This is for you if you are in despair.

Today is World Mental Health Day.

I was going to repost a previously written blog, but instead I felt a strong urge to write to you today, if you are in despair.

I know how you feel.

I have been you. I have been terrified to leave the house. I have felt I had no control over my own body. I have felt my brain was alien and unpredictable and I could no longer rely on it to tell me the truth.

I know what it is like to wake in the night and be consumed with fear, to be able to hear blood pumping around my body, to know the sound deafening in my ears.

I have wanted to hide, and felt shame. I have not known who I was or how to go on. I have wanted to disappear, in every way possible because carrying on felt too hard, too difficult, too painful, too unpredictable.

I know how you feel.

I know the despair that rises up to meet you in the morning and settles on you like a fog as you finally manage to get to sleep.

And I want to tell you. Don’t give up. Please.

It is possible to get better.

I know because I have.


It has been a complicated route to this new peace, and along the way there have been delays, false starts and wrong turnings.

I am not going to pretend to you it has been easy.

Because you already know that isn’t true.

I know how hard you are working, and how you long to feel differently. I know you wish it was as easy as ‘snapping out of it’, or ‘pulling yourself together’.

If only, hey?

My path to peace has involved every aspect of my being. I could not just treat the chemical imbalance with drugs (which I have) without looking at the environmental aspects of my life. There would be no point going to therapy to talk through and understand the mindsets and patterns of behaviour that have made me ill (which I have) without thinking about my home life and the kind of community (open, vulnerable, supportive) I want to be a part of.

We are not just flesh and blood, we are also spirit and soul. We are not just hormones and synapses, we are also heart and home. And we need to attend to our whole self.

This takes time.

It is okay for it to take time.

Let me encourage you. As you inch, step by step, hour by hour, to a greater understanding, as you continue to walk forwards, things will get easier.

If you would have told me a five years ago, or even one year ago, I would be feeling as I do now, with more energy and peace and hope, I would have struggled to believe you, because I felt so bad for so long. I know the despair, I know how all encompassing it can feel. But please, hear me, you can get better.

Somewhere in the mix of anti-depressants and therapeutic practices, long walks at the river and lots of rest, I have found myself again.

And this me I have discovered is at peace. I know who I am and what I should be doing with my time. I am not constantly confused or distracted by the other, well-meaning, voices who have good suggestions. I do not feel the need to appease everyone else, I have found good boundaries that keep me safe and enable me to live well. I can enjoy time with friends and adventures and hard work. And I know when to get an early night, cut back on the caffeine and spend time in my garden.

I trust myself to know what I need to remain well.


And I have a husband and friends who will give me the nod if I am filling my life too full and be brave enough to lovingly suggest I might need to slow down, if they can see stress building.

It is not just me who has been learning. We learn best together.

And the unexpected, particularly amazing, thing about recovery (because, like an addict I know this is a life long journey into health I am walking, not a quick fix) is the gifts that you find along the way. Not gifts for yourself – feeling well is good enough – but gifts for others.

Your story, your experience, might be exactly what someone else needs to hear. We need each other because this is a complicated beast we are fighting and we all bring something unique to the battle.

Our stories are our weapons, gifts that slay despair.

But today, for now, don’t worry about fighting, and don’t worry about trying to make yourself better. Don’t strive, that won’t help.

Let my story start to fight your despair

And your part today: keep putting one foot in front of the other and know you are not alone. Don’t give up, hear the truth – it is possible to get better.

Take it from one who knows.



For when you think you should be able to snap out of it.

A few years back I noticed a book lying around. It was by a Christian speaker, one of those women who talk in authoritative statements, wearing power suits in bold colours.

I never read the book, but I remember it’s title, which shaped itself as a command.

It was called ‘Don’t Dread‘*.

Oh, if only it was that easy.

I was raised on stories of overcomers. I was told testimonies of people who through their faith had seen the breakthrough. I heard these stories in church on a Sunday, and round the dinner table. All the testimonies seemed to me to have a happy ending: healing, salvation, success, victory.

For a long time I believed this was what a Jesus-follower should look like: a strong, determined, passionate person who fought the good fight and never gave up. A person who didn’t dread, who defeated dread through the courage of their convictions.

But as my mental health crumbled I started to believe that I wasn’t, couldn’t possibly be, one of those people.

It was after the birth of our third child, our son Ed, the wheels really fell off.  And, after the strong encouragement of my husband, I sought professional help and was diagnosed was with post-natal depression and anxiety.

