Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Read, Pray, Love: Part Two

Following on from my post Read, Pray, Love I wanted to write something more. Since writing that post, though it wasn't actually all that long ago, I have had time to think about a great many things. I went to Brighton for a few days last week to visit some friends and my baby goddaughter. Being away from York was exactly what I needed. I spent most of my time with friends but I also took some time for me. I went running along the sea front, I read a fair bit, I read my Bible and I prayed. I feel so much better physically, mentally and emotionally for having had that time to rest and to look after myself. Starting back at Uni this week after the Christmas break and after spending that much-needed time in Brighton I feel, not only prepared, but almost buzzing for what this term and my future hold. I have rediscovered my passion and enthusiasm for life and I cannot wait to get on and do things; to live life. To love life.

My new year's resolutions include to read more, to pray more and to love more. And I have decided that as a way of keeping these particular resolutions, I am going to do a kind of series of blog posts under the umbrella title Read, Pray, Love. I've not worked out any kind of schedule for the posts or even what most of the content will be. Some, if not most, of the posts are going to be based on the books that I read. Mostly Christian or psychology books. The posts may take a kind of book review format or they may take a different form completely.

Other posts are going to be about my prayer life. I am going to try and be as honest as possible in these posts, because I don't feel that enough Christians reveal how truly vulnerable and messed up they are and I am as guilty of this as the next person. So I want to express just how messed up I can be but also to show that, I may be vulnerable, but I am no more vulnerable than anyone else; I am just, simply human.

As for the final part of the Read, Pray, Love. I'm not sure how I will reflect this part in blog posts. It's going to take time for me to work out what I'll write and it could take any form or style. But I am going to try, again, to be as honest as possible in these posts. As I wrote in the first Read, Pray, Love post, I find it difficult to trust people and to love people, so I think that this is going to be the most difficult part for me. But it's going to be an interesting journey.

You will be able to find all future Read, Pray, Love posts on the Read, Pray, Love page by clicking on the tab at the top of the blog page or by following this link: Read, Pray, Love Page.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Read, Pray, Love

I've always loved to read; it's my safe place. Somewhere I can just escape to, through the pages of a book. It is the very reason I study literature. But, even though I get to read all the time whilst studying, and I really love what I do, I miss simply reading for pleasure. I miss getting to pick up a new book, a book I have chosen to read, and going wherever my mood takes me. I've received a lot of encouragement recently to take more time out; to try not to stress about work too much, and to spend time for myself. So, in my time off, I've been taking time to read more, for pleasure. I was also challenged recently by a good friend who had been praying for me, especially about my Uni work, to spend more time with God. Even more time than I think I can spend, just reading and praying and being with God. I really felt this challenge. All last term I struggled to make it to small group due to my University timetable. I struggled to make it to church due to my lack of motivation. And I struggled to consistently spend time with God because I had so much work to do. Recently, my head has been a bit of a mess. There are a few reasons for this. The stress I put myself under with regards to Uni work does not help. But my lack of time with God is the greatest issue. I am going to be scarily honest here and admit that I have not actually sat down and read my Bible in quite a while. Nor have I even read any Christian books. And this scares me. The Bible should be the one book I read consistently and continually. It is the first book I should turn to when I need to rest. The first book I should turn to when I am struggling. And the first book I should turn to when I sit down to begin my work. But not only is it the first book I should turn to, it is also the last book. When the day is over; when my struggles have been overcome; when that essay has finally been submitted only ten minutes before the deadline. Then, also, I should turn to the Bible and thank God for the blessings He has poured out on my life; for fighting my battles for me; for helping me get that essay done and submitted in time.

I once heard someone say, during a preach, that he spent an hour everyday with God, except when he was busy. Then he spent two hours with God. My friend was right when she challenged me to spend more time than I think I can with God, especially when I am so busy with work. Because it is in the times when we are busy, or struggling, or stressed, or just consumed by work that we need God most. Sure, He is our rest and we should make sure to rest in Him often. But He is also our strength and so we need to rely on Him when we are tired and stressed and working too hard.

I've never been very good at relying on other people. Years of hurt and abuse and betrayal taught me not to trust anyone and I'm very independent and self-reliant, so I still find it extremely difficult to trust or rely on anyone, including God. I know that I need to learn to rely on God more and that to do that I need to read the Bible and pray more. Spending time with God - finding strength in Him, resting in Him - isn't just about reading the Bible, it's praying; being in conversation with God. My friend's challenge to me to spend more time with God wasn't just about reading my Bible more, though of course that's part of it, but it was about praying more and learning to rely on God, especially in hard times.

Learning to rely on God means learning to love God. I am not exactly a faithful person. I don't so much 'believe in' God as simply cannot deny His existence. For me, I know that God exists, I've always known that He exists, I can't even try to deny this. But that doesn't mean that I've always loved Him. In fact, I've always struggled to love Him and for a long time I was very angry with Him. Still am sometimes. It has taken a long time for me to even begin to learn to rely on God. I'm not there yet. And I'm not quite there yet when it comes to loving Him either. But I am getting there. Slowly. I don't think He blames me though, I have a lot of issues to work on here.

It is because God loves us that we are able to love Him and through loving Him, we can learn to love others and are instructed to do so. Sometimes I feel like I'm not a very loving person. I try. But I really struggle to even be around people sometimes, let alone to love them. It's something I constantly battle with. Not being able to trust people makes loving them rather difficult. It is the people I have loved who have hurt me most. Perhaps I have not loved very wisely in the past and so have hardened my heart. The Bible tells us to guard our hearts and perhaps I have guarded mine a little too fiercely, but I think I am beginning to feel again. It's terrifying. And I've still got a long way to go. But I am learning to spend time with God; to trust in Him and rely on Him, and to love Him.


I had initially finished the post there but I wanted to share one extra thing:

My biggest fear in posting this is that people are going to think that I'm going through a period of doubt or that I'm in a really bad place either spiritually or mentally But I'm not. I'm just being honest. And, honestly, I've been in much worse places than this. And I got out of them. My head actually feels clearer than it has done in a long time. I will be fine. I always am. And right now, that's good enough for me.

