Healing hurts

Healing hurts.  Any type of healing, from any type of issue.  Pain doesn’t always lead to healing but healing always involves pain.

For me, 12 weeks on from open heart surgery with my emotions no longer masked by strong opiates, the pain is becoming almost unbearable.  Which I can only hope means that there is a lot of  internal healing going on.

In the first few days after my surgery when I was still in intensive care and the high dependency unit, I was overwhelmed with intense physical pain. One of the two large drainage tubes in my chest had lodged between my ribs and was hitting a nerve, sending my back into spasms and stopping me from being able to breathe properly.  I could only take tiny shallow breaths.  It felt as though my lungs were on fire, and my chest felt broken.  It was broken.  My sternum had been sawn into two length ways and my chest pulled apart then pulled back together again, held with steel wires.  I was swollen and raw and bruised. I couldn’t concentrate on anything except the pain, getting through second by second.  I can’t really remember anyone else being there with me, even though some of my family and friends were there, because the pain was all-consuming.

il_340x270.668278901_282d

I do remember having the drainage tubes pulled out of my chest, and the pain associated with them stopping immediately.  I still couldn’t take a deep breath.  It was weeks before I could and in fact I still can’t take a deep breath without pain.    But having the drains removed was wonderful nevertheless.  It meant I was able to get out of bed properly and take my first walk with the nurse.  I was moved out of the high dependency unit straight away.  I can remember that moment, those steps – smiling from the inside out, being so happy to be moving again.

When we are in such intense pain and the cause of it is removed suddenly like that it truly is incredible, liberating.  But more often than not it  leaves wounds that still need to heal.

As well as a large wound down the front of my chest, I had holes where the tubes had been. Each one stitched together, sore and inflamed, still needed to heal and would leave permanent scars.

healing hurts picture

Sometimes in life we experience situations, circumstances, traumatic events, that are so intense or sudden they completely consume us.  When they stop, change, are over, that initial risk and fear may have gone, but we are left with deep, open wounds.  No one pulling us back together with steel, or stitching us with little bows.

We are left shocked and stunned and alone.

We are changed.

More often than not, we scramble around trying to find things to self-medicate with, to soothe ourselves with, as we try to make sense of what has happened to us.   We can spend years packing our feelings away, pushing pain deep into ourselves, avoiding anything that reminds us of what happened.

Even really good things.

We tug and pull at our wounds until they are unrecognisable in the hope that we will be able to move on without ever really looking at the damage, without ever feeling anything.

But like I said before.

Healing hurts.

Numbing isn’t healing.

Punishing yourself isn’t healing.

All the coping mechanisms in the world, as useful as they may be at the time, are not healing.

To truly heal, you need to feel the pain.  Be in it.  Face it.  That’s the only way that you will know when it has gone.

For me, the open heart surgery has been a huge painful trigger, a reminder of something that changed me.  Something that happened nearly 17 years ago and shaped my life.  I’ve spent those years hiding myself, burying myself in layers of fat and emotional walls in an attempt to protect myself.  Which in a way has worked, but I have sacrificed so much in the process.  I’ve rejected myself out of disgust and hidden myself out of shame.

I’ve had attempts at dealing with this stuff before, but I’ve always failed and ended up worse.  My failure shows outwardly on my body as I lose weight, get to a certain point, then feel vulnerable and exposed again so put the weight back on.  But this isn’t really about my weight.  That’s not the real battle.

The real fight is to feel safe to be myself.  The real fight is to be comfortable in my own skin.  The real fight is being able to look at what happened and the consequences.  The real fight is about forgiveness, and mercy and grace.  The real fight is to reach out to myself with love.  And reach out to others for support.  The real fight is to allow myself to feel pain and trust that  I can survive it; realise that I have survived it.  The real fight is about acceptance and intimacy and love.

This is a battle of true healing.

And healing hurts.

Love Lou x

healing-heart

 

 

Twas the week before surgery…

Yesterday as I sat in the coffee shop at the gym one of the lovely staff asked if I’m nervous about my heart surgery next week. And you know what my response was?  Yes of course I am nervous but I’m also excited.

Excited???!!!!!

My own words took me by surprise. I’m going into hospital in a few days to have major open heart surgery, surely that can’t be how I’m feeling? 


Of course I’d just spent 2 hours dancing so it could have been the endorphins talking. (Did you know that the endorphins released in your brain after exercise trigger a positive feeling in the body and mind?) But I think it’s more than that.  I think I am actually excited, and I think I’m as ready as I can be to go through this.

I am getting my heart fixed.  The process is going to be horrible in many ways I know, but I am being reassured by all the cardiology team, and fellow heart warriors across the pond,  that the results are going to be worth the pain.

