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A friend [you know who you are] said online a couple of days ago that she has been using CBT tactics on herself, quite a thing given our collective low opinion of CBT wanky bollocks. I guess I have my own form of these tactics. It’s why I listen to so much Christian music – it’s the only way I can pray. I need music to loosen my tightly contained emotions and I need someone else’s words to help me find my own. When faced with lies my mind tells me, I remind myself of truths over and over and over again. From some songs recently:

And if our God is for us, who could stand against us

Our God is healer, awesome in power

God is mighty, powerful, loving, kind

He loves us, oh, how he loves us, oh, how he loves

Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree

Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy

Constant, faithful, unchanging

That constant thing can be an incredible comfort to someone like me, as well as a challenge.

Advance warning of mingingness for the sensitive

I have a form of IBS called IBS-A, or IBS-Alternating. It means each trip to the loo is a delightful surprise. My insides like to make things varied for me, sometimes it’s a difficult to go, sometimes it’s a little too, er, easy. Either way, during times of stress it comes with pain that leaves me doubled over and leaning on the wall, gasping for air.

Mr Narky laughed recently and observed that it’s not just my tummy that is alternating, it’s me. Mood goes up, mood goes down. Energy followed by exhaustion. Laughter followed by tears. Enthusiasm followed by recrimination. Sensitivity followed by crass, sick humour. Belief followed by paralysing doubt. It’s everything. Years ago, during an interview for a university, the interviewers looked at me, then looked at each other, then looked at me again and told me that I fascinated them because I seemed so full of opposites. Confident and insecure. Loud and quiet. Sensitive and tactless. Kind and quick tempered. Intelligent and easily distracted.

I find this hard to live with. I find it hard to like myself when everything positive is accompanied by a negative. I find great comfort from the words of a close friend saying that she loves me not in spite of the things I hate about myself, but because of them. Knowing this hasn’t changed the way I feel about myself but it helps. It helps a lot. It’s the first time anybody has ever been able to articulate for me a different way of viewing myself with such clarity.

To get back to the Christian music, I try each day to focus and believe in a God who does not change, ever. Ever ever ever. To believe in a being so completely different from myself. Sometimes that is a comfort. Like a couple of weeks ago at church. I was singing in the band and the words of one song made me cry. I pulled away from the microphone and tried to get a grip. Do you know how hard it is to sing when you’re crying? Your mouth distorts into weird shapes, your throat closes up. I tried to sing again and cried again. In the end I gave up and just thanked God for being constant. It was a song we had sung a couple of times during my latest relapse. Each time we sang it I cried. I wanted the words to be true, couldn’t feel anything but doubt and despair but sang the words and tried to believe them and trust God anyway. The words that felled me each time are:

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
As we wait upon the Lord
As we wait upon the Lord

Our God, you reign for ever
Our hope, our strong deliverer

You are the everlasting God,
The everlasting God,
You do not faint, you won’t grow weary

You’re the defender of the weak,
You comfort those in need,
You lift us up on wings like eagles

I don’t think I’ve been able to sing that song without crying for months. But a couple of weeks ago I was crying because I looked back at the times I had clung to God, singing that song, desperately crying out for the words to be true, and I saw without even a tiny shadow of a doubt that they are true. Yes, this relapse was the worst I’ve ever experienced, yes, I couldn’t see a way out except to kill myself, but still, that Sunday I knew, I knew that God has been with me throughout the whole sorry mess. I could have laughed right there on the stage as I cried.

The following day I had a massive panic attack at work and I’ve spent a fair proportion of every day since then in tears, and not the good kind. The kind driven by fear. The kind that have me desperately searching for a way out, from quitting my job, to leaving the country, to overdosing on the massive amount of medicines we have in this flat.

Y’know, hubby told me the other night that I have to learn to trust myself. I laughed out loud and told him that if he spent an hour or two inside my head he wouldn’t say that. Trust myself? When my emotions change so much, with no basis in reality? When I have absolutely no way to tell what is real, when my ever-racing thoughts, ever-racing heart, ever-racing feelings tell me whatever they damn well like from one moment to the next? No. Trusting myself is not an option.

Instead I try to trust the One who is constant, unchanging. I try and I fail a lot of the time but I’m trying a lot harder now than I used to. Like I said earlier, it’s a comfort but it is also a challenge. When every impulse inside you is telling you one thing, how do you believe something else? I mean, this week I have felt oppressively, suffocatingly down. I feel crushed. The mentally healthy will never know how much work each tiny step of life is when you’re mentally ill. To shower, dress, get on trains, open emails, respond to emails, be polite, interpret spreadsheets, give presentations, lead discussions, write reports, edit websites… To do all this all the time, every day, every hour, day in, day out. There’s no respite, ever. It’s relentless. I have a tendency to sacrifice my mental health in favour of functioning at work, which then backfires and my mental health collapses, and then my work collapses, highlighting the flaws in my strategy, and this is where I am now. Sick of the endless repeats. Sick of being me.

So there’s the challenge. Two weeks ago I felt like I was looking back on a relapse with relief that perhaps it was over, now I feel its grip tightening on me once again. Two weeks ago I was thanking God for bringing me through a horrible, horrible time in my life. Now I’m asking him if that horrible time is actually over after all. I want out.

Don’t ever think that Christianity is a crutch. The comfort my belief in God provides is immeasurable, but the force it requires from me is also immeasurable. For the doubter, for the alternating, faith is a paradox. Every day as I try to work out how to handle each challenge that comes my way, preferably without seeing spots from panic restricting my ability to breathe, I counter the twisted thoughts and feelings my mind produces for entertainment with reminders of the constant God, my anchor.

In everything I will give you praise
For all you are I will bring you praise
Constant and faithful, you never change
Constant and faithful, you never change

You are God
God our hope
We will sing forever

You are God
God our hope
We will sing forever