Updated: Jun 30, 2022
If we cannot be happy despite our difficulties, what good is our spiritual practice? Preah Maha Ghosananda
Table of Content:
This blog post reflects my world in the shadow of health challenges and life in general. To illustrate a journey that resonates with a perspective of being gay and everything that makes me who I am.
I wanted to talk about mental health, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke recovery. Also, reflecting on the periphery and headspace that sits at the heart of life and death. While it is a space all too familiar to me.
Over the past months, I’ve been exploring this space based on my experiences. As a result of living in Cambodia and my return to Aotearoa. Consequently, it was a life-changing experience that still affects me today.
Therefore, I wanted my story to inspire and challenge us in the journey of tackling life’s obstacles. Of course, my challenges may not be the same as yours. But I hope your story will give you the strength to write about the journey you’ve taken. I hope you can feel inspired to share your experiences with friends and family too on the road to healing.
Rather than give you an account of my health, I wrote about hope, rejection, vision, and fortitude. Not to seek sympathy but build a place of enlightenment and acceptance of ourselves.
I worked in Hong Kong, WSCFAP Office, my job was to review the work of theologians from Asia. In addition, it was part of a Human Rights Internship program with the DAGA Office, CCA.
Also, I was able to meet significant Asian theologians and hear them talk about work in their communities and faith journey.
It was their work, writings, and times with them, that inspired me to explore my spirituality. Subsequently, this came with challenges, changes, and personal growth at the time. While learning to explore a spiritual part of myself intricately linked to my sexuality too.
Meanwhile, some people back in Aotearoa felt I departed from my sense of faith as a Christian. As well as turning my back on the Church.
But rather, living in Asia reinforced and affirmed my spiritual life. Despite their fears, I spent time in a Buddhist retreat enlightened and spiritually healthier.
I found a richness of philosophy with Buddhist monks and learned different forms and perspectives of Islam and Hinduism. Additionally, it helped me grow in my Christian faith. Therefore, my faith grew exponentially and has benefited from that experience.
At large, this enlightenment also helped me traverse the challenges endured throughout my headspace, health, and life here and abroad. Therefore, this blog is a fusion of these experiences and not just a chronology of my personal health problems.
Anyway, this is what makes my story something that I’d like to share with you. I am currently working on further material for you to read on how I dealt with health challenges in Thailand, the Philippines and India.
wake up! Don't you feel it? hands moving up your chest. like a snake whispering words of deceit Do you know? He's here that shadow following you at the corners of your eye Squeezing your heart blood trickling screaming like a banshee Can you feel it? his hand deep in your crevice Black and blue flashes before you All you can do is lie there What the fuck are you thinking? Like wolves descending that sacrificial lamb Is it you? Living in denial guilty through and through suddenly, your feet are slow-mo holding you back keeping ahead Why are you crying You knew he would come that death brooding breathing like a Deamon possessed two steps from the water wake up man can't you feel him holding you down more than your anxiety allows wake up the witch is here screaming in your ear squeezing on your heart Like nothing you've felt before still as night cool air blows the wind knocked out of you wake up
“You alright?” Pa asks.
“I’m not sure” I replied.
I sit up and pound my chest, asking Pa to rub my back to soothe the pang in my chest.
He looks at me a little hesitantly but sits behind me to rub my back.
I ask him to rub the area behind my chest to apply pressure on my back closer to my heart.
He gets up and looks at me. Dissipated and worried, asking again. “Are you alright?”
“I’m not sure Pa. “, I replied. “I’m feeling a little pain in my chest”, as I carry on looking intently at the walls in my room.
Breathing in and out with a deep brooding sound exerting out of my mouth. Aaaaah mmmm….aaaahh mmm. This was the same rhythm in my sporadic inability to breathe.
“Are you not well Paddy?” Pa asks a little more concern than before.
Time and space take on another meaning looking at me as if he stepped out into another realm.
