I like listening to people; listening bestows upon those who take the time a very privileged position indeed.
It’s a privilege I always endeavor to respect, a privilege which enables me to meet some amazing people.
Last week I met a woman who was my age. She was born and bred in a city almost the same size as Christchurch. Had distance not been a barrier, we could easily have known each other. Certainly, there was no seven degrees of separation going on here. Maybe one, two at max.
Same age, same culture, same aspirations, but oh so different outcomes. The reason why?
The person I was listening to had struggled with Fibro Myalgia since puberty – her hormones not only transforming her into a young woman, but also bringing on an illness which has plagued her adult life. The onset of her Fibro resulted in hospital stays as a teenager, meaning her schooling fell behind.
Falling behind at school, feeling ill, then losing contact with all her mates brought on a deep depression and her life spiraled out of control. Within a few years, a happy healthy young girl grew into a sickly depressed young woman who felt isolated and afraid. Shelived in pain; physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Fibro was not well understood in the 1970’s and 80’s. And, even some within the medical profession believed my clients symptoms and complaints more were closely related to my clients head, than her body. As a result she was eventually institutionalized in a psychiatric setting.
My client was painfully honest as she explained her story; it was told with candidacy and honesty, making it all the more disturbing. I was not shocked, I hear these types of stories from time to time. But what struck me about this person was her pride and her ability to separate Human Beings from being human.
It was obvious her ailments meant long-term sustainable employment was not possible. So, in order to get by my client explained that she became a tart and was on the game for twenty years. She told me it was the only employment that suited her ailments. It meant that she could work whenever she was well enough. It meant she could afford to live a modest lifestyle, but in a life which was empty and degrading.
She told she was not proud of what she had done, but equally she also said she was not ashamed.
I said nothing, what could I say? She had said it all.
I thought back to when we were both kids. Our lives were probably much the same – running around the house and neighbourhood, running under the hose on hot summer days. I thought how we could have been friends, neighbours, how we could even have been family. I thought how it could easily have been me who was living with a disability.
At the end of our meeting I thanked my client for her honesty and I commented and complimented on her dignity. Then I thanked her for reminding me what it takes to be human.
Please note: In order to preserve confidentiality, the person I am describing above is actually a composite of 3 people. While their stories may be slightly different; the life lived as described above is a common one and very realistic.
Kia Ora Roly