I believe in the power of the kindness and comfort of strangers who shared their memoirs about addiction, recovery, tragedy and grief. I spent a decade of my soul lost in memoir, searching for answers, solutions, maps, clues. Self-harm survivors who shared their recovery story saved me. Frey, Styron, Wurtzel, Picardrie, all gave me the courage to tie my life to the mast and write my own memoir. It takes great guts to be gentle and kind with pain, to let it steep on the page and peg it out to cry in public. Deep resonations in memoirs healed the fractured and broken grooves within me. I learned to love to write to reach my pain and sadness, to release it back into the wild where it belonged. I learned that the light gets in through each liminal and beams through all of the full stops on the pages that punctuate narratives like Hokusai tidal waves and bricks through windows. Diaries about addictions, self harm and grief can fall into the right hands at the worst of times like rescue ships in the dead of oceans.
‘The Bardo Retreat’ is my journey alone through the labyrinth of self-harm and psychoses. It’s like a sorta fairytale, through the “Dantesque limbo” of being overwhelmed by self-harm and learning to surf the chaos storms, like Swayze’s Bohdi, and letting go of my inner Warchild (‘Milkshakes and Morphine’ by Genevieve Fox).
My last episode of self-harm was close to midnight on 31 January 2012, that is now safely camouflaged by a tattooed portrait of Elvis and Priscilla Presley on their wedding day. I was Priscilla and the pills. I was the peanut butter and the knife. My arms are a kaleidoscope of blood red roses and turquoise Japanese waves to distract the viewer from the sabotage and self-hatred that lie beneath the surface of my skin.
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. Other writers understood. Books about self-harm survival kissed me goodnight. I had nobody to turn to but books all my life. Writers are like hands that we hold in our hearts. Some might say that writers are like superheroes 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, memoirs, feeling pieces of our own experiences is powerful. I love it when a Rufus Wainwright lyric encompasses the summer of 1997 or how I truly feel about an ex lover, or the same very bad things that I love, like cigarettes and chocolate milk.
Self-harm is like a labyrinth. ‘The Bardo Retreat’ is a map of how I made it out.
‘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 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! (The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying).
You can read The Bardo Retreat and contribute to my dream of restoring an old Airstream Wanderer where I will spend the rest of my days spilling and spinning words of rapunzel silks.
You can read my blog for free here https://roseloispresley.wordpress.com