About three months ago, things in my little world, for want of a better phrase, fell apart. Things had been slipping for quite some time before that, but there was a final stressor which caused an extreme internal reaction. I look at the few posts that I’ve published since that time, and they’ve talked of my disconnection with the world… my withdrawal from those around me. This feeling was starting to seem chronic. Hopelessness had settled in, and there appeared to be fewer and fewer options available to me.
Then, this past week, I started to see some glimpses of hope… lots of little things started to add up to create a bigger picture – reading The quiet room: A journey out of the torment of madness by Lori Schiller and Amanda Bennett; reading several blogs which talked about our inner resources; and reacting to Marsha Linehan “coming out” about her own history of mental illness. What these all created was not a new awareness, but a reaffirming of an old one… I wasn’t disconnected from the world… I was disconnected from “me”.
The rest of the world didn’t see the problem, because I was still functioning in it. I was still going to work, doing what was required of me, and going home. I was passing for human really well. But because I had lost all sense of my internal resources and connection, there was no substance to anything that I was doing. I could voice an opinion, but it came purely from an intellectual place, with no feeling behind it… It’s only when you combine the intellectual and emotional, that you can fight for your opinion to be heard and understood.
So how do I get back to “me”? Well, I’m not so sure. I know that I need to bring a sense of balance, acceptance and safety, into my life. All of these elements are in pretty short supply at the moment. I’m aware that there’s a huge fear associated with looking inward to see what can bring me back to level ground. I know that it’s about going back to the basics… reading, drawing, photography, reflecting… But, I’m not so sure how to accomplish this.
Writing this post was my first step. It’s an acknowledgement that I need to pay attention. That I can’t keep on going as I have been…
So, in the interest of trying something different, I’m going to tell the story behind one of the photos that I took while walking around the Wellington Zoo…
I took this photo as we were on our way to the exit. What captured my attention, was the chatter of the little girl. She was talking non-stop, and part of me was expecting the Dad to tell her to be quiet and calm down… instead, he listened to her. He responded as if he was giving her his total attention. When she wanted to exchange hats, he went along with it… saying how cool she would look with his hat on… he even helped her with the great hat exchange. After making sure that his hat was securely on her head, and that she was content with arrangement, he then put her hat on… all the while, he kept on walking and chatting as if it was the most normal thing in the world to do.
This man walked away, listening to the chatter of the little girl, with hats exchanged, and a pink backpack on. Doesn’t he look like a “cool dude”? Yet he didn’t lose patience with the girl and her innocent request… did I mention the pink backpack?
It was one of those moments where my past experiences, and what I was seeing, clashed. It took what seemed like ages to calm the inner chaos that was created by my expectations that this man would become angry with the little girl. I know that I could only be seeing the public front that this family put on, but I don’t think so. The little girl was so secure in her position in his arms. There was no stiffness in her posture, and the chatter was the free and easy chatter that I know occurs with children who are loved unconditionally.
While this scene brought hope, it also brought confusion and grief. I was mainly aware of the hypervigilence and confusion at the time, but I know there was grief for what will never be… I can sense that now. That has to be progress, doesn’t it?