W.P Young’s “The Shack”

W.P Young’s “The Shack”

Recently, I decided to make the monumental decision of temporarily stepping away from crime thrillers and venture towards other genres. More specifically, I was attracted to the reviews of Young’s Shack, of which are considerably mixed.

Without giving too much away, the novel surrounds a man whose life is turned upside down when he experiences a family tragedy. The tragedy is of such a horrifying extent, he begins to question how God can live in a world where evil like this exists. His story and his journey address fundamental issues raised by agnostics and atheists on a daily basis, amidst wars in poverty-stricken countries and humanitarian crisis. Justifiably so, the protagonist loses faith in God, and whilst at this lowest point, he encounters an experience which somehow miraculously changes every single perception he had, of religion and of mankind.

My initial thoughts were of a sceptical nature when first reading this novel; firstly, I’m not a Christian and thus, could not take this at face value. However, there were considerable lessons to be learnt by reading this story; even if one isn’t religious, or practising, it certainly speaks to you on a spiritual level. It’s almost as if the author can sense the scepticism the reader feels prior to opening the book, and works with it to create a sensational masterpiece.

Like many other novels with underlying morals that shape the story, it left me questioning a few of my own spiritual beliefs. Religiously speaking, I know where and with Whom my faith lies, but I understand those who discredit any existence of a deity when wars, murder, rape and other evils are present in society everyday. This book addresses this internal strife. It speaks to the believer and the non-believer, without simultaneously shoving the reader’s own religious/spiritual stance down the reader’s throat.

I cannot recommend this book enough; it certainly makes you reevaluate how you look at the world, and the importance of being the best person you can possibly be in this lifetime.

A x

Featured Image: http://wmpaulyoung.com

Perspective

It’s March 2nd and my first day back home after spending 5 days in hospital has come to an end. I have thoroughly enjoyed being wrapped up in a blanket watching ‘The Night Manager’ and ‘The People vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story.’ However, I’m not the same person I was when I went in to hospital.

Last Friday night, I was left feeling a little on edge after experiencing discomfort due to ongoing stomach pains. Of course, stomach pains are nothing out of the ordinary for me but they usually went away after an hour or so and even after taking medication, I was still suffering. Things reached a peak at around 11pm on Friday night; I was doubled over in pain, unable to breathe without feeling a stabbing pain rippling through my upper abdomen. Not cute. By 2.30am the following morning, I was hooked up to an IV line. Over the course of the next 5 days, I was transferred from a&e to the surgical assessment unit, to the day surgery unit. But that isn’t the point of this post.

Whilst in the day surgery unit, I came across many patients being admitted and transferred and I guess I should’ve been prepared for some sticky situations – after all, this was a surgical unit. On Monday night, a young patient was admitted to the bed next to me after undergoing surgery. It was clear that something hadn’t gone too great with the operation because she was screaming in agony and bleeding out. This was at roughly 10pm so visiting times were over and the rest of us in the bay were alone and it was pretty quite, with patients either zonked out on morphine or trying their best to sleep. Her parents were with her to ensure she settled in okay and was recovering from the operation, when things took a sudden turn for the worse. I heard the patient’s mother call the nurses frantically, telling them her daughter was feeling light-headed. Within two minutes, the patient had gone into cardiac arrest from bleeding out.

The next 20 minutes were a blur of surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses running around, giving her oxygen and trying to stop the bleeding. With no theatres free to perform emergency surgery, they were forced to stop the bleeding there and then in order to save her life. Her parents were hysterical with fear and surgeons were shouting about the lack of blood bags available to them – it was terrifying. I guess I forgot that in hospitals, things do go wrong and situations like this do occur. It’s not common but it does happen and in the moment, everything just fell away. The pain I was experiencing, the sickness, all the symptoms just fell away because all I was thinking of was how young this girl was next to me and how numb I felt.