From what was a quiet night to a slight stirring and heavy breathing the atmosphere drifted into another reality.
“It feels like something reached into my chest pulling it down,” I tell Pa.
I learned to speak Khmer (Cambodian) in metaphors to get my point across particularly as it isn’t my first language. Speaking in metaphors helps me communicate and explain myself in detail at specific times, especially when in distress.
Pa understood the metaphors I intended to use and helped him see my perspective of things.
“Something hurts in my chest Pa, it’s like I can’t breathe.”
Pa stands before me and tells me to sit up so that I can allow space for myself to breathe.
Ten to fifteen minutes pass before I make some sense of my feelings and bearings around me.
He continues to pat and rub my back and chest as if to ease the throbbing tightness.
What little comfort he was trying to achieve didn’t deter the invisible hand inside my chest causing whatever it was i was feeling that night.
Photo of Pa.
Pa’s real name is Nheak Saraun ញឹក សារ៉ន. His oldest son, Sophea Rith សុផារិទ្ធ, was my friend when I met Pa, after arriving in Cambodia.
Pa is 63 years old, and thirteen years my senior. I became accustomed to calling him Pa in my limited Cambodian language (at the time) I couldn’t pronounce his name. In Khmer script is written ញឹក សារ៉ន (Nheak Saraun).
It takes some time to listen and pronounce. It is more difficult to read in its original script. Now I can speak his full name in Cambodian language and script, but I still call him Pa.
Pa treats me like his son. I’ve always felt honoured to be considered part of the family.
Pa also taught me how to chant the Buddhist Dharma and talk with the monks as the language changes when addressing the monks.
Pa often calls on Facebook messenger and chants the dharma from time to time. To help me journey in life as peaceful as I can, particularly around health challenges. I became accustomed to following the dharma alongside the laity at the temples.
Sadly, Pa’s oldest daughter Thaeavy ធាវី died of covid19 in October 2021. She was pregnant at the time with her third child and had to be admitted to the hospital. As a result, her pregnancy lowered her immune system to fight off covid19. Consequently, doctors had to do a c-section to save the baby 7 months premature. Thankfully, the baby is home and healthy in the care of Pa’s family. Although she has passed, I remember Theavy. It was difficult to hear of her passing from covid19.
It was painful to talk with Pa and the family over the phone, and I couldn’t imagine his pain. They are always in my thoughts and prayers, and I hope to visit them in the future to pay my respects.
Monk in Angkor wat, Siem Reap. Contemplating spiritual matters in the evening.
“Get up and sit on the balcony, the cool air might help you breathe “, Pa suggests.
“Yes Pa,” I reply breathing and feeling increasingly worried, yet unsure at the same time.
All I could feel was tight chest pain. There was something in my chest squeezing the life out of it. I couldn’t make out what it was. Had death finally come to claim me? I thought. I’ve felt pain many times, but this time it was hard to measure and figure out what it was. The pain was excruciating as if I could see the end of a tunnel and lights were dimming around me. Darkness loomed over and I couldn’t describe the feeling and hot flashes. All I felt was squeezing, throbbing, waves of electricity sending me into a euphoria of nothingness. Just fucking chest pain!
“Paddy, do you want to see the doctor?” Pa asked. He looked at me worried, humble, and not sure himself what was happening. He broke the darkness in the chilly air, going downstairs to call his son.
There was an air of urgency, uncertainty and worry in my home that night. That air wasn’t about being sick, but it was as if I conjured something more. As if a story sparked into life, undulating, and exploding before me. As I reflect it was as if I stepped out of myself with a front-row view of life around me. You know when you look at your hand, everything loses focus, nothing exists where particles and molecules float around you.
There’s one thing I’ve learnt in all my years in Cambodia, the air of urgency isn’t about the obvious. It is more about the unseen than the seen as if something profound, and overpowering is happening. It is a fusion of the Māori in me alongside living in Cambodia for all those years. And it is still something I ponder on. But, on the other hand, it is what it is. I knew I had to walk back into my body and take stock of the particles and molecules around me. That pain in my chest was all I could feel, like a screaming banshee.
