Old Wounds

Fluff just got in from her first ever 5km run. When she came through the door she staggered through into the office and said to Frank, “Dad, I feel a bit light headed.”
Frank, never one to miss an opportunity to tease his vehemently vegan daughter, said, “You should have had a cheeseburger beforehand, loaded up on some meat.”
Fluff replied, “Mmm, yes, shoulda got me some class 1 carcinogens.”
“Touche.” Said I.
“Indeed,” she said, smiling, “I should be a stand up comedian.”
She flopped onto the settee, “Actually, I think I’m more of a sit down comedian.”

********

That little anecdote aside, this post is more about my experience of going along to the local mental health theatre group, because I have been four times now. Each time has been very enjoyable, even though I’ve only been watching. I have learned so much. The professionalism of the actors and director is seriously impressive. Not your usual amateur dramatics. Yesterday, though… The PTSD came raging back. I tried to hide it. Complex PTSD is no bloody joke. My head was a warzone.

From every direction the missiles came, pounding one after another after another in a full-force PTSD blitzkrieg:

“You’re useless!”
“Pathetic!”
“Worthless b*tch.”
“Worm!”
“You can’t do anything without screwing it up, can you?”
“I’ll kill you.”
“They’re all looking at you… They all think you’re stupid and they can’t wait until you leave.”
“You should just run out that door and never come back.”
“What made you think you could possibly belong here? You don’t belong anywhere. Crawl back under the rock that you came from.”
“If they knew your story they’d hate you. It’s all your fault.”
“What you gonna do about it, c***?”

And of course there was the sense of imminent danger, which I imagine is akin to the feeling that bombs are dropping all around you. I knowingly use a military metaphor because I know that many people associate PTSD with combat veterans and I need to make the link with the experience and sensations of PTSD, especially when it’s related to abuse and violence.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t hallucinate. I don’t hear voices. I don’t have an illness in that sense (not that I am casting aspersions on those who do; I’m just being clear). These are all thoughts in my head, but they’re accompanied by emotions that are as full-on as if I am experiencing the traumas all over again. And there were so many traumas that in the unwonted re-enactment they all run into one another. I was rational enough to recognise that these thoughts are – extremely loud – echoes of the past, but no amount of rationalising could make them stop. Discreet deep breaths helped me calm myself. After all, I reasoned, it will only make it worse if I do run out.
After a fantastic session for the cast, as we all headed out the door, I complimented a cast member on her genuinely lovely singing voice, and confessed (rather bravely, actually, because an admission that all is not well is making oneself vulnerable, but I had just witnessed a dozen people all making themselves vulnerable in the performance, so…) that although I hadn’t done anything, I felt extremely nervous. Understatement.
“Hug!” She said, “We do hugs here, at the end.” And she moved towards me with her arms open. I don’t generally do hugs, but she wasn’t threatening. I was able to briefly hug, accepting the kindness with which it was offered, and then walk with deep breaths to my car.
Couldn’t sleep, though, and when I did it was constant nightmares, punctuated by wakefulness. Sigh. “Stop the world, I want to get off.” I prayed. And then, eventually, in the wee hours, “Ok, God, this is Yours.” Because I know that the arms that spread wide in agony on the cross were the same arms that reached out and gave me a hug – one broken, beautiful human being to another.
Now it’s morning; time to get on with the day. I’m not giving up. I’m going back next week. I can rationalise where those ‘voices’ were coming from: they were all things the abusers used to say. I would stay reaction-less, because reaction could provoke. Sometimes my reaction-less state would mean the situation did not escalate. Usually it didn’t matter what I did, the sadistic humiliation and violence would follow.
They say the only way to face phobias is to be exposed to the cause of the phobia in a desensitisation process. Maybe the way to get over this THING is to experience it all again, but in a safe place. To become acclimatised.

I’ll keep trying. Thank God.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
Psalm 51:12 NRSVA

…[We] have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.
2 Corinthians 4:7-11 NRSVA

I do not pray that you may be delivered from your pains, but I pray GOD earnestly that He would give you strength and patience to bear them as long as He pleases. Comfort yourself with Him who holds you fastened to the cross… The men of the world do not comprehend these truths… They consider sickness as a pain to nature, and not as a favour from GOD; and seeing it only in that light, they find nothing in it but grief and distress…
I wish you could convince yourself that GOD is often (in some sense) nearer to us, and more effectually present with us, in sickness than in health… Put, then, all your trust in Him, and you will soon find the effects of it in your recovery…
Eleventh Letter, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing];
The punishment [required] for our well-being fell on Him,
And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5 (Amplified)

 

 

Patience

Just_William_cover

William was rather late to lunch. His father and mother and elder brother and sister were just beginning the meal. He slipped quietly and unostentatiously into his seat… 

“William,” said Mrs Brown, “I do wish you’d be in time, and I do wish you’d brush your hair before you come to table.”