Monday, 30 December 2013

New Year

So it is that time of year when you start looking back at the year you've had and looking forward to the year ahead. Well at least that's what I do. I've always done the whole New Years Resolutions thing and re-write my five-year-plan every year. And I used to use it as a way of telling myself how crap I've been and how much better I need to be. But in recent years I've begun to look not at just the bad things, but at how far I've come and at all of the good things I, and my friends, have achieved. This year has been pretty spectacular for me. I finished St Andrew's, I went back to University, I handed in my first essays in about three years and I did really well in them. I also made loads of new friends, have had a lot of fun, have laughed more than I think I ever have before in my life and have actually worked hard at something for the first time in my life - I'm talking about St Andrew's here, but I've kind of continued the hard work into Uni as well. I actually like life most of the time and I like being around people. And I have been massively blessed to see all of your achievements as well. I am so proud of all of my friends! This year has been a good year. And we have the power to make next year even better. And that is what I intend to do. So, I have made my New Years Resolutions and I have re-evaluated my five-year-plan and I thought I would share them with you.

These are my resolutions, in no particular order:
1. Lose weight/get fit
2. Work harder
3. Be more organised
4. Have better focus
5. Write more (for pleasure as well as work)
6. Read more (see above)
7. Keep a journal/blog/both
8. Be wiser with money
9. Try to get a job
10. Learn to like myself
11. Have fun
12. Complain less
13. Love more
14. Practise patience
15. Read Bible more
16. Pray more
17. Volunteer
18. Rewrite five-year-plan
19. Be healthy and happy
20. Take pride in my appearance

I know there are quite a lot, but I feel like they are balanced and actually easily manageable. I'm not setting ridiculous goals or impossible regimes for myself. I've included fun things and things that I enjoy. I'm not punishing myself for things that I've done wrong or just failed to do this last year. It is probably the best list of New Years Resolutions that I have ever made. And I really have a feeling that next year will be a good year - thanks to everything I've learnt and done and all of the people I've met this year.

I have already started number 18, rewriting my five-year-plan, and for once in all of the years that I've written and rewritten my five-year-plan, I haven't included anything romantic. Because I figure, you can't plan for that and I want to be surprised. I want to enjoy my life and whatever comes along and if I get to enjoy that with someone then great, but it's not necessary to have someone, and it would be even better for that to be a surprise relationship rather than something I've tried to plan for. If that makes sense. My five-year-plan mostly involves finishing Uni, getting a job, travelling, writing, volunteering and eventually doing a PGCE. I may not stick to it; I don't think I've ever stuck to my five-year-plans - but I feel like it's a good plan. It's a healthy plan. And I can't wait to get started.

I've actually been thinking about and re-evaluating a lot recently. It probably is mostly to do with this time of year and the fact that I always do it but my head has been in a weird place recently and I guess I've just been thinking about a number of things, including the sort of person I want to be and this has led to a change in some of my thinking. I'm not sure I want to clarify that anymore right now but I feel like it's important to mark that my head has been in a weird space recently and may continue to be so for a little while longer while I work some more things out. But at the end of the day, I am okay. I'm doing well, actually. So don't worry about me, I actually will be fine.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Fairy tales...

"Fairy tales  are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." G.K.Chesterton

Once again, this is a post that has been a long time in the imagining. I wrote a post, not that long ago, about the recent increase in the amount of fantasy fiction in our bookshops and on our reading lists. It was called Happily Ever Afters and its basic premise was, that the reason for the increase in the amount of fantasy fiction at the moment is a response to people's desires to escape their own dreary existences into the imaginary worlds conjured by our favourite authors. I've always loved reading fantasy fiction, for this very reason. In fact, this is most of the reason for my love of reading in general. It's probably the reason that a lot of people like to read. We always prefer the image or the illusion to what is real. One of the therapists at St Andrew's told me about this cartoon (I tried to find the image but couldn't - Google has failed me). In the cartoon there were two escalators. On one escalator there are several men and they are all looking to the side at these posters on the wall. It's the same poster repeated the whole way up the wall and it shows an image of a pretty, semi-clad woman, advertising something. On the other escalator, in the opposite direction from that in which the men are all looking, is a beautiful, real live woman - completely naked. But the men don't notice because they are all too busy looking at the image. After the one therapist told me about this cartoon, another therapist said to me - in a rather exasperated tone - "It's not real!" Well that was the point. This all came out of a conversation that a few people, myself included, were having about 'lists' for our ideal partners and fictional characters that we found attractive. I remember studying existence as a precept in Philosophy once; the idea that a thing is made better by its existence and that, it can only be the greatest thing if it actually exists because the greatest thing that can be imagined isn't the greatest thing because it could be made better by being in existence. The point is, something that is real, is always better than something that is imagined, because it is real. But this is confusing logic, so is it any wonder that people seem to prefer the ideal over the real?

This is why we like fairy tales and novels that follow the fairy tale format. The idealism of fairy tales, and of a lot of fiction, is what makes it so very appealing to the human nature. From my perspective, I see five main precepts of the fairy tale format:

  • People are either completely good or completely evil - the hero(ine) is always a paradigm of good
  • Our foes - dragons - can be beaten
  • Good vs. evil - good always wins in the end
  • The girl always gets her Prince
  • They all live happily ever after
These all seem rather idealistic. For a start, no body is either completely good or completely evil. People don't actually work that way. We all have good points and bad points and a lot of these, if not all of them, are based on external perspective. What one person sees as a good personality trait, another might find incredibly annoying. As for the hero/heroine being a paradigm of good; well we've already established that no body is completely good, even the hero. In terms of mental health, being considered as having a 'hero' or 'saviour' complex, is a bad thing. We can't know how much of the trouble faced by the 'damsel in distress' is real, and how much is simply perceived. Also, in extreme cases, the 'hero' will cause/inflict suffering in order to then be the one to remove that suffering and 'save' the 'damsel'. As a Christian though, I feel the need to point out - that I believe - that, though no human is capable of being a paradigm of good, Jesus is completely good and He is our Saviour. So perhaps this aspect of the fairy tale format can be seen a being symbolic of a greater truth; that of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. 

