Halloween

It never fails to surprise me what companies pass for as “Halloween costumes”, often using them as a way to laugh at a group of people that are part of society. One I have found over the years repeating is the “mental health patient”. So I decided this year, if you can’t beat them, join them.

This is the result – a picture of me as a mental health patient. Is it what you were expecting, oh no blood stains, straight jacket or crazy eyes. Can you not see the tears I cried for a week when I took this picture? Or the negative thoughts that ate away at me as I tried to enjoy the autumn sun? Also, how many years it took me to smile and take a photograph? This is what depression and anxiety can look like not those costumes you can buy.

We use costumes and masks to hide pain and sometimes the real us. Trying be happy as someone told us to “cheer up, what’s the worst that can happen”!? Personally, I am through with hiding behind them and scared of the stigma of others, they are part of the colours that make me but do not define me. So dress up tonight if you like, but be yourself tomorrow, shine on every day to end the darkness and break down walls of ignorance.

© Fi S. J. Brown

My path and detours

I wandered through the dark and silent streets,
Lined with fallen autumn leaves and empty seats.
With the sun long set and moon hiding her eyes,
Not even the stars would catch my tired old cries.

Breathing in and out in time to the rhythm of life,
Knowing the answers were not kept with that knife.
Stopped the rivers of blood and falls of sadness,
Or absorbing the grey world’s carnival of madness.

But the birds that guided me thus far are so astute,
Helping me find an once lost but now found route.
Replacing the daily drowning and endless falling,
With a self belief and respect for my truest being.

Enough setting other people’s dreams on track,
It is my time to sing and dance no turning back.
So enough pondering just trust instincts and go.
Paint with my words, pictures and colours aglow.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The autumnal opera

The autumnal opera opens with the air biting like a bitter lemon on dry lips and the air smelling of decaying leaves and wood smoke. A prima donna sings an aria that touches almost every leaf, painting them every shade of red, yellow and orange; each colour matching the notes of her song. This is then echoed by a chorus throughout the land, turning forests to fire with colour. At the same the daily rhythm goes from legato to staccato, as the day length gets shorter, which in turn makes the leaves fall like ghost notes as few hear the sound of them falling. The crunch underfoot as walk through them is like listening a plucked cello playing, which is at times drowned out by the violins mimicking the sounds of human traffic. Then as the final note is sung, trees stand bare, and the theatre empties till all is silent. Well at least until Jack Frost sings his melancholy blues next season.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Patchwork Doll

Nobody heard the tears from the years of hurt, which rained down in a rhythm that matched them beat for beat. Nobody saw the pain of a stomach filled with razor blades ripping away at the confidence of a newborn lamb. And nobody saw her trying to fly the white flag, surrendering to the end the pain.

Questions that were never answered; left like rhetorical questions lingering in the springtime air. There were no reasons why their words and actions were now scars upon her soul. For hers was a muted song with only their laughter echoing from wall to wall around her childhood bedroom to be heard.

Nobody saw the barriers to the cage that trapped and protected alike. The effort needed to rise from the ashes of life on a nearly daily basis. Craving hugs of love and support, so absorbed the ones of treasures friends she found near and far, using them as thread to sew on patches over her deep scars.

With the sensitivity of a glass vase in a toddler’s hands, the patchwork doll took to writing what she could not sing herself. Collecting songs and stories of others as she did, so they too could be seen and finally heard. United in sound to breakdown barriers, no matter what the number of bruises.

Nobody can stop her now. She had found her life’s purpose, even those that hurt her can now no longer hold her back. Yes, still many tears flow like the River Nile, but seeds have been sown in confidence, hopes and dreams, which are watered with love and respect, now blooming and blossoming.

Does the past really matter now, for the present is building a foundation to the future and the past of tomorrow. The patchwork doll has learnt to believe it again and never give up. And now she will never raise that white flag till she has told the tales and sung the songs of all life that lives on Planet Earth.