I believed I wasn’t strong enough.

If only I was better at intercession. If only I was a holier person. If only I had more courage and a tidier home. If only I was more organised and more positive. If only I read my Bible more and, even occasionally, had a quiet time.

I tried really hard to be an overcomer and beat my anxiety, but it didn’t work.

Victorious people would be able to control these feelings, I believed. I needed to bury my pain, keep it out of sight. Because if it was exposed then everyone would see the naked truth of who I was.

Of course, that doesnt really work, and the more I tried to keep my panic attacks at bay, the more I sought to control and contain my emotions, not acknowledging them or processing them, the more anxious I became.

Every now and then, just when I had thought I had it all together again, I’d find myself sliding out of control. My inner anguish manifesting itself with physiological symptoms. Heart rate increasing. Breathing difficult. Temperature rising. Stomach swirling. And the world slipping out of my grasp.

The shame was overwhelming.

Accepting that I needed both medication and counselling was hard. It was humbling. I had not been able to do what I thought Christians should be able, through faith, to do: to make myself better, to pull myself together.

But at the lowest point, when I had nothing to give, I found some truth. The kind of precious truth you only discover when you are mining in the pits of despair. It was there God met with me.

He wasn’t waiting for me to act like an overcomer and he didn’t expect me to pull myself together.

He also didn’t heal me instantly and give me a miraculous story to end my testimony with, but he gave me hope. A hope to counter the dread. He taught me that I didn’t need to keep up appearances because he loved me. And he showed me that I am not alone even when I feel I am.

I have described my battle for mental health as the very best worst thing to ever happen to me.

Because the process, this journey, which has undone me, has taught me that in Christ’s upside-down Kingdom, my vulnerability is my strength. I am finding that as I stop hiding and start to expose the things I have been most ashamed of, my confidence is growing. I am realising that his power is made perfect in my weakness.


I don’t have to dread, but this is not something that is achieved through my own self-effort.

It is something that is given to me when I surrender.


*I still haven’t read this book, but I am sure it isn’t anything like as bad as I thought (maybe).



In loving memory.

I haven’t written for a few days. Life kind of took over.

Sometimes best laid plans have to be put to one side to deal with the important stuff of real life.

Last Thursday was my 37th birthday. It was a fine day, I caught up with a few friends, and received some lovely gifts.

Last Thursday was also the day I said goodbye to my Nan.

My Mum phoned at about 3:30pm, as I was finishing coffee with some friends, to say it looked like the end was close and I might want to make my way over to see Nan sooner rather than later. So I did.

I shared some precious moments with her, before she went home.

Nan was 95 and had been telling us for a while she was ready to go. She was tired and missed her husband, my Grandad, who died 8 years ago. (She told me those last 8 years had felt like 80 without him). She was almost completely blind, her sight had been failing over the last few months, and very thin, the cancer in her lungs causing her too much discomfort and tiring her out too much to retain any energy for eating. She held my hand tightly and we told each other that we loved each other.

Believing in eternity and grieving are not incompatible.

In my family we are living this truth at the moment.


Nan died on Friday evening. She was an amazing woman of faith, convinced about heaven and not afraid. She had the end of life she had wanted: she wasn’t in pain and she wasn’t in the hospital. She was in her own home, surrounded by family, cocooned in love.

And with all these blessings, even in a death as good as this one surely was, there is great sorrow.

Because she is no longer with us. And we miss her. And while our souls are at peace and not afraid, we know this part of life, here on this earth with Nan, is over.

And we grieve in this knowledge.

To grieve is not to deny heaven.

When you truly have loved, it is good to truly grieve.

The grieving is the gift you receive if you loved well.


I believe I am an immortal soul, held in a mortal body.

I believe we all are.

My body will die, but the core of who I am, the essence of me, will live on, somewhere, somehow, for eternity.

I don’t know what this looks like, and I don’t know how it will be. My understanding is limited to all my earthy brain can comprehend. Occasionally I hear a whisper, I see a glimpse, of what it might be like. In those moments when time falls away and for a small fragment of time everything is like it should be, when the only thing that matters is our love for one another. When I go and kiss my son as he sleeps at night, when my eldest discovers something for the first time – a new author or idea, when my lovely ten year old cartwheels across the garden in the sunshine.

And if everything froze for that moment, all would be well.

