Falling Apart, Seeking Support and Mental Health
Interview led by: Walter Cabal | cabalcrafted.com
Greetings Maker’s Movement readers, Walter from Cabal Crafted with you here again, moving onto the third of my interviews with select contributors from Issue 3 of Maker’s Magazine: The Blues Issue. Check in every Tuesday of January to read about a new creative and their relationship with The Blues.
This week we’re interviewing Hannah Morgan from The Great Unraveling, an artist, social worker, and unraveling coach based in Sydney Australia. Today we’re touch on falling apart, the importance of support, and mental health in our #embracetheblues series.
Hannah! There is so much to ask you about, and so much to learn from your experience. Before we dive into all the heavy material, can you tell us a little bit about what your awesome endeavour “The Great Unraveling” offers to everyone?
The Great Unraveling is the space where I coach sensitive, creative and curious souls to move through periods of change and transition. The Great Unraveling is about recognizing that we are all continuously shifting and growing. These changes can feel incredibly uncomfortable and scary, but they are also beautiful and heart-expanding. It is my mission to shine a light on the unraveling process that we all go through as we connect back to ourselves and grow as individuals. I love sparking conversations around how we move through change and how we can better support ourselves to feel back into our own intuition rather than always looking externally to solve our problems.
Culture and heritage has been a running thread through my interviews with other artists. The Japanese way of understanding nature and redemption, the New Zealand tie to the land, Germanic, Filipino heritage, and so forth. Can you tell us about where you’re based?
I have lived all of my life in Sydney Australia. The city itself is incredibly multicultural and as a result you get to experience and engage with so many different ways of life. I live in a suburb in the Inner West. This area is considered to be a more alternative, artistic and creative part of town. I am surrounded by incredible coffee, food, theatre, music and art. Living in an area that embraces these things keeps me inspired in my own creative practice. I also have to mention that Sydney has the most incredible beaches and national parks. A deep connection to nature has been fundamental in working through my own unraveling process. Connecting to nature is something I have always done to anchor myself and feel grounded.
There’s a good story about how you came to begin “The Great Unraveling” on your site under Where It All Began on your website, where you talk about how a rare migraine hit you in your mid twenties and you were chronically ill for 3 years. If you’re comfortable with it, can you flesh out a little more details on what daily living may have looked like? Perhaps some readers can have someone beside them if they are experiencing similar suffering.
Sure, I am more than happy to share some further insights into what unfolded for me during this time. As you said, in my mid 20’s I went from being a fully functioning, high achieving young woman to literally waking up one day with severe and debilitating dizziness. As you can imagine, this experience was incredibly frightening and confusing for me. It may sound strange but it took 12 months for me to actually get diagnosed. So for 12 months I was living in this state of deep fear and uncertainty. I was asking questions like “Will I ever feel normal again? “ Will I ever be able to work again?” “Is there something seriously wrong with me that no one has picked up?”
Eventually I was diagnosed with a rare type of migraine which was affecting the vestibular (balance) system of my body. My day to day was quite a blur. In the first 12 months even moving around my house took considerable effort. The dizziness never left me, even when I was sitting or lying down. I actually started to forget what feeling normal actually felt like.
Despite this, I forced myself to leave the house and engage with society. I was often going out to medical appointments on my own and in order to feel calm enough to do this, I had to develop a deep trust in the fact that if I fell over or lost my balance, there would be a kind stranger who could help me. With persistence, time and dedication to my healing I got better and regained trust in my body. I still manage mild migraine symptoms on a regular basis but these symptoms never stop me from living my life to it’s fullest potential.
Wow, thanks so much for sharing that Hannah. I can tell that your earnest for living is strong. Did you have any groups that supported you during that difficult season?
I did actually! When I was feeling really challenged I stumbled across a meditation course. The course was based on teachings from Jon Kabat- Zinn, founder of a practice called MBSR or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. I slowly developed a daily meditation and yoga practice and started to integrate mindfulness practices into my daily routine. Through this practice I was able to access my intuition at a really deep level. Something happens when you really commit to a meditation practice and that is, you start to hear the little voice underneath all of the noise in your head. This was a really pivotal turning point for me and opened me up to the power of the mind and the way that you can really change how you feel about yourself and the world around you.
I am a big advocate for surrounding yourself with a supportive community. Being an artist, healer or creative being can be a really solitary journey and at times it can be quite lonely. In the past few years I have been part of many soulful, creative online groups as well as local face-to-face groups. My advice would be, if there isn’t a group that resonates with you, create one!
As I’ve mentioned in my other talks with artists that my wife is a social worker and so mental health, trauma and counselling is very close to my heart. I’m glad to find someone who also values these same things, being a social worker yourself can you tell us about how you juggle/balance social work and your creative endeavour with the great unraveling daily?
My experience and work as a Social Worker is intimately connected to the work at The Great Unraveling. Being a Social Worker has provided me with incredible opportunities to work with individuals as they navigate their own experiences relating to trauma, disability and mental health concerns.
When you're working as a Social Worker you are supporting individuals who are often really unwell and require counselling and practical support. At The Great Unraveling I coach individuals who are working towards achieving goals and moving forward in their lives. To me it’s all one big spectrum of human experience and they both are important to grasp and understand.