I can’t imagine what it is going to feel like to not have a mucking great big hole in my heart anymore, and to have all the blood vessels in the right places so I have more oxygenated blood.  I’m guessing and hoping that it will feel wonderful. That once I’ve recovered from the surgery I’ll be able to build my fitness to beyond anything that my body is capable of right now.  That I’ll have loads more energy to dance and move and stomp.  I do like a good old stomp!

And I am excited about spending time with people during my recovery.  I honestly feel incredibly blessed to have so many amazing people in my life who love me, and want to spend time with me to help me, support me.  I know that I won’t always be good company, that I’ll be in pain at first, and there will be many tearful days.  But I also know that allowing myself to be that vulnerable with others will make me stronger and strengthen my relationships with them.   That’s very exciting to me.  I want my heart to be stronger so I can love more, and be a blessing to others too.

This surgery has been hanging over my head for 5 years now.  It’s a bit shocking to think that this time next week it will be done and I’ll have got through the time in intensive care, already back on the ward!  And the weight of anticipation will be lifted from me, I’ll be free from the looming dooming surgery ahead because it will be behind me!

I didn’t know I would feel so excited.

But really I do.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’ve not gone manic.  I realise that this is huge.  I’ve been told the risks countless times. And no doubt will be again next week before the surgery itself. I’ve gone to the depths,  I’m not avoiding the fact that I might die.  I’ve felt it, I’ve stared at it.  I’ve cried and screamed and shouted at it.  And I have accepted it.  The surgery might kill me.

It is true.  But you know what I am going to die some day!  We all are. And I am not scared about it.  I know I’ll still be with Jesus when I die. He’s not going to leave me, not ever, not for eternity!  Death – where is your sting???? (1 Corinthians 15: 55) 

I can also feel a defiant strength rising up in me.  It comes from that acceptance, that knowledge.  When I am weak, He is strong! (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10)  I’m pretty sure I will need reminding of this a lot over the next few months, but going through this process is a gift. Being weak and vulnerable is a gift.

His grace is enough; it’s all I need.

His strength comes into its own in my weakness.

I have to focus on the positive benefits or there is no way that I will be able to go through with it.  I need to focus on my future, all the possibilities, all the adventures to be had.  I’m getting a chance to spend the rest of my life with a heart that works much better. As it is, my heart defect means that I am in a high risk category for stroke and heart failure.  I desperately don’t want either of those.  The surgery will give me the chance to live without those high risks.

Now comes the ironic part. As I got to this point in writing, I got a call from my surgeon’s secretary to say that my surgery date had been changed. Brought forward by a day.

I wasn’t expecting that!

With help from my friends I’d had everything for the next few days planned out and organised. I was in control. So much to do – finish cleaning and sorting the house, get everything ready for Christmas, get my boiler fixed and a million other chores. I had cat sitters sorted, family arriving, meals planned.

Then got that call.

I’m now going into hospital on Monday instead of Tuesday.  surgery now Tuesday instead of Wednesday. Of course only if there is an intensive care bed.

And I freaked out.

When I took the call I was feeling positive and hopeful. The news made me feel instantly anxious. My mind went into overdrive with everything I have to do.

One minute I feel in control, the next I’m reminded that I’m not. That’s not easy for a control freak! 

But it’s important for me to learn this. 


Last night I went out and tried my best to forget about it all. I had a great evening. I really did. I’m so blessed with such beautuful, wonderful people in my life. 

And today? 

Today it’s 10am and I’m still sat in my dressing gown. I’ve got loads to do and will get started in a minute but right now I’m enjoying a lazy Saturday morning. I’m enjoying my heart as it is. I’m enjoying being myself. I’m taking a bit of time to appreciate my life. To be thankful.


And I’m starting to feel positive and excited again.  

I can do this. I can get through this. I can see my situation as a gift and learn from it. 

Deep breaths, chin up, big smile and best foot forward.  

Love Lou xxx

Self-assumptions 

I took myself off to Scarborough again last Tuesday, after deciding on Monday night that I needed to feel the wind in my hair. I needed a bit of time out.  I love it in Scarbs.  I love the Yorkshire coast and I’ve so much more of it to explore!

I doubt anyone who saw me there, sat outside a coffee shop near the sea front all wrapped up warm and cosy with my soya capuccino, would have thought that I was having major open heart surgery in a few weeks.  

Scarborough sea

We never really know what’s going on in someone’s life or heart when we look at them.  Though we can’t help but judge people, make assumptions, we more often than not will be wrong about most things.

People are surprising, and complicated.  

And I love them.

