Postnatal depression, climate change, and how I questioned my faith

I wrote this in July last year. It’s an emotional one, and it’s taken me a while to share.

Content warning – climate change, the state of the world, swears

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I always find July a super emotional month these days; we have our wedding anniversary, my birthday, and then my son’s birthday. I realised I have aspergers on my birthday 2 years ago, so that’s another anniversary too. It all makes me contemplate how very lucky I am, how very different my life currently is to the life I imagined for myself.
This July I’ve found even more emotional and wonderful. It’s our first July with our wonderful little E with us. Also this July I have completed my peer support training and a year going to Acacia, a local charity which supports women with pre and postnatal mental illness.

This is hard to talk about but I grew up knowing a lot about climate change, particularly as my dad works in sustainable development. It was when I was 12 that I was first told that he thought the earth would not make it. It was earth shattering. To think of living to see the end of the world.
Throughout my teens my world was full of fear and being prepared for the apocalypse. I felt utterly trapped and alone and suicidal, and I decided not to have children because what would they come here for? I was bullied at school for a long time and I didn’t have anything to fight it with because what was the point, I had nothing to fight for.

I started to have mental health treatment when I was 21. About the same time, I had two what might be called spiritual experiences. The first had me see myself giving birth, and then walking with a little boy. The second led me to believe that climate change is – I very much hesitate to use the word plan, I don’t believe that suffering is a plan, but I always jump to the word plan for want of a better one. Perhaps a better phrase is “something bigger”. Part of a something bigger that I cannot understand – and that all I am asked to do is what is asked of me, what appears before me in the moment, and it will work in some way towards a whole that I cannot presently grasp.

Those experiences absolutely changed my life, they brought hope for the first time. Because of those experiences I was able to focus on my mental health, on healing, on Pete, on my infertility, on IVF and building a family. Climate change was in a little box marked Do Not Touch. I tried to be Green always, as far as possible, and that was that.

When my first child was a year old, my world came crashing down. I started to have what they call intrusive thoughts; intrusive memories. Ebola and ISIS were on the rise that summer and my little boy seemed so vulnerable, the realities of everything I knew about how fragile our safety and our future are came flooding back. My husband started to work in Birmingham then, and Sam and I were still in Loughborough, Pete was exhausted commuting and we barely saw him. I felt so alone, totally suicidal, and I regretted making that choice to have a child. Eleanor was like a terrible weight around my throat because she was already conceived, she was already with us, frozen at the fertility clinic, but I felt so despairingly guilty about the baby I already had that I couldn’t see how I could bring another into our family. I loved my Sam too much to trust to this world.

To start with, after the despair resurfaced, I felt I had failed God by no longer being able to live in that vision of hope. And that made me feel even more confused and awful. But as time went on, I came to see it differently, I started to feel trusted that it was coming up now, that the divine in my life saw me as strong enough to tackle this now. That – through meeting my person who trusted and supported me (Pete), and through the arrival of Sam – God had strengthened me and strengthened my faith just enough to be able to do this.

It was a year into this – when Sam was about to turn 2 – that I realised I could be described as having aspergers and I was like ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME LORD.

Is this for real.

Not only am I imagining the world ending what feels like every minute of every day, not only am I battling internal voices telling me I’m evil for having my son, and constant intrusive violent images, but now I have ASPERGERS?!?!

REALLY

It was especially hard because then I could see that if the medical model of autism is right – if I am inherently fundamentally flawed and less able than other people – the model I have believed my whole life without question including while working with autistic young people – then what I had been through and built my life upon, the faith that had freed me and brought me hope, that had brought my children into the world, might actually be a product of my illness, of my disability.

That thinking, working that through, while I struggled with the suicidal climate change stuff, I thought it might kill me. And sometime in that time I came across a quote by a Catholic contemplative called Richard Rohr, I can’t find it now, I’m afraid, but he said something like, when faced with the impossible pain in the world, you can do one of three things, you can avoid it, you can become an activist, or you can become crucified by it so that it changes you. And I figured, only that last one is going to work for me, that’s what I need.

So I thought about these things that scare me, I really thought about them. I got involved in climate change activism and read about climate change, I didn’t shy away as I had done previously, and it is truly terrifying. But I started to feel better, every time I would meet with others and talk I’d feel better. And then it would all creep back, but then I’d have another time meeting with people who were also thinking about it and I would get slightly stronger again. Life was very up and down, it was a roller-coaster for a long time, it felt never-ending.

