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Back from the Italian Recovery House

I have been back from the Italian Recovery House for a few days, physically I have gone from temperatures of 31C to 12C, I am back in my own bed with my family around me as they are all on school holidays - but where is my head and heart?.... How can I begin to describe this experience living with 10 people 24 hours a day whom had all signed up to recovery at the farm for 3 months.

Chaos, community, love, anger, pain, laughter, knowledge, wisdom, group dynamics - forming and storming, and the beginnings of norming.

Lack of sleep, heat, growth, story telling, making meaning, rebellion, freedom, football, volleyball, gardening, lots of pasta, tears, cycling, walking, family education, meetings, dramas.

That was in the first three weeks, a group of staff and volunteers who were and are willing to give themselves, never clock watching or hiding away in a non-existent office reading their papers - but engaged in every minute possible.  Not shying away from the emotional pain, but entering it - sharing theirs, drawing the residents pain out, supporting each other, showing love, compassion, being there.

A group of family members who grew in to a real group; caring for each other; looking at their own recoveries; and able to volunteer when we needed them.

Then just at the end of the fourth week, tragedy happened - Chiara, one of our most vocal; full of life; full of heart; residents - died at home, on weekend leave.  Not suicide, she was full of hope - days before she had confronted one of her old psychiatrists whom she had felt had done her harm.  Told what it felt like to be over medicated and restrained - then offered forgiveness, as she felt she was being listened to, as an equal - and ended with both in tears and in huge hugs - such a huge moment.

Yet she couldn't leave her old life totally alone and weekends were the time she re-entered her old comfort blanket of drink and old acquaintances.  This time, she wasn't to come back to us.  But this was no ordinary forgotten about death in mental health services, another statistic. 

Within hours, a meeting at the Recovery House had been arranged - all families and residents; and Chiara's family invited - and on Sunday evening we witnessed something extraordinary.  Not a blame and shame meeting, but everyone telling their stories of how Chiara had touched them - her heart and passion; her kindness; her laughter; her love of life. 

Not one person had been untouched by her.  Family members, staff, residents - all told their stories.  Chiara's mother told of her daughters hope and struggle of Chiara to recovery.  Her sister spoke of the great warmness she had felt from everyone and that this had given her hope that Chiara would not be forgotten.  Her memory will stay with all of us.

Monday morning our house meeting continued with all residents returning to discuss Chiara's death, their fears and sadness - but a sense, that by the end of the meeting, people wanted to work their hardest to show Chiara, recovery could happen. All staff and volunteers visibly shaken and showing their emotions, not hidden away, as if pain should be stifled - but grieving and remembering.

Monday night - my leaving party.  Time to put away our sadness for a few hours - dance, eat pizza, say goodbye and welcome Paul Baker - who was taking over from me.  Then the surprise, a dance by the local group - a recovery story told in contemporary dance in twilight, amongst candles and the stars.  The presents - jewellery with thoughtful spirals; a jar of Italian earth; so many hugs; so much love.

Where is my heart and head?  Glad to be home with my family - but in many ways left in Italy for my return at the end of the 3-month project.

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Posted: 07/07/2013 00:15:38 by Global Administrator
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