Tag: faith

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

So far beyond the limit

I am so stressed and strained beyond the limit. I’m trying to care for my fiancé. I can’t. He’s yet again been discharged from A&E, this time with DVT having been told he could have a pulmonary embolism at any time. No plan in place. Vascular problems, tumour, hernia, unidentified lump in his stomach, knee operations, diabetes, hips going to need replacing… how much more, how much longer Lord? Why? I’m screaming and crying inside. How much worse he must be feeling. Again and again after every emergency and discharge we are no further forward. All the risk and pressure falls right back on us. I can’t do it. I’ve been overloaded for weeks or months. Way beyond the breaking point. I need it to stop. Already I’m drinking with my medication to try to get knocked out. I cannot cope with yet more emotion and pressure. Cutting, bingeing, purging, everything is worse. I have no mental health support now, nor does he, so what can I do? Time has slowed down. I’m hearing things. I need it to stop. Please God, I want to say I know you will answer and not turn away from us forever. But I can’t see You or hear You or feel You. It’s been a long time that way. Xx

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.

Awake but locked into my dreams

I had a terrifying experience whilst I was waking this morning. Recently my flashbacks and intense dreads have blended with nightmares so that the flashback will first work its way into the dream, then I’ll be locked for a long time into a state where I feel I’m conscious (and I’m aware of physical sensations in the real world like the feel of the mattress under me or noise outside) but the flashback continues all around me and I can’t move  and often can’t open my eyes from it. In my hallucination / dream I’m screaming and panicking to move and get free but for a long time I can’t. Usually when it eventually ends I’ll be able to move and full consciousness returns and I’ll be very upset. Occasionally I go back into sleep for a time.

Today’s experience has left a peculiraly lasting fear with me although it was bizarre and did not involve explicitly reexperiencing a past event or threat. Afterwards my anxiety was really high, I was shaking, crying and for about 4 hours I felt as if I was bordering on a panic attack. I spoke on the phone to a family member, about what had happened but also about other nice things like how they were decorating for Christmas, to ground me and draw me back to the real world. A little later I forced myself to go out, pushing through the panic and feeling so dizzy and faint. This also helped and I was rewarded with beautiful gentle afternoon sunlight. Ducks and gulls were circling over the river and the sunlight in the trees through the mist gave a delicate pastel glow. I went into town and got the last couple of Christmas gifts on my list. Somehow, reality became a little firmer and safer.

I apologise that the rest of this post may not be terribly interesting to anyone but me. Reading about my dream or hallucination probably isn’t very appealing! I have written about what I experienced as a way of processing it and accepting that it happened, facing it and hopefully making it a bit less scary. Also, I think what I experienced tells me about ways I am feeling (in the real world) trapped, scared and dissociated from a couple of identities within me which I don’t allow to speak or feel and one of which doesn’t really dare be heard. I think it may be useful for me to come back to this later.

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In one of these bizarre conscious-but-trapped states (is this the horror people with Locked In Syndrome feel?), I was panicking desperately trying to fully awake, open my eyes and get off the bed, when a woman I couldn’t see came to me and told me that my friend A was very sick and going to die. She had not asked for me and wouldn’t, but I must go to see her.

In real life I lost touch with A several years ago. We were never very closest friends but we connected over various work and discussions at church and spent some time together and I felt somehow that A, an extremely private person who very rarely spoke of herself at all and shrank away from any time spent on her, struggled deeply inside with fights I could somehow empathise with.

In my hallucination this morning, I decided immediately that yes, I must go to her, and so I stopped screaming and panicking about not being able to force myself up off the bed. I started to go with the woman I couldn’t see to A’s house. I asked her, what about A’s husband G (in real life A is married). The woman told me G was overcome with sadness for A and couldn’t any longer reach her. He didn’t know what to do but he wanted me to come. The woman I couldn’t see and I went to some kind of building I don’t remember, except that there was lots of wood and it had lots of rooms or passages. The woman I couldn’t see was gone suddenly and I wondered how would I know where A was. But then suddenly I found myself in A’s room. I was aware that her husband G was in the room but further away in the corner not able to come closer, though he wished he could. At the same time my terror resurfaced and came to its peak and I remembered again how I was trapped and couldn’t move. I was being crushed by terror and dread. A was in her bed; she was really sick; she was dying; though I was really afraid I absolutely had to look at her without fear. Despite the fear I was longing to look and be with her.