William raised a hand to perform the operation, but catching sight of its colour, hastily lowered it.

“No, Ethel dear, I didn’t know anyone had taken Lavender Cottage. An artist? How nice! William dear, do sit still. Have they moved in yet?”

“Yes,” said Ethel, “they’ve taken it furnished for two months, I think. Oh, my goodness, just look at William’s hands!”

William put his hands under the table and glared at her.

“Go and wash your hands, dear,” said Mrs. Brown patiently.

For eleven years she had filled the trying position of William’s mother. It had taught her patience.

from Just William by Richmal Crompton

After a particularly taxing day yesterday, I just had to share with you the one thing that, on hearing it this morning (read by the inimitable Martin Jarvis), made me nearly snort out my morning cuppa. Seeing the funny side somehow makes things better, even if it doesn’t resolve them. Thank God for humour 😉

Does my Bum Look Big in This?

Tending to the guinea pigs, I bent over to push a lettuce leaf through the cage bars. As I did so, my daughter reached out and pulled something from my behind. It was a sticker. She read the words of the sticker aloud:

“100% UV filter…”

There was a pause, and then she added, “Mum, it’s official; your bottom is so big it blocks out the sun!” The whole room exploded in laughter.

True story o_O

 

Here’s another:

The plumber had come to remove the old gas cooker. He was having difficulty reaching in the small gap between the oven and the wall. As he bent further and further, his trousers began to creep down leaving his underwear showing. He grunted and gasped and then finally, with an extra effort, said, “Aha! I can see it all now!”

“So can we!” My dad, usually so very polite, exclaimed and raised his eyebrows at what was now on view.

Too Short for Star Wars?

the appointed time has grown short;

from now on,

let even those who have wives be as though they had none,

and those who mourn as though they were not mourning,

and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing,

and those who buy as though they had no possessions,

and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it.

For the present form of this world is passing away.

~ 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (NRSVA)

You have made my days a few handbreadths,
    and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight.
Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.
     Surely everyone goes about like a shadow…

 ‘And now, O Lord, what do I wait for?
    My hope is in you.

~ extract from Psalm 39:5-7

I go through a passage from the Old Testament and a passage from the New Testament most days. I don’t currently use a devotional because I’m already reading at least one Christian book. Today the similarities in the two passages jumped out at me. The NT does, consciously and unconsciously, echo the OT. It’s quite beautiful when you recognise it.

But then, I confess, I stumbled. My brain read those words from the psalm and came up with this:

AzZwur3CMAASrbA

You know you’re somewhat too much of a Star Wars fan when this is the image that comes to mind when you are trying to read the Word of God. My life, I thank God, has not been too short for Star Wars. In fact, a Star Wars fest might be just what the doctor ordered (i.e. in relation to the post I made yesterday). I love Sci Fi ❤ Happy Saturday!

 

A Non-scare

“Fluff, what does ‘gullible’ mean?” Chip asks her big sister.

“It’s a swear word!” Fluff sounds shocked. “You mustn’t say it!”

Chip looks at her sister. “It isn’t.”

“It is!” Fluff is insistent, although she is smiling. Chip is unconvinced.

“Muuuum?”

“Hmm?” I look up.

“What does ‘gullible’ mean? Fluff says it’s a swear word.”

“It’s not swearing.” I pause. “There’s no such word, Chip.”

“Really? Fluff said it was a swear word!”

“No, it’s not a swear word.”

********

Two weeks later we are waiting in the hospital for me to see the breast specialist about a lump in my *breast. It is the same hospital in which we visited my dear mother-in-law before she died three weeks prior. Emotions hang raw in the air.

I am sitting with my new crochet project and Chip is quietly reading. She is, like her mother, addicted to stories.Suddenly she jumps up and runs over to me, her index finger against a word on the page.

“See, Mummy!” She cries, “It is a word!”

I look at the page to see what she is pointing at. I smile up at her and all of a sudden she gets it and looks at me with dismay, then disapproval and then amusement. There is a gleam in her eyes that I know means she is thinking of a way to get me back (the girls and I love jokes, but Daddy and Prince not so much, so we don’t play jokes on them). Prince wants to know what was funny and so I explain to him, several times, until he understands and grins. A difficult day becomes a little lighter.

*******

*It was just a large cyst, which was drained with an enormous needle. I am prone to them, apparently.

My word I was grateful that it was only a cyst! Not because we wouldn’t have somehow dealt with/struggled through any eventuality (because who has a choice in these things?), but because the last few months have been really hard. This non-cancer-scare actually felt like a bit of a turning point for me. It’s not just the grief of losing someone you love that can cause distress after the event, but the weeks leading up to death during which a loved one is suffering. I had become consumed by my mother-in-law’s suffering. I couldn’t bear to see her like that. I researched strokes and vascular dementia and end of life care, etc., etc., just to try to find some answers that would limit her intense distress. I came up with very little, to be honest. I just wanted to make her feel better. She was clearly distraught and in pain. I eventually realised that ‘the Lord gives and the Lord takes away’ and there was not one thing I could do about it either way, except be there for my husband, and pray. I don’t think I did a very good job of either.