“We better take you to the hospital,” Pa said.
All I remember was the darkly lit roads at 3 in the morning navigating through the streets of Phnom Penh. No one predicted they would end up in a hospital thousands of miles away from home, but it did happen.
“You need to get up Paddy” “Wake up!” “Go!” These were the last words I heard from Pa until I was in the hospital room. I clearly wasn’t in a conscious state of thinking. And I was lucky to have Pa and his son with me at the time.
The doctor informed me I had a heart attack. A blocked artery in the left ventricle inhibits blood flow. As a result of hypertension, and plague in the artery walls. This was a development of living in denial over the lifestyle choices made over the years. Of course, being told this news was the scariest thing I’ve had to endure and face. It raised a plethora of many issues and became just as daunting as the diagnosis itself. Having to face the ghost of my past. I had to face this reality about myself no matter the guilt and blame sitting in my soul. I learnt a new vocabulary around medical terminology, ischemic heart failure, stenting, type 2 diabetes, and prevention strategies. Finally, all my eggs hatched, and a new roadmap of life played out before me.
Years before my heart attack in 2008, I contracted dengue fever and hepatitis B from mosquito bites. I went to see a family Doctor based in Cambodia, Dr Marrisa Regino Manampan. She was from the Philippines practising medicine in Cambodia since the early 1980s.
She informed me that dengue fever is common among children. And later surmised that because I came from a country with no dengue, I was prone to infections from mosquitoes. Thus, I was more likely to contract dengue fever at an older age. Also, mosquito bites infected me with hepatitis B. And if ever I was to have any form of hepatitis, hepatitis B would be the curable one to have.
A month later I regained my strength and health by updating my shots of malaria and other tropical diseases. Dr Marrisa informed me that I needed to be careful with my lifestyle, particularly with my diet. Warning me not to eat food high in acids, sugars, and salts. And reminding me to drink at least two litres of water per day. To prevent blood from coagulating too thick in my arteries. This was the earliest warning sign to take heed with what was to follow years after.
Taken in 2014, in my home, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
I can’t pinpoint where everything went wrong health-wise. I don’t think health can be described in one instant, rather, it is a fusion and story entwined in others. We are all made up of layers that piece together the bigger picture. Or an enlightened aspect of that picture. I could paint a picture of the cultural, gender, socio-economic and mental aspects raising the usual factors and red flags. And the list of health reasons can go on.
But I want to share some instances that impacted me from childhood to living in Cambodia and Aotearoa. Telling the story of how I saw myself as a child and my hesitation to do things. It is the steppingstone to why I suffer from depression and anxiety in certain ways. And it could be a contributing factor to all my insecurities and hesitation. But it is important to reflect upon how it affects you and your life. Having the ability to step out of yourself to self-reflect is a gift and not easy to do. You must face some real truths about yourself, and that journey is ongoing and challenging. I’ve had to face many truths and the journey is still ongoing, never finished.
A friend from South Korea asked me to write a reflection on what it meant to be gay in Cambodia. But a Cambodian person will have an authentic story that speaks his reality. My experience would be a worldview from where I stand as a Māori man from the outside looking in. This comes with a unique perspective and is limited in some sense. I could only write about my experiences living there and how I saw the world through my lens. I guess this blog might be a prologue to developing a bigger picture and book and conversation on this topic.
He Takatāpuhi Ahau is an amazing story of a young Māori dealing with gender identity and sexuality. I feel it might give a picture of what it means to be takatāpui: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, and Sexual Minority from a contemporary perspective in Aotearoa.
Being gay comes with its fair share of challenges I’ve learnt to navigate life around this reality. Especially when people have their opinions about you and being gay as a child from the 70s and 80s. People will ask you, are you married? Why aren’t you married? And just in these two questions I would deflect or mitigate the conversation from the truth. I hated myself for that. It would give me anxiety and there were plenty of times when I’d feel depressed.
