simply got to prepare proper meals”. I don’t want anything to do with her diet. She has no concept of eating disorders and how hard a combination of the voices, my physical disabilities making cooking and the resulting cleaning ever so painful, and my eating disorder make it to cook. Yet she can’t see past her own obsession with vegetables, fat free, going to the gym…

***

I’m at the point of ceasing to expect anything but rejection, judgment and accusations from my step mother and from my dad, withdrawal from me and utter support of her views. At best. The glimmers of understanding I thought I had from my dad just seem like a trick now that opened me to trusting, making the inevitable return to rejection and accusations all the more painful. I will not go to stay with them again any time soon.

It would be easier for me to cease all contact with them. My step mother does not often behave as if she likes me. I often think they might well prefer me to have only infrequent contact. After all, I’m seen mainly as a problem. Morally, I don’t feel I can cease contact. I have a duty to them. I want to forgive. I can’t expect total understanding. If I ask forgiveness from God when I’ve judged other people I need to forgive them. I try not to act angrily but the hurt is much harder to control. If I did not have a dependence or need for their understanding, it would not matter to me so much. Though my father’s withdrawal and denial of my experience hurts as much as what my step mother does.

It hurts so much in my head right now.

Ginny xxx

Ten Dishes Challenge #5: spanish omelette / fritata with carrot and warm cabbage salad

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Wow, I’m finding this series harder to do than I’d imagined! My previous post in this series, on Bert, was a kind of guest appearance. (That soup turned out quite well, by the way, though it needed double the time in the slow cooker that the recipe said.)

Here is some food I made when I had two friends over for our Christmas celebration. I didn’t attempt traditionally seasonal turkey because of a tight budget, as one person was mainly vegetarian, one had recently had an operation and has not yet much appetite, and in any case we were only the three of us. Instead I made Spanish omelette, baked not done in the frying pan because I can never do it well that way, warm white cabbage fried with onion and grated apple, and carrots roasted with a little oil, lemon juice and slices of apple which caramelises them as they bake. A Greek friend told me about the carrot recipe.

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It worked well for having friends over because it’s possible to do a lot of the preparation (such as boiling the potatoes and preparing the veg that go in the omelette) in advance. It also makes it a good dish for me as I can prepare it in stages gradually, taking a break when I need to if I’m tired or the pain too much worse.

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”]

 

 

Tinsel, trees and memories

[Written on Tuesday 20th December]

Thanks be to God I made it in to the day centre yesterday, despite having been ill and “out of it” over the weekend. It was a ridiculous struggle to go, on the way I thought I was going to faint as I was so dizzy and all the way I was praying and fighting what the voices were telling me (and my body aching to stay in bed!). I feel so sick with myself that I was reluctant in doing a simple thing, just keeping my commitment to the day centre for half a day. Then again I did want to do it, really, in my heart. It’s the voices and pain, mental pain having more hold than the physical, that stop me. I pray my resulting weakened and ungenerous desire will be forgiven and eventually transformed if I do all I can to keep on the path and make my actions loving, whatever is going on in my head.

The Lord heard my prayers and guided me. Doesn’t He tell us He keeps us beneath the shelter of His Spirit’s wings! When I felt I could do nothing He gave me the peace I needed and carried me to the right place. It turned into a beautiful morning.

I had been a bit worried because the activities leader was on holiday, so we were to be short staffed and about 15 elderly people come to the centre on a Monday. When I arrived, I found out a new volunteer had started the week before and of course this was a huge help. I was facilitating a craft activity session. Four ladies joined me and we started making mini Christmas trees from empty plastic bottles, tinsel, felt and card. Whilst it was a difficult start, the idea of having an ornament to take home seemed to appeal, as did the brightly coloured tinsel. I was amazed how everyone got right into it and quickly adapted their designs so each little tree was unique. One lady in particular seemed very discouraged and for several minutes kept telling me how rubbish she was at anything like this and that she should throw her tree away. She has a disability affecting use of one of her hands and I think this makes her feel very sad and frustrated. However, during the activity somehow, she grew a little happier and interested in choosing the colours of felt and glitter for a star to top her tree. By the time she finished, she was talking about taking her tree home and she started everyone talking about where they would display their trees. “I’m going to put mine in the front window so all the children can see it when they go past,” one lady said. I was overjoyed that together we’d created some happiness and a sense of achievement.

The other activity I had planned was making a paper star / snowflake. This didn’t go down quite as well on a practical level, partly as we were a bit short of time. It also seemed to be more confusing and less enjoyable than I’d anticipated. This is a valuable experience for me to learn what’s enjoyable and what’s not. I thought the snowflake would be easier than the trees but that was not so. Possibly it was harder to see what we were working towards and for people with some dementia maybe following a set sequence of steps which had to be done in a specific way, was more frustrating than an activity like the trees which didn’t have such a right or wrong. However, though we didn’t make snowflakes, the topic of paper decorations brought back memories for the ladies of Christmases in wartime or when their children were young, when making ornaments from newspaper and scrap paper was popular because there weren’t the materials or money to purchase decorations.

My soul is emptied of a little of the chaos in times like these mornings at the day centre, as I’m focused as completely as I can on creativity and trying to bring encouragement to another person, love them and show them care.

Ginny xxx

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

Magic carpet – update :)

My carpets were fitted a week ago.  I still feel surprised each morning as I get out of bed and step onto squishy carpet instead of cold bare floor! It has made even more difference than I expected. The simple carpet makes a much gentler effect than all the mis-matched off-cuts and rugs I was making do with. It feels luscious underfoot – really soft and springy. I did not expect that. It’s cosier, literally too as it seems much warmer; I think the extra insulation it provides will cut my heating bills.

As the fitting day approached, I was so nervous and felt panicked about coordinating everything and about being able to get the furniture moved since I can’t do it myself because of my physical disability. Thoughts of postponing the date came to the fore, though I knew that would not be a good idea. I’m so pleased I went through with it now. I had the help of knowledgeable, patient staff in the carpet shop and the very personable carpet fitter, not to mention my dad and step-mum and friends L and S’s encouragement to go ahead.

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For some reason, now the carpet is done I’m more inclined to do other things to make my home pretty, for example, I’m looking forward to repainting where it’s greatly needed, or even very simply putting up a Christmas tree this year. This is a hard time of year for me as for many people, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to decorate for several Christmases. Yesterday, I bought a little tree.

Ginny xxx