Moments of perfection, of suspended heaven.

But time is not frozen, it marches on; minutes and hours and days. And it is from within this structure we understand life. Time is the God-given framework we live within.

Our lives are divided up into tangible parcels, each day waiting to be unwrapped and revealed.

And the finite nature of life is one way we define its value.

We know the cost of lost years to a job and or relationship that made us unhappy. And we know we cannot put a price on time spent with loved ones.

Part of the value of life is found in the fact that it is temporal. That we are mortal.

In my heart I believe we are more than flesh and blood, that we are eternal beings, but believing in something you cannot see or fully understand is hard. And as I stretch into this difficulty I feel the friction between two realities: the immortal soul and the earthly experience.

The more I have pondered this, the more I am grateful it is hard to think about eternity. I’m glad I struggle with this belief and find it impossible to live with an awareness of heaven all the time. If these ideas preoccupied me I would miss out on the beauty of living here and now. I would miss the joy to be found in this earthly body, on this planet, at this time. The messy glory and wonder and splendour of it all.

It is because I am fully alive here and now, I can hold the precious time-wrapped memories of being with my Nan; of the trips to stay with her when I was young, of the twin room my sister and I shared (complete with the tin of sweets awaiting our arrival), of her presence and wisdom as I grew up married and had children, and of the precious conversations we have shared in recent years.

My recollections of life with Nan are bittersweet, because she is gone. She imparted ideas and wisdom and love to me that will last forever, but the happy memories are for now tinged with sorrow.  I cherish the time we spent together, and somewhere in my soul I know I will see her again, but now is a time to grieve, because she is not here and we miss her.



On loving Jesus and taking anti-depressants.

My therapist tells me that she believes it probably won’t be long until there is a test, a blood test or something, that will tell what is chemically happening in your brain. To ascertain that something isn’t right, some chemical or hormone isn’t being released correctly or in the right amount (forgive me – I am no scientist).

This would distinguish between mental illnesses that requires chemical intervention and those mental illnesses that can be alleviated by environmental changes and talking therapies, without the need for the pills.

And although we shouldn’t have to prove it, we shouldn’t need that validation, it would make life a lot simpler.

It would answer the critics who think that those of us who suffer just need to pull ourselves together.

When I was first prescribed anti-depressants nearly seven years ago, I went through (what I now know as) a fairly normal emotional cycle. Relief, to have a potential solution. Fear they wouldn’t work. Shame, I needed to take the drugs in the first place.

Relief. Fear. Shame.

Relief. Fear. Shame.

These three ideas, on a loop.

And when I stopped taking the anti-depressants a year and a half later I was nervous, but quietly confident. I knew I had come a long way, learnt a great deal, and was, to a large degree, healed.

There was a certain pride in having stopped taking them. I had battled and done the hard work (changed my lifestyle, done many hours of therapy, and learnt new techniques for relaxation). I felt it was a new day, an opportunity for a new start.

(Although you have to wonder if there is a pride in not taking them anymore then maybe the shame that comes with being prescribed them in the first place isn’t that unexpected, I digress…)

I truly thought I was one of those people who had one slump, one period of depression which needed medication. I believed I was one of those people who would have the story of the illness, followed by learning, then recovery, then health. I thought the illness would be a thing that had happened, that could be boxed away separately, not a part of who I was.

I knew I wasn’t perfect, and I had a lot to learn, but from a chemical point of view… well, I thought that bit was done.

This year, in January, in conversation with my therapist we decided that I needed chemical support again. I have written extensively about this decision, it was a hard one, but ultimately one I am very glad I made. You can read about it here.


I am sure that most people who read this blog are lovely and non-judgemental about those of us who take the drugs, but I have a feeling this is not a universal response.

In fact, I know it isn’t.

In Christian circles we seem to have a problem with antidepressants, maybe more so than outside of the church. We don’t talk about it much. And when we do, we like to talk about it in a ‘they used to but thank God they don’t need them any more’ capacity. It is easier, cleaner, less messy. It chimes in with the version of the gospel we like to tell, of healing and health and resurrection.

But, you see, I love Jesus and I am sure he is fine with my drugs.

In the morning, almost as a joke, as I take my pill (citalopram*, as you asked) I say ‘thank you Jesus for the drugs’. I look at my husband and we laugh.

We laugh because of the distance we have travelled.


