The challenges and urgency of articulating depression, by @AliyaMughal1

Screen Shot 2018-10-02 at 08.08.44How do you characterise something that since the dawn of mankind has proved excruciatingly difficult to grasp and define, by the people who simultaneously know it best and yet are also rendered incapable of understanding it?

 

The full article is available here.

Aliya MughalI’m a dedicated follower of wordsmithery and wisdom in its many guises. Reader, writer, storyteller – if there’s a thread to follow and people involved, I’m interested. I’ve built my life around words, digging out the stories that matter and need to be told – about science, feminism, art, philosophy, covering everything from human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, to famine and the aid game in Rwanda, to how the intersection of art and science has the power to connect the disparate forces of humanity with the nanoscopic forces of our sacred Earth. Find me @AliyaMughal1

 

http://www.aliyamughal.co.uk/blog/2015/8/19/the-challenges-and-urgency-of-articulating-depression

Cervical screening after sexual violence, by @SarahGraham7

Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 10.38.18

Many people find being invited for and having cervical screening (a smear test) uncomfortable and distressing. But if you have experienced sexual violence, you may find it particularly traumatic or distressing.

If you feel this way, you are not alone. We recently did a survey with survivors, where almost half said they had not attended cervical screening because of their experience of sexual violence.

Cervical screening can feel both intrusive and intimate because of the physical position the test is done in and the medical equipment used. This means it can trigger flashbacks of the things you have been through, or evoke physical and psychological responses, like a panic attack, dissociation, or freezing. Many survivors are anxious about having to disclose their experience to a healthcare professional. …

 

The full article is here.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is here.

Sarah GrahamFeminism, journalism, literature, culture, life, love, and interviews with interesting women. Twitter @SarahGraham7

Does CBD Oil Really Work? Here’s What Two Industry Experts Have To Say About The Trending Remedy, by @sianfergs

Cross-posted from: Sian Ferguson
Originally published: 29.03.18

Screen Shot 2018-09-18 at 10.28.41

As more and more states legalize cannabis, people are becoming increasingly interested in the medical benefits of the plant. One topic that seems to be on everyone’s mind is cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil.

Cannabis plants contain over 60 chemical compounds called cannabinoids. Two of those cannabinoids are CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These cannabinoids affect our endocannabinoid system, which is located throughout our bodies. By affecting our endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids cause various changes within our bodies.

THC has an intoxicating effect, which means it gets you high. CBD, on the other hand, won’t get you high—but research suggests that it does have a number of other health-impacting properties. CBD oil is meant to harness those health benefits for those who want to treat certain conditions and ailments, such as anxiety, using a natural product. …

You can find the full text at Healthy Way; the image above is from the same.

Sian FergusonAn intersectional feminist blog tackling issues from a unique South African perspective. The posts attempt to explain and discuss some academic feminist theories in a simple manner, so as to make feminism accessible to more people. Follow me on Twitter @sianfergs

Creativity as therapy, by @rae_ritchie_

Cross-posted from: Rae Ritchie
Originally published: 04.04.18
Creativity_Primary.jpegThe BBC’s Get Creative festival is a welcome attempt to encourage participation in pastimes that are proven to support wellbeing, as mental health practitioners have long recognised.

With its gentle piano music and lingering shots of hands working pins and needles, MAKE! Craft Britain could only be a BBC Four documentary.

MAKE! Craft Britain was a three part series featuring craft novices trying activities such as rug-making, letter-pressing, silver jewellery making and cross stitch (all three episodes are available in the UK on the BBC I-Player).

Few other television channels would risk such long scenes without any narration or dialogue for fear that the audience would drift away.  ….

 

The full text of this article is available here. 

 

Rae Ritchie:  I blog mainly about history and women’s magazines, with more creeping in on contemporary magazines than I’d expected, and most definitely consider myself (and my writing) to be a feminist.