The second of these precepts seems more realistic. The quote, from Gilbert Keith Chesterton, at the start of this post talks about how fairy tales, though fantastical and not containing real life possibilities, do hold some universal truths. Chesterton says that, "Fairy tales... tell us that dragons can be beaten." Dragons may be mythical creatures but, in fairy tales, they could be seen as symbolic of real life foes or adversaries or even obstacles. In fairy tales, the dragon always gets in the way of the hero, and it is the job of the hero to overcome this obstacle in order to reach the prize - usually a princess who has been locked away in a tower somewhere. Just as the idea of a hero, who is a paradigm of good, could be a symbol of a greater truth; so could the idea of dragons. In life we all face obstacles and challenges and adversaries. And we know that it is possible to defeat these. It is the basis of every motivational speech ever written. The dragon may not be real, but the thing that it symbolises is and the truth displayed in fairy tales - that dragons can be beaten - is also very real. From a Christian point of view, again, this is a truth also displayed in the Bible. (I am not suggesting that the Bible is a fairy tale, though some of you may wish to believe that it is.) I believe that the Bible is the truth and the Bible tells us of how our adversaries can be defeated and how we get the strength to beat them from God - as long as it is God's Will. 

The third on that list is that, in fairy tales there is always a battle - be it an actual physical battle or a, more subtle, battle of wills - between good and evil and that good always triumphs over evil. This again might seem unrealistic. We see wars going on in the world today where evil is winning. Battles in court where justice isn't done and a guilty party - the villain - walks free. Battles in our own lives where the part of us telling us to do the harmful, dangerous thing wins out over the part that is telling us not to. I am all too familiar with that last one. It often feels like, actually, evil is winning and there is nothing we can do about it. I have felt like that on countless occasions; for long periods of time. In this aspect, fairy tales are idealistic. They promise that good will always win and at times, in real life, this seems impossible. But fairy tales don't simply tell us that good always wins, they tell us that good always wins in the end. It's about the bigger picture. In fairy tales, the heroes face obstacles and adversity, and it may not always appear like they will win and they don't always win easily. And there's usually a twist, where the hero loses, before the final battle and the hero saves the day and good has triumphed over evil. Life is full of small battles, battles that aren't always won. But in the bigger picture good does win, in the end. At least this is what I believe. (I realise that there has been a lot of Christian reading in this but please bear with me.) God has won. By sending us His only Son to die on the cross for our sins, He won the battle against evil. Christ defeated death and is alive. 

Number four. The girl always gets her Prince. Well this isn't realistic. Some people do remain single for their entire lives. Some people marry and then discover that they've married the wrong person. The divorce rate in the U.K. alone has increased massively and was at 42% in 2011. (This had actually decreased from 45% in 2005, but is still higher than in many years previous.) In fairy tales there is also the rather unrealistic idea of 'fate' bringing together the girl and her Prince. The events are written so as to reach the desired conclusion of the Prince falling for the girl and marrying her. But most people don't ascribe to the idea of 'fate'. Most people would say that there isn't just one person out there for everyone and that you just have to find them. I mean, mathematically speaking, the chances of meeting the one person on Earth, out of all of the billions of people, who is specifically designed for you are ridiculous. It just wouldn't happen. But then there's the idea that life is written in a way that means that you will find that one person. Most people definitely wouldn't believe that. It infringes upon their right to free will. But in the church, it is believed that, if you are meant to marry, God knows who you will marry and how you will meet them. I say 'if you are meant to marry' because the Bible does tell us that some people are meant to remain single. But the majority are meant to marry and, as marriage is so important in the church, marrying the right person is massively important. But God gives us the person we are meant to marry, in some way, at some point in time. As for the 'right person' being a Prince (or Princess); they may not actually be royalty but the 'Prince' in the fairy tale is just another symbol. A symbol of the ideal person; the ideal person for you. They may not be a Prince in the strictest sense but if they're the right person for you, they kind of become your Prince in a way. 

Finally, I reach the end of the fairy tale and there is just that one line. That one line that gives us all a hope for the future; 'And they all lived happily ever after'. People say that this is unrealistic; that there is no such thing as 'happily ever after'. It's kind of the same argument as the one about good triumphing over evil, in a way. We cannot know what the future will hold and it may not always be happy. We will still have dragons to defeat and battles to win. But overall, the future could still be happy. Our happiness has a lot to do with how we view the world and how we view our own experiences. I haven't always been happy. I'm not sure if I'm exactly happy now; though, I'm definitely content. But I do hope that, in the future, I will be happy; that I will live happily ever after. Now, the cynics among you might believe me to be naive - but I am far from it. I have experienced things, that I won't share on this public platform, that have completely destroyed any innocence and naivete I might once have had. But in therapy I learnt about the choices that I have and about how I can choose to just focus on the bad things in life and be miserable, or I can choose to look at the good things and be happy. Having spent years being miserable, I desperately wanted to be happy; I just didn't know how to be - I had forgotten how to be happy. But now that I know that happiness is a state of mind and that I can choose to be happy, based on how I view the world and my experiences, I know that actually 'happily ever after' is possible. Because I can make it possible. It might not always be easy. And I might not always be happy. But, going back to that 'bigger picture' thing, I can make my future happy, overall. And, one last little note. With God, happily ever after is definitely possible. Because He gives us eternal life. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16. 

Fairy tales may not be real but they can display some very real truths...

Currently listening to: Laura Marling - Rambling Man

Monday, 29 July 2013

Failed by the NHS?

Being someone who suffers from mental health problems, I have been extremely interested in the BBC's current 'It's a Mad World' season. Recently there has been a great deal of campaigning for greater awareness of mental health issues, which is helping to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness. Tonight's documentary on BBC Three, entitled 'Failed by the NHS', involved several young people explaining how they have been let down by NHS mental health services and describing the impact of this on their lives. It is true that a vast number of people who try to access mental health services are disappointed and left feeling let down by the very people who are supposed to help them. Suffering from mental illness myself, and having spent a lot of time around other people with mental health problems (especially in the last year), I have heard countless stories of how the NHS has failed people, and not just with regards to their mental health. It is truly upsetting to hear these things and it does make me, and many others, feel angry and disgusted at the NHS and the government, for lack of funding to various health services.

I also happened to catch part of another documentary, earlier in the evening, this time courtesy of Channel 4, about the short-comings of the NHS 111 service. There are so many documentaries and news reports and personal tales of the failures of the NHS; and I am not doubting for a second the validity of these accounts and concerns, but, having had a lot more contact with NHS services than the average person, I feel that people have a tendency to ignore the good parts of the NHS and, I must admit, I feel a certain kind of protectiveness towards the institution that has done so much for me.

