Archive for June, 2011

I’m at home for a week at the moment after really needing a break from my university city – at the moment, with the amount of spare time I have, it’s just too full of ghosts from the past year. I needed to get somewhere different, and as the friends in other cities, who I would usually target for a few days, are all away or busy at the moment, I’m home with my parents.

I’m kind of used to feeling like a stranger when I’m home, and a square peg, but this week is tough and although I’ve only been here two days,  I want to be back. I really don’t want to just rant about what it’s like at the moment as  I don’t think that helps anyone  – but sometimes, I sort of wish I had a family unit who accepted me as I am, a family who still stood by me when for whatever reason, they realise I’m not just a pile of academic achievements and good exam results. A family who knew that that’s only one part of me, the most superficial layer, who didn’t make me feel so broken and damaged, so weak and washed out. Sometimes I think that this year of depression isn’t even the real problem, as with time, moods lift and that weight of sadness fades, whereas all this damage  amassed over the years is here to stay. Being home always knocks me back, I know that – but every time, I sort of think it might be different, that somewhere along the line, somehow, I’ll come back to find a house that doesn’t seem to be collapsing in on itself, where secrets lay across the floorboards and cry out whenever you put a foot wrong. I come here and feel myself growing down, feeling once again like the child I was, confused by the drinking and the mindgames, desperately yearning for stability. I feel raw and vulnerable, as though this house strips me of my armour before I come in, and on cue, I shrink and wither. I hate it. I really, really hate it.

Anyway, I hope you are having a better week than I am! I do have another post I’ve been thinking on – it just doesn’t quite fit in with how I’m feeling at the moment. In a day or two, perhaps.


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Although I am generally more of a Jeremiah girl than an Isaiah one, I’ve been thinking about this particular book and its prophet a lot recently. Isaiah, like most of the prophets of the Old Testament, doesn’t get much air time in an average church – he’s brought out at Easter and Christmas to remind us that, as Christians, we believe that Jesus’ coming and actions were predicted long before his birth, that promises and prophecies do come true, and that with him, the harshness Mosaic law died to the gift of grace, the gift of the Son, but aside from that, he’s kind of like the weird spices you buy on a whim that just sit on a shelf gathering dust, out of sight behind the ubiquitous mixed herbs and chilli powder, just waiting for the day when you’ll get your act together and cook up something a bit different.

I sort of forget sometimes that although my Bible is in a single, nice, portable volume, that’s not how it was written – that the little book I carry about with me represents centuries of documentation, hundreds of authors, thousands of revisions. There’s something amazing about knowing that the apostles (the Jewish ones, at least) would have read the OT as I do (and much more regularly, I imagine!), that they would have read about Elijah and his fierceness for the Lord, and Jeremiah and his tentative courage, and Isaiah, the picture of zealousness, with his strange visions of a man, pierced and beaten for the sins of the Earth, sent for redemption and returned broken and bleeding, to God. And, inspite of Jesus laying down history in front of them, like a well played hand at cards, they would still fail to make the connection, they would still fail to realise that the prophecies they had heard from the cradle, were being fulfilled before their very eyes, under their roofs and around their tables. The old has gone, the new, has come.

I was thinking about the eagles in the last part of Isaiah 40 again this week, about running and not growing weary, and walking without stumbling. In the last few weeks, despite feeling so much better, something still hasn’t been sitting right. I’ve been feeling so much better, making plans for moving forward, getting new projects on the go, and thinking of how to reduce the impact of this year – but something still felt like it was jarring, sticking somewhere. This passage cast some illumination on that unease, as, to some extent. I got through the depths of depression by relying a lot on my faith, weak as it was – and then, once it started, finally to lift, it was as though I turned to God and told him ‘I’ll take things from here, cheers for the help, but now, I’ll go my own way. Again. I’ve got this under control’.

I do not have this under control.