I used to find it hard to reconcile my anti-depressants with what I knew of scripture. I would remember what it said in the Bible about having a ‘mind like Christ’, and about how we were being ‘transformed by the renewing of our minds’. There was a lot of talk about taking every thought captive, and the power of positive declaration.

And there is good in all these ideas. But when your mind is a constant stream of anxious thoughts, so much so that you cease to function, it is impossible to take every thought captive. Even with all my energy, the best will in the world and a strong wind behind me, I couldn’t do it.

And there were times, in the last few years, where I felt so angry with myself. So frustrated that I was not able to just get past this. So cross that I wasn’t able to reconcile the truth I knew in my soul with the 100mph anxiety train in my brain.

It was easy to feel like a failure, because surely Jesus should have been enough for me? If he was transforming my mind, then why did I need the drugs?

But there is a difference between knowing the truth in your heart and soul, and being able to translate those truths to the working of your brain.

I can’t categorically say why I have ended up in this position, where I am daily medicating because of a mental illness (because let us be honest, that is what I am doing).

I think it probably has a lot to do with many, many years of abuse.

I am not talking about substance abuse, or alcoholism,

…but being addicted to proving I was worthy.

This was the emotional abuse I put myself through.

My self-worth was based on how other people saw me. I wanted my work colleagues to think I was hard working, creative and intelligent, my parents and peers to think I was a good person, Godly Mum and a loyal friend, my husband to think I was fun, committed and sexy, and my kids to find me available, emotionally intuitive, and energetic.

I was desperate to be seen as a woman who had it together.

And I pushed myself harder and harder to try and prove it.

Until I pushed too far, and something short-circuited in my brain. Something snapped.

I wonder if the surplus adrenalin and cortisol I produce is my brains way of trying to enable me to work at the pace I had set. A pace that was and is totally unsustainable. A pace that had me on my knees, barely leaving the house, tied up with guilt and feeling like a failure.

I’m no medical professional but this is my best guess.

All I know is my brain isn’t working like it should and I can’t fix it on my own.

The antidepressants help. They give me the volition to live well.

Since taking them my adrenalin and cortisol surge in the morning has calmed and I am far, far less anxious. When I suggest going out for dinner, or taking a trip somewhere my husband frequently asks, “Who are you?” because it has been so many years since I have behaved like this. For me, the drugs are part of my solution to being able to live well and I am grateful for them.


I often wonder how much easier it would be for those around me in church if I could stand up and give a testimony of healing. If I could point to a certain scripture and reveal that declaring it over my mind consistently, or finally understanding the truth changed everything.

I wonder if some people would find it easier if I could stop writing about mental illness as though it is part of my identity.

But it is.

This is my brokenness.

And I’m (mostly**) okay with that. Because I firmly believe it is my brokenness that makes me beautiful. Vulnerable, messy, complicated and imperfect, for sure. But beautiful.


I am a recovering people-pleaser and responsibility addict. I am a recovering restless soul, who didn’t know how or when to stop.

And part of my recovery is daily understanding what grace means.

And part of my recovery is true connection and vulnerability with people who love me.

And part of my recovery is taking the pills.

I need all three.

I need Jesus and my people and my drugs.


* Other antidepressants are available! But seriously, it can be a complicated process to discover which antidepressant is the right one for you, it is most definitely not a ‘one size fits all’ situation. If you are in the process of trying to figure this out – good luck. X

**Mostly… well, hey, I’m human, who doesn’t have days when they wish everything was perfect and they were completely well.

The photo of me above is by no means perfect, it is a little blurry which frustrates me. I can’t remember which one of the kids took it, but I like it. It shows me as I feel a lot of the time now: windswept, in my rain coat with no make-up, vulnerable but present, and pretty good.




What depression can give you.

“Depression for me, wasn’t a dulling, but a sharpening, an intensifying, as though I had been living my life in a shell and now the shell wasn’t there. It was total exposure… What I didn’t realise at the time, what would have seemed incomprehensible to me, was that this state of mind would end up having positive effects as well as negative effects”*

When I was first diagnosed with post-natal depression towards the end of 2009 I had no idea of what was to come. But a door had been pushed ajar. A portal to another place, or perhaps, a portal to the true place had opened, where I would find myself once and for all complete with all my contradictions and complexities.


This is what pain does, if you let it. Pain reveals the truth.

