I am a survivor of extremely severe ritualistic childhood abuse and sadistic systematic torture. Without God's intervention in my life I wouldn't be here - NOW is the time for me to tell MY story by speaking the TRUTH about MY life. I will be silenced no more! On this blog I share MY life, MY healing journey; helpful quotes/stuff I come across and MY thoughts along the way. The more I speak out the more liberated I am from the shame and trauma of the abuse. My broken wings are gradually being restored. This blog has helped me begin to get my voice back and documents the journey God is taking me on to heal me from the trauma and damage caused by that most appalling abuse.

Monday, 30 March 2015

LADIES DAY at EXMOUTH RFC

On Saturday I attended a Ladies Day event at my local rugby club.  I've been attending home games at the club during the last few months and have been blown away by how friendly and welcoming everyone has been towards me. There's a really good vibe at the club and I've thoroughly enjoyed every match I've been to!

Going back to Ladies Day!

 It was a huge step for me to take.

It was terrifying actually. 

But I'm really glad I went. 

It is an event which the rugby club has held for the last 4-years. 

Most ladies involved in the club are there because of family or other connections to the club. Generally people were there in groups but they were very friendly and welcoming to me.

During the meal people around me expressed surprise to meet someone who was coming to the club, attending matches and the Ladies Day event because they love the game of rugby rather than know anyone at the club. I had a lovely conversation with the lady sat opposite me about the differences between rugby league and rugby union which I really enjoyed. 

The delightful two-course lunch was washed down with champagne and a vodka based cocktail courtesy of the rugby club. I was also given a token for a free drink from the bar.

I won some lovely prizes in the raffle - who says I never win nowt? My strip of tickets was the last one to be called.

It was a great game of rugby which we won 66-8. And I had a great spot on the touchline by the try lines to capture the 9 tries which we scored!

Following the conclusion of the match there were post match nibbles in the club house washed down with pink champagne! 

On my way in to the club house I passed an elderly gent who smiled at me saying "Hello sweetheart, are you having a nice day?" It was said in a really nice generous voice that genuinely wanted to know if I was having a good time. I smiled and replied that I was then walked on thinking to myself how good it felt to be called "sweetheart" by someone. I also realised how far I've come that I could be spoken to like that by a man and not wonder what he was after, but rather take it in the spirit in which it was spoken. It felt so affirming to be called "sweetheart" in that way. And I had to say "wow" to myself at the realisation of the healing which has happened for me to respond to that communication with the way I did, and to feel so good and so positive about it too!!

So all in all, it was an extremely nerve-wracking but enjoyable day. 

I'm so glad I went. I'm so proud of myself for going.

And most of all....

In going I realised how far I've come.


Sunday, 18 January 2015

CHRISTMAS 2014

I had an astounding Christmas. I had a phenomenal Christmas. I had the best Christmas I've ever had.

We laughed a lot. That is one thing I will remember this Christmas for. We laughed a lot!

That doesn't mean it was without it's challenges, because there were difficult moments. But I still had the most amazing and wonderful Christmas, which 3-weeks later I'm struggling to get my head round.

I travelled with a lovely group of people who were non-obtrusively caring, supportive and great to be around. They allowed me to be me. That has never happened before. I had a wonderful time without anyone finding anything personal about me or my history. If conversation did steer it that way I gentle steered it somewhere else. In the past I've just steeled myself to answer tough personal questions. In the past I thought I had to answer such questions! This time I didn't, I was careful that it didn't go beyond anything I was willing to say about my life. That surprised me!! I discovered there has been a change and it was encouraging to see a little bit of healing which I hadn't realised was there before! What a change!!!

The trip over the Brenner Pass to Italy was driven in beautiful sunny spring like conditions, we could not have asked for any better weather" I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Brixen-Bressanone at the Christmas market and exploring the beautiful little town with an enormous history. My discovery of a very old cloister with incredible paintings on the sides and ceilings was phenomenal! It dripped history and I could easily imagine the monks in years past wandering that cloister as I was, my jaw was dropping at every turn. It was a lovely day!

Christmas Eve in Innsbruck was a real treat. I spend 3-hours in the mountains above Innsbruck enjoying the views of all the mountains around Innsbruck and reaching all the way to the Zillertal and Italy. The views were mind-blowing and the weather was perfect for my photography! I had a lovely wander through the Christmas markets, found and photographed the Triumphal Arch and bought myself a view bits + pieces around the Christmas markets. It was a lovely gentle day ticking off bits unfinished business from previous visits to Innsbruck!

Then, I found I had a few challenges. 

On Christmas Eve I came down to dinner to find no place had been set for me. The people around me said they thought I must have made a different arrangement for dinner when they saw my place empty. I said I hadn't and was always coming down to dinner. I walked in to the restaurant went to my seat and saw the empty space where there should have been a place set. I froze, I couldn't focus, I couldn't stop staring at the empty space. I stuttered out "they've not laid a place for me, what's going on?"

