Integral to existence

I should not exist. I think I may have said this before. Forgive me. I think about it often. I should not exist because had my older brother been born full-term, my conception would have been impossible.

Or – I should not exist because, fifty years later, it has been revealed that my mother’s partner misunderstood my mother’s wishes when she moved to London, aged 19 years. Neither of them wanted to leave each other. They should simply have stayed together. Then I would not exist.

I am struggling to exist. Another job rejection last week. Beyond July, I have no reason for existing. I am supposed to work, work, work. If I cannot work, I am nothing. Whatever else happens I must not stop working. But I have no desire to work at anything anymore. None of it matters. None of it counts for anything. Being ranked fifth of twelve means nothing if there are only two jobs available. I don’t want to exist if I can’t work. What’s the point?

I fight the suicidality. Persuade a tired mind and a restless body to go to Scotland as planned. To go to Lyonnesse And it is the same, but it has changed, changed with the seasons, and grown and become more Godly. And I am welcomed and loved. And there is simple joy in pink campion and wild garlic and the amiable, quiet company of a friend. I am not expected to talk mindlessly: I am simply invited to be.

imageI sleep. Full, glorious, restful sleep. And I consider the sparrows. There are so many colours in the wings of a sparrow, so much detail. I breathe. I go to church, where the challenges are affirmed as challenges that help us to do like Christ. Only through doing like Christ can we hope to be like Him.

And Christ was, to my understanding, honest to Himself. Honest with His emotion, weeping and anger, and with His needs, for water, solitude, company, and prayer. Honest with His parents and friends. So my challenge is to be honest to myself. To be real, and face rejection, whilst hoping for acceptance, as I express more of who I am. I fear being rejected. Rejection feels like I should not exist anymore. I need to find the courage to stand up for who I am, in Christ.

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Erasure

I am nine years old. S — is standing in front of me, with J— and B— beside her. J—‘s family don’t want to buy a copy of the school class photo’. That’s my fault, because it’s not a class photo’ because I’m in it, and I’m not supposed to be in that class. I’m in the wrong class.

In the days before PhotoShop, S— and J— wish that they could scratch me out of it. So do I. I wish I could erase myself completely from everybody’s lives. Everyone hates me. Even my teacher standing less than a foot away doesn’t respond as the slap S–strikes across my face echoes over the playground. The whole world hates me.

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I fight tears, fight for control, as this scene is laid before me in psychodrama last week. I must stay in control. I must not cry. I  am not nine years old. S— is not about to hit me for calling her a name, in despair because nothing else has made her stop. I’m OK. Really. I’m OK.

I do cry, safely alone, later in the week. And then I can go to work, and get on with work. Or try to. I’m dissociating at my desk. But that’s because of the anger over our workload that is  fire-balling around me; anger that I don’t want to be drawn into. I can’t concentrate. But that’s because I’m worried about next week. Isn’t it? I’m shattered.

Surely, I’ve processed stuff that happened over 20 years ago.

It wasn’t not your fault, S —. You were nine. The adults let you down.

I am trying to believe that what happened when I was a child was not my fault. But I genuinely can’t. I am bad, bad, bad. Bad now, and I was a horrid child then. The chant persists, through my attempts at marking, I want to die. My head pounds with the impossibility that it was not my fault.. I am bad. I curl up, wait for sleep. Wish I could erase the pain. Or myself. Or both.

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Flux

Board games are good. And there are lots of them in this house. Although I have yet to discover what Fluxx is about.

Flux is a good word for the past week. Everything was in transition; my housemate, his bail, myself, my belongings, my employment.

The cat is perturbed. Everyday a new arrangement of boxes, a fresh set of empty shelves to explore. But why? She puts her head on one side and meows her curiosity. Licks her lips in anxiety. What will disappear next?

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And indeed, what? I can’t reassure the cat this time, because I don’t know either. Housemate’s bail is extended by a month. He knows now what he is likely to be charged with. But, he is around for a month. When he is charged, quite what of our friendship will disappear is uncertain.

As my contract fades to its end, how I may next be employed is unknown. I visit schools, to introduce Zorba, the alien pupil, think about re-training. I wanted to be a teacher once. And I kind of am. A life as a Teaching Assistant, its simple joy, appeals. But I can’t live on a part-time Teaching Assistant wage for long.

