Posts Tagged ‘church’


The last few days have felt both frighteningly familiar, and brand-new, all at once. On the one hand, it seems like every day brings more confirmation that I’m ill again, and yes, I am afraid of being back here, of falling down again. I am afraid.

However, now that I’ve accepted my lapse, and done the practical things (doctors app, seeing ‘the dragon’ today), I’m in a bit of a stalemate  now. Unlike this time last year, when I wasn’t really willing to accept just how bad I was, this time, I’m putting things in place. It’s almost out of my hands now – until I’ve seen the doctor and talked things through, all I can do is keep going and hope for the best. That’s not saying I’m giving up and spending a week with my head under a blanket – but just that there’s not much more I can actively do, now, aside from try to keep things ticking over.

I met L after meeting the dragon today (the phrase ‘glutton for punishment’, comes to mind) and am feeling pretty bulldozered by it. She seemed to start panicking when I told her I knew I was going downhill again, and said maybe I should see someone else – which is ridiculous as I’ve only got a few more weeks till we break for Christmas, after which I’m going to Nepal – and I didn’t really know what to say to that, apart from feeling pretty cross and upset as I wasn’t quite expecting that reaction. I sort of rely on her to NOT panic and be calm – and it threw me off. It’s the first time I’ve felt angry with her. And then she started going on about church healing rooms and suggesting I think about it – which also confused me as I’m really not one for asking for people I know to pray for me, let alone strangers, and to be honest, it sounded like a last resort – as though I’m in need of a last resort. It’s nothing to do with my faith in God not being strong enough, to find healing in these places – it’s that (as she knows) people have inflicted quite a lot of damage by using prayer to say things they had no right or reason to say, and I don’t trust other people with my faith, especially when I’m vulnerable. Not at the moment. And what I needed was for someone who has heard my reasons for fearing medication, to encourage me and tell me that I’ve done right in making these appointments and gearing myself up to try them again. I didn’t need that decision glossing over and marginalising. Her suggestion was so completely out of my range that it makes me wonder if she’s been listening at all, these last few months. Feeling like a lost cause, is never a good thing.

And yes, it’s just this latest drop that making me feel as though the rest of my life is going to characterised by many more troughs than peaks, and yes, it’s just this depression that makes me feel so relentlessly unable to fathom how I’ll manage that – but it’s how I feel, today. It’s how I was feeling after seeing the dragon and being up since 6am after a sleepless night. It’s how I was feeling after finding church on Sunday more painful than its been for such a long time. It’s how I was feeling, as I realised how much I’m playing for at the moment.

I know, that mulling over things isn’t going to help and that there is no gain in regretting past decisions or thinking over mistakes I made – but if I can’t rock up at counselling after a crap week with a pretty big realisation, and cry and say that I don’t know where to go from here, and how I’ll get through another period as black as last year if it comes my way, where can I say that? I have acted to sort this out as quickly as possible, but that doesn’t mean that my mood hasn’t plummeted, and it doesn’t mean that I’m not devastated at the moment by this latest change.

I’m not sure what I’ll do next week. Part of me doesn’t want to see L again. Part of knows that I probably need someone keeping an eye one me. It’s hard, sometimes.

Thanks to all who’ve been thinking and praying for me. It helps.

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It’s becoming increasingly clear that  at the moment, I’m just not ‘quite right’. I’m feeling a lot more apathetic and tearful, and just can’t quite be bothered with a lot of things. I’m struggling to work productively and find myself crying a lot more than I have for some time. I find myself thinking about things I haven’t thought of since my last ‘fall’. I can’t sing at church either, which seems to be quite a good signpost for things not being right.

In short, I think I’ve officially lost the race against depression again.

This isn’t really that surprising – after all, I’ve had a good five months of recovery after the last and worst dip, but doing these things cold with no medication, is not the best way. And no matter how much I argue that it was ‘best for me’ and ‘the only way I could manage’, it probably wasn’t. I should have pushed to be put on something that didn’t make me so suicidal.  I should have had more courage. I should have realised that like everything on this earth, depression isn’t something you can beat using your own willpower alone. Apathy is my greatest enemy, at times.

The defining moment was realising that my thoughts are getting progressively more negative and dangerous, and although I suppose it’s a good thing that I recognise that they’re coming from an illness which has a solution, and not myself, I’m pretty devastated. I feel like I’ve failed. I feel like I’ve lost the war, at last.