A kind lady opposite me said do you want me to find a member of staff to sort this out? I thought "Fi, for goodness sake you are 48 years old and well capable of going to find someone to sort this out".  And I heard myself say "please, if you wouldn't mind?" She didn't mind in the slightest and was more than happy to help.

I couldn't do anything. I couldn't move. I was frozen in a place of trauma. It was horrible!!! What was really good was nobody judged me for it. Nobody judged me for freezing. I certainly felt that everyone around me really felt for me and were as bemused as I was.

It took an age for someone to come. At some point I heard myself snap out "ah well, I'll disappear to the salad bar and get myself some salad, maybe the staff can get their act together while I do that". Going to the salad bar helped calm the triggers down but I remained very fragile and shaky. I wasn't really me for the rest of the meal. I realised I had disassociated in the shock of finding my place empty and all the terrible things which that reminded me of.

Eventually a male waiter who served all our table throughout the holiday came to my place with a place setting and was full of apologies and couldn't work out how it had happened and hoped that it hadn't upset me too much. To hear him say "I'm really sorry, it was my mistake, I'm not sure what I was thinking nor how it happened, I truly am sorry and hope it doesn't spoil your evening too much." was immensely healing for me.

I never was really myself for the rest of the meal and remained very wobbled and shaky. When we approached the pudding I discovered another problem. The spoon I'd been given looked clean on one side but it was disgusting on the other. I had a conversation about how I really did not want to draw attention to myself again or cause more difficulties for the waiting staff. BUT the spoon was disgusting and there was no way I was going to eat with it. I debated using the other end of the spoon which was ridiculous. In the end I had to gather myself together and accept I was going to have to ask for a new spoon. As the waiter approached our table I held up the spoon with the dirty side towards him and heard myself say "this spoon is absolutely disgusting, please can I have a clean one." I was gobsmacked to hear myself say that and to hear how I said it. The waiter nodded and disappeared to reappear with a spoon in a napkin and more apologies!

At the end of the meal I went up to my room and went to bed but it was on my mind all night and had a very disturbed night. I got up on Christmas morning still feeling shaky, traumatised and triggered. So when I got on the coach, I went and sat at the lounge at the back where no-one could see me and got myself together and my head in a better place so I when we reached our destination I was able to enjoy the horse drawn sleigh ride and time in resort in a way I didn't think I'd be able to when I first got up.

Christmas evening I had a green shirt, green Christmas tie and flashing brooches on. A nice mix of the masculine and feminine sides of me. Dressing up to me means a shirt and tie. On my way down to dinner I wondered how people might react to me.  But I had no negative comments or glances which was a relief! The coach drivers were sat with us for the meal. I had Nigel sat next to me. He bombed a photo someone took of me putting his head on my shoulder! I was amazed, astounded, blown-away, at how I handled than without flinching or taking it for anything else than it was but a bit of fun. We laughed a lot throughout the meal.

One thing that's come out of this holiday is how difficult I find it to go down to the social meal times. But the progress I've made this year meant I was able to actually enjoy aspects of it. My memories of those meal times will not be "how hard I had to work to get through them"  - NO - rather how much I enjoyed the meal and social times. Another pointer of healing which has taken place.

On Boxing Day we didn't get to Bavaria because of heavy snow which blocked the mountain passes. We ended up with our 2nd visit to Innsbruck of the holiday. This time it was a very snowy Innsbruck. I'd felt fated never to see Innsbruck in the snow but that wish fulfilled in an unexpected way. I had a wonderful couple of hours wandering round in the snow enjoying the atmosphere it created and the Christmas markets. Yes it was disappointing to not get to Bavaria but I had so much fun in the snow in Innsbruck instead.

The following day was an epic struggle to get through the snow to Belgium as we were hit hard by a snowstorm which swept through Europe that day. We crawled behind snowploughs doing 20km an hour in unrelenting heavy snow fall or crawled along bumper to bumper on snow blocked autobahns going even slower. At one point we travelled 250km in 7-hours coming to a total halt with 231 delay warnings ahead of us on our sat nav. Our coach was stuck in a 25km, 18mile long jam on the A8 south of Stuttgart. We did not think we were going to see Stuttgart that day. In fact Leger were preparing to send out relieve drivers from the UK to rescue us. Every coach returning from Austria and Italy was stuck in that jam, which is German is called a "STAU". And it sure was a STAU in capital letters!!!

The snow did ease off after a while which enabled the snow ploughs to clear a path through and we began to move slowly and but with increasing speed as the ploughs did their work and cleared the autobahns. So we finally got the other side of Stuttgart as sleety rain turned once more to snow. It continued to snow all the way back to Belgium. We stopped in heavy snow in Luxembourg for a 20-minute comfort stop then got stuck and had to reverse the coach to get out of the snow which had gathered round our wheels. In the end it took us 17-hours to get from our hotel in Austria to our hotel in Belgium - a distance of 884km. It was a relief to finally draw up in front of our hotel at 12.30am. We weren't the last coach to reach the overnight hotel. One coach arrived at their hotel at 3.30am!