It was cold there.  But the sun came out from behind the clouds as I sat writing in my journal, and everything around me looked gorgeous.  Fluffy pigeons walked around the clusters of tables searching for crumbs, the masts of the boats in the harbour glistened and steamed as the sun rays hit them.  The sea seemed calm and yet beautiful rough waves were breaking loudly onto the shore leaving brown, salty foam bubbling on the sand.

The fairground was eerily still. November is out of season of course, but for me this is when I love seaside towns the most.  This is when you can really see them, see the people who call it home.  The interesting characters, well worn faces, ruddy cheeks.  And I can honestly say I feel connected to this town.  I love these people.  I love the rugged landscape and the ruined castle way up high on the hill beside me.

I love being by the sea. 

A large group of school kids walked past me.  They must have been on an outing with their teachers, all of them with bright florescent safety tabards on.  I guess to make it easier for the teachers to keep track of them all.  But they really stood out; the only gang in a  quiet, usually crowded place.

I remember when I was that age, 8 or 9.  How I wanted to dance and write and be a fashion designer who fought for social justice and saved the world by loving people no one else loved!  I’d already experienced such traumatic loss, witnessed real grief and felt it myself. I knew the depths of pain and suffering that were there.  

But I also knew joy and love and compassion.

How many of those children I saw last week were going through tough situations?  Growing up without the care free childhood that for some reason we generally believe is for the best?  

Not many I imagine.  

And we shouldn’t forget that, shouldn’t patronise them with assumptions.

So what have the years on this earth taught me? 

Loads.  

Not enough.  

As I think about myself right now, I know that I’ve spent too many of those years hating myself, even while loving others.  

And I know that if I’m to get through these next few weeks and months, and have the chance for another 30 plus years of life, then I need to face the assumptions I’ve made – about myself.

Self-assumptions have stopped me trying some new things (I won’t like it).

Self-assumptions have held me back from my full potential (I’ll fail).

Self-assumptions have stopped me from fully sharing my heart with someone (I’ll let them down). 

Self-assumptions have led me to hide my true self (I’m not enough).

Self-assumptions have hurt me. I’ve hurt me. 

As I walked around Scarborough last week, I took an honest look at these self-assumptions. I stared them in the face.

I stood on a hill overlooking the sea, with no one else around and I shouted. I can’t remember what I shouted but I know that as my hot breath hit the cold air it felt good. 

Really good. 

I like to think that I burst into the chorus of ‘let it go’ as I span myself into a beautiful Viennese waltz on the hillside, my bright blue scarf floating in the breeze….

Let’s go with that.

Whatever actually happened I felt better for it. I felt alive and free.

In those moments I felt like me. 

The real me. 

Fully present, fully engaged in life. A lunatic shouting and stomping on a hill. 

And I’m determined not to limit myself with self-assumptions any more. 

Love Lou x

A new beginning

“You need to live not just be alive.  Take in every moment. Do spontaneous things without asking anyone’s permission!  Leave anything that makes you unhappy and be content with who you are.”  Kaydee Watkins (ahiddenillness.blogspot.com)

These are the words of one of the fellow congenital heart disease warriors that I have connected with on social media.  Just 6 years ago she was fighting for her life.  She posted this wisdom on Saturday morning along with a photo of her in a coma in intensive care.

And it struck my heart like a beautiful sledge hammer.

I realised that this is what I need. This is how I want to live.

I’ve done a lot of reflecting this year.  A close friend pointed out to me on Friday night (as we stayed up chatting until the wee hours) that I’ve been looking at my life, myself, under a magnifying glass.

self-magnify

She’s right.  I have.

And I’ve realised how much of my life has been automatic, routine.  Doing the same things. Thinking, feeling, being.

You know that feeling you get sometimes when you arrive somewhere and you can’t remember the journey? You’ve done it so many times that it has become automatic.  You know the route really well but you don’t notice the details of it any more.  You just do it over and over again, without caring whether you are enjoying it or not.

Its a means to an end.

It’s familiar.

Apparently safe.

Well in many ways I’ve been living so much of my life like that.  What opportunities, what beauty, what excitement, have I missed because of it?  What have I ignored, gone past, not noticed, not allowed myself?

And I’ve been asking myself why.

Why have I got like this?

Another close friend said to me this weekend (as I spent a second night in a row chatting until the wee hours) that sometimes we won’t ever know the why, but we can work out the how.  She was referring to something different, related to other people’s behaviour towards us. I completely agree with her.

But I think that for our own behaviour, our own patterns, the why is in us.

Somewhere.

For me, the why is buried under a lot of stuff.  I’ve chosen to hide it, from myself, from others.

