Stories of Transformation
I had been in hospital for 9 months when Charlie, one of the nurses, arrived for work carrying a brown bag of ripe, purple plums. The smell was mouth watering.
He told me he plucked them from a tree down by the canal at the bottom of the hospital fields. Turn right he said, and in a hundred yards you'll find the over-hanging tree.
Off I went Indiana Jones style, got to the bottom of the field and turned left. After a few hours I returned to the hospital feeling very tired and a bit stupid. Yes I know I went the wrong way, but that's what being Dyslexic does to you.
That night my nightmares resumed, but there was something different. The house was full of plums squishing and squashing up against the windows laughing at me.
The next morning I walked into the smoking room where I told the mentally interesting residents my dream and it was here a hand shot out in front of me saying "I cannot help you with the house problem, but I can help you with the plums. Give this plum to whoever started the plum nightmare, and I promise you'll have no more plums in your dreams." Placing the plum into my hand she made a dash towards the exit.
I was left with three choices: eat it, but I didn't know where it had been, throw it away, but that would be a waste, or do as I was told. In a matter of moments I was giving the plum back to Charlie and that night my dream house was empty of plums.
The very next day I found the lady who had given me the plum and told her she was right. That lady is now my wife. We got together in 1995, got married in 2000 and it still feels like I only married her yesterday.
I made sure that everyone was out of my life, my family included. I was going through a bad time – the world seemed as if it was spinning out of control. Did I want to be here? – no – so self-harm was the only thing that made me feel happy. More self-harm, that was the answer.
It began slowly, this transformation thing. Two years later. That day I had decided to go to Horsham Park for some more time on my own. Time – I'd had too much of that lately. So off I went and as I was reading, I looked up and saw my sister. And that was the moment my life changed. She made me feel that things were going to change, for the better. And they have.
My mother died 30 years ago, and I shed not a tear. My father died 4 days later and there was so much to organise. I shed one tear. My wife of 37 years, Janet, died in 2000 and I shed not a tear. My heart had shut down, not to feel sadness.
I was on the 4th day of a meditation course and the floodgates opened. I cried for about 15 minutes. It was like a dam bursting, with my emotions flowing out. My heart started opening, so that I could feel. The trees and grass looked greener. As Lenin says, for decades nothing happens, then suddenly, in a few weeks, everything happens.
That was the first of many meditation courses, and the muddy water that obscured my thoughts has gradually cleared.
On the way to the workshop by train from Gatwick to Brighton, I was in the disabled toilet when I heard an announcement over the tannoy: "At 11am there will be a short 25 min service of Holy Communion in the airport chapel on the 3rd floor."
As I was in plenty of time, I made my way to the lifts and arrived during the gospel reading. I was there in time for the second part of the liturgy, the liturgy of the Eucharist. I was so thrilled to be there, with the chaplain Fr Jonathan and a handful of others, only four or five of us. It was so meaningful to relax into the familiar rites and prayers, and then at the end of the service to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. An oasis of peace, prayer and transformation on my way!
My Christian faith has always meant a lot to me since my early years and through many winding paths to where I am now. Even more these days, with MS causing me to waste away physically and outwardly, I find I am being inwardly renewed and transformed through the Holy Spirit.
When John first became ill he did not realise the effect he had on others around him.
Those close to him, his wife and children, suffered in a different way. He himself self-harmed every day, and when he was at his worst he would overdose on pills and end up in hospital.
He spent months on end in psychiatric hospital and ended up having ECT. Then his wife left him, she could not take any more. This sent him spiralling down and he reached rock bottom.
He shut himself away, spending all day and night in bed. Slowly the months passed. Finally his Community Psychiatric Nurse convinced him to visit a group who met once a week. He went and met people who were going through similar things and he realised he was not alone. He became friends with a woman who helped run the group who herself had suffered a breakdown. This friendship blossomed. He stopped self-harming, got a job and started a new life, free from his demons.
Optimistic of Horsham
Transformations! Don't talk to me about transformations! Nobody knows the trouble I've seen.
23 years! 23 years looking after mum, senile, double incontinent, severely arthritic and with heart trouble. And not forgetting dad before her, crippled from open-heart surgery. I had helped look after him since I was eight, with scant regard from neighbours or relatives I may or may not have had. Then dead end jobs. Charles Dickens would have loved it. Some outrageous civil servant telling you to work harder for less and less, the welfare lark.
And the quacks at the surgery. So over-monied, and treating you like some yob off the council estate, giving you the thumbs down. They don't recognise the SAAD condition, Severe Anxiety and Depression.
I might be mad, but it doesn't make any of this less true. Still, cheer up, not to worry mate. I'll chance my arm back down the job centre. Do you come here often? Charmed, I'm sure.