Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: mental health

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.

 

1,000 Gifts

When my friend Elizabeth and I went away earlier this year for a prayer retreat, we started our week by writing a list of things for which to thank God. These could be anything from salvation and deliverance to blowing bubbles and chocolate biscuits. We set ourselves a target of 50 each and laughed a lot as we called them out to each other. We lost count at around the 200 mark and jumped right in to praising and thanking God.

More recently, I’ve read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Ann started to write in a notebook all the gifts – large and small – that God was giving in each situation every day.

I purposed to do the same. Because every single day God gives gifts. The Bible says that every good and perfect gift comes directly from the Father. But if I’m not looking out for them I miss them.

For instance, Adi and I were on holiday a few days ago near Battle (East Sussex). We fell in love with the wooden lodge we were staying in. Before going I’d been praying for peace and quiet, I was desperate to get away from the noise of everyday life. God gave peace and quiet in abundance. And lots more beside.

View East Sussex

We had a front row seat to a wonderful view of trees and greenery, and could see as far as the South Downs. From my comfy two-seater (Adi took possession of the other two-seater), I simply had to lift my head to enjoy the sunset. If you know anything about me, you know I love hills, trees and sunsets. This view felt like a gift-wrapped package from my Father. ‘There you go, thought you might enjoy this,’ as He dropped it into my lap.

The psalmist urges us not to forget all God’s benefits, to thank God always because His love lasts forever. God hates grumbling, moaning and ingratitude. And to be honest, it’s not nice being around people who are negative and ungrateful.

I believe that looking out for the lovely things God gives and does for us can help with getting a healthy mind and more positive attitude. During a tough period of heartbreak in my early twenties, I made the decision to look for two or three good things that had happened that day and write them down. I could easily have gone under with my grief but focusing on the positive that God was doing/giving helped me through.

So now I’m scribbling down and thanking God for the gifts I’m learning – with His help – to spot each day:

A squirrel in the garden.

Chilling on the swing-seat.

Spotting Becky and Ellie Downie in Tesco.

Sunlight on wet grass, making it sparkle.

Fresh coffee.

That Jesus’ Dad is my Dad.

 

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