Opinion, Personal, Spirituality

Forgiving the Unforgivable

Maybe we shouldn’t be thinking of forgiveness as a permanent act. Maybe we recognise forgiving as a potentially impermanent state of being.

Some people may have noticed I hadn’t kept my promise of posting at least once a month. I didn’t contribute anything to this blog during March and tonight’s contribution may be something that’s forced, rather than flowing freely.

March might be the biggest month of any year for me. It’s an exciting time because of the spring equinox, which usually falls on my birthday. The equinox feels like the real beginning of the New Year. My brothers birthday also falls in March, though I don’t see a lot of him these days. My son’s birthday is just a few days before mine.

March also brings plenty of sad reminders. It marks the anniversary of the first death that ever affected me on a deep level, the death of “Auntie” Sarah, a close friend of my Aunt and mother.

March marks the anniversary of my wedding to my childhood sweetheart, the date of his disappearance a year later (which falls on my brother’s birthday), the date of his death and the date of his funeral (which was also the date of our first wedding anniversary). I didn’t attend the funeral, though I was the one to begin arranging it.

Yep, March is a big month and sometimes I wince when I notice the date and remember the significance of it.

So far, since his death in 2015, March has been that month where I feel like I’m most likely to be contacted by ex-in-laws. One year, my ex-sister-in-law appeared on my doorstep. This year it appears a friend of hers, “Kazza Evans”, had been sent to leave comments for me on my public Facebook posts instead. The sister-in-law currently has me blocked having already visited my profile to pester me last November.

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A comment left on my wall on the 4th March 2019

I’ll try to cut a very long story short.

My relationship with my son’s father was toxic, damaging, included abuse and yet I stayed in it for almost six years, marrying him right towards the end of the relationship.

I don’t need to explain or justify things. Anybody who knows how abusive relationships work, or how even non-abusive, but completely wrong-for-you relationships work completely understand how easily you can step into a marriage unconsciously, go through life on auto-pilot and ignore everything wrong with your life until you suddenly can’t ignore it any more.

It happens. It could happen to you. It’s happened to lots of people.

When I began to deconstruct and end my marriage, I was open and honest about my reasons why. My ex-husband was well aware that I had a long list of complaints and issues with his behaviour, but that sex abuse topped the list. I’d said that now his behaviour was affecting our son negatively, I could no longer use the excuse that staying with him and continuing to suffer myself was best for our son.

In short, my ex knew all the reasons the relationship was ending and he knew that I did not under any circumstances consent to him touching me. Yet the time between me first speaking my truth and him finally leaving our home spanned five months, forcing me to spend another Christmas with him and giving him plenty more chances to change his ways or do something to fix things.

He had more chances than he deserved. And he assaulted me twice more in those five months, as well as continuing other behaviours on my list of complaints.

I was as benevolent as I could be, for as long as I could be, because I cared about him despite everything. I never even saw him as a horrible, vindictive man until the weeks leading up to his death, when I decided perhaps I’d been looking at him through rose-tinted glasses for most of my life.

That man was a rapist and I didn’t even get mad or hate him until the very end, after I’d kicked him out and he started doing things like making false reports against me to child protection services and coming into my home uninvited, going through my things, tearing up my clothes and reading my private conversations with people on my computer.

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A comment from my ex-sister-in-law left under one of my blog shares on Facebook, in November 2018

So, he abused me. He then began tormenting me after he left my home. Then he, I suppose after his mental health really declined, rather selfishly took his own life.

As a Mental Health First Aider and someone interested in supporting people with their mental health, I’m not supposed to say suicide is selfish. The subject came up during training. We discussed suicide and the psychologist leading the training sympathetically addressed all people who have committed suicide as “victims”.

I was triggered, of course, and had to remind the psychologist and the rest of the class that infamous serial killer Fred West took his own life in prison. In fact, lots of abusers, rapists and killers have taken their own lives once they no longer have the control they are used to (consider it one final act of taking control) and thanks to my personal experience with my own abusers suicide, I can safely say some (if not all) suicides are fucking selfish.