In the UK we are privileged to have a national, public health service. If we didn't have this service, and health care was provided only to those who could afford either the cost of treatment or insurance (like in countries such as the USA), millions of people would have to go without treatment for serious health conditions and perhaps even die as a result of not being able to afford health care costs. From a very young age I suffered from a number of serious health conditions, some of which are still ongoing, that required a lot of treatment, including surgery. All of this treatment will have come with a very hefty price tag which my family would not be able to afford and no insurance company would insure me with so many pre-existing conditions requiring expensive treatments. I cannot help but feel so lucky to live in a country where I am able to receive all of this treatment for free, especially as the risks of not receiving treatment (and in some cases emergency treatment) could have actually been fatal.

I have spent a great deal of time in doctors' surgeries and hospitals and, yes, a lot of that time was mostly spent sitting in the waiting rooms of clinics that were running late for whatever reason. NHS waiting times can be long and boring, and extremely uncomfortable, but whenever I have needed a referral to a different department or even surgery, I have received the care that I needed; eventually.

When I first came home from University to seek some kind of treatment for my mental health problems, I had hoped to be able to only take one year out of University to get well and then I could return to University the next year. That didn't happen. I have now had two years out of University and, though I am returning to studying, I am not returning to the University I was studying at before. There are several reasons for this but one of them is simply that, though I have had a year of intensive group therapy and am significantly better than I was before I started the therapy, I still feel unable to live so far away from home and from the support that I have gained here from my family, my friends, my GP and St Andrew's - where I received my therapy. But this isn't a result of prolonged NHS waiting times. Yes it took just over a year to actually get on to the intensive group therapy programme but I didn't spend that whole time just sitting around waiting and twiddling my thumbs. After seeing my GP a few times, during which time he took the time to get my medication right, I was referred to my local Community Mental Health Team (CMHT). I then had a couple of assessments with them before I was referred for an initial assessment at St Andrew's. Whilst I was waiting for the referral with St Andrew's to go through I received Occupational Therapy sessions from an Occupational Therapist who was attached to the CMHT. When I was then assessed at St Andrew's, I was given three appointments at the end of which time, I was referred on to the group therapy programme and I got a place relatively quickly. I then underwent a year of intensive group therapy which brings me up to the end of June this year. And since then I have had a follow up appointment with my key therapist from the programme and attend a monthly follow up group for people who have left the group programme.

All of this has taken a grand total of two years. Which to some may seem like a long time but during that time I had regular appointments with my GP and when I discovered that some people on the group programme with me had waited literally years to get on to the programme, I felt blessed to have had to wait such a relatively short amount of time to get my place. This has all been since I returned home to York from University in Brighton. Admittedly, in Brighton, it wasn't quite as easy getting the help that I needed but part of that was down to me taking a long time to actually admit that I had a problem. I have suffered from my mental health problems for a long time; since about the age of seven. And in that time I have received a lot of therapy and counselling for various issues. As a child and, more so, as a teenager I was very stubborn and refused to accept any kind of help. I decided that I disliked all therapists and help professionals and I refused to cooperate. I feel that, to an extent, I was justified in my feelings towards some of the so-called 'support' that I was given but now I can also see that, whatever my feelings about that help, I was still given a lot of help. And I am aware that not everyone does receive the level of care I did. This actually makes me feel very selfish and ungrateful that I didn't accept help earlier. And perhaps if I had, I wouldn't have ended up on my own in Sussex County Hospital at four a.m one morning needing nine stitches in my arm and a psych consult after an episode of self-harming. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty. Anyway, my point is that the help was there. I may have chosen not to accept it, for whatever reasons my screwed up teenage brain came up with, but it was there. Repeatedly I was referred back to counselors and therapists and the eating disorders team and family therapy and you-name-it whoever else. This, to me, does not speak of an NHS service that fails to provide mental health services to adolescents and young people.

I'm not saying that the NHS doesn't have faults. And I'm not saying that my experiences are the experiences of everyone, or even of the majority. I really do feel for everyone who has been let down by the NHS; be it for mental health issues or any other health problems. Maybe I have just been extremely lucky to have received the amount of treatment and care that I have. And I don't want to belittle any bad experiences that anyone has had with the NHS. But I do feel that not enough is said about how much the NHS has and does help people. I feel terribly sad and disheartened by reports of yet more and more bad service from the NHS. And the current economic climate really does not help matters. But I just really wanted to say that it isn't all bad. And to those of you who are reading this and work for the NHS or have worked for the NHS; Thank you. You do an amazing job. I'm sorry you get such a bad press. But you really are awesome.

Friday, 21 June 2013

forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit...

The Latin title of this post is taken from book 1 of Virgil's 'The Aeneid' and roughly translates to 'perhaps some day it will help to have remembered these things'. I came across this quote a few months ago and, ever since, it has come to hold a great deal of significance for me. To me, this phrase is rich in meaning. The way I understand it, it means that, put simply; the things we experience and learn in the present, will be important in the future, so we should remember them. For me personally, this relates to this last year in therapy - I'm even planning on getting it tattooed on my wrist to signify my time at St Andrew's. I have learnt so much during my time in group therapy; it has literally changed my life. But that doesn't mean that I'm 'cured' or 'recovered'. With mental health problems, it's difficult to say if you'll ever be 'recovered'. But everything that I have learnt and experienced has helped me to deal with or manage my issues. They're not completely gone, I may always be prone to suffering from mental health problems, but now they don't seem as big and scary; they don't control me anymore. Now that I'm coming to the end of my time at St Andrew's (I leave next Thursday) the important thing is that I remember everything that I have learnt, and to keep using it. So I don't go back to letting my issues control me - I don't have any intention of letting this happen, but I can't allow myself to become complacent, it's still going to take a lot of hard work.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about leaving. St Andrew's has been a massive part of my life for the last year. Part of me can't believe that it's been a year already. When I started, a year seemed like an eternity, but now it feels like hardly any time at all. The changes I see in myself, and others see in me, I never would have believed possible. I feel like a completely different person. If you'd told me, this time last year, what I'd be like now, I would not have listened to you. I have so much to be thankful to St Andrew's for. And most of it has been thanks to all of the people I have met there. I never wanted to do group therapy. I used to say that I hated people. I was seriously, socially inept. But everyone I've met through St Andrew's has helped me in some way and I've made some real friends who will always be important to me. Also, the staff have just been amazing and I really feel close to them. Before St Andrew's, I'd had a lot of therapy and I'd hated all of ti; especially the therapists and counsellors themselves. So actually liking the therapists at St Andrew's is different for me. And most people who knew me before I started the programme, myself included, didn't think I'd stay very long at all. I had a habit of not turning up to things, or just leaving and never going back. But I have had almost full attendance for the whole year at St Andrew's. And that's huge for me. I am really going to miss the place. And everyone there.