The thing is, I’m afraid to try medication again. I’m going to Nepal for my elective in January, to work in hospitals there, for two months, so there’s not much time to play with drugs and doses. Last time, no one, let alone myself, quite made the connection between how ill I was, and fluoxetine. This was one time when being the eternal perseverer, did not have a good outcome for me. I can’t feel like that again. I’m terrified of feeling like that again – but I’m not sure I have any options left. I feel like a total hypocrite after spending so much time convincing my flatmate to try them, but it feels inevitable. I’m also not really looking forward to going back to the doctors after spectacularly failing to refer myself to the psychiatrist/renew prescriptions/do what patients are supposed to do. It feels like this is all my fault, and that if I’d been just a little less brick-headed, just a little less obstinate, or, dare I say, it, just a little less depressed and incapable, this fall back might not have happened.

I’ve not got much time to play with as I’ve got two essays that need writing in the next fortnight, and there’s a lot to learn in paediatrics too – so I know that I need to act quickly. I know I need to stand up to this and stop thinking I can do it on my own. I know I need to accede the point and then start again from the beginning. It’s like a dreadful homecoming, an unwanted baseline. It makes me wonder if this pattern is going to be all I know, now, of a few months rising and then, repeatedly, falling back and losing everything I managed to salvage. This is a house I don’t want to be in, a party I don’t want to crash, and yet, here I am. I’m stuck  inside the walls again. I’m looking for God in this, and not really finding him.

So – let’s see what happens. I hope all my readers are having a better week than I am.

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Elegy to autumn

Now, I’m pretty used to be analytical, and most of medicine is about comparison, either with ‘the norm’, or the other side of the body. To find a pleural effusion, you’re looking at how one lung base sounds compared to the same spot on the other side. To work out if a knee is swollen, you look at the uninjured one. To assess a child’s development, you compare them against what a child of their age and experience ought to be doing.

Perhaps this is why I find myself referring to last year constantly at the moment. This run up to Christmas was the hardest time, in many ways, of all of my time with depression. There were a lot of painful moments, this time last year. I was pretty deadened. The changing leaves didn’t make me look closer for their beauty, but for their relationship to dying, as that was all I was thinking about. Everything was empty. Now, after a week of 9-5 lectures, I appreciate being able to concentrate in a way I couldn’t do for months, last year. I appreciate waking up and feeling exhausted, but not wishing I’d not woken at all. In the last month or so, I’ve got my ‘medical mojo’ back – I can approach patients and speak with them, and examine, without feeling like I’m having a panic attack or that I’m distinctly substandard. When my depression was both in its early, middle and late stages, I had real problems with that – as though patients could see my diagnosis and would assume I was useless, or that I was useless, and would never ever be a good doctor. You have to have a certain level of confidence to go and talk to someone with terminal cancer, or a sick child, or ask to do a pelvic examination. Medicine is no place for wallflowers, and my confidence is taking a long time to come back.

This time of year always makes me nostalgic, probably because it has so much packed in that a lot of my childhood memories are of walking home from school in the twilight, or waving sparklers, or carving pumpkins, or picking apples from the garden to make crumbles. The cold, clear autumn days are my favourites of all the year. They remind me that change isn’t always bad, or forever, and that all phases and stages, both good and painful, end at some time. We move on. We grow.

It was early autumn 2003 when my dad went to rehab for the first time, and deep winter when he came out. When we picked him up, we had to bring his winter jacket as he’d gone in with just a jumper. It was autumn 2005 when I applied to medical school, had my first set of interviews, and felt like my chance of escape was growing closer. It was autumn 2006 when I started medical school, which really was my lifeline, and what had got me through the previous three years at home. In 2007, I lost my last grandparent as the leaves were falling, spoke at a funeral for the first time, and mourned the loss of a generation. This week two years ago in 2009 marks my change, at last, after months of questionning and wondering and fear, from plaintive agnostic, to quiet, startled Christian (this is a post in itself). This week, last year, marks the anniversary of the day one conversation with a person I misguidedly trusted, led me closer to death than I hope to be again until I am old and worn and ready.

The autumn for me is a time of heartsome remembrance, an elegy to what has changed, and what starkly refuses to alter. This year, I am two years into faith and those two years have hardly been easy or straightforward. I remember the wounds of last year, and carry them with me. Those autumn days where my mood was hibernating, marked me. However, my years of faith have marked me more. My faith has survived, my prayers are still stumbling, my heart is still learning. Eight seasons on, I am still singing. Eight seasons on, I still see God when I look at the changing leaves and see the death of the year beginning, in all its glory. Eight seasons on, I can see how much ground I’ve covered, and am able to look forward and wonder where I will be in another eight seasons. This is my favourite time of year.

