Tag: gratitude

A beautiful day

Today was amazing. I don’t know why but we were both full of hope for the future. It wasn’t that the many obstacles in our way at the moment had been moved. Yet we both felt lifted up by God’s grace. The magic and beauty seemed to be stirring in our hearts and giving an energy Ive never felt before. This evening I’m buzzing and high even though I’m exhausted physically and mentally. The voices are telling me this happiness and goodness isn’t for me and doesn’t happen to me; they are trying to fill me with the dread and guilt I always feel after any brief elation.

No. I choose Jesus. I choose my life by grace with Him and in the love of my fiance R. We are richly blessed. We are created for good.

Thank you Dear Jesus.

Ginny xxx

On the move

Its a few weeks until the wedding but I am getting ready to move house, packing boxes to go over to our new flat. It feels as though I’ve been trying to get to this point for months and not making progress, through a combination of my exhaustion, my physical disabilities and mentally being unable to make decisions or forward plan. At last we are making progress! Thanks be to God!

The approaching deadline of our wedding is certainly a motivating factor. So is the fact that we are putting our home together in the new place (my fiancée has moved there already). We are blessed that our financial situation is better than it was and this means for the first time – first time ever for me and first time for years for my fiancé – we can actually choose some furniture we like and pieces which all match or coordinate, to make a calm and restful environment for us both. It’s somewhere we both want to be and feel thankful to be. For the first time it’s not a move that’s fleeing something, escaping somewhere, or because of a loss (death, broken relationship, having no money to live, for example). We are moving to start our married life together and that’s wonderful. That helps me keep going.

It has been very hard for me to tolerate the mess and chaos of packing. My threshold for feeling overwhelmed and having a meltdown is lower than usual. I’m trying to recognise that and actively spend mental time focusing on the good we have achieved so far and the good to come. Actively thinking about the good is much more effective for me than saying “just don’t think about it [the things panicking me]” “just push it away” “just don’t worry about that” “you just have to keep it simple and be positive”. (What exactly does that last one mean, anyway?). I can’t “just” stop a thought or feeling by choice, and the fact I can’t do that when other people require it is likely to make me feel even worse. But I can dedicate time to thinking of a positive future, however imaginary it may seem, or to counting tasks I’m thankful we have achieved.

Yesterday a friend of mine in the parish took lots of my surplus kitchen things and clothes to give to a poor family and some refugees arrived in the parish. They will be able to use some of my furniture as well, if we can find a way to transport it.

Tomorrow a lovely charity are coming to take away all kinds of other things I can donate or that need to be disposed of, and to help me pack because I can’t physically do it myself. This is amazing.

My cat doesn’t think it’s so amazing and is walking around with a very suspicious look on her face. She doesn’t like a lot of bustle or things being moved round the room. She’s alternately ever so affectionate, then moody and trying to scratch. I think she has lived in so many different homes before I adopted her that she thinks she will be left again – that the signs of moving mean I’m going to go away and abandon her. Poor puddy cat has attachment problems just like me! 🤣

We shall have to see if her mood improves once she realises there will be lots of cardboard boxes to hide in…

Ginny xxx

Picture by memecenter.com

In Athens

In Athens

I thought I’d share with you some of the beautiful things we’ve seen and experienced in Athens so far.

There are countless interesting churches. In the rear of this picture is the main Greek Orthodox metropolitan cathedral, The Cathedral of the Annunciation, recently refurbished, whilst in the foreground is a centuries-old church known as Little Metropolitan, really St Eleftherios Church (which we haven’t managed to go into yet as it is often shut, unusually for this area). On our last trip here my fiancé and I prayed outside under the moonlight, giving thanks for each other and asking God’s guidance during our engagement.

This past Sunday we were able to go to Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of St Dionysus where we found this very peaceful portrayal of St Joseph and the Christ Child.

There are several people we need to buy gifts for and also we are going to bring some non-perishable Greek foods home to form part of the meal after our wedding. So we went through the Monastiriki which is a set of narrow, winding streets packed with little open-fronted shops selling jewellery, leather bags and sandals, T-shirts, traditional dresses and embroidered shirts, icons, crosses, ornately covered Bibles, food (olives, baklava, Turkish delight, sweets, herbs, stuffed vine leaves, olive oil), drinks (lots and lots of Ouzo and Metaxa brandy miniatures), replicas of Ancient Greek artefacts and statues, toys, and countless souvenirs (some tackier than others – apparently you can fit a picture of the Parthenon onto everything from a teacup to a wooden replica of a certain part of the male anatomy!!).