Though I will be sad to leave and I'll miss it; I'm also looking forward to leaving. Change used to seriously terrify me, but now I realise that things need to change in order to get better. And though I'm anxious about the change of leaving St Andrew's, I know that it's the right time for me to leave and to move on to other things; maybe better things. Also, I start University again in September and I'm really excited about it. I want to get back to studying and, this time, be an 'ordinary' student; because there's nothing wrong with being 'ordinary'. I'm also looking forward to leaving because I really need a job, to earn some money, before I start Uni. And St Andrew's has helped me to find the confidence to go out there and job hunt and to be able to work, when I finally, hopefully, get a job. I'm actually looking forward to meeting new people and being out in the real world.

Trying to write about everything that I have learnt in this last year would take, well, probably a year. Maybe even longer. And most of it probably wouldn't make sense to anyone but me. Hell, even I probably wouldn't understand half of it. I just know that I will never forget my time at St Andrew's and everything I have learnt there. In fact, I really ought to make an effort to remember it all, because...

...perhaps, some day, it will help to have remembered these things.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

don't worry, about a thing...

There are a lot of Bible verses that tell us 'do not worry' or, in some versions it is written as, 'do not be anxious'. Matthew 6: 25-27; Matthew 6: 34; Philippians 4: 6-7, and many more. These verses are all, basically, saying 'don't worry because God will look after everything, no matter what happens.' And as Christians we are frequently reminded of these many 'do not worry' verses. The thought that often springs to my mind when people spout 'do not worry...' at me is, 'easier said than done'. Anxiety is a very natural, human response; it's part of the whole 'fight or flight' thing. And having suffered from quite severe anxiety, for many years, I know a fair bit about it.

In therapy, a few months ago, one of the therapists did a session about anxiety. It was all stuff that I knew but it was different listening to someone else talking about it and explaining it in terms of it being a physiological thing, not a mental thing. Anxiety is a very physical reaction; increased heart rate, quickening breath, sweating, dizziness, shaking are all physical symptoms. Are all symptoms of anxiety. These physical symptoms are a result of a quick release of adrenaline into the body. This release of adrenaline and the onset of these symptoms are what help us to decide if a situation is too risky or dangerous, and, whether we should fight the scary, dangerous thing or just run away from it. Without adrenaline we would be able to do either of those things (we wouldn't have the strength needed to fight, or the speed needed to run away). It's a self-preservation thing.

A problem with anxiety, however, is that this physical reaction may be in response to something that really isn't actually that dangerous, or, is even just an imagined danger. The mind can find or create any number of reasons to be anxious, thus setting off the physical anxiety response. Another problem with anxiety is our response to the feeling of anxiety itself. We may decide that the feeling of anxiety is too much to bear and so we remove what we perceive to be the cause of that feeling, and the symptoms go away; we start to feel better. The problem that then arises is that, because the mind has decided, rightly or wrongly, that something specific is the cause of that feeling, the next time we come across that thing we respond in the same way; by getting anxious. And, because last time you got anxious about that thing you ran away and then felt better, you believe that the best thing to do this time, is to run away again. The more this happens, the quicker the body reacts to the burst of adrenaline and the harder it is not to run away. This quickly develops into a cycle of distorted thinking, that becomes very difficult to break.

Now, going back slightly, I mentioned that the mind will find or create any number of reasons to be anxious; they don't necessarily have to be that scary or dangerous, nor do they even have to make sense. Humans are complex beings; we can experience a wealth of emotions all at once. And the human mind is incredibly detailed and intricate in its workings and can play tricks on us and deceive us. When we are experiencing an extremely difficult mix of complex emotions and circumstances, the brain is flooded with information and hormones or chemicals. When this happens the mind will sometimes decide that it's been overloaded and that it's just too much and so will instruct the body to release adrenaline in order to be able to cope. As we know, adrenaline is what causes the physical anxiety symptoms, so when it is released, all of those physical symptoms that I listed earlier (and possibly some more) start to occur. Now when someone is able to realistically assess their situation, they will be able to determine what the actual cause of their symptoms is, and will hopefully be able to manage it appropriately. But if you're experiencing a lot of difficult emotions, when the adrenaline kicks in and the physical symptoms start, you're unlikely to be able to realistically assess or determine the cause of those symptoms and your brain will just pick an easy answer; something that can easily be resolved.

So say, for example, you're in a crowd when you start to feel the symptoms of anxiety. Your brain is likely to tell you that the cause of the anxiety, and the physical symptoms, is the crowd, and so you remove yourself from the crowd. As soon as you're away from the crowd, the adrenaline begins to wear off and you start to feel better. This just supports your belief that it was the crowd that caused your anxiety and so you associate that feeling and those symptoms with being in a crowd. This then starts a cycle where, every time you're in a crowd, you feel anxious and so you start avoiding crowds in order to avoid the anxious feeling. This may not always happen, but the more it does, the more ingrained the cycle becomes and the more your mind convinces you that crowds are bad because they cause anxiety. The thing is, this doesn't deal with the actual cause of the anxiety and the cycle is likely to get worse and worse until something is done to change it. The same thing can be seen in people who react to things with high levels of aggression. Adrenaline is also responsible for anger and aggression and so some people may react to things by becoming angry or violent when actually what they're feeling is not anger at all.

Therapy says that the best way of changing this anxiety response and breaking the cycle, is to, when you feel anxious, work through the feelings and do whatever it is your mind has convinced you is the cause of your anxiety, instead of running away. So, if you feel anxious in crowds, go and be in a crowd. Now, this does actually work. The physical symptoms caused by the burst of adrenaline will not last forever; adrenaline is only released in quick spurts and so does not remain constant. The body could not physically maintain a high level of adrenaline for any extended period of time. This means that, eventually, the adrenaline would wear off and the physical anxiety symptoms would stop on their own. Now, if you run away every time you feel those physical anxiety symptoms, when the adrenaline wears off and the symptoms stop, you end up attributing the feeling better to the fact that you ran away, but actually, if you had stayed and not run away, the adrenaline would still have worn off and you would, eventually, have started to feel better anyway, despite still being in the situation which you thought was the cause of your anxiety. So, in order to combat anxiety, you need to not run away, but stay in the crowd, and then the adrenaline and the symptoms would go away and you'd start to feel better. And, as with the way the cycle started, where, the more often you feel anxious and run away, the worse the anxiety gets; when breaking the cycle of anxiety, the more you manage to face what you thought was the cause of your anxiety, the less the anxiety is and the easier it is to face it again. And again. And again.

