My story – the long journey

(This page comes with a warning i.e. leave plenty of time to read nearly 6000 words.) last updated 12th January 2013

I was born two weeks after my dad was conscripted into the army to complete his National Service. He had tried postponing before, but this time it did not work. He had no alternative. He had to go into the army. Dad was given compassionate leave to come and see me. However, he arrived after one of the nursing staff had been very unkind to mum and I because she did not believe mum was married.

I carried the resulting wound for 46 years (and a few months as I was born in the winter and this wound was finally healed in the summer). It was only then, with the help of prayer counselling, that I was able to pull down the barriers I had put up around me. Barriers that were supposed to protect me from further hurt but actually stopped me feeling loved.

This was a tangible change. Imagine being under a duvet and someone reaches out and touches your arm. Then take your arm out from under the covers and let them touch your skin. It feels very different doesn’t it. That is the best description of the difference that I felt before and after that counselling session when I was physically touched. That was not the only difference. I started to realise what being loved was like, something I had not understood until then. The problem was that by this time my life had fallen apart and one of the reasons for this was my inability to feel love.

Some eleven years earlier this had been a major element of a family breakdown. End result of that was that I was estranged from my daughter who at that time was 13 and parents and my brother and sister. In fact I was left alienated from everyone I might consider to be part of my family. The reason I had gone for counselling in the first place was that I was struggling to cope with being told that I was about to be divorced which would leave me virtually alone in the world.

It seemed such a stupid thing to come out of a counselling session but it enabled me to love the man who had made himself into my enemy and wanted to murder our relationship as well as to rebuild the links with my family. Starting again without the burden of hatred made a difficult period in my life much easier than it might have been otherwise, not that we ever think life is easy at the time.

Back to my childhood (and something about money)

Most of the time my dad was in the army my mother lived with her parents. By the time dad was released from National Service I had a baby brother and mum spent some time at least in their new council home. Outside the army dad worked hard. He always seemed to have two jobs or a job and a business until he was offered early retirement, well early for a man but the normal age for a woman. Or should I say stopped working for someone else so that he could expand his business.

At 77 he is contented as he keeps himself busy providing a worthwhile service to others i.e. a place to live. I am glad as it means I can turn to him for help when I need it. I did not like how hard he worked as a child as it meant that he was out before I was up in a morning even on a school day and only came home for tea before going out at night again. He was also busy most Saturdays as well.

The man who divorced me had a very different attitude towards money. I can now sit back and compare a good provider and a poor one. (yes I know it sounds like Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad but it is absolutely true) The poor provider was a hard worker at times or at least the hours he spent at work suggested that he was. For a short time he did have a second part time job, but for the majority of the 26 years we were married, he demonstrated relatively poor money habits.

He borrowed money, lots of it, to buy stuff and pay bills. One of the surprises in the divorce process was just how much he had borrowed. Nearly enough to buy a small house in the area where we lived. He needed to sort out his finances and thought that divorcing me would help that process. I was unhappy about having any debt never mind that much. He could not understand why I wanted to see our debts decreased rather than increased.

Money went down the drain in other ways as well. He spent a lot of money on alcohol (mainly in the pub on beer but some whiskey and brandy) and takeaways (mainly on the way home from the pub). He was paid monthly and some months he spent more of the household income than I did. He used it to buy alcohol and takeaways for himself on two or three evenings a week. I used it to buy food for the rest of the week plus clothes for three of us plus personal items like stationery.

Not exactly equitable division of resources but I had become a financial anorexic. My sense of self worth was so low that I accepted the situation. Not only that but I was on a severe money diet. I was determined to spend as little as possible and gained my value from spending so little. My thinking about money was just as mentally disturbed as a true anorexic is about food. Thankfully there was no prospect of the sort of serious physical consequences that occur when wrong thinking is based around food.

Another aspect of the issue of being a poor provider was the number of times an employer said good bye to him. At the start of our marriage he worked for a nationalised industry where it was very rare to lose your job except for extreme misconduct. Things changed at the end of the 1980s and by the mid 1990s a once strong industry had disappeared.

No employer so no job so he tried one business venture and that did not work out. Then he retrained and found another job only to lose that when there was a reorganisation. He had found and lost two more jobs by the time he divorced me. In the 26 years we were married four different employers had said that they no longer had a job for him. Not only that but he had been involved in setting up or running three other businesses and they had all collapsed as well.

