A dream 16.10.18.

Last night, almost a week after my mother’s death, I had my standard, repetitive, university undergraduate bad dream. It usually goes like this: I have just returned for the next academic year, but am already missing lectures and falling behind with assignments. I have far too many conflicting things to do. I’m not coping, and feel acutely stressed and anxious. 

However, last night’s dream had some new features. The first was that I bumped into an acquaintance whilst walking through the crowded campus. We talked briefly about the many people we knew who had dropped out of their courses. In fact, my acquaintance and I seemed to be the only ones who had returned from the previous year. 

The second fresh detail was that I spontaneously joined in with a children’s game. The children belonged to the university crèche, and were playing out of doors with their carers. I began dancing around the outside of their circle to increase their pleasure and excitement. At the same time, I was keeping a close eye on how each one was coping, ready to tone down my approach if it seemed to be too stressful for some of them. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed being with them, as this was something I had never experienced before. 

Then came a third new ingredient. I was walking back towards my room with two women students I’d just met in a campus clothes shop. One went a little ahead on her own, whilst I linked arms with the other, chatting in a friendly way. The first woman had seemed cheerful to begin with, but now she was silent and tense. As we continued to walk, I found myself thinking that she might be feeling anxious, or even panicky. 

Then, suddenly, I saw myself in her: my repeated attempts to get a degree, each ending in failure and severe depression, acute anxiety and panic attacks. All these issues were to become a chronic struggle with mental illness and agoraphobia that has dominated my life.

I turned to my new companion, explaining how I thought our friend might be feeling. Then, to my great surprise, I heard myself say that I wished I was working on the campus, perhaps in the clothes shop, or at the crèche, rather than studying. That way, I could still escape from my mother and have something of a university experience, but without the unmanageable demands of academic life on top of so much mental pain.

As I said this, I realised how significant it was, and that I didn’t have to put myself through the impossible stresses of trying to get a degree. For the first time ever during these repetitive university dreams, I saw that there was a way out. Other paths in life were still possible, and could perhaps even be enjoyable, although I was already part-way through my degree course. It wasn’t too late to change my mind. At this thought, my heart leapt with joy, and I was filled with new and unaccustomed hope. Then I woke up.

References

Darkness is my closest friend (Psalm 88:18; NLT).

“I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11; NLT).

Panic

Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking (Psalm 55:5; NLT).

Terrors overwhelm me; my dignity is driven away as by the wind, my safety vanishes like a cloud (Job 30:15; NIV).

My heart pounds and leaps from its place (Job 37:1; NIV).

Be brave and courageous (Psalm 27:14; NLT).

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you (Psalm 56:3; NLT).

***********************************

Panic is what happens
When my fears are in control,
And they think that it will help
To run away;

But when I run, I take my panic
With me,
And escaping makes it stronger
Every day.

Better by far
To face my panic boldly,
Better by far
To put my trust in you;

Better by far
To wait for it to pass, Lord,
Then continue on my way,
As others do.

Precious in your eyes

Why wasn’t I born dead? Why didn’t I die as I came from the womb? (Job 3:11; NLT).

I hate my life and don’t want to go on living (Job 7:16; NLT).

We know how much God loves us (1 John 4:16; NLT).

The Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost (Luke 19:10; NLT).

Their lives are precious to him (Psalm 72:14; NLT).

****************************************

Lord,

From birth, it was made clear
I was a burden,

Although I never asked
To be alive.

As an adult, mental illness
Made life hell,

But I was too afraid
For suicide.

Yet now I understand
How much you love me,

And that I’m not a burden,
But a prize;

For you sent your Son to earth
To save each one of us,

And all of us are precious
In your eyes.

What is child emotional abuse?

Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them (Ephesians 6:4; NLT).

******************************

Lord,
What is
Child emotional abuse?

It’s using scorn and criticism
To undermine
Your child’s confidence.

It’s bullying,
Belittling,
Control.

