Tag Archive: friends

The care system for children in the UK has come under huge scrutiny recently, and rightly so. With so many cases of historic and systematic abuse being uncovered it is essential that the truth is established, justice is done and changes are made.

The impact on people’s lives is immeasurable. Many never really recover from such a difficult start.

It is therefore both challenging and encouraging to know people like Ray. He started life in a very tough family situation and experienced a traumatic time in the care system. When he left at 18 he was vulnerable and angry.

Unable to cope, he repeatedly found himself in prison. There was a pattern of behaviour in his life that he simply couldn’t change. God, however, had other ideas.

After being taken care of by a Christian who took him under his wing, Ray eventually gave his own life to Jesus. Things have taken time to change – and continue at times to be difficult – but for the last four years he has been living in accommodation with Faith Hope and Enterprise and making good progress.

In that time, Ray has become a family friend. He has spent Christmas day with us a couple of times and has seen our children in school productions, choir concerts and sports events. It is a privilege to know him and to be part of his journey.


mental health relapse

In November, I experienced a relapse in my mental health.  It was nowhere near as severe as my meltdown of 2009 but was still a disappointing setback after a good period of steady recovery.  This time around I was able to see the signs a little earlier and take some evasive action, but when the emotions broke they were as fresh and powerful as they had been eighteen months earlier.  I had to process many of the same things all over again.

As I prepared to meet my GP, I spoke to a couple of close friends about a subject I felt would be an inevitable part of that consultation: medication.

When I first became ill I was consistently offered antidepressants and I consistently turned them down.  This was primarily because I felt that whilst they may have dealt with the symptoms of my poor health they could not address the cause – and that if I could tackle the cause, the symptoms would clear up as well. 

In counselling, I came to see that my health reflected how I had come to feel about myself and to see myself.  The solution was to change my ways of thinking – and this seemed to be consistent with my understanding of the bible, influenced by Neil Anderson’s Freedom in Christ material.

In truth, I still agree with that view – which is why I felt that the decision presented a dilemma.  On the other hand, I knew that without decisive action I risked slipping into a steeper and more damaging decline.  My GP was clear that subsequent setbacks could be increasingly difficult to overcome.  I was also advised that my low mood may have a chemical cause which medication would help to address and since re-training my mind and lifting my self-esteem seems to be a long-term process, I opted for the extra help that the medication would give me.

Beginning a course of antidepressants has been a strange journey in itself.  Some of the side-effects are just weird, and we may not have the right dose or medication yet but I’m meeting my GP regularly and waiting for some further counselling.

I have delayed posting about this because it’s taken me a little time to gain the confidence to do so.  It feels embarrassing.  Close friends, though, have been very supportive.  One friend told me how they had recently heard that having a breakdown wasn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign that you have been strong for too long.  There is some truth in this that I draw comfort from.  But I have also drawn confidence from some of the things that God has been speaking to us about as a family.  I know that He still loves me and wants to work through me, He still has good plans and a future for me.  Being a child of God does not make life easy but it does give us great hope.

an alternative 2010 review

Every Christmas, I spend a little time reflecting on the year that has passed.  This year, hidden away in the snowy hills of Snowdonia on a family retreat, I asked myself two questions.  What have I learned?  How have I changed?

Now these things don’t fall neatly into calendar years but the answers came to me fairly quickly.

What I learned is that God will provide. 

In a year when I experienced a lot of change and some difficult times, God wonderfully provided for me and my family.  He provided some great new friends, a place of safety in church life and relationships, He provided safe passage for our children as they continued to find their way in life, a fulfilling place of employment for me, grace and mercy when we called on Him for it, wisdom in decision-making, some wonderful memories and continued healing.

Jehovah Jireh.

How I changed is that I became much clearer about my personal boundaries and how to handle them – and how to handle people who are not so clear about them.  Sometimes that’s been difficult – but it has been good for me and for the people around me. 

If you ask yourself these questions, what would your answers be?

Over the last 12 months God also spoke some wonderful things over my life.  I have a lot to look forward to as well.  And so do you.

One year ago today I woke up with my mental health in meltdown.  I made an emergency appointment with a GP and was immediately referred to the community mental health team.  If you have ever doubted the usefulness of secular counselling, please re-evaluate – it was incredibly helpful.

I have learned a lot of things since that day.  Here’s my top five.

  1. God loves me.  Whatever I have been through, in times of doubt, fear and uncertainty; when I have searched hard for Him and when I haven’t, when I have known Him with me and when I haven’t, when I have been thinking clearly and when I haven’t, God has loved me.
  2. My family is amazing.  My wife has a strength and depth of character that has carried our family when I haven’t even been able to help.  I love and value her more now than I have ever done.  Our three daughters have been wonderful.  They have handled the events of the last year so well.  I am so proud of them.
  3. Friendship matters very much to me.  When Jesus calls us friends I am significantly affected.  I have learned that there are different kinds of friendships, that it works on different levels and that some friendships can survive almost anything whilst others are more transient.  Friendship that endures is to be highly prized.
  4. I am responsible for myself.  Other people have at times confused, hurt, angered, bewildered and astounded me but I’m not responsible for what other people say and do.  I am only responsible for myself.  I have learned more about my own boundaries than I have before and I feel better prepared to face the world because of it.
  5. Taking the initiative is the best way to handle relationships.  Hoping other people will do it or that issues will simply go away if you leave them alone for long enough risks disappointment and pain.  If an issue is needs to be resolved, it needs me to start the process.

When I told my girls over breakfast this morning that it was a year since I became ill, one of them simply said, “But you’re getting better.”  And so I am.  I have very few expectations of how long that will take and I don’t think I will ever be the same, but I am getting better.  And to all the people who have helped me do that; thank you.

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