Mental health in Mind

My last post about PoetryAsHealing was a let  ‘me tell you what it’s all about’ kind of post. As we’re nearing the end of the the year, I’m happy to tell with you that the first series of PoetryAsHealing sessions have been a huge success. Working with MIND feels like a natural fit as so many poems in my Songs of my Soul collection address our private struggles with the big issues in life such as love, loss, major change and relationships.

PoetryAsHealing with MIND

Leading a group of carers through a labyrinthine selection of poetry from a range of traditional and contemporary poets, was an honour and a delight. Together we discussed an eclectic mix of themes covering diverse aspects of human emotions. Our conversations were stimulating and life-affirming. Two members of the group wrote imaginative and moving pieces of poetry during the sessions.

PoetryAsHealing is a subtle form of healing, and the best thing about it is it’s not just for poetry lovers; it’s for everyone who thinks, breathes and feels.

‘Derek Walcott’

If you would like to sample a PoetryAsHealing workshop, please fill in the form below.

PoetryAsHealing

Ok. I’ve been really slow at blogging about my PoetryAsHealing project. Partly because I’ve been so busy doing it. I’m passionate about poetry and mental well-being so I inhabit a sort of heaven when delivering this programme.

Suzy Rigg, PoetryAsHealing

PoetryAsHealing provides carers or people with mental health challenges with a unique opportunity to discuss a delicious range of topics through the poetic form. We look at carefully selected poems on a vast array of topics including religion, politics, spirituality, culture and everything in between, in a safe and nurturing environment. Who says discussions about to politics and religion only end in arguments?  Pah! Over the past few weeks, we’ve discussed arranged marriages, slavery, depression, love, sexuality and many more topics. We’ve discussed the  poets themselves, their poems and the circumstances in which they were written.

Together, in a safe space, we’ve shared incredible pieces of work by Sylvia Plath, Allen Gingsberg, Maya Angelou, George the Poet, Pascale Petit, Walt Whitman and many others. We’ve laughed, engaged in heated debates, shared some fantastic insights and opened up to learn more about ourselves and each other. We leave the sessions feeling optimistic and connected. It’s all part of the healing process.

Picture: Courtesy of Brainy Quote PoetryAsHealing.

Conversations between members of the group have been far-reaching and meaningful, with the aid of our poets’ voices.

It’s stimulating, intellectual, emotional and most of all it’s HEALING. How on earth can poetry *heal* you say? Well, using your voice to articulate thoughts and feelings is very powerful. Using a poet’s words, which are one-person removed, provides a perfect vehicle to enable us to speak to one another. It’s like travelling on a bus in a foreign country, where everyone else speaks a difference language, but somehow when you’re on the bus you can understand everything.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox PoetryAsHealing

Our ‘poetry bus’ provides a mix of contemporary and traditional poetry for us to ruminate over, discuss and relish. The poems are chosen for their power to move and provoke discussion, sometimes about issues that are too difficult to discuss in a ‘normal’ context.

Anyone can join the group; being a poet is not essential! You don’t need to know anything about poetry. People come in with an open mind and leave with new words in their heads. The poets’ words help to unlock inner words that  may have been locked away. Some people are inspired to write their own poems, others are content to listen and enjoy the discussion. The power of poetry to soothe, entice and encourage reflection on the world and on oneself is undeniable.

I’m honoured to share my love of poetry in this therapeutic way.

Dr. Maya Angelou, PoetryAsHealing

Hear my tribute poem to Maya Angelou here

If you would like to talk about a PoetryAsHealing session for your organisation, please contact me using the form.

 

 

What to do if your writing’s great, but your marketing sucks!

Writing a book is a lonely business. The stereotypes are true, I mean, I’ve been sitting in my office since 8am, unshaven – I use that word figuratively – and I probably won’t see another person until my son comes home from school. I watch people walking up and down the street with dogs, buggies and earphones, which doesn’t really count as social interaction.

On one level, it’s blissful, I write, dream and research to my heart’s content. I play what my husband, calls ‘whale music’ to help me focus. So far, so idyllic. But attending The Author School was a rude awakening – I need to get myself and my work out into the daylight  – IRL and online.

