If I have to tell you what it’s been two months from there’s probably not much point in you reading this.
We won and I didn’t feel like I thought I would feel. I thought I would feel joy. I thought I would feel vindicated. I thought I would feel loved and supported. I thought the 26th would be a celebration. Instead it felt more like a wake. I found myself stopping many times, just where I was, to cry. On the footpath while taking down a Together for Yes sign for my wall. At home in the morning. In the car on the way to the count centre. While tallying. Every time I saw the unofficial Limerick Together for Yes results. Seeing women I love and work with sharing the victory together without me, in places far from me. When I saw the ratio for the tiny village I cast my vote in come in at 67% yes. When I had to accept that I was so exhausted I needed to ask my friend to bring me home at 5 o’clock that evening instead of being able to dance and sing as I thought I would.
I thought I would feel energised. I thought I would feel empowered. Instead I am more shattered than I would ever have believed possible. 6 long years of the intensity I pursued this with has left me in pieces; burnt to the socket and beyond. I had some intensely ugly feelings during the last 13 weeks of the campaign, from when the referendum date was announced. I found myself carrying a frightening dark resentment for people who were able for far more than I was; whose energy reserves hadn’t been as completely sapped as mine. I felt judged for not being able to do more than I was; for not being able to give more than the everything I already had done and was still giving. I felt an indescribable level of bitterness for the lauding of male political and medical figures as leaders of the campaign, particularly those men who’d opposed us every step of the way back in 2012 and 2013. I found depthless fathoms of rage inside me for the shaping of a campaign I’d once had the opportunity to be a key part of without me; without any voices in the struggle near me. I discovered I was and still am fighting not to be consumed by rage at personal betrayals by people I’d thought were my allies and my sisters. I find my fingers shaking when I try to respond to people who describe the last 13 weeks of that fight, without thinking, as “the campaign” in its entirety. (No, not all of these feelings were fair. Not all of them are without hypocrisy. I am sure many people in this fight far longer than me have felt the same things about me, including my beloved sisters-in-struggle at Feminist Ire. Fairness is not the point about dark, ugly feelings, it turns out. If you’re reading this and worrying it’s about you, it’s not; it’s about me.)
I am grieving the loss of untainted first years with my children and with my partner as parents to this struggle. It is difficult to put into words the intensity of the driving force to fight for abortion rights and bodily autonomy I found awaking inside me in 2012. It grew with the pregnancy I was carrying inside my body, that of my first child, the first of my two daughters. It exploded into engulfing fury in November of that year, when those of us outside Galway first heard of the unnecessary death of Savita Halappanavar. I found the pro-choice movement growing with my daughter; my drive to keep going through Parents for Choice intensified with my 2015 pregnancy with my second daughter. I spoke at the 2015 March for Choice when 8 months pregnant with her about my near-death pregnancy-induced event early on in that pregnancy; it brought home intensely to me the experience of being 8 months pregnant in 2012 on the Never Again march for Savita.
I remember thinking victory would bring freedom; that it would bring peace. I never once imagined it would bring grief, exhaustion and anger beyond I ever think I remember feeling in the depth of the struggle. I feel selfish even for writing this, this first piece I’ve been able to write in months. I thought I would be invigorated by the need to capture all of our own voices and our own stories; to talk to the incredible women I have been inspired by for years, who I am privileged to know, to count as friends. Instead I have had weeks I cannot even leave my own house, never mind get to Dublin for events I desperately long to be able to attend. I thought I would be able to turn to the rest of the many injustices on which I long to work, in conjunction with those who suffer from them, on putting to rights. I am simultaneously deeply jealous of the women I see doing this work and filled with self-loathing for my own incapacity.
When I stop and think about it I know that surely this will pass; that I will heal from this as I have healed from all the other wounds inflicted on my body and my self by the 8th before. But still at my core I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to trust that I will ever be truly made whole from the scars and the suffering from this, the last indignity, the last sufferings it has ever caused me. I am in pieces and I do not see how this shattering will ever be truly pieced together again.