Our Helen Kim Memorial Scholar, Madeleine, will be using this space to share thoughts during her time in this role.
This is her first article, written from the heart; details of how to respond to Madeleine are at the end of the article.
Healing Isn’t Linear
Very recently, I found myself with nothing but my phone and my car keys, dressed in my muddy dog-walking trousers, at just around my bedtime, driving my very much beloved twin to the medical walk-in centre in Salisbury, our local city. My twin, Bear, had a very sharp pain in the abdominal region, making breathing very hard, and deep breathing impossible. With my jaw clenched and my right foot perhaps a little trigger-happy on the accelerator, I rushed Bear the 35 minutes into town and sat bouncing my knee in the waiting room for the duration of the appointment, silently praying to God, whom I have recently started referring to affectionately as Abba (Hebrew and Aramaic, it’s a lovely mix of Father and Daddy) in my more vulnerable conversations with Him. I felt tense and stressed and lonely – my Bear was suffering and I was helpless.
The last time I’d been to a hospital was last year, when my newborn nephew was stuck in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Southampton, tiny and restless in an incubator for a whole month after his very late birth. Before that, Salisbury District Hospital was where I’d been rushed to have my collarbone x-rayed after the three-vehicle car crash I’d been in with my driving instructor in 2019. Salisbury District Hospital is where I drove Bear after the walk-in centre appointment.
Bear suffers from chronic pain, which is bad enough, so I was twitchy and tearful when I was left alone in A&E while Bear got blood tests. I even retreated briefly to my car (praise God for parking apps – I’d forgotten my wallet in my panic), and wept over the steering wheel for somewhere around five minutes before I just felt too guilty to stay and rushed back in to hover uncertainly at Bear’s side.
It was a very long and stressful night. We got home without any answers, just shy of five in the morning. We got three hours sleep before our brother-in-law arrived at 08:00 to drive Bear back into town for an ultrasound. I stayed in bed and slept for a large portion of the next two days before I had to drag myself up and make myself presentable for work (I’m blessedly part-time).
For a few days, I figured that I’d slept off the stress. Bear still didn’t have any answers, but had been sent home quickly after the ultrasound, the pain already abating somewhat. I dragged myself, exhausted but optimistic, through two shifts at work, and then I crashed.
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced burn-out. I don’t know if you’ve ever witnessed an autistic person hit burn-out. When I worked in fast-food, I was trapped in constant burn-out, never sure if I was going to make it through to the next hour, increasingly being sent home early after I retreated to the staff toilets to sob. If you know any autistic teens who are applying for jobs, don’t let them go into fast-food – it just isn’t safe. Nowadays, I tend to recognise the signs sooner and will only approach borderline burn-out every few months. This time, I hit it hard.
My safe-space, my solace, my time of prayer, is the hour I spend most days walking my friend’s dog. During this time, I became so reluctant to leave the house that I sobbed all the way round the fields and couldn’t stop until I had tucked myself back into bed afterward. My sleeping schedule went all over the place. My eating habits suffered, my head and stomach ached. I lay in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, begging God to comfort me, reciting the promises He gave us in Scripture, feeling utterly isolated. The sight of Bear gasping for breath on the kitchen floor, trembling fingers dialling 111, was like a dream now, since everything seemed to have gone back to normal. Bear never complained of pain, except to seek practical assistance during the usual flare-up days. I felt as if I’d been dumped out at sea and was now trying to work out why I felt like I was drowning when the waves looked so calm. I’d been here before, but not because of a medical emergency – never because of Bear. Bear is perhaps the most precious thing in the world to me, and when I first gave my life to Jesus, that was the first idol He made me give over to Him. I still give it over to Him regularly – I can’t seem to fully put it down.
I became angry. I was suffering for Bear and Bear wasn’t acknowledging it. I was crying out to God and He wasn’t answering me. I had a breakdown at work and cried on my coworker. I had a breakdown at my friend’s house when I went to walk her dog, and cried on her, too. I knew I’d have a breakdown at church, so I skipped it, lying in bed on Sunday morning, counting the days since the hospital trip, wondering why it still felt so present.
I fell back into bad habits – habits I thought I’d kicked years ago. I was reading unhealthy stories online, watching videos I should never have searched for, swearing, grouching at my parents, not looking after myself, neglecting basic needs like brushing my teeth and my hair. I felt dirty all the time, ashamed as if this was all my fault and I should have been strong enough to avoid such a dramatic fallout. I said some very cruel things to myself. Then God stepped in.
It rained on a dog walk. I looked up into the rain, took off my coat and felt it against my bare arms. I had been begging Him to cleanse me. He made it rain on me and I was cleansed. I stopped indulging in those bad habits. I lifted my head up, apologised to my family for my behaviour. I still ached, I was still exhausted all the time and I was still having frequent crying fits, but I had got through the worst of my breakdown.
This cleansing was, as I write, just over a week ago. This week, I cried on my coworker again. I had another rough day when I could barely leave my bed. I cried out to God again, asking for comfort. But I know I’m getting there. The fact that I woke up this morning with an itch in my fingers to write is testament to my recovery. The pain that brought Bear to A&E that night has completely dissipated, but I can see, now that I’m not wallowing in my own fatigue, that the same exhaustion written in Bear’s face. We’re both recovering still.
I tell this story for a purpose. It’s good to remember that God steps in when we need Him, even if it’s later than we’d like. It’s good to remember that idolising people in our lives can lead to extreme suffering when they are put at risk. But mostly, I keep coming back to one thing.
Healing isn’t linear.
I used to think that this was the sequence of events: you get wounded, you heal, you heal, you’re better. This is drastically incorrect.
I have watched as my sister continues to struggle with her two boys – the trauma she and her husband sustained from the youngest’s stay in hospital after his birth, and the fear their older son still harbours of being left behind every time he visits our house – perhaps not quite remembering the nights he spent here while his parents were in Southampton with his brother, but certainly still anxious to make sure they remember him when it’s time to go.
I have watched my dear friend at church wait helplessly for another and another and another operation on what she once thought was just a simple broken leg, she and her husband arriving at the service with dark circles under their eyes.
Healing isn’t linear.
Oh, how I wish it was. How I wish we could just get up and dust ourselves off. But we are made in the image of God – the image of One who is timeless. We have been gifted with eternal life – that is, lives outside of the transitory nature of our world. Our souls are with God – timeless. We are not linear.
We still experience time as linear, of course. In most cases, at least; I have regular episodes of forgetting that I can’t just go back and un-forget that thing I meant to take with me. But for the most part, we still exist within the framework of the finite, even though we ourselves have been plucked out of it, our names written in the book of life.
How often have you beaten yourself up or insulted yourself for healing slower than you expected, or having a flare-up just after you thought you’d taken a leap forward? How often have you received comfort from God, only to slip even further into suffering? Did you blame yourself? Do you hold yourself accountable for the very nature of healing? Don’t shame yourself if you do – God has taken that for us, so we need never be ashamed. Just recognise it and step away, if you can. Healing isn’t supposed to be linear, not when we image a timeless God.
I wish I had a cure-all inspiring platitude to tack on the end here. I don’t want to end abruptly after delving into such a heavy topic. I wish I could say, ‘don’t forget’ or ‘just remember’ or ‘take this with you’. Words, for all they’re my bread and meat, can’t truly satisfy an aching heart. All I can ask, of you and of God, is that we can be made truly aware of just how temporary it all is. The wound, perhaps, is the beginning of the narrative, and the middle isn’t linear, but the ending is in healing and wholeness.
If you want to respond to Madeleine she can be contacted on