Pre-diagnosis I spent a lot of time pretending. I anaesthetised myself from reality wherever possible. I dulled my senses with routine. I kept myself numb to the vibrancy of life, for fear that it would catch me off guard and make me feel out of control. I hid in my shell.

Whenever I had a panic attack or felt I was slipping out of control, I believed I was weak and stupid, that I didn’t have enough faith or couldn’t control my behaviour and thoughts like everyone else, that I lacked self-control.

When I wasn’t suffering, I existed in blissful ignorance. I buried my head in the sand. ‘That was a one-off’ I would tell myself, ‘I won’t let that happen again’, ‘I just need a good nights sleep and then I will be able to maintain control’.

Once I had a diagnosis, there was no pretending. I was suddenly aware.

The freedom that comes with a diagnosis, with therapy and medication – for it is freedom – is multi-faceted. Yes, I know now I am not alone, that I am and have been ill, and it is not my fault. But I also know that it is real. I didn’t dream it, or make it up. And it might happen again.

I can no longer pretend I am able to control everything.

At my most weary, after a long day of battle, the desire to go back to the me that didn’t know about this stuff, the person who didn’t have the ability to articulate, or the awareness to admit, what was happening, is very desirable. To be ignorant, sometimes seems like bliss.

But it is also true that if you were to medically remove my mental illness and the events of the past 6+ years, I would not be myself. I would be a different person. And, despite the pain, the fear and the anguish, I wouldn’t go back.

Despite the fact that small things that never used to concern me can now take a huge amount of energy to manage – a work meeting, or an evening at a restaurant -, despite the loss I have felt and the difficulty this suffering has caused my family, despite the worry that I may always be like this, I wouldn’t go back.

The negative effects are bad, and well documented, but the positive effects are also huge. It is liberating to not have to hold it all together and pretend. It is a relief to be honest about how hard life can be.

And I like the me I have started to become.

Because I know stuff now I could never have known otherwise and it has made me kinder.

Because I have found being vulnerable and open about my struggles with friends and family connects us in a deeper way.

Because I can see the good in the world so vividly now. I don’t take joy for granted.

Because I am getting to know myself, remembering to accept myself and realising that I like myself (quite a lot).

And because, I am not hiding anymore, I am learning how to really live, and, scary as that is, it feels good.



*From Reasons to Stay Alive, by Matt Haig.



For when you can’t sing in church.

Yesterday in church we sang together.

We sang the words,

“you’re never going to let, you’re never going to let me down”.

The words caught in my throat and I fell silent.

I couldn’t sing the words even though I have found them to be true. He is never going to let me down. I couldn’t sing it even though I believe it, and feel it. I couldn’t sing it although the core of my being is at peace with this statement.

I looked around me and I saw my friends. I saw their grief and struggles, I saw their pain.

I saw loneliness and illness, financial uncertainty and conflict. I saw lives rocked and uprooted by life’s unexpected twists and turns.

And then I thought of my life. I thought of the loss, the people who died despite our prayers, the relationships that remained unresolved, the illness, the sadness.

And I thought of all the times when I couldn’t sing this song.

It is hard to be thankful sometimes. Sometimes, no matter how much we tell ourselves it is true, the truth feels like a cruel joke. Sometimes being around people who are singing these songs can be very alienating. It can be a lonely experience, and you can come away feeling condemned and weak.

I have stood in church while everyone around me was able to sing these words of faith. I have struggled not to find their declaration overbearing, even smug.

If you are feeling like I have felt, if life has left you feeling battered and bruised, it is okay not to sing.

God doesn’t require your praise. And he is not disappointed in you for not having the capacity to speak truth over yourself in this moment.

If you cannot sing these words, if these songs feel too hard I have a word for you. I even believe it could be God’s word to you. (yikes thats a bit full-on isn’t it?!).

This is what he expects of you:


This is what he wants from you:


Be free not to sing. Be free to sit. Be free to cry. Be free.

There are times when singing is too hard. It’s okay.

Yesterday in church I was standing behind a dear friend. He was holding his 5 year old son. His beautiful boy was diagnosed with Autism a couple of years ago. Life has not turned out how any of them expected. Life has been bumpy and complicated.

Life is hard. It is hard to be living on this earth a lot of the time. Things happen that we cannot control, all the time. Stories don’t end as we had hoped. We don’t see the resolution we long for. It is okay to say it is hard. It is okay not to be able to sing.

