I believe in the power and the comfort of the kindness of strangers. Like a brush of a hand against the small of a back, or a kiss on the forehead planted with pure and unfiltered kindness; a smile across a river is worth a thousand unknown pleasures. There’s something about an audience with a stranger that holds a sense of wonder and peace. Losing myself to books written by strangers gives me a release like a broken window in a burning down house
A memoir about self-harm is like a brick through a window. Once the glass shatters there is no holding back. It takes courage to be gentle and kind, and super big heaps of bloody grit and guts to write it all out of you. Memoir is like going down a rabbit hole, and most of what we do in our formative years, is not ever who we are meant to be. “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then” (Alice in Wonderland). I have always loved losing myself to memoir. A solid memoir has always been a safe house for me to reach unbearable, painful places that have been locked away within me by my own hand.
Memoir was the lifebuoy when I was drowning through tides of grief and fear. Memoir was the tsunami tannoy batlight beam that shone through all of my self loathing and guided me back to safer shores. The stories that other people tell saved me. The light gets in through each and every stark syllable and full stop on the pages that punctuate painful narratives, like bricks through windows. My house was on fire.
The Bardo Retreat is a journey through the dark and lonely labyrinths of self-harm. I was Priscilla and the pills. I was the peanut butter and the knife, in the Baudelairean sense of being on the wrong side of the gates of Graceland. Self-harm is a taboo. When the last time you wore a short-sleeved-shirt you were waitress in a Louisianan themed Creole joint was way back in 1997, is on nobody’s radar. My teenage psyche and heady cycles of ‘horrormones’ were brutal, relentless, and bloody. Self-harm happened to me, from out of nowhere.
The tender loving arms of literature always held me close and made the bed in the morning. Countless authors tucked the stray hairs out of my eyes and rocked me safe and gently to sleep. Books about self-harm survival kissed me goodnight and held my hand when I had nobody and nothing else to turn to. Thank you books.
Good books are like hands that we hold in our hearts. Some might say that books are like heroes and we all need rescuing from time to time. They reach out and they can take us away from our lives , like a long weekend or a kiss goodnight. It is therapeutic to resonate with personal stories, it makes the jagged edges of self-inflicted tumultuous turmoil that much smoother. Feeling pieces of our own experiences shine through the pages of a memoir can be powerful and heal a thousand hurts. I love it when a Rufus Wainwright lyric encompasses the summer of being seventeen, or how I truly feel about an old leather jacket that I left on a bus somewhere in a past life that I am living through right now.
Self-harm is a lot like a labyrinth. The Bardo Retreat is a map of how I made it out. I spent my teenage years and twenties spinning unsent valentines across my ripshit skin like pebbles on a beach. I was too busy putting out the little fires everywhere all over my wrists to stay in any one place long enough to break free.
‘Bar means in between. Do means an island or a mark. The concept of bardo is based upon the period between sanity and insanity, between death and birth. The past situation has just occurred, and the future situation has not yet manifested itself so there is a gap between the two: This is basically the bardo experience’
(The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying)
The Bardo Retreat is the distance between a rock and a lighthouse. Self-harm happened to me, and throughout my recovery my life expanded. I broke free, painfully, and dangerously at times.
Take my hand and I will show you what it’s like to survive self-harm. There is not a single day that goes by where I forget that I am head to toe covered in scars ❤ but the feeling’s gone. Full sleeves of red roses and turquoise tsunami Hokusai waves, and tattoos all over my body cover up most of the damage. There’s only ever a real handful of people who really notice you, and who will really see you for the naked messed up truth that you are. Not everybody cares about your naked appearance. Not everybody understands that self-harm is an addiction, let alone can even half empathise with your heart sorry way of coping.