A Brief History of the Speculum, at Femme Vision

Cross-posted from: Femme Vision
Originally published: 23.03.17

L0035255 Speculum auris, made by John Weiss, 1831

The above image, dating from 1831, is a diagram of a vaginal speculum designed and manufactured by John Weiss, a well-known maker of surgical instruments in London in the 18th and 19th centuries. The company in fact still operates to this day. Intended for direct vision of the cervix via the vagina, the first vaginal specula were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans.[1] However, the invention of the ‘modern’ speculum that is familiar to us today is largely credited to the American James Marion Sims, a well-known gynaecologist in the 19th century.


Read more A Brief History of the Speculum, at Femme Vision

How reading helps me to self soothe, by @rae_ritchie_

Cross-posted from: Rae Ritchie
Originally published: 05.02.18

Rae Ritchie explores the power of reading and how it can help us to manage our emotions … 

By this point in the calendar, most of us have given up on any resolutions that we were attempting, especially if it’s one of the perennial statements such as ‘Get fit’ or ‘Lose weight’.

I’m not an advocate of New Year resolutions, but in 2017, I decided I wanted to read more.  In particular, I wanted to read more books (like most people, I already spend more than enough time reading my phone!).

A passion for reading

For once, I was successful.  Over the twelve months, I read forty-four books, each recorded on a dedicated Pinterest board.

A dormant passion for the written word, long quashed by a misplaced belief that reading for work purposes somehow sufficed, was reignited.  …

 

This article was first published by Mental Health Today. You can find the full article here.

 

 

Rae RitchieI blog mainly about history and women’s magazines, with more creeping in on contemporary magazines than I’d expected, and most definitely consider myself (and my writing) to be a feminist. @rae_ritchie_

 

Smear tests: an intersectional look at why we don’t attend, by @PhilippaWrites

Cross-posted from: Philippa Willitts for Global Comment
Originally published: 26.01.18

Seven years ago, I collected stories on Twitter about surprising things that people had had said to them during a smear test and published them. From one woman who was recognised from being on TV to others being complimented on their cervix, it is clear that inappropriate comments are far from unusual.

Others experienced colleagues of the doctor or nurse, including students, attending without permission or even entering the room during the course of the examination and, although many people in the discussion were keen to point out that smear tests are usually painless and quick, it was clear that they are not painless enough, or quick enough, for many.

Anyone who has suffered the indignity of a gynaecological examination knows the score. At best, it’s a bit awkward but essentially fine; at worst, it’s humiliating, painful, damaging and triggering. It can cause physical injury, it can lead to misgendering and it can cause psychological trauma. At least one person I know have even had her GP tell her to skip smear tests in the future because the potential benefit of detecting cervical cancer does not weigh up against the trauma to her mental health that she experiences whenever a speculum is involved in her care. …

 

First published at Global Comment. You can find the whole text here.

 

Incurable HippieMad, disabled, feminist, radical, angry, lesbian, pacifist, warrior, geek, flower-power chick… About hippie blog? Somewhat neglected but still well loved. Bits and bobs from a British glasses-wearing, sweary, fat, disabled, atheist ex-Catholic, anti-capitalist, pacifist feminist lesbian with eclectic tastes. (@PhilippaWrites)

 

Photo: Pan American Health Organization/Creative Commons via Global Comment

DOMESTIC ABUSE’S TIES TO HOMELESSNESS IS A SERIOUS WOMEN’S ISSUE – @KATEHARVESTON #XISAFEMINISTISSUE

Cross-posted from: Feimineach
Originally published: 28.12.17

Imagine for a moment that the only option you have to escape daily violence is life on the streets.

That’s the reality millions of women across America face every day. In fact, 50% of all homeless women report that their homelessness stemmed from acts of domestic violence so severe their only options were to stay and die or leave and face homelessness.

Homelessness stemming from domestic violence is not discussed as frequently as it should be, but it’s one of the most pressing women’s issues of our time, as resources for fleeing women are scarce and access to medical care and food are constantly dwindling.
Read more DOMESTIC ABUSE’S TIES TO HOMELESSNESS IS A SERIOUS WOMEN’S ISSUE – @KATEHARVESTON #XISAFEMINISTISSUE

Smear Tests and being a survivor – #SmearForSmear @helen_a15

Cross-posted from: Helen Blogs
Originally published: 22.01.18

Roll up roll up … according to Twitter today, having a smear test is quick, easy, and nothing to be embarrassed about.

