Thursday, 27 February 2020

A Portrait: The Borderline Warrior

Here is my experience of my participation. 

I believe my purpose in life is to support those suffering Borderline Personality Disorder. I have faced challenges in my life I wish no other will. I believe that with a little understanding, education and compassion, this is easily achieved. Together with Steve Wise and Gabrielle Brand, a photographer and a researcher, I was given the opportunity to help. 

I shared my life story generously and bravely, inspired by potentially reducing the suffering of others with my condition. After nearly two years of prodding, laughing, crying, reflecting and connecting, a photographic portrait and educational resource was born. 

Little did I know, this process was healing and an important part of my recovery. I was heard, my tears and laughter were shared. I was treated as an important and valuable commodity. The photographer and researcher were such beautiful, intelligent and fun people, it was a great self esteem boost to be treated as their equal.  The cherry on the cake, was the first time I set eyes on the portrait. 

Is this how I am seen? The woman in this portrait is proud, elegant and strong. She's competent, she's powerful, she's like an amazonian warrior. For a patient with 'a poor understanding of self', or 'identity disturbance', this was a welcome sight. From today on, I understand myself to have all those qualities. As a result, I feel humble, I'm no better or worse than others, just like all others I have strengths and shortcomings. I can walk in the street feeling entitled to be there, I can breathe my fair share of oxygen, I no longer need to feel guilt for taking oxygen which I formerly believed should've been for others more worthy than myself. All of us are worthy and equally deserving. 

I'm excited to see that this project, not yet fully launched, is already making a difference. Gabrielle Brand and Steve Wise, I can't thank you enough. 

This photo shows how music helps me to fight my mental illness and addiction.

In the portrait, you can see a number of images or symbols, which represent important aspects of my recovery.

My instruments are my weapons, music connects me to something spiritual and to other people. in an orchestra, I feel I belong, that I am a part of a musical family.
My ‘Big Book’ from my 12-step program and my beloved Mont Blanc fountain pen are held in my left hand. Attending meetings and belonging to fellowships for alcoholism and compulsive overeating has fast tracked my recovery since 2011. I write a journal, and this helps me to notice, validate and accept my emotions and thoughts. My fountain pen is such a delight to write with and reminds me fondly of when it was gifted to me in Luzern in 1999.
A tally of five followed by a full stop denotes how often I made attempts on my life. The punctuation represents the commitment I made to the universe that I will never ever try again to end my life.
A nine-pointed star hangs around my neck. This is the symbol of the Baha’i faith, a religion which gives me inspiration. 
My eyes have been masked because a part of Borderline Personality Disorder is identity disturbance. The self-hatred I grew up with taught me to act like someone I thought would be accepted and loved. This naïve strategy backfired as it led to me not knowing who I was. It was originally Steve Wise’s idea, his job as photographer was to get to know me, so that my portrait was more than a picture, that it told a story of who I was. After three interviews, he saw me as a warrior. This shocked and delighted me, as I was so busy fighting, I had never realised how successful a warrior I indeed was.
Mahler’s handwritten score of his ninth symphony morphing into pagers from my journals, provide the backdrop to my portrait. Whilst hospitalised in ward 2K at Royal Perth Hospital after an overdose, WASO were performing Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. It is lucky that through the back alleys the Perth Concert Hall and ward 2K are only a few hundred meters from each other. I snuck out of the ward that night and sat in the back of the stalls to listen to the performance in my hospital pyjamas. I reflected on Mahler’s superstition around ninth symphonies in which he believed this was his end approaching. He was frightened and didn’t want to die. And there was I frightened to live. It was that moment that I made a promise to myself and to a power greater than me that I would like Gustav, learn to love life. I would go to any length to find a life worth living. I’m proud to say, that with music as my medicine, I now love my life and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all.

PS, I wasn't wearing my pyjamas, I wish I had been cause it's such a good addition to the story. 

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Back to the bassoon.

A year ago, I came across another incredible student. A baroque bassoon student. He inspired me to play again. I needed belief that this project was possible, to find an instrument for sale and $8000 to buy it. This is how it happened.

A very supportive colleague in Italy encouraged me with passion and fed me every step of this journey. I asked all my European colleagues to keep an eye on the market and inform me should an instrument become available, which it soon did. The next step was to raise some capital. So I set up a crowd fund page and I published it. Here is the text which accompanied it. 

