Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: Mental Health

Blessed

This afternoon a dear friend came to visit. We haven’t seen each other for a year and it was good to catch-up. We ate chocolate biscuits, drank tea and chatted.

As I waved her goodbye, I pondered on the unexpected and pleasant feeling I had inside.

I felt loved.

She had listened to me without judging, trying to fix things or even offering to pray. She simply listened and loved me. As a result, I felt built-up and a tiny bit hopeful that there will be light at the end of this particular very dark tunnel I find myself in.

I have been blessed with some good friends.

First and foremost is Adi, my best friend and husband who supports me, prays with me, does funny things to make me laugh, takes me on late night walks when I’m too tense/angry/miserable/hopeless/hyperalert to find rest any other way, and loves me unconditionally.

There are a handful of other good friends too, people with whom I can be myself without fear of being judged.

Having a mental health condition is isolating and stops me doing ordinary things like going to church and socialising. It won’t always be like this (I hope) but for now, life feels limited because of the PTSD flashbacks, dissociation, and exhaustion that goes with those.

So when friends meet me in a ‘safe’ place for coffee/breakfast/dinner or visit me or text or email or ring, I am blessed. In that moment, hope and courage rise in me and I know there is going to be light at the end of the tunnel.

In that moment, I know I’m not alone and I feel loved.

Present

As soon as I saw today’s Lent word – present – this post came to mind.

Living with post traumatic stress (PTSD) and related mental health issues often means a fight to stay present. Small things can trigger a traumatic memory: a scent, an action, a word, even quietly sitting reading. With little warning I’m catapulted into the past and reliving something I’d rather not.

Sometimes it is simply that the present moment feels too much and my body gives off danger signals, causing me to disconnect from reality. This can happen several times a day.

With intensive therapy, I’m slowly learning to recognise triggers and avoid them if possible. My amazing therapist has taught me ways of distracting myself to stay present and in the moment. One of my favourites is a word game: I go through the alphabet naming girls’ or boys’ names. If Adi is around and I’m struggling to stay focused and present, we take it in turns to call out names, the quicker the better.

Scamper is my little faithful standby. Concentrating on his furry head and smooth paws can help me stay present. If all else fails, he is a very comforting bear to hang on to in the emotionally-drained-and-exhausted aftermath of multiple disconnections.

I took this photo of Scamper in the superhero cape I knitted for him at a recent visit to my therapist.

 

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