Apparently research has shown that women are too embarrassed to go for a smear test. This is being tweeted about today under the hashtag #SmearForSmear – a campaign which encourages women to post selfies of themselves with smeared lipstick on. Its to highlight that the number of women going for their routine cervical screen testing is falling.

The hashtag has been trending all morning, and all you have to do is have a quick look to see the mass consensus – that there is nothing to be ashamed of, that there is nothing to be embarrassed about, it doesn’t matter what your ‘lady garden’ looks like or doesn’t look like, that its quick, that it could save your life, that the nurse has seen it all before,  that its worth it and so on.
Read more Smear Tests and being a survivor – #SmearForSmear @helen_a15

This is the trauma of getting your period at Yarl’s Wood, by @SarahGraham7

Cross-posted from: Sarah Graham
Originally published: 17.11.17

“When you’re on your period, at the very least you want a clean environment, you want pads that are comfortable, and you want the freedom to eat what makes you feel better,” says Grace*, a 43-year-old refugee from Uganda.

Grace sought asylum in the UK after facing persecution and sexual violence in her own country because of her sexuality. She now has refugee status and the right to remain in this country, but in 2015 she was detained in the notorious Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre for seven months.
Read more This is the trauma of getting your period at Yarl’s Wood, by @SarahGraham7

ON ESCAPISM: THE 2 REASONS THOSE DRUGS WON’T WORK

Cross-posted from: Elizabeth the Third
Originally published: 15.03.17

I should tell you that as I begin writing this I’m considering whether to pop an opiate, a benzo, both, or neither.

“Should I take it/them before writing? Will I be lucid enough if they kick in? They’re not strong doses, but I’m allowed to take three at once… What dose is a strong dose? What can I get away with here?

“Mid-writing? Best of both worlds. Do some sober writing, and then experience a bit of wacky writing, see what happens…”

The other option of course is to take the drugs for the medical condition for which they’ve been prescribed. In a minute. Or now. It doesn’t matter.

They seem like innocent, innocuous questions. But there’s a hell of a lot going on behind those debates. For me – maybe for you too.

This is your brain on(/anticipating) drugs. *frying pan*
Read more ON ESCAPISM: THE 2 REASONS THOSE DRUGS WON’T WORK

Abortion Is Legal in South Africa — But Illegal Clinics Are Thriving. Why?, by @sianfergs

Cross-posted from: Sian Ferguson
Originally published: 03.04.17

faded poster with the word ‘ABORTION’ in purple capital letters is plastered on a lamppost near my house in Grahamstown, South Africa. At the bottom of the poster, a phone number is printed in large font. Similar posters can be spotted in cities like Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Cape Town. It might be on an electricity box in a small town, or on the side of a traffic light in a coastal area. The posters live all over South Africa — in fact, they’re so ubiquitous I rarely noticed them until a foreign friend mentioned them.

“Are these clinics legal?” she asked. “Because, I mean, abortion is legal here, right?”


Read more Abortion Is Legal in South Africa — But Illegal Clinics Are Thriving. Why?, by @sianfergs

On Self-Care and Working Smarter by @Durre_Shahwar.

Cross-posted from: Durre Shahwar
Originally published: 25.09.16
About a month ago, I was a blubbering mess. Everything in my life was seemingly going well, but I felt restless and dissatisfied from within and I couldn’t work out why. I even tweeted a few HELP ME statuses that I deleted, yet not before a friend of mine saw them and reached out to me, asking if I was alright. I tried explaining to her how I was swamped. How really, there was nothing wrong, but I was just feeling swamped and somewhat vulnerable to the world. We had an open conversation and I realised I’ve been doing this self care thing all wrong. In fact, I hadn’t been doing it at all.

