The value there.

When I was young I agonised

whether this one’s face

or that one’s eyes

would fall upon my waiting form

and find some value there.

 

When I was grown

I met the one

who left the others all undone

and looked upon this waiting form

and found some value there.

 

Now I am older

I gaze upon

the ones I bore

and held and fed and rocked to sleep

and see such value there.

 

Kindness here and laughter there

a sob encircled by a prayer

a language that they seem to share

In all the value there.

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When that black dog comes a calling…..

Winston Churchill was in the habit of calling his prolonged and repeated bouts of Depression, his black dog. Like many of us, he experienced the agonies of anxiety and depression frequently.

Clementine Churchill characterised his periods of depression as times when Winston showed little interest in subjects he had previously enjoyed, stated that he was listless and possessed of a diminished energy and a loss of appetite.

Several years ago, I penned one of my first blog posts which asked the question Can Christians suffer from Depression? Long story short, I came to the conclusion that based on my own experience and that of others I knew that the resounding answer was yes!

Christians are human too and are subject to the same genetic and environmental predispositions that our fellow sufferers share that make us vulnerable to depression.

I would never call my own depressive visitor a black dog, for one thing I’m more of a cat person! But I can relate to the term.

In times of severe depression, it feels like a dark shadow or a hound nipping at your ankles, blighting every path you try to turn down.

I would liken my own personal struggle as more akin to an ocean wave. Sometimes the waves are fierce surging all around me, threatening to pull me under and other times the waves are more gentle and imperceptible but always I am looking for that unexpected tsunami to come out of nowhere and drown me.

One of the awful advantages that experiencing depression more than once will impart to you is a recognition of its preceding stressors and triggers.

The confusing thing is that depending on your current mental state, what might trigger you on one occasion may barely raise a sigh when you are feeling well. Conversely events that usually would not ruffle your equilibrium in usual circumstances may drive you to your knees and your bed in another.

The important thing when this happens is to recognise what is happening and regroup. In times like this I strive to show myself kindness, I may cancel plans with friends, I may refrain from answering phone calls or texts. Although this might frustrate you, my mode of thinking at that time will be that I am sick of myself and that others would be sickened by me.

Sometimes I am able to head off the black dog, although it will be annoying and his presence may be felt, it will not consume me.

Other times I may be taken unawares and get knocked off my feet before I’ve registered what is happening.

I have a few strategies that I put in place when I can feel myself teetering on the edge.

I take a good dose of an antidepressant daily. It helps to keep my mind and emotions on an even keel.

I take note of what I’m reading and watching and taking in. I suffer from health anxiety and so when a symptom appears now or seems to appear I take the wait and see approach initially.

If it is something that is still worrying me after a week or so then I may visit the doctor if necessary and if its possible.

In connection with this I try not to Google things too much, this tends to lead to spiralling into an Internet rabbit hole of doom and gloom. I have learnt that there is a difference between being informed and prepared for the worst case scenario and worrying myself into an early grave!

I remind myself that I have been in this pit before and come through it and that this time will eventually pass, like the times before it.

As I grow older, I recognise my depression as not quite an old friend but a begrudging acquaintance with whom I am on speaking terms.

Although no one would want to endure the black dog or ask it to settle in and make itself at home, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the lessons it has taught me both about myself and others and the empathy it has awoken in my soul for my fellow survivors.

Goodbyes.

I have said many goodbyes.

And I am certain, that in this small space I inhabit, there will be many more to come.

Some will be expected and will tug at my heart in a gentle and resigned manner.

But others will be unprepared for and leave me gasping for breath, my heart dashed upon the rocks.

And each time I will pick myself up and dust myself off and start again.

The small talk, the polite smiles, the meeting of the eyes, all the things I would like to escape from. Yet recognise I can’t as an adult.

I must say other hellos, hellos are good, they bring friendships and intimacies and shared experiences.

