Here’s The Truth: I’m Not Okay



When I was a young girl, the weakness of women was often used as an argument for why women should not lead, preach, or hold positions of power. Examples of unhealthy women were pointed out as reasons why we should not strive to succeed above men. It was not often overtly stated; instead it was a subtle message delivered through comments referring to Eve’s desire to rule or women’s brains being wired differently.

As I have grown into my own faith and views of what it means to be a woman, I have often been paralysed by the fear of weakness. On behalf of women everywhere, to prove patriarchy wrong, I needed to be strong.

I have a peace lily hanging by the window in my Amsterdam apartment. Peace lilies don’t need a lot of sunlight to survive, but when they get even a little bit, they bloom like crazy. A peace lily’s flowers appear so fragile, but they aren’t. Give them a little bit of water when they are drooping and they bounce back. They are a purifying plant, pulling toxins out of the air, and they can handle a fair bit of neglect.

This plant has been teaching me a lot about how something that appears weak can actually be strong. In exchange, I’m realising just how much pressure I put on myself to deny my weakness. I’m afraid that if I admit to it, I’m letting down feminists everywhere as we attempt to shake off the label of irrational, emotional, hand-wringing females.

I went to the doctor this past year, and after several conversations with him and a psychologist, they told me they suspect I am suffering from trauma and anxiety. I was horrified. I really wanted my symptoms to be something easy to fix, and not something related to mental health. It’s partly because when you have a sibling with schizophrenia, anything remotely connected to your mind is absolutely terrifying. But even more so, I was really afraid of having to admit that my capacity to handle hard things had failed me somehow.

The lie says that we cannot take up positions of strength and power, if we are not strong in every way.

The first therapist told me that I was too empathetic, that was the problem. I was too weak to handle all the things I had seen. It felt like she took my exact fear and hit it extra hard. My logical brain tells me that with the work I did—the stories I heard, the losses I have suffered, the lack of debriefing—it makes perfect sense that I am struggling now, even two years later. And logically, I would never hold that against anyone else. Yet, I have been afraid to admit that I haven’t been okay for a long time.

Currently this comes in the form of an overactive adrenaline system that keeps telling me I am in danger and flooding my body with all the feelings that you get when you just miss getting hit by a car. It looks a lot like unnecessary anxiety over little details that were never a problem before. It keeps me up all night for no apparent reason. It makes me obsess over the safety of people I love, and it replays the hardest moments of the past years over and over again. I’ve worked with victims of trauma. I know exactly what my body is doing. I just can’t stop it. And I hate that. But I am learning to say it out loud.

The lie says that keeping our vulnerabilities hidden will make us strong.

When you are alone, it is so much easier to keep up the appearance of strength. But when you get into a safe and loving situation, the walls come down and all the crazy spills out. That’s why, when working with women in trauma, the hardest time wasn’t when they were in danger, it was after, when they were safe. When they didn’t have to hold it all together anymore. You can fall apart in front of someone you trust. And once you have let it out into the light, you are left praying they won’t walk away.

I have been learning over the last months that most people are not meant to be my safe people and that is okay. We only need a few. I have my few. I told them about my fears when I spoke to the doctor and they encouraged me to keep going forward even though I was scared. I told them about my terrible first therapy session, and they insisted I cancel my next appointment and find someone else.

They remind me that individually, each of us has weaknesses, irrationalities, or overly emotional responses; all those things make us human. Because of our humanness we actually can’t succeed or take up positions of power, or lead or preach, without a community around us. It isn’t our failing as women, it is our failing as humans. The lies will do everything they can to silence us and tell us we are alone in our struggles. They will divide and conquer us through isolation and the fear of being weak.

We let ourselves down when we don’t tap into the power we have together, as a community. Patriarchy wins when we refuse to speak of our struggles for fear that they will disqualify us. I am trying to learn that to show my weakness is to show my strength. My weakness does not disqualify me.


Image credit: Olin Gilbert

Saskia Wishart
My name is Saskia. Pronounced (sus-key-a).Cool Fact: Saskia means "valley of light." The coolest part about that fact is that I have the greatest job, bringing light into some of the darkest places in our society. Exposing modern slavery on the streets of South Africa, in the brothels of Europe and anywhere else I am sent. My passion – Abolition. My calling - Freedom. My equipping – A crazy love rescue I am not organised, not a good sleeper, and not a multi-tasker, thank goodness I am a problem solver. I love my country – Canada, drinking coffee, creating beautiful things, and Cape Town (which was my home for the last three years). I miss the mountains, snowboarding, surfing, and all things natural as I make my way in the city of Amsterdam (my new home).
Saskia Wishart
Saskia Wishart

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