Compare that to the good provider who only changed employer once and has been involved in at least two successful businesses. One that he sold as a going concern when his main job meant moving away from the area and one that has been going for about 35 years.

Poor provider wanted to copy good provider and build a dream home for his family. That did not work out as planned either. One of the stranger things about this experience was the way that being on the land that house was built on affected people. For want of better phrase being on it messed with your mind. What I mean is that while I was on it my thoughts could change to ones that were really destructive.

This was a contributory factor to the financial anorexia I had and the family breakdown. However, the first sign of being on that land causing problems was when poor provider was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). It had been simmering away under the surface for the first 10 years I had known him but it was kept behind a mask,out of sight. The symptoms grew so dramatically while working on that land that they could no longer be hidden.

Impact of health issues

One good thing about these health issues is that I started researching and reading about what Christians call inner healing or prayer counselling. I have read round and attended classes on the Healing Evangelism model used by the late John Wimber and the Restoring the Foundations model used by Chester and Betsy Kylstra and the Sozo model developed by Dawna DeSilva from Bethel Church in California. I have also completed the Modular A and B courses run by Ellel Ministries here in the UK. I read books on the topic written by a variety of people as well. I just wanted to find a way out of the tangle I was in. I started by explaining how this helped me but it did not suit everyone around me who I believed needed help.

The bad things about these health issues included the stress that it put on the household finances. We ended up borrowing over twice as much as we expected to complete the house. Actually to say it was completed is not exactly true, because when I left him in that house as part of the divorce settlement it still was not properly finished.

After 18 years the showers were still unusable, the stairs were not fitted properly and the downstairs toilet had bare plaster walls that were still waiting to be tiled. Not only that but much of the wear and tear over the years had not been attended to so some things including a lock that no longer worked. The cutlery drawer lived on the kitchen table because it had been pulled out so hard that it would not go back in again.

At one stage I typed up a list of what needed doing room by room. This was more like a bucket list i.e. all the things I wanted to see done around the house and it was five pages long.

It could have been a beautiful home but it was a disaster zone. Even the neighbours got upset at its appearance. The garden was barely attended to. The window frames were supposed to be brown but had developed grey stripes. The local kids called it the spooky house. One day some kids came round for a dare while we were out. We came back to find they had poured used engine oil they had found over the path at the back and had even broken a pane of glass and poured this dirty black oil into the house. There were about a dozen spent matches in the oil inside the house. Mercifully that kind of oil is not easy to set alight.

Decisions decisions

I stuck it out believing that things would get better somehow. One day, if I finally did the right thing, everything would work out. Problem was that things only got worse and worse. No matter what I tried I just could not do what was necessary to change the situation. It was like living in a one of those shrinking rooms seen in old movies. Something happened and life became a bit harder still again and again.

I did at one stage have a major decision to make. That story starts when he bought a TV. The old one had broken and I was not with him when he bought a new one. We could barely make the payments. He said it would be OK if the car lasted another year. He bought the TV on the Saturday and on the Friday, i.e. within a week, the car had become terminally ill. The stress sent him into a downward spiral. When he was first diagnosed with OCD the psychiatrist said that there would be good times and there would be bad times but that there was no cure. This was a bad time, so bad the family doctor started calling every day.

About six weeks after buying the TV I had some major choices to make.. I think things at home were so bad that I could have asked the doctor to order him into hospital  so that my daughter and I could have a break. He had spent a few days in hospital when he was first diagnosed but this had done more harm than good.

What was the alternative? My daughter came up with one. She asked me if she could go and stay with my parents for a while. After a day of two thinking about it I took her on a 4 hour train journey and my parents met us at the other end.

I went to see her two weeks later and was told that she would never return and that she wanted me to join her. Some choice! Her dad had not wanted her to go because he believed he had the “in-laws from hell” who would never agree to him having his daughter back again. I thought he was imaging it until that visit.

I returned home just before Christmas and the bottom had fallen out of my world. I had a husband who could barely function normally with a mixture of OCD and reactive depression, a home that was a disaster zone and I had lost the daughter who had supported me practically and emotionally though all this turmoil. I fell into despair or was it mental distress or a mental collapse due to trauma. Whatever it was I was in a mess.

I would speak to my daughter on the phone on an evening and she would put on a bright attitude and say how she was happy was. I started to believe she was better off living apart from me. She said would come back when her dad was better. Strangely she can remember saying that but not telling me that she would never live me again unless I left her dad. Well the medical folk said that would never happen so this did not sound good. I tried to explain that he would not recover from OCD but she was adamant.