As a child, life taught being effeminate, and gay was wrong. I heard my father talk to my mother about this when we lived in Auckland. He had a look of disgust on his face. I never forgot his look as if I shouldn’t be in the same space as him. I absorbed everything he said thinking I was of no value to him and anyone else. Parents don’t realise how children notice and embody other people’s negativity or energy. I always felt unworthy because I worried about how others would see me. And although much has changed over the years this still has a psychological effect on me.
I’ve denied my sexuality to myself and others many times here and in Cambodia. People would ask the same questions about marriage, but I would deflect answering it by laughing it off. I always hesitated to give the right answer wrestling with this in my head. I was always scared of what others would think of me about being gay. This feeling was worse when living in another country. I wanted to tell people the truth about me. The cultural and religious perceptions were always projected toward me.
I, and partners Neill Ballantyne & Adrián Fei Xing, taken at Pride March, Wellington 2021.
During my school years, I remember being laughed at many times and ridiculed. Some of the boys would make school a living hell for me. As much as I tried to fit in, any sign of weakness was an excuse for a beatdown. They would bully effeminate young boys in the 80s in Māori rural communities at high school. It was always a negative perception directed towards gay people and I carried that on me every day. No matter how I tried to cope I had no choice but to put up with the bullying. It was the reality I lived in.
The word takatāpuhi wasn’t part of my vocabulary growing up. It wasn’t until later in life I came to solidify and reconcile these aspects of myself reclaiming being takatāpuhi. I was taught that being gay was a terrible thing. Identifying as Māori and gay further separated me from anything I could be proud of. There were countless bullies at school, and it was difficult to have any sense of confidence. Doubting my ability in anything, hesitant to achieve some sense of pride in myself. The harder I tried to have a sense of pride the more I got put down.
Being gay wasn’t the expectation my family imagined for me. The struggle to be Māori had its problems already with the stereotypical assumption of being an unemployed underachiever to boot. Being gay at the same time was also a double discredit. People had made their minds up about me at a much earlier age. I was never going to be part of any ‘in-crowd’ and that was obvious.
You will hesitate to go for the job you really wanna go for, you will hesitate to ask for a raise, you will hesitate to call yourself an American, you will hesitate to report a rape, you will hesitate to defend yourself when you are discriminated against because of your race, your sexuality, your size, your gender. Margaret Cho
Had I been living in hesitation all the time? There were so many layers to this statement. It helped me unpack why I hesitate at times in trying to achieve something. This sense of hesitation still follows me wherever I am and whatever I do today. You can imagine that the struggle to do things has a massive impact when making decisions at times. I get anxious often because of this and struggle to face the day sometimes. And it takes time for me to process my trail of thought, throughout my health problems, particularly since July 2021. Due to my constant heart complications, I suffered a transient ischemic attack (stroke). My stroke raised other forms of challenges yet my passion for writing helped me recover and find hope. And this is where I continue to find my strength in faith and writing about these things.
Te Ara Poutama, Māori Panels illustrates the growth and development of one’s life journey.
In that sense of hesitation, I think about the (Māori life journey). I discussed this with another Māori friend when we met in Hong Kong many years ago, Helen Te Hira. Helen’s office was the Asian Student Association based in Hong Kong. It was down the road from my office, WSCFAP, on Portland St, Hong Kong. She called my office and introduced herself to me. Instantly we became close friends and spent a lot of time with each other.
Much of what I did in Hong Kong worked closely with her organisation. As I was a human rights intern in DAGA Office with WSCFAP. I attended many demonstrations with other local organisations in Hong Kong, and Mainland China in 2002. One significant protest we attended was the Anti-War on Iraq campaign at the USA Embassy. Helen and ASA Staff were always at the forefront of these demonstrations alongside Hong Kong people’s movement social justice organisations.
