Yesterday I read a deeply emotional letter from an Australian man to the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, in relation to the Safe Schools programme run by the Federal government. The programme, for those of you overseas who don’t know its contents, is designed to address issues around bullying in general but also homophobic attitudes in relation to LGBT schoolchildren, as so many are facing mental health issues, contemplating suicide or even taking their own lives.
Last week, under pressure from extreme right-wing homophobic and bigoted government members, the PM had announced substantial changes to the programme which virtually gutted it, then let slip that once this round of funding was exhausted, the programme would be ended.
I was in tears at the end of the letter as the adult man described what he’d gone through in the school system, torture virtually, because he was identified as gay. Here’s the link:
I did wonder at the time why it affected me so deeply, then woke this morning with the very clear memory of a time in my mid-teens when I’d attended a dance in Deal, a seaside town near where I lived in Sandwich, Kent. I felt the pain of that event so clearly this morning and knew the time had come to let it go.
As so many teenage girls do, I had a crush on a good-looking boy attending Sir Roger Manwood’s private grammar school. At the time the school was boys only although now its intake includes boys and girls. I was hoping to connect with this boy so set out to catch the train my best friend had told me everyone was catching to the dance at Deal.
When I got to the station, I was the only one there. I ended up getting to the dance only to find that my so-called friend had told me the wrong time so that she could chat up and, after the dance, go out with the boy I fancied. By the time I got to the dance, everyone had sorted out partners and I was left on my own trying to look happy and hiding my deep upset at my friend’s betrayal. I danced on my own with a big smile on my face and pretended all was well in my lonely world. Because basically I was a shy, sensitive kid with very little social skills who had felt a complete outsider right through primary and much of secondary school. This experience and the unkindness and selfishness of my “friend” only served to solidify that feeling of isolation.
My reaction, if people hurt me or bullied me at school, was to put on a smile and brave face, swallow the hurt and pretend all was well. But when the memory of that dance and my loneliness was so clear in my mind this morning, I realised that the letter I’d read yesterday had triggered long-buried grief and hurt.
So I set out to release these old, damaging emotions with digital art. The first image, above, relates to my young self and how I felt at the time. The images below represent the healing process. The first one is a step towards healing, the second one represents the growth of new patterns, by showing a tree growing towards healing and new beginnings.
I dithered about writing this because I find it hard to share deep, distressing emotional pain, but I decided to do so because I get so fed up with people who preach how easy it is to put the past behind you and get on with your life. My experience has been that, however much that sounds good in practice, emotional hurts send roots deep into your cellular and spiritual bodies which don’t simply vanish because you say in your head all is well and the past vanishes. It doesn’t. I’ve found, for myself, that art is a great healer but I’ve also found that the most intense healing happens when emotional hurts surface in their own good time because then they can really be dealt with at a deep, fundamental level within our bodies.
I hope this post helps others who may identify that I went through as a kid and perhaps find art useful as a healing medium.