What if?

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FGM may I introduce you to Chevvy8? I’m not sure if this is a coincidence …
What if it isn’t a coincidence? What if …?

WORDS IN THE LIGHT

What if
I close my eyes?

What if
you cross the Sea?

What if
I hold my breath?

What if
you make the wind chime sing?

What if
I let the breeze carry me?

What if
you let me see?

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What ifs

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Thank you Chevvy. This is lovely and relevant on so many levels for me and especially the 4th line of the second verse. I hope ‘What If’s’ resonates with others too …

Chevvy's Studio

train

These questions that gnaw at me,

nibbling at the joy that life brings,

feeding me with cheesy excuses,

muddling doubts, impotent fears,

stealing glitter off golden moments,

when I should have been totally here,

not wondering on my own out there –

an exile behind my own prison walls.

What if this is what was meant for me

all along, complete with every crack,

every blemish that prizes the antique,

aspired by most but afforded to a few.

What if I had made an irrevocable error–

taking the bus and not boarding the train,

believing that life had to ride the highway

instead of pausing at each station en route?

What if there were no what ifs to choose–

where automation usurped my controls,

clipped my wings so that I could not fly?

Would I be the me that has reason to be?

What if I told you that this…

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“It’s Good to Talk …”

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Image: Courtesy of TheCrazyBagLady

HEALING HURT
(Talking Therapy)

In moments of pure fantasy
And wild imagination
I fancy that Karen could be
Just distantly
Related to Julius!

But I’m rudely awakened
And snap back to reality
As beaming, in black she beckons me
To her small but cosy surgery

Karen Caesar sees me as
Her work in progress
She’s dedicated to releasing
And decreasing the pressure

That calls me religiously
Each fortnight on a Friday
To discuss with some intensity
The demons that bind me

For Karen Caesar
Explained her calling
At the end of a session
Which begged me to question

The degree of her ability
To address the responsibility
Of dealing with healing
The complexity of the human psyche

Karen Caesar tells me
That caring seized her
From a very young age
And at the stage

Where she felt that
She was able to lend her
Tender, and compassionate bearing
To caring for victims
Whose minds were so painfully hurting

It’s a splendid opportunity
This talking therapy
To engage with a professional
As dedicated as Karen
Caesar, who certainly aspires

To deliver with some certainty
A tireless and dedicated approach
And unstinting efficacy

To help her patient,
Speak, cry or remain silent
In her surmountable journey
Of feeling, healing and self discovery!

Dedicated to Dr Karen Caesar

This poem was written eight years ago, but I thought it tied in nicely with my posts on agoraphobia which having spanned 17 years of my life to date has had an enormous impact on my life and the way I live. My counsellor encouraged my creative side which emerged in the form of poetry as I started my healing journey. She said very kindly when we parted after a year in counselling that she would be the first to buy my poems if they were ever published.

I also want to thank TheCrazyBagLady for allowing me to use her sketch in this post. I saw it months ago before I even decided I was going to write about agoraphobia, but I felt at the time that it was such a beautiful sketch that I would one day use it. The opportunity came today and I took it, just as TheCrazyBagLady says on her sketch: “Every day another door opens”.

And to close, in the words of British Telecom (in their sales initiative some years ago): “It’s good to talk…”

~ Marie Williams 2017

copyright Marie Williams – 2009

Agoraphobia: part 2: Professor Green, Talking Therapy and Me

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Warning: this post contains references to rap which might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But I hope this will not prevent you from reading to the end.

You may remember that in my last post I spoke about agoraphobia and how it impacted my life. Not to go on at length, but to explain how Professor Green (a British rapper, not a University professor) helped me in my own healing process, I would like to share my thoughts with you. I also want to touch on talking therapy/counselling which I really believed saved me during this uncertain and debilitating period of my life.

I was at home watching ‘Loose Women’* on television, and Professor Green was a guest on the programme. Professor Green is a well-known rapper who catapulted to fame in recent years. He is a young man who has documented how his early life impacted the way he is today and how his music reflects this. He grew up on a council estate in London, mainly raised by his grandmother. His father was absent for most of his life. This affected him in many negative ways, but he rose above this to become an international rap star. Professor Green’s father took his own life shortly after he had become reconciled with his son many years later and after he [Green] had become famous. This devastated him and he has since recorded a television programme about suicide in which he speaks openly about his love for his grandmother (who stabilised his childhood) and the impact his father’s untimely death had on his own life.