So, with all my courage and in so much pain I looked. Suddenly I was right by her bed kneeling on the floor wanting to take her in my arms and hug her. Then the utter terror returned because at first I couldn’t see her. Then I realised with horror she was all covered over with these richly embroidered sheets and cloths – like altar cloths or priests’ vestments, I thought – and her hair was covered as though she were a nun… but somehow she had become fused or blended with the bed. It was surreal and frightening. Then she looked straight at me and I remembered the pain she was in and how her husband was hurting so much but couldn’t reach her anymore and couldn’t go on. She smiled at me and told me I do not need to be afraid.

Then suddenly she was in intense pain. It gripped her. She was no longer fused to the bed but sat up then fell forwards near the foot of the bed. She was no longer covered up by the sheets or dressed as a nun; instead her hair was loose and she wore a childlike flowery dress. I reached out to soothe her and rub her back and cried out, what should I do, all her muscles were rigid with pain. Was she going to die? Panic cosumed me. I started to pray the Hail Mary, but part way through I suddenly could not remember the words even though I pray that prayer many times a day. I was looking right at her hurting, and completely helpless.

Then suddenly the bed and room was gone. She was taking me through corridors I didn’t know. Where was G, I thought. Where were we going? I wanted to get out and get away. I couldn’t even say one simple prayer. I must be going to go to hell. That must be where she’s taking me. I’ve run out of time. Again, I was fighting and crying so hard to move and get off the bed and open my eyes and make it stop. Still I was totally frozen.

Then somehow, we were in an elevator going up through different floors. My friend A was in front of me now. She was still wearing the flowery dress. She was going to heaven, I thought, and I wished I could go too. A wasn’t ill anymore. She was happy. As the elevator went on I got more and more scared and kept trying to move though I still could not. Each time we stopped at a floor I was sure this was my punishment and damnation. I was going to be thrown out of the elevator doors. I couldn’t see or don’t remember what was on the floors we stopped at. I was scared but eventually A was smiling and telling me not to be afraid. We were on the way up.

Eventually we stopped and the doors opened. You see, A said. It’s all alright. We walked out into a room full of tables and there were people I somehow knew to be A’s family members, as well as her husband who was no longer separated far away and could now reach her, and the woman who I couldn’t see when she had led me earlier. Don’t be afraid, it’s the way to heaven, said the woman.

Then the hallucination ended and suddenly, at long last I could move and stand up. I was in intense pain through all my joints and in my muscles, as though they had been cramped or under exertion for a long time. Despite having felt so frozen still, actually at some point during the night I had moved a lot because I had kicked covers off the bed and knocked booklets off the bedside table. Waking, I felt unengaged from the real world for a few minutes, then dread and anxiety boiled up inside me and it became terrifying how I had been unable to move and unable to step out of the hallucination. I was intensely afraid for a short time that something had happened to A, yet then I saw clearly that what I’d seen did not mean that, this time. Sometimes I do have thoughts and dreams about people that tell me something isn’t right with them, but this was not one of those times.

I think this is all to show me important things but I have not yet figured out how to express them.

Ginny xxx

I can’t be loved

It hit me today. I can’t be loved. I am unable to receive love, most of all God’s love. I long for it in different ways. Crave not being alone or being understood. Crave protection. Crave being wanted. Being needed. Being any good (any good to anyone, and just simply any good). Not being rejected. But I’m totally unable to receive it, accept and believe.