The psychologist had tears in her eyes, as she quietly agreed that I made a very good point.

My ex took his own life, but before his body had even been found I was being accused of murdering him. According to ex-in-laws, I either killed him through the method of “covert psychological murder”, suggesting that I’m the one that abused him, or I killed him with voodoo dolls and witchcraft.

The claims about witchcraft didn’t come out of nowhere. I make no secret of the fact I’ve always been called a witch my whole life, but one of the lesser known facts of this whole sorry story is that actually, in the weeks leading up to my exes death, when he was causing me a lot of trouble and I began to really feel the effects of the trauma I’d been going through, I’d been confiding in my friend Nate on Skype about the whole ordeal.

Nate is a practising witch and shaman from the US, and he was so horrified by my story, he suggested I try to tackle my issues with my ex through magical methods. He was so angered that I had been abused, he said that my ex should and could be killed, with magic. He began suggesting various Gods and demons that could be summoned. I wasn’t sure what to think, and told Nate that I couldn’t kill anybody.

Not only was I not even convinced or sure that what Nate was suggesting is even possible, but I just did not feel that it was morally right to go around killing people, by any methods.

This was a private conversation on my private home laptop, that my ex-husband (or someone else coming into my home on his behalf) had read. Whether they read the whole conversation or not, I don’t know, but for all those whom ever wondered why these bizarre claims are being made, this is it. Someone genuinely suggested killing my ex with witchcraft, and it wasn’t even me! And my ex had to come into my house uninvited and go through my stuff to even know about it.

I’m amazed my ex-in-laws and anybody else involved feel like the good guys in this story. I spent weeks clutching police alarms, refusing to sleep, terrified because even after his death, people were still using his key to come into my house until the locks were changed. One of my neighbours, who was fond of my ex and his brothers, was trying to convince me I was actually being haunted by my ex, so I had obviously strong reasons to suspect that even he was involved in this campaign of torment.

How did these people convince themselves I am the bad guy in this story?

THAT PHOTO - PROOF
This screenshot is essentially proof that people were coming into my home using my exes spare key following my exes death. The photo mentioned, which was in Trudi’s possession, was left in my kitchen one afternoon in April 2015.

I had to continue to live in my ex-marital home for three years, with that suspicious neighbour always just across the street. I spent most of that time terrified and not knowing who I could trust, because people right on my doorstep seemed to believe my ex-in-laws instead of me.

It didn’t matter that I’d had all the proof in the world and my ex had been having to manipulate situations and evidence to try to make me look bad. Didn’t matter that I was given Legal Aid to fight him in court the exact same week the BBC ran a story explaining domestic abuse victims weren’t being granted Legal Aid because most of them couldn’t provide sufficient evidence they were victims.

I want to add that as well as very publicly being accused of abusing and murdering my abuser, repeatedly, I’ve also been accused of having affairs and “posting my tits all over the Internet”. I was accused of having Antisocial Personality Disorder, and being a criminal, drug addict and alcoholic too!

My ex-husband cheated on me several times, including on my 23rd birthday with my brothers long-term girlfriend and childhood sweetheart whereas I’ve never cheated on anybody.  I very rarely drink, am most certainly not a drug addict and do not have Antisocial Personality Disorder, and thanks to the claims made about me in 2015, had to prove all of these things in court a little later that year.

Leaving the ex was the hardest thing I ever did. It should’ve meant the end of my torment and troubles, but instead it carried on or began popping back up here and there out of nowhere, every time I thought I closed that horrible chapter of my life and moved on.

Yes, just when I think I’ve came to terms with it all, forgiven and tried to see things from everyone else’s point of view, I’m called a murderer and an adulterer whose naked all over the Internet again and I feel a mixture of rage and sickness so deep in my core that in the past it’s made me physically and emotionally ill for a prolonged period.

I suppose I didn’t forgive yet, even though I keep on trying. I don’t know if I ever can.