I love playing the baroque bassoon. Ever since I was a young girl I dreamt of being a professional musician. I was so driven that I worked hard with all my heart. By the age of 30 I had succeeded and was working as a freelance musician in Australia and Europe. 

When I was still very new in my career as a baroque and classical bassoonist in Amsterdam, it became very apparent to me that the psychological struggles I had experienced all my life were getting worse not better. After much scrutiny from a team of mental health workers in The Netherlands I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). This condition causes emotional disregulation, depression, anxiety, difficulty with personal relationships and a tendency to self harm or sabotage. The doctors informed me that this condition could not be treated. 

I was completely overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do. On impulse I returned to Australia, sold my instruments and began working as a bus driver. This was because at the time I was angry with myself, I felt it was the punishment I deserved. This was self sabotage typical of those suffering BPD. Without my primary love, which is music, my condition became much worse. My bus driving career ended after a road traffic accident and I retrained as an English Language Teacher. Things were hard and in the absence of support or treatment, I found an escape in alcohol. 

Thinking an altruistic job would feed me some self-esteem, I started work teaching asylum seekers in immigration detention on Christmas Island. This was short lived as I was sent off the Island suffering with Post Traumatic Stress. The company I worked for took good care of me financially due to the workplace injury, however in another act of self sabotage, I quit my job believing I didn’t deserve to be paid if I were not working. 

Things still needed to get much worse for me before I arrived at my life epiphany. I was taken to Royal Perth Hospital by the police in an ambulance after making yet another attempt on my life. The months in the psychiatric hospital were exactly what I needed, yet a very dark time in my life. I will never forget the day during this hospitalisation, when I heard my self think, ‘suiciding isn’t working for me, from now on, I have no choice but to embrace life’. I recall a conversation I had with my 'higher self'. I asked why was suicide not working for me. What I 'heard' was, you can't go yet, you have a purpose here. You cannot decide when to leave, that will be decided for you. Your task is to share your story, be brave, be generous. Sharing your story will break stigma about mental illness and addiction, it will provide validation, love and support to those still suffering, it will reduce their suffering. I’d worked hard in my life, but my greatest achievement has been to learn to love life and to love, accept and forgive myself.

Eighteen years since diagnosis, my condition is much improved. I have many years of continued sobriety thanks to a twelve-step program and I have recently completed three years of intensive Dialectic Behaviour Therapy. This therapy is based on mindfulness and has rewired my brain thanks to the phenomenon of neuroplasticity. 

 I have been teaching and performing baroque bassoon at the University of Western Australia since the beginning of this year. And I am grateful to have my bassoon career again after many years of illness. My crowd fund campaign, if successful will enable me to purchase an instrument of my own. Baroque bassoons rarely come on the market and I have recently been offered and instrument through a dealer in Amsterdam. I will be forever grateful to those who can support or share my campaign. I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the doctors and friends who assisted in my recovery, it’s been a long bumpy and spiritually enlightening road. I also wish to be there to support anyone recovering from alcoholism or any mental health struggles not just Borderline Personality Disorder. I am available in person in Perth, Australia, by email or Skype for anyone wanting information or support for anyone interested in or affected by my story.

In twelve days the funds required had been raised and friends were travelling around The Netherlands from Switzerland in order to assure the instrument was sound and in good working order. On the fourth of July 2018, the postman delivered it to my front door. It was absolutely beautiful.

This was quite a confronting journey of acceptance. Acceptance of love and worth. The funds had been donated by sixty-five people in Australia, Asia, Europe and North America. People who believed in me, people who loved me: Loved me and believed in me more than I did myself. It was a battle to accept, and much was learnt from doing so. I found that reading all those lovely comments was so strengthening and heart warming. I felt committed to all those people to play the most beautiful music and to volunteer generously in the music community. I’ve made a pact with myself to never let my ego or insecurities get in the way of the music. Music is love, music is recovery, music is a power greater than myself. 

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

This is what recovery feels like.

On Monday I had the most amazing day.  I looked at everyone with kindness and love. If someone had something I’d have felt envious about in the past, I looked at it thinking, wow that’s cool, I’m going to work towards having that one day. I didn’t feel any resentment towards anything/anyone and most amazingly, if someone said something sensitive or cutting, it didn’t hurt me.