But each goodbye, expected and unexpected slowly chips away another part of me.

Joy in the hard places.

Sometimes there is joy in not getting what you want. Our feelings are so temporal that at the time of wishing we cannot imagine a different outcome being good and joyful.

But there have been many times in my life I’ve heard the word no, either aloud or inferred. At those times, I have been desperate for the outcome I desired, and sure it must be the only right thing for me.

But, when I look back now, through the sands of time, I can see that the times I didn’t get the things I wanted were just as much a blessing as the few times that I did get my desire.

Yes, the plan may have changed shape and life may have surprised me with things not anticipated, but I am not sorry for those difficult and unexpected events.

All of the nos and yeses combined to create a life I had not imagined for myself but was just what I needed.

I am grateful for all the people who played a part in it, even for the times they went off script and didn’t act in a way I desired. I know that many times, I have done the same to other people’s plans for me.

Yes, life is difficult sometimes, yes it is a challenge, yes it is hard to be told no. But sometimes, like the tiny flower poking its way through the cracks in the pavement, that no is also a gift.

As I grow older.

As I grow older,

as I age,

help me remember,

to turn the pages

Of my life with grace.

And, when in the mirror

I stare

at each wrinkle and each grey hair

reflected there,

Cause me to recall

the stresses, joys and laughter

that put them there.

And when I mourn,

the paths not taken

Oh cause my peace to be unshaken

And help me to embrace it all,

as I age.

Suzanne Rollinson (2020).

I cannot tell you why.

I cannot tell you why,

Some people laugh whilst others cry,

Why some recover and others die.

I cannot tell you when

You’ll find your happy heart again

And have the strength to start anew.

I cannot tell you where

This life will take you or what it will ask of you.

But I can tell you

Not a day passes without a thought of you

A remembrance, a smile, a memory or two.

And in this space between us I lift you

up to comfort you from all the things

you cannot know…… yet.

Suzanne Rollinson September 2020.

Lessons I have learnt during Covid-19.

I think we can all agree that the Coronavirus has affected us all. Whether in a minimal or maximal way we have all been changed. At the beginning of lock down I was going through something of a health crisis which brought on severe health anxiety and depression. I was coming to the end of my second year at university, trying to get assignments finished and exams revised for, whilst all I wanted to do was shut myself away in bed and retreat from the world.

I found myself grateful when lock down was actually confirmed and I had no choice other than to stay at home in the safety of my family and not have to pretend that all was well. I spent at least a month in bed, only getting up for necessities. I felt paralysed by fear, and some days lay in bed arguing with myself that nothing awful was going to happen if I got up.

That is the despicable thing about depression and anxiety. It robs you of today and makes you dread tomorrow. And, as a parent, is further exacerbated by guilt that you are neglecting your family.

I am fortunate. I have a wonderful family who have seen the signs before and always do their utmost to help me. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would not still be here without the love and care of my family and friends and God.

Slowly, things began to turn around. I sought comfort in prayer and my family. I began to look forward to things again. But I recognised that I needed more help and so I began to take anti-depressant medication again.

So here is Lesson One I have learnt.

Needing or relying on medication to reset and even out your hormones is not a bad thing. It does not make you weak or less of a person. It does not mean you are not a Christian. It does not mean you are a failure. It simply means you needed a little extra help.

Lesson Two I have learnt.

This is a hard one for me. Friends and family do want to help but can only help if you speak out. They are not mind readers.  Even though I know he loves me it was so hard to say to my husband “I need help, I am not coping”. Of course he knew that anyway but it took me articulating those words to start getting the help I needed.

Lesson three I have learnt.

