Back to Blog

Poetry & Mental Health

written by Sarah Strutt 24/10/2016

Growing up I was always a quiet shy child. I rarely socialised with other children spending much of my time alone.  As I was coming towards the end of primary school, I began to notice that I was having difficulty reading and seeing the TV.

After several examinations at the local eye hospital I was diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition resulting In a loss of my central vision. I adapted reasonably well and was able to function to a level that enabled me to complete my school years quite successfully. Some time later, however, at the age of 17 there was a sudden deterioration in my sight. Further testing concluded with a change in my diagnosis.  The new diagnosis meant that I was now also losing my peripheral vision.  Again, despite experiencing some extremely dark times, I attempted to remain integrated with society and live as fulfilling a life as possible. 

Throughout the whole of secondary school I experienced bullying, almost every day of the five years there was at least one incident.  Never the less I left school with nine GCSEs and went on to college.  I then achieved two A levels and went on to university. 

At the age of 18 I was diagnosed with depression and prescribed antidepressants.  However the medication seemed to make little difference and later that year took an overdose attempting to end my life. After hospital treatment I was now medically fit and free to continue with my life. 

"I found myself having difficulty breathing, feeling as if my rib cage was paralysed refusing to allow any air in or out."

For the next three years I tried several different antidepressants which again seemed to make little difference. My concentration became poor, my anxiety increased massively and my mind was becoming consumed with thoughts and beliefs that began to control my life. Daily I found myself having difficulty breathing, feeling as if my rib cage was paralysed refusing to allow any air  in or out.  I began to experience feelings of entrapment believing that my clothing was attempting to suffocate me. I became obsessive about several things. I would lie on my bed in the dark  alone so that I could hear my mind. I worked through every possible scenario that came to my mind of situations that could harm me in some way. I would then be unable to leave my mind until I had found a solution. This then continued through several hundred situations. 

Soon studying became too overwhelming and I withdrew from my course midway through my second year.  On my return I continued to try different medications.  My symptoms remained and I found them increasingly difficult too manage.  At this point I had withdrawn from any friendships that I had and was feeling extremely isolated.  Before long there was another overdose, and then another and then another.  After about four years of feeling this way I attempted to undertake some voluntary work at the local blind society. At first I managed well and supported staff with a number of roles including supporting students with learning difficulties to use screen reading software, helping to run a parent and toddler group, over night residential supporting students completing their Duke of Edinburgh Award and public speaking, reading a selection of my poetry at Manchester Cathedral to approximately five hundred people. I continued to do this work for around three years. 

During the early stages of occupying this role I found myself struggling more and more. I began drinking In the evenings as it helped me to forget. I enjoyed the freedom that this brought. Gradually the frequency that I drank increased and then the time that I began drinking became earlier and earlier. To permit my drinking I gradually reduced the time that I was spending volunteering and before long I found myself completely isolated, alcohol my only company. 

The thoughts and feelings that I experienced during my times of sobriety were excruciatingly painful, confusing and exhausting.  I longed to have friendships as everyone else seemed to have around me but as friendships were emerging I would   offload so many fears and anxieties.  I would start to question their intentions, doubting my worth and convincing myself something bad was going to happen and before I knew it that contact had ended.  My life followed this pattern for several years.  At the age of twenty two I completed a residential detox to stop drinking which saw me sober for a number of months before relapsing.  My thoughts were becoming more and more intrusive.  Feelings of worthlessness increased massively and self-hatred became the theme of my life.  It felt like happiness was impossible as any good that I met always had a sinister side in my mind. I was unable to receive a compliment without contradiction in my mind.  Following another two or three overdoses and a second detox I found myself making no progress. Now aged 24 I had a diagnosis of Borderline personality disorder and a Psychotic episode and had been admitted to psychiatric hospitals approximately eight times and was self-harming on a regular basis. 

Today, one of the biggest difficulties is sabotaging anything that brings me happiness.  Someone will hurt me and I will declare my dislike for them whilst at the same time desperately fighting to maintain the relationship with that person.  Anger can turn to guilt within seconds.  So many of my feelings are magnified enormously.  Happiness will almost always be elation, sadness will be devastation loneliness will feel like there is no other person on the planet.    At this point in my life I still experience these feelings, however now I am becoming more able to challenge the harmful thoughts resulting in breaking that train of thoughts much earlier.  Consequently the thought becomes less rooted making it easier to remove from my mind.  I am no longer drinking alcohol and becoming more in control of my self-harming.  I am managing to form positive relationships, starting to believe in my own worth   and believe in the positive comments that my friends make.  I am also hoping to return to university in the coming year or two to study mental health nursing.  I am now also a member of a poetry group and disability cycling group. 

I found that writing poetry helped me through some tough times.  Therefore I would like to share my work and my story with as many people as possible experiencing mental health issues in an attempt

To offer some hope.

In My Shoes

Cried a few more tears, didn’t know which way to go

Had so many questions with answers I didn’t know

Like I was living in a world with compliance to different rules

Like almost everything I did would leave me feeling like a fool

A question then an answer then ignorance yet once more

My mind still like a maze when I walked back out of the door

Like the world outside the window was too big to step into

I’d sit at home curtains closed so light cannot pass through

Didn’t fit into the hole that society had shaped

Despite how hard I’d try my acquaintances escaped

The thoughts and feelings I endured seemed too hard to understand

One day though eventually I found an outstretched hand

She knew my troubles, my struggles, she knew me

But still the hand remained, I’d found someone that didn’t flea

Life was nothing but an impossible dream

But somehow a different journey for my life can now be seen

Alien Occurrence

The wall moves closer, magnifying, shadows grow

Heart is sprinting, palms moistening, breathing strained and shallow

Barely to my feet yet find myself down once more

I stare at my scarred shell lay lifeless on the floor

The path around me undisturbed, no footprints but my own

Is this the point on my road where my towel is thrown

Scramble to my knees, led weights resisting me

What do I have to do to set these shackles free

Maybe this is my reward for being who I am

Began my destruction when my heart beat first began

Self-obsessed, cowardly, inadequate and weak

I am that chess set that demonstrates one missing piece

Loneliness the pain that penetrates the heart the most

Almost no social contact, no electronic post

Sat watching the world pass by, envy flooding my veins

Their Hand wrapped around mine, digits stop self-hatred’s rein

If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email info@timetochangewales.org.uk

Share

Comments (0)

Add new comment

To prove you are a human please type the word 'involved' in the box below *

Back to Blog