To get to the point, Professor Green spoke about counselling on Loose Women. He talked about how it helped him come to terms with his ‘demons’. I was incredibly impressed and touched at how openly this young man spoke about his own experiences with mental health issues that I listened with more interest than usual. Having my own mental health issues (PTSD, chronic anxiety and agoraphobia) his thoughts resonated with me.

Here comes the rapping! Those of you who have had the ‘pleasure’ of watching last year’s ‘X Factor’ will get a better feel of what I’d like you to do if you watched Honey G’s performance as a contestant. Honey G would rap saying:

“When I say Honey, you say G”, and this would be repeated many times, depending on how the audience received it. It went down really well. If you like that sort of thing. It’s a matter of taste. So here is my version:

When I say: ‘Professor’ you say: ‘Green’
Me: When I say Professor
You say: Green!
Me: When I say Professor
You say: ‘Green’

I was sittin’ in my home
All alone
got no friends
To call my own
Wanting someone to pick up the ‘phone
give me a call
so I don’t drown
In my sorrows
On my own

Me: When I say Professor
You say: Green!
Me: When I say Professor
You say: Green!

Mental health
has got a bad rap
That’s why I’m gonna
Put it on the map!
Shout it loud
and shout it clear
Mental health
There’s nothing to fear!

Me: When I say Professor
You say: Green
x2

I hope you managed to get a rhythm going. That helps! I hope Lady G and Tareau weren’t the only ones rapping along with me. Were you rapping Hariod? Anna?

Seriously, Professor Green was instrumental in getting me back on the road to recovery. He not only talked about how counselling helped him in his darkest periods, but he went on to say that although his situation was much improved, he still used counselling as therapy whenever he felt he needed it. And consequently, he was at present in therapy. Those words propelled me into action. If Professor Green was on daytime television, advocating counselling and he was not ashamed or embarrassed, what say me?

After the programme, I immediately went on-line to research counsellors in my area. I was very fortunate to find someone who has been incredibly helpful and who has allowed me to see that my case is not hopeless. That was over one year ago and I haven’t looked back since. Thanks Professor Green! I am not going to suggest that a few trips to a counsellor will make everything better. It takes time. It takes a willingness to partake in your own healing. It takes courage. It takes persistence. It takes faith. Often time, it can seem there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I’d like to encourage those who feel that there is no way out, that I found mine, and you can too.

~ Marie Williams 2017

* ‘Loose Women’ is a day-time television programme in which a panel of women discuss current topics.
– Final Part 3 to follow

Agoraphobia: What it Means for Me

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Agoraphobia: What it Means for Me

Hello. I am Marie and I have agoraphobia.

I often wondered what it would be like to stand up in a crowded room and admit this to everyone. I think to be able to talk about it here is quite freeing. For a long time, I felt ashamed of not being able to leave my home. I felt as if I was a failure and lacking in some way. That I wasn’t a bona fide human being. That I couldn’t be trusted to carry out one of the most basic of functions: get dressed, open my front door, step out on to the path and walk to the gate, open it and walk out on to the street with the aim of carrying out and completing a task. I was a failure.

My journey has been long and arduous spanning 17 years. Seventeen years seems like a lifetime written down and in many cases it does feel as if a huge part of my life has been impacted by this condition.

We all know that mental health issues are seen as taboo. Something we don’t talk about because it is perceived as shameful and an embarrassment and reflects badly on you. Well this is how I felt 17 years ago when it started. I didn’t even know the condition had a name and I certainly didn’t know it was agoraphobia. I had heard of the word of course – very few of us haven’t, but had I really ever thought about what it meant? To be honest, no I had not because before I got it, or should I say, it got me, I wasn’t that bothered. Sure we hear all sorts of related terminology: panic attacks, anxiety attacks to name two, but somehow until it happens to you, it doesn’t register fully.

Seventeen years ago, without any warning I started to feel odd and strange. I felt funny walking along the road as if I wasn’t fully in charge of my body. My vision was slightly blurred and my legs felt weak and I had a tremor. That’s the only way I could describe it. It made me concerned enough to go to the doctor and explain that I felt something was wrong. I described the symptoms to him but all he did was write a prescription and advise me to take a few days off work. Those few days turned into several weeks and about the fourth week my GP said it was time I went back to work because I was costing the National Health Service (NHS) money. I wasn’t any better, I had no idea what was wrong with me, and there had been no diagnosis from the doctor.