My ex and his siblings had a negligent, abusive childhood. My ex-sister-in-law is one of the most unstable, unwell people I’ve ever met, thanks to her unstable upbringing and I try to remind myself they are or were the way they are or were, because they hadn’t had very good lives. I try to remember my ex lied to everybody about our split and relationship and it’s just easier for some people to portray me as evil than it is to accept the truth.

It’s easier for my ex-sister-in-law to blame me for his suicide, than consider the fact that the day he ran away, he was begging me to take him back while she bombarded him with something like 50 text messages. The messages came one after the other, despite his lack of response and included a threat to falsely report him to the Department of Work and Pensions for benefit fraud.

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Our last conversation is not a pleasant read, but at no point does he deny the abuse and instead apologises a number of times for “doing wrong”. He deleted the conversation from his own phone before taking his life.

One of the last things my ex screamed down the phone to me was “I can’t go back to Trudi’s, she doesn’t want me there. Please let me come home.”

I said no. I was not responsible for the life or death of the man I had given chance after chance. I spent years spineless, so I could bend as far over backwards for him as possible. He dominated and controlled every aspect of my life.

I can’t be sorry for taking my life back, and a lot of people should feel sorry and ashamed for their behaviour towards me.

I’m supposed to forgive everyone that’s ever wronged me, or hurt me, because that’s what Jesus or Buddha would do. That’s the suggestion made in just about every spiritual circle and what every spiritual healer or life coach will tell you. I wont be able to be happy, have a good life or attract the right things into my life if I hold onto anger over the past and towards people.

Apparently.

But am I really “holding onto anger” though, or do I keep letting go of it repeatedly? Isn’t it only stirred up again whenever I have to recall these events I really don’t want to talk about any more? Aren’t I simply feeling completely justifiable feelings when I have to read another post about me being a murderer on the Internet?

Am I just not reacting as if a bullet has hit me, when someone has pulled the trigger? Is this not completely normal and human?

Am I really failing to forgive all of the time, or do I succeed in my attempts at forgiveness sometimes? Aren’t I only unforgiving sometimes, but forgiving at all other times? Why is that not good enough?

Am I not absolutely fine, in the here and now, until somebody makes my past the now, again? Do I not accept everything? Have I not used these events as an opportunity for amazing personal growth? Don’t I even find myself able to empathise with those causing me hurt? Don’t I only sometimes suffer with bad feelings that make me feel bad?

Aren’t thoughts and feelings transient things?

Isn’t it enough that I am spending time mastering awareness and observation of my feelings, instead of allowing myself to become my feelings?

We cannot insist that a patient forgives someone who has deeply, and forever, harmed them. And, we certainly do not want to make our patients feel guilty because they cannot do something superhuman (forgive the unforgivable).

~ Mark Banschick M.D.
Psychology Today

I think maybe I do forgive, when I’m in a forgiving state, or perhaps not thinking about any of this at all. And I think maybe I don’t forgive when I’ve been triggered and am clearly in an unforgiving state. Seems pretty fucking straightforward to me. Seems like all that stuff I read about needing to forgive is just a load of unreasonable crap that doesn’t really take real life and how it works into account. But maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe the spiritual pressure to forgive is not at all unreasonable and the human mission genuinely is to become superhuman and stop feeling pain when somebody hits you.

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mindfulness

How Do I Meditate? | Meditation for Beginners

Meditation is easy!

There are some common misconceptions about meditation. These include what it involves and what makes a meditation successful. I’m here to tell you now that the only way to be unsuccessful with meditation is to never try it or to give up on it as a practice.

Meditation is a proven successful method of reducing and managing stress and anxiety. It is a simple practice, often used for grounding the self in the present moment.

In our busy modern lives, we are usually inundated with tasks and our minds are always racing from one thing to the next. You could think of finding time for meditation as a chance to recharge your brains batteries between tasks, like charging your mobile phone when it’s starting to run low. It’s a much-needed break for the mind and everyone can benefit from it.

Meditation can be a great start to the morning, kicking you off with calm and clarity for the day ahead. It can be done at night before bed and is proven to help people relax into sleep. Even children can learn and benefit from the practice of meditation.