Helen gave me a sense of whanaungatanga (kindship) helping me process identity-related issues being Māori living in Hong Kong. All our conversations were around identity politics, Māori, and indigenous issues. Helen was an experienced traveller in Asia and spoke the Thai Language alongside Cantonese and other Asian languages.
We reflected often on what it means to be Māori around gender-related issues. And the need to find a sense of being when it feels like life stagnates. As if our sense of self was moving up and stagnating at the same time. I started to wonder what was holding me back when I felt like this. I wasn’t sure where this feeling was coming from. There was always this sense of hesitancy about something, and I still suffer a lot of anxiety about it.
Helen smiled and looked at me knowing where I was coming from in our Māori worldview of thinking. She talked about our ara poutama (life journey). Life is a journey about growth, stagnation, contemplation, and movement again. As she explained it, I began to realise she had turned on a light that was already there in me. I had lived it, intricately intertwined in my Māori DNA. It had been inside me all the time, I just didn’t have a name for it. What Helen explained is exactly what I was feeling and what I grew up in.
Back home at our Marae there are panels like these adorning the walls. I knew of the ara poutama since childhood as a form of art in our Marae. What I didn’t realise was the philosophical and spiritual journey the panels spoke of. Growing up with it around me taking for granted its deeper meaning and connection to our sense of identity. (See the photo above).
The ara poutama talks about where our life journey takes us. As depicted in the above tukutuku panel (see the photo above). It is like a stairway moving up and down. At times we climb as if growing in the search for knowledge and enlightenment. Whereas at times we stagnate, level out, and feel as if we are not growing. We are not moving as if we are stuck somewhere. At our highest or enlightening form of life, we climb and at our lowest, we descend. There is no right or wrong way. It is about our state of being, everything that makes up our indigeneity in what it means to be Māori.
This resonated with me, instantly understanding why I felt hesitant at times. My friend confirmed to me what I was feeling, although I couldn’t name it. It was a time of enlightenment for me. Putting me on the rediscovery, like that of understanding our life journey, towards the twelve heavens in Māori Mythology. It was about having a sense of enlightenment and why I hesitated to do things to move on and grow.
Throughout my time in Cambodia what worried me was the conservative Christian missionaries. They came offering false hope to the poor in the form of food, money, and other resources. And alongside this was a distorted theology further annexing people from their own culture and belief system. It was a theology that gave food and money if you convert to Christianity under these conditions. Playing on people’s desire to come out of poverty disregarding their traditional belief systems. It would cause tensions between two groups of people where religion is the centre of people’s lives.
My work in Asia started as a Human Rights Intern with WSCFAP and a DAGA Intern. An important part of that internship was working among different religious groups, cultures, and values. Thus, I was mindful of how religion is used to entice people to a better life. Not just by salvation but by using their resources to win people to convert.
The practice of ‘Rice for Jesus was common in countries like Cambodia. It preached a false sense of hope for material possessions over faith. And if faith was the motive for people’s convictions it was a distorted version of it. Unless one converted to Christianity, they would be given food, and opportunity if they committed to that faith. Therefore, I despised this practice as it distorted and misconstrued the real meaning of faith and spirituality in my mind. This also caused tensions among Christians and non-Christians further wedging mistrust and jealousies among the poor and vulnerable. Particularly those without an understanding of faith versus distorted versions of that truth. The need to survive supersedes any desire to question and research that truth.
I met a pastor from Hong Kong, and we discussed Christianity in depth. He was concerned that the recent consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson indicated a threat to Christianity. Bishop Gene Robinson is the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopalian Church, in the USA, 2003. The pastor disagreed with a theology that disapproved of homosexuality and felt Gene’s consecration was wrong.
What was detrimental to this scenario was my silence. It was deafening listening to this pastor making these statements and I didn’t say anything to defend my own beliefs. I felt like Peter that day when he denied Jesus three times. It was on me that I said nothing and hated myself for it.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same Matthew 26:31-36 NIV
That night I couldn’t sleep and suffered so much anxiety about it. I felt like a coward! I lived in constant denial of who I was, and it affected my mental space in many ways.
