Teacosy is the Tropical Fruits queer historian, and a part of the Radical Faerie community in the Northern Rivers. Here, he talks about his supportive community.
Up until a recent sea change, Teacosy had spent the last 20 years living on the Faerie Land community sanctuary with a small group of queer people who are like family to Teacosy. “We had heart circles every two weeks, where we would sit down in the evening in a circle and have a talking stick” Teacosy recalls. “So, when you're holding that stick, that's your chance to speak. It was very much about everyone listening while you were talking and wasn't about anyone needing to provide answers or give advice. Also, it was important that you were encouraged to speak about your own experiences, and it was about what you were feeling. I'm very lucky I was to have that chance every couple of weeks to talk about what was going on.”
“That was a very important thing,” Teacosy says. “It was a really big part of my life.”
Teacosy facilitates heart circles not just at the sanctuary, but around the community as well, including some Zoom heart circles for the Faerie community during COVID-19 lockdowns. He values the opportunity to be heard, and to listen to others. “I also learnt a great deal from just listening to other people's stories as well,” he says.
The COVID-19 heart circles gave people a chance to feel less isolated. “Although it's a little different from sitting in a face to face situation with a bunch of people, it was still really powerful,” Teacosy says. “Often people would say that they didn't really have much to say, but they were just happy to connect and to listen. So, it was still quite a powerful process.”
When Teacosy needs support from friends, he really values listening and empathy. “I always find it helpful when [friends] are just acknowledging what’s happening, they’re not needing to say something or give a solution. Just empathizing really. It’s great when people can say ‘I don’t know if I can say anything helpful, but I’m here to listen,’ that’s really important to me.”
An important lesson for Teacosy was to learn that sometimes you can’t help someone in the way that you would want, or you think is best, but that being present is just as, if not more important. “I learnt that very early on, when AIDS happened. I was HIV positive myself, in ‘85. I joined Ankali right at the beginning. There I was, sitting with people who were dying, who couldn’t even speak sometimes. I learnt how to be with people, and just know that being there was enough.”
As well as just being there, Teacosy is a practical person and loves to help people by doing things. “I learnt over the years to not make assumptions about what people need doing, or even if they want it done… I learnt to check in, and always asking what they need or how you can help.”
When Teacosy is providing support for someone else in his life, he makes sure to keep stock of his inner resources. “I keep check of how much energy I've got and how much enthusiasm I've got. I have learnt over the years to be able to say, ‘No, look, I'm not available at the moment. I can't do that.’” He makes sure he’s aware that he has enough to give before giving out to others.
Teacosy maintains his stock of inner resources in a number of ways. Sometimes they’re small things, like brushing his teeth, or setting a small goal to do something each day. He likes to practice yoga or other exercise, go for walks and be out in nature, and connect with friends on a regular basis. He makes use of professional supports, like a counsellor, when he needs to, and spends time understanding the world around him and its impact on him.
One of the most important things for Teacosy, though, is his community and the ways that others can teach him about his own strengths. “I read quite a lot about resilience… I’m very interested in people’s stories, as a way of learning about myself.”
If you need more information about supporting friends or loved ones, find out more here: acon.org.au/withyou
ACON provides confidential counselling to people in our communities seeking support in relation to their mental health and wellbeing. Contact ACON on (02) 9206 2000 or 1800 063 060 or visit the ACON Mental Health page.