Tag Archives: Mental health

Wild Swimming


The week before monsoon hangs heavy.

We wear the air like a woolen blanket in midsummer, smothering our logic.

You, you flawed genius, when the heat takes you to your crazy place,

you are a madman, a jewel thief

secretly adjusting the gas taps of my equilibrium.

That lightning storm in your brain takes your logic

and skews it, making me your enemy.

When the mania takes you, for survival’s sake my mind retreats

to the shade of the creek

my psyche dives down beneath its cooling waters.

I am diving down, down dark deep

where the chaos of your words cannot reach me.

Drifting in bottle-green silence,

limpid light cushioning my journey down.

I am a mermaid

my tail flicking aside your anger

which slides off my scales like oil.

Lungs blooming with pinon-scented air I dive

dipping beneath your harsh words

entering that sedated world where time slows

dream-like I pull through still water

hunting for jewels

while you rage above, your words a vicious deluge of irrational hatred.

Two or three days I lie,

breathing, only when I must, through the hollow reeds of my despair,

body wrinkled with submersion and my mind

cold-water saturated, on ice

until the storm passes, and the wildfire is done.


Some kind of requiem

The first day of winter; the leaving of the year

And now, more than ever, I feel my mortality;

Life’s fragility.

My body aches, and my heart misses

The reassuring presence of you.

I am a half-person

And this, my half-life.

The day sets, edgy, with the promise of storms

Yet here, surrounded with white roses,

I acknowledge my loneliness

Fend off the night-time thoughts

The fear of you not-wanting.

I long to tell you the depth of my love,

But hesitate, hold back

For fear of chasing you away.

And I am so, so grateful for the tenuous chance

That brought us together;

For the giant of a man you have become

And for the knowledge that you hold me

In your heart.

So this is some kind of requiem

Memento Mori

For the girl so sad for so long.

Lasciatemi morire

I shed these tears now

Not for grief, nor loneliness,

But for gratitude, and wonder

At this late-found love.

Against the Winter Dark

Closing the curtains against the winter dark

Cool clink of ice in glass. A bitter slice of separation.

Cooler chilled consolation.

Kidding myself there’s no problem in hiding the missing-you

Deep within a heavy crystal comforter.

Possibly a little too much

Probably more than is good for me.

But it is here, and you are not

And tonight I need a friend.

Links in the Circle

This article first appeared in 2005 in ‘Among Friends’, the newsletter of Long Sutton Meeting; and was subsequently published in Speak Up Somerset issue 29, September 2005, as ‘Links in the Circle’.

A Quaker’s experience of depressive illness.

Speaking at Meeting is a very brave thing to do; especially for a shy person like myself. So I have stayed safely and securely seated and not dared to speak, even though at times I have replayed in my mind those things my heart has wanted to speak out loud.

I had known about the Society of Friends for a long time, but not necessarily by that name. Nine years ago I sought out the Quakers and Long Sutton Meeting. Since then, life for myself and my family has seen many changes. All but one of our parents and elder relatives has passed on. Steve and I have watched our two eldest sons grow into talented yet challenging young men who will, eventually, eat us out of house and home; and son number three was born and blesses us all with his happy spirit, boundless energy and ability to wake me up at six o’clock every morning. I have been reunited with my biological father, and as a consequence found a lovely sister and brother I had never met. An extended family. I have made a study of my family history and am finding my genealogical roots. My life is full of clutter, noise, crowded rooms and boys’ socks. At the root of all this I struggle to find the stillness and silence; to hold on to my basic beliefs and to live my life accordingly. Hopefully being a good example to my children and treating others with the respect and acceptance I would wish to be treated with myself.

Mental illness. Nervous breakdown. Depression. Whatever name you give it, it’s a tricky thing to deal with. There are no bandages, no bumps or bruises that you can show people and say ‘look, this is what’s happened to me.’ I have found that people tend to react in one of two ways. Some will treat it as an embarrassment; a thing to be ashamed of and not to be spoken about, other than to imply that I should ‘pull myself together’ or ‘snap out of it’. It can be the people you expect to understand who sometimes put up the biggest barriers. Conversely, some people I would expect not to understand have been amazingly kind and supportive. These are usually the ones who have been through a similar experience.

In both my professional life and my home life I have encountered both reactions. I still decide carefully before telling anyone that I take medication, visit the Mental Health Service or see the psychiatrist.

I am deeply grateful that Meeting is one of my few ‘safe’ places. Having said that, I also find it a frightening place; a challenging place. Escape to Meeting is a luxury which has been difficult to afford; not purely from a family point of view, but also because it takes emotional strength. For most of the past nine years this is the thing I have lacked the most. At Meeting my heart, my soul, my spirit, whatever you want to call it, is very near the surface. It is fragile and exposed, and easily damaged or frightened away, deep down inside again.

In this morning’s Meeting a Friend talked about circles of love, understanding, support, accountability and forgiveness. In my own life this has been reflected in my childhood experiences, my ability, or inability, to forgive and the understanding and support of my amazing husband Steve. This links to another circle which is made of our behaviour towards each other and towards our children, who in turn make their own circles. For most of the time I am living surrounded by a dark fog. Sometimes the fog clears and I am able to see where I am and where I am going. The rest of the time I am smothered inside its murky greyness. I take high doses of anti-depressants. I have a lot of migraines. I have little self-confidence; no self-esteem. I weep easily, and often. I am insecure. I am a damaged child. I worry about the links I am forging in the circles. Today my mood has careered from euphoric to intolerant to tearful and back again. It is day four of cutting down on my current medication before introducing another one in the hope that it will be more effective in turning me back from a destructive spirit in to a human being. This process is frightening for me, and it is frightening for Steve. Neither of us knows how I will feel from one day to the next. I might function normally, or I might fall to pieces again. I do not know what effect this will have on my sons. They do not like to talk about it. One of them has little self-confidence; little self-esteem. He weeps easily, and often. He is insecure. He is only a child. He is just like me. Another link in the circle.