I don’t know if they managed to save her. She didn’t come back the following day, and neither the nurses nor other members of staff had any clue as to what happened in that operating theatre. Situations like this put everything into perspective; life is too unpredictable and we ought to make the most of the good health we have. What is life if we don’t have our health? Right now, I can’t get those 20 minutes out of my head. I’m not sure if I will forget the panic in her parents’ voices, the panic in the surgeons’ voices and the sound of the blood pressure monitor dropping. It’s a horrific reminder of the fact that we’re only on this planet for a limited amount of time and we ought to make the most of every single second; by being good within ourselves and towards others. Whether you believe in God and His power to guide you or not, it’s important to have a pure heart as that alone makes us immortal.

“Is not He Who listens to the distressed soul when it calls on Him, and remove its suffering, and makes you inheritors of the earth?…” [Surah al-Naml 27:62] 

A x

 

 

 

My Battle With Anxiety: 2 Years On

My Battle With Anxiety: 2 Years On

Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying… These disorders affect how we feel and behave, and they can manifest real physical symptoms. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating, having a serious impact on daily life.¹

Sounds about right. I still remember the first time I heard the word, instantly associating it with weakness and fragility. A flaw. There are many misconceptions associated with the term ‘anxiety’ and understandably so, considering the word is so broad and broadly used in society. I also believe it’s used too loosely in day to day life, contributing to a lack of understanding. Despite coming so far as a race, we’ve become stuck in a place where we cannot manifest the ability to treat people equally based on their mental state, which is undeniably a shocking position for us, as humans.

The first time I told someone outside of my family about suffering from anxiety, I was terrified and lost in a world where toxic thoughts were swimming around in my head and I genuinely believed they would save me from drowning. Initially, telling someone else about this was an instant relief. I felt a little lighter knowing I’d shared something so destructive in my life with someone else who’d perhaps be able to help me through it, providing support where possible. Sadly, I was wrong. I’ve since learnt that people will certainly provide a supportive front but that’s all it is – a facade. Some of us are designed to deal with heavy emotional distress and some of us simply are not: and that’s okay.

Coming to terms with anxiety meant having to re-evaluate my relationships and friendships; it meant taking a step back and assessing what/where the foundation of my anxiety attacks were. I soon came to realise that a significant amount of stress I put myself under was based on being treated a certain way by people I believed I was close to. Without going into too much detail, I wasn’t treated very well by the people I held dearest to me, and I deserved much better. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t see it at the time, so it was a vicious cycle of feeling second best, then apologising for feeling this way only to be treated poorly a few weeks later. I believed that was okay, too, which is the saddest thing. My anxiety attacks were set off by feeling like I wasn’t good enough, which escalated until I reached breaking point. This was a continuous pattern throughout most of 2014 and early 2015.

I only really noticed an improvement in my mental health when I surrounded myself with positive influences and strong, healthy friendships. People who loved me unconditionally, who picked me up when I was down and never treated me differently based on my anxiety disorder. Cutting toxic relationships out of my life has massively transformed it. I’ve also found that keeping myself busy has helped immensely; the panic attacks come less often now, and I have less time to overanalyse every aspect of my life. It could be inferred that overanalysing has its perks (kind of) – I am an perfectionist and if something isn’t done to my standards, I’ll continue to work at it until I’m happy. As long as my mind is preoccupied, my anxiety levels remain steady.