Of course, sexuality wasn’t the only indication of my struggling with health and religious beliefs. It was about how I would feel ashamed of who I am. Denying myself was heart-wrenching and it affected me in many ways. My mental and physical health suffered many times because of this. I had never been a person to hide and deny myself this way. But for some reason, I kept holding myself back. My supervisor, Zen Buddhist Monk, told me years later that I need to stop placating myself. That place of placating is the reason I hold back and hesitate often. She was right and I reflect on this place of placating all the time.
Depression is like a flatmate you don’t want but need around to help with rent. I’m still learning to live with that unfortunate flatmate. And although humorous to see depression in this way it is a mental health issue that affects everyone. Some days are bearable, and some aren’t. The test is managing to get the best out of life when times are down and finding ways to cope. But whatever I do it is there rearing its ugly head from time to time.
I can’t recount my first experience with depression, yet I think it’s been there all the time. Shaped by the environment, people, events, and context of my upbringing since birth. And possibly prior to my birth too. There are so many variables to this and there’s no exact right or wrong answer. Nonetheless, I’ve searched for people to help guide me back to better health and mental healing.
One of these people was the late Brother Colin Wilfred, a Franciscan Monk from the UK living in Aotearoa. I spent time with him at Vaughan Park Anglican Retreat Centre, Auckland in the late 90s. He helped deal with my headspace around matters of being gay and what that journey meant for me. He taught the importance of personal supervision. And we talked about faith, reconciliation, and self-acceptance. Sadly, I received an email about his passing in 2011 from a long-term illness in the UK. I never forgot his kindness and ability to help me find God in my uncertainty. I remember him fondly and I hope I can reflect on a ministry of inclusiveness and patience for people of all genders.
Living in Cambodia my depression skyrocketed to an unprecedented level. There were layers where depression and anxiety would take over my sense of being and self. I once told a friend that living in Cambodia was like looking at life from the outside through the window. We were welcomed into the house, but it felt like we were outside looking in all the time. I felt reduced to a mere observer from time to time. It was clear from the start that cross-cultural differences and expectations would take their toll on me. This played havoc on my mental strength and weakness.
Depression had its way with me, and it is intrinsically connected to my life in Cambodia and Aotearoa. Coming to terms as a gay man on top of health problems, reverberates the way I experience my worldview. Life and work are infused with a million emotions prior to my heart attack. Yet over time navigating this felt like it stripped a lesser version of myself.
Attending the School of Peace. Our visit to Hyderabad India with ICF.
ICF gave me the opportunity to work with a plethora of networks in peacebuilding, interfaith and ecumenical projects. We worked with different organisations around the world that involved a lot of travelling. Some projects were challenging and required a lot of planning. It also involved working with people from diverse backgrounds and personalities. And I already established a relationship on interfaith and ecumenical projects, so it was logical to work from Cambodia. We worked remotely in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Hong Kong, whilst working in other countries from time to time.
Of course, I had to watch my health in the earlier period of my time with ICF. And I was fortunate to have support from our coordinator around the dynamics of health and work. Initially, everything was fine. But bouts of anxiety and depression would surface at times. And with the help of friends, I kept it under control ensuring I had some coping mechanisms. But of course, not everything was perfect. Instances of anxiety, stress and depression would flare up. And again, to help, food became another form of escape. Drinking beer became another vice at times but not always.
At times depression and anxiety surfaced in a mixture of many things. It was related to my diabetes and heart condition and the fear of health problems, and work expectations. As with health, there is not one exact pinpoint of the problem or solution. It was a matter of acceptance and management strategies to ensure my health was at its best. Sometimes I had things under control and managed and at other times, I didn’t. That was the reality about my health, and I had to accept these patterns when things peaked and stabilised.
