pain, pleasure, poetry

The last year has been tumultuous for me. I experienced significant changes that shook the foundations of the life I had created for myself. Also, at the beginning of the year I began to see a counsellor. It is interesting how being the recipient of counselling or a mental health service changes your own perception of such things - I preciously had considered myself as someone very accepting of anyone struggling with mental health issues. I work with such people, and also with people who have intellectual disabilities, and I have never considered anyone as being defined as any less worthy because of their illnesses. However, as soon as I began counselling and started to talk about the dark days I'd been experiencing, my own self-perception changed and I immediately felt ashamed of publicising my struggles. Blogging has previously been an outlet for my thoughts and struggles - now I was scared to say too much, and reveal the extent of my sadness. I talked to those close to me about such feelings; but after the initial conversation, I shut myself off from further vulnerability, terrified of being defined by my weaknesses. While I am well aware that having a cold or another physical illness is not definitive to my identity, I could not convince myself that having an unnameable, undiagnosed emotional or mental health issue was the same. I felt like I needed to make it more invisible, so then maybe it would go away altogether.

In the last 6 months I have made considerable progress in managing and feeling positive about life and my choices in life. Every 3 weeks or so I spend a few days battling the reality that I must get out of bed, and I must face the world. But the struggle to function becomes a little easier every time. I am blessed to be surrounded by people who are supportive of me, whether or not I tell them how I feel.

This month I have submitted a poetry portfolio to apply for a summer workshop to develop my writing skills and to - hopefully - take my poetry further. One of the poems I included was first time I have publicly written about this journey. It was liberating to put my experiences on to paper; a validation of my own struggles, a way to turn them in to something positive. The following poem is that which I submitted - perhaps someone out there can identify with my own experiences.


          Life could be richer than the words 

          That drip thickly from her fingers’ tips.

          Quicker than the scratching nib that

          Etches letters arthritically 

          In to the pallor of not-quite-white paper.

          She remembers seeing life in high-vis colour,

          Beauty nestled in every crevice and every fold.

          The articulation of such wonders dripping daily

          From rosebud lips.

          But lately, such richness of breath

          Has felt as heavy as the rain clouds

          That press down on her temples –

          And the crevices seem ever deeper,

          Digging split nails in to the soft flesh of scarred palms.