 And the more stuff that I’ve piled on top over the years, the more automatic I’ve become. And the more of my life, myself I’ve lost.

wiosenne_porzadki_w_szafie_8

It’s not just one thing, one reason.  It’s many. But they are connected, stemming from the same thing.

Fear.

Fear of rejection.  Fear of not fitting in. Fear of letting people down.  Fear of losing people.  Fear of making mistakes.  Fear of risk.  Fear of loss.

I’ve talked about fear a lot over the last six months or so, but what have I really done to tackle it?

Outwardly, not much yet.  But inwardly?

Inwardly I’ve been hauling a giant magnifying glass around and observing myself in new ways.  Facing open heart surgery has led me to do this.

And believe me when I say that some things look extremely ugly close up. Really they do. But other things look shockingly beautiful!  I’ve been surprised, alarmed, amazed at what is inside myself.  At who I am.

I’ve found hopes, dreams, desires, wishes that I didn’t know still existed in me, or I didn’t know were there at all.  Some weird, some wonderful.

And I’m finally realising just how important it is to be spontaneous, be true to myself, be me.

I’m tired of having everything so planned out, so diarised that there is no room for doing whatever I feel like doing in the moment.  It doesn’t feel right.  It’s not right for me. It has been stressing me out for several years.  I don’t mind being busy, but I need more balance, more fun, more adventure.

Space.

e80ed159bfc1faa0606afa9e5a027353I need space in my life, my week, my days to be in the moment, to go with the flow.  To do what I feel and want to do at that time.  How can I possibly know today what I will feel like doing in 2 months time?

Don’t get me wrong there is a time for planning ahead, and routine is important.  But things have got out of balance for me, gone too far.

And it has been suffocating me.

I want to have days where I get up in the morning and take myself somewhere, anywhere. Do new things, have new experiences.  Without having to ask anyone’s permission.

I’m getting my heart fixed soon.  A second chance.  A new lease of life and I want to live it to the full.  Be myself to everyone.  No more hiding.  No more excuses. No more apologising for who I am.

This is just the beginning.   A new one at that.

Love,

Lou x

78f32e8ba070a66aec7e077a2d75964e

 

Reality of Waiting

Today is the 1st November.  I’m having heart surgery at the back end of this month sometime.  I will only have a couple of weeks notice of the actual date, but I need to be prepared within the next few weeks.

And I’m struggling.

There I said it.

I don’t like to admit it (does anyone?)  but it is true.

And it sucks.

I expected that I would be in control of everything – organising my post op care, my finances, my work, my emotions.  That I would be able to plan everything down to the finest detail, pray, give all my fear and stress to God, and focus on having lots of lovely time with people doing loads of fun things.

I imagined that by the month of the surgery I would have lost all the weight I wanted to, be as fit as I wanted to be, have everything in order.  That I would have moved in a straight line towards my goals.

But I haven’t.  Nowhere near.

SONY DSC

The reality is, life doesn’t work like that.  It’s messy.

My emotions are literally all over the place.  I’m swinging between sadness, irritation, frustration, happiness, thankfulness, loneliness, fear, joy.  I feel like I am on the verge of weeping or laughing or shouting all the time.  Sometimes I don’t know what I feel.  I’m just numb.  Sometimes I want to be with people, other times  I want to be on my own curled up.

All 

Over 

The 

Place

I found out a couple of weeks ago at my cardiology appointment that the right side of my heart is further enlarged.  The function is still the same, but it really does need the surgery to be sooner rather than later.  We had a big discussion about whether to wait and have the less invasive robotic surgery, or go with the traditional open heart.

I had to make a decision and it was difficult.  I opted for open heart.  The gold standard, the method known by the entire medical team that will be looking after me.  So they can tell me what to expect and when.

I was glad of making the decision, but I have been terrified by the thought of open heart surgery from the beginning.  Being so vulnerable like that, completely out of control.

img_1554-crop-980x530

I am trying not to think about this, but its like a scary clown is in my mind poking at me to look into its face.

I just about get on top of it and then someone will innocently ask me if I’ve got a date for my surgery yet, or how I’m feeling, or any other question about it, and suddenly I’m there – in the mouth of the clown, anxious and caught.  And I have to push it all away again just to function, and smile and try to be ‘normal’.

I know people mean well by asking, but those seemingly simple straightforward questions are loaded with emotion for me that I’m left dealing with long after the short conversation has finished.  And I am still trying to think of responses that are truthful, yet avoid talking about things when I don’t want to and don’t offend or hurt the other person.

I’m struggling. 

And it feels like there is so much to organise.  Loads of practical things.  I feel better when I get something done, crossed off my list.  But I really don’t know how I will get everything finished that I’d like to – at home, work.  There are a lot of people I would like to catch up with but in reality I am not going to be able to and trying to fit everything in is making me stressed.