© Fi S. J. Brown

A story from a phoenix

A phoenix once sat among the dust and burnt ashes,
Licking her old wounds and mending deep gashes.
Light teased and laughed as tricked her tired eyes,
Sending her stumbling as she drowned in her cries.

Trapped in a cage by body but soul was always free,
Voice muted but hoping to find the hidden magic key.
So every day she stitched so the broken wings mend,
And dreaming her Groundhog Days would finally end.

Then one day her dreams showed a path to follow,
So she gave those that blocked her way the elbow.
Finally ready to fly high and begin her new flight,
To the man in the moon who would hug her tight.

So when you look to the autumnal evening’s sky,
Never forget like her that we all have wings to fly.
As she scatters her colours on to the leaves below,
Into reds and yellow setting the world a fiery glow.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The (Un)natural World

Has the world changed or have we evolved into a new type of human being? Filled with jealous fear and hate as act as judge and jury not other’s wellbeing. No longer content to be an actor playing a part in the show that is Planet Earth. Killing others till they’re gone as turned director such is our sense of self-worth. Covering and autotuning the songs of Earth to sing in the key of human nature, and painting the world in fifty shades of grey as the brave new world’s maker.

Heavily manipulated images tell us this is what a 21st century human must be, and difference to flaws magnified as though we were some super race pedigree. Communication reduced down to words and pictures upon screens in our hands, as create fantasies of our lives, crying wolf for help and worshipping celebrity brands. Trying desperately to fit in the boxes so not alone in the wilderness to be mocked, trapping individuality forever in a room where few visited or on the door knocked.

Our foods tainted with chemicals, modified to grow in a uniform way or made in a lab, medicines causing side effects worse than the disease or perhaps prevented with a jab. With almost every new television show and movie is a re-make, take off, or sequel, where has our originality and creativity gone, may be it still sat on the artist’s easel? To be human has got quite lost in this brave new world we have now created for us, is it now time we stopped and learnt to think for ourselves before the final big hush.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Therapy…!?

This week I have been considering the journey I have made the last decade with my mental health, the stigma I have encountered to the breaking point I reached and the help I got through therapy. A good friend posted a link on Facebook to a newspaper article with Kate Winslet’s negative view of therapy; she could outsmart the person giving her therapy and decided it was not for her. To me, I felt was very out of touch attitude and only added to make the stigma of mental health and addiction worse as could not look beyond what she felt was someone inferior to her.

My own experiences of therapy tell their own tale: It is almost nine years to the day since I started having counselling. I remember well the fear I had to send the email to the university counselling service, it was admitting I had a problem but could they help and did I really need to see a counsellor? I had only done so as my so called boyfriend had pushed me to do so as felt I needed the help they provided. Although it was something I had considered as far back as eight years previously, I never thought the time was right. However, I had decided if I had not moved in 2006, I would not see Christmas as my depression was strangling me so much and living with a narcissist mother that only wanted to control every iota of my life. Therefore, it was certainly the right time at almost twenty eight, to start to understand why I felt so depressed and suicidal much of my life.

My first meeting with Anne was like stepping into someone else’s home with the way she lit her office to the pictures around the room, so immediately felt less like I was going to another part of campus. She had a caring face with a gentle tone of voice that like the lighting made feel at ease. Over the next few months we both realised my issues were far deeper than counselling could offer, she wrote to my GP who by that time had me on antidepressants after I had become suicidal over the Christmas holidays, but he simply asked me if it was true what Anne had written and as I said ‘yes’, the letter was crumpled and put in the bin. It felt like a metaphor for my life, crumpled up and nobody really listening to me; the lyrics to Tori Amos’ “Silent all these years” rang with crumpled paper now sat in my GP’s waste basket. Anne and I tried a new tact and a different doctor in the practice after I had self harmed when in hospital for a then undiagnosed ear infection. This time action was taken and was referred to a clinical psychologist.