 

If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.

~ Amit Ray

Meditation isn’t just for spiritual and religious people. It’s not just for psychics and people trying to practice magic. It doesn’t necessarily involve going into trances and having visions, though for some people, this might be what happens.

Some people go into meditation with a specific purpose other than grounding themselves or to try to help them sleep. They may go into meditation with the intention of healing themselves, energetically, or to connect to spirit guides. These sorts of practices are obviously unsuitable for those who do not believe in Spirit, or the power of energy healing, but what is suitable for everyone is basic meditation practices, scientifically proven to be good for mental health.

In this article, I would like to focus on basic meditation techniques and mindfulness for the beginner interested in using meditation for relieving stress and grounding yourself in the present moment.

How do I Meditate - Meditation-for-Beginners

Step 1 (Set a timer for five minutes):

As a beginner, you want to start by finding somewhere quiet to practice where you will not be distracted. It usually helps to be sitting down comfortably in a chair, or on the floor, keeping your spine straight, with your hands on your lap or knees and your chin tilted slightly towards your chest.

Meditation can be done standing or lying down too, but as it can be extremely relaxing, you might find yourself falling asleep when led down. If you don’t want to fall asleep when you’re lying down, it is always helpful to have a timer set. I personally use a free meditation app on my phone called Insight Timer.

The main thing is to ensure you are comfortable, as you will be maintaining this position for five minutes.

When you are more skilled at meditation, you will likely find you are able to go into meditative states even when there are distractions around.

Step 2 (Focus on your breath):

Now that you are comfortable, you are to begin by focusing on your breath. Breathe in and out through your nose, and notice the sensations. Is the breath cooler coming in or out?

You might want to focus on the rise and fall of your chest or belly, but do not try to change your breath. Just let it be, as it is.

You are just going to focus on your breath to begin with. It may help to visualise the word “inhale” with each breath in, and on each breath out begin to count up, from “one”, all the way up to “nine”.

If your mind wanders off and becomes lost in thought, don’t despair! Just notice, without judgement, what has happened and bring your attention back to your breath. Keep counting on each breath out, all the way up to the number 9.

You should now already be in a much calmer state of mind.

Step 3 (Relax):

Continuing to breathe in and out, bring your awareness to your body. How does it feel? Are you holding tension anywhere?

Tell yourself “relax” and breathe into the area you are holding tension. Allow yourself to let go.

When you feel your body is relaxed, you can bring your attention back to your breath and once again count all the way up to “nine” on each breath out. You can keep repeating this process, but read on to find out how to deal with thoughts and feelings that arise during your meditation.

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Photo by Danne on Pexels.com

Observe your thoughts:

It’s natural for the mind to wander, even during meditation. With practice you may find it wanders less and less often, but whenever it does, notice the thoughts and watch them, as an observer. Do not follow the thoughts. Just let them pass you by.

To not follow them means to not get carried away with the stories and ideas the mind is presenting to you. Notice them. Observe them without judgement and let them go, returning your awareness to your breath.

You are not your thoughts. You are the watcher. You are the listener.

My favourite analogy is to compare thoughts to traffic. You are the watcher, sat on the side of the road as the cars, motorcycles and trucks (i.e. your thoughts) continue to drive by.

Observe your feelings:

During meditation, some emotions may arise. Notice these feelings. Perhaps you can identify them. For example, you might feel happy or sad. Don’t argue with your feelings or try to change them. Just observe the feeling and let it be.

Just as you are not your thoughts, you are not your feelings. You are the watcher. You are the one that notices the changing tides of your emotions.

Understand that everything is just as it should be in this moment. You are exactly as you should be. Sit with your emotions without judgement, over-analysing or attaching stories to them and continue to focus on your breath.

Notice if anything changes. Feelings are transient and it’s possible they will change even during the meditation.