 

 

Who are you writing for? They’ll never read your words if you don’t market them.

To be a successful writer, which I define as someone who writes what they love and sells decent amounts of it, requires consistent and concerted marketing and PR input.  I used to work in corporate comms and PR before I became a writer. Being tangled in my love affair with words, I had unceremoniously kicked my steady former love to the curb. Shame on me! All of the tools are at my disposal but I’ve left them to rust.  But, like an autumn breeze, change is in the air.  It’s time to polish my press release writing, tinker with my Twitter and sex-up my blog. (Not like that!)

Songs of My Soul on shelves at the Black Cultural Archives

Attending the Author School reminded me to look up from behind the screen, pause my book writing and start flexing my marketing muscles.  I had fallen into the trap of building an irrational resistance to self-PR and book promotion, for fear of being too ‘in-yer-face.’ The truth is, being in-yer-face/BOLD/CapitalLetters, is what gets people’s attention. It has always been this way.

So join me in giving your book a boost. Whether you’re still writing it or it’s already published, turn some of your writing attention to writing about your book, in detail. Plot development, characters, themes, why you’re writing it etc., that is as important as the end product and will help you to sell copies when you’re finished writing it.  It’s time to work our socials, and stop hiding out at home or in Costa. My PR self is telling my writer self to GET OUT THERE! My pledge:

do more social media – keep it real – do more Facebook live – blog regularly – blog/gram/tweet on the go (so it doesn’t feel it’s a job) – write about writing and poetry, my core themes & ENJOY it. 

If it gets too much, I will call in an expert.  I’d love to hear how you get on,  and if you don’t already, please connect/follow/like me…

@radiantlady

@schoolhappyin

https://www.instagram.com/suzysongsofmysoul/?hl=en

x

World Mental Health Day – a whisper or a shout…

I woke up this morning and a bomb exploded in my head causing pink and white confetti to rain down. A confetti of ideas feels wonderful, dizzying, like there is too much to do and not enough life in which to do it. I have been dubbed  a ‘butterfly’ as I flit from thing to thing, supping excitement here, making friends there, leaving a puff of colour and activity in my wake.

It occurred to me only a few days ago, that I might have ADHD. My husband looked as me as if to say, “you’ve only just worked that out?” I was an incessant chatterer at school and still cannot sit through a film with commenting, asking questions out loud and answering them myself if I’m on my own. I went to see ‘A Star is Born’  – AMAZING FILM –  with my daughter and turned to her to ask her to pause it for a minute as I wanted to say something. I laughed out loud realising we were in the cinema with no pause button, then started fiddling with the reclining seat to get comfortable. With my husband at one of those quiet and reverential guitar gigs, I was overcome with hunger and tried to open the packet of crisps in my bag as quietly as possible. And failed.

I’m a classic bag rummager/make-up in strange places applier/list maker/

messy/

impulsive/

fastidious/

changeplansastheyhappen/

doasmanythingsatonce/

type.

It’s either a whisper or a shout. Mental health is like general health – good most of the time with periods where it’s not good at all and others when we feel fine. For some, the bad periods overlap and we need intervention to cope with daily life. For others, the dips and highs are cyclical and need to be ridden or endured until the episode has passed.

‘October Blue’ © Sukie Rose

The challenge is we don’t always know when we’re going to dip or fly and we don’t always make it obvious to our families and friends. Social media can amplify negative thought patterns, hormone levels, creating sudden shifts into darkness.

On World Mental Health Day, I acknowledge that both of my children have life-long mental health and neurological challenges, but in spite of these challenges they both have the potential to live happy and fulfilling lives. Part of attaining that goal is talking to them, sharing what I’ve learned about their conditions and how best to support them. I’ve also learned how to better manage and self-regulate my own mental health.

The ‘happyinschool’ project encapsulates how passionate I feel about supporting parents of children whose mental health is compromised,  whatever the reason. We have been so fortunate as a family to access the kindness of friends as well as expert clinical, psychological and psychiatric support and advice when it was needed.

In either a whisper or a shout, if you need to talk, it’s good to know that someone is listening.

Take care of you and listen with your whole self.

x

S.E.N.D in the Clowns: (VIDEO) my non-fiction project, I’d like to share it with you..