Saying, 'do not worry' or 'do not be anxious' is one step beyond the thinking that leads to breaking the cycle of anxiety. When the cycle of anxiety starts, you're not thinking, you're just reacting, in the way that animals do; fight or flight. But as humans, our minds have the ability to distort that natural imperative, and our thinking, and turn it into something potentially harmful. When we break the cycle of anxiety, we are beginning to think and to use our brains again. We're thinking more clearly; we recognise the distorted thinking that led to the cycle being created and we sometimes even learn the actual cause of the anxiety. And we learn how to manage and deal with the anxiety and the thoughts and causes behind it. When we are instructed 'do not worry', God is inviting us to go that bit further in our thinking and using our brains, and that step further brings us closer to Him. God wants us to not just not run away from our worries and our anxieties, but to stop worrying about them. As anxiety is a natural reaction, this seems like an impossibility. How can we stop our natural, physical reactions? But God created us. He knows that anxiety is natural. He is not asking the impossible. Because God created us, He knows this. He created us above animals so that we are not held captive by our natural, physical reactions. We are intelligent beings; we are capable of complex thought processes. We've already proven that by using our brains to help us recognise cycles of anxiety and to break them. When God says 'do not be anxious', He isn't saying 'don't have the physical reaction'. He's asking us to use our brains a bit more; to give our anxieties to Him; to let Him carry them. Because He's not going to have distorted thinking or distorted reactions. He's God; He can handle it. And if we give our anxieties to Him, we're not going to get into those distorted cycles of anxiety either, because God's got it. He knows everything and He has plans for us, so we need to trust Him, by letting Him take care of our anxieties.

My journey in therapy has been so intertwined with my spiritual journey. I had always been told or reminded of the 'do not worry' verses but I couldn't seem to help my anxiety. In therapy I've learnt to break those cycles of anxiety and to use my brain and to think more - my therapists are constantly telling me to do this. But it was only this morning, when someone was talking about not being able to help worrying about something, that I finally realised what all those 'do not worry' verses are about; what they really mean. I always felt like I was just less of a Christian because I couldn't 'not worry'. Now I realise that I'm just human. And let's face it, if we weren't all so human, what would be the purpose of Grace?

Sunday, 9 June 2013

happily ever after part two

At church this morning I was thinking about books. (See my post on my writing blog, Happily Ever Afters.) I was thinking about how popular literature is currently very fantasy based; how it is an escape from real life. The preach at church was about 'What happens when we die?' and Pete, who was speaking, focused on how any works you do now, as a work for the Lord, will not be in vain. He cited 1 Corinthians 15:58, which says, 'Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.' The preach was very good and I took a lot away from it, but it made me think about the Bible. As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is the word of God; that it is His truth. Pete also talked about hope. Hope doesn't have the answers, nor is it a form of escapism. But God gives us hope in order that we might persist and persevere; that what we do now in His name and in hope, will not be in vain. I was also thinking about how, psychologically speaking, faith seems to fulfil the desires of the human mind, especially my desires. Many psychologists believe that God was created by man to fulfil these desires and that believing in Him is just a fantasy; an escape. But unlike the fantasy books I read to escape from real life, the Bible is true. It doesn't give us an escape from life; it helps us to deal with life, with God. It gives us hope. And teaches us to live life in such a way that, though it isn't perfect, we can be joyful in God. More people should turn to the Bible rather than fiction, because it is the truth and it maintains us and gives us hope. Perhaps if we turned to God more, we wouldn't be so desperate to escape our lives. The only thing the Bible really has in common with fantasy fiction is the 'happily ever after'.

This post is rather unfocused and probably doesn't make sense to anyone but me, so I apologise if you think it's a load of rubbish. But it made sense in my head. In the strange way that things in my head make sense...

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Scared... Me?!

Ok so I actually started writing this post months ago but I never got around to completing it. And now I know why... the service at church this morning reminded me of this semi-finished post and when I came back to read it, I realised just how right the timing is for it now. Obviously it wasn't right before. So here it is. It's about fear, God, relationships and 'extravagant love'. I feel like perhaps there will be some kind of conclusion to it next week. We'll have to wait and see but in the meantime, please read and make what you will of my ever rambling-ness.