Self care; those words that get hashtagged at the end of an seemingly indulgent Instagram photo so we feel we are justified in doing whatever pleasurable experience or activity we photographed. And that is important. Pleasure is important. Having a day off and going to the spa is important. But I was making self-care into another task on my to-do list, without setting aside time for it. I was working harder, not smarter, because society applauds women who are able to work 5 days a week, keep house, husband and still look fabulous. (“NO IT DOESN’T”, I hear you scream. Yes, it does. Read this article).

I had been working harder because I thought ‘working smarter’ was just another one of those trends that sound good but make no sense. I had been working harder because that has been my motto ever since I was a teenager, mapping out exactly the amount of degrees I would do and in what and what jobs they’d lead me to, because I believed that’s what I had to do if I was to ‘make something of myself’. I’ve been seeing fun as instant gratification, and working hard as future gratification that I can cash in later. Except the harder I work, the quicker time goes by and I don’t get much closer to what I want. And I carried on doing this because I didn’t know what ‘self care’ or ‘working smarter’ really meant.


Lorna Simpson, 5 Day Forecast, 1991


Read more On Self-Care and Working Smarter by @Durre_Shahwar.

Crazy at The Not Me

Cross-posted from: The Not Me
Originally published: 25.03.15

I have been cross-posting my writing on The Huffington Post Blog for a while, but until1972.181.9_1.tif recently, no one had commented on any of my pieces. That changed last month, when The HP posted my story about rape. All of sudden, dozens of comments piled up at the bottom of this one essay.

Almost all of the responses were supportive and empathetic, and many people shared their own stories. Some commenters, however, used the space to express their belief that girls and women have a duty to protect themselves. They argued that “predators pray [sic] on easy targets,” and that there are certain situations “where even ‘no’ has no meaning.”

You can read the full text here.

The Not Me : In school, my art work was about the construction of gender, conflicting female identities, fairy tales, and cognitive dissonance (images at francescamilliken.com).

I DON’T WANT TO GO TO THERAPY. by @thewritinghalf

Cross-posted from: The Writing Half
Originally published: 13.12.16

Your teeth hurt badly, you go to the dentist. Your back’s killing you, maybe the osteopath or perhaps the chiropractor. Some other physical pain: probably the GP. And when your mind is troubling you?

 

carrie-in-therapyNo matter that the Sex and the City girls – and everyone else in Manhattan – were going to therapy way back in 1999, it’s still not a likeable answer for many of us in 2016.

 

Carrie and her friends, just like me, are in the social bracket that generally have a more positive attitude to getting professional help when our minds get ill: caucasian, female, 20s-30s, culturally assimilated, educated.

Just like Carrie and her friends, I’ve done the therapy thing. Four rounds of it to date, in fact. 
Read more I DON’T WANT TO GO TO THERAPY. by @thewritinghalf

A guide to completing additional questions for Personal Independence Payment by @JayneLinney

Cross-posted from: Jayne Linney
Originally published: 01.02.17

Follow this link for a very comprehensive PIP guide  which focuses on examples that you could for the additional information boxes.

Often people with disabilities or long term illness get so use to living with pain and discomfort that they do not realise how much their disability affects they everyday life.

Please share as widely as possible

capture

 

 

Jayne LinneyI’m a disabled woman, a life long feminist and Social Activist- I write from a personal perspective, usually about the current Political climate and its affects on disabled people. Director of DEAEP – Social Enterprise run by and for disabled people. @JayneLinney

5 Do’s and Don’ts For Communicating With The Chronically Ill by @GoddessKerriLyn

Cross-posted from: FOCUS: Feminist Observations Connecting Unified Spirits
Originally published: 23.09.16

When you love someone who’s chronically ill, it’s hard to see them in pain and you (naturally) want to help. But intent is not the same as impact. Sometimes your well-intentioned efforts to assist can result in our feeling frustrated that you just don’t “get it.”  Follow these Do’s and Don’ts to improve communication with the chronically ill person in your life.