And this was God’s word to me, and to you. As my precious friend held his son. As his son surrendered to the love of his Father. As he rested his head on his Dad’s shoulder he looked at me as I stood behind him. And his eyes spoke to me.

It is okay not to be able to sing.

Instead, be held.




When life gives you lemons.


You know the saying ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’?

Well sometimes when I see that written or hear it said, it makes me really mad. Because sometimes the lemons are being thrown at my head, or it’s cold and I really want a hot drink. Sometimes the sour taste is hard and unwelcome and I don’t have the energy or wherewithal to go and be a domestic goddess.

We are experts in minimising pain. We love to push past it, to move on quickly. We think if we linger and look for too long, then we’re being self-indulgent, we’re picking over scabs that would have healed if we just ignored them.

But I have found that this tendency to rush past, to turn a negative quickly into a positive, is not good.

In our bodies pain can be an arrow, a sign, to show us something else is wrong. When I fractured my wrists (different times, but yes, I have broken them both) they didn’t look broken, but the pain (and my tears) told me there was something else going on under the skin. The pain pointed to a truth that could not be seen.

The panic attacks I have suffered over the years were also a symptom, a way of getting my attention. Although the experience of a panic attack can be devastatingly horrid (and I have learnt strategies to deal with them in the moment) for me they were primarily a signal that there were other things afoot. They represented the tip of the iceberg, the visible expression of my deeper pain.

I believe the only reason the panic attacks come far less frequently nowadays is because I was willing to investigate the pain, to sit with it, and to talk it through with my therapist. Remaining with the pain was hard, but as I investigated what was going on under the surface, as I exposed it, I began to heal.

Skimming over the surface of our pain can be a way of denying what we are really feeling, a way of burying the truth. Sitting with our pain however is hard, and if you are not use to this practice, it feels awkward. But don’t push past the pain- just because you feel you ought to. Pain needs to be respected. Sometimes (often, in my experience) as you allow the pain to be what it is, you will find you are learning something important about yourself, or someone else, or life.

It might be showing you that a certain relationship is destructive and making you ill. It might be pointing to an environment that has become toxic. It might be revealing to you a habit that is unhealthy and starting to cause long-term damage.

If we do not learn to first acknowledge that we are in pain. Then take time to see where it is coming from, we cannot learn how to live.

If life is giving you lemons, take a load off, be kind to yourself, and, when you are feeling strong and brave enough, look at this unwelcome interruption and see what it might have to say. It might just save your life.

(and you can always buy the lemonade.)


On building and gardening (a metaphor for my spiritual life).

It is tempting to want to be a builder; to work with a plan, to know what you are going to produce before you have finished, to be sure about all the details.

But better by far to be a gardener; to work with the elements, to be surprised by the things that grow and those that don’t, to be malleable and open to change, to have to adapt in order to thrive.

Builders have a level of certainty about the outcome. They plan and prepare and Are-Not-Wrong. Rarely does anything happen along the way to change what they are attempting. Sure, there might be subsidence, or planning permission might have to be attained, but everything eventually bends to the will of the builder. Everything submits to the structure.

Gardeners don’t have this luxury. Growing things in the ground is collaborative. It requires a unity of approach from weather and ground and insects and man. There is a necessary partnership. The gardener can try and force their will upon a patch of earth, but if it is not the right plant in the right place, the correct environment for the vegetables or flowers, they will not flourish, and as soon as the gardener steps back or turns away, the ground will swallow the will of the gardener. It will vanish without a trace.

To be a gardener you have to be involved in a conversation with the earth, you have to adapt and change and develop, you have to relinquish control.

So it has been with my spiritual life.

I used to be a builder. I was certain about many things.

I thought life like that was simpler. Being sure and knowing the answers seemed more straightforward. It gave me confidence, and a foundation which felt safe to build on.

Ideas like bricks were placed on top of each other.

Many great ideas; sacrifice and service, generosity and hard work.

But the cement that held these bricks together was made of my ability, my behaviour, my stamina.

To keep the build on target, I had to keep going and keep getting it right.

Building was about self-effort. The work was my own and I had to complete it. The more I behaved in the right way and stuck to my guns, the higher the walls grew, the more elaborate and seemingly permenant the structure.

Everything had to submit to the blueprint. Even, or maybe especially, things that didn’t work or make sense, had to be made to fit.

Mystery squeezed into five point plans and easy-to-understand life lessons.

Living ideas pinned, like exquisite butterflies, in a case behind glass, unchangeable, untouchable.