I am forced to live day-by-day. Worrying beyond then is futile. For now, I have moved, by the grace of  some truly wonderful friends, into  a safe, dry place to live, and friendly folk to live with. I am making my way through therapy. These things are relatively more certain. God is certain. But what God will do, what will happen to me, is not. The flux is frightening.

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Nada te turbe

I find chaos stressful. I like to know where things are, and what I’m doing. Although my mood sometimes falls below a threshold where I can be bothered with it, I like tidy. The uncertainty of the past few months has seen me sinking under its pressure. I crave certainty and (an illusion of) control.

Living among boxes is not tidy or organised. Packing whilst working as much as before (and harder, thanks to uncooperative colleagues) and attending TC means life isn’t exactly easy right now.

There is life, and there is Taizé. The paradise in Burgundy, yes, but also the oasis of Taizé at the Birmingham UK meeting this weekend. Unfolding crises for housemate meant I could only attend for a day. But it was a day of peace and blessing and mercy, simplicity and joy.

There was joy in seeing old friends again, in feeling my presence there was wanted by them. Simplicity in the chants, in the prayer, in a workshop on the icons, tracings in red ink. Simplicity in silence.

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Challenge, too, from Fr. Alois: to let God look at you, in love. I can’t do that, I can’t, I can’t. In Fr. Alois saying that this love does not mean we can take the easy path and avoid difficulties, but that we can face challenges positively, knowing God will hold us through them. Face the challenges put before me in TC? Trust God’s compassion and mercy? See God’s face in those who propose the challenges? Help.

But TC will end. My job will end. I will  change house next weekend. Living, working, therapy, are in flux, and transient. God is not transient. God is bigger than these things.

And She will look at me in love as I move through them. I am tearful at that thought. I am arrogant enough to believe that I am too horrid to be loved. But tears themselves are precious. It’s not easy to cry. Yet:

Retourne, mon âme, à ton repos
car le Seigneur t’a fait du bien.
Il a gardé mon âme de la mort.
Il essuiera pour toujours les larmes de nos yeux.

The words of Psalm 116. The spirit of Taizé in Birmingham returned me to peace, despite the pressure. I want to hold to that through the changes ahead.

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Healing Steps

Be still for the power of the Lord
Is moving in this place
He comes to cleanse and heal
To minister his grace
No work too hard for him, in peace receive from him.
Be still for the power of the Lord
Is moving in this place.

So we sang at Two:23 yesterday. One of those songs that I can sing without the words; where the words are in danger of becoming stale and without meaning, because voice can engage without mind.

But this week, more than usual, I have been cognisant of healing; of being on a healing journey. Cognisant, because, without the direct support of the TC, on a therapy break, and with all that has been going on, it has been **** hard.

Hardest perhaps, more clearing out; my mother visiting, more verbal reminders of how out of line my childhood tantrums were. The straw that crumpled the camel, being not what she said, but a Facebook video I saw later that day, reminding me of Black Park Country Park. The assault course, the hanging steps, where I would tantrum in frustration every time, despite every promise and intention not to. I really wanted not to. But I couldn’t.

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Same as, sat in church, that church, yesterday, looking at my hands, I remember the frustration, aged four, of not being able to unfurl my fingers from their fist, to clasp them together in prayer. That was how we were taught to pray. And I couldn’t do it. That wasn’t supposed to matter, in my case. But it did to me. And if I can’t let go of frustration from that long ago, how am I to heal? How, when something as simple as clapping arouses my frustration and jealousy, even now?

Yet, there was promise this week of moving forward. The Elders have written and apologised for the hurt that I experienced whilst they wrestled with how to deal with my mental health. And, I didn’t fall apart in the discussion of it , for the first time ever (thanks to the support of a very good friend). I feel more supported, and stronger than I was before. The Elder said that they won’t treat anyone as they dealt with me, ever again. And that is the important thing.

As I pack more and more boxes, I get to know my future housemates better, and it seems more and more likely that this will be OK, that it might help me to heal.

I am on a healing journey. And I am seeing God’s kindness in the people I meet on it. And I am still stumbling. My self-harm contract broken again earlier this week. But, nothing is too hard for God, or beyond healing. It will be OK.