When I launched The Great Unraveling in June last year I was working with individuals with acute mental health issues and other severe cognitive impairments. This was a really fascinating, ethically challenging job and when my work at The Great Unraveling begun to expand I knew that working in this high intensity environment was not going to leave me with enough room to support my own coaching clients.
I made the decision to leave this job and instead accepted a job with a small community organization. This job involves me coaching other health practitioners / Social Workers and Welfare workers. I really love this work as it feels much more balanced and aligned with how I want to work now and is much less intense.
At the moment I divide my time between The Great Unraveling and my job fairly evenly. I spend my weekdays coaching practitioners and I spend my evenings and weekends coaching my own clients. That may sound like a lot of work, but it really does not feel like it. I manage my time really carefully and always ensure that I have space to see family and friends as well as space to rest. Sometimes this might mean blocking out a month on my calendar or only coaching 1-2 of my own clients at a time. I have a non-negotiable self-care routine that involves lots of quiet time, rest, good food and meditation.
It’s very hopeful to see you flourish in your creative endeavour Hannah, really. The blues is a broad topic because toward the horizon the depth of the ocean gets understandably scary. I know I’ve read, and I’m sure our readers have read very abstract ways of grounding the value of living, but getting down to the essence of it, what keeps you living? Take as long or as short as you need to hash it out, I’m sure our readers would love to understand your particular way of navigating through the deep water.
I love this question and I think it’s a really important one to contemplate.
The main thing that keeps me living is that I know that I have important work to do. At the moment that work is all about illuminating the unraveling process. Supporting others to feel less alone and providing people with a chance to share their own stories. This is the work that lights me up from the inside.
I am also an incredibly curious and I have a deep love of learning - these two qualities mean that I am never bored with life! (Even when it gets scary, I get curious!)
Your piece in the newest issue of Maker’s Magazine talks about the 5th Chakra. Chakras understood historically are rooted in eastern thought. Can you tell our readers little bit about how you got introduced to the ideas of the different Chakras?
I have always had this deep fascination with the energetic body and energetic medicine and healing.
In my early 20’s I saw a few energy medicine practitioners who had a profound impact on my life and my own soul development. A few years ago I was starting to go through another unraveling process. By that time I was fully recovered from my chronic health issues and I was in full time employment living a fairly normal life. Despite this, something didn’t feel right in my heart. I felt unfulfilled and unsure about what I wanted in my life. I started to question my decisions and my relationships. Then I started stumbling across all of this information about chakras. At first I ignored it but then eventually decided it was probably worth exploring in more depth. I began working on my own chakras through meditation and over time I actually started to feel their presence. It was incredibly subtle, but I was developing this sense of my energetic body. I started to notice a correlation with my emotions and my energetic field.
This exploration gave me a whole new way of understanding myself.
One of the things that you have mentioned in a previous interview as something you’re unable to live without is your spiritual practice. Can you tell us what your daily spiritual practices are like?
My spiritual practice is not governed by any religious belief system but rather a deep connection with a source greater than myself. My current practice changes from day to day depending on what I feel called to explore. On some days it involves meditation and on other days it involves walking in nature or reading oracle cards. In honesty it really does not matter what I choose to do as long as it involves connecting back into my heart and my emotional state. For me, having a connection to my own inner compass and intuition is how I have gone about forging a connection with the universe.
It’s so filling for me to try to understand how people live. I really like that you’re not tied to one “religious system”, it sounds like you’re super in tune with what’s going on inside yourself, and you’re using that guide your way of living. I find it valuable that you’re “forging a connection with the universe” because it means you’re earnest in seeking something real out. If you’re able to can you tell us how you would describe the universe, in your own words? What colours, what images, or poetry would you describe it as?
When I think of the universe I think of a source of energy that vibrates at a very high frequency. This energy is not something that is outside of us, in fact it penetrates every facet of life. This is the energy I connect to when I am in my meditation practice, frolicking in nature or creating art.
Hannah, the great unravelling also includes your artwork is that right? Considering how driven you are there’s quite a childlike quality to your artwork which is refreshing. It really expresses to me an inner curiosity, and a simplicity. Can you tell us about your art, and about what your process is like?
A big part of The Great Unraveling has been about sharing my ideas and observations through drawing.
These illustrations first took shape while trying to express my thoughts in my own journal. Last year I was feeling overwhelmed with physical and emotional sensations and in order to process these I started to draw self portraits. Drawing out my feelings was such an empowering way to understand them. Overtime I began to see themes arising and this helped me to make some really important decisions in my life.
Although to some I may seem like a serious soul, I am actually a big kid. I love nothing more than being silly, playing and using my imagination. My illustrations tend to cover some fairly heavy themes so I really like to bring a playful lighter side. This has happened rather organically in my work and I really see it as a direct expression of my personality. As far as my process goes, I am usually struck with an idea at random. It may be born out of something I am struggling with or a topic I am interested in exploring more. I carry a sketchbook with me everywhere and tend to draw on the run when the inspiration hits. I can then take the illustrations home and spend time doing the postproduction.
Thank you so much for your responses. I'm just beside myself at how you balance your work and The Great Unraveling. Super inspiring. You’re so dedicated to your work and it’s easily felt. Thank you so much for your insights, and your time Hannah. We need intelligent, curious, people like you in the world who are dedicated to something greater than yourself. I loved talking with you.
Really appreciate all the thought you have put into this and I have to say that I have got so much out of thinking about all of these things. It’s not often that you sit down and try to articulate your story in such a wonderful way.