I’ve not visited my home town in a long time. When I do visit, I feel assaulted by memories. It’s not a holiday or a sweet catch-up with friends and family, although there are plenty of things to enjoy about where I grew up. There’s plenty of nature, for instance. I was lucky that way. Bandicoots, egrets, parrots galore, fruit bats, I could go on ad nauseam. I was lucky. It’s a big reason, if not THE reason why I turned out to be so nature-obsessed. And yet revisiting home is fraught.
There are ghosts back there; my younger sibling, for one. I dreamed of her, last night. I also dreamed I met up with a face from social media. Someone who had lost a family member to suicide and had worked hard to improve the mental health system, to improve care for those at risk of suicide. They were courageous and persistent and so feisty, it was great to meet them. I woke up crying.
My cat likes to interrupt my typing and I’m going to try to ignore her as I type this. She’ll thank me later, as I’ll be in a better mood.
So I was back in my home town, visiting this social media celebrity who had fought to improve the mental health system, with the face of their deceased family member on a banner. There was this huge banner and a sculpture and people standing around in a yard and if I hadn’t woken crying, I’d know more. I can guess at the significance though. I’ve always thought that turning my grief into something more socially useful would be a great way to memorialise my sister. And it would be, if I were able to do so. But it’s more of a ‘should’ than a ‘want to’ and I’m not keen on adding more shoulds to my own shoulders.
And yet I can see the social benefits. Of course. I mean, I was crying with relief that others knew what that grief was like, and that they cared for their lost relatives despite all the BS that is spoken about people who suicide. Heck, despite all the BS that gets said about people with mental illness, and despite the ridiculously inadequate mental health care system. The government is currently spruiking the importance of subsidising trades apprentices, while leaving the aged care system in a shambles and making only token contributions to mental health care. I won’t bother you with my view their overall competence, but I do feel a visceral contempt for their priorities.
I’m so angry and I hadn’t even been aware of it. I knew I was feeling ‘off’ last night, and that I was reactive. I made sure I didn’t lash out. If the waiting time to see a shrink wasn’t weeks to months, I’d have booked an appointment by now. But by the time the appointment comes around, I’ll be ok and wondering what the heck to talk about. I know this from experience. That’s how useful the mental health system is for me, right now. It’s far more useful to call an actual on-call trained listener like someone at Mensline or Griefline or QLife, to let some steam out, then write.
I was telling someone today about the two social media posts that kept knocking at my brain last night. One was about men (including trans men) not reaching out for help as much as women (including trans women) do. The person who posted this was non-binary and queer, among other things, so I assumed, rightly or wrongly, that they had some insights. However it bothered me. I kept thinking of all the people in my secret support groups and how common it is for trans and gender diverse and queer people in general to feel stressed to the point of suicidal ideation. I’ve seen so many trans men reach out to each other and ask for contact details of suitable mental health supports. And when I say suitable, I include those who don’t need to be trained by their client about what trans even means, before they can even work with them. We’re often fussy that way when we have alternatives. When we don’t have alternatives, as was my own situation a few years back, we train our own therapists. How much progress do you think we make with our own sh*t? That’s right, not enough. But when we have suitable support people, we make darn good use of them. So I have to wonder at this person’s blanket assertion about men reaching out. I was going to ask my groups. First, I wanted to make sure I was approaching it from a good mental space.
The other post that opened a Pandora’s box in my brain was about rock art in my own town. Rock art was commonplace and precious, and related memories open me in ways that feel both beautiful and frighteningly vulnerable. One memory is from the period when my younger sibling and I were trying to help each other through our respective depressions. She had been in bed for days. I had cycled to a place that we’d previously only visited by car, as a family. It was peaceful, bushland, and full of rock art. I was so buoyed by my achievement and excited about sharing it, that I encouraged her to join me for another ride. Ten minutes in, she turned back. I knew what that was like, to be so down, and yet that memory makes me cry because it’s one of my last. I went travelling again soon after that and she died while I was away. There’s guilt and a swag of ‘what if’ and just raw grief.
It’s my other sibling’s birthday this week and she’s unavailable by phone. She often changes her number to evade a stalker ex-partner, so I can’t keep up with her at the best of times, but not even our parents have current contact details. It doesn’t help that she’s still grossly unwell and thus vague AF about ev-er-y-thing. What do you do when you want to wish someone well under those circumstances? Ordinarily I’d send a gift via snail mail, as she doesn’t internet. This time I’m not. I have my reasons. Instead, while I don’t pray as such, I will meditate later and hold her in my mind’s eye, surrounded with all the love in the known universe.
I would like to thank the photographer of the free image I chose from Pexels.