Reach Out – Today is World Mental Health Day

With this year’s theme “Mental Health for All” in mind, my focus today is ‘Reaching Out’. Over the past week I’ve shared my poems about my mental health, social attitudes to mental health, and medication.
Today is about asking for help, finding my own positive strategies, and about survival.

Alone, not lonely
Wishing you near
I consider my thoughts
in pictures drawn, poems written.
They clear my mind:
supplanting emotions
I need to explore.
Wishing you near
I muse on our successes
of secrets shared, evils revealed.
We have been one:
reciprocal factors on
the balance of my fractured mind.

I had been fortunate to work with some wonderful people both as an in-patient, and when supported in the community: two great psychiatrists and an art therapist who was the first to recognise my need to explore deep-rooted emotional traumas. It was also this AT who stepped up to fight my corner when my consultant wanted me to have ECT again. He argued that it hadn’t worked in the past and it wasn’t likely to be the answer then, perhaps recognising that my diagnoses of depression/ anxiety/ psychosis + Borderline Personality Disorder wasn’t the whole story. It was to be a few years later that I was re-diagnosed as bipolar 1 + psychosis + BPD, and another 11 years before I was diagnosed with ASD.
As to why I wished them near, one doctor had moved to another hospital, and I had been told that I could no longer work with the other doctor as I was forming too much of an attachment (classic BPD state!!). He always gave time to my writings, even sharing some with his wife and friends, all fellow psychiatrists. Having worked with the Art Therapist for almost 10 years, both 1-to-1 and in groups, he too relocated to another hospital.

‘You got yourself through it.’ No faint praise,
when surviving each moment fills my days.
When each simple stumble costs so much
in terms of my losing that caring touch.
A stroke, not a scratch, across thin skin.
A caress, not a cut. Surely that’s no sin.
More often than not, evil will strike,
with a kiss from a blade. I’ve no more fight.
I watch as the stream of crimson pearls
Bubbles up through the flesh and out unfurls.
My mind slowly clears as each fresh drop
merges and thickens, until I can stop.
I cannot ignore, and go unscathed,
the criss-cross of scars shows the path I’ve trailed.
I won’t always get through it, but I’ll fight all the way
to become a survivor of each new day.

There was a lovely nurse who usually worked night shifts, highly qualified and experienced. On a day that I had taken an overdose while off the ward she happened to be working days; she told me later that as soon as she unlocked the door for me she could see from the look in my eyes what I’d done. I was taken by ambulance to Accident & Emergency. This poem begins with the exact words she said to me after the event when I was back on the road to wellness.

Getting Through the Day
How to get through it? Any idea?
How do I face a day so full of fear?
Write down my feelings? Put on a mask?
Confronting the issues can be a hard task.
If the mask slips, will I be understood?
I’d explain things more clearly if only I could.
So please be more patient, try not to forget,
If we don’t pull together, I’m stuck in this net.

At a time when finding support and taking positive action is way more difficult than usual, I would also ask those of you know someone in this situation to Reach Out. Maybe not physically when social distancing makes this nigh impossible, but with a phone message or call (nothing ‘heavy’), a card or small luxury/pampering gift (nothing ‘uplifting’), just something that you know they’ll appreciate and that will let them know that you are thinking of them.

Whatever your backstory, make today make a difference.

Please Reach Out. If you are struggling, reach out for support; if you are able, reach out to someone who needs to know they are cared about.
Everyone is important. Cherish yourself. Cherish others.
Thank you for reading my words.
Marilyn X