God doesn’t just sustain me when I’m at breaking point – he sustains me every day. I need to stop thinking I can act out of my own strength, and get by without His input, aside from when things crumble and I get truly desperate. He’s not a last-chance God that I stick on a shelf until all other avenues have failed – I need to get better at relying on Him permanently, through the easier times as well as the hard ones. I’ve made myself busy with all these plans, but I haven’t really prayed about them, or relied on God’s hand to guide me through the decisions, and because of that, once again I find myself wearying and tiring. Depending on God is something I don’t find easy – having grown up being fiercely independent, making my own decisions and not really having anyone to ask for guidance, learning to pray and ask for this, and to stop being so self-reliant, was a lesson that took me a long time to learn, and even longer to put in practise.

Sometimes, we talk about God’s power to rescue as so situation specific, when really, we need that rescuing every day, as every day, we live our lives under sin, outside of godliness. We need grace, every day, not just the day we commit to Jesus, not just in the darkest hours when all hope seems lost, not just in the lonely hours before the dawn, when our separation seems most painful. My need for rescuing doesn’t change; my need for Jesus, doesn’t change. If anything, I need God more now, that I’m trying so desperately to stay on an even keel. I need that guidance to keep me going, to lead me as far away from the grip of depression as possible, to stop me wearying and tumbling down. I need a steady hand and a level road. I need God, who weighs the islands and names the stars, who brings down nations, yet still gathers the lost as sheep, who knows us, you, me, by name. I need that man, pierced for my transgressions and hung on a tree before the crowds. Salvation isn’t a one-day event that tarnishes with time or wears out with use; it’s eternal, unchanging. I need to remember this.

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Strange parallels

I’m on holiday for another two weeks before starting my final year of medical school in early July. I’m still in the city I study in, in my flat, though may go home for a change of scene sometime next week. The last time I had so much free time, on my own, was in the run up to Christmas when I was really falling apart at the seams and was much more unwell than I realised at the time. I’m in two minds as to whether this time is doing me good or not; on the one hand, I know that I need a good rest and that having proper time to reflect on the year is important, but on the other hand, I feel like I’m mulling over things too much and overanalysing, which is something I’m prone to.

Counselling is leaving me feeling really vulnerable at the moment, like a lost child – and I think part of it is that I just don’t have it in me to fully trust that L, like pretty much everyone else I’ve spoken to in the past, isn’t going to let me down in some major, painful way. I push through, and try and get all of this stuff out of me and into the air between us, but it’s a false trust, and really, I’m just waiting for something to go wrong and knock me back again. It’s all in my head, I know that – she’s done nothing to suggest that she’s going to let me down – but still, my track record speaks for itself, and of everything, cynacism is a hard thing to fight. And at the moment, I’m afraid of falling back into serious depression, now that I’m finally on the way out – nothing scares me more. It’s eclipsed all other fears. I was lucky to get out alive, this time, and I am only too aware of my own limitations and that in the future, I might not be so lucky. I don’t think I could do it again, I don’t think I could survive feeling that way again. Between everything, I’m just feeling worn and vulnerable and small. It’s seems like I’m always on the run from something, and that as soon as one chase finishes, there’s another one about to start, whether it’s running from the past, or running from God, or running from the shadows of depression, desperately trying to keep on the right side of the track, but always having a sense that something is gaining on me and that sooner or later, will overcome me.

I went on a long walk today to one of my favourite areas of the city. It’s a nature reserve, hilly and wooded, and once you’re deep inside, there’s no noise of traffic, nothing to indicate that the bustling city is just outside. It’s tranquil. It’s one of the places I’d picked as potential places to die when my depression was at its worst and my grip on things was weakest. Being back today, with the trees in the green of summer, the brook flowing and not frozen over, the sun fighting through the branches, was strange. The seasons have turned and I have changed, like the scenery I have come alive again, and yet, they would have done that even if I wasn’t here. There was a period when I honestly thought that I was seeing everything, and everyone, for the last time; being back there under the trees, was strange, disorientating. I’ve come a long way since every waking thought was about dying but I know I’m not out of the woods fully yet, and may never be, I may spend the rest of my life fighting to keep depression at bay, fearful that it may return.

