Struggles… and Balm

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my help and my God.

Psalm 42:5,6a NRSVA

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sucks. Its most insidious symptoms are toxic guilt and feelings of worthlessness. They are, in every sense of the word, crippling. Frankly it’s a miracle that I even get out of bed, if I’m really honest. Mindfulness meditation allows me to settle into the present, knowing my full humanity, my full made-in-the-likeness-of-God self.

I can b r e a t h e.

In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:10 NRSVA

Self-compassion has allowed me to begin to love myself as a parent loves a child. I am able to see myself from a godly perspective – through the prism of Love. God has no desire to beat me up continually over my flaws – on the contrary, so why do I do it to myself? God loves me. I am redeemed. I am no more than anyone else, but I am certainly no less than anyone else. I don’t need to know any more than that. So I wrote the following, to remind myself – and maybe you – of what it really means to be a child of the Most High God:

You are a child of God, beloved and precious. Christ paid the price for you to not be shackled by sin. He loved YOU so much that He paid with His LIFE. This doesn’t mean that life is (ever) easy but it DOES mean you are no worse than anyone else – and if Jesus says you’re forgiven, what in heaven’s name are you beating yourself up for?

You’re ok. One step at a time. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. Jesus is right there with you as you go. So stop beating yourself up and get on with living.

Life is a gift. Every breath is a miracle.  What had to happen for the confluence of atoms to become molecules, for the molecules to become living cells, for the cells to form a hugely complex organism – for the universe to create YOU? You’re a miracle. You are God-breathed. This is cause for celebration.

 

There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole

There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

Sometimes I get discouraged, or think my work’s in vain,

But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again...

~ traditional spiritual

 

So let’s stop chasing self-esteem and start being compassionate to everyone, including ourselves, as Kristin Neff so eloquently explains in this video.

The only negative thing about this video is that for the speaker one of the most difficult things in her life is the fact that her son has autism. For me, the fact that my son has autism is really the least of the horrible things that have happened in my life. In fact, I don’t consider it as ‘happening’ to me at all – he’s the one with autism, not me. I’m his mum. It’s my job to be there for him. Why on earth do we presume we have the right to a ‘perfect’ child? Our Westernised, consumerist mindset is beyond crazy, especially when it comes to our own children. Ugh. I am so glad it is not possible to diagnose autism antenatally, as is frequently done with Down’s Syndrome. Anyway, I digress… The video is in many other ways excellent (and I’m not criticising Kristin – just pointing out something about our culture) and Kristin Neff’s audiobook Self-Compassion Step-by-Step has been hugely beneficial for me and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is struggling, whatever your reason. And perhaps I should recall the words of Edith Eger, Holocaust survivor and author of The Choice – there is no hierarchy of suffering.

See also Positively Powerless by LL Martin (blogger at Enough Light) for what the problems are with the self-esteem movement and an unhealthy emphasis on positivity and the consumerist mindset, particularly within Christianity. God is not a slot machine. The very notion is appalling… but that is a post for another day.

The featured image is from By Deror_avi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36512852

 

 

Lessons

I have friends… I’m still getting to know them. They understand pain and loss. They tell me I won’t always feel like this. They remind me that I have the strength to survive. They promise that one day I will learn to live again. They have introduced me to other people who know what it’s like to not be able to sleep at night. And sometimes, talking with all these other crazies, I feel almost sane again.

~ from Look for Me by Lisa Gardner

Never thought a quote from the very end of a novel by one of my favourite authors would sum up exactly how I feel about the mental health theatre group that I recently joined. It’s good. Progress sometimes feels like going in the wrong direction, but it’s still progress.

Transitory

Two versions of the same thing:

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message)

Therefore we do not become discouraged [spiritless, disappointed, or afraid]. Though our outer self is [progressively] wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day by day. For our momentary, light distress [this passing trouble] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory [a fullness] beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, a transcendent splendor and an endless blessedness]! So we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are visible are temporal [just brief and fleeting], but the things which are invisible are everlasting and imperishable.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (AMP)

With Christ it’s no longer a ‘this, too, shall pass’ – along the lines of Ecclesiastes – but a ‘this changes; I change’ by the grace of our dear Saviour. I’ve always loved the word ‘ephemeral’. It’s a cool word. It means that something is fleeting, changing, short-lived. But it always brings to mind the image of a butterfly, and then the word ‘ethereal’ seems to be intimately connected.

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How can I say no to this ephemeral, ethereal thing called Life?

Struggling Grace

StFrancis_part

No one can acquire any virtue unless he begins by dying to himself  ~ St. Francis of Assisi

…regarding your previous way of life, you put off your old self… and be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], and put on the new self [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image, [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation].

