Day one is done. I’m sitting in a hotel because I couldn’t bear the silence in the empty dorm where I’m staying. I’ve had a good crunchy salad for dinner and warmed myself by the soft fire of people’s voices. There’s a big group here, chatting, hugging as members peel away and go out into the rain to head home. Today was brilliant but really, really hard.
Last night I barely slept. I got away to sleep early, my whole system slow and aching for rest. But after an hour and a half I woke up and that was the end of sleep until 6am. It was a long night.
I’ve just done day one of four days of training to deliver workshops about hearing voices. It was intense. In one of the scenarios I was asked to role play a doctor – not a bad one, friendly and respectful, but with that professional detachment that subtly dehumanises. I did, and I was very, very good at it. The experience of doing this to people knowing full well how it feels left me shaken and wanting to vomit. I felt profoundly dehumanised and alienated from my self. I sat out some of the second half of the day to ground myself. By the time we finished group debriefing and went to lunch I was rocking, had a massive tic, and my voice was intensely looping “I hate myself”. That’s my trifecta of major warning signs!
They were kind. I was boiling with feeling, so triggered and full of fear and pain. Power is one of my deepest triggers, an old wound, and this has taken me to the edge of the pit. They were kind.
I went and got a very large chai latte. I couldn’t eat much but it got something warm into my gut to ease that sense of churning. The waitress made a star on it which made me smile.
I called Rose and her voice, the soft burr of it, her voice like velvet, like whisky, the husky heat of it in my ear- it breathed colour back into my face. I felt profoundly lost behind a terrifyingly easy mask to wear, desperate to get it off me, to see clearly and be seen, at whatever cost. She spoke soothingly down the phone.
She went back to her work and I went out into the sun, took off my shoes and lay face down on the grass, reaching my arms or wide to embrace it, to hold onto it and not fall off.
The sense of wanting to vomit would not pass. I had an image of having eaten something toxic. Black and heavy it sat in my gut. I could choke it down but that would be it; if I came back to it later it would be sealed over, disconnected, hardened off. Now was the time to reflect. Now was the time to regurgitate the poison and study it.
So I wrote a poem about the feeling of it, trying to pin into words the immense sense of power, the detachment, the imperviousness, the way I could subtly punish, could torture, turn the screws just shy of outright rebellion and never once do anything anyone could pin me for, do it all with a gentle smile, do it all secure in the knowledge I was one of the good guys….
And now, after more intense conversations wrapping up the day, I’ve come to a hotel to be near people. Rose and talked all evening on the phone, that slow gentle back and forth talk of two people who know each other very well, who trust and feel safe in sharing, who see and feel seen. Mulling over her day and mine, sharing ideas and affection back and forth between us, the comfortable weaving of a long term relationship. And I can breathe again, this is air, this is what I need. The rocking goes away, the triggers ease.
I feel very alone here, with no animals, no companions, no one I know. I know what I need to deal with today and at home I would get it – I need touch and laughter and frivolity, a card night, a game night, a friend night, a night on the couch with Firefly, the chance to cook up something nice, to organise a shelf or tend an animal… To switch to the home people.
I’m not home here, and I’ve no friends here. I feel like a kid at school, desperately trying to balance two impossible needs – to be seen as who I am, and not to alienate – to fit in. Funny how even at 30 some things don’t change. There’s a kind of relief in confessing to Rose – oh, I guess I want to be liked… is it that simple? I guess sometimes it’s that simple. Our inner children don’t sleep far below the surface.
I feel painfully colourful, painfully teary, painfully ‘lived experience’, painfully alternative, painfully queer,painfully broke, and painfully ‘out of town’. Gods I miss my friends!
9 days away to go. Tomorrow night we’re driving over to Pt Lincoln for the 2 day conference, then back to Whyalla for the rest of the training next week. I feel like I’m missing an arm, like I’ve left half of myself back home with Rose. I am surprised by this, I’ve lived alone and loved it for so long, but there’s no parallel – alone in my own home is not like being alone in a strange place. Rose has my heart and without her here I’m a ghost of myself, jangling with lots, looking for something I can’t find. The quality of the training has been amazing, exactly what I’m looking for, so important to my work, so valuable. But, oh, my heart!
Here in the hotel, Radiohead comes over the speakers – Karma police. And I laugh, thinking of the time I was speaking about consumer led service delivery at the inpatient unit in Glenside and Radiohead was on the radio, and I had to ask them to turn it off because it was triggering a part who couldn’t deliver the talk… (I didn’t mention why to them…) The experience has become an in joke between me and my supervisor, the challenges of being multiple in a non multiple world, of being lived experience in a professional world.
After Radiohead comes old U2 and then Lana Del Ray. I laugh. It’s a strange night here. I feel like I’m on the edge of a vast desert, empty even of shadows. Not a void, not an inhabited night, just a unbroken and enduring emptiness. And on other side of me, a city full of strangers, shut in their bright homes with their families. The streets empty and dark and limed with rain. I’m glad to be here and I want to go home. My heart beats the word over and over; home, home, home.