“How are You?” is Not a Question

sheila north

Sometimes you can't avoid the storms - not even in Narnia Sometimes you can’t avoid the storms – not even in Narnia

“Light the blue touch paper, and retreat…”

I don’t remember the Ugly Sisters’ names, don’t even know if they have names. I am not originally from These Parts. The only panto I’ve ever seen was “Aladdin”.

In this blog, there are a lot of Ugly Sisters. Two of them are twins. Their names are Anger, and Bitterness. And damn! but those girls are ugly.

They have another sister. She’s called Passion. In most stories, Passion is young, and slim, and Hollywood beautiful. Sometimes, she’s badly dressed, and wears specs, and/or braces on her teeth. It’s just for show, you understand. The bad clothes and the glasses and the braces are simply props, which Passion loses around a third of the way through the story.

Not this story. In this one, Passion is middle-aged. Fat. Frumpy, in a way…

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Clegg: my unlikely hero.

clegg

Despite what much of my family believe, I really have no particular political allegiance. I have a moderate interest in politics, particularly issues that affect Christians, and exercise my right to vote whenever there is a general election. For some reason though, my passionately left wing side of family think I’m a hard and fast tory, and my daily mail reading side of the family dismiss me as a liberal leftie. Notwithstanding my vow not to vote Lib Dem, I really do try to evaluate manifestos on case by case basis and avoid party politics wherever possible.

However, despite my disdain for the most liberal of the mainstream parties, this week I would like to heartily congratulate Nick Clegg. In fact, what I’d really like to do is give him a good old slap on the back followed by a mammoth bear hug. He would probably feel rather uncomfortable in my embrace, (and to be honest, I would too), but my joy at hearing his promise to end the second class treatment of mental illnesses by the NHS was overwhelming. His courage to put treatment of mental illness at the centre of a mainstream party policy programme, let alone at the heart of an annual speech to a party conference should not be understated.

I’m not going to repeat all of his specific pledges, but they included investing a further £120 million in mental health services over the next five years, guaranteed waiting times for talking therapies and further focus on intervention for psychosis and crisis care.

And boy, are they needed.

In general, I’m not one to criticise the NHS. I’ve been very thankful for the care that my family and I have received over the years. I wholly believe in its underlying ideology and feel that as Britons, we should be proud that we have such a magnificent free system that continues to function despite the UK’s growing numbers, an ageing population, people who abuse the system and management who do not always manage well. And in comparison to many developing countries, where according to the WHO, 80% of people with mental illness receive no treatment whatsoever, I feel very fortunate.  At least I live in a country where reasonable care is available. And it’s miles ahead of some of the ‘treatments’ available in countries such as Zambia or Ghana. In the depths of my depression and anxiety, I could go to my GP for help without the fear that I would be caged, starved or stripped in the name of medicine.

However, I don’t live in a developing country. I live in one of the richest nations on earth.

Although I’ve only glanced through it, I have to say England’s chief medical officer’s (Dame Sally Davies) report on UK mental health care makes for condemning reading. Amongst many shocking statistics was the detail that approximately 28% of people who die by suicide have been in contact with mental health services in the previous year, and for half of these the last contact was within a week of death.

I have to say, at times over the past seven to eight months I’ve been really disappointed with the care I’ve received. At my worst, I was so gripped by my self-derision that I felt guilt for trying to access medical help. I now have a bit more what mental health professionals call ‘insight’, and am able to see how ill I had to become before I was offered some effective treatment.

When I first went to my GP and described my feelings of anxiety and depression, I was put on a waiting list for CBT. And to be fair, it wasn’t too long before I had some kind of assessment (about 5-6 weeks). However, I then had a further three-four month wait before I could see a therapist, despite assurances that it would be quicker. I am acutely aware that this time lag is really very short compared to what it would have been even a few years ago. However, the problem is what happened in this interval.

