In honour of World Mental Health Day 2019 I wanted to do something a bit different and share some poetry. Not my poetry, but that of other people who have also got first hand experience of living with depression.
Poetry can really speak to the heart and often describes personal experiences much better than simple text.
So the poems here are not written by me but by other people who have gone through similar experiences of poor mental health. If 1 in 6 people in England suffer from a common mental health condition such as anxiety and depression, then no doubt there’s a lot of beautiful poetry on this around.
So the collection below is written from the perspective of the “sufferer”. I specifically chose poems that offer a sense of hope and the feeling that there’s a way out.
poetry for world mental health day
Rising - by Carolyn Jess-Cooke
Sometimes it is enough
the day, withstanding
the tide that
debris of old car parts
and scattered walls
slicing up your shins
you got up
and even though it
would have been exquisite
to lay down|
a relief to stay
you got back up
Stop - by Susan Davidson
I used to say ‘Stop the world, I wanna get off’
Now I’ve realised I’m the one who needs to stop
Stop filling every waking minute
Taking every silent space and putting something in it
Stop striving, trying to hard to be the best
When what my mind is crying out for is a rest
Remember kindness, peace and loving
Just breathe, and feel, and notice without judging
Because, as Shakespeare said those many years ago,
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Mental Health is a tricky one - by Geraldine Carton
Mental health is a tricky one,
You can’t tell from far away,
How well someone is doing,
Or how hard they’re finding each day.
Sometimes the downs seem never-ending
And the ups feel few and far between
And the happy front you show the world
Is not necessarily what it might seem.
The reality is no one’s normal or perfect
We all have sh*t to face each day
It’s just that people don’t open up because
The mental health topic still seems a bit “risque“.
Mental health comes in many guises,
But the reality can be cruel and bleak
Not being able to leave your home for days
Feeling too vulnerable, too scared, too weak.
And yet, you wouldn’t expect anyone to run fast
With an ankle that’s battered and bruised
So why expect a someone to think straight, smile wide,
With a brain that’s hurting or confused.
X-rays can’t check mental health
You won’t hear its beat on a stethoscope
This is often why problems go left unchecked,
Why vulnerable people are left alone to cope.
We bottle it up, keep it under wraps
and generally stay shtum,
About an issue that could’ve been resolved,
If only we had told someone…
“Be positive” they say,
“Look on the bright side” they suggest,
This isn’t always easy to do, however
When you’re anxious, tired and stressed.
So how can you help someone,
Whose mental health you’re worried about?
Start by showing them they’re not alone;
Offer your hand, your time, reach out.
Let your sister know you’re here for her,
Let your friend know you care
Because it’s little gestures of kindness like this
That bring people out of a real-life nightmare.
Hound - by Ben Wilkinson
When it comes, and I know how it comes
from nowhere, out of night
like a shadow falling on streets,
how it waits by the door in silence –
a single black thought, its empty face –
don’t let it tie you down to the house,
don’t let it slope upstairs to spend
hours coiled next to your bed,
but force the thing out, make it trudge
for miles in cold and wind and sleet.
Have it follow you, the faithful pet
it pretends to be, this mutt
like a poor-man’s Cerberus,
tell it where to get off when it hangs
on with its coaxing look,
leave it tethered to a lamppost
and forget those pangs of guilt.
Know it’s no dog but a phantom,
fur so dark it gives back nothing,
see your hand pass through
its come-and-go presence,
air of self-satisfied deception,
just as the future bursts in on
the present, its big I am, and that
sulking hound goes to ground again.
Don't Quit - by John Greenleaf Whittier
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow-
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out-
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt.
Poem No 5 -by Ijeoma Umebinyuo
Healing comes in waves
and maybe today
the wave hits the rocks
and that’s ok,
that’s ok, darling
you are still healing
you are still healing.
Poetry can touch you so deeply that it can really shift things for you. There’s a story about a teenage girl who has been battling severe depression since the age of 10, and who was at the brink of suicide. A poem by the famous poet Mary Oliver gave her the hope she needed at the time and really opened her eyes to seeing life just slightly different.
If you’ve got any more poetry for World Mental Health Day, then feel free to share it with me and I will add it to his post.