A friend said to me a few months ago that I always put a barrier and was too angry to let God love me. I got very angry with this friend at the time and very afraid. I felt like he confirmed everything I always inescapably feared about being outside God’s grace, bad, too bad to save and it was my fault, that however much I thought I wanted good I was bad in the end. I spoke very angrily to my friend, accusing him of frightening and judging me. But really everything I attributed to him, was what I utterly feared because of what I’d learnt as a kid being abused. The only way to stop my abuser’s threats coming true, I believed, was to accept what she (my mother) was telling me about me. That meant admitting to my own pervasive, enduring, dangerous evil.

I’m only just now suddenly starting to see how strong her deception was and how it has made me unable to receive love, rather only to receive confirmation of her view of me (or at least the view she presented as an abuser). She talked a lot about love. I did not receive love in that relationship and as a kid that’s the relationship where love is most important. My father loved me but she so twisted things that my impression of him was that he believed the same about me as she did. The closest thing I experienced to safety and love was “admitting” under her violent coercion to how evil I was, accepting and desiring her total control over me and my total weakness.

Most of all I have been unable to accept the love of God. My abuser’s twisting of the meaning of what should be love has had a very direct impact that I wonder how I didn’t see til now.

More on this in coming posts. Right now I’m feeling like I just fell off a cliff or something.

Ginny xxxx

 

Jealous of the Angels tonight…

These past two months several good people at my former church have passed. This week, I heard that the mother of one of the Priests had passed. She had suffered with MS for many years and in the end she had pancreatic cancer as well. I would not say I knew her well but she made a great impression on me the times I met her. She was kind and had a lot of selfless energy. She was an artist and prayed through her painting too.

Today, I learnt that an elderly Priest with whom I was at one time in close contact, is right at the end of his life. He is in a coma and it is likely to be a matter of a day or hours now. I’m asking that I may be able to go to pray with him and say goodbye tomorrow morning, if he is still with us. He is a dear friend though circumstances have meant that we have not so often spoken in the last year or so. I am very upset with myself that a lot of these circumstances I should have changed and didn’t and in my illness and fear I allowed or even set distance from this dear friend. I really care for him and he has been so kind to me and led me on in my faith. I have been useless and I don’t know if he knows how much he means and did for me. But soon he will, in heaven.

These two people both particularly affected me through their calm hope and the way they truly lived, really present and  experiencing the joys, costs, pains, losses, weaknesses, hopes and needs of every day. The experience was raw and awful and scary sometimes, especially in their illness. They didn’t stop being present or deny the feeling. They didn’t deny or worry about their imperfections or give up because of them.  They accepted their need for help, mercy and love. They gave it abundantly to others around them. Their feelings and their reality, and others’, was all part of what I’d describe as their constant prayer and thanksgiving. They didn’t deny or push down others’ feelings or tell them to think positive or that they should feel another way instead or that certain feelings are sinful or have to be overcome. They showed me that God is right here, right now. Not when we’re pure or perfect or when we’ve mastered and suppressed everything we fear about ourselves or when we’ve assured ourselves we’ve punished ourselves enough or atoned enough. God is here, with us and within us, in this scary, hurting, angry, overwhelming feeling, in our error, even in our failing and sin, just as much as in our joy, success and delight. I still get scared very often and still take the instinctive way of running, hiding, hurting myself. I still spiral down in very dark places. But what these two friends taught me is one of the very few things I can cling onto.

I miss them very much already. Part of it It feels like this.

Losing them has hit hard. Also, some conversations I’ve had this week, have hit me with some things I have to change. I can’t stop crying tonight. Therapy tomorrow will be…unstable I think. The very vulnerable child part of me is integrating with me and her emotions are coming out as mine, not just in the escape world. This will be scary in therapy group but I know it needs to be.

Ginny xxx

“Jealous of the Angels”, by Jenn Bostic. With thanks to Lite Brite for the video.

Total emotion

I want to write but I can’t. Everything I feel is so much right now. I’m very lonely and I really wish someone would be here and keep me safe. I’m lonely despite all the good I have and I feel so stupid for it. I’m hurting a lot for someone else. My emotions are still hitting me out of nowhere. They well up inside and I keep crying. Sadness. Fear. It feels like I can’t breathe and a weight is pressing me down. In prayer I scream silently and God is good and for a few moments some kind of peace warms me. That grounds me and I cling to it.

