Without blemish…

On Thursday I returned home from work and my fb status suggested that I was grateful to have made it to the end of term; kind of in one piece; and that next term I was hoping it would be more ‘normal’ although I wasn’t entirely sure what I meant by that.

So why a status like that? I have to admit that this last term has been one of the toughest terms that I’ve ever had, and for no reason other than the malfunctioning of my brain and the effect that has had on every aspect of my life. I’ve been loving my job, the teaching and everything else, but the effect it’s had on me mentally has been… well I’m not really sure how to define it. Just as I was struggling with coming to the end of term anyway, it all ended with me face-planting a step at school – essentially having a seizure face first, resulting in a lot of cuts, bruises, black eyes, bitten lips and a bitten tongue. So my last week at school involved looking horrific, and a lot of explanations of why I looked so horrific.

I’ve always been very lucky and have never really had any issues with my skin. No real issue with pimples, never any real need for make-up, the only time that there has been issue has been through my own fault – last year I scratched away at my skin through anxiety; or through seizures – falling down the stairs breaking my nose and wrist; falling onto a concrete floor knocking my teeth out and splitting my lip open… and those are just a few with the latest one adding to the file!

This year I’ve been listening to the ‘Bible in one year’ I’ve tried reading it previously, and never got very far, but listening to it as I walk to work has been quite good. Every day there is a psalm or a proverb; an extract from the New Testament and an extract from the Old Testament. The Old Testament readings recently have been from Leviticus and Numbers. Both of these involve the instructions given to the Israelites for sacrifices that they were to make to God. A lot of sacrifices were involved, for a lot of different reasons, but whenever it mentioned the animal that was to be sacrificed it mentions that the animal is to be ‘without blemish’.

What has any of this got to do with any thing? At the moment every time I look in the mirror I am reminded of the seizure I had, the issues that my brain is causing for me at the moment. However I need to think New Testament with my face and brain at the moment!

Today is Easter Sunday, where we celebrate Jesus rising from death. The death that he died as the ultimate sacrifice so that we don’t need to make those sacrifices of animals without blemishes anymore. We all have blemishes, none of us are normal, but none of that matters. We are loved by God for who we are, what we are, and what we have done.

My brain is not perfect, and that has meant that I have scars all over my face at the moment BUT I am still loved, and in God’s eyes I’m perfect. Because of his love, his grace, I have been made blemish free. I really do need to make sure that I have that New Testament vision… and I hope you do too!

Happy Easter

Survival

Survival is a word I’ve used a lot over the last few months…why? Well because that is what I feel I have been doing for the entirety of 2018 so far… SURVIVING. Having spoken to a few people over the last few days I am aware that this is very much my own perception of my life, but still… it is my perception that in 2018 so far, I have survived.

What do I mean by this? Well I don’t feel that I have accomplished anything, succeeded at anything, achieved anything. I have gone to work, done what I’ve needed to do, and come home.

Before I get bombarded by lectures from people, I am also very aware that this is in comparison to accomplishments that I have made over the last few years, with weight loss, running, general health successes. AND if I were to compare the last few months with my life 4 years ago, I’d probably be amazed at what I was doing! But for the Helen of recent years it is definitely just a feeling of survival. So I felt the necessity to look up the definition…

“the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.”

Now that makes more sense… I think we can safely say that 2018 has consisted of difficult circumstances for me, and yet despite some people trying to stop me the one thing I have tried to do is continue to live. Survival for me was being determined to not let the epilepsy take over. I may not have been able to flourish, or grow (although my clothes may say something different) but I have been in a state of continuing to live and exist.

A friend told me today that they know many who have given in and taken time off for much less, so what is it that has made me want to survive, and enabled me to do so?

I think the life style changes of previous years have really had a lasting effect on me.

I can be a right stubborn wotsit and I was so frustrated by my brain that I was determined not to let it take over my life!

E has been a literal daily dose of whatever was required… listening ear, encouragement, support, fellow frustration, words of wisdom

I love my job, and it brings me joy when I am struggling

I am surrounded by the most awesome people in all areas of my life who support me in numerous ways, and without whom I’m not sure survival would have been possible!

There will be times when we grow, thrive, flourish. There will be times when survival is what we have to work for. I have said numerous times ‘ALL I’ve done is survive” when actually I need to realise what an achievement that is.

Found…was it lost?

I was greeted by some odd looks and some scared faces yesterday. Why? Well one friend called me manic! But essentially it was because I had energy – and quite a lot of it! Why should this result in odd looks and scared faces? Because for months I have been similar to a zombie, in either a state of complete and utter confusion, violently twitching, or exhausted – and times when all three were at play.

The last few days in the classroom have been an absolute joy. It’s hard to put my finger on what has been so good about it… except for the fact that it feels like my ‘old self’ is back. It really is as if I have ‘found’ myself, but I didn’t realise I had ‘lost’ myself in the first place. I knew that I was getting confused… I knew I was tired… but I still thought I was being myself.

Obviously we all go through seasons, and there are going to be times when we go through highs and lows. We all expect that, but this feels slightly different. I have been able to do more, I have been more excited about small and simple things, I have shown more joy and excitement in the class, I have had ideas about future events. Essentially I have done more than surviving – which is what, this week, I have realised I have been doing for most of 2018 so far.

A friend, whilst seemingly scared at times, has done a great job of pointing out to me, that things I’ve been doing this week, attitudes I’ve had to things this week, wouldn’t have been possible, or even been on my radar in previous weeks – which is a good thing.

I don’t think it’s an issue that I hadn’t necessarily realised there was something ‘missing’ before, but I think I do need to be grateful for and make the most of times such as this. I also have to try and not get too caught up and expect this to be ‘normal’ after all, as I said in my previous blog we can’t really know what our normal is!

