The power of poetry against depression and anxiety
For as long as I can remember I have suffered from depression and anxiety. I have always felt different, as though I didn't belong, from a very young age in primary school. I felt isolated, alone, like I was unable to be understood.
This continued into secondary school and subsequently adulthood, hiding behind a facade with no one knowing the real me. I continued to push others away and didn’t allow myself to build the crucial and necessary friendships and relationships, thus meaning as an adult, I now have a limited support network.
Anything that was said to me I managed to turn into a negative thought. I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. I was literally my own worst enemy and critic. “It’s like there are two of me, The inner critic and the logical mind, both fighting to be free”
It took until my late 20's when I began to consider therapy, that I was tired of running from job to job, when someone noticed my underlying unhappiness and I wanted to be happy.
“I can’t remember when I last smiled for real, I don’t know who I am or how I feel. I can’t remember when I felt truly happy and content, To not be looking back to the past, but to be in the moment, in the present” I wanted to discover who I was.
It took a difficult conversation with a colleague who encouraged me to seek help and I admit I was resistant for a long time, telling myself that I was OK. Over time, I realised that I was ready to access help and that I needed to take the next step for me, and no one else.
However, it remained a very difficult and daunting decision to make, to consider exposing your vulnerabilities to someone you have never met. Can you trust a therapist? What happens in the first session? What do I say? What happens if I cry? These were just a few questions in my mind.
I spent time looking online, seeking recommendations and initially contacted several. Naturally, I was very apprehensive about this and questioned myself. Do I really need help and support? Why now? Could I do this alone? Over the next few months, I liaised with a few counsellors and then began my first experience of being in therapy.
I would say don't be afraid to ask questions and be prepared to change counsellors if you need to. Your needs, wants and feelings change over the process of therapy and, as a result, you may choose to change counsellors to best support and challenge you and your individual process.
Personally for me, changing to my second counsellor was the best decision I have ever made.
Step by step, they are continuing to help me develop trust, courage, self-awareness and self-belief. With her incredible and consistent patience and support, after 15 years, I began accessing support through therapy, my GP and the CMHT, all of which seemed unimaginable steps to take. I have learnt, and am learning that the healing process cannot be rushed, that you have to go at your own individual pace. Every journey is unique.
If you are prepared to challenge yourself, push your boundaries and open up within a safe, accepting environment then you will continue to see progress. There will be frustrating times, the process may slow, you may take a few steps backwards and forwards but be assured that each time you will come through stronger, more resilient and with a greater self-awareness. Don’t give up.
One difficulty I have personally encountered is being unable to verbally disclose in sessions. Luckily I found a counsellor who encouraged me to share my disclosures through other means, being open to art, mindfulness, meditation and to seek a personal outlet for self-expression. This came in the form of poetry and is continuing to transform my recovery. Through this process, it is continuing to give me confidence and courage to share verbally with my counsellor.
It is continuing to promote self-reflection and exploration, to express emotions that might otherwise be difficult to express. Having never written poetry before, but struggling with what felt like so many emotions and words in my mind, I began to put these on paper. To try to help me make sense of how I was feeling, and to open up new ways of perceiving reality;
Therapy is not an easy ride,
You have to fight against the tide.
It is so important to keep your hope,
Its positivity can keep you afloat.
You may be unable to see the light,
Therapy can put up a continual fight.
Try not to think about your choice of word,
For your voice to be valued and genuinely heard.
“Can I trust you with my pain?
To not judge and to view me the same?”
“Will you help me catch my tears?
As I try to share and disclose my fears”.
I can’t promise it will be easy,
Or how long your journey will take,
It will take time to process and heal,
To question, share and accept how you feel.
Originally writing poetry was an individual release for me, but I decided I wanted to share it with my counsellor. Your relationship with your counsellor is unique and through sharing, it has helped develop a strong and life-changing bond. The use of poetry is continuing to be invaluable and as well as helping me, is providing knowledge and a deeper insight into my thoughts for my counsellor.
My final thoughts I would offer is to remind you that you are not alone and don’t be afraid to reach out. If you let it, therapy can change your life. Be brave, open to change and take the step.
Do it for you. It will be worth it.