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Mingled fears

I’m sorting things out. I’m going through files and books, not simply book-by-book or file-by-file, but leaf-by-leaf. I can’t take it all with me. And some of it, I wouldn’t even want to take with me. School GCSE and A Level revision notes. Essays. Third year project rough draft. Some things are easy to get rid of. Some things I never realised still existed. Other things I’d forgotten existed. My juggling balls. Cue minutes lost as I remember how to juggle, one-handed.

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As composed by me, aged 9 years.

I am moving, in a few weeks’ time. The situation where I am has become too unsafe, too uncertain. My housemate has been attacked. When it comes to it, the courts will publish this address as the place where they did their raiding, to prevent a witch hunt for a wrong person with the same name as my housemate. They don’t seem to get the irony of that action. I am better off leaving as soon as I can.

Some things are harder to sort through. I’ve never gotten this far into sorting before. The last time I attempted it, it was because I planned to die. I soon gave up, hopelessly lost in stuff. This time, I am sorting because I want to be more alive.

The letters were hard. Years upon years of correspondence. Correspondence from people who bullied me when we were at school, pretend friends so I would help with homework; from people who disappeared completely upon getting married, never to be heard from again. And from true friends. There were more intimate letters, too. More than kisses, letters mingle souls. I loved writing letters. I loved receiving them even more.

Childhood things. Things I gave up on sorting in despair because there was too much, when I cleared my room in my parents’ house. Dolls. I never liked dolls. I didn’t see the point in dressing and re-dressing them ad infinitum, taking them on walks. They weren’t real. They were babies, not companions. Imaginary friends were better. You could get lost in whole other worlds with them.

Today is Easter Sunday. Time to remember that we are risen with Christ. Time for new life. I am trying to keep focused on looking ahead. Life ahead with supportive housemates, and friends, and good things, and without the sheer weight of the past, as I unburden, learn to live differently, at TC. Not a perfect life. There will still be hurdles and heartache. But I will be more able to cope. I won’t be afraid of myself anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

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Extreme data: Research at the cutting edge

Work is hard. Thinking is hard because my mind doesn’t stay where I put it. I get sidetracked in anger at the stigma carried in the way psychologists write and talk about mental health. Title: Borderline mothers. Mothers at the periphery of two countries? Women about to give birth? FFS. And anyway, it was the poster next-door I came over to read.

I have to concentrate. I am in the U.S. at the main conference in my field. Get this wrong, and My career is stuffed. I am so tired from lack of sleep. I need to stay present; show interest. I write copious notes to try to keep my brain in the room.

*

I want to talk to that researcher. And that one. The professor sitting between us knows them. But he doesn’t introduce us. I daren’t introduce myself. I am a fool. Foolish. I’m not presenting in the seminars. Research not worth it.

I blindly copy down what the presenter is saying. Then I stop. She just said that if we don’t give children the tools to develop group knowledge, to think about group norms, they’ll remain spastic. Spastic. The word rings around me. Resonates. She means stiff, stationery. I hear echoes of children’s voices. From primary, and secondary school. From a few weeks ago. The chant is repeated and relentless. I sunconsciously dig  my nails in hard then retract them. I want to harm myself. I miss whatever is said next.

*

IMG_1079I meet with the professor. He works down the corridor – but has arranged a meeting here. He is 45 minutes late. I am stressed and hot and panicked. And when he appears, he keeps talking at tangents, and I keep having to bring him back to the papers we are discussing. And we have talked about this paper before. Its findings are drawn on his whiteboard. He says it is alike to one he has written into a grant proposal. But, he says, I can’t be on the grant because I don’t have a contract. I remind him that I do. He signed it. But it’s too late. He says the grant will also cover a novel method. And I remind him of the grant we are writing together with a colleague bc I suggested months ago we could be using that novel method. But my input doesn’t seem to matter. My input seels worthless. Or rather, I am. My ideas are worth the taking. Just not me. I am livid.

*

I do present my poster. And I introduce myself to two of the people I want to be known to. I speak with them. We agree to further communication. Then, the conference is done. I am shattered and floored and neck-deep in emotional rubbish. I want to harm myself. I’m not sure how much more rubbish I can take.

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