The other thing I did was I tested my faith. I mean I really tested it. I thought about all the ins and outs of what I really believe. I thought about what it would mean if God doesn’t exist. It took about a year, the year or so after my baptism.

And then I told the Lord that I put all my trust in him.

I know he might be a figment of my imagination. But would that be the worst thing in the world? If believing makes me a better, stronger, (alive) person?

Stuff happened along the way, during that year, that made me think actually, this is real, what I believed to start with could have been true. And I also came to accept that I can never understand the whole picture, and to let go my need to. But it’s also entirely possible that I am completely mistaken and as long as my life is better for it, as long as I give more to the world than I would otherwise, as long as I love better for it, I really don’t care.

I have been changed by my experiences, I have been changed by embracing my darkest fears, I can’t really put into words how but it has changed me completely. Things started to get better in summer 2016 I think, about three months before my daughter was born. I had counselling. I started to go regularly to church again, a new (to us) church. I talked with a lady called Dido Dunlop, who lives in New Zealand and wrote a book about climate change and mental health. Sam started preschool. I started going to Acacia. By the time Trump got voted in, that didn’t really shake me, and that was huge, because previous similar events – the EU referendum, the 2015 general election, the Paris attacks, and so on – these things had left me suicidal and battling dark voices, because of their potential to destabilise the world.

I also learnt to talk to the voices of fear, that was thanks to my yoga teacher, when I was deep in the middle of awful things, I think it was about the time of the Paris attacks. We were in guided meditation and she said, being human is like being a guest house, we wake up each day and we don’t know who we will entertain, will it be joy or will it be pain, welcome them for all they can teach us. And I started to do that, when I would hear voices in my head that would tell me they were coming to get me, I would tell them, you are welcome here. Fear, you are welcome.

I started to realise that, my fear was not bigger than me; it was within me, so it couldn’t be bigger. It couldn’t kill me without my consent.

In the Spring, 2017, I decided I wanted to be present in my own life more. I had used fertility and aspergers support groups for a long time, but I left them to show up more day to day and enjoy what I have. I love the support groups and that’s in no way a criticism of support groups (which empowered me and changed my life) but they were no longer serving a purpose for me. My daughter wasn’t sleeping at the time and that was the push really.

It probably sounds trite and clichéd but I really want to love people, I want to love myself, I want to love my husband, my kids, my parents and siblings, I want to love the people given to me, and I want to love the earth, but I also want to cut the bullshit and not spend time where it’s not needed. I want to speak up about things I care about, I want to act where I feel called, but I also want to listen to those I see differently to. I have little control over the wider picture, but I have a lot of control over the smaller picture, I have a lot of control over my internal picture.

There’s no really dramatic ending to my story, I have just been gradually feeling better and better. My Grandad dying in April 2017 made me think a lot about what I want my life to be. About living life fully and in the moment. I enjoy my kids more all the time at the mo. I know that that could change tomorrow, maybe I will get depressed again, maybe I will have more pain to work through – well, that’s a given – and I am not convinced that I will not choose to give up living at some point, but I know that for now I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

I wish I could end this with, and climate change turned out to be not that big of a deal. Well, truth is, these days it looks to me like the physical manifestation of 7+ billion people shopping out their physical, emotional and spiritual pain. It looks like how I deal with pain, it looks like all my worst coping mechanisms, rolled into a looming potential apocalypse.

The amazing thing is though that climate change is out of it’s box now, I understand that it’s happening, and that we need to stop the things we are doing that are contributing to it and robbing ourselves and our children of a future, and we need to stop those things now. And as far as I am able, I do stop those things, and beyond that I trust and allow myself rest.

I don’t live there any more, in the future of climate change. It’s happening but I will enjoy my time with the ones I love and I trust God with the rest – whatever form it takes – because he’s taken me through a lot so far. I used to feel like I had to choose, happiness or climate change, but now I realise that happiness is somewhere in the middle, somewhere where I hold the messiness and uncertainty of life in my hand and joy comes out of that, deeper joy than I have ever known.

I don’t believe that my life has been hard primarily because I’m autistic. I believe my life has been hard because I’ve had trauma. I would have still been autistic me, if I’d not had the trauma – but I doubt I would ever have known about my autism, because seeking to understand my pain is the thing that led me to autism. I say this because I also know people who identify as autistic who have not struggled more than the average person (whoever that is) and I am conscious of not wanting to add to the autism = inevitable terrible suffering story, which is one I don’t believe. It’s not the autism that has made me suffer. My autism has freed me, as I have learnt to use my brain in the way it was intended – instead of against it, as I was taught.

