Waiting for the Sun to Shine

I woke up with all the typical bad day signs. I was lethargic, slow to get out of bed and get going this morning. I took the dog for her morning walk and although it was a beautiful day, the sun was streaming, flowers were blooming and sparrows were jumping about in the hedges I just couldn’t let myself enjoy it. Lassie (our Border Collie) had a great roll around in the spring grass, kicking her legs up in the air, but this time I couldn’t catch her enthusiasm.

It’s been a while since I felt like this. It’s the same sensation as when you are on the verge of catching a cold. You’re limbs are heavy, your movements and thought processes are slow and it feels like your head is full of cotton wool. You will undoubtedly have seen cartoon characters with rain clouds hovering above their heads, following them wherever they go, and that isn’t far from how I feel. Instead of hovering above my head though, the cloud is inside it, forming a barrier around my brain, like heavy grey mud, clinging to my thoughts and dragging them down.

I remember the first time I realised that I really might be suffering from depression. I was writing an essay for one of my university courses and I had been slogging away at it for days. I was making no progress, two days and the word count stayed around the 1,500 mark. I just didn’t seem to be able to add any words despite all the editing and reading I was doing. Then, at about 10 PM one day, it felt as if the sun had come out from behind a cloud. It is the only way I can describe it. It’s like when you are outside on a grey day and suddenly the sun breaks through the clouds and falls on your face. I remembered why I was at university, why I loved that particular course, and why I was writing that particular essay. Within the next few hours I had almost doubled the word count.

Right now with the clay sensation in my head, I am waiting for the sun to break through again. But I am lucky, because for me these dark days are happening less and less frequently, I am still able to type this blog post and when the sun breaks through it stays for a little longer each time.

Grief

I mentioned before that my mental health and creative writing have always been connected. When I was 18 my father died of stomach cancer and this sonnet is about his final days. Just as blogging has, and still is, helping me digest and come to terms with some of the more recent traumas in my life, writing this poem helped me begin to work through my grief.

Goodnight Dad

We kept on hoping that you would wake up
Wetting your lips from a green plastic cup
Mum told you about her day again, again, again
Twisting a golden cross on a sliver chain.
I was so sure that you would come back
Couldn’t believe you would leave us like that.
If this was a fairy-tale, like Snow White
Then you wouldn’t have had to die that night.
Mum’s tears would have washed all your pain away
And put Death off to some far distant day.
But reality is cold-hearted cruel
And all I have left is this frozen replay
Of the last few words I know you heard me say:
‘Goodnight Dad, I love you.’

Writing Exercises

Another reason I started blogging was to get me back into writing. I mentioned in Breakthrough that I have sent off an application for postgraduate study. One of my biggest concerns was whether or not I would be able to produce written work of the same standard I did for my undergraduate, let alone the quality required to score high at Masters level.

There’s also the skeleton of a novel rattling around in the back of my mind. I have never written seriously before. Not with a deliberate goal. From the time I could write I was scribbling (the only adequate description for my handwriting) silly stories and adding rather squashy drawings as illustrations. I started writing poetry when I was about 9, because my friend had to write a limerick for homework and I fancied giving it a go. As a teenager these poems got particularly morbid and dramatic, but they potentially served a subconscious purpose of keeping my mental health issues in check. I would get anxious or overwhelmed or upset, and pour out my feelings as words (I guess as I have been doing whilst blogging) and it eased those emotions.

When I was at university I joined a couple of writing groups and participated in a few slams. Some poems were well-received, sometimes I froze on stage and some poems just didn’t fit the set up of poetry slams. A number of my poetical friends frequently post their work on social media, but I feel too shy to do that. My writing has been mainly for fun or for catharsis; a hobby rather than anything I took particularly seriously or considered professionally. But as I have been blogging and sharing other intimate experiences I thought I would post up a couple of my poems, as another anti-anxiety milestone if nothing else. Often it is the anticipation of doing something and all the imagined negative outcomes that causes the anxiety and I do hate to be beaten by my own mind. So, as much as it scares me, I’ve posted a poem that I have shown a few friends in the past, so at least its had other people looking at it before. Its speaking to my oldest friend.

Hunters

We grew up under the same mountain
Ash and Sycamore;
I, small and pale,
You, tall and rustic.
Playmate, rival, sounding board –
You rounded me;
As the river
Carves
The chalk.

Ours was always competition:
You – older, bigger, stronger;
I – younger, faster, bolder.
Our playground squabbles,
Practice for a wider arena –
Sparing partners united
Against a splintering world:
Blood sisters.

But then –
We fell in love
With a shadow
Passing over the mountain.
A hawk –
Hiding in the sun,
Only visible
By its shade.

You chased with your bow;
I courted with my quill.
Hurling bolt after bolt,
You tried to bring it down –
Hold it captive:
A trophy of your mercy games.
I seduced with song –
Letting it soar
To watch its full glory.

I haven’t taken part in any slams, or even written poetry, for a few years now and I am really nervous about posting this online. If you have any feedback or comments please get in touch!