It was 2am before anyone made it to bed with the coach needed to be unloaded and our cases sorted and sent to the right rooms. they were down to a skeleton staff and didn't do a very good job, putting cases outside wrong rooms. It was a drag that we had to wait so long and also return cases which should have been elsewhere.

The upside of being so late was we got a lie in the next day as we couldn't leave till 10am because of the statutory break our drivers had to take. Then we had a gentle journey towards Calais. We thought we were driving non-stop to Calais but Leger informed our drivers that the previous days delays meant the interchange at Calais had been delayed and instructed us to stop off at PJ's Belgian chocolate factory shop. So we got an unexpected little break there and left with the coach creaking under the strain of all the Belgian chocolate on board!!

We knew we'd missed the ferry we were booked on and also knew that Calais had been closed the day before because of gales, so we had no idea when we were going to get on a ferry and cross the channel.

The interchange went very smoothly and we left at 2.15pm to head to the port and passport control which can take forever but today we were through passport control very fast and heading towards check-in just after 3pm. As we pulled up at check-in our driver was informed that there was a space on the ferry currently loading, did we want it??? "OH YES"

However, after boarding the ferry we didn't leave at the time we were meant to. The captain came over the ship's tannoy to inform us that as we were about the leave port 4 illegal immigrants had leapt on to the ship. So we were being held at Calais port, police and sniffer dogs were on their way to search the ship for them and remove them. In the end it took only 50-minutes for the police and sniffer dogs to complete the job and remove the illegals. I had feared it could take longer than that, the ferries are massive ships. After that it was plain sailing to the UK and we arrived at Dover 2-hours later than scheduled just after 4pm.

The drivers on my feeder coach home gave us a break at services on the M4 before heading up to Bristol and down towards the Westcountry. Relaxing in to the journey I though all our adventures were over now. I couldn't have been more wrong!! All the delays meant that our drivers were running low on driving hours. They actually ran out of driving hours as we passed Weston-super-Mare in Somerset. So they decided to stop a few miles later at Bridgwater services on the M5 in Somerset and then had to arrange taxis for everyone to take them on to their final drop off point.

After a 45-minute wait I found myself in a taxi with 3 other people, 2 of whom were getting off in Exeter with me, the other couple headed for Plymouth! My friend was waiting for me at Exeter and I eventually got home just before midnight, relieved to be home. 

But I was also home with many happy memories.

Any some interesting memories of events that didn't go so well but showed me how much progress I have made.

Most of all I cannot believe how easily and gently I interacted with everyone around, I realised wasn't interacting from a place of fear bur from a place of "well this is me, I do worry what your response to me may be, and I am fearful of you and your intentions towards me but this is me and this is who I am and how I roll!"

I am finding it hard to believe how I was with the people around me.

I am amazed by how I communicated and interacted with people and things going on around me.

I realise I had a small level of confidence I haven't had before!

I realised that little level of confidence is about being "me", being "who I am"

I also notice a small level of self-assurance about who I am and what I'm about.

That is new and very exciting!!!

I also realised that my humour which has always been a survival tool and a coping strategy has now become a part of my personality and how I interact with the world and the people I find in it. 

I see that as incredibly beautiful and amazing!
















Sunday, 16 November 2014

CHILD ABUSE + FORGIVENESS

"The idea that anyone is required to forgive their abuser is vapid, toxic nonsense. You’re the one who got hurt. YOU get to decide what your attitude is toward the person who hurt you."

That quote comes from a fantastic article about forgiveness for child abuse survivors on this website -


 http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2014/11/6-truths-about-forgiving-sexual-abuse/

REALLY USEFUL WEBSITE ABOUT PTSD

There is very helpful information about what trauma does to the brain and to chemical balances in the brain + body in people affected by PTSD

http://www.chemistryislife.com/the-chemistry-of-post-traumatic-stress-disorder

THE AMYGDALA

The Amygdala is the part of the brain which plays the primary role in memory, decision making and emotional reaction. 
Damage to this part of the brain is thought to be behind Post Traumatic Stress Disorder leading to symptoms like fragmented memory.

FEELING SAFE

I am slowly feeling increasingly safe at home, in therapy, with people I know are safe people, when playing pool, when swimming, when down my tree - I'm learning that it's ok to figure out ways that enable me to do things + manage to feel some degree of safety when doing things outside of my home, and it's also ok to acknowledge how rare that "feeling safe" is in my life.

It's also ok to remember why it is so difficult for me to feel safe. 

There was no safe adult during my childhood. 

There was no real safe place during childhood either. 

I wasn't safe in the house. 

I wasn't safe in my bed. 

I wasn't safe with my parents.

I wasn't safe with my brother.

I wasn't safe with my grandfather.

I wasn't safe with my grandmother.

I wasn't safe with their paedophile friends.

I wasn't safe with the police either.

The only place I was safe was when I was kicked out and wandering the streets. Then it was all about being hyper-alert to threats.

It's great that I am beginning to find safe places for myself in adulthood.