When I think about my diagnosis these days, I see it as inexorably linked to climate change. We live in a society in which ever increasing numbers of children are given autism diagnoses; in which the boundaries of autism continually widen, in response to human need.

Why is that? Is it because we are dysfunctional, so many of us?

Or is it because we live in a way that is making more and more people – the most sensitive people – visibly struggle, as the planet we rely on visibly struggles, too?

It’s not a question I have the answer to, but I do know that when I look back over my life, learning to function more productively has involved gradually removing myself from some of the trappings of consumerism – as I’ve felt led – and I only foresee those lifestyle changes gently continuing, bringing with them increasing freedom to be myself.

When I first realised I’m autistic, it felt hugely meaningful, but I wondered, what is the purpose of this, when I am feeling so stirred up against climate change? I felt torn in two directions. And yet as I have come to look deeper into both, I have begun to see that the two are very much aligned, and I’m excited to see where that goes. A world that is more sympathetic to autistic people would, I believe, be a world that is more sympathetic to the needs of all creation.

Why I decided to talk about my autism diagnosis

I’ve been diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum for two years now.

I was diagnosed because I wanted to talk about being autistic. I wanted to minimise being told in return that I’m not autistic, and although I already knew I am on the spectrum, I needed an official diagnosis to add authenticity.

Why did I feel it was so important to talk about it?

Hold up your hand if you’ve ever heard a parent talk about an autistic child.

Hold up your hand if you’ve ever heard a woman talk about her husband having autistic traits.

Hands up if you’ve ever heard a variation of the saying “all men are on the spectrum”.

Hands up if you’ve ever heard an adult say something like this about a child: “they thought there might be something wrong, they tested him for autism, but he was ok”.

Hands up if you’ve ever heard someone say “they are a bit autistic”, and mean it scathingly. Or if you’ve ever seen a meme mocking an autistic child on social media.

Or, on hearing a child is autistic, “oh, I thought there was something wrong”.

Now, put up your hand if you have ever heard an adult in your life identify themselves in conversation as autistic.

Put up your hand again if that person was a woman.

See where I’m going?

I used to work with autistic young people, as a teaching assistant, in a mainstream secondary school and then in a specialist college for people with identified special needs.

This was before I knew that I’m autistic.

Honestly, I didn’t really understand what autism is at all (I’m still not 100% sure, and I’m not convinced anyone else is either). I had a vague idea it was something shameful and “wrong”, but I didn’t really know how. I didn’t know what my students needed, and I didn’t know how to support them. I hate this, I wish I was alone in this, but I have come across this same story a lot from people who work with autistic children and then go on to have autistic children or realise they are autistic themselves. “I didn’t know what I was doing”, people say. “I regret the things I did.” I know I regret the things I did, my own lack of interest, and I wish I could go back and change it.

I looked up Asperger’s and autism before I realised I’m on the spectrum. I read about it for work, and I read about it for my own mental health research – because I knew my borderline personality disorder diagnosis wasn’t the whole story about me. I never in that time recognised autism in myself.

I didn’t recognise it in me until I was 30, and I googled “Asperger’s in women”. And then I was like, ohhhhhh.

Why would researching a condition NOT tell me I had it?

Why would adding “in women” tell me I had it?

Because the baseline for autism is male. It is a condition that was created after studying – overwhelmingly – male children. That male baseline is being expanded as we realise what it might look like in women – but we are still expanding a male condition. We are still looking at girls who appear close to the male-defined definition of autism.

Children identified with special needs are overwhelmingly male – around twice as many boys as girls are diagnosed with special needs. Women are presently thought to account for around 1/4-1/5 of autistic people. Men are around three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD; ADHD and autism are often diagnosed in childhood; and boys are likely to receive these diagnoses at an earlier age than girls are.

I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) instead of autism. That’s what the psychiatrist I saw recognised in me. No professional ever saw autism in me before I recognised it in myself.

BPD is typically diagnosed in adulthood (I was 24), and 3/4 of BPD diagnoses are to women. I was diagnosed with BPD after the fact – retrospectively. By the time i was diagnosed, I no longer fit the diagnostic criteria, but I had previously, in my late teens and very early twenties. I was diagnosed with it because the psychiatrist wasn’t aware of any diagnoses that might actually fit me, as I was at that time. And to be perfectly honest, he didn’t seem particularly interested. It took 2x 20 minute appointments to be diagnosed with BPD.

