This wee article, a mere handful of paragraphs, is about actions.
Being bereaved by suicide has had a seismic impact on my life. I can never truly define the scale of this, but it changed my relationships, career and lifestyle. I became unwell for several years. I see this clearly now with the blessing of hindsight. I didn’t see the gradual, but very real, disintegration of my life while it was happening. Many elements have played a key role in my ongoing recovery, one of which I’ll share here.
A sedulous and caring psychiatrist came into my life when I had lost hope and confidence. She referred me to Penumbra, who signposted a local writing group, but also, she listened and understood I had been creative in the past. This thoughtful mental health professional talked to me about people using their creative writing cathartically and therapeutically, to give voice to their experiences and feelings. I’d never considered this. Back then, writing was something I’d done when I was well; firmly rooted in the past tense, when I wrote to entertain. The notion of documenting breakdown, panic and depression was unknown and quite frightening.
Reading and hearing the creative writing of others who had experience of mental illness was a revelation. They wrote beautifully, evoking their journeys with rawness, colour, pain and promise. I was inspired by their prose and poetry that sobbed and sang like a stony stream through empty earth. I was not alone.
I was inspired by their prose and poetry that sobbed and sang like a stony stream through empty earth
I’ve been a peer worker for many years and have often supported people to use creativity in a way that helps them. This year World Suicide Prevention Day coincides with the end of the Grinneas exhibition at Stornoway’s An Lanntair arts centre. I spent a happy hour or two there, admiring the paintings, photos, ceramics &c. Below many of these art works is a jewel, by which I mean a name of someone who has been on their own mental health journey. Creativity has been their action and by courageously displaying their pieces, they too are shining a lantern of hope.
This wee article, a mere handful of paragraphs, is about actions. A psychiatrist engages with patient; patient engages with peers; patient becomes peer worker; peer worker supports people to utilise creativity; supported people are a beacon of hope to others…This chain of mutuality will continue without the two protagonists it began with. Shimmering works of art and literature, conceived in the quiet souls of human beings, will illuminate journeys not yet begun.
Dave, your thoughtful writing style is always so inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
Dave is a Mental Health and Wellbeing Practitioner (Peer) in our Western Isles team.