A Day in the Life of lifeinabind
I was at church on Sunday morning – I still go with my husband and children, even though I find that my faith takes a back seat when I’m struggling with my mental health. In many ways this seems counter-intuitive, as for many people, faith in a higher power sustains them when they feel they have nothing else. In some of my own ‘worst times’ in the past, though I was plagued by doubts about what, if anything, I believed in, I used a form of silent meditation, more like mindfulness than prayer, that in hindsight I think was very important in bringing me back into the present, helping me through feelings of pain and depression.
But for the last few years I have found prayer and church a struggle. Perhaps it is a symptom of my borderline personality disorder, but I have an ‘all or nothing’ approach to many things in life. I don’t feel I can talk to God about self-harm because I’m worried that he ‘won’t approve’ – and therefore I don’t feel that I can talk to him about anything. Along with almost everyone else in my life, people at church don’t know about my mental health difficulties. They see me with my husband and they don’t realise that it’s only his faith and his beliefs that are keeping him still at home. They look at me with my children and they don’t know how much I struggle to cope with being a mother and to provide the sort of consistent and positive environment at home, that I would love them to have.
That disconnect between appearance and reality is something that has been ‘normal’ for me throughout my life, and the ‘pretence’ often feels essential to survival. But somehow, at church, it feels immensely frustrating. I feel resentful at ‘hiding’, even though this is entirely by choice. I feel abandoned and rejected – though again, I know that the reasons behind that are all of my own making. Sunday 10 May was no different – thoughts of self-harm were frequently in my mind as I sat there listening to the sermon and the prayers, aching at the ‘lack of caring’, and wanting somebody to hold me.
In the afternoon I felt too tired to move – physical exhaustion combining with the leadenness of the exhaustion attached to low mood. I always find weekends difficult to cope with – there is no work to distract me, and I find it challenging to keep calm and to remain the adult, when my children are, in essence, simply behaving like children. In addition, the ‘therapy break’, even though it is only a few days long, really affects me, as I struggle to remain feeling connected to my therapist between sessions.
I curled up on the sofa under my latest ‘transition object’, a fleece that I bought during my therapy break over Easter. My youngest child playfully picked up my phone and started taking photos, climbing over me to get a close-up as I tried to bury my head under the fleece’s furry hood. He tried to climb under with me, complaining that it was too small and that I should substitute it with a blanket, but I persuaded him that there was room enough under its comforting presence for the two of us. Sometimes small children can be extraordinarily empathetic. I never want my children to feel as though they have to ‘carry me’, or as they though they have to make me feel better. I don’t want them to know that sometimes when they hold me I feel as though I am the child and they are the adults. Lying there under a cover that symbolised acceptance and connection, next to a little person who saw me with such different eyes to the ones I view myself through – I got through the rest of a difficult day on a moment-by-moment basis, drawing as much as I could, on little drops of comfort and of love. I may find it difficult to maintain faith in God, and I have virtually no faith in myself – but my children have faith in me, and that gives me hope.