I would come off the phone in tears. Her dad would be quiet then walk out of the house leaving me alone in my grief. What I did not know until many years later was that while he was out he would ring my parents and they would get the full force of his negative reaction to the situation. He scared his daughter and my parents so much that this made it difficult for them to consider encouraging our daughter to live with us as a realistic proposition. I did not know this and believed that she had no desire to be with me because I was unlovable. This made sense to me as it would be another few years before I was able to feel love. Looking back everyone seemed to think everyone else involved saw things the same way as they did, when in reality no one had any idea what the full picture was.

Who or what am I?

Remember what I said earlier about the land messing with my head well this definitely made the situation much worse as well. I started to believe that there was something wrong with me because I wanted her back. How could I be so cruel to her to make her leave the home where she was so happy and settled and so desperately wanted to be? How could I say I loved her and then want to destroy her life by forcing her to live with me against her will?

I believed the problem was not that she did not want to return, but that I wanted her to return when it was wrong for her to do so. It took a while but eventually I stopped struggling for what I wanted and started helping her get what I thought that she wanted. Ouch, she did not realise how effective her efforts to persuade me to let her to stay there had been until she realised that they had permanently closed the door to her returning, even if she ever wanted to do so.

It did not help that growing up I had always believed that I was someone that others had to be protected from. There was something so wrong with me that I had to take great care that I did not cause problems for others by simply by being with them.

This was reinforced by a game my peers at primary school developed. Basically the idea was that some brave soul touched me and then chased after others who ran off in fear thinking that they would pick up whatever was passed on from me. At the end of the game there was a ritual of passing on whatever they got from me onto a wall so that they did not carry it into school with them.

This was a popular game for months and none of the adults around me thought that there was anything wrong with it. In fact one of those I told, responded by saying we all have our problems, we just have to get on and deal with them. I had once feared that going near “good” people would hurt them but now I knew it would. I had to stay separate from others to protect them.

In fact, by the time I left that school, I had found some hidey holes that I used to stay well away from others so that they would be protected from me. If I did go near people it had to be “bad” people because it did not matter if they got hurt by having me around.

A few years later at secondary school someone a bit younger than me found out my name and her response showed just how much the fear of being around me had been built up by that game. These days many would call that kind of game a form of bullying because of the harm it did.

I learnt that it did not matter if other people hurt me. You see I was a bad person who deserved to be hurt. It did not matter if my husband’s behaviour hurt me because that was what I deserved. It did not matter if my daughter’s behaviour hurt me because that was what I deserved.

It did not matter if an employer behaved badly. The first one fired me for no other reason than they wanted to replace me with their daughter and another behaved in what could only be called an extremely ungentlemanly manner.

The problem was not that they were doing things that hurt me but that I was struggling to cope with them behaving in a way that I deserved. No one would dream of employing someone like me so there was no point looking for a permanent job. Temporary contracts and agency work was the best someone like me could ever expect.

There was so much wrong with me that no one could ever want to be around me not even my own daughter and when she went to stay with my parents even they washed their hands of me, or so I believed. There was one person left who could cope with being around me but they were becoming more and more distant and life was looking distinctly sour.

All change

Something had to change and when it did it change in a surprising way. I had made my own way back from one of the modules at Ellel Grange on a Sunday night and found the house empty. As I walked up the house I felt the usual sinking feeling.

Over the weekend I had realised that time was passing and nothing much was changing except for the worse. I put my bags down took my coat off and literally screamed at God. I told him I was stuck and that I wanted to be unstuck so that I could serve Him better. It was only afterwards that I realised that this was the catalyst for the divorce which was the means of me getting out of the spooky house for good and made it possible to rebuild the links with my family.

The contacts I had with Ellel Ministries had helped prepare me for this. It was on their advice that I started the process of forgiveness with my family. That was a long and painful process. The pain I felt was intense and was like layers of an onion every time a layer was peeled off there were more tears and another layer of pain was encountered. The layers got smaller and the pain shrank but it took months to work my way through that process.

I had many adventures during the divorce process. The heating stopped working and there was frost on the ground outside all day. I was stuck in the house sitting in the sunniest i.e. warmest room with multiple layers of clothes on including a hat trying to stay warm.

We had an argument that night and he stormed off and rang his legal people. They had been waiting nearly two months to send off the legal paperwork to finalise the divorce. It was signed and ready to send. They were just waiting for him to agree to it being sent. He rang them to say send it that night but when he calmed down he had changed his mind but it was too late.