I went back to my GP in consternation during this time to explain that my ability to deal with life had deteriorated. When I expressed suicidal thoughts, the doctor rolled her eyes and quickly wrote out a prescription. When I re-visited her few weeks later to say I was really on the edge, she took me off the meds and shoed me out of the room. It was clear that she wanted me out of her office as soon as possible. I felt humiliated. And the suicidal thoughts didn’t go away.

My existence became so dark that sometimes the only way I would get through the day was by self-harming and fantasising about killing myself. Even after an overdose, and treatment at A and E, the mental health crisis team wouldn’t see me. For some inexplicable reason, I wasn’t deemed ‘risky’ enough. They just couldn’t spare the resources for a ‘first timer’. The day after my attempt, I received a phone call from a support worker and was given a number to ring, in case I ever wanted to do something ‘silly’ again.

Despite finding a new GP (who in fairness has been a lot more generous with his time during consultations), telling him about the absolute hopelessness and fear that filled my waking moments and sharing my continued thoughts about harming and killing myself, I was met with the comment “well, if you were really intent on trying to end your life again, you wouldn’t be in my office now, would you.” It was the second time in a month I’d left a GP consultation feeling humiliated.

It felt like as long as I wasn’t actually about to commit homicide, or hang myself there and then, then my suffering was a problem. As long as I was alive, and not a threat to anyone else’s safety, then I wasn’t a priority. It took a brush with psychotic depression and an attempt to run away and catch a plane (oh how I cringe now) before a Psychiatrist agreed to see me. And that was with my loyal husband and friends battling away for me, making fervent phone calls to crisis teams and dragging me to doctor’s surgeries.

Even now, after making some remarkable progress, I feel as though my GP has washed his hands of me. Not because he can’t be bothered (despite his insensitive comments, I’ve grown to see that he is doing his best), but because there just simply are not the resources to help someone like me. I’m no longer suicidal, am now potentially thinking about re-entering work and much less ‘on the edge’, so therefore I ‘don’t need any more time with a specialist’. He smiled at me and said ‘at least you’re stable now’.

Despite his kind intentions, it felt like a punch to the stomach.

No, I’m not suicidal, but I feel as though a part of me is still dead. I’m not the person I was, and still suffer with anxiety and depression. I’m scared that this semi-existence is ‘as good as it gets’, and to be honest, if I spend too long thinking about it, that itself is enough to send me spiralling back into my darkest thought patterns.

Although I’m pleased to hear Clegg’s promises this week, the cynic in me reads articles like Nick Triggle’s (found here, if you’re interested http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-29533857) and can’t help but feel somewhat sceptical. Is this money really going to be enough to help mental health services on the ground? Are these targets too low and generated merely to create ‘spin’ for the Lib Dems? Will people like me start to see tangible changes in their care?

I don’t know. But what I do know is that it’s a step in the right direction. It’s making a statement that no longer will mental health services play second fiddle. For the first time, Westminster seems to taking mental health seriously. I’m trying to take heart that politicians are starting to see that it is politically, as well as culturally ‘time to change’ and, as a result, putting this into policy.

And I for one will be cheering Clegg all the way.

A major step… or not?

This week I’ve been steam-rollered into biting the bullet and actually thinking about integrating back into real life. Yes, admittedly, the metaphor is a little extreme, but despite making a lot of progress in my recovery recently, I’m still feeling a little bruised. Two weeks ago I received a letter from my employer asking me to come into work to discuss my return. Graciously, my husband hid it from me until last Sunday when he nervously broached the topic with me. Tentatively, he suggested accompanying me to the meeting, guaranteeing me that it would merely be a discussion, not a commitment. He assured me that there would be a sense of relief for me to even enter the building and see my boss again. If I did decide to return, it could be gradual, with a reduced workload. My hand would be held at all stages, and nobody would force me back before I was ready.

