For my first post, I’m sharing with you the seeds that gave birth to this blog. I hope that my words and the call to action that I am feeling, will resonate with you in the same way that I feel it urgently within myself.
In 2018, I was for a time a patient at a psychiatric clinic – I was worn-out, weepy, dispirited, hardly eating and heartbroken, and the clinic gave me much-needed respite from my increasingly disjointed life. On my first day there, having done the requisite intake interview with the psychiatrist, having been measured and poked and prodded and fed, I settled in and met some of the other patients. People spoke openly and easily, for the most part – about their traumatic brain injuries, about their bipolar disorder, frequently about their families. I was immediately and immensely moved.
There was so much pain here, and so much resilience; so much suffering, yet, present in each person’s story, such willingness to be vulnerable. Like a thread through every conversation ran the need to connect – to be seen, to be acknowledged, to exist fully. My own pain, while it did not become insignificant to me, was put into context: I am a profoundly wounded human in a profoundly wounded world, and that makes complete sense. There’s an odd poetry here, I thought, in how we are all searching for acceptance;
there can be immense beauty in our collective healing, more so than if we’d never been broken to begin with.
And whilst I could not quite see the beauty in my own story yet, I could see it in others’. That gave me hope, and it gave me meaning.
On that first evening, sitting in the tiny smoker’s lounge of the clinic amidst rattling aircon and overflowing ashtrays (which is where everybody got together), I first realised what has since become a mission statement for me: If it is at all within my power to find healing, then it is my duty and my calling to do so.
I must do so on behalf of Melanie, skinny boyish Melanie chain-smoking here with me, who lost both her lover and her mother to cancer, whose sons are no longer speaking to her, who is going to rehab after this. I must do so on behalf of James, who is turning twenty but whose parents have never celebrated his birthday, who peers at us from underneath his greasy black hair, occasionally banging his head against the wall. I must do so on behalf of Karen, whose husband refuses to accept that she has an illness, even after she tried to die.
But it’s not only on behalf of the patients here and elsewhere that I must heal. It is also for my family, for my country, for everyone in the world who carry their own difficult stories within them. If I can heal, if it is at all within my power to find healing, then I must do so on behalf of my mother, who tied herself to abusive men twice over yet raised us valiantly and kindly. I must do so on behalf of my grandmother who carries the sorrow of her son’s suicide in her body. I must do so on behalf of all four my siblings who venture into life with compassion and curiosity, carrying their wounds with aplomb.
If I can find healing for myself then it is imperative that I do so, on behalf of my country where the wounds of the past are seething just below the surface. I must do so on behalf of my continent, embattled but glorious even under the strain of sustained poverty and strife. I must do so on behalf of the earth, this fierce nourishing Earth, awe-inspiring planet who houses us and feeds us, who whispers into our lungs, who aches into our bones until we return to her dust.
If I can find healing then I must do so, because to do any less would be betraying myself, my family, my planet. To refuse this mandate would be to hinder the healing of the entire Earth a little bit, to bury my head in the sand while our planet spins into chaos. I cannot heal others if I cannot tend to my own wounds. I cannot love my planet if fear and avoidance reign in my heart. I am deeply ineffectual if I refuse to plumb the depths of my own heart.
I must become whole if I am to live.
This is my story.