Sadly, my health wasn’t always at its best, physically, and psychologically. I started to lose the sense of passion for the work I once had before. This transpired with personal insecurities, personality dynamics and things I didn’t agree with. I noticed my mental health was suffering as if the walls were closing in around me. I didn’t see my boss and work in the same positive light anymore. Things didn’t seem right. I noticed it and so did some of our members.
A spiritual moment of peace in the Mosque with ICF during our evaluation and assessment in Pattani, South Thailand.
During our evaluation period, the evaluators recommended we produce a methodology that better incorporates English studies into our workshops. Our projects consisted of many components, music, photography, human rights, indigenous spirituality, and a children’s peace curriculum. I saw the importance of the evaluator’s recommendation, incorporating a basic English learning component. It would help us work cross-culturally with each other around language barriers.
This way it could’ve helped participants find the confidence to share experiences using the best English they knew. It would have improved our listening skills and emphasised with members on our projects. Being an emphatic listener was an important part of the job. Brushing off people’s experiences and assuming their English, or lack thereof wasn’t important touched a sensitive nerve among our members.
And I understood that nerve very well. I agreed with the evaluator that producing an adequate English curriculum methodology would help our participants. It was something they would take on board to help improve their work. Our job would make provisions, with an emphatic mindset, to communicate our projects in a diverse context. It did require resources, time, and work from staff to make it happen successfully. But the outcome would have been beneficial.
In our ‘school of peace’ projects, some participants could not speak English, although we had friends to help translate. But that wasn’t good enough. We needed a more robust system to enable participants to practice what little English language they had. And incorporate that in our projects helping us understand their perspectives better.
Sadly, this was ignored as I was passionate about developing an English methodology. And I wasn’t the only one. Several of our ICF members in their respective countries felt the same. Some of them needed help with communicating as best they could in their limited English. Yet the suggestion by the evaluator was ignored because our coordinator and a staff member felt it unnecessary. Our coordinator agreed with him.
We noticed similar scenarios came into play earlier with the same outcome. It further proved to us that only one ICF staff member was favoured over our opinions. We felt insignificant and didn’t feel adequate to suggest ideas and improvements for ICF anymore. I tried my best to talk with our coordinator but still, our suggestions and opinions weren’t considered. It frustrated me and other ICF members.
I received emails of complaints about this. A friend was upset and felt unworthy of participating in anything related to ICF due to having limited English. Why? Because most of the ICF friends said that they were not taken seriously anymore. We began to despise one of our staff because he was rude and disrespectful to them. Everything he said had more support than anything we had to say and contribute to ICF. We didn’t like him for that, angry at our coordinator for not noticing that resentment. Our voice and opinion were marred by our coordinator’s relationship with our staff. It was embedded in favouritism and trust for one person over the others.
Visiting Borobudur Buddhist Shrine, Central Java, Indonesia with ICF.
Eventually, I left ICF because both my health and mental space started to cave in on me. I didn’t feel the same passion I once had for my work with ICF. We didn’t have anything of worth anymore to contribute to ICF. This is how we felt expressed in the many emails and messages I received from friends. We felt as if many of the ideas our participants had to offer were shunned and deemed not important anymore.
I tried to talk with our coordinator about what everyone was telling me. Sadly, it felt as if we weren’t taken seriously if we had opinions, ideas, and concerns. There was only one person on our staff that our coordinator would listen to, leaving us frustrated. I gave up trying to make our point of view understood but we hit a brick wall. Mentally and spiritually my time was up. I needed a change in what I was doing with ICF. This also brought on the anxiety of what would happen next. How was I going to support myself after ICF?
I became a shell suffocated by stress and bitterness. Several things were going on in my world, not everyone understood and saw what I was feeling. I couldn’t sleep and worried about what to do from this point on. I confided with Pa, and ICF friends to get some perspective. Pa didn’t want me to finish ICF. But eventually, I did. I started a new chapter and found a new job.