The Bardo Retreat: A memoir about self-harm, by Rose Lois Presley.

I believe in the power of the comfort and kindness of strangers. Right here is a toast, to everybody who survived self-harm and shared their recovery story, through blogging/vlogging/poetry/photographs/art/music/literature. It is brave to use literature to heal wounds, I love losing myself inside a memoir about recovery and I love to write to reach unbearable, painful places within me. The light gets in in through the liminals and full stops on the pages that punctuate painful narritives like tidal waves, or like bricks through windows.

‘The Bardo Retreat’ is my journey through the labyrinth of severe self-harm and psychoses, it’s like ‘a sorta fairytale’ (Tori Amos), through the ‘Dantesque limbo’ of being overwhelmed by self-harm (‘Milkshakes and Morphine’ by Genevieve Fox) and learning to surf the chaos storms, and rise above the floods of fear and self-loathing.

My last episode of self-harm was on 31 January 2012 and those deep, stitched-up grooves are now camouflaged by a tatooed portrait of Elvis and Priscilla Presley on their wedding day. I was Priscilla and the pills. I was the peanut butter and the knife.


When I was experiencing severe depression, psychoses and self-harm, the tender loving arms of literature held me close, tucked the stray hairs out of my eyes and rocked me safe, gently, to sleep. Books about self-harm survival kissed me goodnight. I had nobody to turn to but 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 goodbye. It is therapeutic to resonate with personal stories, feeling pieces of our own experiences through memoir is powerful. I love it when a Rufus Wainwright lyric encompasses the summer of 1997 or how I truly feel about an ex lover. I love literature more. Here’s a toast to a few of my literary heroes and giants; Ruth Picardie, Justine Picardie, James Frey, Donna Tartt, John Diamond, Tom Robbins, Judy Blume, Milan Kundera, Jay McInerney, William Styron, Elizabeth Wurtzel, and Lars Gustafsson. Thank you for keeping me safe during the harsh winters of severe depression, psychoses and self-harm.


Self-harm is like a labyrinth. ‘The Bardo Retreat’ is a map of how I made it out, holding hands with my literary heroes, and feeling the comfort and warmth of how parts of other stories could fit neatly into my own and sink deeply into my own deep grooves, smoothing out the wounds, giving me the courage to put my own ink stains to paper.

‘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, the journey to freedom from self-harm; the space in between being and nothingness, that’s where the light gets in!

You can read ‘The Bardo Retreat’ on Amazon Kindle and contribute to my dream of restoring an old Airstream Wanderer where I will spend the rest of my days spilling words and spinning lines of rapunzel silk prose for the movies.

Take my hand and I will show you what it’s like to survive self-harm and tell you how I made it out alive


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One thought on “The Bardo Retreat: A memoir about self-harm, by Rose Lois Presley.

  1. Wow thanks for sharing your story and I agree writing is very therapeutic when it comes to hard topics that nobody seems to want to write about. I too tried self harm and so glad I survived as now I can write like you and share hope, encouragement, love and no matter what you’ve been through with God you can get through anything. ❤

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