“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
(Murakami; Kafka on the Shore)
Written for the Leeds & York Partnership Foundation Trust – WREN Blogs
As I try to configure appropriate words to reflect on this year gone by, I quickly realise that simply no phraseology, nomenclature or usage of any word in any way imaginable can do justice to what I, and perhaps every individual working in the Leeds & York Partnership Foundation Trust, feels. I sit here exhausted, broken and failing to make sense of the world outside and inside of my existence.
My thoughts scatter to the opening blog for the Workforce Race Equality Network (WREN) in April 2020, where I had a feeling of blunted dread and, perhaps, a premonition pertaining to the difficulties this pandemic would bring for us not only as a workforce, but also as a society. I believed that it would test our resolve, individually and collectively, but what I did not know was just how arduous or endless the test would be.
The pandemic performed precisely as it was expected to. It took the rifts of our society, where the vulnerable suffered the most in health, welfare, education and economic spheres, and it tore through to leave behind gaping empty spaces of inequality. Not only did minoritised and marginalised communities feel the direct brunt of the coronavirus associated morbidity and mortality, it also worsened issues that we were already struggling to deal with such as a dramatic rise in domestic violence, worsening poverty, furthered gaps in education, and adverse health outcomes for women and children from specific backgrounds.
The havens, sanctuaries and safe spaces that we held close to us also suffered; important festivals were cancelled, community and religious spaces closed down and we were left socially isolated from our loved ones for months. We were not able to mourn and grieve properly; we could not say goodbyes to our loved ones, we saw delayed funeral prayers and the lack of crucial spiritual final rites that gave meaning not only to those who passed on but also to those remaining behind without them. As a society we have not been able to mourn as we know how to. The pandemic took away the tactile aspects of mourning where families come together and hold each other in their arms. It took away any consolation, hope and solidarity that as humans we are so used to giving in the ways we know best during hardship.
To think that this alone was not struggle enough; the world witnessed the oppression of individuals and communities in a brazen and unapologetic manner across the globe through various mechanisms. Communities identifying with specific faiths, cultures and race felt isolated and alone under the various lens and filters of their respective oppression. So forgive me when I consider the entirety of 2020 riddled with nothing but wounds, pain and sorrow.
However, there is something else that I also muse upon and that is the ability of the tiniest glimmer of a fading candle, which is enough to light up the blackest clouds of darkness. The light that I speak of has not been an external source though. It has come from the kindness, compassion and care from the people working in this very Trust. It has come from us and for us.
Grief has a fantastic ability to convince us that we cannot get back up; it makes us question whether we can do the simplest things as before; it takes away a part of us and leaves behind a conviction etched in stone; that all is lost forever. It makes us question our role and purpose in our private lives but also in the service and care we provide for our patients and if it is indeed good enough.
As I navigated the murky waters of my own loss, people from this very Trust gathered around me and supported me in ways they knew how. Whilst they could not change my circumstances they made their position clear that they were there for me. Whether this was an email at a crucial time from Sara; David’s regular phone calls just to ensure I was ok; Wendy’s regular check-ins and WREN task-based therapy and Sharon’s ongoing infinite amount of tea and time – they all played their part in ensuring this inexperienced junior doctor had some form of clarity and support in the most unclear and isolating of times. They have all given me insight into not only the type of doctor or leader I want to be, but the type of person I want to be in these roles.
Continuing this reflection of the people in LYPFT, I have found hope and solace in the individuals who make up this Trust; the staff on grass root levels. My colleagues in CMHT OPS who have continuously endured my rookie mistakes, my work family working in the North Wing who always have kept spirits high during the most difficult of times and the trainee doctors who have regularly messaged and checked up on me.
Any reflection and gratitude is incomplete without considering WREN, its members and their contributions. WREN has become the crux of wellbeing and a safe space for anyone wanting to join and be present in any capacity they can. Despite the challenges of this year, the network members came together to celebrate diversity and inclusion on every platform. WREN, individually and collectively, has supported its members in unlearning, learning and voicing our vulnerabilities through this process. It has been a platform where we have cried together, held each other and stood in solidarity together. Each and every member has done what they know best – supporting earnestly, endlessly and abundantly without seeking a return. Whilst the pandemic has taken so much from us and will most likely continue to take, the spirit of WREN members has consolidated my belief in resilience and that we WILL get through this. It has indeed made me proud to be affiliated with the Trust and call these people my colleagues and friends.
The journey continues, however, as we move forward not only must we reflect on the lessons of this year but we must also decide upon the values that will define us as not only as individuals but also as the organisation we represent. We may be different versions of our former selves through this year, it perhaps would be abnormal if we were not, however, the constant that should remain is the continuous process of togetherness, solidarity and finding allies in our colleagues for our causes.
The message, which remains the same as it was in my first blog, has to be one of equality, inclusion and rooted in collective humanity.
Now more so than ever.