That was the weekend I managed to forget to tell him I was going to Ellel Grange and he reported me missing. It did not take much detective work for the police to find me there.

One amazing thing was how I got out of that house. Our legal people arranged for us to see a third neutral legal person. The outcome of that was that I had a date to leave the house. The day that ultimatum came into force I still had nowhere to go. However, on that day the man from the housing office called and asked if anyone from that house would like a flat in the next street. He knew there might be because I had filled in the forms about ten months earlier.

I made that flat as comfy as possible and lived there for nearly a year. I needed that time to help me get the past out of my system. It was Christmas time when it became very obvious that it was time to move on again. This time  I was told about a house I could buy before I could start looking for one. I had to wait a day or two until everyone was back at work after the holiday to arrange to look round it. I felt so right for me even though I would have to redecorate it as those colours were far too bright for me. When I asked God for advice what to do next it became obvious I should look at a few more. There were no better ones available so I arranged to buy it a few days later.

Getting a business going

Included in making a fresh start has been working out how to support myself. I had done some bits and pieces of teaching in the further education system and was qualified to teach over 16s. The type of part time work I used to do has more or less dried up now. I would teach people to use a computer, nothing fancy just word-processing, spreadsheets and maybe email and PowerPoint.

At the start of the first whole year I was on my own I had a dream that made me realise that I should be doing more jobhunting. I set about researching addresses to send speculative letters.  I had done that before and found work so maybe it would work again. This time though it  led to me discovering a course for those who wanted to set up a business. It was one of the few that actually included a formal qualification and believe it or not if I had not done it then I would never again meet the criteria for being able to do it. Shortly afterwards the job that I had teaching ethics and philosophy came to an end so I concentrated on building a business.

Problem was I still needed to recover and I had a lot to learn about running a business. Part of the recovery process was doing some voluntary work with people who had mental health problems.

This opened my eyes to the range of issues that they face. Some are taken advantage of by their families who forget whose money they are spending so that a vulnerable person finds themselves serious financial difficulties. Others risk losing their home and its contents when they go into hospital. A supportive family may make sure that the rent gets paid but otherwise what do they do?  Some find themselves homeless before going into hospital and need a lot of practical support when they leave such as finding and furnishing a home and learning the practical skills required to live alone. Some struggle because they can barely read.

Dreams of a different and brighter future

One day I said God what do you want me to do with this fledgling business? The morning afterwards I woke up with the dream of Lily’s Place somewhere people in mental distress could come to get just about every need met apart from being found a new home.

There would be people who were learning work-related skills while repairing furniture to help those who had no furniture in their homes. People could socialise, learn to read and write if necessary, learn practical home or DIY skills, learn to cook to feed themselves and others amongst many other things. The aim would be for messed up and broken people to come in have their needs met and in the process move from receiver of help to giver of help.

It seems crazy as surely most of these services are currently provided with the help of taxpayer’s money. Yet is it really quite so crazy. The government has less and less money to spend on these kind of services and people are struggling more and more in different ways so the gap between what is needed and what is available is getting wider and wider.

Just look at the number of food banks that have been set up in recent years. At one time these were quite rare now there are more communities served by them, than are not served by them. They have arisen as it it has become obvious that more and more people have fallen through the cracks in the benefit system.

I know the cracks are there I have even fallen through them myself at times. For example, when poor provider was out of work one time we fell through the cracks for three months. That was the fault of a bank who set up a badly written insurance policy. At first it did not matter so much as we got a bit of money because of the money that had been deducted from his salary in a tax called National Insurance. After a while they start to seriously look at every penny that you have coming in and we had that payment from the insurance policy.

We filled in the benefit form properly and gave an accurate figure for an insurance payment. We were then told that we had too much money coming in to receive a survival income from government funds. They had decided we did not need a penny from them as we had so much money coming because of that insurance payment. The benefit people said go to the bank and ask if you can have some of the insurance payment to live on. The bank said sorry we cannot let you have any of that money because it is paid directly into your mortgage account. Thankfully we had some savings in the bank but it was not easy living without any income at all from anywhere for three months.

Today I would love to have enough money coming into a business I have started to be able to make the dream of Lily’s Place a reality. Problem is I know what I would like to achieve but working out how to do it has not proved easy. I have had to work on rebuilding my life in a variety of ways. Of course this is experience that will be very useful with something like Lily’s Place but gaining it still it seems to push back the launching of Lily’s Place.

