agoraphobia, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, cycling,, anxiety, Breast cancer, mastectomy,, change, Prayer, suffering

A dream 16.10.18.

 

Last night, almost a week after my mother’s death, I had my standard, repetitive, university undergraduate bad dream for the millionth time. It goes like this: I have just returned for the next academic year, but am already missing lectures and falling behind with my 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, he 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, 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. The children belonged to the university crèche, and were playing out of doors with their carers. 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 earlier, but now she was silent and looked very tense. As we continued to walk, I found myself wondering whether she might perhaps 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 breakdown because of suicidal depression, acute anxiety, and severe panic attacks. All these issues went on to become a chronic, ongoing 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 I had a choice. Other paths in life were still possible, perhaps even enjoyable, and although I was already part-way through my degree course, it wasn’t too late to make a change. At this thought, my heart leapt with joy, and I was filled with new and unaccustomed hope. Then I woke up.

My university failure dream has never ended like this before, so I decided to catch hold of the experience before it faded, and to share it with you, my online friends.

 

References

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

The lame will leap like a deer (Isaiah 35:6; 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).

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Breast cancer, mastectomy,, healing, mental illness, Prayer, suffering

My sorry life

 

Lord, 
I lay my sorry life
Before you –

Folly, weakness, 
Ignorance, 
And fear.

Sickness, sin, 
Self-pity, 
Deep resentment –

This is the 
Wretched harvest 
Of each year.

Hear me, Lord, 
As I bow down
Before you;

Save me, 
Though I have betrayed 
Your trust. 

Forgive my sins;
Restore and heal 
My body; 

And lift up 
My poor spirit
From the dust.

 

References

You will always harvest what you plant (Galatians 6:7; NLT). 

Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me (Psalm 30;10; NLT).

Like Adam, you broke my covenant and betrayed my trust (Hosea 6:7; NLT).

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases (Psalm 103:3; NLT).  

He lifts the poor from the dust (1 Samuel 2:8; NLT).

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Breast cancer, mastectomy,, Faith, hope, love, God, Prayer

When we cannot see you

 

When we cannot see you
Face to face,
Nothing’s more important, Lord, 
Than faith. 

When we’re really struggling 
To cope,
Nothing’s more important, Lord, 
Than hope.

When we start to doubt 
You’re there, above, 
Nothing’s more important, Lord, 
Than love.

When its time for us 
To say Adieu, 
Nothing’s more important, Lord, 
Than you.   

 

References

Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13; NLT).

Have faith in God (Mark 11:22; NLT).

We put our hope in the Lord (Psalm 33:20; NLT).

If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us (1 John 4:12; NLT).

We brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave (1 Timothy 6:7; NLT).

The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind (Luke 10:27; NLT).

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Prayer, suffering, life, courage, help, bear, illness, mental, physical,

My mother’s death

 

Last night, my mother died peacefully in her sleep. She was 102, and had been increasingly deaf, blind, bedridden, incontinent and confused for the last few years.  

On hearing the news early this morning, my initial reaction was one of relief that she isn’t suffering any more, though it’s too early to tell what feelings I might have in the longer term about her. I’ve spent many years in therapy working on the consequences of her behaviour towards me, so hopefully that will now help me to cope with her death.

My mother was a complicated, intelligent, energetic and demanding woman. She was very controlling, dominating, angry, frustrated, and emotionally abusive. Throughout, and beyond, my childhood, her unpredictable, explosive rages were utterly terrifying. During these uncontrolled episodes she was verbally aggressive towards those present, and could be could be violent and destructive towards objects nearby.

She was also a very selfish, manipulative and egotistical woman. Despite the efforts I made as an adult to talk to her about her behaviour, and the ways in which it has affected me, she always minimised it, never acknowledging, or apologising for, all the damage she caused.

Recently, I’ve been trying to forget the bad things she did, and to remember instead the good things about my childhood. However, the positives are so few, so undependable, and so short-lived, that I quickly gave up the effort, which felt artificial and unhelpful. 

