My Story – the long version xx

last updated 5th January 2013

I was born two weeks after my dad was conscripted into the army to complete his National Service. He was much older than the other recruits as he had postponed this on more than one occasion. due to doing an apprenticeship. Dad was given compassionate leave to come and see me but not before 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 until I was 47. 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 11 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 was by then 13 and parents and my brother and sister. In fact I was left alienated from everyone I could call a member of my family. The reason I had gone for counselling in the first place was that I was struggling to cope with his choice to divorce me leaving me pretty much alone in the world. It seems such a  stupid thing to come out of a counselling session but it enabled me to love the man who made himself into my enemy and wanted to murder our relationship as well as to rebuild the links with my family. This made it so much easier to rebuild my life afterwards as I had not built up so much hatred against him and I start to restore the relationships with my family.

Back to my childhood, most of the time my dad was in the army my mother lived with her parents. By the time dad was released form 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 nearly 60 when he retired. Or should I say stopped working for someone else and started expanding his business. He is still running this business at 77 and is content as he keeps himself occupied 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 mean 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 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 spend 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. Rather than using money to make money like my dad did he borrowed money to the point that this contributed to his decision to divorce me as I would not help him borrow any more. He could not understand why I wanted to see our debts decreased rather than increased. He spent a lot of money on alcohol (mainly beer but some whiskey and brandy) and takeaways (mainly on the way home from the pub). There were some months when he spent more than I did. He was buying alcohol and takeaways on two or three evenings a week for himself. I was buying 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 not the prospect of such serious physical consequences as when wrong thinking is based around food.

Another aspect of the 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 early 1990s a once strong industry had all but 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.  The same thing happened twice more so that by the time he divorced me 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 of those businesses has been going for about 35 years.

Poor provider wanted to copy good provider and build a dream home for his family. That also did not work out as planned. 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 it messed with your mind as while on it 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 it causing problems was that he was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. 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.

One good point of this was that I started researching and reading about 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. Well I did find something that was a great help to me but it did not suit everyone around me who I believed needed help.

The bad points 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 fully 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 the lock on the back door 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 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 pain 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.

I stuck it out believing that things would get better somehow one day but they did not. 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 while I was not with him he bought a new one. We could barely make the payments. He said it would be OK if the car lasted another yer. He bought the TV on the Saturday n 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 diagnoses 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 I could have asked the doctor to order him into hospital. He had spent a few days in hospital when he was first diagnosed but this had done more harm than good. What I did do was take out daughter to stay with my parents.

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 Christmas 1994 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 said that she was happy where she was. I started to believe she was better off where she was. She said would come back if here dad when her dad was better. 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 and sullen then walk out of the house leaving me alone in my grief. What I did not know until many years alter was that he was ringing my parents while he was out full of hatred and anger. He was so abusive and scared his daughter and my parents so much that this stopped them allowing her to come back. 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. Remember what I said earlier about the land messing with my head well this definitely made the situation much worse as well.

Eventually things did change and they changed 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 will 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 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 some legal paperwork to finalise the divorce. It was all ready 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 and it was too late. That was the weekend I managed to forget to tell him I was going to Ellel 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. I did and lived there for nearly a year. I needed that time to help me get the past out of my system. When I had done that and I knew it was time to move on again I was told about a house I could buy before I could start looking for one.

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 had 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. Researching addresses to send speculative letters to 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. 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 learning 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 as they forget whose money they are spending leaving a vulnerable person in huge financial difficulties. Others are helped as they rally round and pay the rent on their home while they are in hospital so that they still have a home when they leave hospital. 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.

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 to giver.

It seems crazy as surely most of these services are currently provided with the help of taxpayer’s money. Yet today it does not seem 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. In the few short years since Lily’s Place was dreamed up there have been more and more food banks set up to help those who have fallen through the cracks in the benefit system. Been there done that as when poor provider was out of work one time we fell through the cracks for 3 months. That was the fault of a bank who set up a badly written insurance policy. We filled in the benefit form properly and gave an accurate figure for the insurance payment received only to be told you have too much money coming in to receive benefit. Go to the bank and ask if we can we have some of the insurance payment to live on. Sorry you cannot do that because it is paid directly into your mortgage account. What are we supposed to live on thin air. Thankfully we had some savings in the bank but it was not easy.

Today I would love to have enough money coming into a business I have started to get going to be able to gets something like that going. 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 would be helpful in that kind of setting but 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.

The more I have gone on the more it has become clear that the personal rebuilding process is on-going. Trying to rewrite the tapes in my head that say others do not value me or what I do is not easy. Getting to know who I am and developing a strong centre that stops me doing or thinking things that do not edify me is not easy. I spent a long time believing that I was to blame for many things that were the result of other people’s actions. I had to do something to make them change and when I could not there was something wrong with me. Getting to know who I, what I should be doing and how I should be doing it is not easy but I am now realising that it is essential.