It’s like I’m stuck on a ride I can’t get off – it is in motion, pushing forward towards the big day.  That’s me somewhere in the middle with my head in my hands.  I can’t even scream to make myself feel better.  I don’t know whether I want to be at the back having fun with my arms in the air or controlling the ride from the front.  All I do know is that I don’t like the place where I am right now.

maxresdefault

The truth is this.  I keep thinking what if this is the last few weeks of my life?  How do I want them to be?  These are difficult conversations to have with people.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed and want to make sure that all the people I care about know how I feel about them.  Should I write letters to everyone for them to read just in case I don’t survive?  I tried this, but I couldn’t do it.

The chances are that I will survive and I will get through it all and be fine.  So perhaps it is better not to write the letters?

It is very important to me that people know how much I love them though, so I will be telling people the best I can, in my own way.

I’m struggling.

Then of course there is the recovery from surgery to think about.  The time in intensive care, the week in hospital ward.  The time stuck at home needing help with pretty much everything.  The physical pain.  The loss of independence.  I am doing my best to see it as a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with amazing people – and when I think of that I get excited and overwhelmed with the thought that I am loved.  But there is this fear in me of being a burden, being too needy, losing myself, losing others.

All of this is going on but this is not some amazing blockbuster movie where suddenly the love of my life or my fairy Godmother appear to do everything for me.

No, the boring drudgery of life is still going on.  I got a tax bill yesterday, I’ve loads of housework to do and I have to inject my cat with insulin.  I have to go to work.  I have to smile and get on with stuff.  I have to go home to an empty house at times when all I want is someone to hug me and tell me everything is going to be OK.

The reality of waiting it hard.  This surgery has been hanging over me for several years now and I just want it over and done with.

The worst part is that I am irritating myself!  Even writing this has annoyed me.  I shouldn’t be struggling, there are so many people worse off than me.  I know I am really blessed.  I know I have a strong faith, wonderful family and friends.  I shouldn’t be feeling alone and scared.

But to get through this I need to be honest.

Thank you for reading.

Love Lou x

 

The Laughter Weapon

Right now I’m sat in a café. On the table behind me are 4 older aged women. I can’t help but enjoy their conversation and raucous laughter. They’ve talked about X Factor, how they all love One Direction (I’d fight my granddaughter for whatshisname with long curly hair) and now they’re talking about lesbians. Something like this:

“is thingie’s daughter still one of those lesbians?”

“ooo I think so yes”

“good for her. Must make a change.”

(noises of agreement all round the table)

“I’ve always fancied having a try myself you know, but we are too old now”

“no no we’re not too old. Apparently there’s this thing called Timber on your phone”

“timber like wood?”

“yes, timber you put photos on it and choose people to meet up with. I heard some young girls talking about it”

“were they lesbians?”

“ooo I don’t know. Is timber for lesbians?”

(conversation goes to a whisper)

“well anyway, maybe I’ll leave it for now. It’s bad enough dealing with my saggy bits let alone someone elses”

(laughter erupts around the table)

Next conversation….

“did you go to the doctor about that in the end?”

“no I went to that new shopping centre in town instead, and I feel much better now”

(more laughter)

And I couldn’t help but have a giggle myself.

The joy in their voices really lifted me. I leaned across to their table and thanked them for it. They told me that there were 8 of them but the others had already gone home. How they are all over 75 and single, either from being widowed, divorced or never married, and they always go to the café together on Sundays after church. No matter how bad their weeks have been that’s their routine, to hang out and laugh together. They asked if I was single too. “Yes” I said. And then they invited me to join them, any Sunday afternoon I liked, as long as I liked laughing.

How amazing is this?

These women are clearly the best of friends and know how to care for one another with laughter and fun. I imagine they have all been through much heartache and grief in their lives, not only the loss of husbands. I doubt it is possible to get to that age without lots of challenges.  But they are choosing to see the humour in life. They’ve not been nasty about anyone, or discriminatory. They’re obviously comfortable with themselves, and with each other.

And their warmth blew me away. How swiftly they included me, how they wanted to share their laughter.

And I realised how serious I have become recently.  How consumed with my upcoming heart surgery and other issues I have been.

Many things that we have to deal with in life are difficult, but we have a choice.

I have a choice.

We don’t have to take life too seriously. I don’t have to.

We can choose to laugh in the face of adversity, make fun of ourselves and our angst, share with friends, let ourselves be supported and support others. We can all enjoy life, even if times are so tough we can’t laugh in that moment, there is always something to be thankful for. There’s a place for pain, and tears, they are important, but we need the contrast of laughter and fun. We need the healing that comes from time out with friends chatting about all sorts of rubbish and giggling until our sides hurt. Sometimes we need to let go of the serious and embrace the silly.