Well, none of us is perfect. We all have many faults, including me. Fortunately, I started working hard to forgive my mother several years ago, and have continued to pray for her, and try to forgive her, every day. 

Some months ago, I spoke to her privately for the last time about her behaviour, its effects, and my forgiveness. However, by then, she was incapable of replying. I’m glad, though, that I was able to be completely honest with her, after a lifetime of anxiety, fear, dread, panic attacks, depression and physical illness caused by her abuse. May she rest in peace, at last.

 

References

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us (Luke 11:4; NLT).

Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing (Luke 23:34; NLT).

We have all sinned against you (Jeremiah 14:20; NLT).

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Breast cancer, mastectomy,, Prayer, suffering, life, courage, help, bear, illness, mental, physical,

A Gethsemane experience

 

On the day of my mastectomy, as I waited on a trolley outside the anaesthetic room, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a profound terror of suffering and death, just as Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane. I felt completely helpless, despairing and alone, shaking uncontrollably with cold and fear. 

Then my surgeon entered the room in blue scrubs. She must have seen at once how distressed I was, because she came straight over to me, putting her arms around me and bending down to lay her head gently on my chest. She seemed like an angel of comfort and strength. I managed to whisper, through chattering teeth, “I’m so frightened!” She didn’t even speak, just held me as I sobbed helplessly. 

After a time, realising how cold I was, she moved to stand behind me, rubbing my arms to warm me, until I was pushed into an ante-room and quickly, skilfully anaesthetised. 

That evening, after the surgery, I wept again. I felt as if I had experienced something of what Christ suffered in Gethsemane, just as those gazing at a representation of Jesus on the cross occasionally undergo the pain and powerlessness of his crucifixion. 

Next day, however, I realised that rather than we ordinary mortals sometimes sharing what Jesus experienced, it was, in fact, he who fully shared our primeval, human terror in the face of imminent suffering and death.

 Of course, there are major differences between my experience and his. I was facing my profound fear of anaesthesia and surgery solely for my own benefit. Jesus, on the other hand, was facing betrayal, torture and death so our sins could be forgiven. I hope I will never cease to thank him for what he faced and endured for our sake.

 

References

My heart pounds in my chest. The terror of death assaults me. Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking (Psalm 55:4-5; NLT).

They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” He took Peter, James and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little further and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by (Mark 14:32-5; NLT).  

Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood (Luke 22:43-4; NLT).

Angels came and took care of Jesus (Matthew 4:11; NLT).

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:7; NIV).

God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8, NRSV). 

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Breast cancer, mastectomy,, Prayer, spiritual development, personal growth, faith, exploration, wholeness,

At your pleasure

 

Lord,

We  live entirely at your pleasure,
Whether we believe in you, or not.

You make us, you watch over us, and love us,
As you wait for us to come to you, our God.

When you take our breath away we turn to dust, Lord,
And our souls return to you in heaven above.

So, help us all to seek you while we’re here, Lord, 
Our Maker, our Sustainer, and our Judge.

 

References

In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind (Job 12:10; NIV).

The Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion (Isaiah 30:18; NLT).

When you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust (Psalm 104:29; NIV). 

The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).

Keep on seeking, and you will find (Matthew 7:7; NLT). 

The Lord is the Sustainer of my life (Psalm 54:4; CSB). 

God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad (Ecclesiastes 12:14; NLT).

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Breast cancer, mastectomy,, Prayer, suffering, life, courage, help, bear, illness, mental, physical,

Wilderness

 

When we are in a wilderness
Of sorrow,

Of sickness, anger, grief, despair,                       
Or fear,

Remind us you’ve experienced 
This too, Lord, 

And that you suffer with us,
Always near.

 

References

Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless (Psalm 107; 4; NLT).

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (Matthew 4:1; NLT).

How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?(Psalm 13:2; NLT).

Sickness: Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip (John 19:1; NLT).

Anger: Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor,  and turned over their tables (John 2:15; NLT).

Grief: Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” (John 11:35-6; NLT).

Despair: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34; NLT).

Fear: He was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44; NLT).

Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me? (John 18:11; NLT).

In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me (Psalm 23:4; NRSV).

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