Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Duncan's Health Update 27/2/19

Thank you so much for everyone who has been praying for me, here's an update on my health and our prayer needs:

1. We managed by God's grace to get the side of my bed rearranged so that i can get in and out of bed and bedroom with crutches (there wasn't much room before).

2. We're trying to get hand controls fitted to our van so that i can still drive. I'm really hoping to get this done in time for a training day I'm teaching in Sussex soon, and a Serge prayer day the following day. To get the right controls, I need a driving assessment but these take weeks to come through. Thanks to prayer, I got an earlier appointment via a cancellation. Time-wise, its still v.tight, so we need prayer that 1) we'd be able to choose the right controls, and 2) the parts would arrive in time.

3. We've had to fill in so many forms to do with disability - Shays done a great job on this. I've often said that being disabled is like having a part time job, between doctors and paperwork, it takes up so much time (time that neither me nor Shay really have).

4. My physical pain is very bad, especially in my back, and knees. I can be groaning out loud in pain for spells of an hour until i'm too exhausted to make any noise anymore. The rest of the time is constant pain but i can keep reasonably quiet about it. A few minutes ago, my knee dislocated, and wouldn't go back in right away - that's painful but its not as painful as the other stuff. Often, if I wake up in the night, I can't get back to sleep because I'm in too much pain. 

5. My mobility is getting worse, my knees stop me walking much. I'm using my stair lift, and crutches to get around the house.

6. This all creates lots of work for Shay. She's getting me food and drink whilst i'm stuck in bed. She's picking up prescriptions, making phone calls, filling in paperwork, home educating the kids. And helping me with anything in the day I can't do. I can't really take care of the kids atm, so she's doing lots of work.

7. We need to do some DIY to make place more disabled friendly. Its a challenge to make decisions about this when in so much pain, and also to know who to hire for stuff. I don't have the strength to do it, and Shay doesn't have the time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Back in the Wheelchair & Feeling Derailed

After so much progress, 2 weeks ago I ended up back in the wheelchair. I'd made a lot of progress in my physical rehab but after a fall on the stairs (due to one of my joints slipping out of place) -I found myself back to square one. Its discouraging because it feels like a backwards step. Its upsetting, because I heard my son saying, 'I wish you didn't have a disability because then you could run and race me.' and then saw him going around people at church asking if they would play football with him. Its also scary because I remember what it was like almost 4 years ago, when my wife and I had to work through it with little help, and sadly a lot of opposition.
But I'm also reminded of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was in a bad situation years ago when his city was decimated. And then things looked better as a King decided to help him out. But then last minute Jeremiah got kidnapped and taken off to Egypt. It looked like his life plans were being derailed. But actually there was a good purpose in him going to Egypt. So, I find myself thinking of Jeremiah, and trusting that God actually has a good plan for this backward step.

Monday, February 04, 2019

What Happens When You Tell People You Have PTSD?

There's lots of encouragements these days to be open about mental health problems. but what happens when you're open? I think it varies on who your friends are and how clued up they are. In order to help other sufferers and their friends, here's my experience. I tried sharing my PTSD symptoms with friends and pastors over a period of around 20 years, and got a variety of responses I wasn't ready for. Hopefully these responses will help get you ready :)

1. Puzzlement. For years I tried explaining my PTSD symptoms to a few people (even seasoned pastors), but no one seemed to get what was going on with me. It meant that I almost gave up trying to explain it or get help for it. But don't give up, ask God to help you find someone who can help you.

2. Rebuke. After sharing some of my childhood abuse for the first time ever, a lay counsellor told me that Jesus would want me to repent of having a tough exterior that deters abusers. I still had tears in my eyes, and was taken aback that the first response to my story, was a rebuke. Maybe that's happened to you, but don't give up looking for help, there are better counsellors out there. And if someone shares their abuse story with you, start by telling them how sorry you are that this happened to them.

3. Ridicule. One pastor friend laughed at me, and told me I didn't have PTSD. Unless they're a psychologist, ignore their diagnosis!

4. Suspicion. Once I told some people I had PTSD, they then viewed me with suspicion. Even if they'd trusted me for years (whilst I had those symptoms and demonstrated sound judgment), the mention of PTSD caused distrust. Perhaps they confused hyper-vigilance (a PTSD symptom) with paranoia (not a PTSD symptom). Being treated this way can gaslight you and make you wonder if you're even worse off than you thought. So make sure your health professional assesses you, rather than your friends whose understanding of PTSD might come from either the movies or a quick google search. Conversely, if a friend tells you they've got PTSD, assure them that this is a normal response to trauma, and that they are not falling apart.

5. Abandonment. Some people just ignored me when I told them. Its painful when you've opened yourself up like that, but don't let that stop you from seeking out help, coz it'll be worth it in the end. Bear in mind as well that God will never abandon you, and that Jesus knows what its like to be abandoned.

6. Encouragement. A couple of people said they were glad I'd got a diagnosis and was getting support. That was encouraging! I think that these days, there's more awareness, so you'll probably get even more of this than I did.

7. Safety. When i found a professional counsellor, they first said, 'we need to get you feeling safe before we can do counselling' and then they made accommodation arrangements so that this was so. This also meant avoiding contact with the people who did some of the unhelpful responses above that didn't make me feel safe. If a friend tells you they've got PTSD, help them get and feel safe. Now is not the time to practise your lay-counselling skills on them - now is the time to get them safe!

8. Space. Some people gave me the space I requested because they knew I needed to focus on counselling. My amazing wife was key in making sure this happened. In one instance this even involved her trying to stop someone getting on my case about something, because it would be too much for me. If you can, get someone to help create space for you. If you've got a friend having counselling that stirs up deep pain from the past - hold back from telling them all their character faults - you've got the rest of your life to correct them, it doesn't have to happen during the most vulnerable season of their life :)

9. Helpful Counselling. A Christian psychologist diagnosed me and then gave me amazingly helpful counselling. In a few months, they helped me get through something I'd tried most of my life to deal with but didn't know how. They did it without the puzzlement, rebuke, ridicule or suspicion. They truly acted like Jesus to me, who does not crush a bruised reed (Is 42:3). It was life-changing, and so worth it.

Interestingly, my counsellor told me to not tell more than 5 people that I had PTSD symptoms and was having counselling. This was for 2 reasons: 1) People have different understandings of PTSD, so you don't know what you're really communicating to them (too many people think of movies they've seen, or how the media associates PTSD with killers on the rampage). 2) It gets exhausting to have to keep updating a large number of people about how you're doing when you're going through painful counselling sessions. I also had an unrelated potential legal battle, and the symptoms might have been used against me - so it was best to keep it private. I didn't properly take the advice however, and told more people, thinking that openness was the way forward. In the process, however I've learned that we need to be careful about who we open up to when we're vulnerable. I'm glad I opened up to some people, but wish I'd kept the circle a bit smaller. Don't throw your pearls before swine when you have PTSD, you might be too vulnerable to take the trampling (Matt 7:6).