Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Black dog days: II

Firstly thanks for your kind and thoughtful (and funny, thanks Wanda) comments. Isolation is part of the problem here, so they really do help. My special thanks to Mary for your incredible emails throughout the day today, filled with poems and kindness and insight and love. You are a treasure.

I know this will pass but yesterday was the day when I realized that it wasn’t going to go away without a little bit of intention and some action on my part.

So, the intention has been formed:
1. I lit a candle (thanks Regina);
2. I made a commitment to do some healing things each day (thanks again Mary for being my witness); and
3. I set a timeframe for assessing whether things are improving (or whether I need to try recovering in a safer, warmer place closer to friends and family and further away from so much conflict, violence and injustice, thanks Maryam).

Along with the more generic steps towards healing (amongst which - I will find a way to go for walks) I also decided to do a few things that are very specific to my situation.

One of the small but significant items on that list was to teach my two human rights assistants how to properly complete a case file. This is a job that I detest at the best of times, but when I’m functioning at an even keel I can always transfer a little reserve energy over from another source and find the motivation to do it anyway. At the moment all those reserves are empty and each task that presents itself to me has to be pulled up by it’s own bootstraps. Some days the reserves dip into negative and my energy and motivation plummet. Resolve: I’m cutting down on unnecessary withdrawals.

So today I sat down for two hours with my assistants and we went through the case file template, the database of types of human rights violations and the step-by-step process for completing the form and creating the file. Then we took a couple of the cases I had pending from my last mission to Ghor and talked through them.

Yes, we had a few hiccups along the way. One of the cases I used for this exercise was about a woman who wanted a divorce from her husband because he had been beating her and because after 15 years of marriage she had not been able to have a child with him. She is complaining to us that the judge in their town will not issue the divorce because he is a friend of her husband – I would categorize this as a case about the right to due process and fair trial.

However, when my lovely (and very new) young female assistant read the case note and I asked her what follow up questions she would ask, she said she would start out with a question about the infertility (who is infertile, the man or the women?) and follow up by asking why the husband beat her: “May be she is abusing his human rights in some way and that is why he is hitting her”.

But we talked our way gently through that, and agreed that these would not be such great opening questions to a victim of domestic violence, and off they went this afternoon with their homework – to write up their case studies in the case file format and we’ll go over them at a meeting tomorrow morning.

Right now I’m going to go for a walk. It will probably have to be on the treadmill in the bunker today, but this weekend I will do my utmost to find a way to go for a walk outside. Keep your fingers crossed that the nasty blighters who keep issuing direct threats of suicide attacks against our vehicles on Thursday (thus condemning us all to lock-down over the weekend) will cut me some slack this week.


homeinkabul said...

Well, I had similar issues when during my last stint in Kabul. Lots of stress coupled with failing health. It's difficult when you're already feeling worn down to make the decisions that will make you more comfortable/happy in the long run. But it sounds like you're on the right track. I am sending you healing vibes. :)

On a side note, I think that teaching your assistants is one of the best things you can do. It's a simple task (the case notes) but has a long lasting impact. Honor your work. :)

Regina Clare Jane said...

It is mostly the little things can make the biggest difference, Frida... it sounds good what you are doing and planning.
Please be safe- and, I love your picture- you look as young as those schoolgirls!
Lots of love and I will light a candle for YOU today!

My Marrakech said...

Darling Frida,
It sounds like you have a plan. While I don't suffer from depression, I do sometimes suffer from obsessive thoughts when I see a particularly grim case or read something terrible. I just can't stop thinking about it. Particularly anything having to do with torture or child abuse. So I made the decision to do less direct human rights work and now spend more of my time on advocacy and empowerment. It was a choice I had to make - I just found I was spending too much time immersed in sadness, otherwise.

You will find your way. I know you have inner reserves of strength. And when you don't, spend as much time with others as possible.

PS I am linking you - sorry I had not gotten around to doing this before.

paris parfait said...

Yes, walks and other simple exercises or activities can help lift that cloud! Be good to yourself! The photo is absolutely gorgeous.

Susannah said...

oh my love, i am sorry to hear about your doggie friend - i've had one with me since R died, though these last few months he has been finding other ways to amuse himself and paying me less attention. it must be so frustrating not being able to move about as freely as you normally would - i thought everyone's advice on the last post was very spot on, and i'm glad you're looking at ways to tackle this (though often, we just need to lie down and accept it. to take that time out and be gentle with ourselves, you know?) i'm sending you lots of love, sweet girl, and i'm holding your hand... xxoo

AnnieElf said...

Dear Frida - I posted your name to a friend's electronic prayer list that goes all over the world. Everyday the new intentions are read and those voices are lifted worldwide. It's good that you are doing simple disciplines to help move your work forward and just by the way were able to gently teach a young woman that there is never a good reason for a man to strike a woman in anger. Beautiful picture. God bless you.

susanna said...

Hey there, I'm glad that you're feeling a bit better today. I find To Do lists and going for walks really helpful when I'm feeling down, too. Sounds like you are a good teacher, Frida. You're able to see the whole picture in a situation and then patiently allow your students to see the whole picture for themselves.

Alex aka Gypsy Girl said...

You look so beautiful in that picture and the lighting in that room is exquisite. As Suzanna mentioned, just resting can help to. Nap a lot wearing your fav pajamas! Remember that some time back home is just around the corner... I'm sending you the brightest warm thoughts! x

[a} said...

Do you have some paint or art supplies lying around? Whenever I get the blues, creating art, and using the treadmill, get me better.

I won't say "hang in there" because maybe somewhere less hostile would be better for you..

Something that can easily get me depressed is simply reading the newspaper--all those injustices and my zero power--like, just reading about that divorce case got me kinda down. At least you have some power to fight for the right! :D xoxo cool sista!

jojomonkey said...

Hello my darling girl! Blues for the blues, I hate to think of you so down. However I really am so amazed and heartened at the huge increase in your readership!! You are obviously having such a profound impact not only on those people you are directly and indirectly helping in Afghanistan, but on a growing number of people around the world too! And I am thinking that it is partly as a result of your feeling the way that you do that you spend so much time writing your blog, because it must be a very cathartic way to express your frustrations and also your successes. And the extent to which you are inspiring people makes me even more proud of you (hard to imagine how that's possible but it's true!!). I would love to have a chat to you, can you email me with a number?
Love you loads Munty and I wish you happiness or at the very least peace of mind.

Alexandra G said...

I really can't imagine the daily circumstances you live with, just the threat of a suicide attack. I am thinking of you and glad to hear you are taking steps to take extra loving care of yourself there. And as for your assistants, I suppose domestic violence is so entrenched for many there that some truly don't feel it is always wrong. I bet your sharing your perspective planted important seeds.