Something that I have boasted over the years is that I am scared of very little. This is true; I'm not scared of much. But when I am scared of something, the fear is crippling. It would be fair to say that this is the cause of some of my mental health problems. But, as I have mentioned before now, I am extremely stubborn. I'm also really bad at asking for help. Both of these character flaws mean that when I do come across something that scares me - terrifies me - and I feel that icy cold grip on the back of my neck and everything just seems to stop, I refuse to admit that I'm scared. More than that, I pretend like whatever it is means nothing and I then avoid it at all costs. One could say that this has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion; and you wouldn't be wrong. One thing that therapy is -slowly - teaching me, is that I need to talk about things that scare me and ask for help with them when I need it. My stubbornness doesn't help in this matter, but I am starting to talk about things that scare me more. I used to think that admitting fear was akin to admitting weakness; that you might as well stick a massive target on your back or a sign saying, 'pick on me about this; it scares me'. The thing that I'm finding is that actually I was, yet again (I dislike the alarmingly high frequency at which this is happening), wrong. Talking about things that scare me does actually help. It helps to talk to people who perhaps have similar fears or who at least understand the feeling that if you tell people that you're scared they'll use it against you, because they are less likely to do just that. Admitting to and talking about things that I am scared of helps to diminish the fear a little; it makes the thing seem less scary. Especially when someone else chimes in to say that they're scared of that too. It makes you feel less like a freak. Though therapy is, by its very nature, full of crazy people; so the fact that they feel the same as I do, probably doesn't make me any less crazy. But at least I can be crazy with someone.
I feel like I have been working really hard at therapy. I do try to talk about things that scare me. But I'm still scared to talk about some of them. Rather ironic that I find talking about things that scare me, scary. But hey, I am my own brand of crazy. I've talked a lot about my aversion to people which, it turns out, just boils down to me being scared of how people will treat me and of being rejected (talk about serious 'daddy' issues!). I've also talked about my fear of failure; why I find normal life so difficult because I am constantly terrified of getting things wrong and of failing. When I had to leave University, due to my messed up brain, I felt like I had failed. Not just at University but at life. I was in such a bad place when I was at University that even normal everyday life was too much for me and I just wasn't looking after myself - I'm scared of going back there. When you're in that much of a state it's easy to let yourself think that you're a complete failure, at everything. And for someone who is terrified of failure, it just completely destroys you. You let it destroy you.
As a Christian, I know that I have nothing to fear. God has always and will always have His hand on my life. While I've been at therapy I've not just been learning about the psychological aspects of my mental health problems but I have also been learning about the spiritual aspects. I have found an amazing home at York City Church and I consider all of its members to be family to me. They have helped me through this time in my life to an extent that they don't even know. And I am so grateful for them. Especially considering the fact that just a year and a half ago, they didn't even know who I was. God has blessed me so richly this past year. He gave me St Andrew's, where I go for my therapy, knowing that it was perfectly right for me. Because everything He does is perfectly right. Through therapy and church, He has taught me so much about myself and about life. I have never felt so good as I do now. I am filled with joy. And it is all thanks to Him. He has helped me to realise that for so long I was in bondage, to sin and fear. And His hand on my life, His blessings, have helped me to see that I don't need to live like that, ever. Not just to see it but to truly believe it. I do not need to be afraid. I do not need to be ashamed. The funny thing is, I always knew this. I have been a Christian for as long as I can remember. I always knew all of this. But, as one of the therapists at St Andrew's loves to tell me constantly, 'knowing isn't everything'. And, as per usual, he is right. I doubt he meant for that to speak to me on a spiritual level but God works in mysterious, and often rather humorous, ways.
My emotional journey through life and therapy has been completely intertwined with my spiritual journey with God and I have frequently found that themes in my therapy seem to be linked to many of the themes talked about at my church on a Sunday morning. This morning was no exception. I've been thinking a lot about this fear thing; this isn't the first time I've visited this blog post. Recently the theme of my work at St Andrew's has been about relationships. I've had a pretty bad run when it's come to relationships in the past and so talking about relationships is pretty scary for me. So scary that I often get horrible nightmares that feel almost real. I've never really talked about my nightmares before but I know that it's something I'm going to have to do. And soon. The service at church this morning was about 'Extravagant Love' for Jesus. It may not seem like this would have anything to do with fear but it really does. The guy who was preaching talked about things that stop people from loving extravagantly. Fear was one of those things. He addressed it mostly to the men in the room, which I disagreed with actually, because I knew exactly what he was talking about when he described how that fear can affect our lives and our relationships; especially our relationship with God. And that kind of fear can and does affect anyone. Hearing the preacher talk about fear like that, even though I knew it all already, was like a revelation. And it felt like God was just using the man at the front of my church to repeat everything He'd been saying to me through therapy. When that happens it makes me even more certain that I am where God wants me to be because He just keeps driving it all home and backing it up with the Gospel. I got a real sense this morning of things just sliding into place, like the cliched pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I realised that all of my fears and insecurities about relationships are just preventing me from extravagantly loving God and having the relationship with Him that I am meant to have. It just reminded me that I am where I need to be and that God has His hand over my life and I just need to completely trust Him. But my fear has stopped me from doing that. Over recent months I have come to trust and rely on God more, in the way that I am supposed to. But I still find it a constant battle. I know that God loves me extravagantly. He sent His only son to die, for me! That is how much He loves me. But to love Him in return, in the way that He deserves to be loved, I need to let go of my fear.
And I thought that, with only five weeks left to go at St Andrew's, the work was almost done. What a fool I have been!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

