Finding Ourselves in Others: A Tale of Watching Unrest

Listen to the article on SoundCloud. 
This past spring I attended a screening for Unrest at the Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto.
Something powerfully transformative happened during the screening. Something that can’t be articulated in a review.
Having ME/CFS and being in a crowd of others with ME/CFS —watching this film together —was pretty exciting. It’s not often we all get together like this. Before the film began, I scanned the crowd with curiosity. I knew there were others in the crowd whose life likely mirrored my own. There’s something instinctive about always trying to see ourselves in others. We are searching to find commonality and a sense of belonging. It also felt good to be in a room full of people with the same purpose: to talk openly and honestly about ME/CFS. Something I had refrained myself from doing for so many years. This is because society often makes illness feel like a taboo or “dark subject.” There’s an underlying mentality that you’re a positive person if you’re feeling well, and a negative person when you’re not. Thankfully shame and untrue ideas were checked out at the door. We got down to business, and watched the film together.
There were so many powerful scenes. My heart would break during one, only to be mended by another. Omar and Jen’s love was so deeply palpable. I especially resonated to the impacts of illness entering a relationship. It made me reflect back on my own. How relationships became the hospital for my soul, when illness was emotionally breaking me down. By the end of the film, my sleeve was pretty soggy. I had forgot to bring kleenex. Judging by the sea of sniffles around me, I wasn’t alone in this dilemma.
As the credits rolled, something unexpected happened. The silence of the theatre was suddenly pierced by a deep, guttural sobbing. It was coming from the front of the theatre. It was coming from a woman,  held in the arms of another. The sound of pain is a sound one does not forget. Her pain was unmistakable, the weight of grief undeniable. There was no holding back. It was unapologetic, and it was raw. You could only be with it, and in doing so, be with your own pain.
Jennifer was backstage and had not yet come on to speak. She was wearing her microphone. Soon, her sobs began to echo through the theatre. It was an invitation to connect and make room for the shared pain in our hearts. Soon the theatre was filled with strangers bearing their tears. Pain that had previously been held in. Pain reserved for release behind closed doors and into pillows. This is the pain that goes unseen and unheard. The room suddenly became vulnerable, intimate, and real.
When we talk about healing, it is often only referred to in a physical sense —as a precursor to cure. There is another type of healing. It is the healing that takes places when your suffering is validated, seen, and heard. It is one that happens when we move closer to each other, and truly listen. It is touching with love what has been touched with shame, stigma, fear, and overwhelming loss. This is healing of the heart. This healing arose in the theatre because the Unrest film resonated and captured our voices justly. I witnessed firsthand an emotional catharsis amongst complete strangers. This will remain one of the most profoundly moving moments of my life. I felt in a sense, we healed out of our separateness through our shared pain; pain universal to the ME/CFS community. Pain gracefully captured by this film.
Share and spread the word about Unrest. It could help someone with ME/CFS experience the same emotional healing that I and others had that day. This was the impact from one screening, in one room. Imagine the global impact in recognition, education, research, and funding it could have from more. This is why we need to keep the #TimeForUnrest campaign going strong. Consider donating here if you can. Watch this amazing documentary available now on iTunes and Amazon.
Let’s keep our voices being heard, and the momentum for Unrest going.


11 thoughts on “Finding Ourselves in Others: A Tale of Watching Unrest”

  1. This is a very powerful review and description. Thank you! We are holding a screening of Unrest in the Boston area on November 12, 2017. We are offering free tickets for healthcare professionals. And reduced ticket prices for people with disabilities. We invite everyone from the Boston area to come. Those not in the Boston area, please let your Boston friends know about this screening. All information is found here

  2. I had to watch this amazing film alone, at home (via Amazon). My wonderful hubby can’t quite bare to watch it yet, as he walks through my life with ME/CFS with me every step of the way. He has been dealing with his own deep challenges himself. My cries came from so deep in my soul……just to see that I really am not alone in this intense suffering. This film totally gets it…….unbelievably gets it! I know that my hubby is going to watch this soon. I just hope that I can get my doctor to watch it. I see him next week. Wish me luck!

  3. Christina Baltais

    I hope he watches it too. The more doctors that watch the film, the better 🙂 Best of luck Donna!

  4. Thank you very much Christina, for your eloquent, and heartfelt review of this wonderful film.
    I hope people consider donating a copy of the DVD to their local libraries, or asking their libraries to order the DVD once it’s out in December. I don’t know, but hope the DVD will be available from Amazon. That is where my library orders DVDs.
    Thank you again for promoting this empowering movie. Long may it continue to change hearts and minds about ME!

  5. Incredible! Would you consider submitting this to somewhere like Huffington Post? I think a broader audience could appreciate it (plus publicity!)

  6. Christina Baltais

    Hi Emily! I submitted a longer version to The Mighty (which is a branch of Huffington Post) and they published it as well. I just emailed Huffington Post to see if they would consider publishing it too. Fingers crossed XX

  7. I watched this movie alone from my bed. I have asked my family to watch , and they have said they will, but I know they won’t. How I wish I was well enough to experience the healing you had. Just seeing the film was wonderful in itself though. I hope to watch it with my home health aide who is here 30 hours per week. She is new. I’m just so grateful for this film.

  8. That day in Toronto, when I heard her cry I went over and whispered in her ear, “I have had CFS for over thirty years and you are the first person I have met”. Thank you for letting me relive that and realize that I played a part in your moment too.
    I was too late that day to be let in to watch the film. Crazy enough, that was the first of 3 attempts (ending with a tire blow-out on the 401) to see ‘Unrest’. I bought it on iTunes but couldn’t bring myself to watch it.
    This Thursday I will co-lead the post-film discussion at the Guelph Film Fest and (finally!) see what has become ‘MY’ movie. I hope I can bring a sense of your memory to the screening.
    Thanks again Christina for sharing,

  9. Hi Jayne! So great to meet someone who was there too, and you were able to connect with her at that moment. Hope the discussion went well in Guelph last night (with no popped tires along the way!)

    1. It went amazingly well! It was my first time speaking publically about my disease and it felt amazing and was extremely well-received. I mentioned your article, trying to illustrate how much this film means to our community. Unfortunately, I lost touch with the woman who had been crying that day, Michelle, I believe. I hope she gets to hear how her crying (which embarassed her) touched others in the audience.

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