Pink & Blue Mummyland

Pink and blue parenting through pink and blue moods….

Life Raft of Forgiveness

This was an article I originally wrote for Amy Boucher Pye‘s blog series Forgiveness Fridays. She writes lots of awesome stuff, check out her website and books.

When I was a kid, my dad drank. A lot.

It’s hard to pull apart the memories, but I remember alcohol always being there, even before I knew it was a problem. I remember being afraid, and feeling guilty, although I still don’t know for what. And I remember frequently being disappointed, for every time he said he was going to stop drinking, I naively believed him. It never lasted.

Fast forward to adulthood. My dad drinks. A lot.

When I wrote my first book, Secret Scars, I was encouraged by my editor to end it on a happy note. Whilst I didn’t claim in the book that he had stopped drinking, the epilogue certainly suggested that our relationship had been repaired. The truth is, we’re still on the merry-go-round – up and down, round and round, the same arguments over and over again.

I’d always thought that when it was all over, and he stopped drinking, then I’d forgive him. I thought that forgiveness came at the end of the sin, with the forgiven party who would go and sin no more. I had this innocent idea that he would see the light, stop drinking, apologise profusely for everything he’d put us though and beg for forgiveness. I pictured a happy family reunion with tears and hugs and a happy-every-after. As it turns out, I’m probably not going to get this hoped-for resolution. I’ve had to come to the sad but inevitable conclusion that my dad will almost certainly never remain sober for more than a couple of months.

Thinking about forgiving someone when they can’t or won’t change is tricky. Sometimes I’ve felt like I’m putting myself in the firing line for getting hurt. He says sorry; I forgive him; I let my guard down; he starts drinking… and repeat.

So what does forgiveness look like when you can’t see an end to the behaviour you’re supposed to be forgiving? It’s a road often travelled by those of us affected by addiction. Forgiveness feels futile when it’s shrouded in the knowledge that it will probably just keep happening. But since God has commanded us to forgive, it must be possible. He never says it is easy, but he wouldn’t command us to do something that can’t be done.

I need to be clear here. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that everything is ok, or that the things someone does or has done are acceptable**. What it does mean is that I can go to my parents’ house and spend time with my dad, without constantly thinking about what happened last time. It means I can hold a conversation with him about the things that interest us. Will I end up coming away hurt or upset at the end of each visit? Probably. But through my new way of consistently offering him forgiveness, I don’t arrive expecting to be hurt; nor am I still wounded and raw from the last time.

For me, this woundedness is the crux of the whole thing. What I’ve come to learn (much slower than I would have liked) is that forgiving my father actually has very little to do with him. Rather, forgiving him has become about saving myself. When someone keeps on hurting you, there comes a time when the answer becomes forgive, or sink. Forgiveness is a life raft in a situation where nothing else can change. Forgiveness keeps me safe from being hurt over and over again. As a friend of mine says, unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison then waiting for the rat to die. Each time I see my dad I come away with new baggage, and the only way I can deal with it is to bring it to God and forgive, and forgive and forgive.

So, my advice? Start where you are. Don’t wait until everything is hunky dory to begin forgiving, and don’t wait for all the loose ends to be tied up; now is the time. Trust God to put before you what he wants you to deal with, knowing that his love and timing are perfect, and that forgiveness is his gift to you. It’s not about the other person’s sin – it’s about our freedom.

** A very important disclaimer: If someone is hurting you regularly, or if you are unsafe in a relationship or situation, do not stay. Forgiving someone abusive is tricky, but is not the same as staying somewhere or with someone who puts you at risk. I am in the situation where I can continually forgive my father because we don’t live in the same house, and he doesn’t pose any threat to me. Do not stay anywhere you are not safe.

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

Threads of the Tapestry

This post was originally published on the ThinkTwice blog last summer as part of their Offer Your Story campaign. Check out their website, they are awesome.

I’ve had bipolar all my life. I know some people would say that’s not possible, but I can’t remember any year of my life without seeing the thread of bipolar running through. At seven I can remember wishing I wasn’t alive. At times the depression expressed itself in self-harm or eating disorders, but much of the time it has just been a grey cloud sat over my head waiting to rain.

Mania is harder to pin down, and it’s only in hindsight I can see the first flickers of it. Terms when homework suddenly seemed easy because I didn’t ned to sleep, the time when I decided to redecorate my parents’ dining room in only two days, the all-nighters I pulled when inspired to write a masterpiece.

I wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar disorder until after my second child was born – the hormone typhoon attacked with force and spun my mental health completely off axis. Seth was only eight weeks old when I went back on antidepressants, repeatedly changing tablets and increasing doses, trying to find something – anything – that worked.