It’s threats,
And domination,
And intrusiveness.

It’s shouting,
Yelling,
And screaming at them.

It’s using your
Superior size
And power

To keep them
Obedient
And afraid.

It’s using violence
On inanimate
Objects,

To make it clear
That you could do the same
To them.

It’s forcing them
To face what they’re
Afraid of,

Whilst mocking them
For being
Terrified.

It’s laying the foundations
For a lifetime of physical
And mental illness,

By traumatising
Your dependent child
Repeatedly.

Then,
When they confront
You as an adult,

It’s minimising
or denying
What you’ve done,

While ignoring or despising
The symptoms
Your behaviour has caused –

Anxiety, depression,
Agoraphobia,
And much more.

So, is this the legacy
You want to give
Your child?

Agoraphobia diary: 6am on day 8

Hello everyone. I finally completed yesterday’s marathon challenge with my scheduled evening hospital treatment. Now I’m awake, and preparing to get up before too long. At 9.15  a taxi will pick me up and take me to Liverpool Airport, ready to fly home. The week has seemed to last an age and has tested me pretty thoroughly, but I’ve survived, and learned a lot. Above all, I’ve realised that speaking straightforwardly and honestly about my fears makes them much easier to manage than struggling to conceal them, for fear of being judged.

I’m deeply tired, but plan to end the week’s agoraphobia challenge with a final diary entry  this evening. Then I’ll go back to blogging once each day, as usual. Meanwhile, here is today’s morning prayer:

In honesty

Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

******************************

Lord,

In honesty
With self,
And you,
And others,

Lies freedom,
Healing,
Joy,
And inner peace.

Agoraphobia diary: 3pm on day 7

Greetings to you all. Well, I’ve done it! Today’s challenge was to travel by train from Loughborough to Warrington, changing at Nottingham, so I’m here in my hotel room now, absolutely drained. At each stage of my journey, just when I was getting anxious about what to do next, there was always a kind person ready to help. Outside Loughborough station, a very nice taxi driver I chatted to for a moment offered me a bottle of water, and we shared a hug. On the platform, the guard was happy to chat, which passed the anxious time until my train arrived, and so on.

Changing at Nottingham was very stressful. My train was already at the platform, but I needed the loos before boarding. They were on another platform, and I felt very rushed. It all worked out in the end, though, and passengers help each other quite a lot.

I had been thinking a good deal about the very long tunnels I knew we would pass through in Derbyshire, but managed surprisingly well. The lit train, the people chatting around me, and the large size of the compartment meant it was considerably less claustrophobic than I expected. My last train journey with major tunnels, taken about 45 years ago, was a traumatic nightmare I prefer to forget. Ever since that day, I’ve had occasional nightmares about being on trains in narrow, dark, never-ending tunnels. It’s only now that I’m beginning to realise just how damaging that journey was, because of my terribly anxious state of mind.

By the time I got to Warrington, I was spent, rather like yesterday afternoon – no thoughts, no fears, no ambitions, just a blank mind, accompanied by a familiar sensation, as if the ground was heaving up and down beneath my feet, like being in a boat. I was so tired that I wandered away from the station in the wrong direction, dimly looking for a taxi rank. To my surprise and sadness, the first person I asked for directions didn’t even register my greeting. Then I met a woman who, though clearly startled to be asked, pointed me in the right direction.

It’s a huge relief to be in my own quiet, dark room now, resting in bed and having lots of hot drinks. So here is today’s prayer, which I wrote during this morning’s contemplation:

Your peace

Lord,

When I reach the station,
May I go in with you.

While I wait for my train,
May your arms encircle me.

As I board it,
May I hold your hand.

When the doors close,
May I know your presence.

As my journey starts,
May we pray together.

When I change trains,
May I share your calm.

During long tunnels,
May I feel your comfort.

When I arrive,
May I thank you deeply.

And, as I go on my way,
May I know your perfect peace.