Last week I was privileged to attend an event entitled Recovery Stories by Candlelight, as part of the WAAMH Conference, held in Kings Park over two days.

The story event was the culmination of many weeks of preparation, during which 20 individuals took part in a series of professional storytelling workshops. Nine people were selected at the end to be part of the live performance evening, telling their stories of the lived experience of recovery from mental illness.

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The evening started with (delicious!) gourmet paella, made in ginormous pans, followed by a selection of decadent desserts. The Spirit of the Steets Choir then took the stage and performed four songs.  A few of the choir members shared their own stories of recovery through music, each of which was touching and heartfelt.

Then we got the featured stories – nine brave and amazing people who shared their hurt, struggle and determination to live life as fully as possible. The challenges that each individual had faced – that many still face – and the way they were articulated, left me speechless. These included coping with PTSD, postnatal psychosis, chronic anxiety, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, self-harm, schizoaffective disorders and eating disorders. The evening was an emotional roller coaster, many of the stories moving me to tears.

Stories unify us, providing us with insights – not only into the lives and experiences of others, but into our own complicated (and often unaddressed) issues. It’s often the spoken word, the heard and remembered stories that have the greatest impact.

Things I thought, en route home afterwards:

  • Humans are fragile
  • Wounded storytellers sharing their journey of healing wield power to shape the world around them
  • People need to be kind to themselves. Life can be a struggle and your inner you might make the difference to your survival.
  • We need to accept that whilst aspiring to more in life is fine, stepping back and being grateful for what is has value too
  • Take stock and be grateful – that you (I) have enough, whether it’s enough to eat, enough love, enough energy or enough strength

Thank you, WAAMH, for hosting this powerful event. Thank you, brave and beautiful Karen, for inviting me to share it with you.

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