I think it's fab that I am finding safe people too and trusting my gut intuition about people.

It's been quite eye-opening to me that there are safe men in the world and that there are safe women too.

It's ok for me to acknowledge when someone or something doesn't feel safe to me and to back off or hold back.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

THE 2ND ANNIVERSARY

It was the 2nd anniversary of my father's death on 25th August 2014.

I'm still dealing with the mixed feelings that come from my father's death 2 years ago, but I am proud of how I created my own boundaries + how I have kept myself safe as an adult.

I'm also extremely proud that he got the message before he died that I wasn't keeping silent any more and that what he did was not ok.

I mourn all that never was and could never be.

I also have relief that he is dead and cannot hurt anyone any more! 

This anniversary has also caused layers to lift away which had protected me from the reality of what he did to me. 

Those layers had protected me from how I really felt as a child about what he did, how he did it and what it all did to me. 

Those layers had also protected me from how I really feel about him now. How I hate what he did. How I hate the anxiety and confusion he caused me, both as a child and as an adult.

Those layers also protected me from the details of the things he did and said to keep me silent, compliant and afraid.

Those layers also protected me from the very deep and profound physical, emotional, mental and body shock, trauma and horror throughout my system from what I endured.

Those layers also protected me from the false sense of safety I developed inside me watching him abuse other children, photograph abuse, orchestrate abuse but never on me for the first 9 years. I truly believed deep inside me that he would never do those things or anything else, for that matter, to me. Then when he raped me on the night of my 9th birthday all that was shattered and I've never recovered.

His abuse of me throughout my childhood under my mother's instructions came under a different category in my mind. I truly believed he would not choose or decide to do anything to me without Sheila's instruction. When I realised at the age of 9 that he was capable of and willing to abuse me of his own choice, of his own volition it was an immense shock. A shock I've not recovered from.

That is probably why I never feel safe as an adult, not even when I'm alone with the door locked and curtains closed!

I hated how one moment he could be "Mr Nice Guy" then suddenly turn and be someone totally different. I hated the confusion that caused me too. I also hated the "never quite knowing" which side of him he was at a particular time. I hated how I never knew if and when he would turn and why. I was always trying to be good and do everything he wanted to prevent him from turning while also knowing somewhere inside that probably I couldn't prevent him from turning. But it was a way I tried to keep myself as safe as possible.

I hated how weak he was towards my mother. I hated how he did everything he told her to do. I hated how he never stood up to her and said "I'm not doing that to her" when I could feel he didn't want to carry out her orders.

I hated the excuses he came up with for doing what he did.  
"Oh, all daddies do this with their little girls"; "There's nothing wrong, this is quite normal"; "I'm doing this because you're daddy's special little girl, you can give daddy what no-one else can give him"; "Mummy is quite happy that I'm here with you doing this"; "I'm just getting you ready for when you'll be married"; "It's your birthday and I have a special present for you." 
And so on...

I hated the times he threatened me to keep me compliant too.

I hated that he abused me while being Mr Nice Guy as well as when being really mean and nasty.
I hate that he was not ever a real father to me.

I also hate that he never took responsibility for what he did or even acknowledged that anything was ever wrong.

I hate the fact that I have blamed myself for all of this for so many years.

I am relieved that I'm now able to slowly begin to blame him for the things for which he was solely responsible.

 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A VERY GOOD ARTICLE ABOUT DEPRESSION + MENTAL ILLNESS


It is entitled 8 Things to Never Say To Someone with depression.