For now… time to get up, get going, and make the most of it!

Normal?

This evening I got out of my friend’s car, rung the husband so he knew it was time to put the kettle on and then I rung E to say hello, and I got a slightly surprised response from both of them, the reason being I said ‘I’m awake’! Why was this surprising? Because that seems so ‘out of the normal’ at the moment. Especially with it being at the end of the day. They are used to a text explaining how rubbish I feel. Over recent weeks I have mainly been tired, confused, and twitching! The weekend was particularly bad, I managed breakfast out on Saturday, then spent the entire weekend on the sofa watching TV. About 4 years ago, this probably would have been ‘normal’ but now it isn’t.

I got quite a few surprised responses at work today from pupils and colleagues, this was due to the glasses and hair being up – as opposed to curly hair and contacts. This of course is what always used to be the ‘normal’ until the hair suddenly went curly and I decided contacts were better for physical activity! To be fair the only reason I was wearing the hair up and my glasses is because I overslept and didn’t have time to get ready properly!

I have to admit it’s got me thinking is there any such thing as ‘normal’? Or is it something we create for ourselves or allow to develop?

Part of the reason for the sofa and TV over the weekend was that I had been violently shaking. Recently I seem to have got in to a cycle of violently twitching, having a seizure, brain clearing, then gradually the brain clouding again until I start twitching again. Therefore, I had assumed that because I was twitching on Friday and Saturday I was heading towards another seizure… so I might as well stay on the sofa as that would be safer! I even allowed it to take over my life, and was too apprehensive to go to Church on Sunday!

However, the seizure didn’t come, I woke up late this morning, and once I’d got through the confusion of not following my ‘normal’ routine I found that for what seemed like the first time this year, I had an entire day of energy and no twitching.

I am aware it may be a one off day, it may also be a beginning response to new medication that I have started BUT one thing it has done is challenge me to stop making expectations of what will happen based on what I think is ‘normal’ instead I’m going to see what happens each day, and respond to that!

There is no such thing as normal… so don’t try to plan or judge your life according to what you think it is?

I am who I am

As my brain continues to play up I figure it’s time to tackle something that a few people have said to me, which makes me feel really weird, and I’m not entirely sure why. People have told me that they are proud of me. Proud of how I coped growing up with epilepsy; proud of how I have met my dream job of teaching; proud of how I haven’t let the epilepsy get in the way of living normally; proud of coping without driving; proud of coping with limitations; proud of coping with the various injuries; You’d think this would be seen as a compliment, and yet it feels weird.

I honestly don’t see it as something to be proud of. The way I see it, I’m just living the life that I have, and epilepsy happens to be a part of that. Yes I’ve had to make adjustments; decisions, yes I get frustrated, but that just is who I am, it’s nothing special.

Is pride something that we should apply to people’s lives? Is it something I should be offended by? Or should I just accept that people do feel proud of what I have achieved and maybe I should take more pride in it as well?

Questions as usual!

Awareness

This afternoon I was leading the collective worship at school (taking assembly). My brain continues to be playing up at the moment, and it was on fire whilst I was up front on stage ahead of the school. I would be speaking and suddenly I was aware that I was no longer speaking, I would apologise and then carry on. This happened numerous times throughout the talk, I would describe myself as ‘twitching like a trooper’, and I was very aware of the effect this had on my talk. The frustration was finding itself to the surface, which was also having an effect.

HOWEVER… when I shared my frustration with colleagues after, saying ‘that’s what I’m like all the time – blanking out’ they didn’t seem to be aware of what I was talking about. Apparently it was just like I was spending some time reflecting, pausing to allow the pupils to think about the message I was giving.

This made me wonder whether I’m actually in as much of a mess as I think I am. Is my awareness actually more of an overreaction than the reality. If so, then why? I guess it is because for me, it is ‘every day’ ‘all the time’ ‘my life’ therefore it probably stands out, and makes an impact, whereas for others it’s just normality, just ‘Helen’.

Is this always the case? Are we always more aware of ourselves and how things affect us? Should we try to figure out the ‘reality’ more? Does it actually matter? I’m not sure I’m expecting an answer really, I just found it bizarrely amusing that the one thing I was SO aware about, no one else seemed to notice at all. How aware are you?

Lost before Lent

Lent seems to have caught me by surprise this year. I remember the years where Lent seemed to be such a big deal, that I would make sure that everyone knew what I was giving up for Lent, and each year I would try to make sure I was giving up more than I had done the previous year. Often I wouldn’t make it all the way through the 40 days, and I recognise now that I may well have completely missed the point.

Last week I suddenly realised that we were approaching Lent, and even once I realised I kept forgetting and hadn’t really made a plan. But is this a problem?

Lent is a season, a season of preparing for Easter. Although that preparation has often been associated with giving up something, that isn’t necessarily the case. Some choose to read a book; some start to do something; there is also an organisation called 40acts, which encourages people to do a different act each day.

As I was starting to think about what I was going to do as part of my preparation for Easter this year, I felt it was important to decipher what I was preparing for. For me Easter represents life, it represents the fact that I am able to have a relationship with God, it represents the love that God has for me.

Therefore this should be the focus throughout Lent. If I’m honest because of my health recently I have lost track and lost step with God. I’ve felt a bit lost, confused and befuddled. Therefore Lent for me in 2018 is going to be about rebuilding that relationship, finding that path, and walking back in step, so that when we get to Easter, I am going to be prepared to worship the God who was willing to sacrifice it all for me.

At this present moment in time, 20 minutes before Ash Wednesday, I have no idea of how this is going to happen, but I’m going to consciously make the effort to try.

I’ll keep you posted