And those times need to be part of our routine.

I came here today with the intention of writing an update about my heart surgery, and to share about some other stuff. I’ll still do that soon, but it feels like I was meant to meet these lovely women for a reason. A reminder to lighten up and relax. That it is OK not to take serious things so seriously.

Having a laugh, doing fun or relaxing things when there is tough stuff going on doesn’t mean that we are disrespecting our situations. It means that we are embracing life as it is and fighting.

Laughter is both a medicine and a weapon in our battles. A weapon we could all do with using more often. And one we should never feel guilty about using, no matter what is going on.

Love L x

Fighting fear

Today, I had plans.  A huge list of things that I wanted to get done, achieve, enjoy.  I got up and washed at 7am with big intentions for the day but now it’s 2.34pm, and I haven’t left the house yet.  In fact, I only got dressed an hour ago and still need to straighten my hair and put on my make up.

Today, I had plans.  But they got waylaid.

Because, you see, today I have been in a fight.

A big one.

Against fear.

img_0263

I felt it creeping up on me yesterday.  Fear. Making me doubt myself, question my abilities, my skills, my character.

I’d returned to work this week after a month off, and I’ve got a new role description and responsibilities. Monday was great!  A meeting with my manager, who is also one of my best friends.  He encouraged me and supported me, and I felt excited to be back.  Monday evening I saw a lovely friend.  She encouraged and supported me too.  I am so blessed.

But yesterday I felt the prickly pain of fear pinch my thoughts.  Was I good enough?  Could I do this job?  Could I make a difference?  Then, as I started planning the term, I realised how close December is.

Meaning how close my heart surgery is.

12 weeks away, maybe only 10.

I felt fear’s razored tongue gently caress my ear, hissing its painful thoughts at me. Jabbing, cutting, making me bleed.

And I took a handful of chocolates from the tin and ran and hid in the bathroom and stuffed my face.

ezra-10-4

In that moment I was in the throws of fear.  Fear of failing at my job.  Fear of failing in my relationships.  Fear of still being overweight.  Fear of not losing any more weight before the surgery.  Fear of the surgery itself.  Fear of it going wrong.  Fear of having a stroke, brain damage, kidney damage, heart failure, infection.  Fear of the recovery, loss of independence, being a burden.  Fear of pain.  Fear of being stuck at home.  Fear of losing my job, of not having enough money.  Fear of being rejected, being single forever.  Fear of not fulfilling any of my dreams.

But today?

Today, I remembered that I have weapons.  A whole armoury in fact!

638d326332025680b8d3f78f756d1967

I have been declaring truth over myself, my life, my situations.  I’ve read scriptures about not giving up  and scriptures of encouragement .  I’ve sung songs about not being a slave to fear, and how strong God is, how strong I am through Him!    I’ve found photos that inspire me and put scripture on them to create motivational pictures that truly resonate with me.  I’ve danced.   I’ve shouted out.  I’ve prayed.  I’ve stomped.  I’ve cheered.

I’ve remembered who I really am.  Who He really is.  And what He has given me.

addtext_com_mtq0mjuynjuwmza-2

I’m excited about my dreams.  It is not stupid to believe that God wants me to have the desires of my heart.  His word says that He has put them there!  My dreams are not unrealistic, or stupid or wrong.

God gave me this body and it is OK,  no it is right that I should be taking care of it, and taking time to use it well and love it.  My body is not something for me to worship, but it is a temple for His Holy Spirit.  I was bought for a price. He dwells in me. My heart is His!  I am fearfully and wonderfully made, the apple of His eye!

I don’t need to fear, because He is with me and there is an amazing plan for my life that is beyond anything I can imagine.  In Christ I am not timid. I have power, love and self-discipline, all the time.

Today I have been in a fight.

A big one.

Against fear.

And I won. 

Lessons from pigeons – Being different. 

I don’t fit in. No siree, not me. I’m an oddball, a round peg in a square hole, a thorn amongst roses. The odd one out.

I’m different.

And I know I’m not the only one.

Last month I spent 10 days with family at their gorgeous home in the beautiful south west countryside. I’d just been signed off work for a month with post traumatic stress, following a few extreme incidents, so when I arrived I was ready for a good rest.

Much needed space.

Trauma, however experienced or witnessed, changes us.  With the time and space to reflect, to process, it can lead to self-understanding and growth. However without this, trauma can create personal anguish, deep voids.  Chasms filled with pain that needs to be let go of little by little over years.