I justified it all because I knew it was going to be worth it for the end goal, for the final reveal.

And this was no selfless, benevolent pursuit. The curtain would be pulled back and I would be seen: right and successful and beautiful and admired. King of the castle.

I didn’t realise however, that as I built this fortress of certainty, I was on the inside and becoming trapped. I stopped being able to see out. Perspective diminished and began to lose touch with the things that made me feel alive; connection to the outside world, change and new ideas, possibility and spontaneity.

Eventually the building became a prison.


There comes a certain point when you realise you are not happy. When the fact that you are ill is unavoidable. For me, it took a while, and it wasn’t even me who noticed in the end, it was my husband. I still wanted to carry on, trying, struggling, forcing, thinking one day I would get it right and then it would all feel good again.

It was my husband who was brave enough to realise I wasn’t okay and needed help.

I don’t know where his motivation came from. Love for me I expect, but also I was a a nightmare to live with, so that may have been part of it.

It was him who gave me the keys to start figuring my way out. He started the chain of events by making me call my therapist. He forced me to get some light on the situation.

img_6486And now, years later, I sit in my garden.

This garden is hard work still, but the work is good. It is physical; my body aches and my hands are dirty. I feel connected to everything again.

This garden is evolving. There is always something new to try, a new seed to plant, a new flower to grow. It is dynamic. My curiosity is alive. Nothing is static.

This garden isn’t just toil and hard graft, it is also for relaxation and enjoyment, for my nourishment and joy. It invites and refreshes me.

This garden is teaching me. I am working with the seasons, not fighting or ignoring them. I no longer think every season is for harvest and I should be producing all the time. I am starting to hear the rhythm and music, the ebbs and flows, learning how to live in harmony with the world.


The fortress had felt safe and secure, and for a while it made me feel righteousness, as though I had it all sewn up. But it was exhausting and limiting and made me ill.

Whereas the garden is not static, it changes and develops, and although this can be daunting, it feels… right.

It is good to be here.



*This idea of being a gardener rather than a builder is not my own. I first heard life and spirituality talked about in this way in an interview for On Being between Krista Tippett and the world-renown author Paulo Coehlo.

**And, although the first picture (of Ed raking the soil) is my garden, the final photo is not. It is Kew Gardens.


The earth is talking to you.

Recently I’ve been thinking about the connectedness of everything.

About how it is all part of the same thing. We are all substance and soil and soul. We are all atoms and curiosity and magic.

And we are all in the conversation.


A few years back, we lived close to a big park where I sometimes used to run.

I ran to get fit, but really I ran to get out. To leave the house and be alone without children talking and questioning and demanding. I love my children, but by 6pm. after a day on my own with them, I was often ready for a break. So, a couple of times a week, as Matt walked in from a full days work I would walk out, to feel knackered and sweaty but free, for half an hour or so.

I did anything to distract myself from the pain (and boredom) of running. I listened to lots of podcasts. At one point I was listening to one about, among other things, the seasons. It was February or March, and the speaker talked about the process of death and renewal the earth goes through every year. Of bulbs planted deep in the black earth. Of seeds dying and falling to the ground. Of the time before there are signs of life.

And he likened this to our lives. The times of loss and emptiness, where things are painful and feel hopeless. The waiting for change.

He talked about how our lives are reflected in nature.

He opened my eyes for the first time to the truth that the earth is constantly speaking; reminding us of the seasonal nature of life, of the process, of delayed gratification and hope in the darkness.

The earth was wise and it had something to say.


A couple of weeks ago I was spending some time with my Nan. Every time I see her I ask her questions about her life, rooting around to find another pearl of wisdom and truth.

On this occasion I asked her about the happiest time of her life.

She spoke about the years directly after her husband, my Grandad, retired. She described how they would go to Romney marshes, near to where they lived in Folkestone. They wouldn’t walk far but spent their time looking in the hedgerows at the flowers and the birds, seeing what was growing, observing.

There was a heronry across the marsh and they would regularly watch the birds, see them feed and raise their young, see the young birds grow. She felt a connection with these birds.

She said they always went to look for the Heron.

Eventually my Grandparents made the very difficult decision to move from their home on the South East tip of the country, to Liverpool, to be nearer family. Shortly before they moved they took one final trip to the marsh and, after having been there for years, the heronry was gone. My Grandad got in his car and drove around to the other side of the marsh, to where the heronry was located to check – to see if the birds really had left.