Here are some excerpts from the article - 
Since learning the tragic news about Robin Williams, I have read well-meaning posts about depression by well-meaning people, but unfortunately the uneducated comments can do more harm than good. Those who have not experienced depression personally are better off sealing lips and just listening with a genuine smile. I don't say any of this to condemn or in haste at all. I just want to bring about an understanding to this disease, as well as an understanding to mental illness in general. Sadly, there has become such a stigma humans have put around mental illness that causes those who struggle to want to run the other way. Often our well-meaning words can cause others to feel more alone than ever. There isn't a magical answer. There are no specific powerful words that heal. Watch what you say and strive to just listen when given a chance. Try to be wise so your words don't make things worse.
1. "You must not have enough faith in God, Just trust the Lord" - Struggling with depression does not mean someone isn't putting their faith in God. Depression has no bearing on one's relationship or lack their of, with God. Without my faith and trust in God I don't know where I would be! I thank Jesus that He IS with me in the midst of my struggles. Even yet, the pit still exists. That sinking feeling in my stomach is still there. The sadness that lurks is still in there. My brain still races 100 miles per minute. My thoughts go here, there, everywhere, and every which way in between. The implication that my struggle with anxiety and depression are the result of a lack of faith in God suggests that mental health isn't a real physical issue.
2. "You just need to think positively" I am actually a very optimistic person. I see the good in others. I strive to be a peacemaker. I like to help others see the silver lining. In regards to depression and anxiety, I am really just wired that way. It's the way my brain processes things. Some people are just wired a certain way and that is just how it goes. Nothing you say will "fix" someone. There is no magical thought I can think that will pull me from a bout with depression or anxiety.
3. "Stay away from meds, you don't want to be on that stuff" (Go to a 'natural' Doctor...) - Afraid of the critique of others. The humiliation that can go with needing a psych drug. I was blessed to have a doctor who told me she has been there and that there is nothing wrong with taking meds. She validated my every being and thought. She just simply understood. Often, we cannot take care of the spiritual, if we don't balance the imbalances and deal with the mental.
4."Suicidal people are selfish" - Many that contemplate suicide seriously think the world would be fine without them, and they don't think of those who would miss them. They are not trying to be selfish at all, they are just so terribly sunk in that deep pit that they desperately just want out and sometimes that means they take their own lives. When the sadness gets to that point of utter desperation it causes you to see nothing else but sadness, gloom, darkness, and dread.
5. "Seek help, seek other people out" - Depression feels dark and shameful. But more times than not, in the midst of depression, comes big time insecurity. One isn't always thinking about who they can talk to because they are embarrassed. Depression can be mortifying.
6. "What have you got to be depressed about?" - Depression is dark and lonely. Anxiety and depression go hand in hand, as you may feel depressed for being anxious and anxious about being depressed. It's a vicious cycle that plays tricks on your mind causing an unrest like no other. Just validate my feelings, because if I could help it, I would.
7. "Just get over it. Come on cheer up!" - If only. Lack of validation will not lead me to hope in desperation.
8. "You're a mess" - There is this feeling of indignity, shame, & humiliation that goes with any mental illness. There's a certain negativity that causes insecurity and an even greater loneliness for those suffering.

Depression and anxiety are treatable. Mental illness is manageable. One can live a very normal, exciting, joy filled life.  Chances are there are more people around you than you realize, struggling with a mental illness of some kind. Watch what you say and the disgrace you allow your words to display. Educate yourself before speaking. Chances are unless you have been there, you will never truly understand.  Know that when a person deals with depression and anxiety, for them it's near impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Be sympathetic. Be gracious. Slow to speak. Quick to listen.



Some of My Thoughts About Robin William's Death

The news of Robin William's death hit me like a 50-ton lorry because I know the tightrope I walk between staying alive and not - I know too how much energy and determination it takes for me to keep myself alive, to make changes to my life which make it more bearable - I know also that I am just one bad trigger or one bad piece of news away from having to cope with suicidal feelings, ideation and so on - I also know there is no logic to suicide, it is not a cognitive thing, it is rooted in total desperation when you cannot keep living with the pain any more - it is a very black place of total overwhelm, mind, body, emotions, mentally and spiritually, - I am helped by the truth that it is about the pain of severe depression exceeding the ability to cope or the resources to cope - I don't talk about this side of my life outside of therapy, because it is a very difficult thing to live with BUT I really hate all the comments about suicide being a selfish act, not caring about those left behind - it is none of those things - it is an illness which takes too many lives, such comments make it very hard for people to be honest about the reality of living every day of your life with severe depression and what it takes out of you .



One of the reasons I left "the church" was because I've been judged, condemned, blamed [and all the rest] without fail in church upon church upon church during the last 2 decades of my life for having complex mental health issues which didn't respond to their theology - I've had it all said to me until I couldn't cope with it any more - and I know I am not the only Christian to have to cope with that crap - I even had one person tell me in 1997 that she didn't believe I could possibly be a Christian because I was so deeply depressed - I have never been able to forget her words and attitude - "the church" and Christians need to get past "mental health problems, depression etc are sin and so on" paradigm, it needs to get past "Christianity and depression do not go together", it needs to get past the deliverance + false forgiveness (all you need to do is forgive) assumptions that depressed Christians get forced into so much when they ask for help, it has destroyed so many lives and driven so many from the church.


I found this a really helpful perspective on suicide, it is an illness, a disease and it is lethal – Robin and every other person who dies from suicide are killed by the illness “depression” rather than killed himself.

An excerpt from the article - 
"mental health is still vastly misunderstood in our culture. That it is undervalued, that it is not seen as “real”. We talk about psychology as a “soft” science. The stigma around going to therapy or taking medications persists. It is time we stopped thinking about mental health in this way. It is time we acknowledged that a disease in the brain is just as physical as a disease in the heart, lungs, or liver. The fact that it is more complicated, less understood, and only beginning to be studied, does not mean we can ignore this fact. In truth, it means the exact opposite: that mental health needs to be treated with urgency. That our society has to start treating its illnesses as every bit as deadly and malicious as other ailments. That research into these issues needs to be ramped up. What scares me the most about the death of Robin Williams is that it is clear how woefully ill-equipped the world is to fight mental health. How anyone, truly anyone, can fall to it, even someone with tons of money for treatment and support from the world. Perhaps Depression might lose some its “it was his own fault” stigma, if we start focussing on the illness, rather than the symptom. Robin Williams didn’t die from suicide. He died from Depression*. It wasn’t his choice to suffer.