I also had had an eating disorder along with the BPD symptoms… Almost 9/10 eating disorder diagnoses are given to women.

As things currently stand, special needs diagnoses have many stigmas and potential pitfalls… but at their heart, what does a special needs diagnosis aim to do? It implies, this person has a right to be here, just as they are, and they are in need of protection.

Why do parents seek special needs diagnoses for their children? To protect them.

What does a personality disorder (PD) diagnosis imply? This person is damaged. Their personality is faulty. This person needs to be contained, and can possibly get back to normal if they try hard enough. This person cannot be trusted. That was what I felt with my BPD diagnosis.

I was referred to a non-residential PD unit shortly after diagnosis, and they told me I couldn’t do their treatment programme and get married at the same time. They made that decision for me, even though stability is known to be helpful to people diagnosed with BPD. (I left the unit, and I got married.) The place was very despondent feeling. Nobody seemed to have any hope of improving.

Seven years later I found myself with an Asperger’s diagnosis. I had only met one autistic adult male at that time that I was aware of, and no openly autistic adult females.

I didn’t even know that autism could really be a thing in women before it applied to me. The day after I realised it fit me, I looked for Facebook support for women on the spectrum, and I was blown away by how many groups I came across – large groups. And in the almost 3 years since that moment, I have seen those groups grow and grow.

What I found was a very secretive community. Only a minority of women I came across had diagnoses. Even fewer shared them with anybody beyond immediate loved ones. Some didn’t tell anybody in their “real” lives. Some will use a fake name to talk about their autism online, so that nobody can trace autism back to their real identity – I did, for a while. Most had realised after having a child diagnosed, often several years later.

Many women who go for diagnosis are refused one, so having a diagnosis can become a badge of honour. I know I feel proud of my diagnosis. Most of the diagnosed women had diagnosed themselves first, and then approached the medical profession. Most had other diagnoses assigned to them first – mental illness diagnoses.

Why are women often reluctant to talk about their autism?

For many diverse reasons. These are some of the things we might be afraid of:

Because we are afraid for our jobs.

Because we are afraid our children will be taken away from us.

Because we are already in social services with our special needs children and are afraid of being any more visible to the people who have the power to take our children away.

Because we are gay, disabled, or otherwise stigmatised already, and that’s enough to contend with.

Maybe we are single parents and have to support our children, and we can’t risk a diagnosis jeopardising that.

Because we are afraid of rejection from our communities. From our churches. From our neighbours.

Because we are afraid to be seen to be less than. That’s the one with the biggest hold on me.

These are all life stories I’ve heard in autistic women’s groups – sometimes, over and over again.

There are so many reasons we don’t share our identities, and they are not empty reasons. People don’t share because these things we are afraid of do indeed happen – and they happen because of the narrative we have around autism. Because of the memes, because of the hushed talking, because of the way we label men we find difficult with it.

Often as autistic women we have experienced rejection our whole lives, before learning of our autism. I am afraid, because the burden falls to me – not my husband – to socialise my children, and I don’t want to alienate them through the things I share about myself. I am afraid, because at some point I want to find work. I am afraid, because I experienced rejection all my life, until I met my husband and he was like, ok I see you and you’re ok. I have striven so hard to hide myself away, even for several years wearing a completely different personality. When you’ve tried that hard to hide, being visible is really bloody scary.

I have had people ask me not to share my diagnosis.

I do it anyway.

I do it because my position is relatively stable. My husband knows who I am and he supports me. I don’t work at the moment, I am at home with our kids, and we survive on his income – so if I did render myself unemployable through the things I share, we know we survive as we are.

It scares the hell out of me to be openly autistic. I have intrusive thoughts about it, of all the awful things that might happen to me. I have these thoughts, I believe, partly because of the ways I’ve felt rejected, historically.

I do it because I think it’s really bloody important.

I do it because of the way autism is “other-ised” – as in, you only hear people talking about other people having it. It’s outside. Not inside.

I do it because I look at small boys growing up. They are more often encouraged to be themselves, to inhabit space, to be boisterous. We diagnose them with “special needs” when they don’t easily fit into a classroom. When they become adults, women say to each other “they’re on the spectrum” – with the implication, they can’t change. They are as they are.