It’s worth looking up, as well as at the shop fronts, because there are often pretty balconies above you and twisting grapevines where doves sometimes sit.

With new sensory experiences around all day long, I have needed to balance busy hours with down time, and we are so fortunate to have a pool at the hotel to cool down or rest beside.

My fiancé has been utterly impressively amazing at getting me and my wheelchair around – not at all easy when the streets are cobbled and up / downhill. I’ve been really concerned he will wear himself out caring for me. I walk where I possibly can but it is not much at all. My fiancé’s love is a deep blessing I never could have imagined existing. I want to help him rest and care for his own needs too.

I will post another Greece update with more photos soon.

Ginny xxx

This time next week

This time next week

This time next week we will be in Greece, God willing. My fiancé and I are going away for a few days. It will be the second time I have been abroad before which I hadn’t been for about 14 years, so travelling is still new for me. My fiancé’s family on one side were Greek so it’s important to him. I’m still extremely nervous about the journey but I’m using what it means to him and the good it will do for him to motivate me to continue past the anxiety. I know what beautiful places we saw last time and we have plans of what to do this time.

We are both much in need of rest and it seems impossible to get it at home, where the next medical appointment, the next task, the next step preparing to move house, the next unforeseen problem, always cuts into whatever downtime we plan. It’s been impossible to have quiet to listen to God, or calm and free time together or alone.

“We must never let the noise of the world overpower and overwhelm that Still Small Voice.” – Elder L Tom Perry

Maybe going away will allow us to find some stillness and re-establish a routine starting with prayer. We are longing for freedom from the spiral of pushing through the latest crisis then collapsing exhausted. Having a day out locally doesn’t seem to afford us that and brings more stresses. This temporary escape will help.

In terms of travel anxiety I think I’m feeling pretty much as I did before last year’s trip to Greece. Maybe I should expect to be feeling much more confident now but it’s still a new thing and it might take lots more travelling before my feelings change. Or maybe it’s a feeling I need to accept experiencing and it might vary according to how otherwise strained or ill I am. When I’m less well with my physical disabilities, for example, I know my anxiety about leaving the house for even familiar journeys can be huge. What has changed since the last trip to Greece is that alongside the anxiety, I also have a lot more happy emotions, like excitement and curiosity about what we will see and where we will stay. This motivates me to want to go, rather than it simply being a question of trying to push aside frightened feelings.

I’m full of thanks to God for bringing me on this path and for the amazing understanding my fiancé shows me. I never wanted to go anywhere before but I do with him.

Ginny xxx

Image from patternpictures.com with thanks

Easter crafts – letting the light shine through

We made stained glass window pictures this week at the day centre where I volunteer with elderly people. In a small group we made three pictures – loaves and fish, the Cross and the sun rising above a tomb with the stone rolled away. Here’s the Cross (please excuse the scribbling where I’ve removed anything that could have identified the location; I’m probably being over-cautious but still…):

I made the templates and then we laid them on laminator pages, filled the designs in with tissue papers then added the top sheet and laminated them. This gave them a shiny finish. Once cut out we attached them to window panes to let the light shine through. My inspiration came from a YouTube video of Christian seasonal craft ideas.

It was trickier to do than I’d expected and tested my patience! The tissue paper did not stay in place easily especially when people with limited movement were handling it. Too easily it could be knocked, or the static between the tissue and the laminator sheets pulled pieces out of place. Surprisingly perhaps, all the clients enjoyed it and persevered. It helped that this week everyone seemed curious and wanted to be involved. With clients who often feel depressed or otherwise unwell, this isn’t always the case. This week the clients’ enjoyment encouraged me to keep going even when I thought everything was going to go pear shaped.

Thanks to one of the other staff members we were able to read a bit about how stained glass was and is made and where the colours come from.

We were very happy to do an activity strongly rooted in the hope of Easter. Of course compassion and generosity and love underly everything we do with the clients and we almost always learn, discover and receive blessings as well. However we wanted to do something explicitly exploring God’s gift to us at Easter. In our pictures, each side of the central Cross, the bread and fish represent Jesus’ presence amongst us, His feeding us, His Body given for us 2000 years ago and still on all the altars of the world; the empty tomb and rising sun represent God’s Son Jesus rising from the dead, as He is with us on earth so He is lifting us up to Heaven to be with Him where He is gone. The Cross itself we decorated in bright colours not dark. The Cross is deepest suffering but also and inseparably, our only hope, because there Jesus restored the ruptured relationship between God and man, so that we can now joyfully call Him Heavenly Father. There God’s light shines through to heal our broken hearts.