It was deserted.

Nan didn’t draw any conclusions from this, but I could tell she drew some comfort from the way nature was echoing the transition they were experiencing. It was bittersweet, but reassuring.


Montaigne* said,

Salvation is found in paying full attention to nature

In the last ten years I have learnt this to be true, and experienced it in so many ways. The earth offering me comfort or understanding, the earth revealing itself to show the way forward, the earth reminding me of the seasonal nature of everything. The earth telling me to quieten and slow down, to rest and recuperate, to grow and bloom and show my colours.

In the Bible it says that the whole earth is full of the glory of God, it says that the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, it says the name of the Lord and his unfailing love fills the earth.  So maybe it is not so surprising that the earth has something to say.

I used to think that God only spoke through the Bible, or possibly through a wise person quoting the Bible, and even then he wasn’t very vocal.

But now I have realised that God is speaking all the time, it just took me a while to notice.

*Montaigne was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance, and is known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. If you want to read more, Sarah Bakewell wrote an excellent biography about him, How to Live: A life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer.



How to be Creative. Part 4. Clear some (head)space

(Before the summer I wrote three posts about creativity, you can read the first one here. This is part 4.)

I want to live a creative life, of making and discovering, of spontaneity and hard work.

But I have a problem in achieving this and I don’t think I am alone: My life is too full.

My cupboards and counter-tops are full, my inbox and to-do list is full.

My day is full of errands and requests to be fulfilled for the small (and not so small!) people I am care for.

My mind is full of their hopes and needs and desires and expectations, and whether or not I will be able to meet them.

My life is full of food that needs cooking, rooms that need cleaning, washing that needs doing, presents that need buying, lifts that need giving, homework that needs doing (because we all know how homework goes down, right?!)

And, I am not a very organised person.

I am a scatterbrain with a splatter-gun approach to my life.

I am an enthusiast. Frequently inspired, rarely focussed.

And I struggle to get to the thing I really want to do.

Space for creativity gets squeezed out.

So I have decided to clear some space.IMG_5363

But before I clear my desk, or set aside a number of hours in which to work, I need to make some room in my mind.

To do this I have to prioritise myself. Which it turns out is difficult, especially if you are not used to it. It feels awkward – a bit showy, or self-indulgent.

But no one else will prioritise your creative endeavours.

No one is going to come to you one day and tell you it is your turn, and now you must make the thing that has been burning within you, calling you, beckoning you in stolen moments.

You have to choose to believe it is important, and start to put structure in place to make sure your work happens.

The practical part of this comes later. First this is about realising you have a responsibility to the creative idea. It is about believing that what you have something unique to offer the world and  you want to do or make matters.


Then all you have to do is follow the breadcrumbs your curiosity is leaving for you.

It doesn’t have to be a Grand Plan, or involve any financial investment. Here are some small, easy ways I have started  increasing the room in my mind for creativity, maybe they might work for you too:


Remember daydreaming? How, before the responsibilities crept up you would allow your subconscious to wander? Re-learn. Snatch a few minutes wherever you can. I find this easiest when my body is busy but my mind isn’t, when I’m washing up, out for a walk or driving my car.


Read about other people who have attempted this kind of thing before. Feed your creativity by listening to stories of those that have gone before you. Watch films, listen to music and podcasts. Prioritise being inspired.

Write it down:

Keep a notebook of ideas, or log them on your phone. Snip things out of newspapers and magazines. Create a record of your thought process. Call it something audacious like : The compendium of my dreams, or Staggeringly brilliant ideas for fun (because it should be).

(I never used to be disciplined about writing things down, but over the last few years I have realised my memory isn’t as good as I’d like to think it is and the paragraph I have been composing my mind will be lost if I don’t transcribe it.)


Don’t try and create in a vacuum. Talk to others about what you would love to do. Be willing to learn in all situations and from all types of people. Draw all the wisdom and knowledge you can from anyone who will help. img_7051

As you feed your creativity it will start to occupy more space in your head. The chores and responsibilities will have to make room, they will have to share you, for you were made for more than that.

Of course there will still be hurdles to actually getting on with the work, physical space and time allocation to start with, but you won’t ever get to this part if you don’t begin by creating some room in your mind.

As you allow these ideas to be part of who you are, you will begin to identify yourself as a creative person and you will start making decisions to enable the work.

And then the fun can really start.