Somehow, extraordinarily, I made it into work for that meeting, albeit with my husband’s coercion, ahem, *support*. And miraculously, it did seem to go ok. Even crossing the threshold of the building felt like a battle won. Yes, hubby did have to coax me out of the car like a nervous child on their first day at nursery, but I did it. I re-entered the building that I associate with some of the darkest days of this whole breakdown. The meeting was positive, but didn’t really end in any concrete outcome regarding returning fully to work. ‘You’re not ready yet’, my boss said. ‘Working on resources from home would be a good idea for the moment. You need a little more time before you take on major responsibility again’. And, gratefully, I agreed.

The problem is, I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready.

Up until this point, whilst blogging and interacting with strangers, I’ve been reluctant to even talk about my job as a teacher. It’s too much a reminder of the “old” me. The person before all this chaos happened. Teaching English was something somebody else did. Being a professional, holding down an all-consuming job, ardently trying to climb the career ladder and present myself as a confident and capable teacher to students and colleagues alike is a hazy memory. It’s an alien concept now. In my rationale, that person belongs to the past. That person has been wrecked and disfigured. That person is unrecognisable.

So what is the best way forward now that I am starting to feel a little better? Jump back into work, try to resurrect my old identity and hope I can cope better with stresses this time around? Quit my job so I can avoid stress but focus on serving my dearly loved and freshly appreciated Church family? Find a part time solution that gives me some flexibility to serve in the Church and keep a hand in teaching?

In all honesty, I don’t know. I feel completely flummoxed at the quandary. There are an inordinate number of questions darting frantically through my mind. How would I face a class of students with confidence? Do I have the energy to cope with a demanding workload? How would I manage difficult pupils with authority? Would I miss teaching if I did give it up? Have I forgotten the good experiences I have had in the classroom? How could I reclaim an identity without a career? How would we cope financially if I did work part time, or indeed, not at all? What’s the best thing to ensure my long term mental health? Where does my desperate longing to have a baby come into this scenario?

In all this, though, I know that there’s another, much more important question I’m avoiding.

What would bring God most glory?

I know that God graciously let this breakdown occur in order to teach me things about himself, myself and His Church. If I walk away after all of this with my own plan, my own desires being enacted, then I’m completely missing the point.

I have the feeling that God doesn’t just want to resuscitate the ‘old’ me. He wants to create a new me. A ‘me’ that will give him more glory.

Of course, technically, the ‘old’ me was crucified with Christ. I was once and for all given new birth when I accepted Christ as my saviour. But, as Romans 12 commands, our minds should be constantly renewed. And I suspect God wants this experience to be an opportunity for renewal in my life. He wants me to open up my eyes to the ridiculous patterns of this world, and, sadly, perhaps my life before this breakdown.

The chasing of career over Christ.

The pursuit of approval over humility.

The need for performance rather than open authenticity.

Maybe I don’t need to be ready to go back to work fully. Perhaps I need to be ready just to take on this stage of my recovery. Maybe I need to reconfigure my understanding of what work could look like. Teaching or not, it could be that God doesn’t want me to be a polished professional full of confidence and panache. Perhaps I need to learn to embrace a new, gentler me who loves God more, engages authentically with His people and even, in time, reaches out to others.

I just pray that I’ll have His help, ‘cause I know for sure, with this level of uncertainty, I can’t do this alone.

How to deal with bad days in a good spell.

By the grace of God, my upward trajectory of recovery is continuing! I’m definitely feeling more rational, stable and able to think about the future; I’m starting to plan my reintegration into ‘normal’ life and am beginning to do things that even a month ago would have had me heading for the hills. Although I wouldn’t yet say I have a positive outlook, my thought life is (slowly) edging towards being more balanced. I’ve withheld from the most harmful coping strategies, managed to sleep a bit better, and thought about work without wanting to jump off my local motorway bridge into oblivion. I’m trying to run less, eat more  and (perhaps most importantly) engage with God’s word a little. This week I went to stay with some family (on my own- no husband) for 3 nights. Two months ago I found it too stressful to even talk to them on the phone. Go me!

