Hello you, I'm sorry it has been a while and thank you for waiting with me and for me.
Over a year ago, I had the misfortune of encountering a monstrous being. Someone who fundamentally shook my belief in man's capacity to be decent and good. This experience was my un-doing. It took me months to name the injustice that was done to me. And many more months to even say it aloud.
A year down the line I'm still floundering emotionally and physically to process the whole experience.
Disbelief - did this really happen, did this really happen to me.
Shame - I'm an intelligent being...I should've seen this coming.
Anger - I didn't deserve this. I've led a good life. I'm a decent human being. How could this happen to me?
Pride - I'm a statistic??!!!
Then I have emotions, which I can neither place nor name yet they're as present as my every breath.
In foreign Territory
I wasn't joking when I said this was my un-doing. You know it's bad when even my Faith is shaken. At the time, I wrote 'at my mother's feet'. A poem which expressed that chapter of my life.
Then I stopped writing. Correction, I couldn't write. In fact I couldn't do very much beyond the day to day - Mass, work, eat, sleep, parents, volunteer, repeat. I lost my voice. It wasn't just other people I couldn't trust. I couldn't trust myself and my judgement. So, my voice joined a bandwagon of things I couldn't trust and thus begun the unscheduled hiatus.
To be honest, I wasn't sure I'd be able to write again, ever. And after a while, I got scared of writing. What if I couldn't anymore? What if I had nothing to say? First forward 15 months later, here we are ... I'm taking it one day at time and keeping my fingers crossed.
A few years back in the thick of the pandemic, I found myself listening to a live Instagram interview. A woman called Alex Elle was being interviewed. I can't tell you who was interviewing her or what the interview was about. But I remember this one statement she said that captured my attention at the time.
''....life is not linear...''
Life is not linear. It just isn't. I often add, that Life does what life does best, it happens. In the year or two since that interview, I've found myself often returning to this statement. I've used in my consult room with my patients especially when unexpected things happen.
Life happens. Some chapters are like the perfect Summer's day and others are darkest loneliest scariest storms. From a human perspective, there is no rhyme or reason as to why life unfolds a certain way for one person and a different way for another. There's no explanation as to why today the storm is at one person's doorstep and while there is sunshine on their neighbours.
There's no reason why 'the storm' made an appearance on my doorstep the day it did. There's not a single thing that one can do to merit either the sunshine or the storm. No amount of money or good deeds will keep away the storm. Let me give you an example.
I'm borrowing from the lives of patients who I've had the privilege of looking after over the years. (All identifiers have been changed and pseudonyms used to ensure patient confidentiality.)
Athena, a young mother in her 20s came in with complications of end stage metastatic lung cancer. She had started coughing blood, which on investigation revealed she also had clot in the lung as well as the cancer. She had never smoked a day in her life. No one in her family smoked. She had not worked in any industry that might predispose her to lung cancer. Yet there she was, dying of lung cancer in her 20s. She'd stopped asking 'why me' and was trying to make most of the days she had.
Boreasine, a fiercely independent woman in her 90s and who'd lived quite the life as she put it, also came to see me. She had been smoking since age 9 years old. She had a mild chest infection but what she really wanted to share with me the consultation were the latest pictures of her great grandchildren. Other than some poor dentition, mild changes to her chest X-ray and tar stained fingers and nails, she was a picture of health. Literally. This chapter of her life was pure Joy and Happiness. Pure Sunshine.
Caeser, a 40 year old ex-service man finally returned home after a couple of tours and was found to have metastatic melanoma. A form of aggressive skin cancer. He had only been married a few years and had a young family. Unfortunately he died a year or so after his diagnosis, in a public toilet of brain haemorrhage, apparently a complication of the melanoma.
Deandre-Ann, an African immigrant in her late 40s was finally giving birth to her child with the assistance of IVF, after more than a dozen miscarriages. She came in a few weeks later to see me for her 6 week postpartum check with her newborn baby. She was full Joy but there was also deep sadness in her eyes. When we started discussing her support system and who was at home with her, her eyes welled up in tears. She told me her great Joy has been accompanied by a great loss. The love of her life, had left her not long after her delivery. She had the support of her mother who had moved in to help her. For Deandre-Ann, the 'storm' arrived on heels on her 'sunshine'.
Equestriana had found her way into the U.K. after escaping from war. She had settled quite well and was working in finance. She was in her 30s. She came to see me for a medication review consultation. The most striking thing about her was there was not an ounce of emotion in her demeanor, face or voice. Before she left my consult room, I asked her a bit more about herself. The floods gate opened. When she eventually settled. She told me she was an orphan as consequence of the war in her country. Once she had settled, she wanted a child and after much difficulty was able to conceive and deliver a healthy child. She finally had the life she'd dreamed and worked so hard for, in the house of her dreams. About 6 months into this dream, the storm came again, this time it took the form of a terminal illness. Her prognosis she was told was 6 months. Other than her child, she was completely alone in the world. Her sorrow she said was not because she was dying as death comes to all. Her sorrow she said were for her son, that she was about leave behind alone in this world. She was bitter.
And life happens
Sitting in my consult room each day and encountering hundreds of souls has taught me that there is not a single thing that one can do to merit or buy their way around life. Yeah you can buy materialistic stuff and experiences. But when it comes to life.....well... it happens. It has it's own rhythm.
Sunshine and Storms
The Sun shining can come in any form. It can be a whole chapter in life like Boreasine's story. Or it come in little pockets of joy every day, such as the laughter of a child, wonderful meal, or joy in a loved one's face. The trick is to look out for it. And to quote Alex Elle, when you find it, 'Seize it', and squeeze every drop of Joy out of it.
The same is true for the storm. It can come in any form. In the examples I've used, the storm takes the form of an illness. But it could be anything. It could be the loss of a job, a demotion, a failed exam, a sexual assault, death of a loved one, holding the hand of loved one suffering with a chronic illness or dying, unfaithful partner, a difficult marriage, an unwell child. It could be war. It could be a series of little disappointments that slowly erodes.
Whatever the case, hold on. Be gentle with yourself. Anchor yourself firmly to your loved ones and the things that restore you. Remember, every single emotion you'll feel is valid. Even the ones that you can't quite name or describe.
Remember that much like life,
healing is not linear.
Be Patient. Be compassionate with yourself. Give yourself time. There's no time limit on healing. It takes as long as it takes.