difficult decisions and admitting that i *may* have been wrong

So, as those of you who know me personally will know, I was pretty damn certain that once I finished at therapy I would return to Brighton to finish my degree in Philosophy and English Literature. As you will also know, I am really stubborn. In fact that is an understatement. I am ridiculously stubborn. And I hate admitting that I am wrong. For a long while, I avoided even thinking about University; stuck in this little part of my brain that was stubbornly convinced that I would return to Brighton and everything would be great. I wouldn't even let myself admit that I was scared that actually it wouldn't be all that great; because last time I thought that it would be great and... well... look what happened there. Then, just after Christmas, my mother brought up the subject of University. It's hard for me to realise this, let alone accept it, but she's scared too. She's scared of how ill I was and of what might happen if I go back to Brighton. She may not have put it in the best way and it may have turned into an argument, but what she said basically amounted to her telling me she's scared for me, she doesn't think I'll be ready to go back to Brighton and she doesn't want to have to go through what she went through last time if it doesn't work out again. She wanted me to transfer to York St John. I didn't want to listen at first. There's a whole bunch of issues that goes along with this, like feeling stupid for failing Uni; feeling like I'm going backwards; feeling like a child, unable to look after myself; not wanting to end up like some people I know who are in their 40s and still live at home... the list goes on, and on, and on. I was also scared that York St John wouldn't accept me and then I'd never be able to finish my degree. (That may seem like a silly fear, but it's not for me. I have a very low opinion of myself and I genuinely cannot see why they would accept me.) Eventually, I realised I had to think about this stuff. In fact, after that conversation, I couldn't stop thinking about stuff. Getting my degree is what's most important to me now. I was lazy in my GCSEs and ALevels. And in my first year of my degree to an extent. And then my damned psycho brain decided to screw it all up even more. It was bound to happen eventually. Anyway... I've realised that what I really want is to get my degree, do a PGCE and become an English teacher. And whether I do those things in Brighton or in York, or even on the moon, doesn't matter. The important thing is to do them. Sure I don't want to live at home forever, and I won't, but right now, it's my best shot of getting a degree. And if therapy has taught me anything - actually, it's taught me a lot - it's taught me that sometimes, just *sometimes* mind, I can be wrong and I am too stubborn for my own good. So I decided to do something that I have never done in the history of ever, and I listened to my mother. *Pause for the shocked horror of my friends* I looked at the English Literature and Creative Writing course at York St John - they don't do Philosophy and actually I love writing so this course makes a lot of sense - and I emailed them about transferring. I had a lot of support and prayer from my friends in York. I've settled into a church here now - York City Church - and everyone has been so loving and welcoming and I have met so many people and made so many friends, the idea of leaving actually would make me incredibly sad. I would miss everyone, A LOT. So maybe staying in York could work out. Finally, after various emails and the University looking over my grades and everything, just over a week ago now, they said they would be happy to accept me as a transfer. I still have to do a UCAS form - I MUST be masochistic! - but I'm basically in. I wasn't expecting quite how happy this actually made me. I got in. And I get to stay in York, at my wonderful church, with all my wonderful friends. And my family, however much I argue with my mother at times, will be close by if I need them. So I've almost completed the dreaded UCAS form. I even made the daring step of contacting my academic advisor from Sussex to request a reference, which he agreed to do. I just have to do the personal statement. The worst part. The part that I tried to do last weekend and just ended up with hundreds of screwed up balls of paper all over my bedroom floor, and then have just avoided doing for the rest of the week. Funny how I can sit at my laptop and write this so easily and without a second's thought, but not write a personal statement - which is what I had originally intended to do when I sat down to my laptop earlier this evening. My skills of avoidance and procrastination know no bounds! - just don't tell my therapists... especially PHIL! Who wants me to write and draft and then take it into therapy for people to read and tell me if it's good and what else I can include, because apparently I'm too harsh a critic to myself and I just *think* it's crap but actually other people will be able to tell me it's not. Well this is just another of my many millions of issues... I cannot write about myself, especially not favourably, and I really think that most of what I write is a load of crap anyway so writing a personal statement is hell for me! As for letting other people at therapy see it?! No thank you! I don't want them realising that actually I'm really thick. And I'm really bad at taking criticism and practical advice so this is really just going to end badly. I did mention that I'm stubborn, right? I have this feeling that I'm going to just write it and send it and then make excuses next week, but I know that I really really shouldn't do that... So now I'm stuck. Because I know that the right thing for me therapeutically would be to do as Phil suggested and write a draft and let people at therapy help me, but I'm really so stubborn - and actually really fragile - that I don't know if I can do it... I wonder how this one is going to play out. Anyway... I have successfully avoided actually writing this damned personal statement for a good hour or so now... and I really should quit with the procrastination and just get on with it... Oh well, this was fun while it lasted. I'll post again sometime... not sure when. I'm pretty crappy when it comes to this blogging thing; I have no self-discipline - yet another issue I need to deal with, no wonder I'm in therapy!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Honesty, Fears and Infertility

On Friday September 14th 2012 I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS. I had heard of PCOS but didn’t know much about it until I watched a television programme on which there was a woman who suffered from the syndrome. Some of the symptoms sounded similar to symptoms that I had been experiencing for years so I looked up the syndrome online. The symptoms include: irregular or absent periods; excessive hair growth; excessive weight gain or difficulty losing weight; severe acne, not just limited to the face, and cysts on the ovaries. Depression can also be a symptom of PCOS. I went to my GP and described the symptoms to him, asking him if it was possible that I had PCOS. My doctor said it was highly likely that I did have it and so he took some blood to test for it. The first lot of tests were inconclusive but my GP was fairly certain that I had the syndrome and so he referred me to an Endocrinologist; a specialist who deals with hormone disorders including diabetes and PCOS. I saw the Endocrinologist on the 14th September and he did several tests, as well as a physical examination, before officially diagnosing me with PCOS.

            PCOS is caused mostly by a hormonal imbalance. The ovaries produce more male hormones than they should which affects the production of eggs and leads to the production of lots of little cysts all over the ovaries. PCOS also has an element of insulin resistance. Women who have the syndrome have an excess of insulin which increases the production of the male hormones, causing all of the symptoms. This is also what makes it difficult for women with PCOS to lose weight because their bodies cannot process sugars and starches properly. The increased weight, however, also makes the symptoms worse creating a kind of vicious cycle which is difficult to get out of.

            There are a couple of different treatments for PCOS. The usual treatment is just to take the contraceptive pill, which increases the levels of female hormone thus reducing some of the symptoms, however, this doesn’t always work especially for women with a high insulin resistance factor. A treatment that has become more frequently offered to women with insulin resistance is a drug called Metformin. Metformin is traditionally a Diabetes medication, which is why it helps with the insulin resistance. For women who receive the Metformin treatment, they are also required to dramatically alter their diets in order to help them lose weight and to allow the drug to work more effectively.

            When I saw the Endocrinologist in September he decided that the best treatment for me was the Metformin treatment. Since I saw him, I have been trying to follow the diet advice I was given, have lost some weight and have noticed some improvement in a couple of the symptoms. I saw the Endocrinologist again in December and he seemed pleased enough with the progress I had made, so he said that I wouldn’t need to see him again until next September, a year after I was first diagnosed. The diet is sometimes difficult to manage and I’m hoping to see a dietician at some point to help me get it more under control.

            So far all I’ve written about in this post is factual stuff about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, but one fact I’ve not directly mentioned, the one that scares me most, is that PCOS can cause infertility. I’ve not written at all about how being diagnosed with PCOS has made me feel. I have always wanted children. I have never wanted anything more than to have children one day; a family of my own. And I have always had this fear, this immense, awful fear, that I won’t be able to. I used to think that I would never have children, just because I never thought that any man would want me enough to marry me and have children with me. But I let myself hope, dream, that maybe actually God would give me a husband. And then I get told that because of my PCOS I might be infertile; might never be able to have children. And that thought is almost destroying me. People keep telling me to try not to worry about it. That I can’t know for certain that I am infertile until I try for a family and get tested. That I’m just catastrophising it in my head; creating a problem that may not exist. But when your life’s hopes and dreams have been almost entirely built on something, to have even the slightest uncertainty that you will get it… it feels like the whole world has been ripped out from under you. I feel like my future has been destroyed and though I’ve been trying not to think like that and to think about other things I could do in my future, but it feels like there is this massive black hole in my life that is never going to close. And I can’t help but think that my life has no purpose, if I’m not able to have children.

            Call me melodramatic. Say I’m over-reacting. But this thing is killing me. And I just needed to tell the truth. To someone. Anyone. Everyone. I’m scared. Terrified. I just want to have children.