And then I look at girls. The ways we tell them to be small, physically. To be quiet. We are proud because they follow the rules and “do well” at school. We don’t diagnose them easily. And then they become adults. And they are diagnosed with “mental illnesses” – with BPD, with eating disorders.

Boys who can be diagnosed with autism or ADHD are often easy to spot, they are often loud, or visibly stand out in other ways. They may be obviously interested in learning, and they may easily share their interests, with pride even.

Girls who can be diagnosed with autism are different, we are often quiet. Easy to overlook. Well behaved, particularly at school. We less often speak up about our interests, we less often appear interested in learning. It’s not good, you see, to be too “clever” or too “different” and a girl – you want to catch a man, don’t you? Hide who you are.

Being diagnosed with autism was the best thing that ever happened to me, bar meeting my husband and having our amazing children. My diagnosis tells me, it’s ok for you to take up space. It’s ok for you to be different. There is nothing wrong with you. You were like this all along. You were made this way.

I’m a Christian, and I really feel strongly that I was intended to be the way I am, and that my faith calls me to help others. It is important for me to be open about my diagnosis to make it easier for others to be open about theirs, so nobody has to hide who they are out of fear. So that other people can realise they are autistic, because they see in me what feminine autism can look like. I have so many autistic friends, and I want it to be as easy to say “I am autistic, and this is what I need” as it now is to say “I am left handed, and I need to write with my left hand” (which after all, we once sought to change). I wish to inspire other women to recognise their autism, in the hope that those who can might share about it too – and then that those who currently can’t, will soon be able to, as the stigma reduces.

At the risk of sounding like a totally self-righteous bore, I talk about it for the kids. For those who are growing up publicly identified with autism – quickly growing towards a future that adults avoid, given half the chance.

My own autism diagnosis is a way of identifying with these kids and attempting to normalise it, so that when they grow up, hopefully they will encounter a less stigmatising environment than I have. Hopefully people won’t assume anything about them based on their diagnoses. Hopefully they will have equal opportunities for jobs even if they are “out”.

Male autism may be more out in the open, but it’s still not well thought of. When people talk about autistic traits in their male loved ones, in my experience it’s most often to imply “and that’s the way in which he’s a complete pain”. I know I fall into the trap of doing that. We don’t say, that person is so loyal, they’re a bit on the spectrum. That person is really passionate, I think they might be autistic. It’s always perceived from the negative. While this is the case, I wonder how we can really have a true insight into the numbers of autistic people and the ways it presents, as people will seek to distance themselves from anything with negative social connotations, even subconsciously. Until as a society we can grasp autism openly and for what it is, we won’t learn the lessons it has to teach us.

I look forward to the time I am not the first person in a conversation to say “I’m autistic”.

When we get towards that place, maybe that will reduce the diagnoses of depression, of anxiety, eating disorders, of BPD, of OCD (which I am also recently diagnosed with – as are many other autists). Maybe it might reduce suicides. Breakdowns. It might improve work productivity. Free people up to use their talents.

Maybe the rate of suicidal thoughts will no longer be 9x higher among people identified with autism.

Who knows, maybe, just maybe, we might change our cultural understanding of what autism is – as the visibly autistic women grow, it would seem likely that the numbers of “atypical” autistic men will also grow… And then maybe we will see something through these autism diagnoses that we are currently looking at through stained glass.

Until that time, I feel like I have to keep finding the guts to say, over and over again, “I’m autistic.”

If you’ve read this far, thanks. I appreciate it and I feel really passionately about this. I want a world in which people are ok to be who they are. A world in which we adapt the way we live to people – and stop expecting people to adapt to the way we live. Expecting people to adapt to the demands of chasing money is currently costing our mental health, the health of the planet and the future of our children dearly – but that’s an essay for another day. Autism diagnoses can be a tool that says, actually, we don’t fit with what is being asked of us. Our children don’t fit in the roles they’re being assigned to. Make room for them. Make room for human need.

The House of Rock

I haven’t blogged in a few months. Very unexpectedly, not long before last Christmas, I found myself dealing with very particular and nasty intrusive thoughts. It has led me on a journey of self discovery and new attempts to heal past hurts.

Yesterday, my Facebook memories reminded me how fragile life can be. Three sets of photos appeared. In the first, from 2008, I am at a party. I am smiling but my eyes look frantic and the smile is plastered on. I look very together on the outside, I am slim and made up, but the inner disease I was feeling is very obvious to me.

