Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I am grateful.

I am hungover today. No. Not the 'I drank a bottle of wine and finished myself off with a Scotch' kind of hangover.

This one's emotionally driven. And not because my eldest daughter left yesterday to return to Vancouver where she is now living. No, it's not of the separation anxiety genre. Though I do miss my daughter and am sad to say good-bye, I am excited about her journey, the future bright and sparkling on her path. I am not sad for my daughter.

This hangover is of the 'I'm so sorry you're hurting. How can I help you when I know your pain is so deep you can't breathe... What is wrong with humanity?' kind.

It's of the, 'I remember those days when I was catatonic. Numb. Terrified. Immobile...' genre. This hangover comes from not being able to process what I heard, what awoke within me, and what I cannot change.

This hangover will pass, as all things do. But, for the woman who sat in my office yesterday and cried and insisted she didn't know what to do. Who spoke of dark places and ending it all, 'this' will not pass quickly. 'This' will take time. If she gives herself the time to find herself beneath a lifetime of abuse, bad marriage, shame, fear, and self-loathing. If she gives herself the gift of healing.

"But how can I heal when I have to find a job. Go clean someone's house so I can have some money in my pocket. Find a way to connect with my children. Deal with my ex-husband. Go to court. How can I heal?"

I remember those times. Those days when the darkness pressed against my skin, compressing air, pressuring time. Release me. Give me up. Give up on me. Give me a break. Break me. I am broken. Broken into so many pieces. Scattered. Shattered. I cannot think. I cannot find my mind. I cannot. I can. Not.

I remember those days. And I breathe.

That was then. This is now.

In the now, there is a woman in pain. She is crying. Sobbing. She cannot hear me. She cannot hear. Anyone. But the voices in her head. Screaming at her. Whispering. It is the whispering that kills. The whispering that sucks the lifeblood from her veins, twining about her ankles, sucking her into despair. Her body leaden. Her mind heavy. the whispering sucks her dry.

I do not have the tools to help her. I can only listen. Prod here, poke there, like a scientist searching for life on a distant planet. She is far away. Lost. Alone. Frightened.

Please let me call one of our counsellors, I ask. Let me help you by finding someone who can help you, right now, right here.

Finally she agrees and I call one of our counsellors and she comes and they agree to write a contract that she will sign and check-in with her every week. She'll take professional help, she says. Anything. Please. To make the whispering go away.

It's in your head, I tell her, but I know she cannot hear me.

It's always in our heads. And the only way to stop it is to, Stop It. To not listen. To bring our will to bear.

It is the will bringing that is so hard to bear. After falling down for so long, standing up is hard.

and yet, we must. We must stand up if we are to live our lives without fear, without abuse, without believing we are worth nothing.

We are each and every one of us worth so much, but only we can find our only value. Only we can stop the voices in our heads that would have us believe -- there is no purpose for us here on earth.

I am hungover. This too shall pass. I know that her journey is not my journey, though for awhile, her journey awakened memory of a time when my journey hurt so much I wanted to die.

And in its passing, I am left knowing -- I have great value. I have great worth. I am worthy.

In its passing, I am grateful for the story I told one day in a classroom at a homeless shelter about a time when I was lost. In its telling one human being awoke to the belief that maybe, just maybe there was hope. That maybe, just maybe there was a possibility of change.

I cannot change her journey, the choices she makes, the paths she takes. I cannot clear her mind, or wave a magic wand and 'make it all better'. She can. She has already taken the first step. 'Baby steps,' I told her yesterday. 'Baby steps.' In walking into my office yesterday, she chose to reach out and that is the beginning of hope rising that for this woman, this too shall pass and she will find her worth, recover her joy.

I am grateful to have heard one woman's cry for help.



Fi said...

...and that is why you must be absolutely amazing at your job, because you hear the cries of help, you listen and then you assist them in discovering what the first baby step to recovery is for them.

I am inspired daily by your words, your strength and your humanity

Thank you also for your kind words on my post today

Hugs, Fi

Maureen said...