I went back to work but continually had to take time off because my symptoms were getting worse and it was becoming increasingly difficult to leave home because I felt afraid and unsafe. At times I would literally freeze on the road, unable to move my feet forwards.

Eventually after 5 years of various tests and trips back and forth to the hospital I was diagnosed with chronic anxiety and agoraphobia. During that time, the agoraphobia got to the stage where I was a prisoner in my home. Every time I got ready to go out feelings of trepidation would flood my body. My body had a mind of its own – it would foil every plan I made to leave home to go to the shops for food, go to the GP or make plans to meet with friends.

During that time I became lonely, depressed and felt as if I was completely alone. Friends didn’t want to know. They would occasionally telephone, but I saw no one. I would have been so grateful to see a friendly face at my door, enquiring how I was, if they could help in any way or if they could get something from the shops for me as I couldn’t do it myself. But no there was no help and I realised that my mental health issue had not only become a problem for me, but it had alienated me from friends and to some extent family. Had I been afflicted with a broken leg, or measles or something tangible, I’m sure those illnesses would not have been seen as so threatening. Not being able to go out on my own, invisible as an indication of the problem I had, but not tangible enough to warrant empathy and understanding left me alone and floundering.

I have been fortunate to have received therapy from counselling services, which has helped greatly in the process of healing and moving forward with my life. I am now improved as I can get out more. Not as much as I would like. Each day brings new challenges, but “I rise” to quote Maya Angelou.

Healing does not happen overnight as many of you well know. From connecting with others here in the blogging world, it has not escaped my notice how many of us are in therapy for anxiety related issues. In the past I might have been reluctant to share my experience as I would’ve been embarrassed or ashamed, but I see now that I need not be. And this is because of the many wonderful people I have met on WordPress who have bravely, and candidly shared their own remarkable stories here.

~ Marie Williams

The Premio Dardos Award

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The Premio Dardos Award

‘Poetry is what happens when language becomes impossible.’
– author unknown

I thank [Between Two Tides]vronlacroix for nominating this blog for a Premio Dardos Award. Veronica blogs at http://33580laborde.wordpress.com. I must apologise Veronica, for the time it has taken me to accept this award. I believe it has been two years since your nomination. We have spoken recently and we did agree that it was never too late to accept an award. Your posts pictures and poems are so beautiful and inspiring and I hope others will agree with me on this.

I would like to pass on the award through nomination to others who have ‘cultural, ethical, literary and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing’. They are: at this point I cannot possibly name any blogs which are more deserving of this award than others. In some ways it would be like choosing between my children: an impossible task. So what I will say is that, I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read, like and comment on my posts. It has been an enormous pleasure to have this connection and to share with so many gifted and talented bloggers all with something important and valuable to say. I pass on the award to you. I also know that there are many among you who do not accept awards, but I hope you will appreciate the gesture.

The Rules to Accept:
Those of you who would like to accept the award, the rules are to accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award. Include the images of ‘Premio Dardos’ in the post, and pass the award to other blogs worthy of this acknowledgement.

And finally, I’d like to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

~ Marie Williams 2017

The Wise Woman’s Stone

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Lately I find I having been giving a lot. I don’t know whether I am especially aware of this because it is the season for giving, or if something has triggered something deeper within me. But I think the act of giving, whether it is in recognition of a celebration, ie a birthday, charity, a good cause, Christmas or something like that is actually beneficial to the soul. I personally feel such joy and contentment when giving or sharing that I’m sure that internally, physically there is a way the body responds by removing toxins and releases feel good chemicals which flood the body and in turn makes you feel much healthier. You can probably tell that this is my own clumsily conveyed take on what giving means for me. I don’t make any claims to expert scientific knowledge.

Earlier this year, someone approached me telling me that he had to get to work and he had no money for his fare to get there. He said he had seen me, and that he had thought about it a long time, and he knew that I looked like a ‘kind lady’ and that I would help him. After much questioning, I gave him some money to get to work for the whole week. He thanked me profusely and bestowed many blessings upon me. I did wonder if he was genuine, but I thought if he is trying to con money out of me, then that is his problem and not mine. I felt better for giving and helping someone who I believed needed help. I like to think that if I had been in the same position, help would be forthcoming.

