Updated: Nov 17, 2020
An article written for Erica Magazine - November Mental Health Issue
www.ericamag.com / adapted and published on elephant journal https://www.elephantjournal.com/2020/11/dont-let-the-bastards-grind-you-down-a-tale-of-woe-recovery-and-emancipation/
This week I met myself in 5 years hence. It was a really profound moment. Feeling absolutely exhausted, I took some time-out one afternoon. Laying on the bed, I chose to follow an online visualisation. A few minutes later, there I was, greeting myself in a familiar cafe. I looked fresh and happy, eclectic and experienced. I looked like someone I would want to meet: a nearly-50 year old, stylish, wild, wise and free. The future me smiled and offered me a pamphlet. It said, in large lettering, ‘DON’T LET THE BASTARDS GRIND YOU DOWN’
A few minutes later, coming round from this encounter, I reflected upon the message in the day-dream. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. With this statement I felt a deep sense of knowing. One of those moments I get many more of these days, where I am absolutely sure everything is working out exactly as it should.
It hasn’t always been this way. Not at all. Ten years ago things were very different. I was about to have my second child, 12 years after the first.... with my former husband. We had been going through a good patch, since his business had folded years earlier and led to bankruptcy and financial ruin. I had built up a new career, and we had moved into our own place, after skulking back to my parents’ for a while. On the surface things seemed good - and we pretended it to be so. But it wasn’t long before major dramas brought things to a head and my marriage failed. I loved having my baby girl, but my mental health had taken a turn for the worse. And it wasn’t the first time in my life that deep sadness and anxiety overshadowed my days.
The difference then, and many times before, is that I didn’t feel good enough. And there was no way of projecting positively into the future. The future was, well, completely blank. All I felt was dread, guilt and dissolution. And I was incredibly busy, having returned to a demanding full- time job . ‘What is this life if full of care we have no time to stand and stare...’ (the opening line from the wonderful poem, Leisure, by W.H. Alden) played on repeat in my manic mind - like a boulder to the brain alerting me to the dis-ease I was experiencing in my disconnected existence.
Poor mental health robs you of positive projection into the future and makes you incredibly vulnerable to the bastards that get you down. I was affected by everyone, a target for others who hated themselves, a victim of my own self-hatred and easy prey for the oppression of patriarchy.
But something shifted once I found myself alone. Finally the fear of starting again and making ends meet on my own was less daunting than the emptiness of staying put. The prospect of 50 years or so of nothingness was much more frightening!
My agency and resolve kicked in and I started to awaken.
I vividly remember the moment he left. I was stood doing the washing-up when I heard the door close behind him. My body tingled, my shoulders dropped, I let out a deep sigh. I began to embrace my uncertain future.
I reached out to my sisters and found the antidote to my slumber. On the day of the visualisation last week, I remembered the message ‘Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum’ from Margaret Atwood’s devastating, but glorious dystopian novel ‘The Handmaids Tale’ (1985). This phrase didn’t originate here, or even come originally from Latin, but it is incredibly significant to the narrative of Atwood’s story. Shown etched and inside a wardrobe as a hidden message from one handmaid to another. It is “graffiti representing a ‘silent revolt’ by a ‘slave woman in a futuristic totalitarian regime’.” And “Vanity Fair called the phrase a ‘feminist rallying cry’ “ explains Wikipedia (https:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegitimi_non_carborundum accessed 22.10.20).
The slogan from Atwood's epic dystopian novel is used as a feminist slogan on posters, t-shirts and even tattoos...
Then I remembered, around the time I became newly single, I had this phrase a mantra on the white board in my office, one that I shared with my protege at the time. A younger version of me, she was also newly single. She’d been cruelly exited from the flat she’d been sharing with her boyfriend, and had even been sleeping in her car, before I invited her in as a lodger. She became a true confidante and wonderful friend. She and I were both broken, but we helped each other heal in a way only sisterhood can. It struck me as more than significant that this would be the phrase my future self would offer me now. I love synchronicity and the whispers of the soul, they guide you towards purpose and true meaning in life.
Since 2010 I have awakened so many times. It has not always been easy - the bastards always show up (and I don’t mean actual men - not always, anyway!), weaving their way back in to my psyche, attempting to drag me back down.
Yet, I rise over with the backing of my tribe - the women that guide me, from afar: Maya Angelou; Rebecca Campbell; Louise Hay; Mary Oliver; Rupi Kaur; Fay Weldon; Clarissa Pinkola Estes and from nearby: My best friends; my mother; my aunt; my sister-in- laws; my daughter; my step-daughters and their mothers: the women I work with; my clients; those at the circles I attend and those I connect with online. These are just a few of the wonderful women who have pulled me into the light and allowed me the opportunity to shine.
These days I work for myself. I provide services exclusively for women, via coaching and healing; through sharing and sound therapy. The release and recovery I witness is so rewarding. I can’t imagine not doing it now. And, having witnessed my own emancipation over the past 5-10 years, I fully trust and believe that the next 5-10 years will only bring more insight, more breaking down of barriers and even more amazing and powerful female encouragement. I can’t wait to meet me then, for real!
So, don’t let the bastards grind you down. Find your family. Find solidarity, love and support in the people who feel you - who get your vibe. Take care of yourself, seek answers from within, and in doing so, prepare to find a freer and truer version of you.