I’m trying to sit with the emotions. acknowledge them and feel them and let them be. Somehow, I’m not cutting or overdosing. Somehow, I’m not thinking of ending my life at the moment.

I am doing things. It’s not that I sit paralysed by the emotions all the day. I have done quite a lot in terms of cleaning and clearing my flat, shocked at the state I’d left it to and how I’d been living, making changes that I wonder why I did not do months ago. I do things, push myself to physical pain and exhaustion til I’m shaking and can’t stand anymore (I’m quickly exhausted with the fibromyalgia). Sometimes I’m driven to get things done; sometimes I’m trying to deal with the emotion; sometimes trying not to shut down totally.

The emotion is total. I feel it everywhere in my body. I feel so guilty for feeling this and thinking so much of myself, all the more when the emotions are to do with anger towards my family.

Ginny xxx

31 Days of Summer Lovin’ – Day 6: Night

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“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”

– Gandalf, in The Hobbit by J R R Tolkein.

I switched on the TV and The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey is on. Too many fight scenes for me but I like parts of it and tonight the quotation above inspired me for this post…

It can feel like a dark night when we’re struggling with mental or physical pain, loss, distress, depression – and whatever more you are meeting with right now. When things happen to us or our loved ones that make us afraid. When we’re confused or discouraged and can’t find our path and hope seems far away. It has certainly felt dark for me in recent years and I fear dark inside myself most of all – losing the ability to hope, to love, to give, to rejoice, because the frightening memories and all-consuming emotions can obscure so much.

We don’t have to be strong all the time. We need not have great power. It is the “small everyday deeds” that make the difference in the dark night. Small actions of caring friends that show us they think there is good in me even when I don’t. Small memories, experiences or feelings I dare to share with others sometimes show me they are not disgusted or afraid of me as I fear. Small encouragements that might once have gone unnoticed now fill my heart up with thankfulness.

I am not great and I am one person like any other. I don’t know the way and my journey, especially over the last 5 years, has been very unexpected! I did not choose this path and yes, often I have become discouraged and wished it could be smoother. Yet, though this is not where I planned to be, perhaps this is where I am most needed. This is where God who brings good from everything, needs me to be; this is where He has sent me to serve and love and be moulded in His ways. I have no magic to overcome the painful parts of my experiences or the far greater hurt there is for so many people in the world. But I do have love. Small acts of “kindness and love” “keep the darkness at bay”. However small and weak we feel, who knows who we may actually be able to encourage or help through the little acts of our everyday work and tasks, often without knowing it. However much we struggle we can keep the night at bay in our hearts and in the world with these little actions.

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Ginny xxx

For details and acknowledgements of this challenge created by Soul Seaker, please see here.

PS – I’m sorry for uploading late. I have been away for a couple of nights staying at my friend’s.

Becoming like them would be worse

What a week. On Tuesday, again I was crying, asking, what is happening across the world. Every day there seems to be more violence and anger and fear and it is felt all the more as it erupts in places we thought were safe and stable. The murder of the Priest Fr Jacques Hamel in a small town, St Etienne-du-Rouvray, outside Rouen, was particularly shocking for many reasons including the fact that it shows such acts of war can happen anywhere. Loss of life is equally terrible wherever and whenever it happens and I fully hear the call of those pointing out that atrocities like this go on every day potentially unreported in areas of the world suffering indescribably more than the continent I am privileged to live in. Certainly the spread of attacks in European cities in the last month shakes us by making us realise there is no longer any way we can pretend it is something distant from us or not affecting us.

Some of my family set off today on a holiday driving through France and Spain.  I will be more mindful of their safety and praying all the harder for them than usual. I can’t imagine what it is like living somewhere that has been directly affected. Understandably, there is a call to action. Churches in the UK have all been asked to review their security systems, for example.