I found this article very helpful as it seeks to deal with a lot of the damaging attitudes about mental illness and how beliefs within “the church” towards people with mental illness about how all they need is more faith etc are so wrong and deeply damaging.
Some excerpts from the article -
Robin Williams connected deeply in a light hearted way with such a broad cross section of people. His inner child was his outer adult, which shows bravery most of us lack. Finding Jesus is NOT the Cure for Depression.
Mental illness is also incurable. While mental illness can be managed and treated, it never goes away.
For some reason, especially in the church, we often judge people who are mentally ill as making poor choices in their lives or somehow not fully trusting in God. It’s almost as if physical impairments can’t be helped, but mental impairments just require people to simply try harder. If trying hard cured mental illness, then mental illness would be cured, because I don’t ‘know of anyone who tries harder to fit in or just function than people who struggle with these diseases.
There are plenty of Christians who love Jesus with all of their hearts and have committed their entire lives to him, yet they are Schizophrenic, Bipolar, Clinically Depressed or smitten with another illness
Mental and spiritual matters seem more inseparable than physical and spiritual matters. The fine line between the soul and spirit is hard to navigate. Can our souls be saved, while our minds are “lost”? That doesn’t even make sense. We are whole beings.
People suffering from mental illness are often misunderstood and stigmatized. As hard as they try, they often don’t fit in. If they have a family, the family often feels like outsiders as well. Where can they find acceptance and understanding? If it’s not the church, then where?
People with mental illness are exceptional. Certainly every mentally ill person is not a comic genius like Robin Williams, but they are exceptional because they don’t fit into the norm.
No one is doing great work with the mentally ill. They are constantly shuffled back and forth from agency to agency. Most will end up in jail or homeless or dead. The church possesses the hope of the world. If anyone should care, shouldn’t it be the church?
Begin to equip yourself, and God will use you. Be open.”

Monday, 21 July 2014

CATCHING UP

The last seven months have been hell to get through which is why there's been a huge gap between this and my previous post.

The failure of the local Community Mental Health Service to provide any support for me has impacted hugely on my life.

It all began in January when my CPN and care co-ordinator, Kathy, went off sick. I had a phone call then a letter, then nothing until early April. I felt invisible, lost to the system.

Then I was called to meet a new caseworker, Lesley, to find that she wasn't a new caseworker but rather a temporary interim worker brought in to cover Kathy's absence. Her boss had requested Lesley to find out how my mental health was, what support I needed and also to tell me that Kathy would not be returning to work. I was totally devastated to receive the news about Kathy though not all that surprised, I had a feeling that things were moving towards that conclusion. I was able to express to Lesley how hard it had been to have Kathy go off sick. I was also able to express how devastated I was to hear that Kathy would not return.

More importantly I was able to get across how invisible I had felt all those weeks which turned into months, hearing nothing and having no support offered.

I felt heard, affirmed and encouraged by what took place during that meeting and was hopeful for a sensible and constructive way forward. I was booked to see Lesley two weeks later. I left the meeting unconcerned by it and equally unconcerned about my future support. I felt a corner had been turned.

When I showed up for my next meeting with Lesley I was introduced to another caseworker and asked if I minded if she sat in the appointment which was odd.

Once in the meeting Lesley informed me that her contract had been terminated early and this new person was my new care co-ordinator, Sarah. Sarah informed me that her job was to actively review my case with a view to shutting my case down and getting me off their list.

Lesley coldly stated that she knew nothing about me, my history, diagnosis nor of the fact that I am in therapy and need long term support. She said those things were not important as she is about closing down cases not continuing support. That is her job.

I could not take in what I was hearing. The dynamic was all wrong. The atmosphere was cold. I felt very threatened, intimidated and undermined.

When I said I was devastated by Kathy's departure I was told very coldly “Kathy is now in the past you need to move on.” There was no acknowledgement of the impact of the loss on me nor of the grief I was feeling at Kathy's loss. I was further traumatised when Sarah very coldly stated “you've had a lot of therapy, you are doing so well now, there are many people on our waiting list, a decision needs to be made as to whether you're going to be allowed any more therapy.” It was extremely difficult and traumatising to sit in a meeting which I had been told was about meeting my new caseworker then discovering it was actually something very different. The dynamic of that meeting was a mess. It wasn't about me, what I need or where I'm at therapy wise.

It was a tremendous shock and has been very disruptive to my therapy and to my general mental health. And that puts it mildly!!

It was all wrong. I was appalled as were my psychologist and her colleagues.

Everything about that meeting massively traumatised me. It was so traumatic that I dangerously split. I was ripped apart by it. My support workers had to intervene. They negotiated me off Sarah's list, got me clustered at the right level of care support, and gained reassurances that my therapy and support would continue.

My psychologist kicked up a stink about that meeting. As a result I was called to another meeting to meet a new care co-ordinator early in May.