Furthermore, I felt so confident that I was able be a 'part of’, I belonged. At orchestra rehearsal in the evening, I joined in on conversations in the break, I was comfortable to just listen, I didn’t feel like I had to be impressive or please anyone in order for them to accept or approve of me, I knew I was enough and worthy. 

This feeling was surprisingly odd, I’d never felt like this in my life, it was so new. I sort of walked around bedazzled (yes that is a word) because nothing was frightening me. I was curious at to why the boogey man hadn’t jumped out at me, but I quickly understood that he didn’t need to, nor was he going to. I understood for the first time ever why people wanted to live, why they were afraid of dying. 

Since Monday, I have become used to this feeling very quickly. It’s like a drug, if you have something that makes you feel so good, you want it again and again, one possesses a new level of expectations. I have felt good every day since Monday. It’s feeling normal now. Four consecutive days of feeling 'normal'. Just two days ago I was explaining to my therapist, how I was feeling the most remarkable sense of ecstatic joy. She explained to me that I was not feeling ecstasy, rather how people without emotional disregulation experience healthy happiness. 

It is remarkable how people react to me. They smile and look at me with kindness and love. They are happy to be in my presence. It is very subtle, but for me it is so loud and clear. I am a pleasure to be around. I had dinner Tuesday and Wednesday with people. Friends invited me to eat with their partners and children. It felt like I was a part of a family. Just being me was a contribution.

I am so filled with gratitude and humility. I feel like God has said, ‘Kate, welcome to the human race, you are one of them.

The combination of a Twelve Step Program and Dialectal Behaviour Therapy together with my sheer determination and courage have made this all possible. For this I am truly grateful.

Mountains of love to my DBT therapist and AA. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey of recovery.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

You have to be happy to discover you are depressed.

Years of preparation and dreams were invested in winning a place in the class of a renowned baroque bassoon professor in The Netherlands. I had arrived. I was so happy. Everything could not have been better. So, I guess at this stage I had nothing to explain the frightening anxiety, stress and depression I was suffering. Previously, I had many environmental explanations for being unhappy. With those factors whittled away, the mental ill health lay as exposed as a reef at low tide.

For years, I had understood I was ‘being silly’, ‘overreacting’, ‘attention seeking’, 'showing off'. Since the age of one I was known to react outrageously. As a toddler I would smash drinking glasses with my teeth or storm around on all fours imitating a Sherman tank. At primary school I was the ring leader of the playtime games one day and hiding in the library the next suffering social anxiety. I so longed to be someone else. I longed to be a boy.

From the age of eighteen I escaped this pain with alcohol and drugs. So many fun nights were fuelled on self-medication. Breaking into the Sydney Botanic Gardens to play with the nocturnal animals and hug the life sized muscly statues. Jumping the fences of the Municipal Swimming pools in Paris for midnight skinny dips. All night partying in roof top spas in Reykavik's midnight sun. Not to forget the aforementioned Bicycle Thieves of a debauched Amsterdam night. I also tried escaping geographically. Out to dinner one night on Oxford St Darlinghurt, living in London three weeks later. My friend likes to hold himself responsible for this fast relocation with guilt, but I know deep down he is proud to have made such an awesome suggestion. A former Viennese resident, he exclaimed his excitement at how easy it would be for me living in Europe now that my newly issued British passport had arrived. I was gone!

Well, 'gone' didn't go quite as fast as a I had intended. I heard from Nick, 'Come on Kate, there's a cheap flight leaving in two days, come with me.' Well despite sleeping at Sydney airport to assure a front spot in the queue, we didn't get on the flight. Nor did I the following week, the third week I did. Three weeks of farewell parties at our famed Stanley St abode made a festive exit.

I've diverged from the depression. So, furnished with a valid medical complaint I felt justified in seeking medical assistance. My symptoms were taken very seriously. I was happily surprised not to be fobbed off as being ‘being silly’, ‘overreacting’, ‘attention seeking’ or 'showing off'. I was assigned a team of three mental health clinicians who observed me weekly over a period of six months. During this six month period I was forbidden to drink alcohol, smoke cannabis or avoid exercise; I was to run (not walk, run can you believe it?) for a half hour period every second day. 