The only problem is when I encounter the inevitable difficult day.

This week, after returning from a (surprisingly peaceful) time away with my aunty and uncle, I felt the destabilising current of anxiety palpably build up. It was as if boarding the train to my home town signalled the end of the reprieve in my illness. Scarily vivid nightmares meant I’d not slept well for a few nights, and fears of returning to ‘reality’ again perhaps triggered my feelings of unease. Arriving home and reengaging with social media (yes, perhaps a little foolish as my husband noted) triggered even more anxieties and spiralling thoughts.   I’ve now spent a few days of tearfulness, and low mood, wanting to isolate myself from my husband, one of the things I did when I started to get ill. Although in recent months I have been winning the battle against self-harm and suicidal thoughts, my thinking did turn quite dark for a few hours last night. It was the first time in many weeks that I’d had such a mental and physical battle. Although I managed to ‘sit it out’, I was wrestling with hopelessness, tussling with temptations again. It was quite a shock. It was incredibly difficult to resist.

And I have to say, it really scared me.

I can honestly state that I truly don’t want to go back to living on the edge again. Put plainly, it was horrible. I remember those restless nights at the height of my illness, pacing around with an impending sense of doom; anxieties snowballing rapidly with no comfort in even the gentlest of reassurance.  The stark reality of my meaningless life stared me squarely in the eyes; fraught attempts to escape the negative voices brutishly shouting in my ear were made. I remember that the only relief would sometimes be to fantasise about my own demise, or at my worst to experience the bittersweet release of self-injury.

No, now that I have tasted recovery, I can see that it is good. And I’m desperate not to walk down that path again.

I guess the question is, how do I cope with these inescapable hard days? When darkness looms and anxiety emerges, what is my strategy?  I know I have meds now that seem to be suiting me better. I have some thinking strategies that may help me re-evaluate my thoughts. I have friends that I can text or call to pray for me. I have an understanding husband who has learned much about mental illness in the past six months.  And I have a gracious God who listens to my pleas for help.

So why do I still find it hard to engage in the battle?

I’m under no illusions; I’m fully aware that I’m not one of life’s ‘copers’. I’m not going to become a hard faced army major overnight who laughs in the face of adversity. Even when ‘well’ I know that I have a susceptibility to anxiety and negativity. But I’m seeing now what a difficult struggle living with anxiety and depression is, particularly when you don’t want to live with it. I know that sounds odd, but a few months ago, I almost welcomed depressive and suicidal thoughts; they were a window to reality, or so I thought. They offered me a chance to escape a horrendous existence. Now I want to escape those thoughts. They offer nothing but poison; no truth, no life, no good.

So, I’m ready to recover. I’m ready to give my friends and family some reprieve from my constant neediness. I’m ready to escape the negative persona I’ve built for myself over the past six months (I do NOT want to become one of those drainingly difficult, pessimistic people..). I’m ready to begin fighting the lies that stupidly, I’ve believed for such a long time. But am I willing to put in the work?

I tell you, this battle is harder than I ever believed it could be.

Walking through the valley

psalm 23

As promised a few weeks ago, I’ve decided to write a little about my husband’s grandfather who died quite recently. He really was a remarkable man. The relationship between a man and his granddaughter in law may not seem particularly significant, but I can tell you, this man whom I consider as much my own granddad as any blood relative, along with his wonderful wife, “my” grannie, have made an indelible impression on my life. It’s not just the way that he lived that has inspired and challenged me, but perhaps more importantly (and pertinent to recent events in my own life) , the manner in which he died.