This Lent time seems to be passing faster and faster for me and I’ve felt I’m grasping at desperate moments to pray between crises, responsibilities, pain and dissociation. It was important to me to have this little time trying to reflect on the Easter promise with those Jesus loves so much, the frail and lonely. Thank you, Lord.

I’m praying for moments of peace throughout your every day.

Ginny xxx

Frozen, slipping, returning

I’ve a list of things I need to do. Call my energy supplier as my current gas and electricity plan is coming to an end. Write Christmas thank you notes (I always have them done by New Year so this is late for me). Type up notes for some admin I do to help my fiancé’s work. Read the material to prepare for a meeting on Friday. Clear up the house. Sort the TV licence payment.

Why do I feel like I’m drowning… no, stuck in a block of ice too frozen cold to move again? I can’t do any of it. Waves of exhaustion, vacancy, cold, fear, dread, crash over me even though I can’t find any immediate cause. I slip in and out of presence and dissociation. The guilt intensifies on every return.

My to-do list is an insignificant lot of things to most people, I know. I know if I told someone I am struggling with this they’d say it’s nothing and just day to day responsibilities. This brings back so many memories of times I’ve struggled before and family members have told me I have no responsibilities and I’m a spoiled brat. Here comes more guilt and fear wrenching inside.

What I have to do overwhelms me but it’s not really what overwhelms me – the waves, the cold, the dissociating and returning do. It hurts and takes all of me and if it weren’t for my fiancé I don’t think I’d be able to come back at all. I’d have no strength left.

Why now? When so much has been so good? (Ungrateful little brat, look what everyone’s done for you, why isn’t it enough – the voices scream, preventing me telling anyone about what’s happening because that’s what they’d say again.)

Is that just what trauma and depression and borderline do?

How can I try to escape from this ice and reach out and reach forward again? I know sometimes doing even the tiniest thing can make a difference at first. I forced myself to get up this morning, get dressed and put on makeup. Afterwards I was shaking and exhausted. Being more ill physically than usual doesn’t help. After some rest I made a little start on the paperwork I’ve just been sent that needs to be read for Friday. My mind was a blank for hours after that and I was gone for much of the time but at least I had achieved something not absolutely nothing. I’ll write this down in the journal I resolved to keep, to see if this helps me when I look back. I will be able to acknowledge what I did and somehow find a way to see good in this day and give thanks. Creativity sometimes breaks through the ice so I made a paper origami ball and did a few steps towards decorating the photo frame I’m giving my dad as one of his birthday presents. Then I really, really struggled with so much pain in my head and inside me, anxiety, hallucinations and unbearable voices and just… numbing cold.

I want to sleep now and I will soon and hope rest can shut off this state for a while. I don’t know if I believe even that right now. I forced myself to write this post bit by bit over a couple of hours because when I wake up tomorrow and read this, I’ll know I got through it thanks be to God, and something, however small, will be different in the morning.

Ginny xxx

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

Exhausted unrest

I am very frustrated that basic activities are taking so much of my strength and taking a massive amount of planning.

Just going out is exhausting. I’m desperately needing more time to rest physically. Also, desperately wanting more time to properly order my home and take care of it. I have had a constant stream of appointments and commitments that I’m struggling through, feeling more and more frustrated by exhaustion, mobility problems, pain I can’t cope with, and anger with myself and unrest about my home being disordered and messy.

There are a couple of friends I really want to spend time with or do things for. I’m scared of taking from others and not giving back. Yet meeting someone, or going to their house, or cooking a meal for them, totally wipe me put afterwards for days after. I think that’s through a mixture of my pain and pushing myself too far physically, and my anxiety and the voices and feeling overwhelmed in a sensory way. Talking, others’ emotions, noise, new places, everything happening around me, can be just too much coming in to cope. Sometimes I think I have sensory processing disorder or at least sensory processing difficulties!

All this leads to despair, being cut off, and being unable to give thanks or try to open my heart to learn gratitude. I need to make a change. I don’t know what.

Ginny xxx

“See what a morning, gloriously bright…”

Autumn is my favourite season. We’ve had loads of blackberries this year. Here are some pictures from a little earlier when they were ripening, along with some rosehips, which are still brilliant red in the hedges:

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The trees are turning gorgeous colours and I enjoy them on cold sunny mornings. Though I may not like having to get out to early morning appointments when I’m feeling bad, the glimpses of beautiful scenery make me smile. I live near a lovely park as well and I’m fortunate to have the chance to appreciate it.

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Ginny xxx

 

Saying a last goodbye to my dear friend

Saying a last goodbye to my dear friend

The dear friend I wrote of in my last post, Father S, passed away last Saturday, a day after I had last visited him. Today was his funeral. It was a very hard but beautiful goodbye.