Two days ago at the train station, a beggar approached me, dirty, dirty clothing, in need of care and attention and I gave him some money. He had run up to me hand outstretched as I stood in the queue at a cake shop. I had a few bags and had to shift them around to get into my handbag to find my purse. He stood waiting patiently, hand still outstretched while I tried to get my money out. He had no idea if I was going to give him any money at all because I did not say anything, just rustled around with my bags. I eventually found my purse which had some change (lots of pennies) and one shiny £2 coin which I had been saving and did not want to spend because it was so shiny. Call it one of my foibles! I had no other change (apart from some notes), so I gave him my shiny coin which had been in my purse for months, while I broke into pound notes in order not to spend it. So you can see how much it meant to me. I gave the beggar/homeless person the coin which he eagerly took, blessed me considerably and ran off into the crowd. I felt good. I didn’t even mind about giving him that particular coin.

I discovered this story around Easter time, this year. I was actually looking for something else on the Internet, but came across this and it resonated with me. I hope it does the same for you.

The Wise Woman’s Stone

mariewhiteroses

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. But a few days later he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said, “I know how valuable the stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone.

~”The Wise Woman’s Stone” ♥
Author Unknown

The Irish Question: Part 2: Jenny M*, Jenny C* and Me

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Jenny C

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I never imagined as a pupil at John D Primary school ever writing about two of my classmates in years to come. It didn’t occur to me that at the time I was learning valuable life lessons. It is only now in retrospect that I see how important it is to value every thing that life throws at you, however painful. There is wisdom in looking carefully and profoundly at certain events which colour one’s life and paint the picture that is your life. To relegate disappointments to the dustbin of life is to throw away pearls. Pearls are not always beautifully shaped and formed when they are discovered: much goes into the process of refining them so that they become a beautiful adornment. You may wish to wear them or you may wish to lock them away in a vault, but either way, their beauty is evident and can never be lost.

Jenny M taught me about human frailty, loyalty and trust. Jenny C taught me about humility, friendship, gentleness and creativity, and ultimately the act of giving. Now these two shared the same Christian name, but apart from that they differed physically and in their characters. I still recall Jenny M’s brilliant emerald green eyes and raven black hair. She was a very pretty girl and I can only imagine that she would become stunningly beautiful. Jenny C was blonde, blue eyed and not at first obviously pretty, but there was beauty in her genuine smile and those innocent blue eyes. The two were such opposites: light and dark, soft and gentle (JC), tough and a go-getter (JM), both were my friends. Interestingly I see myself in all their characteristics and that could be why I gravitated to them and they to me.

Jenny C taught me about the act of giving and receiving. It was my 11th birthday. When Jenny C found out that it was my birthday she said she had a present at home to give me. I became excited at the prospect of this, wondering what the gift could possibly be. All sorts of things went through my mind and I eagerly awaited the gift. But days went by and there was no gift forthcoming. I became disappointed, then anxious, and finally embarrassed. It was obvious that Jenny C had been untruthful about the gift she had bought me. Each day, for over the course of a week she would come in and not quite meeting my expectant eyes offer up an excuse why she hadn’t been able to bring the gift into school.

It came to the point where I tried in my own way to let her know that I understood that she had made a promise that she was not able to keep. By the end of maybe the second week I had long given up hope of ever receiving anything from her, and I sensed in her something that I couldn’t quite articulate. It was as if she thought so highly of me that she wanted my friendship and she wanted to be able to give me something that would be a symbol of the esteem in which she held me. These are my adult thoughts on the matter and my interpretation of her actions. This is what I felt aged 11, but I would never have been able to put it into words.

Then one Friday, she asked if I could follow her home to pick up the gift as she had forgotten to bring it with her to school. She didn’t live too far away from school and I could go around to her home and get the gift and still be home by the time I was expected home. So I followed her to her house and we entered her bedroom after having greeted her mother. It became obvious that her mother was not very well off and was a single parent. But then neither was my family well off – at the time we were living in two rooms at the top of my uncle’s house.
Jenny C placed the carefully wrapped present in my hands. It was wrapped in what looked like tissue paper and tied with string. I opened it. Inside were some shells, some pebbles and some coloured beads with a small piece of paper on which was written birthday greetings to me. My disappointment was palpable. I didn’t know that at the time as I didn’t know the word ‘palpable’ but having learned it now, I look back and realise that was how I felt.

