For the Sake of Flicking Strawberries

I used a wheelchair today in the supermarket. Although I used a mobility scooter when we were in the Peaks, this was the first time I have used an actual wheelchair during this phase of illness. The last time was 20 years ago, more or less.

I guess it’s good that they provide them for customers. And it was good to have such a helpful child pushing me round and doing all the physical stuff. What a blessing a helpful child can be! But I didn’t like it – the stares, the comments. Not rude comments, mind you, it’s just that people who might usually ignore you feel obliged to say something, at least I think that’s what is happening. I think they’re wondering why someone who doesn’t look particularly ill or infirm requires a wheelchair. It’s not everyone, of course, just a few perhaps ill-mannered folk who never learned that it’s rude to stare. But even if the vast majority ignore you, it’s the handful who don’t who make it awkward. I felt ashamed of my illness. Ashamed that my 11-year-old daughter is taking on the role, albeit temporarily, of caregiver. That’s my job. And if I don’t have the role of caregiver, what do I have? I really don’t like to be the centre of attention, least of all when I’m feeling low. Which I was, by virtue of needing the bloody wheelchair in the first place. There’s no doubt about it: people look at you differently if you’re in a wheelchair :-/

I felt petty and childish when I asked God, later, when I will get to live my life. Illness has to be one of the loneliest ways to go through life. In my teens I spent a lot of time alone because of this illness and because I missed so much school. I was also depressed and very wary of pretty much everyone, so it was hard to maintain friendships. Then in my twenties, although physically I was healthy, I was deliberately isolated by my controlling, much older and abusive (so-called) husband. It’s one of the things that abusers do. They isolate their victims so that they can maintain the high level of control (and get away with it).

Eventually I divorced him and later met my dear Frank. Last year I went through EMDR and although it unlocked many barriers that trauma had created, I’m still unwell and probably worse, physically, than a year ago. I turn 40 next year and I am still waiting to be well enough to have a proper job, for the sake of flicking strawberries (tried to come up with something less rude than the usual…)

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A flickable strawberry. From idpinthat.com

Dear God, I know they say life begins at 40 but I never thought anyone meant it literally. I felt like crying earlier, which is progress, because usually I’m so detached I don’t feel much at all, but I still didn’t actually cry. How pathetic – to feel like crying but not even being able to do that.

If I were a twitterer I’d probably create a new hashtag: #effinguseless

Still, the great thing about reading your bible every day is that you can bring to mind appropriate verses. So here are a few words from the Psalms that remind us that struggle is universal, to some degree, and that we’re never alone, however much it feels like it (thank you, God, for Your Word):

These things I remember as I pour out my soul…

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.

 From Psalm 42:4,5 (NRSVA)

 

WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE SWITCH IT OFF?

My series of EMDR sessions is coming to an end. I can’t say what a relief that is. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity, but I am clinging on at the moment by sheer determination (which is helped a great deal by a thoughtful, hard-working, kind and very patient husband). It is draining to have memories jumping into your head unanticipated in the days following an EMDR session. Seriously, they spring out of nowhere. I’ll be idly stirring a teaspoon as I’m making a cuppa and suddenly, vividly, there is an image, sometimes accompanied by sounds and (worse) smells, of – er – things I don’t want to write about let alone think about, especially not when I’m minding my own business making a cup of tea. My 9-year-old is talking to me about Harry Potter and boom! there it is again and she wonders, reasonably, why I’m not listening to her.

Sleep brings no respite because strange dreams are made ever-stranger. I never seem to wake up refreshed; I just wake up thinking how glad I am to not be asleep, to not be living through whatever I was dreaming. EMDR is the therapist’s mangle: it squeezes out every last drop of what you don’t want but it completely destroys any semblance of the human form (that was rather a good metaphor there, I thought) and it takes some time for the thing to even begin to look ‘normal’.

Memories, memories, memories… it’s like having live, uncensored news from a brutal warzone broadcast two feet away from your head, at full volume, 24/7. Will someone please switch it off? I’d like a bit of Gardeners’ Question Time, please. Or the shipping forecast. Or Dan Cruickshank explaining in detail the structure of the Roman Pantheon.

Still, I’m not giving up. I’ve only got three sessions left, but dear Lord I will be thanking You when it’s all over. I am reminded of the words of the psalmist:

‘Why are you downcast, O my soul?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will yet praise him,

my Saviour and my God…

Deep calls to deep

in the roar of your waterfalls;

all your waves and breakers

have swept over me.’

Psalm 42:5,7 (NIV)

Lent Day Two: Captivating

He calls and He calls and despite the hustle and bustle and busyness, despite the tug and sway and grasping of the world, despite the instinct to tunnel deep under the ground, to hide in the cool, moist dark, despite even myself, I come. No, I not only come, I run as if my life depended on it. Because it’s Him. When I sometimes have thoughts – you know – doubts, wondering if I can follow God through the storms, I always end up back in the same place, with the same result:

The question is not ‘how can I?‘,

but ‘how can I not?’

My husband said to me the other day, when I told him how broken and screwed up I was, and how I felt useless and as if life had passed me by, he said to me that what made me special was that I had been deep into the abyss… and although battered and damaged, I came out again. I survived; I didn’t become part of the abyss myself. My core remained intact. He’s right. But, of course, this was not done in my own strength. When I say, or when I write the words ‘only by grace’ I mean

only

by

grace.

And when I say ‘only by grace’, what I mean is

only

with

Christ.

That’s why I’m not dead, or sunk in evil or panic or anger or despair. I’m damaged, yes! And bruised and battered and thrown about by the storm. But I’m still here.

Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

…for I will yet praise him,
    my Saviour and my God.

Psalm 42:7,11 (NIVUK)