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I kind of feel like I’ve stepped back into the fire since I got back from my trip away – as though a week of peace tricked me into a false sense of stability, and that letting things go for a week just made them come back amplified when I turned my attention to them once again.

In church on Sunday evening, I found myself crying and crowded out, the first time I’ve had that total, overbearing feeling of weight, that leaves me short of breath and panicking,  thinking,   pleasegodjustmakeeverythingstopandslowdownbecauseimjustnotbigenoughforthisanditstoomuch

I’m finding it hard at the moment with F and her depression, alongside trying to get myself as firmly sorted as I can. It’s exhausting. And sometimes, just sometimes, I can’t bear to be kind and clear and brave and supportive when she talks about ‘not wanting to give in’ and go for counselling, or ‘being strong enough to not need or benefit from it’. Sometimes, after cheering her up and stopping her crying, it’s me that ends up crying next door – I’m not nice enough to fully accept that she doesn’t mean to cause offence or that it’s not a personal gibe at me and my issues. Part of me just wants to start yelling that if she thinks I ‘gave up’ last year, she’s bloody wrong. If she thinks it’s an easy option, she’s wrong. If she thinks it takes more courage to bury her head and not try something that’s pretty well evidenced to work, than give it a shot, she’s wrong. Sometimes I get so annoyed that I can’t get away from depression at all, whether its mine or someone elses. I just want it to leave me alone. I just want to have a few months where it doesn’t rule every thing I do and think about, and choose. I’m no saint. I’m running dry again. I wish I could handle this better.

I’ve also realised that the last few weeks have been so busy and irregular and stressful, that once again, I’ve got myself off the right road and I’m feeling lost. I’m panicking. I stopped fixing on God, and lost sight of him. There’s been so much to think about that I didn’t notice when I stopped praying and stopped talking. And although I know it should be easy to get back, for some reason I just feel blocked off and shut off, shut out. And I feel like I need someone who knows me and know about last year to pray for me, and pray the right things, but there’s no-one at church I trust enough with it, not after last year. I feel like I need to find the way back home, back to God, but I can’t see it. It doesn’t feel right. I usually hate being prayed for, due to a combination of hating feeling like I’m the ‘centre of attention’ (please don’t look me in the eye, God), and other reasons. But right now, I feel like I need it. Right now, I feel like I need someone alongside.

As of next week, I will have been a Christian for two years, and yet so often I still feel so green and uncertain. After last year, depression moved my faith backwards and I had to unravel all of the wrong things it fed me. My faith is a panicking faith, an onmygoodnesspleasehelpgodpleasehelp faith. My faith, and the things depression did with it, almost killed me last year. My faith, and all the things God did with me, got me through, last year. And yet, at the moment, I feel like I’m shouting against white noise, into the wind. I’m trying to be still, and know. I’m still learning. I have so much to learn. I have too much, to learn.

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First of all, this is apparently my hundreth post – I never thought I’d have enough to say to fill that many! Thanks for sticking with me guys. Let’s see if I’m still writing when I get to the seventy-times-seventh post. I had some thoughts about what my centenary should be about – but then, what follows came up and I felt quite convicted by it, so here we go!

As you will know, I’m a student. I do many student things; I eat dodgy combinations of left-overs, walk three miles to get somewhere to save bus-fare and have a definite penchant for fancy-dress, preferably involving facepaint. My time here at medschool has been shaped mostly by the clubs and societies I’ve been in, lead, and founded, in addition to my studies. Last night was the annual society fundraiser at the union, where every club and society who have people going, are given some money. Now, I’m not a massive fan of clubbing, as so often, it’s dominated by people drinking enough to make me uncomfortable (let alone themselves), and stereotypically, lads who think that drinking five pints gives them a right to grope you (NB it doesn’t). This night is different however, because it’s held for the people with the greatest passion for what they do, the people who hold the fabric of the university together and make our student experience the terrific thing it is. Band geeks and history buffs don’t tend to attempt the drunken grope. They are too busy being dressed as tenor horns and Henry VIII.

I was there last night with my girls voice choir (complete with painted treble clefs on our faces) and have also gone in the past with my patient visiting group (dressed as an old person) and windband (dressed as a clarinet, using some imagination). Although everyone is dressed more than a little ludicrously, I actually love it – it’s about saying, this is what I do with my time, what I love. This is what I think is important. This is what I will encourage you to get involved with. This is my identity, my clan, my family.