Then something clicked. Within a week of upping antidepressants yet again, everything felt wonderful. I could finally feel again! Words tumbled out of my mouth at great speed – there was so much to say and so little time to say it. So what if I thought everyone around me could read my thoughts and I couldn’t stop shaking? I was finally better!

Needless to say, it didn’t last. The lesser known ‘mixed state’ of bipolar kicked in, with the worst bits of both depression and mania – feeling suicidal and self-destructive but at four times the speed. I tumbled down through the rabbit hole, not understanding myself at all, until I landed in a black pit of almost catatonic depression that didn’t lift for six months.

I’d like to say that was the end of the story, but that’s rarely how bipolar works. As early summer arrives each year I find myself getting a little bit too enthusiastic, argumentative and anxious. Then, as soon as I (or someone else) has noticed that, I start to dip, and feel low for the rest of the summer before picking up again in the autumn. Over the years I’ve learnt to recognise the warning signs earlier and adjust medication and lifestyle choices accordingly – last summer I was almost symptom free.

The most important thing I’ve learnt – and have to keep learning – is that bipolar is just a small part of my story. In the tapestry of my life there will always be the black stitches of depression, the red of mixed states and the stunning gold of hypomania. But they will never make up the whole picture. My story isn’t full without bipolar, but there’s so much more. And, when I think about it, that’s just the way a story should be.

Leave a comment »

Depression

Sometimes people ask me what depression feels like, and this is what I say.

Depression is like a cat burglar – it creeps up behind ready to steal your most precious things, and although you see the shadow from behind it doesn’t occur to you that it might leap. And yet when it does you realise it’s been behind you for weeks. You started off running away from it, but as time goes on you get tired and can’t run as fast, and it catches up, jumps and covers you completely.

Depression doesn’t make me sad. I cry a lot more and at much smaller things – and at nothing. I cry a lot in self-pity – if only I were good at something, talented in some way. I wanted to do so much with my life – depression makes me think nothing I do is worth anything. But sadness isn’t the main character in my depression drama.

I spend hours asking myself what the point is of anything. The lethargy of inaction, giving up aiming to do anything productive because it won’t do anything anyway. When I’m ok I can see the ripples of my actions spread across the water of my everyday being. When I’m depressed there are no ripples. Every activity drops dead in the water, and I wonder why I bother doing it in the first place.

Depression makes me nearly scared. If I had the mental energy I’d be scared of everything, but as it is I don’t have the energy of thought to get properly frightened about the state of the world, because I know if I do it’ll be overwhelming.

The main fear of my depression is the fear of being found out. I feel the dread of having done something wrong, but I have no idea what it is. I feel like an imposter in my own life. A phoney, pretending to be normal when I’m not, but also knowing that I’m actually making a big fuss about nothing – why do I give my experience such gravity when everyone else has just as hard a time of it?

I feel guilty all the time – I have no good reason for feeling the way I do. So many people have so much more reason to be depressed.

None of this is really a response to real life. I can see that it’s not reactive. I know it’s my brain going screwy again, and that I need to do something about it, but I just don’t want to. I don’t want to admit that it’s managed to engulf me again. If I pretend it’s not there it might go away…

Will it…?

 

 

2 Comments »

Look

Sometimes I can look and look, and yet I still don’t see.

This happens to all of us in some ways – especially in my house. CableGuy will quite often spend ages looking for yoghurt in the fridge without actually seeing it, and the small people will wail about losing a toy when it’s sat looking at them from the shelf on which it has always had its home.

Looking is one thing, but seeing – really seeing – is a different one altogether.

I look at my friend carrying her son with cerebral palsy up the stairs for the thousandth time, but do I really see the pain she’s in every time she lifts him with an injured elbow? I look at my daughter crying because I won’t let her bring an empty cigarette box into the house from where she found it on the street, but do I actually see that what for me looks like rubbish is to her a dream house for a toy she cherishes? I look at TV sets and newspapers and think I grasp some of the depth of the refugee crisis in our world at the moment, but do I really see the pain in one mother’s eyes, knowing that she is alone with only one of her children still alive and a husband who will probably never be by her side?

My challenge – to you and me – is to look.

Really look, and See.

Leave a comment »

Voice

This is a difficult day for me to talk about voice, because today it feels like my voice will be trampled over before it is even heard.

