MFA thesis, 38 pages, 12 chapters, 2016
A personal narrative into the world of healing. Trying to make sense of death and wounds, shaking the grounds of belief. Academia meets spirituality meets pharmaceutical complex meets pop in feminist writing.
I am back in the park next to where I used to live. I wander around, waiting for twentyminutes to pass. Suddenly one of those flashbacks. Seven years after.The grey sofa.In that apartment I received the message. The message that would bring lifelong pain.All I can remember from the phone call is that I slumped down into the grey sofa andmy mouth stood wide open like in a cartoon. Listening to the voice on the other end.Numbed. My mind occupied with the thought of myself, the comic figure, the oddityof not being able to close my mouth.
Just a tiny little pulling in the abdomen, a woman in full power, in full beauty. Eightmonths later her life is gone.‘When the sick rule the world mortality will be sexy. When the sick rule theworld, all writing will be short and succinct, no paragraphs will be longer thantwo sentences so we can comprehend them through the brain fog the well bringto us daily.’ (Bellamy, 2015, p. 36)One of her worries was that her family would have to take care of her in old age.‘Before that will happen, I’d rather kill myself’, she said. Brave somehow-a sign ofself-determination or anxiety? Not wanting to be a burden. The mother figure, thecaregiver, has to be strong, to function, to give and not to receive. High-performanceculture, even in the family realm.(2) Into what kind of society have we manoeuvredourselves?(3)We are all sitting with bad postures on a powder keg of cancer, obesity, diabetes, depres-sion, burnout, parasites. Sick from a system we help to build every day with the time wededicate to useless labour, with our silenced voices, corrupted hearts, shrunken brains,(4)limited visions, with our carelessness, hopelessness, inactivity, overactivity. We havecreated a monster. An over-sanitized monster in the disguise of a decaying welfare state,slipping out of our hands, collapsing while we watch.
graphic design: Julie Hviid Cetti
It is useful to consider this text as an experiment — one that does not lay claim to either academia or science, but instead chooses to centre writing about personal experience as a methodology. One that moves through disciplines towards an interconnected sense of understanding rooted in a specific voice, a specific body. This text offers a kind of conflicted vulnerability, through which it is possible to decipher a rare urgency found in the acknowledgement and consideration of subjective experience, and the awareness that storytelling-as-method can hold personal experience alongside speculation.
At the core of the work is the authors focus on how inter and intra-personal connection can become the source for healing and prevention. This focus gives the sense of a fragmentary memoir, a text both about a period in the authors life as well as one that grapples for the tools to make this life not just bearable, but joyful. In a bold move to widen the scope of the project, the author also addresses the need for a ‘global healing process’, pushing the discourse away from the capacities of the individual, towards the necessity for a prolonged examination of our relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, and larger cultural and social norms surrounding the healthcare system. This is driven by Donna Haraway’s notion of “staying with the trouble”. One that the writer concludes is integral to the integration of individual care and healing, and the seemingly more intimidating task of affecting political and social change.
There is a striking focus on the format of the text, and this provides a crucial key to the way the content unfolds. Intersecting fragments weave a personal narrative concerning the diagnosis and subsequent death of the authors mother from cancer with wide-ranging considerations of the current state of alternative healthcare available. These two strands eventually coalesce in what seems to be the present, but on the way there we find tongue-in-cheek assessments of the self and comments on ongoing relationships with therapists, alongside quotes from sources as varied as The Matrix and Bruce Lee. There are moments when the irony jars; a section entitled ‘Mantra’ consisting of a poem-shaped-mess of 21st century cringe-inducing slogans and lifestyle jargon precedes a particularly fraught passage describing the last weeks of her mothers life, which is assertive and moving in its brevity. Finally, an imaginary conversation with the German physicist Hans-Peter Dürr, provides some light relief, allowing the reader to ride through the palpable sense of anger and frustration towards a contemplative and reflective end.
The mercurial nature of the writing demands the reader keep up — as soon as one question is considered another one emerges, answers and questions overlapping in a frantic search for some kind of solution that is always evaded.
This text touches on the unpalatable contradiction of our lives: the simple fact that the labour we enact, the relationships we foster and the institutions we exist within build the society that makes us sick and keeps us dependant on medicalised systems of control. But what else is there? A stream of experiences from psychotherapy and yoga to various alternative therapies perform their way towards an alternative kind of knowledge making. One that ultimately sets aside the wants and needs of the writer (or individual) to make room for notions of community, and care-as-practice.