Being taken seriously had a profound effect on me. Amazingly I had absolutely no difficulty abiding to these terms. I thought it was the cure and that that was all I had to do to be freed of my terrifying mental distress. I reported weekly like a diligent parolee. In place of drugs and alcohol, I took up tea and biscuits. I purchased myself a china teapot, a selection of loose leaf teas and bone china cups. I invented my own form of tea ceremony. With the motivation of being cured, I was finding the task not a challenge at all. Those who knew me well were astonished at my abstinence and diligence.

With the six month period elapsed, I felt cheated. I had played my part of the bargain, why was that black dog still hanging around like he'd just rolled in excreta? It was because, drum roll, I had a condition called Borderline Personality Disorder. Personality disorder????? 'Excuse me?', I thought, 'well you have a dress sense disorder!', I wanted to say to the doctor. There was no medication for this condition and it could not be cured, but with psychotherapy the symptoms could be eased. 

Funnily, except for the bad name, I was sort of happy to have a diagnosis. There was a reason I was in so much pain, a reason why it felt like no one liked me, a reason I hadn't been successful, a reason I wanted to kill myself. This of course meant I wasn't being silly’, ‘overreacting’ or ‘attention seeking’. What a fantastic relief. I wanted to tell everyone, 'hey I'm not useless, I'm ill!' It was terrific validation.

Why was it Borderline Personality Disorder? Borderline of what? I did my research as one does, and 'we' lived on the borderline of psychosis and neurosis. Well, that made a lot of sense to me, in fact it was a very good description of how I felt. Disorder with your personality? So I understood that to mean I was born (could've been some nurture in there too, wasn't sure) with a personality that doesn't work in your favour. This also make buckets of sense, as when I was in distress I would instinctively want to do something totally destructive, like put your hand in a blender and turn it on, cut all your hair off, break your good reeds before and audition. There were occasions I couldn't stop myself sabotaging or hurting myself. I'd watch myself doing it, unable to arrest the movements of my body whilst observing incredulously.

And so began the psychotherapy. I was already 31 years old and the healing had only just begun.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Spiegel im Spiegel

Wednesday is the final group therapy meeting of my Dialectic Behavioural Therapy (DBT). It has been a 52 week course of intensive introspection and skill building. Others may arrive bearing wrapped gifts or cupcakes, I want to bring something much more reflective of my experience.

It is by chance that just a few days ago I heard a radio performance of Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt. On this very first hearing I was taken aback by how similar this piece made me feel to how I felt whilst practising DBT mindfulness skills. It was immediately clear that I should perform this piece for my therapists and fellow group therapy members.

Spiegel im Spiegel is so named because of the infinite repetitions occurring when one places a mirror in a mirror, or Spiegel im Spiegel. These repetitions can be heard in the arpeggios performed by the piano over which the cello line plays repeated F major scales, the scales create long beautiful soothing melodies. Naturally, these melodies are essentially scales in contrary motion, a musical term meaning ‘mirrored’. As the piece continues they lengthen and lengthen. I understand this to symbolise the ever increasing images of the mirrors’ reflections. Pärt has cleverly created tension and release by choosing to commence or end the scales on notes other than the traditional tonic or 'do'. The cello melody commences on the supertonic ('re'), the second note of the scale,  this gives me the impression that the piece had started before the musicians had even arrived. Perhaps the composer wants to remind us that we exist in a tiny moment within an infinity?

This is precisely what I have done for the last twelve months. I have looked at myself in the mirror, again and again. I have become aware, through repetitive mindfulness activities, of every thought, physical sensation, emotion or urge. When the reflection within the reflection is examined and understood, the cause behind these thoughts, physical sensations, emotions and urges becomes clear, it's cathartic. With complete acceptance and/or willingness to change, I have been able to calm and validate myself. I have been able to see how normal it has been of me to do what I did in those challenging circumstances. Alas, my experience has been of much repetition. In these reflections I found beautiful soothing. One of the distress tolerance skills is to self soothe through the five senses. I use my ears to be soothed by music, my eyes to see the beautiful patterns the music makes on the page, I can smell the old aged wood of my cello and the rosin or tree sap on my bow. I feel the wood on my skin as the instrument vibrates with the resonance of sound. The dissonance and harmony comprise two opposing forces which can be simultaneously true, this is the dialectic. It's what suffering Borderline Personality Disorder is. It's wanting to live and die in the same moment; it's hating something because you love it so much; it's many strange things which I have learnt to radically accept.

