Like any good remedy, the writing of poetry can be one of the most natural processes in which you can release, express and work through hard times and emotions that would otherwise go unsaid.
From the ages of 16 to 19 I, like many others the same age, was living with pretty severe depression, anxiety and body image issues. Experiencing mental health issues throughout those few years is especially difficult, because as I mentioned in my previous blog post about mental health, it really does have a huge impact on how you grow, build a sense of self etc.
One thing that helped me regain my identity throughout this time was writing. I had written poetry from a very very young age. At 6/7 I received my first notebook, which my parents told me was a ‘poetry book’ (think they may have been hinting?). As a child, writing poetry was a way for me to safely express my passions, interests, thoughts and worries, but somewhere along my way through adolescence it got lost. It took for me to reach absolute rock bottom to re-discover this creative outlet.
When you fall to your worst, creativity really can be the hand that helps you up.
From those who find solace in the pages of a book, those who paint, those who manage to leave the house to take a few shots with the camera they love so much, to those who play music; every single person I have met who have faced similar problems to my own, unequivocally agree that having a creative outlet in which you can pour everything that you’re feeling, just a little of what you’re feeling or even escape it, is beneficial beyond words.
It took me a long, long time to get to the stage I am at now, where I can write on this blog, unemotionally and objectively about what I dealt with over those years, and to a lesser extent, what I am still dealing with now. But one of the best things about coming to this point with myself is that I feel like I can share the things that helped me, in the hopes that they might help someone else too.
As I’ve mentioned, there are many channels in which you can drive your creativity towards throughout the harder times in life, but I’ll be focusing on just one today: poetry.
So, why write poetry?
I don’t claim at all that these things will solve anything, unfortunately it is never as simple as that but, they did help me, so maybe they can help other people too.
Here are three poetic methods I used (and still do):
1. One of the most horrific day, week, hell even month destroying symptoms of depression is the feeling of numbness and feeling generally unaffected and uninterested. So, if you fancy giving this a go when you’re experiencing those grey area days, here’s what you can do. Think of something you find truly beautiful: be it a person, a place, a building, your favourite pet, a memory, focus on that and write. Don’t worry about the form, it’ll come naturally, fill yourself with it, surround yourself in it and it’ll happen. This can help you to remember that there are things you love and can still enjoy. For me, it was and is still always, nature.
2. Another thing that can get in the way of you getting better is guilt. You may feel like you really want to talk about what’s happening to you, to ask for help, to just voice the things going on inside your head, to relieve some of the weight; but more often than not, you’re stopped by guilt. I know I was, I felt like I was being an unnecessary worry, to people like my mum, who already had so many stresses in her life. Finding the courage to speak is not easy, moving past those feelings of guilt, is not easy. So, here’s where writing poetry comes in: when you have something that you need to say, or when something has happened that has affected you severely, write. With this, poetry is more useful than prose because it is more fluid and it can be abstract and confused. Seeing your words down on paper can also give you a slight relief, the kind that you may be searching for in talking to another person but can’t. And another bonus? You’re being productive, and by this I don’t just mean you’re doing stuff to keep your mind off ‘it’, because it is never as easy as that, no I mean you are producing, creating, you’re making something out of pain and you can see it in front of you; it’s one way to literally shed some of the weight onto something else, onto paper.
3. The third thing that I found with writing poetry during that time of my life is a little more subtle and is part of the long term healing process. I kept the notebooks that I wrote all of my poetry in throughout that time, not because they’re enjoyable or because I am living in the past but because, when I went a year without writing in them or reading them and I had moved away for University, I went back to them, and read them only to truly realise that I was better. Not better in the sense of a ‘better person’ or anything like that, but reading those poems that I had written in moments of true darkness, I knew I was healthier. I knew that the person who wrote those poems wasn’t me anymore, I was happier and that, was a huge relief. Whenever I go home, I still read them and I smile knowing that I won’t ever be lost like that again. Sometimes it is really helpful to have a physical representation of how far you have come.
So, those are my three healing poetry techniques. I hope they come to some use!