Reimagining Care and Healing
Reimagining Care and Healing
by Larissa Crawford
Tawnshi, Larissa Crawford dishinikaashoon. I am a young Afro-Indigenous woman and mother living with a chronic pain disability, and the following words capture my truth. In writing and sharing these words with you, I have brought healing to myself. I hope that you find meaning, and perhaps inspiration, in my truth too.
In November 2018 I delivered a Tedx Talk about being intentional about one’s impact and self-care regime. The irony of this was that I left at the staircase to the stage my cane, which I was using amid a pain flare that was triggered by my inability and outright resistance to honour my body’s need to rest.
I was diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease in August 2018, after a doctor had diagnosed me correctly but prescribed me the wrong medication in a rush to get me out of the room. This left me virtually untreated for a time that led to permanent scarring on my pelvic organs, upping my diagnosis now to chronic pelvic inflammatory disease. The consequences of this disease have been life-altering, most notably with regards to chronic pain, two irregular menstrual cycles a month, bursting ovarian cysts, and compromised fertility.
At 23-years-old, I had been accustomed to an energy-intensive, jet-set schedule, even after having a one-year old daughter at the time. The holistic transition that my new disability required caused self-resentment to the perceived failure of my body, and only fueled my desire to prove that I could return to ‘normal.’
This desire to return to an ableist understanding of ‘normal’ led to several hospitalizations, two surgeries, and months of restrictive recovery. In a Twitter thread in August 2020, I recorded some of the instances where racism and prejudice in the Western healthcare system directly affected my health outcomes; these experiences navigating the healthcare systems of Ontario and Alberta contributed to my anger. I had so much anger. I held anger towards what was happening to me, towards my body, towards the people who were allowing this to happen over, and over, and over again. And in this time of consuming anger, I had never been more aware of how connected physical and mental health are.
My journey towards physical healing began by acknowledging and honouring my mental health. One way I did this was by publicly journaling via Instagram, and quickly a community of people on similar healing journeys gathered around me. I began reading on disability justice and following disabled activists to better understand how my truths had been defined by ableism, and what I can do to unpack that. And most notably, with the support of radical healers via social media, personal networks, and Elder hours, I began to understand that I too am worthy of the love and care I afford to those around me.
As I now truly commit to practices that balance my mental health with my physical health, I find I am pursuing pathways of healing that lead to my new, decolonized definitions of success. I think it’s worth sharing some of these practices from my growing healing regime in a bit more detail:
Actively Decolonizing my Experience of Time
In knowing how British and Christian cultural constructs of time have been and are used as a rationale for my ancestors' dehumanization and colonization, I actively consider what practices I can be embedding in my work and personal spaces to foster a healthier relationship to time. This includes booking days off from client calls, saying ‘no’ to clients, taking time to plan events with care, and making actionable work lists over longer periods of time.
Prioritizing Land-Based Fitness
Through therapy sessions and Elder hours I have come to understand that sharing land-based fitness activities with my family is a significant determinant to my mental and physical health. I honour this need by regularly engaging in long-distance runs, walks, and hikes in the prairies and mountains, and in showing my gratitude through ceremony and meditation.
Advocating to Change the Healthcare System
Many of my experiences in the Western healthcare system have been informed by systemic racism to the effect of near-death outcomes and permanent disability. Creating space on my social platforms and through Future Ancestors community events to discuss and advocate for change in the healthcare system are validating, healing, and empowering mediums to honour my self- and communal-care.
My healing began when I sought wisdom, like the teachings I shared in my Tedx Talk. My healing continues as I allow this wisdom to fundamentally shape my truths; truths of what is my normal, what are my needs, what are my responsibilities to self, and those responsibilities align with community-care.
Larissa Crawford is a restorative circle keeper, published Indigenous and anti-racism researcher, award-winning ribbon skirt artist, and proudly passes on Métis and Jamaican ancestry to her daughter, Zyra. She is the Founder of Future Ancestors Services, a youth-led professional services social enterprise that advances equity and climate justice through lenses of ancestral accountability and anti-racism. Larissa and her team seek to increase their clients' capacity to honour people and Planet through their minds, work, and spaces, and do so while leveraging decolonized and Indigenized approaches to 'doing business.'