Do’s:

1. Actively listen to us. Give us your full attention without rehearsing what you’re going to say. Let there be silences and pauses in between our sentences without making us feel rushed. Try not to insert a story about yourself or how our pain reminds you of someone else.  Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give us.
Read more 5 Do’s and Don’ts For Communicating With The Chronically Ill by @GoddessKerriLyn

The power of words in an age of anxiety by @AliyaMughal1

Cross-posted from: Aliya Mughal
Originally published: 19.02.16

“The magic of escapist fiction is that it can actually offer you a genuine escape from a bad place and, in the process of escaping, it can furnish you with armour, with knowledge, with weapons, with tools you can take back into your life to help make it better. It’s a real escape — and when you come back, you come back better armed than when you left.”

Neil Gaiman beautifully articulates the essence of why reading is such an indispensable pastime in those moments when reality lets us down.

Gaiman was referring to how his 97-year-old cousin, a Polish Holocaust survivor and teacher, had escaped into the world of books during the Nazi occupation. For her and the pupils she secretly read stories to, books, forbidden at the time, provided a soul-saving gateway into a place that for a few precious moments, freed their minds from the shackles of their daily existence.

Liberating the mind can be both a vital and yet seemingly impossible task in the worst moments of mental anguish. Depression, for instance, has the overwhelming capacity to trap people in a vicious cycle of interminable horror.

The question of whether books can provide relief in the context of mental health is one that’s usefully being explored in Future Learn’s latest course, Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing, a surprisingly rare offering that combines a traditionally academic field with the psychological element of the health sciences.

One of the questions posed in the opening survey for learners is that of why and where they read, “to pass the time” being one of the multiple choice answers.

It’s interesting to explore what is meant by this. The act of reading as means of passing the time sounds at first like a passive one, pursued for the sake of just getting through the day.

But for many people who suffer under the “daily rain” of depression, simply getting through the day can be a major victory.

Pause for thought

The social and psychological value of books isn’t a new idea. It was raised in Aristotle’s Poetics, where the concept of catharsis was explored in terms of the impact of tragedy to purge us of emotions, specifically pity and fear. The definition of catharsis is still debated but the essential idea of using the words of others to reveal something of ourselves to ourselves is one that has prevailed through the ages.

Jack Lankester, an English teacher for whom the sonnets of Philip Sidney provided a sense of fellowship and solace when he experienced heartbreak, describes the restorative power of poetry in a way that reflects this idea of a cathartic experience:

“I believed in my naivety that no one had ever been as heartbroken as I was. No one understood… When I started reading him, the penny dropped in that instant, I felt wildly less alone. And the fact that he had been writing these poems 500 years ago, really did make me realise that being heartbroken or sad or lost is in many ways inevitable. And it’s a part of the human condition.”

Far from being a passive experience then, reading poetry is a means by which we can intimately and consciously engage with the essence of what it means to be human. It’s a precious counterpoint to the modern day fixation on lives that ought to be in continual motion, racing from one day, one achievement, one love, one, one feeling, one thing, one experience to the next.

One of the poems I find myself going back to again and again for this very reason, and for its own wonderfully lyrical sake, is Dew Light, by WS Merwin:

Now in the blessed days of more and less
when the news about time is that each day
there is less of it I know none of that
as I walk out through the early garden
only the day and I are here with no
before or after and the dew looks up
without a number or a present age

As Stephen Fry, who also features in the Future Learn course, says: “There is so much nutrition inside the best poems.”

 

Aliya Mughal : I’m a dedicated follower of wordsmithery and wisdom in its many guises. Reader, writer, storyteller – if there’s a thread to follow and people involved, I’m interested. I’ve built my life around words, digging out the stories that matter and need to be told – about science, feminism, art, philosophy, covering everything from human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, to famine and the aid game in Rwanda, to how the intersection of art and science has the power to connect the disparate forces of humanity with the nanoscopic forces of our sacred Earth. Find me @AliyaMughal1

The Big Bad Anti-Diet Brigade by @MurderofGoths

Cross-posted from: Murder of Goths
Originally published: 06.06.16

This is a subject that comes up a lot within the body positive plus size community, a hell of a lot. And it’s always controversial.

