8: Mental Health Awareness Week

I’ve been thinking about what to write, or how to begin, a post about mental health awareness – and every time I start this post there’s voices saying “don’t do it, don’t say it out loud”. But I know that’s probably the reason why I should.

I have met many people over the years who are suffering from a variety of mental health issues, and every year through my work I have more and more students who share their struggles with me too. I wish I had the ability to help them more than just being a listening ear and guidance on how to navigate their studies or training commitments , but I’ve learnt that often that’s enough and can ease the day to day pressures for them.

Spoken word and poetry is becoming quite cathartic so here’s something I wrote to try and express what a “normal” day for someone with anxiety or panic is like:

I’m irritable and quiet
Don’t want to hear a sound
No questions or discussions
When my mind is spinning around
The aftershave is too strong
And it acts as a trigger
I feel the worry building up
As I get my things together

The sweat trickles down my neck
And onto my back
My breathing becomes heavy
As my feet start to drag
I want to give up
Go home where it’s safe
But I’ve got commitments now
And there’s no escape

My mind begins to race
And thoughts want to enter
I consciously ignore them
and then I remember
Distraction often works
And helps me forget
The tightness that I’m feeling
The heaviness in my chest

The whispers get louder
They wrap around my neck
I’m tired and exhausted
I don’t want to fight back
It’ll be over soon
And I close my eyes
They said it gets easier
But that was all lies

I want to be “normal”
And I want to be free
I hate that these chains
Have become a part of me
I clear my mind to focus ahead
The journey, the road
The break lights, so red

I’ve made it to work.

Without a scar, or a scratch
A bruise, or a patch.
The voices have silenced
The whispers gone back
Nothing to show
For the trauma that engulfs me
The stress or the panic
Or the anxiety that drowns me

I walk into work
Put a smile on my face
I start conversations
And breathe freely throughout the day
I teach, I meet, I discuss, I laugh
I leave work and am back on the road
But this time it’s different
As I’m going back home

I put the key in the door
And transform into me
I’ve entered my safe-space
And finally I’m free
But as the evening progresses, and I plan for tomorrow
The voices creep up and tap on my shoulder
The whispers get louder
And the battle begins
To do it again…

…and not let it win…

Searching for calm

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