AFTER MUCH resistance I have finally accepted my need to embrace retirement and adjust to the changes it brings. This move has not been easy, made even more difficult because of the many complex challenges I have experienced throughout the seven decades of my life. However, I am at peace with this phase of my life and with the older woman I am, notwithstanding the profound sadness embedded in my soul that remains unresolved despite my many feeble attempts to address it. Whether that will ever be settled depends on others, and ultimately upon God.
As I reflect upon my life and the incredible journey I have been on, the places where I’ve lived – Darwin, Papua New Guinea, Israel, Outback Queensland – and the experiences I have encountered along the way as a writer, and social worker in a variety of settings including mental health services, palliative care and in the Outback, it would be so easy to dismiss the decades of intense psychological distress and resultant psychiatric care I went through for me to become the person I am.
Despite increased media attention in recent years, mental illness remains a taboo topic, shunted away in society’s psyche, its stigma preventing those experiencing it from accessing the support they need as they confront one of life’s greatest challenges. Regrettably, many people with mental health issues choose not to speak of them preferring instead to pretend all is well when it is not.
For me to “forget” my dreadful difficulties would be to present a picture of an idyllic, hassle free life, which would be a lie. To remember is fraught with its own challenges, not the least of which is to be misunderstood and judged by those whose lives have been relatively simple and problem free.
Throughout my life my heart’s cry has been that I want to be real. And to be that I must accept my whole being, warts and all. Not perfect, by any means, but at the very least a person of worth and value – just like everyone else.