Here’s the context. I live on a small residential street, and my children’s primary school, which has only 200 children, is just along the road. I walk there every morning. Yesterday, news was released that there would be some changes. We will be turfed out of our building to make space for a special school, we will be forced to move into a new building and double our intake, and we will be sharing the not-very-big piece of ground with a brand new, 1500 pupil secondary school. All of this is supposed to happen in the next eighteen months.

It has been branded as a fait accompli – this will be happening, and everyone is supposed to be very excited about it. There has been no consultation, no plans submitted, and no suggestion of how our little estate will handle the traffic generated by transporting 2000 kids to school.

The worst thing is that no-one found out about it until the powers that be thought it was in the bag. And when I say no-one, I mean no-one – not the staff of the school, not the governing body, not our local councillors. It was all a complete surprise, timed very carefully to be press-released late at night, just before half term when parents can’t gather their forces.

I’m aware that this post sounds like a stream of frustrated consciousness, and I’m not going to apologise for it. I’m angry as hell right now. Because I live here, it’s on my doorstep, it’s my kids school, and no-one thought to ask me. No-one even wanted to hear my voice.

Well they will hear it now. Loud and long, and not just mine. We are going to shout it from the roof tops. I will make my voice make a difference.

I guess it’s about deciding what is worth lending your voice too.

What are you going to use yours for?

Leave a comment »

Gather

I sort of wish this wasn’t the first word in the rethinkchurch.org‘s photo (blog) a day challenge, because when I look down the list I see also sorts of words I want to get my teeth into, and not much inspiration regarding gathering.

I mean, gather what? Crops? Elastic in too-big trousers belonging to my skinny MiniMe? The innumerable Lego bricks on the floor waiting to attack my feet when I least expect it?

When I think of the word ‘gather’, I think ‘collect’. I collect books I’m probably never going to read, kitchen utensils that seem like a good idea at the time, and dust balls behind furniture I’m too lazy to move and hoover behind. CableGuy’s collections include all things cycle related, drill bits, and – obviously – cables. MiniMe collects anything that could be described as sparkly tat, particularly of the yellow variety, and MicroBob collects…..

Actually, MicroBob doesn’t really collect ‘stuff’ at all. He has his special few toys, and his special few books, and his special few friends, and he keeps them close.

I wonder if her hasn’t got a much better grasp on gathering than the rest of us. Gather in what’s important, and don’t let it be threatened by all that is outside, waiting to detract us from what really matters.

Find out what matters most and gather it close. This endeth today’s lesson.

Leave a comment »

Celebrating Lent

I’m no photographer, so, on the suggestion of some writerly friends, I am aiming to write a short post each day, based on just one word. I’m hoping this will get me out of my serious blogging slump. So, watch this space….

rtc-lent-fog-square-calendar.png

Leave a comment »

How You Can Help Me

What a great idea. I’m thinking I might have to adopt it….

bpnurse

Before I begin I’d like to give credit where credit is due, so here’s a newly-established Awesome Blogger award, which goes to revdebmatt @ Suddenly Bipolar for this great concept.

As many of you know, healthcare professionals will often advise people to draw up a plan for their care if they should become incapacitated due to a medical condition and can’t speak for themselves. This is, of course, best done when the patient is well and able to make good decisions for him/herself.

My fellow blogger came up with the brilliant idea of asking her readers to let her know if/when they see suspicious changes in the tone and content of her posts which could indicate an impending mood swing. I think this is a very smart move, so now that my own illness is stable, I’d like to ask MY readers to do the same thing for me.

Please…

View original post 445 more words

Leave a comment »

Mythbusting

Let’s keep talking and dispelling the myths….

Firefly: Light in the Dark

fact_myth

Whilst working in Mental Health Services I have come across many misconceptions, so I though I’d address a few of them here:

Schizophrenics have split personalities

No. People with Multiple Personality Disorder have different personalities. People with schizophrenia don’t. They may hear voices in their head (auditory hallucinations) but they generally don’t feel that these voices belong to them. They also may see things which don’t exist (visual hallucinations) or have disordered thinking (delusions).

All mental health patients are violent and dangerous

The huge majority of people with mental health problems are at much higher risk of hurting themselves than others. Most of the patients I’ve worked with have been wonderfully compassionate towards others.

People with depression can snap out of it

Trust me- if we could we would. Depression isn’t just sadness. It’s not ‘my boyfriend dumped me now I’m depressed’. It’s seemingly endless pain, suffering, numbness and guilt…

View original post 321 more words

Leave a comment »

Little white pill…

This picture sums up how I feel about my meds at the moment. I wish I could draw!

The Bipolar Codex

Untitled-40

View original post

Leave a comment »