~ Ephesians 4:22-24 (AMP)

I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith [by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God…

~ Galatians 2:20

PTSD? Depression? Grief? PMT? Who knows? All I know for sure is that I have been struggling lately. I know the death of my mother-in-law shook me up (actually, not her death – because she was a woman of faith – so much as the suffering that preceded it) and I know that the flashbacks have returned (PTSD: such fun!) but in a different form, and I know that hormones are a right bugger at certain times of the month (‘scuse me, gentlemen), but I don’t think I’m depressed. Just floundering a bit. Feeling a bit overwhelmed. Even though it’s mostly my own brain that’s doing the whelming. Mind you, Prince is poorly again and that breaks my heart because he is in pain and there’s nothing I can do and I can’t explain it to him – it’s difficult enough to explain to a neuro-typical child, let alone a young man with autism :-/ Then there’s my dear husband who is struggling with grief at the loss of his mother. I am quite inadequate at offering comfort. He hurts so I hurt. That’s what having a strong sense of empathy does. You feel other people’s feelings, especially the bad feelings. It’s good because it begets a deep compassion, but it can have a down side. I feel too much, sometimes. Other times I feel nothing at all.

So I go back to the bible, back to the words of people who followed Jesus with their whole being. The death of self that St. Francis is talking about in that first quote, above, is not just dying to the old selfish, sinful ways, it’s also about dying to the old negative thinking patterns – that I am useless, unworthy, a waste of space. These are all the feelings that have been floating around my head and the worst bit is that they stop me from being able to think straight. I have the desire to be caring for my family and looking after the house, but my head gets stuck and I can’t figure out what to do and then all I want to do (all I feel able to do) is to curl up in bed and do nothing. But then I feel bad because really I do want to be caring for my family and curating a loving, organised, fruitful family home.

Oh, sweet Jesus! The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Bring me once again to my knees as I wholly and completely put my trust in You to accomplish even the smallest of small things for Your dear name’s sake. I am quite useless without You, yet quite marvellous with You. Use me. Give me the awareness of grace – five minutes at a time if need be – and help me to share Your grace with everyone I meet. Help my poor boy to feel better. Show me what I can do for him and to encourage him. Help me to be whatever my husband needs as he comes to terms with his loss.

In Your name I pray. Thank you for this gift of prayer.

Amen.

I write all this here not as a way of seeking attention. I don’t want attention, although kindly thoughts and prayer would be an encouragement. I hope that this might help someone else going through the same sort of thing to not feel so alone, but the main reason I write this is because true testimony begins with honesty – and that includes the bad… all the while knowing that God is always good.

A Mathemagical Puzzle

If the settling-down phenomenon underpins the definition of probability, why is it that the universe tends towards chaos?

You know, as in entropy: a gradual decline into disorder (googled definition). How does ‘settling-down’, i.e. becoming more predictable, become disorder? My dad’s doctorate focused on applying the idea of entropy and increasing disorder to economics (and this was before computers). Maybe I should ask him. But if any of my readers would care to enlighten me I’d be most grateful, bearing in mind my woeful lack of education (I missed a lot of school as a child due to illness). I am currently studying Data Analysis as part of my degree  – this is fairly basic stuff, you understand. I am not really a mathematician, just someone who likes patterns and playing games with numbers.

Is it because the model is only a model and not the real world? But that doesn’t make sense either because if the model doesn’t resemble the real world it’s not much of a model.

I was feeling really anxious this morning and then I settled down to some studying and it again struck me how meditative mathematics can be. For someone who has a head that just ain’t right, mathematics is such a relief. My therapist told me that trauma changes the brain, and repeated trauma actually makes significant changes, possibly (likely) irreversible. So that’s me screwed, although actually EMDR did make an enormous difference.Thank God for medication. I hate days like this. But I’d still like to know the answer, if there are any mathematically-minded folk among my readership.

 

Help Save Mohammad from Execution

Mohammad, an Edinburgh grandfather on death row for blasphemy in Pakistan, is in a critical condition. He was shot by a prison guard and remains at risk of further violence. Mohammad has a documented history of mental illness and has been charged with blasphemy after becoming delusional. It is a tragic case. Tomorrow, Jasmine, Mohammad’s daughter is taking a petition to Downing Street (please see the link below).

According to 38 Degrees (a non-party-aligned political action group), a Downing Street spokeswoman said yesterday that “the PM has been following the case closely.” More than 70,000 people have signed the petition to save Mohammad. Please would you consider signing it too?

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/bringmohammadhome

Please would you also pray for Mohammad and for his family here in the UK. They must be feeling desperate right now.