Surviving the Unsurvivable

March 16, 2013

It could be the greatest legacy to know that your support or actions could help make survivable someone’s battle which seemed unsurvivable.

It can seem naive and idealistic to believe that an individual can change the world for the better. It seems almost impotent to just focus on being a whole, emotionally, physically and morally responsible person. It can seem selfish and narcissistic. I am alive and a mostly functioning man today because of the mistakes I’ve made the successes I’ve achieved. But significantly, I would not be the man I am today without the women and men who did for me; who empathised with me; pushed and challenged me; nurtured me; believed in the greater part of me; and trusted in me. They were my family when family was a dirty word. They held my hand and often gave of themselves more than I deserved – above and beyond. They taught me lessons whether I was ready to learn, and expressed truths when I was unable or unwilling to hear. Even when my supports felt they had failed or I was beyond help, their messages of wisdom and love transcended the temporal, and became sage advice and counsel for the moments in life when I was ready to hear, to change, to take responsibility and heal.

I am not a great teacher, as I would’ve liked to have been. I hold no degrees or qualifications. But I believe in the notion of community action and that it takes a village to make positive change. I can’t save someone from disease, poverty, depression, danger, or abuse. But, I can help them save themselves.

I spent a lot of time in a black hole – mentally and emotionally. For years and years I wanted desperately to be “rescued”. I would forfeit self-esteem and pride in order for someone to lift me out of the hole. But I was a dead weight. Anyone who tried to pull me out, offer a hand, would be swamped by the desperation and my need to be saved. Like an animal caught in a steel trap I would often turn on my rescuer, frightening and overwhelming them. Some kept trying, many ran far away, and others found themselves caught in the same trap.

It was the analogy of being trapped in hole that helped me see the situation clearly. If I pulled my “rescuer” down into the hole with me, then they would be unable to help me or themselves get out. Those who truly taught me how to get out of my dark hole showed strength and wisdom. ‘W’ set a cordon of safety around the hole to secure it; ‘S’ ensured I had a walkie-talkie to keep in contact with the rescue team; ‘J’ sat on the edge and reassured me that I would be okay; and ‘M’ gave me tips on how to change the walls of the hole into stepping-stones. There were times when it seemed the darkness would envelop us and the earth would quake. But those amazing rescuers held fast. And as long as there is breath in my lungs and ink in my pen, their actions will be a lasting legacy of courage and comfort, wisdom and love. I will learn from them, to one day be a gift in someone else’s life.

© Benjamin MacEllen 2013

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