The major difference is that now, I can feel God there, whereas before, all there was around me was empty space, a painful void that could not be filled. Now I’m better, I feel connected again, part of the circuit again. I feel God in the trees and the brooks, in the space between two breaths two mornings. I feel Him there again, brushing against me, pushing me onwards, leading me, behind and before. It’s a good feeling. All it took was a change of time.

I’ve been rubbish at replying to comments recently – and am sorry about that, I really do appreciate them, and it’s at the top of my to-do list for tomorrow. Thank you for your continuing support, xxchar48

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It’s been so wonderful to finally feel like ‘me’ again – but it brings its own challenges. I’m so grateful and excited to feel like my normal, hectic self that I keep wanting to run before I’m really walking. There’s so much I want to do to make up for this year – I want to get some extra research projects on the go to make up for the drop I’ve had academically, I want to start serving again in my community, I want to dig in and find new ways to help and lend my hands and change the things I want to change. It’s so good to care about things again – I really do think that for me, it’s apathy that brought me closest to the edge. It was losing the pulse of caring that drives my day to day life, that left me so incredibly bereft and disconnected, and now it’s back, I’m like a child at the beach, running into the waves before checking the depth or the current, high on excitement and flushed from the sun. I want my old drive, my old self, my old skin back. I want to move on from this year so desperately, to leave it behind and fix my eyes on the future, and not look back. I want to feel connected and capable, involved and interested.

But I know that I’ve got to tread carefully, and really be careful about what I take on. If I want to keep the even keel and stave off a relapse, I’ve got to think carefully, and not just jump at a hundred oppurtunities before really thinking about what my abilities are. It’s hard – it’s like I’m straining at the bit, against a leash, tensed and waiting for a starting pistol to go – proving once again that I am not someone who can sit still and just ‘be’. It’s as though after months of having engines that won’t start up, all the pistons have kicked into action at once and are trying to make up for lost time. It’s like my eyes have opened and just want to capture all the colours I’ve blanked out for so long, and like a camera, I’m flashing all over the place (camera flashing, that is – not the other sort!)

I’m really excited this week as I’ve had an email back from one of the obstetricians I was placed under about doing an extra project in her field, which is foeto-maternal medicine (in a nutshell, problems with mums to be that are dangerous for the baby, and problems babies in the womb have that can be dangerous for the mothers, as well as to the babies themselves), and then I had a meeting with someone from the medical school about setting up a mentoring scheme for students lower down the curriculum (off the back of some one-to-one tutoring I did earlier in the year) – and both are things I’m passionate about, and want to do well at. I’m pretty confident I can do both of these – and also, that if they did prove too much, both are things I can either scale back or drop if I needed to,  but I do need to be watchful about overloading on busy-ness. I LOVE organising things and juggling people and tasks – there is literally nothing I love more than writing a list of what needs doing, and DOING IT. I love it. I’ve not been that capable of it for the last year, and now, it’s like something inside me has woken up and is all ready to start alphabetising all over the show, itemising as though its life depended on it. I need to be careful.

There’s another aspect to this too – as usual, I was in counselling again yesterday. It’s been a rough few weeks, and for the first time yesterday, I really felt that L didn’t really understand where I’m coming from. She’s fairly insistent that my ‘tendancy to busyness’ comes from some deep seated need for approval (ahh, middle child syndrome rears its head again)- and though I recognise that there is probably an element of that, a lot of it doesn’t – I just genuinely like to help and I like being busy, and when I don’t like something, I try and fix it. Which apparently is also not too healthy – the trap of ‘caring too much’ – I do sometimes think I can’t bloody win – and that if I dilute all of these things down too much, yes, I might be more ‘textbook healthy’ but I’d also be 2D, I’d also not be me at all. It’s a fine line, between being busy but not too busy, still but not sloth, caring but not too caring, self aware but not self absorbed. It makes you wonder how any of us manage to even remotely lead normal lives. It makes you wonder, what normal is, anyway, apart from just managing to get through the day without losing yourself in the process.

So – I’m counting on you, readers, to stop me going overboard with stuff. xxchar.

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