F major is a beautiful choice of key. Before the common practise of equally tempering tuning in the late eighteenth century, key signatures would arouse desired emotions in the souls of audiences. So for the lessor musical scholars in my audience, what I am saying is that the note a composer chooses as his 'home' note can affect the emotion one feels in the music; depending of course how the musician chooses to tune his instrument. Temperament (are you seeing the emotional connection?) is a frightfully complicated mathematical phenomenon. Go and chat to Pythagorus, he can explain it so much better than I. F major is a key which evokes a pastoral setting, it places me in a forrest or upon a rolling hill. Mother nature is my God, it is the glory of natural instinct which tells a flower when to bloom or an animal to migrate. This for me is evidence enough of God's existence. My earlier religious experiences taught me to despise the word 'God', so mother nature she is for me. I guess this is all a long winded way to explain how F major places me in the midst of my higher power, in her greatest cathedral.

Learning to play Spiegel im Spiegel has required much skill in emotional regulation, the third of the quartet of skill groups one learns in DBT. Yet another dialectic, to remain detached from the emotion of the music in which I wish to swim. Maintenance of my rational brain, is a requisite of expert cello execution. In DBT language 'wise mind' is a place where the perfect balance of emotion and rational mind exist. This is where I must remain to affect the emotions of the listeners, yet maintain a high level of technical prowess.

I greatly hope this performance of Spiegel im Spiegel will bring great comfort, encourage further soul searching and celebrate the end of a truly remarkable year of therapy. Thank you Marsha Linehan, creator of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

My names's Kate but I can't say the next bit.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to discover you are an alcoholic? It's hard.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to say, "I'm an alcoholic"? Even harder.

It transpires that saying it is actually the easy part, believing it takes months.
Everyone else was doing it but I couldn't do it. So at my first meeting that's what I said, "My name's Kate, but I can't say the next bit". No one judged, they just listened. What a beautiful group of people.

I only went to AA meetings to prove that I wasn't an alcoholic. But after ninety meetings in as many days, I learnt that alcoholism is a disease of denial and I was indeed an alcoholic.

I'm grateful to my friend who first suggested I go. She was very clever and discreet in her method. I had admitted myself to Christmas Island Hospital because I was so afraid of committing suicide, I felt safe at the hospital. She came to visit me and brought me some reading material. The book had a blank cover, very odd. When I opened it I saw it was a book from Alcoholics Anonymous. I was furious. I didn't want to divulge my fury to her as it would expose my denial. So I took the book and read it, showing that I wasn't afraid to meet my demons (believing I didn't have any). It was a fascinating read. I was horrified when I read that an alcoholic was someone who craved another drink after the first. I too craved more alcohol after I started drinking.

But no! I'm not an alcoholic. I wear pearls and drink champagne from flutes. Alcoholics were those who drank more than you, alcoholics were those who drank from brown paper bags and drank alone, or in the morning. Well, as I slowly became educated I learnt so many things about alcoholism. It was a disease that didn't discriminate, it chose poor people, educated people, famous people, my friend's mums. I saw all kinds of people at meetings. Some had lost jobs, families, dignity, pride, houses, there were so many different types of alcoholics and so many stories, but all craved another drink after the first and drank to get drunk. All were running away from pain.

At meetings I felt as though I belonged, I had something in common with those in the fellowship. After many many meetings I had finally completed the first of the twelve steps, I had admitted I was an alcoholic and that my life had become unmanageable.

The next eleven steps followed. It was just amazing what I did. It involved regularly questioning myself, holding myself to account for my behaviour. Once over the shame, one begins to carve out a self with which one becomes happy, content, even proud. Another relieving step was to apologise to all I had hurt. A monumental task, I'm sad to say. Firstly, I had to recall all the people I had hurt. This was not so easy. The people to whom I had caused grief, were fortunately not so numerous, but they continued to pop up, and for this I choose to continually make amends. It was rather unexpected the incredible love and forgiveness offered me. Perhaps they were shocked into it?