Observe your body:

Notice bodily sensations. Your tummy may rumble. You may suddenly feel urges to scratch an itch. You may feel tension coming back or feel your body relaxing as you bring your awareness to the tension and breathe into it. Resist the urge to change anything and simply be, as you are, aware of what is going on in your body and mind and aware of your breath coming in and out.

Notice the space:

Space is the gap between thoughts that you may feel you rarely or have never experienced if you have quite a busy mind. You can begin to learn to notice it by noticing the space between each breath – that moment between each inhale and exhale.

As you learn to observe your thoughts as a watcher, you begin to find space. Notice the space between each thought. Notice these quiet moments, where you are not thinking at all. Notice when the space gets longer or shorter.

Notice how you feel in this space.

Don’t give up:

If you’ve follow my guidance, soon you will have successfully practised meditation for five minutes, without worrying that you’ve had “too many thoughts” or that you’ve somehow done something wrong because you didn’t go into a trance. Hopefully, you find it relaxing and perhaps even enlightening in some way. Maybe you will quickly see the benefit of taking the time to meditate.

The trick to getting the full benefits of meditation is to never give up on it. Continue to practice every day, perhaps several times a day, and/or for longer periods if you feel able to. The more you practise, the easier it is and the more likely you will see positive changes in your health.

Personal

The Journey Begins: About the Author

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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I begin my career in complementary therapies in the summer of 2018, starting to see clients for Nutritional Therapy and brainstorming ways I can provide more, valuable services. It’s of course not clear yet if I’ll still be doing this in a year, in two years or even in ten years. I could end up taking another direction in life! However, as I never stopped wanting to finish counselling training and support people who might be having difficulties in life, I’m feeling confident today that I’m on the right path.

I was only 12 years old when I first had counselling training with Vale of Berkeley College. It was agreed among staff that students might benefit from having a team of “peer counsellors” available to talk to. They felt students in need may feel more comfortable opening up to people their own age, so about three students each from Years 8 through to sixth form were selected to receive specialist training from the school counsellor.

Staff invited students to apply for the role of peer counsellor and I was later informed I’d been selected because they thought I was a perfect candidate. The Deputy Head explained that though I was still so young, I seemed to have “lived” more than my peers and was noticeably already struggling with mental health issues myself, putting me in the perfect position to understand others going through a hard time.

I attended a three day training course at a pleasant countryside resort with about 15 other students. We never received official qualifications for the training done, but I’d say it was valuable training that had a tremendous impact on my belief system and helped shape the adult I eventually became.

I never stopped believing after that training that every young person would benefit from taking the course. Imagine being trained at the age of 12 to study your own prejudices, recognise them for what they are and come to the understanding they are not valuable beliefs! Imagine exercising your skills in empathy, listening and offering constructive and supportive feedback to those in need!

I can’t say I always effectively used the skills throughout my life and that I’ve been perfect. I can’t say I was always the best listener outside of a counsellor/client setting. I certainly can’t say that as I grew older, new prejudiced beliefs didn’t creep in that I’d eventually notice and challenge. But I can say I’ve been trained in such a way there’s a heightened awareness of these things upon self-reflection and such awareness of your faults is necessary for self improvement.

In my first training course, we covered more than just the basics covered in my OCN Level 1 counselling training course taken 6 years later. I began Level 2 shortly after completing Level 1, but my own mental health issues were so severe, I abandoned the notion of ever being able to support anybody.

I thought ‘Why would anybody ever want my help?’

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Me during the summer of 2017. Still feeling very much like an alien.

At the time, I didn’t realise that most people working in psychotherapies and counselling (and other forms of therapies) are usually drawn towards healing professions because they have suffered themselves.

Carl Jung coined the term Wounded Healer to describe such people and so, professionals receive counselling and therapies themselves throughout training and during their careers to ensure they do not carry their wounds into sessions, thus potentially having a negative impact on their ability to help a client.

I have left it too long to begin counselling training again at Level 2, and must take the Level 1 training again, which I hope to begin next year. I think the timing will be perfect, as it is only now after many years of issues that I am finally on the real road to recovery and starting a new chapter in life. The time is right!