Father S was a Priest at my friend’s church. He was long retired however continued to serve and minister to his congregation – and to so many more, such as me. I came to know him through another good friend (the same who initially brought me to the faith); I have never lived in his Parish however he took such care of me and I know he prayed for me daily.  I can only imagine how much he is missed by those who knew him longer and more than I did.

Father S was an extremely humble, quiet and private person. He drew no importance or attention to himself. He worked, prayed, cared and gave of himself generously, not seeking recognition, never appearing discouraged, astoundingly giving continually even when there came nothing tangible in return. I think, indeed the Priest who gave the homily at the funeral said, that Father S has no doubt reached and helped far more people than we yet know or than he himself even knew.

I do not think his path was ever smooth. He moved between continents. He converted between churches and subsequently felt the call to become a Priest and dared to answer. I do not think he had many people to care for him in his early life, and he has lost and left behind many family members since. He suffered greatly, physically, mentally and emotionally, throughout I believe, the majority of his life, particularly in his later years. He faced intense physical pain and weakness, major health problems, increasing fatigue, struggles to get around. He suffered not only the mental cost and hurt of those things, but also deep distress, fear and sadness. Through all this, he continued to work and to give so much in friendship.

Only very occasionally did he brush the surface of what he went through, physically and psychologically. I knew and gathered a little from prayer, conversations and letters exchanged with him, and learned more today at the funeral. Though he did not make much of his suffering, he did not sugar coat things either. He did not pretend everything was fine, or not to care, or that he did not struggle, or that he had all the answers, or that we must be strong and healthy, or that all is happiness when we walk in the way of Our Lord. He lived and gave in every moment, acknowledging what exactly it brought, never turning his gaze away from Jesus and never fleeing. He taught me to begin to hold fast to Our Lord of love – seek Him in whatever is happening right now and hold fast (rather than running in fear from an image of a God I have created from all my fears and the torment going on in my head in my illness).

When I visited him the day before he died, all the more than ever, I sensed that he was very close to God. He had become much sicker very quickly at the end. On the way to see him that last day, primarily I was desperately hoping I would be in time. I was not afraid, but I did feel some uncertainty and anxiety as well as the sadness. How would I find him and what would be the right things to do? I have sat with the dying before, having worked in a hospice and having lost other elderly friends at a nursing home I used to volunteer at. Time somehow seems to change; it is not a bad thing, but indescribable; perhaps it is a result of so much that can pose a barrier to communicating, giving and loving, being stripped away. We are left bare and vulnerable faced with the finality of the separation of death. It need not be all sad. Somehow, in precious time like that, what we cannot express as we may wish to in words, can perhaps be communicated between our souls as we are held together by the Love that encompasses all of us. In our defencelessness, the stronger hold the love of God has.

In that visit as I talked with Father S, knelt and prayed with him, I felt I knew heaven was near and Mother Mary’s arms were around us. Kneeling beside him I told him some of the truest things I have been so afraid to admit. I thanked him as I should have thanked him much, much earlier and more often. Father S is one of the people whose encouragement, prayer and friendship has held me up when I have been at the very darkest times and he has played no small part in saving my life when I was at a point that I was going to try to end it. Kneeling beside his bed I prayed as I have not been able to pray for many long months. I felt that already, in the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus, Father S was drawing me after him, just as Jesus draws us after Him. In his prayer and his life that he had offered totally to God, he was drawing me out of fear to learn to know, perhaps for the first time, a God of love.

There was no ceremony, no astounding event in the moment when Father S passed. There were no visions, no glorious rays of light, no voice from heaven, no odour of roses. There was quiet, and love, and friendship, and hearts reaching out in prayer and thanksgiving to God alone. In the same way as he lived, he died, quietly, with those who loved Him, everything offered and united to the God of love He told us so plainly about in his words and his life. He died on the feast of St John Paul II (whom he loved), just before 3.00pm, the same hour at which Our Lord Jesus died. I feel that Our Lady and St John Paul came to carry him to Jesus.

I pray that now he knows in heaven the fullness of joy with the Lord he has reached out for, for so long; that he also now sees all the good he has done, especially that which remained hidden whilst he was on earth. I know so many hearts here below are full of thanks for him.

May the choirs of angels come to greet you,

May they speed you to paradise;

May the Lord enfold you in His mercy,

May you find eternal life.

(From Song of Farewell, by Ernest Sands)

Image thanks to pixabay.com – https://pixabay.com/en/banner-header-christmas-candles-880323/