‘Grandad’ was a man full of faith and sought to serve the Lord in all he did. He had the firm conviction that ‘only what’s done for Christ will last’. In his years as a school teacher, he was meticulous in his efforts in the classroom, committed to extra -curricular activities, but unswervingly dedicated to sharing the gospel with staff and students alike. He ran Christian Unions, helped to encourage and disciple young people and spent much of his free time serving in his local Church. His service wasn’t confined to ‘Christian’ settings alone, but he sought to carry grace into the secular world with his work with The Samaritans. His call into Anglican ministry in later years saw him faithfully teach the scriptures and develop durable pastoral relationships with people in his parishes. He and grannie opened their home generously to all kinds of folk. They had no presuppositions about people, and would open-handedly welcome anybody into their lives, providing practical, emotional and spiritual support to the most difficult of characters.

There were hard times in granddad’s life; it certainly was no sublime bed of roses. He served as a stretcher bearer on the front line during WW2, witnessing intolerable scenes of devastation and injury, which he only really started to talk about in later years.  He suffered with severe ill health at points in his life, and saw members of his family undergo painful marriage break ups. Perhaps most distressingly, he endured the loss of his daughter to cancer. He apparently sat at her bedside praying with her as she slipped away, tenderly holding her hand, as her other family members couldn’t bring themselves to be present.

Not that Granddad was perfect, of course. As with all people, he had failings and there were times when I could see that perhaps, he had made some questionable decisions. He did, however, warmly welcome me into his family, not just as a girl who had married his grandson, but as a dearly loved sister in Christ. My relationship with him (and grannie) was one of genuine Christian love and affection. My conversations with them weren’t simply genial and surface level, but about ‘real’ issues.  I look back on the numerous times my husband and I stayed with them and we would pray together over breakfast, not just about general issues, but about specific, deep rooted concerns that in trust we had shared with them.

When my breakdown occurred, my husband and I had no qualms about sharing the matter with them (sadly, unlike my own grandparents who have no idea of the situation). They would phone often, write frequently and visit us. When we met them for a meal and I was having a particularly bad day, they hugged me gently as I cried into my dessert. When granddad’s illness started, their concern for me didn’t diminish. Not once did they forget about my situation; phone calls continued; letters kept coming. As I faced the struggle of living, granddad faced the struggle of dying. Their response to me at this difficult time in their lives was generously filled with compassion, grace and unswerving commitment, just like their commitment to needy people throughout their lives.  It is a response that, in time, I’d like to emulate in my own dealings with people I encounter.

On 1st August, moments before granddad passed away, and grannie sat beside him (this time, his hand being lovingly held), he uttered the incredible words ‘take me Jesus’. He was clearly ready to go and be with his wonderful Saviour in glory. Granddad had experienced the grace and generosity of God and although he had known pain and suffering, he had persevered through the power of the Holy Spirit. He lived well, and died well. He made it to the end as a good and faithful servant, despite tough times and temptations to doubt. He trusted Jesus with his death as well as his life.

Five months ago, on the evening that painfully remains etched in my memory, I made my mind up that life wasn’t worth living. That night, I decided to trust my death to God. I had no doubts that if I did die, Jesus would lead me safely to heaven. I had no doubts that being with him was a far better reality than living with intense anxiety and depression. I had every confidence that despite my sin, Jesus’ blood would cover all my shortcomings and make me presentable to God at the last day. I trusted him in the face of death.

What I didn’t trust him for was my life.

Granddad’s death has of course, brought me much sadness. I miss him, and I grieve for grannie’s loss. I worry for her and hate to think of her without him. I am, however, incredibly thankful that I had the wondrous opportunity to see a ‘good’ death. I am thankful that God, in his mercy, didn’t let me die prematurely in April. Although living ‘well’ is still a struggle, I have made the decision that living is the only option for me as a Christian. Although I still long for heaven, I am starting to have faith that, somehow, I can trust God for my time on earth. I don’t know really what that means at the moment and I’m scared; there’s still so much uncertainty and fear present in my life. I do know, though, that if Jesus has the power to get me through death, he certainly has the ability to get me through life. He can help me endure to the end.

I just don’t know what he will bring me through on the journey.

“ Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”  Psalm 23:4

A tentative shift in seasons

I’m currently sensing the beginning of a shift in seasons. There’s definitely a more autumnal feel in the air, which brings me much delight; I’ve always preferred the autumn to summer. It’s so much cosier, don’t you think? I love the idea of enclosing myself in soft, comforting pullovers, and enveloping myself in fleecy blankets whilst I curl up on the sofa, admiring beautifully burnished leaves, changing colour daily.

My daily runs through the fields and nature reserve near my house have me noticing a slightly cooler edge to the breeze and spotting blackberry laden brambles that glint like jewels in the hedgerows.    Although it feels like time has lapsed so quickly, I’ve noticed that there has also been a gradual change, for the better, in my mental state too. I’ve come to a point now where I’m perhaps thinking with a bit more cogency. Although anxiety still resides, I’m not as uncontrollable or as extreme in my spells of fretfulness. I no longer feel as much of a need to cope with my feelings in damaging ways. There are still temptations in some areas, but I certainly don’t have an overwhelming desire to harm myself in order to cope with my spiralling anxieties. Miraculously, I have also stopped thinking of death as a viable solution to my feelings of hopelessness.

 I’m sure that this has something to do with ceasing the medication I have been on for the past 5 months or so and, upon my psychiatrist’s advice, starting a new drug. I’ve been off my old meds for about 3 weeks now, and I feel quite different. All along I had a sneaking suspicion that these meds were, in fact, hindering my recovery and perpetuating my destructive thinking. I suppose I’ll never really distinguish this for sure, but all I know is, most of my darkest thoughts have evaporated since stopping them.  Although this is somewhat of a relief, there’s also a pervading frustration that I’m experiencing. I feel as though I KNEW this about my medication all along, yet my GP kept upping my dose. I feel as though I lost 4 or 5 months of my life being in a constant state of intense anxiety and depression. I feel as though that time could have been used to work through my issues and accumulate a bank of coping techniques. But, no; I only really feel ready now to start to engage fully with therapy, 5-6 months on from the worst of my breakdown. I know that there must be some reason for this delay; God has his purposes in everything, I’m sure of that. I’d just like to know what they are.

I certainly wouldn’t say that I feel any less anxious or depressed, but I just don’t want to cope with my feelings in the most harmful of ways anymore. I still spiral into anxious episodes and have great difficulty facing certain people. I still long for certain things in my life an unhealthy way. I still feel confused and hopeless about my situation. The difference is, I am not uncontrollable. Although I don’t feel much better, I am sleeping better; eating better and ‘thinking’ better. So I suppose there’s a bit more hope.

 In this time of starting to heal, I’m trying to take the opportunity to reflect upon where I’ve been over the past 6 months, and what has happened to me. I want to assess what happened to cause this; what perhaps I did ‘wrong’ and where I encountered avoidable stress. I also want to re-evaluate what really matters to me and what I want to prioritise. What I’m trying NOT to think about where specifically I want to go (particularly in terms of work) apart from ‘recovery’. That is enough for the moment. The thought of being ‘better’ still scares me a little. I’m already getting comments such as ‘great to see you looking better’, ‘you’ll soon be back to normal’ and (most distressingly!) ‘nice to see you’ve put weight on’. These remarks, although made with caring intentions, have been more of a hindrance than an encouragement. I know I’m making progress, and I actually feel ok about that, but I am still scared of being fully recovered. That probably sounds odd, doesn’t it?

What I mean is this:

 I’m terrified that my friends and confidantes who have supported me so fiercely will withdraw their support once they think I’ve started recovery.

 I’m fearful that people will expect me to be the same person I was 7 or 8 months ago with the same motivation, capacities and energy.

 I’m worried that I’ll gain health, only to relapse when something else occurs that I can’t cope with.

All these things scare me, but I’m committed now to try to learn constructive coping strategies. I’m praying that the next few weeks see my new medication kick in fully and continue to take more of the edge off my anxiety and depression. It’s going to be tough, and this is really where the hard work begins.