She introduced herself to me as Debbie. She said she was to be my new care co-ordinator. She informed me that she's been working in mental health for over 30 years. She told me she is on a permanent contract and not planning on going anywhere. She was very anxious to put things right, to get to know me and the kinds of support I need. She apologised for what I've been put through and confirmed that I am longer on “active review” but rather on the longer term care co-ordinator support list. We had a very positive session discussing my history, my therapy and counselling progress and the type of support I was hoping for from her.

After five months of being in the wilderness finally things were looking up, or so I thought!

A couple of days before the next appointment I came home to a message on my answer-phone. It was precisely the same message I had received about Kathy, but now it was about Debbie. I couldn't take it in. Then I received a letter identical to the one I'd about Kathy's absence in January, but this time it named Debbie.

I was immensely shocked and traumatised. I hadn't realised how traumatised I'd been by the events around Kathy's absence and subsequent leaving. Only now was I aware of deep trauma. Now there was an additional layer of trauma.

My child parts said very firmly “we're glad we didn't tell her much about ourselves then!” There was nothing I could say to that,

I tried to keep positive and reassure them that this was different to Kathy and she'd soon be back to work. But two weeks became five weeks and then indefinite. History was literally repeating itself and I, and my child parts were massively re-traumatised.

I could not believe nor take in what was happening. I realised that the trauma triggered old messages that “I was bad and this had happened to me because I was bad and did not deserve anything better and I was being punished for having such a good rapport with Kathy and such a deeply therapeutic and positive relationship with her.

I reeled from that and tried to navigate a way through it in counselling. I realised I was fire-fighting and in damage-limitation mode.

While in that mode I could not grieve nor move forward. It was really tough.

Then I unexpectedly received a letter from Kathy telling me she'd had to take early-retirement for health reasons, that she was sorry and had felt privileged to work with me.

I appreciated that letter more than she will ever know and more than I can find words for. Now I had something to counter those old messages.

That letter changed things. I was suddenly able to grieve and to speak of my loss. I was able to see that not only was I missing my Kathy and finding it hard to take in that she wasn't going to walk in the door and smile at me. I was also missing all that the relationship had been to me. I realised there were many layers to the grief and sense of loss.

But the difficult issue of non-existent support which her leaving had left in it's wake was still unresolved. That was until last week.

Last Wednesday I had a very important meeting with a person quite high up in psychological therapies. My therapist and counsellor were also present at that meeting.

The first important thing to come out the meeting was a more complete diagnosis. Alongside the psychiatric diagnosis now sits a psychological formulation – “Complex trauma and Dissociation.” - At long last!! That will be sent to my GP as well so it will be on my GP's notes as well as the Community Mental Health Team's notes.

The second thing to come out of it concerned Kathy. I discovered I'm not the only one who has had no care co-ordinator support for seven months. I also discovered I'm not the only one who has been severely impacted by her leaving and how appallingly badly it has been handled. There are other people saying exactly the same things as me. Discovering that changes things for me in that I now have stuff to counter some of the old messages which had been triggered by the trauma.

The third thing to come out of the meeting is a definite concrete commitment to long-term support and therapy. We have another year of therapy confirmed, to be reviewed in 9 months or so with a view to continuing support beyond that, one-to-one and possibly group work.

The fourth thing to come out of it is also a formal commitment to sorting out my mental health support. If Debbie is not back to work in a month's time then my therapist has the authorisation to contact the Community Mental Health Team and force them to provide alternative ongoing support and also provide me with a proper care co-ordinator.

I feel so much better for that meeting.

I came out of it feeling heard, understood, taken seriously and so many other things I cannot find words for.

The dynamic of that meeting was so different from the one with Sarah. It was all about what's going on for me, how everything has affected me and how things can be moved forward on to a better footing.

The meeting changed a lot for me.

It didn't solve all the problems but it removed some of the uncertainties.

I could not continue with things how they were. Seven months with no care co-ordinator has been appalling and it's going to take some time for me to recover and find some belief in the system again. I was very close to cracking. It was only the fact that I had ongoing therapy and counselling which helped keep me going. If my only support had been from the Community Mental Health Team I don't think I would still be here. I can't help but wonder how people with even worse mental health than me have coped.

But at least something is being done about it now! I'm not invisible to the system any more and the system is going to have to account, maybe in a very small way, for it's care or lack of care.

Doing nothing is not going to be an option for them in a few week's time.

Knowing that is an immense relief!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

I WENT DANCING LAST WEEK

I went dancing last week.

Erm, yes, you did read that right!

I WENT DANCING LAST WEEK!


I hadn't danced in 33 years. I'd kept away from places with dance floors, declined invitations to things which might have dancing involved, or if I couldn't do that, stay as far away from the dancing as possible, usually with a camera in hand to give me some reason for not dancing.

It was the Women on Wednesdays (WOW) Pre-Pride Bop last Friday night (9 May), the night before Exeter  Pride. I'd known about the event for a couple of months. As soon as I heard about it I knew I wanted to go. But for me to go to a bop - wow that would be one huge step to take. So I'd been slowly building up the courage to go, reminding myself why I wanted to go and why it was so important to go but also so difficult! I so wanted to go to it, but to go would be so massive!