I’ve been working on a non-fiction book for the last few years, bringing together my experience of being an autism mum, an educationalist by osmosis and a firm believer in the transformative power of education.

Like many writers, we can be so much in our heads, it can be tricky to articulate clearly. So I took a public speaking course… how did I do?
© Suzy Rowland

Message to Mars – flash fiction by Suzy Rowland

The sky turned blue as the MARSO, an official order from Mars Command, flashed across the sky:

‘Urgent request for water, supplies are running low.. Blink! Blink! Blink!

MARSOs logged directly into the mainframe, so the operating team didn’t need to do anything but watch through the clear glass screen, as the giant subterranean reservoir four hundred metres down the corridor, filled with water. The reservoir, RES1, was supported by steel girders, due to the extreme pressure it contained.  Earth Command Crew watched the process intently; most of them had family on Mars; who had been elected to live there by State One, because they were either over sixty or critically ill.

It was a long time since this process had been activated and the anxiety of it made the atmosphere in Command Centre sticky. A few of the crew noticed that as the reservoir filled, large green areas of planet earth on the monitor, started to turn brown. Species Watch was starting to glow orange, as earth’s reduced water levels signalled automatic extinction for a variety of critical sub-species in our swamps and riverbanks, invisible to the naked eye but vital to our eco-structure.

Marion started to laugh uncontrollably. At 59 and clinically depressed, she was the perfect candidate for the next batch of Mars migration. Her heart racing wildly, she slipped out of Command Centre. No one noticed her leave, slim with shoulder length dark-hair and glasses she was used to disappearing into to the background, not being listened to.

Slowly at first and then with increasing urgency, she broke into a fast trot, sprinting down the long corridor towards RES1. It was a six minute walk from Command Centre, but she needed to be quick before her absence was noticed. The heavy grey slab door was bolted, but Marion had been entrusted with a microchip implant when she passed Security Level Three, as well as a slim iron safety key. She was given this before her beloved aunt was sent away. Aunt Sarah had believed in her as a child, encouraged her interest in science at school, paying 80% of her undergraduate tuition fees and had been a stalwart supporter of her career. She had also counselled her through her divorce. Her love for Aunt Sarah rivalled the love she felt for her parents, her selflessness, her spirit of adventure.  She was doing this for her.

She scanned her wrist, punched in the code and the giant door pad seemed to  glowed a green smile at her. The key slipped into the lock like a ring on a bride of many years. As it turned, Marion released a primordial scream that ricocheted across the complex, amplifying the security alarm’s siren. Within seconds she had pressed system over-ride, enabling full capacity for the last of earth’s water reserves to flow to Mars via the reservoir.  The water in RES1 danced in wild abandon, away from earth, gaily through the reinforced channels to hydrate the red planet, unaware of the devastation that would befall planet earth.

The rest of Command Crew could see what was happening, but they were frozen, blinking in horror at earth’s imminent demise. No-one else on the planet knew it, but it was just  a matter of time before the water shortages became commonplace and the rioting would begin.

Deranged tears ran down Marion’s face, she could think and feel more clearly than she had in years. She felt she was rebalancing the injustice of the universe, giving something back, this one’s for you Auntie! And for the others like you who didn’t have a choice.

It was 3018. Earth glowed another red hot summer. There were only two seasons now: winter and summer. This summer was causing earth dwellers some problems.  Earth Command Crew beamed a blue message across the sky to ROSS 128b.

‘Urgent request for water, supplies are running low!  Blink! Blink! Blink!

© Suzy Rowland

 

 

 

 

 

I am NO longer invisible [REVIEW/VIDEO- Gal-dem, Weekend Guardian]

‘Sunday morning

hot coffee and granola

your pink cover jumps into my space,

no bubble gum pencil thin barbie here

by the Grace of our Lord,

hot black talent with attitude (TWA),

grins at me, a cover full of promise

revolution in my bedroom by 07:35

my private world of black womanhood in typescript

knowingness of other

everything laid bare

I AM no LONGER inVISIBLE!

replace coffee cup on table with extreme care

in case the words disappear when I look away.’

© Suzy Rowland