I had the good grace to offer up a weak smile and thank her very much and off home I went with the gift which I looked at once more when I got home disdainfully before putting it somewhere. I don’t think I looked at it ever again. It is only now through adult eyes that I treasure that gift and how much trouble Janet C had gone to, to give me something to show how important I was to her. In my childish expectant way, I had looked for something which she plainly could not give me. She had no money. Her mother was plainly struggling. She had the creative sense to put together some stones, beads and shells – all she had, tie them up with string and to give them to me with love.

How often is something given to us, something precious, not costing the earth in terms of monetary value, but symbolically valuable? How do we receive the gift of love? And do we recognise it when we see it? Now as an adult I see how precious that gift from Jenny C was. What a contrast to Jenny M’s gift?

Summing up, both gifts were valuable in terms of learning. I have learned that trust needs to be earned and not given away and that precious gifts do not have to cost money. It’s not the gift that is important, it is the act of giving and what it symbolises to me.

~ Marie Williams 2016

* Jenny M and Jenny C are not their real names.

The Irish Question: Jenny M*, Jenny C* and Me.

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Warning: this post contains language which may offend.

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for”. – Bob Marley

 

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Jenny M

This story has very little to do with politics or Ireland, but it features memories of a time when I was a school girl many years ago. And the reason I have decided to talk about it is because it threw up a very important lesson about friendship for me at a time when lessons were being learned continually, but of course, the effect of a lesson learned in childhood does not have the poignancy of a lesson learned and reflected on when one is much older.

What actually happened was this: As a ten year old, I became friends with Jenny M who was a lovely Irish girl. She was bright and funny and smart. What I did not know at the time was that Jenny M would betray me and our friendship with little thought to the consequences. Now as ten year olds, if you cast your mind back, what is the most important thing to a child? My answer would be, finding solidarity with someone likeminded, feeling a sense of belonging, being accepted and being happy. Unless you’re far more advanced than your years, and you aspire to greater things, just knowing that there is someone in the class room and the playground who you can identify with goes a long way to feeling at peace in your own small world.

It was lunch time, and we were queuing for our lunch. Imagine: noisy, boisterous girls and boys, a dinner hall, buzzing with chatter and laughter. China and cutlery clinking against the backdrop of hungry children, released from classes and lessons, not silenced by the need to conform. Individuality coming to the fore, wanting to impress, wanting to assert their sense of who they are, vying for attention, perhaps a little confused about their place in the world, but on a huge learning curve.

The school dinner lady (one of say 2 or three others) was serving the meal. I don’t know how hungry Jenny M was, (she may not have had breakfast that morning) but she boldly asked for three sausages. The Irish dinner lady refused saying that Jenny M was only allowed two. Jenny was upset, angry, embarrassed that she had asked but had not received. She turned to me, and whispered: “The Irish c*w!” and swearing me to secrecy: “Don’t tell her I said so!”.

Wanting to be a good friend, shy, wanting Jenny’s approval and feeling accepted and part of a great confidence, I smiled, shook my head, and promised not to repeat what she had said.
Several days later, the incident still fresh in my mind, Jenny M and I were in the school playground and I can’t remember the exact thing that happened, but it involved the Irish dinner lady. Thinking that I had a good friend and confidante, I approached Jenny M and told her what happened. Believing that she was a true friend I repeated her words: “…the Irish c*w!” And asked Jenny, as she had asked me not so long ago not to tell Mrs I.

So what did Jenny M do? She promptly went straight to Mrs I, our Irish dinner lady and said: “Miiissss …Marie said that you are an Irish c*w”. Mortified, I could hardly believe what I heard and saw. This supposedly good friend had betrayed me with little thought as to how I would feel, and how much she had betrayed our friendship.

Of course I was hauled to the Headmaster’s office and I was duly reprimanded. But that day I learned a very important lesson as a 10 year old. Be careful who you put your trust in. In a way it was a
good lesson, painful yes, but it stood me in good stead for the rest of my life. At the time, I had no words for how I felt. I think I forgave Jenny M. Now, looking back, clearly this incident impacted me and the way I view others. Was Jenny a real friend? Should we factor into friendships, the possibility that a friend is capable of betrayal and should we take into account what may/may not have been going on in their life at the time of betrayal. And is betrayal ever something that can be forgiven if there were extenuating circumstances? As 10 year olds – do we know who we really are and do we have the maturity to be a true friend?

I will have to speak about the other Jenny in part 2 of ‘The Irish Question’.

~ Marie Williams  2016

 

*Jenny M and Jenny C are not their real names.