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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Our support networks

BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash Sep 12, 2021

I was on Nunavik’s Hudson Bay coast this summer to teach various workshops. In one of them, I show people how to identify if they are in crisis and then to map out their support system. The exercise is quite simple, but it forces one to reflect on who to rely on, whether they are professionals or loved ones.

This summer of painful reminders regarding residential schools put me in a very lethargic state and I had to reassess my support system and process the fact that many of my loved ones are currently emotionally unavailable to support me – and that’s okay.

Other important lessons I learned this summer are that some of my usual healing spaces are not necessarily safe for me now, and that I do not owe anything to anyone when it comes to protecting myself. Although the disappointment of feeling abandoned by people who told me they would be there for me hurts a lot, it was a necessary step for me to take ownership of my mental health.

My support system was not strong this summer and I had to surrender to the evidence that I was struggling and needed crisis resources. I tend to hide my moments of weakness, but it somehow felt so liberating to tell people without shame that I was not well. The most comforting part of that was to see that many of us were indeed feeling like crap this summer and that I was not alone, even when I thought I was.

In a documentary I recently watched, called Fantastic Fungi, they talk about mycelium, which is a vast network of bacterial colony, and how mushrooms are fruits of this network. Mycelium decomposes carbon-based organisms, stores and shares carbon monoxide, and allows the plants to communicate between themselves. 

It made me think about my own existence and place within humanity. Just like mycelium, when I hit a dead-end, I can be resilient and look for other connections and support, while still being part of many communities. Just like fungi, I am not alone. Always connected.

During my loneliness, I had to hang on to the little things. Somehow, the little knowledge I gained about fungi was comforting. If I never achieve anything special in my lifetime, I will still go back to this beautiful mycelium network. And you know what? That’s enough for me. It gave me enough hope in life and my existence to keep me going. Nature is fundamentally beautiful, and I am part of it. 

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Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash is Cree from Waswanipi, and is the Nation’s newest columnist. She is an activist and writer who also has a regular column in Montreal’s French Metro Newspaper.