Weight loss.

There tend to be two camps.

On the one side – weight loss has no place within the body positive community, we are bombarded daily with messages from both society and the media about how we should be losing weight, about how weight loss is Great Goal and how losing weight is an amazing applause worthy achievement. Can we not just have one bloody space where our bodies are loved and cared for without having to dodge diet talk?

On the other – it’s a personal choice to lose weight, and therefore no one else gets a say.
Read more The Big Bad Anti-Diet Brigade by @MurderofGoths

Abortion: My 13 Year Secret

(Cross-posted from Helen Blogs)

Her name would have been Sophie.
His name would been Jack.

She/he would have been 13 now. A teenager.
A teenager who would probably have been grounded a few times by now, if they had taken after me anyway. A teenager who probably had a girlfriend or boyfriend. A teenager who would have started secondary school and hopefully be thinking about what subjects to take for GCSE’S. A teenager who hopefully wouldn’t be making the same mistakes as I did.

I often wonder what Sophie or Jack would have looked like. Would they have looked me? Would they have looked like him? Would they have had blue eyes, brown eyes, blond hair, brown hair, black hair. Would they have been tall, short, slightly built or more well built like me?
Would they have been quiet and calm, or loud and boisterous? Would they have been activists at heart like their mother and father were?

I often wonder what they would have been like.

And I, especially most recently regret massively the fact that Sophie or Jack only lived for a very short amount of weeks, inside my body.

And that I made the decision to not continue their life.

I made the decision to have an early abortion. Distinguishing the life that was starting to grow inside of me.
Why am I writing this blog? Why am I telling you this?
Why after 13 years of total silence am I breaking that silence and speaking out?
Why after years of pro choice believing am I about to probably upset some people off by saying out loud that I cannot think anything other now than that life is precious, life starts at conception, and the life I carried did not deserve to be aborted.
Why after years of silence am I writing about the abortion that I had that will probably upset some of you reading this who have faithfully followed my writing and blogs online over the years and feel like you know me?
Why after years of silence am I sharing this that will probably get the Pro Life tweeters online condemning me and my actions because in their seemingly graceless world that is what they feel they should do (with the exception of a couple of people I’ve recently tweeted with whose brutal grace put tears into my eyes)

Why after years of silence am I telling you this?

The simplest answer is because it feels like I have come full circle.
When I first started blogging years ago it was a space to write about the things I could not vocalise. It was a space to write the things that my head was screaming but that I could not express whilst sitting in front of someone. And as life changed, so did I, and as I battled life, I wrote about it. ‘Fragmentz’ the identity was created, as a blog and as a tweeter. And I talked/wrote about life. And was grateful for the support I gained and received through that season from people I didnt know as I often went to places that were uncomfortable for folks, and where there were ‘no holds barred’ so to speak.

When I became a Christian again in October 2013 life changed. So did the need to write anonymously about absolutely everything in my life that had and was happening. And I started to explore life as a more ‘cohesive’ person, joining together the ‘Fragmentz’ who could only discuss the horrors of the past online with strangers (and a very small handful of people offline who didn’t live locally to me) with ‘Helen’ who had found a community safe enough/close enough offline to start exploring them properly face to face with people.
Blogging took a back seat a bit, and I started to write much less about what was going on and what I was experiencing. I remember some of you (people I’ve connected with solely online over the years) being quite hurt when I chose not to record/blog/publish transcripts of my baptism last year. I got to a place where whilst I love and need my online relationships I also needed privacy and space to explore and ‘do life’ in relationship with people offline. Something that was a different experience for me, and at times VERY challenging. I discovered it is one thing being ‘vulnerable’ online via twitter and a blog and a totally different thing being totally vulnerable face to face with people offline.
To look people, people I was learning to trust and can say I do trust now, in the eyes and be vulnerable with. It was tough.

But its what has happened. And it has been life changing. Life giving.