During Covid, a couple of times each day my husband and I and sometimes the kids, and always the cats, would sit out in the front garden and watch the world go by. If the weather was bad, which it fairly often is in Wales, we sat in the porch and watched the rain or the storm. We have never really used our front garden much even though we have lived here for almost eight years but we slowly began to value and look forward to these times together. In a busy family of 6 with so much going on I will be honest and admit we had grown apart a little. But as we spent those times, watching the birds over head and having the quiet to actually hear the birdsong, my heart began to heal. We would take a coffee out with us, leave our phones indoors and just talk about everything. This was one of the most precious things during lock down and one we plan on continuing. Remembering to make time for each other as a couple.

Lesson Four I have learnt.

In times of worry and pandemics there is still precious beauty in the world if we would only slow down and take the time to look for it. The sun shining through the rippled windows, warmth on your face, neighbours who stop to pass the day, a hymn that rises unbidden to your mind, the fragrance of a budding flower, cat cuddles, laughing with the kids, crosswords with the hubby, free school meals for children over the holidays, national theatre shows online, Sir Tom Moore and so many other things that I could mention but don’t have space for.

Lesson Five I have learnt.

I have put this under the lesson title but obviously it was something I was aware of and mindful of before lock down.

We are all responsible for each other and for this planet. We all have a part to play in standing up for injustice and inequality. No one should ever be disqualified or made less of for the colour of their skin.

Lesson Six I have learnt.

Do something to stretch your mind….. but only if you feel up to it. If all you can do today is just get through the day, that’s ok. But please let me remind you, from someone who has been there, feelings are temporary and will pass. As someone said “This too will pass, it may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass”. I am in no way trying to minimise anyone’s pain or sadness but I have found it vital to remind myself not to believe the lie that I will always feel that way.

So with that in mind and mindful of the fact of how much time I waste looking at my phone I decided to teach myself a new hobby. I intended to learn macrame last Summer but as quite often happens I never got around to it. For the last two weeks I have been learning macrame through online tutorials and attempting to make my efforts look somewhat similar. It’s going fairly well although my hand eye co-ordination is not wonderful. The main thing is it keeps me from over thinking about things I cannot control.

Lesson Seven I have learnt.

Normal is over rated. I don’t know why but unless you are a strong minded individual everyone just wants to fit in with everyone else. No one wants to stand out or be noticed. We all just want to be normal. However, the conundrum is that everyone’s idea of normal is also different. So much depends on family environment, genetics and life events. “What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly” (Morticia Addams).

Despite what we choose to portray online, no one has it all together. Everyone has their own problems and difficulties they don’t share with the world. Everyone is struggling, some just hide it better.

And by the way, the grass is never greener. It might appear so but there are always weeds lurking…..

After all this is over, we do not know what the world will look like. There will be a new normal we will have to get used to and new measures and precautions we will have to participate in to prevent second waves.

For myself, lock down has been a reminder of all the things I value in my life but had begun to take for granted. It has also meant a return to some important values I had left along the way.

Last lesson, I am here if you need a shoulder to cry on or just someone to listen. Whether we have been friends for years or are recent acquaintances I care about you and what you are going through.

P.S ” You were born an original, don’t die a copy” (John Mason).

Happiness Survey final – Google Forms

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/15AFaDXJVRnteAbhPAzNWd8Tt5-geRZ9cCEuvX9EEyc8/edit

Hi, I’m a second year Psychology student conducting my first piece of research. The survey centres on pet ownership and Happiness levels. I’ve been fortunate and received lots of responses from pet owners but I need a few non pet owners to compare my data. I’m especially looking for participants 30 and under but must be over 18. If anyone fits this criteria and wouldn’t mind answering a very quick survey I’d be most appreciative!

Thanks.

At the Closing of the Year.

Here at the closing of the Year

At the greying of the days

May a kindness reappear

And rise above the haze

of unloveliness.

 

In this world at war with self

And these men at war with peace

May they summon up a grace

May they conjure up a cease

Of wickedness.

 

May our children not be hungry

May our homeless find a bed

May our generation be the ones

who stood and vowed and said

Enough………..

 

 

Suzanne Rollinson (2018 December)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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