You don't lack the "tool" essential to any person to whom another reaches out: the willingness to take time to listen. One has to be willing to listen, both to give and to receive help.


Louise Gallagher said...

Thank you Fi -- I believe it is because we inspire each other we have 'met' in this space -- to keep each other inspired so we can reach others with our words, and gifts.

Hugs -- to you and your family! I am holding you in my thoughts with love and care.

Louise Gallagher said...

So true Maureen. For a moment, though, sitting with her, I could feel 'those times' ebbing in, sucking at my senses. It is in the breathing I find my centre, find my now, so that I can be present. In breathing, I give breath to light and love -- sometimes, that is all anyone can do for another.

Hugs -- have a marvelous day!

Anonymous said...


a justifiable hangover no doubt

it is challenging - as you must find it every day - to offer comfort and understanding to people who, though they have so much trouble seeing it in their moment, are the only ones who can help them, holding their own fragile hand, to walk them out of the dark corner shadows to live new dimensions of their life

we all get weary when the scenery seems the same every day - like everyone but the lead-dog on a dog sled team where all you see every day is the same ______hole view

the lady in question has you to thank for encouragement to see beyond where she's stuck to see the glorious sunshine

as you often do for me

and, I hope, as I sometimes do for you

it's a beautiful day and, at the end of it, your life will be one day shorter - so don't miss a moment of it!!



trisha said...

you are a wonderful soul louise, i know you have the power to heal all the broken hearts that come in touch with you.

Claudia said...

she can be happy she met you and you listened..sometimes that's the most important thing to do...great she's taking steps and even when these are just tiny baby steps..they will take her away from the pain..

S. Etole said...

To know that she can't hear ... that is a gift not all can understand. And yet you listen knowing ...

CZBZ said...

We listen. We hear. We are willing to suffer discomfort, even distress,

So many people steal their hearts against other people's distress---either by doing nothing. OR, by doing too much. You have to ask yourself who benefits the most? The other person or themselves?

It's not easy being a listener who respects people enough to let them make their own choices. (I am preaching to the choir, yes?)

There's dignity in listening without 'controlling', you know? Bearing witness to another person's journey is much-needed practice. You were willing to listen and that is a blessing in our world today. It IS miraculous that people are willing to suffer (even hangovers) because they empathize with and care about another person.


Louise Gallagher said...

Thank you Mark -- juxtaposed with this woman was a woman who came to our Paint Your Hat event this evening. "You remember me?" she asked. "Of course," I told her. For 27 years she lived a life of abuse. Now, 6 years in, she's clean and sober. "You gave me a chance to tell my story," she said. "You believed in me."

And I did. And I do.

I believe in all of us, Mark -- and I so appreciate your words and your friendship.

And yes, you do. Brighten my day. Often.

Louise Gallagher said...

Thank you Trisha -- I don't think of it as the power to heal someone. It is the power to be real, to be me and to honour each person with my truth so that they can find theirs. Like your poetry -- it is all about finding the beauty in the individual filling each moment with light.

Louise Gallagher said...

Ahhh Claudia. There was a moment yesterday when I felt so helpless and so scared -- I didn't know what to do. And then I remember. Of course I know what to do. Just listen. that's all she needs. Is to feel heard. for in feeling heard, we find our voices.

Louise Gallagher said...

It is truly all I can do Susan. I know how I react when people try to tell me what to do -- not well! And so in moments like that, listening is the only gift I can give.

thank you!

Louise Gallagher said...

CZ my friend. It is something I learned on the boards when you and I first started chatting so many years ago -- when I tell you what to do, I am reinforcing what the Ns and Ps and abusers did -- telling the other what to do because they think they know best -- for everyone, and if they can't control the world, then something's wrong.

I have been blessed with eight years of healing -- and with people like you in my life who walked beside me without telling me how to walk as I journeyed away from his abuse.

Thank you my friend. you are such a wonderful gift in my life.

Like everyone here -- your gifts radiate and create a better world!

Thank you!