A few months ago during one of my many hospital stays which seem to be frequent at the moment I remember spending most of the time reading my Bible and praying. And felt a real sense of needing to ‘complete’ what had been started in terms of vocalising my story.
A real need to complete what had been started by God in terms of accepting who I am as a person and my past.
I felt like God was saying to me that if I was going to die then I needed to have made my peace fully with Him. And in that moment realised that IF I was going to die that I didn’t want to die with out having ‘become’ right with Him. Fully.

And that my ‘story’ was largely about what people had done to me. It was about the abuse as a child. The rape as an adult. And other stuff in-between, like the self harming, down ward spirals of depression and the overdose. The consequences of what happened to me.

But what I also realised was that my ‘story’ needed to become about things that I have done too.
I’ve needed to forgive much over the years, but I have also needed to be forgiven of much too.

My ‘story’ needed to include the realisation and acceptance that I have made mistakes. Huge massive big deep profound heart ripping mistakes that have held me condemned for many years.

A mistake that some people who identity as ‘pro life’ would call murder.
A mistake my pro choice friends and people I’ve identified with for years would call a choice I had every right to make.

But as I’ve journeyed life with people, offline, I’ve journeyed what it means. Life. What ‘life’ means. And being part of the lives of people who have become pregnant and carried their babies until they have been born, and seeing that process made me reevaluate my thinking. I remember the day when someone who has become an amazing friend showed me her first scan picture of the baby they longed for for so long. I could have cried. And just kept looking at it going ‘oh my God, theres its nose, feet, toes’ etc. It was so clear.

I realised in that moment, that very moment, in the pub over lunch that day looking at that scan picture, that having always been a pro life thinker (life in every shape or form, including the life of animals which was my big activist heart back then) I had become ‘pro choice’ in order to live with what I had done. Because by having an abortion I had gone against everything I believed in.
I had gone against the fact that I once believed life is life and is so from the moment it is conceived. I had gone against believing that all life, including the life of animals deserved to live.
And to live with myself I made myself believe that the baby I had aborted was not a baby. Just a mass of cells. Just a thing. Just a fetous. With no heart beat. With no feelings. With nothing. I made myself believe it was not life.
And I closed my heart and my head down. In order to survive. Which is what I’ve had to do numerous times over the years.

In order to be the ‘survivor’ that my twitter profile says I am, I had to close my heart and head down many many times to the horrors of life, in order to just keep on going. In order to take that one more step in front of another. In order to just make the day through. In order to live.

My baby has always been called Jack or Sophie though. So perhaps I didn’t close my head and my heart completely. Just enough to survive. Because if I believed what I had done was perhaps not the best thing back then I don’t know how I would/could have carried on.

But I also know, back then I didn’t know how I could/would have carried on when I discovered I was pregnant.
My living situation was volatile and difficult. The situation with my ‘boyfriend’ difficult. He didn’t care. I remember the day I told him, and he told me he didn’t care. I could do what I liked. I could have an abortion. He did not want to know. I could have the baby. He did not care or want to know. A week later he text me and told me to not contact him again, changed his phone number and ‘moved on’. (He lived from house to house with friends). He disappeared from my life. I’ve never seen or heard from him again.
I felt if I had gone to some of the Christians I knew at that time that they would have been more concerned about my ‘sin’ than anything. And shocked that Helen had got herself pregnant. Whether or not that would have happened I don’t know. But I felt it would.

I was alone. Totally alone. I was drinking a lot. Self harming. And still battling with other peoples behaviour towards me.
I had no money. No support. No where to go.
I was alone.
I felt like I simply could not bring a child into the chaotic world I lived in. Into the chaotic world my mind was. Into chaos.
I went alone to the clinic that day.
I went alone into the room to see the Dr’s, with just the nurse whose name I don’t even know alongside to get the medication I needed to take. I went back the day after, alone.
I walked in alone. And I walked out alone. I walked the next few days alone.

And I’ve continued to walk this particular walk alone. I’ve held this secret, alone. For 13 years.
And as I’ve come to value life more and more over the last 12 months the more painful the choice I made that day has become.
The more the condemnation and shame has hit.

