Saturday, 20 January 2018

Please Hear What I'm Not Saying

A new poetry anthology about mental wellbeing for Mind, Please Hear What I'm Not Saying, is out Feb 8th, edited by Isabelle Kenyon, featuring many great poets, and a poem from myself, 'There Must Be Ashes'.
To mark the release, contributors are being asked to talk about their own mental health journey, I've been through depression, anxiety, CBT, counselling, Lifeline, antidepressants, long periods of being too ill to work, having to fight ESA and DLA assessors who refuse to believe in mental illness. I've been blessed with an understanding GP, and great support from Action Mental Health, Arts & Disability Forum, Open Arts and others. My first big step to a better mental health was being referred to a Conditioning Management Programme run by the local Health Trust, as well as taking group classes with Action Mental Health. If anything, it got me out of the house and engaging with others, at a time when I was in a kind of self-imposed exile. I was encouraged to talk and share how I felt without judgement, simple but vital steps. And of course I was hesitant, resistant and challenging, but I also knew that I needed professional help.
The first step to change is the desire to change, and I knew that wasn't going to happen on my own. So I encourage you to look for what support networks and services are out there and avail of them if you feel you might need help. Through the Conditioning Management Programme, my counsellor starting asking me about the future. I mentioned I wanting to work in the arts, and she was able to arrange some job shadowing with the great poet Ruth Carr via Open Arts at Crescent Arts Centre. I sat in with Ruth as some of her classes in the Crescent, and helped facilitate a writing project with an Open arts group and the Ulster Museum. It was a fantastic experience to help others write and gave me a sense of self-worth. That was the start of a long process. There is no miracle leap to take towards 'recovery' with mental health. Instead, you learn, you adapt, you make mistakes, you slip back, you become more aware of yourself and you try again. And today, I'm still trying. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don't, and you won't win every day. As long as you know your warning signs, and try to intervene or keep asking for help along the way, with hope and faith, we will get through. One of the ideas of #PleaseHearWhatImNotSaying is to be self-aware, and aware of others' mental health journey too. It isn't always said or expressed directly, so we need to be wiser regarding how mental wellbeing impacts on us all.
The book is being released via Amazon on Feb 8th. Launches are happening around the UK and Ireland for the book. 
Poetry NI will be heading up a Belfast event (details to be confirmed),

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