I find it interesting when older people say things like ‘I still feel twenty-one’ – when what I think they really mean, is that they still feel passionate, they still feel alive. When you are actually twenty-one, you’re usually still finding your way and working out where you fit with things, and have not yet got the confidence and stability that comes with maturity. It’s actually quite painful, or was, and to some extent still is, for me. But often, we in our early adult lives, are also full of passion and excitement. We are the can-do generation, unladen with children and their ballet classes, mortgages, or elderly parents. We have the freedom to try to change things. We have the freedom to spend three days a week visiting patients in hospital, or to run a concert band. Our lack of ties, whilst sometimes isolating, is also the essence of our abilities. I know that when, or if, I have children, I will chose my son’s football matches over my choir practises, and my daughter’s piano lessons over whatever charity I’m involved with. And this is how I would want it to be – but is also means that now, before that phase, is my chance to make my mark and make a difference.

So often, churches talk about the apathy of the people and how we’ve lost the meaning of the message in between a culture of wanting, and the pull of consumerism. I hear preaching on getting off the treadmill and getting out of our bubble and getting in to our communities.  Last night however, all I could think was that I was in a room full of passionate people intent on making a difference somewhere, whether it’s in running the lacrosse team, raising funds for wells in Africa, reaching out to international students, or publishing the university newspaper. It’s always  inspiring, being in a room of people with conviction, big dreams, and action plans.

I had a ‘Christian first’ recently as I bought the new Tim Hughes album, my first foray into having Christian music on my ipod. The track I’ve posted is a good one for early mornings, but it’s also kind of flawed in labelling current Christians as ‘the freedom generation’; we’ve been the freedom generation since Cavalry. We’ve been free, since the man we follow and sing to and cry to, died on a cross. We are not the freedom generation. We’re a part of the freedom genealogy, the freedom family tree. It’s not about being a twentysomething with little to tie them down and no shackles from taxes and pension plans. It’s about following our hearts and keeping that conviction, that passion to change and better and fix, alive, as we go through the valleys and mountains of our years. I don’t want to lose my can-do spirit or my indefatiguable love of pushing boundaries. I want our freedom family tree to extend until it includes absolutely everyone. I don’t want change to be a task for one generation. I want it to be a task for one, enormous, family.

What are you passionate about?

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I’ve got counselling again on Monday. It kind of feels like it’s getting to crunchtime in a way. And there’s still some stuff I haven’t really talked about, because I don’t know how to. I don’t know how to begin. So I’m going to give it a trial run, here. I’ve also got to change my tack and course pretty quickly as it’s become clearer and clearer in the last few weeks that my flatmate needs a lot of attention at the moment, but more about that another time.

I think part of it is that I want to know what L (counsellor) thinks about me but at the same time, I’m terrified of this. I want to know if she thinks I’ll actually get over and through all this, or if I’m going to be one of those people who get caught in mental health services and diagnoses, and never leave. I don’t want to be walking with a label for the rest of my life. I want this year to be a blip on the radar, not the start of a whole lot of crazy. I’m scared to know what she says. I have to know what she says.

Sometimes I can’t decide if I’m incredibly self-centred, or incredibly other-centred. My first (disastrous) counsellor told me that I was so codependant I would never have a ‘normal’ relationship (yup, she said that). The blog however sometimes feels self-indulgent, and this last year has certainly made me re-evaluate how I often don’t value my own health and needs against those of others. I don’t know whether it’s better to run around after other people until I collapse, which is how the last few weeks have felt, or to stand and guard my heart and put myself first, as I’m learning, occasionally, to do. For some reason, I just can never seem to get the right balance. It’s as though I was born with a weight on one shoe, or something. I’m always off-kilter. I’m always left of the middle.

Despite the fact I’m seeing a church-based, Christian counsellor, and have a blog where I basically write about either depression or God, L and I never talk about faith. In many ways, I am a hushed sort of evangelist, a bit of a fraud. I’m pretty eloquent on paper, but tend to stumble if I try to speak about what I believe. My faith is so close to my core, and so close to the heart of my depression; I don’t know how to explain or describe how painful it was to feel so separated, both from God, and from everyone. I sort of think I need to cover this; if I’m going to grow in faith, if I’m ever going to have any sort of leading role in the church, I need to be ok at talking about it. Counselling sounds like an obvious place to sort that. And yet, I’m afraid. I don’t quite trust her, with that layer of myself. I’ve sort of realised recently that my ‘spiritual needs’ aren’t that well met; although I have some wonderful supporters on this blog (who probably don’t realise just how much their prayers mean to me), I don’t get much ‘in real life’; since my trust was spectacularly broken last year, it’s taken a while to trust the church again.