One part of the response that I find very alarming is the segregating, defensive, even attacking language and stance that spread quickly in articles and comments on a couple of pages I follow. I can understand the roots of this response, for example, the desire to remove the threat of extremism and restore safety and silence those who preach hate. But very quickly we risk acting in hate ourselves. In the days following Saint Etienne, I read several alarming comments calling for us to take up the crusade against the Muslim world which we supposedly “left unfinished”, saying that anyone who raises their children in the Muslim faith condones these barbaric acts, saying that terrorism spreads from anger (okay, that part I can accept) which spreads from bad education about the source of the Arabic world’s problems and to stop it we have to educate the angry young men who may be recruited by extremists that the Western World is infinitely better than theirs and all their problems are of their own making.

“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.”

(John 13 v 35)

Perhaps I’m naive but I was shocked. Of course I am not suggesting tolerance or negotiation with extremism / extremists. However, somehow, I don’t think asserting our superiority is going to calm their anger. I don’t think responding to extremists’ war with a “holy war” of our own is a way to bring peace. Labelling a whole religion or culture on the basis of the way an extremist group twists its teachings and seeking to obliterate it, is not a solution to bring peace. Quickly we become anger and we speak in hate. We become like the aggressors that we fear.

I prefer Fr Dominic LeBrun, Archbishop of Rouen’s, response when he was leaving the World Youth Day pilgrimage in Poland to return to France the day after the attack on Fr Jacques. “I cry out to God with all men of goodwill… The Catholic Church has no arms than prayer and fraternity among men. I will leave behind here hundreds of young people who are the future of true humanity. I ask them not to give up in the face of such violence and to become apostles for a civilisation of love.”

Becoming apostles for a civilisation of love does not mean a saccharine sweet front or a return to Flower Power (!) but a genuine and often painful call to continue through pain, instability, suffering, hate and poverty responding in love – still allowing ourselves to dare to feel things other than anger and coldness that might protect our hearts, allowing ourselves to hope, allowing ourselves to believe somehow that people are foremost created for good, including ourselves.

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This applies on an intimate scale too. I apply it to my recovery from what I experienced at the hands of my abuser. That way I do not become what she wanted me to become and do not become like her.

If I give up, stop seeking the good in the little things of every day, I become isolated, as she desired. If I believe the voices, which pleases them – and pleased her – then I remain paralysed and in her control. If I shut myself away and do not speak because I know the torment that will go on in my head afterwards because of her twisted words and threats so firmly internalised, her world continues to surround me. If I allow anger to harden my heart then numb me; if I do not dare learn to let anyone love me; if I do not dare to allow my feelings and needs without punishing myself, then she wins.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

(Proverbs 31 v 25)

If I keep looking out and up, I learn to be thankful for a world which teaches us constantly more about our loving Creator. If I counter the voices with God’s Word of truth and life, I become like Him. If I reach out with love wherever I see someone suffering or in need, I forget my own, and good experiences multiply and become more wonderful and more vivid than the fears. If I believe the Lord made us in His image and “clothes with strength and dignity”*, I believe first in my capacity for good and slowly may learn that I am not the evil that she so well convinced me that I am. In all I do, Lord, may “my deeds publicly declare Your praise”*.

Ginny xxx

*Proverbs 31 vs 25 and 31.

 

PS – for fellow NCIS fans…this episode sprang to mind…

becoming like him would be worse

Ziva: This country holds itself to a higher standard. It is a nation of laws which are to be followed not only when it is convenient or easy. I have seen firsthand what happens when convenience wins out.

Tony: You never talk about it.

Ziva: What is there to talk about?

Tony: [Long pause] Come on, Ziva.

Ziva: What Saleem did was bad enough. Becoming like him would be worse.

From NCIS Season 7 – “Masquerade”

PPS: NCIS property of Channel 5 and CBS; directed by Donald Bellisario and produced by Don McGill. Image – Cote de Pablo as Ziva (not from Masquerade because I couldn’t find a suitable appropriate one from Masquerade).