Naturally, there are those days where I feel incredibly low and for no apparent reason. This is what I feel is imperative to underline and draw attention to; we have anxiety attacks, panic attacks and feel low for sometimes no reason at all. It just happens and there’s nothing we can do about it; no matter how much someone offers to comfort me, I cannot escape the prison walls of my brain, with voices telling me a thousand negative things all at once. And occasionally, the only thing I can do is cry about it and move on from there. Everyone reacts differently to anxiety and it’s formidable attacks: from crying to remaining silent for long periods of time, sometimes it’s best to leave someone be if they cannot comprehend what’s going on in their head. The same applies to social anxiety – I can’t control the panic attacks every time I enter a room or a bus full of people. Regardless of whether you’re my friend, relative or a stranger, I will panic when entering a confined space containing a number of people. That’s just the way it is for me, and no amount of therapy has managed to change that. (yet)

But if I’ve learnt anything over these two years, it’s to embrace life and all it’s got to offer us. I spent disgustingly too long distressing myself over whether or not I was a good person, if I was good enough. Surrounding myself with good people was what helped me through my darkest hours. People who inspired me, motivated me. Finally, writing has been the most effective form of therapy for me. It’s not even the factor of others going through similar experiences, it’s just ten times easier to deal with when I’m not holding it inside, when it’s on paper. Getting over the physical health stuff was tough enough, but coping with the trauma of a mental health disorder is something else entirely.

My anxiety hasn’t gone away but it’s most definitely become easier to live with. The good days almost always counterbalance the bad, and that’s what I’m focussing on.

A x

¹http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/anxiety/ 

 

Stand Up to Bullying

Being mean isn’t cool.

I sometimes wonder why on earth people have this obsessive desire to be particularly cold and manipulative when it takes so much effort to do so. You have to go out of your way to pick on someone, and I really do wonder what possesses someone to treat someone as if they’re worthless.

I’m going to try not to give an X-Factor-worthy sob story about how hard my childhood was, growing up in an all-girls privatee school but the main gist of it is that I developed anxiety as a result of certain teachers’ treatment towards me. I was made to feel like a failure at everything, and I was picked on for standing up against their constant accusations of being a disruption in class. They had their favourites and I simply wasn’t one of them, so naturally they made my life hell. I was punished for asking teachers to pronounce my name correctly when they’d intentionally mispronounce it. I was given detention for ‘answering back.’ I was always questioned about why I deserved to study at their school. Alas, shit happens.

I hate to sound bitter but there’s no way of sugar-coating an experience which traumatised me during an influential and delicate period of my life, where I was yet to discover my identity and sense of self. My point to this is that it was highly unnecessary. My form tutor and my “head of pastoral care” who soon came to claim the title of headteacher both accused me of anything and everything under the sun. I used to sit in the back and do my work silently but that wasn’t enough for them. And it was intentionally malicious; they set out to humiliate me in front of classmates. What did it achieve for them? A momentary sense of satisfaction to exploit an authoritative position and the trust of one’s parents simultaneously without them knowing, sure but what real gain was there from treating me like this? It’s been four years since I left that place and I’m still somewhat haunted by it. That’s what bullying does – it leaves scars that won’t ever leave you.

Bullying comes in all shapes and forms: online, in person, through social media etc. I am a strong believer in the notion that not enough is done to catch these coward culprits and bring them to justice. From sharing intimate pictures of your ex as ‘revenge porn’ to sending death threats to those who speak out on social media, people ought to be punished for their actions. Bullying isn’t taken as seriously as it should be, with the ramifications leaving a victim both emotionally and physically traumatised. A boy I grew up with committed suicide after being told to kill himself by another group of schoolboys in the same town as him. They spurred him on, told him they’d kill him if he didn’t go through with it. I cannot fathom how heartless a person can be if they can sleep at night after sending such messages. And to think, my friend’s death is on them now. How can one live with that? Bullying should warrant more punishment, including sentencing and jail time depending on the crime.

Discriminating against someone because of their nationality, beliefs or religion is also unacceptable and ought to be treated with the same attitude as other crimes, too. Ultimately, discrimination is singling someone out from others because they’re different in some way or another. It’s making someone believe they’re inferior to you and treating them as such. It’s unfair. We didn’t come this far in life, as a society and as a race, only to be defeated by each other. What a step backwards. Some people see bullying as childish: I see it as dangerously destructive.

Say NO to bullying, whatever form it comes in.

A x