The final step was to help others overcome their alcoholism. This was a great honour. I was fortunate enough to have been one of dozens of women worldwide who went to the five metropolises in India to share our stories of recovery hoping to inspire women in India to do the same. This was like the jewel in the crown of sobriety. I shared my story with university students, doctors, rehabilitation patients and alcoholics. I was greeted with vast thanks, warmth, humility, dahl and chai. I found the people of India to be so spiritual, happy and generous. I was expecting to see poverty, but I found wealth; wealth of colour, wealth of flavour, wealth of community and wealth of acceptance. Meeting recovering alcoholics and their families in the slums of Mumbai I viewed, joy, gratitude, love and support. It was almost as though their detachment from materialism was their key to happiness.

Friday, 25 December 2015

I won't do it.

Currently at work, I am dealing with a client who is demonstrating really destructive behaviour. It's very self sabotaging, abusive and rude. I identify with it all. In fact I laugh because I've done exactly the same thing. This client is getting so much support from the government with doctors, social workers, cleaners etc etc. but the woman is just refusing to do anything and is being abusive to those trying to help her.

My heart goes out to the client because I can see how much pain she is in, and those trying to help her are getting really worn out and are therefore increasing the invalidation and causing her more grief. As a peer support worker, how do I get her from, 'I won't do it' to 'I want to do it'? We have to get the client to a place of really wanting to get on the recovery journey. I remember being there myself, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t do, feel or think anything. So anyone saying, ‘come on Kate, you need to do this’….I’d tell them to f*%# off because I felt like they had no idea how hard/impossible it would have been for me to do 'that', they just didn’t understand and they must have thought I was being silly and should just get over myself (after all that’s what I believe my mother has been telling me for forty five years). The only way for the pain to have stopped would have been to exit this world. My poor client is saying I'll have blood on my hands if she is successful in this. From my experience I do know however she is safe. 

In the end I had no help whatsoever, my friends were fed up with me, I was fed up with my family and I had ‘sacked’ any doctors/social workers trying to help. Typical Borderline behaviour. Perhaps my friends weren't fed up with me, but I believed they were, I didn't want that they would have to 'suffer' me anymore so I isolated myself.

Realising that I couldn’t seem to exit this world (after five attempts), meant that I would have to find a way to make life bearable. It was the first time I had reached the 'I want to do it' step. The first thing was that I had to find a way not to loose my house. I luckily found a job in which I used my experience as a mental health patient. I was a ‘peer support worker’, ‘peer’ meaning I also was a mental health ‘consumer’, a consumer of mental health services. I used my ‘lived experience’ to help others cope and recover. This was a great foundation to my recovery. I was a useful member of the community, the increased amount of time I spent with other consumers, helped me to feel less lonely and that my feelings and pain were valid. I felt so good about myself sharing my coping strategies to help others and I wasn’t going to lose my house. I was alone, but I had a great team and clients at work. My new employer was supportive enough to keep me afloat, not much more.

Finally the 18 month wait was over and I started DBT (Diabolical Behaviour Treatment…..ha ha only joking, Dialectic Behaviour Treatment). I think it was that first day in which I met my DBT individual therapist when I got to the ‘how do I do it' step. I had found someone who said, 'come on Kate, this is how you do it'. This person (Dr Fabbo), who was telling me what to do, did know how much pain I was in, did understand what I could and couldn’t do, was prepared to tolerate me when I tell her to f *^% off. God had given me the right help. This was my big opportunity. I felt confident that these clinicians were not ‘one of them’ (mental health clinicians). Well they weren’t ‘one of us’ (mental health consumers) but they were a ‘one of them’ who know precisely how it was to be ‘one of us’. We became, 'we are one'. 

The first day I went to group therapy I was terrified. I hid my face and cried the whole way through it. I just knew that I couldn’t leave that room, this was 'how to do it'. My commitment to changing and beginning to live a life that was bearable depended on it. The odd thing was that the other participants and clinicians in the room did nothing about my sobbing. It was awesome. They didn’t embarrass me by saying anything, making a fuss of me or giving me sympathy. Their silence was pure empathy and understanding. It was although my behaviour was totally normal. I felt totally safe and validated. So throughout the morning my crying changed from fear tears to soothing and relief tears.

My journey to recovery had begun.