In the end it was a huge decision to go. I knew it would take me right out of any of my comfort zones. I knew it would be a challenge, I knew I'd find it scary, but I also sensed deep, deep down that I'd enjoy it too.

I've been to a couple of WOW socials so there were a few faces I recognised. I really enjoyed that I was recognised and warmly welcomed by several people. The first 10 minutes or so were filled with awkward small-talk conversation which I find so very difficult then people began arriving in numbers and there were loads more people around and more people for them to go talk to. And I was able to go back to people watching, feeling very shy.

I quite enjoyed sitting with the people I already knew around a small table people watching. I deliberately chose an end seat so I could get up and out of the situation quickly if I needed to. I had conversations with people who spoke to me and still found it difficult to get over my initial shyness and start conversations with people I really don't know. But at an event like that it didn't really matter.

I lost my voice after about the first hour - a combination of fear and having to talk loudly because of the music in the background. When I'm ultra nervous my chest tightens and I lose my voice. So I had to go to the toilet a few times, do some breathing exercises, remind myself why I was there and cough my voice back.

It took me over 2 hours to pluck up the courage and step on to the dance floor. I kind of moved toward it in a way that suggested I knew exactly what I was doing when I didn't. But once I was on the dance floor it was as if 33 years just dropped away and I wasn't scared any more. YES, I was ultra-aware! YES, my radar was up high! YES, I was hyper-alert about messages people were giving out! YES, I was hyper-alert about my own body language.

But that didn't stop me dancing. 

It just meant I knew where my boundaries were and if someone got anywhere near them then I would have a sudden urge to go the toilet and try to climb out the window. 

But that didn't happen. 

I was terrified someone might hit on me and knew if someone did part of me would like it, but the larger part of me would find it terrifying and feel like running away. 

But, thankfully that didn't happen either!

Oh, and guess what?

I enjoyed it.
I enjoyed being on the dance floor.
I did my thing and wasn't too bothered what anyone else thought.
I kept myself safe.
I had fun.
I didn't feel embarrassed or self conscious after a while, after all everyone was doing their own thing!
I felt good about what I did and how I did it.
I felt so alive.

It was a huge achievement going dancing that night and I want to do it again when the next opportunity comes along.

I am so proud of myself for going dancing.

So why was going dancing such a big deal?

Erm, well, where do I start?

Throughout my life whenever anyone has mentioned "dancing" to me I feel a wave of immense shame and embarrassment roll through me. I've never understood why and not really thought what it was about. I didn't want to go there because it was something which made me feel really horrible

So, what's the why's of it?


There were the talent shows I was forced to take part in between the age of approximately 6+9. There were those horrible mini frilly dresses that left nothing to the imagination which I just hated being forced into. And there was the being beaten for not wanting to wear the hated frilly dresses. 

I have an image of me, a pudgy little girl in frilly dresses, sometimes white or yellow or orange or red, my pudgy little arms and legs and my white knickers on show to everyone. 

Then there was that horrible exposed feeling of being forced, pushed on to the big stage with loads of people, mostly men goggling at me and judging me. I just wanted to run away but had to stay there, sing and dance around the stage smiling when all I wanted to do was curl up in the corner and cry. There were so many people who'd reach out up to me and touch my cheeks and say "haven't you got lovely dimples". I wanted to say "no, I haven't", pull my tongue out at them, tell them to go away and run away to a place I could never be found. Instead I had to smile sweetly-sick smiles and allow horrible unwanted touch which felt like such an invasion, and agree that my hated dimples were lovely. I knew I'd only get beaten more for making a fuss and not letting it happen.

There were school discos too. At the end of every school year at Grammar School. Most of my friends were paired off. I wasn't and didn't want to be. I was laughed at for being single and not wanting to be with a boy. I was called many names. Then when I did make it on to the hated dance floor I was laughed at, told I didn't know how to dance, had no sense of rhythm, was clumsy and unco-ordinated. I felt embarrassed, self-conscious and ashamed of my inability to do what everyone else was doing as well as they were doing it. So I went and hid in the toilets for the rest of the disco.

So for me to choose to go somewhere where there was going to be dancing was massive. 

For me to also decide that I was going to be part of the dancing was ginormous. 

For me to actually go and do what I'd made my mind up to do was humongous. 

For me to do it, enjoy it and feel good about what I was wearing, to feel good about my conversation and about my body language was seismic. 

For me to come away from it feeling so good about it and about myself, well, it's deeply astounding and a HUGE step forward for me.

For me to come away and want to do it again is amazing!!

So that's the story of how I went dancing last week and I am so very proud of myself, prouder than there are words for!

It was and is exhilarating! 

To feel so good about myself! 
To feel so good about my body! I'd never have thought it possible!
To feel so good about how I handled myself and the situation! 

Well, what further can I say, I run out of words.

BUT I'm so glad I took the risk and went! It was a huge accomplishment. And a massive step forward for me!