Inside Stories: stories of resilience during the pandemic is a series of conversations with people who have been displaced by war, conflict or persecution about their lives, thoughts and hopes for others.
A few weeks into the Covid-19 lockdown, we asked mental health manager and tutor Ksenija Kadic what has happening in her life, what was on her mind and what message she might have for others. In 1993 Ksenija left her home town of Mostar which was under siege during the conflict in Yugoslavia and settled in the UK. She has been working in mental health sector for over 10 years and is currently Deputy Manager and Senior Tutor at Recovery College, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, and a freelance Facilitator with particular experience of working with people who hear voices and have challenging internal realities.
“Many people struggle with going out when there are mental health issues, but now it’s even more so, and among people that use our services there is definitely more fear. Before, people relied on the community spirit they felt here, so a lot of what I am doing now is about helping people to stay connected. I am giving phone support, sharing practical tips on what it is that people can do in their own home, and I’ve been co-producing an online curriculum for courses for people to learn how to stay well through this time and move beyond the fear.
From my experience of being in a war, and losing my national identity when I left home and came to the UK as a refugee, I learned that we can be many identities all at once. I can have roles as a mother and a daughter and sister. I can also be a refugee, although I no longer identify so much with that, and I can be a citizen of Britain as well as my own country, Yugoslavia, which although it no longer exists, is still there in my inner landscape. The fixed selves or fixed identities pass through us. They are transient, and we can choose the way we want to be in the world.
“When you don’t know what to do, do nothing and from that you will know what to do when the time comes. It’s about being humble.” Ksenija Kadic, May 2020
When I was fleeing the war, I used to be concerned a lot about making decisions for my future, and I remember an older person back home giving me this valuable advice, “when you don’t know what to do, do nothing and from that you will know what to do when the time comes.” This pandemic right now is much bigger than all of us together. So I am doing nothing, by which I mean I am not powerless. We cannot think our way out of this to find a solution. It’s not for us to solve this: we are not God. Its more about being humble, allowing us to be with what’s around us, with what is already here and cherishing those things that really matter; for me this is being with my daughter, connecting with my family and friends, being creative, going for a walk, or playing with my new kitten! Don’t underestimate the strength in the small things we can take for granted, like having a cup of tea or coffee, just chatting to someone or even just noticing what’s available to us in nature; the trees and the beauty of this landscape that we have.
Thinking of what gave me strength in the past, I think prayer, in its broadest sense, sometimes helps and also asking, what can I say to myself that will give me strength and courage that I can draw on from within? So this is something we can offer ourselves, and we can offer to others if people want to join us. More recently I have been devoting my time to a new venture of developing my own method of personal reflection to support others called ‘fluidity of self’. This arose through a lengthy creative process with a friend, Christina Jones. In essence it is a way of connecting to personal stories to free up attachment to our fixed identity, embracing all that we are”.
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Mind in Camden