I caught up with my local Hearing Voices group in SA yesterday. It was so good to see everyone again. I love this group, they will always be close to my heart. One of the first places I felt at home and started to see another way of engaging my own pain and loss. One of my first experiences of community. I was so happy to be back, particularly as I’m not a co-facilitator anymore and can just be my own mad self. 🙂
At one point, a member talked about experiences of spiritual emptiness. How I love this group, that these conversations happen. I constantly learn so much, feel so humbled. We talked about emptiness, shame, connection. I talked about my experiences coming home from the World Hearing Voices Congress and starting to struggle. At the congress I had the most amazing experience of connection with a whole room of like minded people. The first night alone in my flat was a transition. I’ve never been particularly good at object constancy. I can’t easily retain a sense of emotional connection to people when they’re not present. For the first 6 months of dating Rose, I would wake up every morning and go and find a photo of her to remember what she looked like, and to try and find that sense of connection to her inside me. I have issues with facial blindness, and often cannot picture the faces of my loved ones in my mind. I disconnect quickly. This can be really tough. I keep a lot of photos on my phone and around my unit to help me with this.
So, at the congress, all the connection, the hugs (we did a seriously AWESOME job of keeping out the parts who would get the most out of and be the least stressed by the congress! Very proud) the amazing conversations, they were all buoying me up. It felt like everyone I’d spoke with was a big red helium balloon, and I was holding the string. Feeling connected to them all, to a whole amazing community of people who treated me with care and respect, was half like flying. I was uplifted and full of hope. I felt like I could do almost anything.
Home alone in the night and the strings started to pull through my fingers. A profound sense of being empty and alone and very small in a very large, dark world crept over me. Hollow inside, doubts crept in, shame, every compliment in my memory twisted into a recrimination, every connection seemed imagined. I fell into the pit.
This time I took that image of the balloon strings slipping through my fingers and asked myself – what would help me hold onto the strings? I found that a question that resonated with me, there was a sense of fumbling in the dark towards answers. I took out my conference name tag and pinned it to my bookshelf where I could see it. I posted how I was feeling on this blog. I got up the next morning and watched Patch Adams over breakfast – marveling at the parallels, at the way so many of us are fighting the same fight, dreaming the same dreams. And how some of us simply cannot fit in, cannot help but be madmen. It’s not about what will work, or what’s practical, or even what will further our ideas best, it’s simply who we are.
I keep listening to small voices inside, keep looking for where my energy is. Keep trying to find ways to be more human, more honest, stronger in myself, more vulnerable in my interactions. I know that I cycle, it’s the nature of the carousel of parts. But I also know that strength deep in the system, that experiences of meaning, connection, community, and hope are deep and profound foundations even for the most wounded and disillusioned of us.
Being counter to mainstream culture can be hard. All of us need ways to keep our dreams alive, to maintain a connection to the things that are meaningful to us. I hope you are able to find ways to grasp the slipping strings in your own life, ways to tolerate the nights that are empty and find your way back to hope again.
A quote from Patch himself (not the movie):
you don’t kill yourself, stupid; you make revolution.
Vive la revolution!