It can make us feel estranged from others.

Alone.

Different.

I learned this from bitter experience.  So, despite knowing that I was letting some people down by missing planned events, I had to get away. I needed to do my best to look after myself before I cracked up completely.

I had to have distance between me and the reminders of the traumatic events. Space from the demands of my daily life and from people. I had to connect with myself and with God again. Join up all the little dots of my fractured mind.

For me, being in nature really helps me to reconnect on a spiritual level so while I was away I spent as much time as I could outside.

Resting in the sunshine, enjoying the beautiful gardens.

There is a flock of special pigeons that live in one of the barns at the house. They’ve got sort of webbed feathery feet, and I think they are really pretty.  They are technically wild pigeons, but they always come back to the barn every day and my family feed them as if they are pets.  The flock seem to do everything together; they share meals, fly together, sit together. They are a proper little community.

But one of them is different. She (though could be a he) is a different breed, so doesn’t have the same sort of feet or feathers. She’s more a light brown while the others are dark grey.

And although she also lives in the barn, she doesn’t always do everything with the others. Quite often they go off flying without her, leave her behind.  She always seemed to be slightly on the outside even when she is with them, I never saw her in the middle of the flock.

20160829_174607.jpg

That’s her, on the left.

 

And it got me thinking.  About being different.

I wondered whether she was being pushed out, or whether she kept herself out. I wondered if she knew she was different, if she noticed being excluded. I wondered if she felt it, how she felt it.

And I thought about the others. Did they intentionally fly off without her, or did she simply just not follow them?  Did she scare them?  Irritate them? Intrigue them?

Why, as the old saying goes, do  ‘birds of a feather flock together?’  Are we all just simply more comfortable with people that are like us?

But then I looked closer.

Were the flock actually comfortable with each other? Did they like the rest of the flock or were they just tolerant of them?

I saw them pecking and flapping at each other.  What appeared to be pigeon-styled bickering over food and space, and rank. The different one wasn’t included in this.

I too, am different

I don’t fit in. No siree, not me. I’m an oddball, a round peg in a square hole, a thorn amongst roses. The odd one out.

And I’m OK with it….

Most of the time.

L x

A weighty milestone

I’ve been thinking about milestones since writing my last post ‘a milestone not a tombstone’. Some milestones we can see up ahead, we know they are coming. These are usually big life events; like turning a special age, or getting married, or heart surgery. But sometimes we only recognise something as a milestone when we look back through the ripples of movement around it to see the impact it has had.

It dawned on me that I have experienced many of these milestones in my fitness journey so far this year.

But there’s one in particular that is having a profound effect on me. It marks a massive shift in my thinking: a clear indicator that I am strong in my recovery from disordered eating and have moved towards freedom, self-acceptance and security.

What is this milestone?

I gave my scales away.

I gave them to Jennie at Set U Free Fitness   a few weeks ago at the start of my training session with her. 

Now that probably doesn’t sound like much but let me tell you, for me it is truly significant.  Over the years too much of my identity and security has been tangled up in those scales, in how much my body weighs. 

I’ve had many years where I was so anxious about my weight changing that I’d weigh myself up to 30 or more times a day. 

It felt awful. 

Sometimes I’d be anxious about gaining weight and other times about losing it. The anxiety felt like hot wax being poured into me and the only way to stop it was to get on the scales.  I’d either be relieved or despaired by the number. In any case I’d feel shame. Ashamed that I hid behind my fat, and ashamed of who I was underneath it.

I was trapped. 

I tackled a lot of these issues during the therapy I had for the eating disorder and worked really hard to stop weighing myself. But trying to break this habit was stressful, difficult.  

So about 2 years ago I decided to simply accept that I’d weigh myself once a day, first thing every morning. 

And the anxiety seemed to go away. Unless for any reason I couldn’t get to the scales and then it would rise up immediately.. It was all consuming, of my thoughts and my emotions, which affected my behaviour and reduced my self-esteem even more.

This year I’ve been working so hard on accepting myself for who I am, by reconnecting with my body. Jennie has been helping me learn to focus on what body can do, not what it can’t do or isn’t. Or how much it weighs. Or even how it looks. 

So a month ago I just woke up on that Monday  morning and had had enough of the scales. 

When I handed the scales over to Jennie I felt a mixture of fear and freedom. I was letting go of so much more than scales. It was like going cold turkey into a new way of seeing myself, but after years of preparation.

At the health club I go to (not Set U Free’s private gym) there are scales which also measure body fat, muscle etc. On them it says ‘if you’re not assessing you’re guessing’.  But the truth for me is that I was obsessing not assessing.  

And I very much doubt I’m the only one. 