The next set was a year later, in 2009. I had been seeing Pete for a couple of months and we are at a party with his friends. I still look together, slim, made up. The smile is the same but the eyes are relaxed. I look safe.

A few weeks later, we were to go on holiday, to the south of France. When we arrived back from holiday, I found I couldn’t get out of bed. All the pain that I am suppressing in the first photo had started to rise up and demand attention.

I had no idea how long it would take for me to feel “normal” again. I took a few weeks off work sick. That turned into leaving my job, my home, my city, my life as I knew it. By the end of that year, Pete and I had bought a house together that could be a safe place for me to recuperate in. Because once I felt safe, once I had that security so evident in the second photo, the waves of grief kept coming, they kept rising up and demanding my attention.

It became a new phase of my life, one that lasted for three and a half years, until I fell pregnant with my son.

The final photo is a year later again, 2010. I am 24. It is me and Pete in our friend’s kitchen, I am holding our dog who is six months old, and who has become my faithful companion as I have journeyed into my emotional pain over the past nine years. I look fragile, dishevelled, there isn’t any spark about me and Pete looks very protective. But I look real. My face is bare and I’m not trying to hide anything. It’s all there to see.

These photos, they reminded me how we never know what is to come. We can try so hard to keep it all together but our experiences have a way of catching up with us.

When I started breaking down, I believed that my depression was unexpressed emotion and that if I allowed myself to do what came naturally, if I didn’t try to manage or avoid the pain and I cried as much as I needed, then I would start to feel better. I believed that my pain had come to teach me, to set me free.

I had another breakdown, later, a year after my son was born. That was much harder because I had to focus on him as well as look after myself. But at the same time it was easier because I had to do it, for him. He gave me a fight I didn’t have the first time.

When I had that second breakdown, it was totally different to the first. They were different experiences, and had different accompanying mental health issues. I thought I had done something wrong, that it was happening again, because I had worked so hard the first time and come so far. But as time went on, what I discovered was that my pain is like layers. One layer might be resolved but there is more underneath.

It was easier, the second time, because I had done it before. It didn’t feel easier at the time, it felt horrendous and I thought I might die, which I didn’t think about the first time. But it was easier, I had tools and coping mechanisms and I believed in my ability to find a way through. After about 2 years I started to come out the other side.

And now, the things that troubled me enough to cause those breakdowns feel at peace. They no longer trouble me. But I know that there is always more. And it didn’t surprise me this time, when I started to have thoughts. Disappoint me – honestly yes. Every time a new issue comes up, I never know how long it will take to resolve and resolving it is never in my life plan.

But this time, it has been about three months now and this has been much more gentle to work through. I can keep functioning, I have more confidence to handle my mental health, I feel like a fighter. I can compartmentalise things and keep going all day and then find the thoughts hit me once I sit down and am tired. I am recognising my triggers more quickly, I have accepted what is happening more quickly. It’s just practice.

I have a new diagnosis to add to my list, OCD. I find labels very comforting. The first time, I was given my BPD diagnosis, and it validated my experience. I stopped feeling so weak, I started to trust and accept my pain. It has been the same with every diagnosis. It gives what I am working with a name. These thoughts are not real, they are OCD. It gives me an identifiable experience to talk about.

Back in 2010, I felt so lost. I had taken these huge steps to try and reform my life and I couldn’t see the outcome. I didn’t know anybody who had walked this path. I just knew I had to learn to listen, and I started prioritising that. There were so many years where it felt like walking through sludge. Nothing had any colour, my sadness was still so heavy, I was working so hard and trusting but I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. There were no tangible changes. Life was very quiet.

Things did change. Now, I feel like I struggle to keep up with the changes. But I do, because of that earlier, slower work. The foundations that were laid. I used to think often of the story Jesus told about the house on the sand and the house on the rock. The house on the sand was washed away and the house on the rock remained. Well, my house of the sand was washed away. And I had to allow a house on the rock to form, one that could withstand the turmoils of life.

We don’t know what turmoils lie ahead. When I look at the challenges the world faces, it seems glib to say that my inner house is now stable enough to withstand them. I don’t feel like my house is rock, yet. But I can almost now see how it could be. I do see that my house wobbles less with each new crisis. And from that, I gain great comfort. Each crisis, while painful and impossible feeling to start with, has become in the end a gift, to allow me to find my way through and beyond the underlying pain. And I see that this time. I have been surprised by the things I discovered as I have sat with my intrusive thoughts. But that’s a story for another day perhaps.