I have been effectively homeless for about 10 months now. The only reason I have not been literally homeless is due to the generosity of my friends. I am deeply grateful for their gifts. Nevertheless, I lack home in the essential senses of permanence, security, mine.
My homelessness is the direct outcome of my husband leaving me. I understand his reasons. For you to understand them is his story to tell. But this is not about him. This is not about any one of the men, who without malice nor intent have done me great harm by wielding power over me that they deny that they possess. This is not even about the institutionalised, internalised, implicit biases of Man. This is about this philosopHER. I am her.
In the first seven months of my time homeless, I pretty much wrote my whole philosophy doctoral thesis. (See A Divine Orgasm? for a gloss of its content.) Throughout the interruptions and distractions of life, the complex landscapes internal and external, I had been working on it for the previous 6 years, yet it was only in those final fraught months that it was written. The unexpected irony; only then was it, and I, free to be fully realised.
It is the sort of achievement that ought not go unacknowledged. So after I thanked the super of supervisors and the great favour of friends, my thesis acknowledgements read, as follows:
Most of all the person I want to thank is — me. I realise that every PhD has its trials. Still, I suspect I have had to overcome more than most, and any one of mine alone, reason enough to quit. During my PhD: my largely well-managed CFS and a back problem became unmanageable, with persistent mental/physical disfunction and chronic pain; I had a mental breakdown with a severe depressive episode, suicidal idealisation, and self-harm; completely unfunded and with little chance to work, meant 10 years of no financial independence; contact with my family on the other side of the world has mainly been emergency visits, such as the hospitalising of my father, and this year the death of my uncle; in recent months when my marriage broke down I faced potential homeless and destitution. Yet my determined constant throughout has been to complete this thesis and now I have done it. Living up to my epithet — I am a Mother Fucking Ninja.
Earning that epithet was no sure thing. It is a mistake to think that you know how you will fare when tested. If you will live up to your idea of yourself. You can only come to know by living through it. And to my fortune, when one of those generous friends (who brought wine when it was needed most) observed, in my crisis I turned out to be a Mother Fucking Ninja.
Yet, I repeat, this was no sure thing. Fortune aside, it took a lot of work. Serious personal engagement in that eternal question of philosophy ‘how to live?’ and that infernal answer of ‘know thyself.’ Philosophy alone did not, could not, offer me all the answers. I consider therapists to be the best at therapy, and I, fortunately, found the best one for me. I explored a variety of practices, finding the ones that suited me to change the habits of a lifetime. In turn, I not only learnt how to be a philosopher, in these fundamental senses of living and self-knowledge, but also what sort of philosopher I wanted to be, in academia and public. Am becoming.
There is no recipe for this sort of becoming. Just the encouragement that the work is worth it. Nevertheless, here is one thing I quickly learnt being this philosopher in a crisis. And while easy say, difficult to execute. Ask for help.
Really, do not waste energy, resources, time pretending that ‘everything is alright.’ It is not.
Tell the people who need to know, straight away. Keep in mind — you are not responsible for how they respond.
Importantly, this is a time for expert help.
Draw on the expertise of your friends. Who will listen when you need listening? Who can organise when you need organising? Who has the wine when you need wine? Make specific requests, ask for concrete things. It will not always be obvious, often unexpected, who is the right fit for each situation; for your friends too will only really know how they fare when they are tested.
Draw on the expertise of professionals. They have resources, skills, experience, knowledge your friends cannot and do not have to deal with the big shit. They can help you discern if you are simply the understandably sad and tired or clinically depressed, if those thoughts of hopelessness are to be expected or are signs of potential self-harm. And then, they can help you navigate your way out. Still, like any relationship, it will take time to find the right fit.
Take the help that is offered. Trust the world to give you what you need.
I do not know when I shall have a home, again. My future remains uncertain. In the meantime, I continue to ask for help and my friends continue to give me their gifts. I also am taking hold of what I need right now. In my biog for this blog I say that I ‘hope to walk the world, without and within.’ Well after spending these many years past wandering the world within, I am about take on the world without. This Mother Fucking Ninja is going to walk.
(p.s., in a couple months, when I have viva’ed, that will be Doctor Mother Fucking Ninja)