But at least I can say I’m ready to embrace a new season in my recovery.

An eventful few weeks

A lot has happened since I last posted; life has been rather eventful over the past few weeks. There’s been a psychiatrist appointment (reasonably positive), a family wedding (lovely, but a little too intense), a short break to London with my husband (a longed-for break from reality), a change in my medication (hmm, jury’s still out), and, very sadly, the news of the death of my husband’s wonderful grandfather. I intend to write a post dedicated solely to him and his legacy in the next few days.

So, the key question is, how have I coped with all of these recent happenings? I suppose the honest answer is ‘adequately’. I’ve found myself ‘coping’ in situations that months previously would have had me running in panic for the nearest exit (particularly the family wedding). In truth, I didn’t manage to stay for the whole event, preferring instead to hide in my car for most of the evening reception, but at least I could handle the socialising (not that I did very much of that!), eating and celebrating for a few measly hours. Hubby said I ‘did well’, so I suppose that’s something to be thankful to God for.

My husband and I booked a few days away to London after the wedding, which in itself was a big step for me; making plans recently has been difficult, as I interpret the capacity to plan events or holidays as a statement about my willingness to re-enter ‘normality’ and acquiesce to the supposition that there is a point to enjoyment of life. Nonetheless, we went and I was surprised at how much I did manage to switch off and appreciate a break from the thoughts that have been plaguing me recently. Our schedule was shaped military style (due to my fear of being disappointed by our trip away), and we took in numerous sights and attractions. I managed to sample interesting food (despite still counting calories avidly), appreciate culture and even found myself nearing an experience I’d describe as ‘enjoyment’!  I loved the opportunity to embrace anonymity. I could assume another identity without having to explain myself to anyone. I could be whoever I wanted:  the Hyde Park runner, the tourist, the culture vulture (well, perhaps in my dreams), the foodie. Nobody else cared, and crucially, nobody asked me how I was. No-one wanted to know how my recovery was going, as no-one knew I was ill. I was not required to explain why I was off work, as nobody knew my employment predicament. I was not compelled to ‘pretend’ to feel ok, as I had nobody to act in front of. And I actually ended up, for just a few days, genuinely feeling a little more ‘ok’. It did me good; I slept a little better, ate a little more freely and even started to enjoy being affectionate with my husband a little more.

Upon returning, I imagined that this new found feeling of bizarre quasi-calmness would continue. I assumed that it was a mixture of coming off meds (that I believe have actually been detrimental) and having a short holiday that had kick started my ‘proper’ recovery.  However, my more positive mood didn’t last for long. Even seeing the sign for my hometown on the motorway dredged up old feelings of depression and anxiety. Nervously attending a Church service, seeing old acquaintances and anxiously glimpsing a work colleague reminded me of the real issues in my life that I am yet to deal with. Emotions overtook me once again, sleep started to decline and old temptations started to reappear. Yesterday was a very difficult day, and dark thoughts, that I have had some respite from for a while now, returned last night. Thankfully, I had a compassionate friend who was with me to talk through some of my thoughts and pray with me.

I’m really hoping that my new medication (started yesterday) will begin to have an impact soon. I’m almost ashamed to say that I’m kind of burying my hopes for the future in it. If it works, it could be the answer to a lot of my problems. It might enable me to engage with therapy and embrace a more godly perspective on my life. It might help me to gain a bit more weight so that I’m in a healthy place to start a family, something I’m longing desperately for. It might assist me to realise internally, as well as rationally, that there is some sort of purpose to my earthly existence.

Though, I know in reality only God can do the complete healing work in my life. No medication, holiday or therapy can live up to His transforming power. If He can raise Jesus from the dead, then surely He can also start the work of renewing my heart and mind, and healing past hurts that helped to cause this breakdown.

Yes, God, my Lord and Saviour can do this miracle in my life. He is all-powerful, all- loving and all-merciful.  Surely He can heal me. He is sovereign. He can do it.

Can’t He?