Universal stories of healing from depression (Karen)

S1: Walamu, hi, how are you going now?

S2: Things are a little better. The English classes are good. I enjoy them a lot. But I need to get there more often as I forget so easily. And I've been going fishing. It's good for me.

S1: I'm happy things are a little better because I know it was very hard there for a while.

S2: I do feel better now. Thank you, both of you, for helping me with many things.

S1: We all have a part in strengthening our community. That's what community love is all about.

S2: I'm worried about grandma. She seems not herself, unwell. She used to come a few times a week and look after the kids, so I could go to class. But she's been tired lately. Grandma and the children really enjoy each other. She's been teaching them about our language and culture.

S3: I haven't seen her either. I think we should visit her this afternoon.

S1: Yes, good idea.

S3: I haven't seen you for a long time. Has everything been okay?

S4: I'm good. I'm a bit slow because I'm getting older and I can't visit anyone in this weather. It's too cold and windy and I still haven't got over my illness.

S1: And how are you settling in?

S4: It's hard living here. I keep thinking about my village life. It's not the same.

S1: Yes, it's really different.

S4: Not knowing this place makes it hard to go forward. I don't know my neighbours and they don't know me.

S1: A while after I first came here, I had many troubles too. Even though my family was settled and we were safe, I began to feel very sad and lonely. My husband said I was angry all the time, that I didn't smile. I couldn't sleep and I didn't eat. The food was tasty, but I didn't want to eat it.

S5: Yes, back home, when I used to finish work each afternoon, I'd walk through the village and talk with everyone. Where is the village here? The beer doesn't taste very good when you drink it on its own.

S1: I know how you feel. For a time, it seemed I had no desire for living. I felt like that for a long time. I tried many traditional remedies. I even went to a doctor to find out what was wrong. The doctor talked about depression and said I should speak to someone about it. I was really worried that maybe I was mad, but I thought about what he said. I went to one of the case workers. She introduced me to a counsellor that she knew. I spoke to her sometimes.

S1: Talking to the counsellor did help. I realize, I was still going through the pain because the conflict was not finished. My spirit was feeling weak. But I was trying to forgive. It helped to keep busy, to focus on helping others and to try to rebuild my life.

S4: I've been feeling like I really want to go back home. There's nothing like being in the mountains, the ancestor spirits of the winds, the earth, forests and the water. These were the things that kept me strong. I want to make offerings to bring peace and healing to this land and our people.

S4: I've been thinking a lot about one of our traditional Karen stories, of release from suffering. During all those years in the refugee camp, more than 10 years, remember? We used to tell that story about how after a long time of suffering a big bird will carry our people to freedom across the ocean to a new land.

S1: Yes, Grandma, the prophecy has been fulfilled. The big bird aeroplane carried us across the ocean and we arrived in Australia.

S1: I saw Walamu today. She told me she's been going fishing with her friend. She finds it relaxing, talking and sharing. Being outdoors reminds her of home. She says, it's a healing experience, like a meditation, and you might even catch a fish.

S4: I don't know where to go.

S1: If you want to go, Walamu can take you.

S5: I've seen her, she go fishing too, but with the men.

[chuckle]

S4: Even in this new land, I can meditate on the scripture and spirit, on good things. This helps me to heal. It releases my suffering and anger.

S1: Yes, I could meditate more. When I first came here, I tried to solve things on my own. I had the love of my family, but it was not enough. I learned that community love is also important. This meant not just looking after others, but also letting them take care of me. Both these paths were very important to my own healing, but I had to let them in.

S4: Yes, that's what community love is all about.

S1: Walamu says you're very good at listening. She says, you don't listen in the old way, but that you listen in a new way.

S4: What are you talking about, listening in the new way and old way?

S1: She says, the old way is when older people just talk to the younger people. They don't listen to them. She says, she likes the way you listen because you listen to her and the children as well. That's what she calls the new way. She really misses you, you know. We all miss you.

S4: I do enjoy looking after those children. They should know their culture.

S1: You would make Walamu and her children happy to see you. Shall I come next week and take you to see her?

S4: Maybe, I'll think about it. But thank you for your visit. I am feeling a little better now because of the things we've talked about. I only have to worry about my body getting old now, but I know I can keep my spirit young and strong.

S6: For more stories, visit the italklibrary.

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S6: Universal stories of healing from depression. With investment from the Australian Center for Social Innovation, in association with Foundation Health, Melaleuca Refugee Centre and beyondblue, the National Depression Initiative.