Without the scales I can more easily tune in to how my body is feeling. I can make better choices based on how different foods and activities make me feel not on how they affect the numbers on the scales. 

I did struggle some mornings in the first few weeks without the scales. But I realised that I only wanted to weigh myself to give me something to focus my anxiety and fear on rather than deal with what was really troubling me.  An interesting thing to observe.

Another observation is how even just thinking about weighing myself as I write this is making me feel really fat and want to either binge or starve myself. It’s incredible what a poweful trigger weight can be for disordered eating. 

After 3 weeks without my scales I asked Jennie to weigh me. I was fine until I saw the scales and then panicked, feeling sure I’d gained at least 12 lbs. I blurted out every perceived bad choice I’d made over that 3 weeks, like a sudden terror fuelled confession. 

But my weight had actually only changed by a pound and a half. It doesn’t matter in what direction, that’s not the point. 

Jennie reminded me that I’d also made loads of positive healthy choices over the few weeks. But my default way of thinking was to focus on the negative and not trust myself. 

How I want that to change! 

In that moment I felt so elated, over the moon. Not at the number on the scales but at the realisation of what an amazing achievement it was to give up my scales, to stop weighing myself.  

A truly weighty milestone. 

Love L x

Jennie did an experiment earlier this year where she weighed herself several times a day, with some profound results. You can read that on the Set U Free Fitness blog page. 

A milestone not a tombstone

I can’t quite believe it has been so long since my last blog post.  I’ve not shared anything because I’ve been in a strange place emotionally the last couple of weeks and feared my writing wasn’t positive enough. But I was reminded by Jennie (my wonderful personal trainer and friend) that I can be honest without being negative.

I can be hopeful and grateful and plan for the future.

Her kind, thoughtful message got me thinking. Can I do those things?

Be hopeful and grateful maybe, but can I plan for the future?

And I realised that a part of me still sees my upcoming heart surgery as a tombstone.

Perhaps I am feeling this more at the moment because I’ve been focusing on the things my heart condition is stopping me from doing?

Last week I made a decision to defer the next part of my law training for a year instead of continuing in September.

I guess I had a bit of a reality check.

9e46ce5e62f2ed84574d8d7f35bf3c44

All the exercise I am doing to get fitter for the surgery is making me mentally tired because of my  issues with oxygenated blood. This means concentration is becoming harder. I also need 3-6 months to recover from surgery. I told myself I’ll do it in 3, and arranged to have spring term away from uni.

But what if I can’t do it in 3?

So I decided to take the pressure off myself.  I’m still in the process of organising it with the university but they are being extremely supportive of my decision. As is my doctor. And everyone else I’ve told so far. In fact I’ve wondered whether people thought I couldn’t or shouldn’t be studying in the first place. But that’s just paranoia.

I hope!

Anyway I can’t help but feel frustrated right now. A bit angry even.

There’s a part of me screaming ‘Why can’t I have a normal heart?’ ‘Why can’t I just get on with stuff?’ ‘ Why can’t I be more resourceful? Stronger?’ ‘Why am I so crap?’

are_you_normal

I know my demons well enough to know that these questions aren’t helpful. They are the wrong questions entirely.

What would be really good to work out is why am I seeing this heart surgery as a tombstone?  A tombstone to my dreams, my passions, my life.

No.  Why, is still the wrong question.

The right one is what do I need to do to be able to see beyond it? What else do I need to change?

I’m already reducing my hours at work, taking a year off law school, doing a physical training programme, spending more time with God.

As I sit here in the coffee shop at the gym, post pilates class and pre personal training I can feel the penny starting to drop.

Romans 12.2 says ‘Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.’ (NLT)

The previous verse tells us to give our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, this worships him. But it is changing the way we think that transforms us!

change-the-way-you-look-at-things

A few months ago my beautiful, wise friend M, referred to my heart surgery as a milestone.

A milestone is a marker on a journey. It maps something, marks something. It can tell you how far you’ve come and how far you’ve got to go. It can make you stop and take a deep breath, look around. Pause…

then carry on.

A milestone is not the end. It is just the beginning.

download (2)

There is an adventure beyond the milestone. A continuation of the journey but better.

I’m getting a chance to live life without a broken heart.  The surgery is a necessary part of that.

And one day I will be sat here at the gym, physically and mentally stronger, with a super fit toned body that can jump and run and dance easily,  looking back to this milestone knowing that I am a survivor, a fighter.

And I can start that fight afresh right now by choosing to see a milestone not a tombstone ahead of me, no matter how tough this feels.

You-cant-direct-the-wind-but-you-can-adjust-the-Sail...-

Thank you for supporting me on my journey.

Love Lou x