Last Sunday, I was praying with my head down and feeling pretty crowded out, when a women I didn’t know, who was just visiting for the evening, asked if she could pray for me. I’m afraid of prayer from others, sometimes; I’ve had too many experiences of people thinking they can say something hurtful just because they’ve put a ‘God-stamp’ on it. In the two years I’ve been at my church, no one has ever asked if they can pray for me. For most of those two years, I’ve also been too afraid, or depressed, to ask.

But last week, it reminded me so strongly of why it is that the Bible says that when there’s more than two of you together, He’s also there. It’s that kind of synergistic energy you suddenly feel when someone has a hand on your back and prays you back on track. It’s that kind of triangulation between you, another person and God, that helps you work out where you stand and where you’re going. It’s that need we all have for someone to ask for the things we can’t ask for ourselves. I think I need this. Faith, any faith, isn’t just a personal thing; it’s a remoulding, a remodelling of who you are. As it deepens, you start to tesselate with people on the same path; there’s a space for you, a space only, for you. And if you’re not slotting in, you’re just a shape on your own, outwith the big picture, not quite fitting into your surroundings.

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment, between job applications, family stuff, flatmate stuff, placement stuff and God stuff – despite lots of attempts to find some peace and quiet, it’s just not really working at the moment; I’m going by the still waters but am not really feeling that restored. Hopefully this will pass. Love, char48.

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Serendipitous opportunities

First of all – I’ve calmed down a little since yesterday. I’m still a bit miserable and bitter, but at the end of the day, I’m only human and sometimes I need to have a strop. This is where I have my strops because this is where I’m honest. Onwards and upwards, eh?

Something a little unexpected happened this week. I met the student worker from my church for a chat as we’ve never really had a chance to get to know each other and he suggested meeting up after I emailed to ask if he knew of anyone who’s not found their feet at church, who’d be interested in being in a girls’ Bible study me and a friend were planning to start. The upshot was that he’s wanting to re-organise the student side of things a bit to include a return to more traditional ‘small groups’ after the church moved away from that model a year ago to focus on more missionally orientated groups. These student pods will have about 12 in each, with two leaders, who will, well, lead stuff and arrange everything, including prayer triplets and Bible studies every fortnight. The leaders will then have a monthly meetup with one of the married couples at church, where the husband is an elder  (and a doctor) and the wife is generally very involved too, too make sure they’re supported etc. I’ve been asked if I’d like to lead a group.

This is a bit weird as obviously it’s about a hundred miles from anything ‘church related’ I’ve done so far, and more than the small group I’d planned, and could see myself managing. On the other hand, I’ve not had any ‘input’ from someone mature at church for over a year, and have a feeling that this is something I need – I get lost and confused and waylaid, and could do with someone further on who knows me, and cares enough to signpost the way. As I come further and further out of depression, I’m going to need some guidance from someone I trust. This could be a good way of getting that. I’m also a much better speaker on ‘paper’ (electronic or otherwise) than out loud, so leading a group of students would push me to extend my faith in a way I’ve not really cracked yet. I know I get the words out here, but in public, I am, as always, more of a hedgehog for Jesus than an eagle. I know that I can do the leadership side, practically – I’m a good organiser, and good at looking out for people – but am not quite so sure about how good I will be about being honest about where I am with God, as, afterall, the last time I was that honest with someone from church ended in disaster. I still sometimes fall into a trap of not quite believing that my skills are relevant to church either – that it’s some holy place where only other people have a right to serve, and that I’ll never be good enough to lead anything with a Christian tag to it, because I’m not holy enough, or good enough, or clean enough. It’s going to need me to wipe that slate clean, leave my unease behind, and focus on being a good follower of Christ who can help other people follow too. Tall order? Pass me the stepladder.

I don’t really know what to do – as a fifth year, I’m pretty busy, but on the other hand, this could be a way of really deepening my faith and getting back into the community after feeling pretty forced out, after the dreadful encounter last year. It kind of has that ‘oooch’ feeling of knowing that God has put this in my path for a reason. It has that kind of niggle that it’s too well timed to be down to chance. It just fits too many spaces in my life, right now. I’m off to Nepal anyway, in January, so it would only be short term, which also makes me want to accept.

Thoughts, anyone?

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