I am good at holding onto dreams though as shortly before he was diagnosed with OCD I thought I should start preparing to become a Minister. That’s why I thought getting teaching qualifications would be a good idea. It is also why I gathered a variety of other qualifications such as in advice and guidance. First time I made a serious request to be considered I was told that I needed more family support. The second time asked I was told I needed more church support and this was not forthcoming. I then decided to concentrate on trying to build the business so that I could prove my abilities.

Bringing dreams into reality

It was through that background that I knew that theoretically it was possible to rebuild the inner core of who you believe you are but my inner core was so broken that it was hard to believe that it was possible in reality. It did not help that some of those who I might have expected to help me rebuild it actually helped it stay broken. They could not understand just how broken it was and therefore that their efforts to mend it were actually only helping it stay broken.

It is as if I have had to start rebuilding from the inside so that the outside will work. It is possible to build on the outside with a comfortable home and pleasant surroundings but it is what is on the inside that really makes the difference. It is what is on the inside that gives us the strength to be all that we can be. It is what is on the inside that makes it possible for us to set up and run a business or be a good parent or good neighbour etc.

The more I have gone on the more it has become clear that the personal rebuilding process is on-going. That process is reflected in the projects that I have started. Blossom with Lily started life as a way of pulling together all the ideas on personal development that I came across.

Bridge2Riches took things a step further because I knew from my personal history that there was more to money problems than just practical issues. There was a whole underlying emotional aspect that needed to be addressed especially shame and that feeling of not being enough. That went to the back burner as another idea took prominence.

This one was a bit different as it started with a dream. That not quite right because I woke up seeing a book and its title in a dream the morning after I was in a meeting where someone prayed that those present would have good ideas for their businesses. The title was Making Money in the Parlour and the idea was to look at various business ideas that could be run from the best room in the house. These micro-businesses would provide a training ground for those thinking of moving towards supporting themselves financially without having a job.

There is also Sowing a Business that started life as Sowing and Growing Information Products. These used ideas from the natural world to provide ideas and inspiration for those thinking about setting up a business. They have expanded and grown as my understanding of how to run a business has grown.

More recently it has been obvious how important the idea of a strong inner core is and the things I have learned about this will be incorporated into all that I have done so far. I have even discovered that having all these ideas is not a fault with me but the way I am designed. I just need to work more closely with those who are able to develop them to their full potential.

I use the term strong inner core rather than self esteem because self esteem can easily become self-centredness i.e. I am who I am and therefore I deserve this or I am entitled to that. A strong inner core comes from knowing who you are including what your gifts talents and abilities are. This means that you are able to find the job or create a business that provides you with not just a financial reward but where you know that you are making the contribution to the world that you are designed to make. It is partly the result of being accepted for who you are.

Having a strong inner core makes it much easier to be content with the good things that you know you have and not believe the grass on the other side is greener. It includes being strong enough to say no to things that will harm you or hurt others such as extra marital relationships. It involves repairing the damage that has been done and rebuilding an inner core that might have been shattered by others accidentally or even intentionally. It is not a quick fix but a process that might continue for the rest of your life. However, each step forwards on that journey will improve your life.

There are many who offer quick fixes to mindset or personal development issues in the same way that there are many who offer get rich quick schemes. Ultimately neither work very well. There is no simple push button solution to making money. Money comes as a result of hard work and doing the right thing at the right time with the expectation of serving others and usually involves working with others.

There is no simple solution to building a strong inner core either. It can involve hard work and effort as anyone who has tried forgiving those who have hurt them will attest. However without that effort it is not possible to cut ourselves off from the past and truly repair the damage. Having a strong inner core is the foundation of a good character that demonstrates honesty integrity and other qualities that those around us value. It means truly blossoming into all that you can be and because you know that you are a snowdrop rather than a dahlia you are content with who you are. I know it is not an easy process. After all you have read this far and so have a reasonable idea just how deep the valley I have travelled has been.

Conclusion

There you have it . A relatively quick run through of what has made me who I am today. Like all human interest stories there are some things that are not shared and some details that are missed out. There again I am far enough out of the valley to be able to think that there are times when I have started to climb the mountain. I am far enough out to suggest to others that there is a way out and that I have some good ideas that will help them find the way out for themselves. Will I ever reach the top of the mountain? God knows but with His help I am going to have a go and see where I end up.

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