Sometimes a non-scare can give you a bit of perspective.

Who?

Who said this: “[My uncle was] a shameless old man who taught us obscene folk songs in Genovese dialect. That’s why none of the words of the little Genovese I know is repeatable”?

Was it –

a) Donald Trump

b) Pope Francis

c) Prince Philip

d) Silvio Berlusconi

 

Scroll down for the answer 👇👇👇

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answer: Pope Francis (yes, really!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Way We Were

I came across the video below while looking for a definition of ‘information superhighway’ which was mentioned in a novel called Fear the Sky by Stephen Moss (I remain a dyed-in-the-wool ‘hard’ SF fan). Way back in the 90s I used to curl up on the settee next to my dad to watch Tomorrow’s World. I remember being utterly captivated by the idea of cyberspace, to the point that I wrote a science fiction novel (sadly incomplete) set in a time where hoverboards were the norm (thank you, Michael J. Fox), using magnetic strips in the roads with the rider’s hoverboard containing an opposing magnetic force, people communicated via wristwatches which doubled as fully interconnected computers, inter-planetary travel was possible and Mars had been made partially inhabitable. My central character was a teenager who was one of the second wave of Martian settlers. Strangely, many of these things are not too far from the truth! Anyway, I’ll leave Maggie Philbin (remember her?) to it:

https://m.youtube.com/?#/watch?v=V8cnP-RtRHU

Oh, the joys of 20:20 hindsight!

 

 

The Bull’s Horns

We’re having a lovely holiday in the Peak District at the moment. Home very soon. No camping for us this year because I’m really not well enough, so we found a cottage that was not too expensive and here we are. I have had the use of a mobility scooter, which at first left me feeling really down. Also, my Dad said something that made me feel quite bitter, for a good few hours. It would have soured the whole holiday, if I had let it. Dad’s a professor and a highly regarded one at that. He has just spent a fortnight teaching an exclusive Masters course to some very high-paying students at a lavish English hotel.

“My love,” Dad said, “You’re more intelligent than 90% of the students I teach. It would be such a shame for you to not finish your degree.” He said this because I told him I had signed up to continue my degree from October, but that if it didn’t work out this time I was going to throw in the towel and admit defeat. I’ve spent five years studying so far and have only earned ¹⁄3 of an honours degree. Illness and circumstances have repeatedly got the better of me, though I love learning.

To get back to the point, I don’t want to start using a wheelchair or mobility scooter as a regular occurrence – just as I don’t want to give up my degree – because that seems like an admittance of illness as my life state, rather than keeping my focus on getting better, ‘pressing on to win the prize’, as it were. But it occurred to me, as I was negotiating painfully narrow paths and inattentive pedestrians, that instead of feeling humiliated I should grab the bull by the horns, so to speak. So ever since I’ve been wheeling my way along humming this:

As you listen, imagine not a boldly handsome machismo who only has to blink and a scantily clad lady falls at his polished black feet – and into his bed two minutes later. No, dear friends, I ask you to imagine instead an overweight, not-quite-middle-aged woman in a mobility scooter careening along the pavement of a sedate English town. She has about her a vacant, yet determined, air somewhat akin to a female Mr. Bean. A Mrs Bean, if you will. Got the image? There you go. That’s me.

Haitch as in ‘Orse

“Now,  what’s the matter?”

“Oh, it’s silly I know but, well, I just don’t know how to make a soufflé.”

“Is that all? I’ll help you, Miss – er..?”

“Dubois. Martine Dubois.”

“Percival. Percival ‘iggins. Haitch, high, egg, egg, high, enn, ess.”

“Higgins.”

“No, no, no: ‘iggins. The haitch is silent, as in ‘orse.”

~ ‘The Chef that Died of Shame’

Hancock’s Half Hour (radio), 1955

Despite the fact that Tony Hancock died before I was born, I have long been an ardent fan and was thrilled to find the complete (surviving) episodes of series one and two on audible.com. Some of the humour may be dated, but much of it is as funny as ever, like the extract above, delivered in the usual deadpan style.

Humour seems to live in symbiosis with sadness. I wonder why. I recall going through a very dark phase a few years ago where the only thing I could tolerate was humour, most notably Christian author Adrian Plass and his Sacred Diary series. It was an essential part of my recovery. Nowadays, after I’ve listened to my daily dose of Old Testament, New Testament and Christian book, I love a bit of humour. It’s like the perfect dessert. Keeps me going till the next meal.

A heart full of joy and goodness makes a cheerful face, but when a heart is full of sadness the spirit is crushed.

 Proverbs 15:13 (AMP)