For many years, seeing people filled with joy and happiness terrified me. All the calmness and wisdom radiating from them seemed to be alarming and very suspicious.

How could they be filled with so much love and compassion, willing to share it with everybody around? Where did they get the energy to do so, when I was barely able to move out of my bed? How on earth could they be so confident and sure of their faith in God when I was there, young, lonely, with so many questions and prayers unanswered? How could it be that the Lord was present in the lives of so many, but not in mine? Was it my fault? Was I the only one left alone? I can’t be that special. Maybe once more, I was just not good enough.

With a mind-set like that the only thing I was dreaming of was my own sacred space. My room, where I could hide from the whole world, get the distractions on and just ignore everything that disturbed me so much. Some nights, when having enough energy left, I would sit in an open window of my bedroom, looking at the sky with all its stars, the moon graciously poking through the thick black clouds … And the cross of the nearby church.

It was a painful reminder of the past I could no longer relate to. To the annoyingly happy, calm and sweet girl, that I used to be. That I knew only from other people’s stories and some photos. Described by my family as an angel. The 'A' student, part of my school's dancing and drama clubs with unconditional love for literature and arts. Always there to help. Loving and loved. Of course, actively involved in the same, nearby church. Singing the little heart out in the children’s choir during rehearsals and midday mass every Sunday, being a part of Militia Immaculatae and bringing flowers to Mary’s statue whenever I got enough pocket money saved, having dear friends of some sort at church and school.

Becoming my worst nightmare for the years to come.

What happened in between? I had suffered full memory loss, due to an accident, with more absent-mindedness to come. I felt it was a lot to take, but God must have been with me there. Building a life over with no previous knowledge was one of the hardest tasks I was forced into. I wouldn’t have done it on my own, I know that. Not remembering my family, friends, not knowing God. Countless breakdowns, falls, moments to cry on itself or in prayer.  It opened my eyes to the darker side of myself. Gave me a full view into the complexity of the human mind - to other people’s behaviour and problems too. And what might be surprising and the most amazing, it gave me an a chance to re-discover God. This time, on my own.

Where am I now? Happily volunteering at Castlerigg Manor. Trying to get back into drama, slowly overcoming my fear of public speaking and singing. Halfway through The Bloodaxe Book of 20th Century Poetry, painting with watercolours, drawing, thinking of filmmaking. Helping people as much as I can. Loving and feeling loved. Slowly by myself. By other people. Most importantly, feeling loved by God.

Everything seems to go around. By pure coincidence I even wear the same hairstyle!

 

Aleksandra, 21, Castlerigg Manor - Keswick