Throughout my difficulties, I have sought therapy over the years with the NHS and been rejected time and time again for various reasons. I am just waiting to find out if I will be rejected again or finally going to be having therapy. I begin studying psychology this autumn, after years of studying mental health and human nature at my leisure and being encouraged to go university because understanding people is supposedly one of the things I’m good at.

In the mean time, as well as completing a course in Nutritional Therapy and beginning to see clients, I continue to study nutrition at basic levels. I have taken some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy training and a course in Mindfulness and am trying to prepare myself for the huge (but slightly terrifying) moment I can officially get back to work after years of sickness and all my time spent as a stay-at-home mum.

The nature of my issues are quite complex, with me having been “signed off” for life. Nobody expects me to ever be able to function in society properly even as the unemployed, never mind at work!

I suffer tremendously with a disorder known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), which is a severe form of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and quite frankly has been life-ruining. I’ve also over the years accumulated a stack of diagnoses, including a diagnosis of a personality disorder I have challenged repeatedly; Depression; Anxiety; an eating disorder; Agoraphobia and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I also have physical issues such as joint complaints and a long-standing sports injury from my younger, more active years known as Chondromalacia Patellae which has been causing me immense pain and mobility issues for almost 20 years now.

I don’t feel any of these labels adequately describe the difficulties I’ve had, but it would take much longer to explain why I’ve been deemed such a “write off”, and at such a young age too! Let’s just say I am no stranger to being called “crazy”, however, and stigma follows me wherever I go.

Who knows exactly where my mental health difficulties began? I feel most of the worst things that have ever happened to me, happened after leaving school. That’s when I faced the worst kinds of hardship and trauma, not limited to total poverty and abuse. That’s when I abused alcohol and cannabis as coping mechanisms. That’s when authorities really started to notice my existence.

My last mental and emotional breakdown was incredibly recent – just before my last period. All my knowledge and skills are no match for PMDD when I am not more actively working on preventing it’s symptoms through better management and coping strategies.

I don’t feel like I had a particularly bad childhood at home, though I sometimes suppose that watching age inappropriate movies was not healthy. My father left when I was very young and I have only a few memories of him. I particularly remember finding school horrible, not wanting to go and that every bit of teasing and bullying from my peers deeply affected me.

I was a happy, but sensitive young child and by the time I got to secondary school I was miserable. What started out as sadness when I felt so constantly rejected by my peers started to transform into anger. I was angry with everyone, and angry at the “system”, forcing me into schools that I deemed nothing but little prisons to brainwash and prepare children for some sort of lifetime of enslavement.

Some teachers thought I was a genius. If they liked me, I was usually one of their favourites! It was obvious some other teachers thought I was a “bad kid” with behavioural issues and, quite amusingly, as well as being a peer counsellor, I was also placed in anger and behavioural management classes on and off for three years with the fantastic Rob Turner, who I believe might have been the brother of famous TV chef, Brian.

I’ve joked before that at school I was every character of The Breakfast Club, rolled into one. I was smart and athletic, so – when I felt like it – quite the high achiever. I was also the “basket-case” and “criminal”, often in trouble, finding myself suspended or placed in isolation. I was even “the princess”, something I never truly realised until well after I’d left school and understood that I wasn’t widely hated like I told myself, and actually had plenty of friends!

It’s taken me years to “get over” school and stop blaming it for ruining my life!

As an adult, I believe that mental and physical health issues are so prevalent in the west, because we’re genuinely doing a lot wrong and we’re doing it to people from birth. I can’t say I always agree with the way things are run and I never did. Perhaps, that’s, in part, why I became unwell in the first place.

So, I wonder, what I can do to help people on an individual level, and what can I do to make a larger impact on society on the whole and begin to effect positive change?

Is it partaking in marches, screaming until I’m blue in the face about political matters, social issues and so on, or can I find other, less mentally exhausting and potentially damaging ways to do something about the state of public health?

I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll do a little bit of it all. You’ll have to keep on reading to find out how I’ve chosen to continue my own journey of recovery and supporting others around the world in their own.