The stronger I’ve got especially over the last year, the more I’ve come to realise life can be lived fully, the more Ive journeyed with people offline in community, the more I’ve become part of peoples lives, and the more they’ve become part of my life the more I’ve come to realise I don’t want to carry secrets. Because with those secrets come shame. And the condemnation. And the feeling that what I did could never possibly be forgiven by anyone. And if you read the tweets from pro life tweeters online you would be led to believe that it can’t be forgiven.

But thats not the case.
One of my favourites quotes is by Brene Brown. It is ‘shame cannot survive being spoken and met with empathy’.
And I discovered I needed to speak my shame.
And so I did. At the end of last year.
I spoke my shame.
I spoke my shame to the handful of close friends who have journeyed with my over the the years who I simply could not do life without. I spoke my shame to them fearful that this might be the ‘last straw’ in what they could cope with – having thrown lots at them.
I spoke my shame to my immediate church leaders, who have journeyed the last 18 months with me, whose baby girl changed so much of my thinking, fearful that this might the ‘one’ thing that would make them think ‘that Helen, she is too much’.
I spoke my shame to my church Pastor fearful that this would change his thinking of me, that he would treat me differently, that he would tell me this was the one thing that God could not forgive. That he would not want me in his church any more.
I spoke my shame to God.
I spoke my shame, to them all. Fearful of rejection.

But in that speaking of my shame, I discovered freedom. It wasn’t instant. But I found it.
I discovered I was wrong. Wrong to expect rejection which has been such a big part of my life, from the people I love. And who I have discovered and finally(!) accepted love from. I discovered that in speaking my shame to them, they were able to respond with love. And empathy. And its changed me.
I have discovered that despite there being absolutely nothing left to hide now, no part of my ‘story’ unspoken that these people, these friends that have become my family still love me. Still accept me. And still want to walk with me.

And I discovered I could speak my shame to God, who already knew it anyway, and still come to Him.

The last few months have been a painful journey.

The last few weeks have been a revolutionary journey.

With experiences of God that I simply cannot put into a blog, so personal and profound, that have made me fully realise and accept that I have been forgiven. And if I am gong to die, tomorrow because I’m hit by a bus or if I’m going to die because my respiratory system shuts down during an asthma attack and I can’t breathe any more, or if i’m going to die because my immune system is not working properly and my white blood cells are so high there could be something much more serious going on than we know about then actually that is OK.
It IS OK in as much as I am at peace now. I am at peace with my story. All of it. I am at peace with the people who have hurt me. I am at peace with the decisions and mistakes I have made.
If I am to die, I am at peace with God.

I have forgiven much. I have been forgiven much.

And so as I said above, we have come full circle. Having journeyed this journey over the last fews months, offline, it feels right to journey it with people online now. It feels right to speak out to people who have followed and supported me via twitter and fragmentz/helenblogs and to be fully open and transparent. Honest. About who I am as a person.

If you have shared my blogs/tweets over the year’s I’d be grateful if you were able to share this one. Because I want as many people as possible who have had contact with me to know who I am. What I have done and where I am at.

It feels especially right to be sharing this now because more recently I’ve had an influx of ‘pro choice’ and ‘pro life’ tweets being put into my timeline due to the political status in the States, and some big pro life marches that have recently taken place there.
It feels especially right to publish this blog, a blog I’ve actually written over quite a few times over months now because I am desperate to see more grace, especially within the pro life movement. A movement that seems to forget the life of the mother. A movement that online especially comes across as far more concerned with condemnation than anything else.
I beg you, if you, like I am now, are a pro life thinker that you consider love, and grace and mercy as you tweet what you tweet and say what you say.
Remember as well as the life of a baby you are ‘protecting’ you have the life of a woman to think about too.
And she deserves more than being shamed and condemned.

If you are reading this having had an abortion, there is no condemnation. you are loved.

Thank you for reading.

This is it.
This is me.
This is my story.

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