To say I was apprehensive on seeing a clinical psychologist was an understatement, to me that made it sound like I genuinely was crazy or mad. Our initial appointment I had to rearrange owing to a visit from my mother that left me in a state of deep depression as felt I could never be free from her clutches or control. However, when I met Ginny I met someone that was willing to go with me on a journey to explore how I got to where I was today, psychodynamic therapy. It took me longer to warm and trust Ginny as felt like it was her not listening at times or full of questions. It was far from easy at times as felt like I was left at the edge of a cliff and then was expected to return to the world, continuing my PhD research, with all these memories and emotions going round in my head that somehow I had to leave them and focus on what I needed to. It was only after my suicide attempt eight years ago that I began to realise just what it was she was getting at. By the following autumn as we said ‘goodbye’ I felt sadness as realised she had given me stepping stones to move forward in life and most importantly was no longer afraid of my mother!

Since then I have found good friends that I know I can open up to but know I do need further help to deal with some issues still unresolved. I use creativity such as writing and photography to walking around nature as my self imposed therapy. Through it all I have grown to accept and appreciate me the person as I see my mother for the narcissistic woman she is and my brother that hurt me badly as an overgrown child that depends on her so much, neither able to see or accept how much they did and do hurt me still. I also accept why my father left my mother and my many issues I felt with him leaving, not being there when I needed to support.

In addition, I have learnt therapy is something we all need at times in our life, it is hard and dark, but with professional help we can find candles to hang that show there is light and where it hides. I would go so far it is part of healthy living to know and understand it is okay to ask for help in this way, as you would a doctor for a lump on a breast or broken ankle. I am currently deciding if this is not a path I should consider myself, to become a counsellor or psychologist, as love to help others and naturally empathetic, using my creativity and love of nature. I welcome thoughts from others on this, some I have asked say it is very me as already the empathetic ear or shoulder to rest that does not judge anyone and lets someone be themselves, allow them to grow and bloom to whatever or whoever they want to be.

© Fi S. J. Brown

F is for…

I seem to have an issue with the letter ‘F’. My own name of ‘Fiona‘ sent tears of bitterness and sadness to my teenage self, bullied and abused for being myself, which others found something to pick holes in till I felt I resembled more a Swiss cheese than a human being. “Nobody is friends with Fiona” any new pupil starting my year of high school was told, one that tried was reputed to have been pushed and shoved along a corridor for daring to try to break this. Depression often called.

This in turn lent to me turning ‘Fiona‘ into ‘Freak‘, for who would want to befriend or date this girl that looked like the love child of Frankenstein and the Hunchback of Notre Dame? I could not look in the mirror for its contents scared me that felt it would laugh back at me or even shatter to cause seven more years of misery. I had people stop and laugh in the street or in their cars pointing and laughing at me, so thought why do I not just die and end this miserable existence?

It was only through using my camera to record the world through my eyes that things started to change. I took a picture of myself in Italy and saw the real me staring back at me; nobody was laughing, pointing fingers or mocking me for having my eyes shut. However, I did not understand who this woman was and nearly did not stop to find out as decided the next year whilst on antidepressants to finally end it, jumping under a train seemed the best way to make my curtain call on life.

I was caught just in time but the misery was far from over. In the following few days I was told by family they were coming to “take me back to Scotland where I belonged”! I never felt so frightened in my life, ringing round social services to mental health helplines, nobody would answer me what I should do. Eventually I got a brother based in England to get them to stop and finally I could breath, and put down my dressing robe rope that was in hand to hang from the tree in my garden.

The years that followed I did end up back in Scotland but some things were different, I end up seeing me the woman not the ‘freak‘ of my head. She was and is highly intelligent, quirky and creative not a freak of a mad scientist that needed to be put down like a sick dog. I also learnt instead of ‘Fiona‘, my friends could use ‘Fi’ and I was mostly alright with that even if didn’t feel always me. However, the F decided it wanted to change from ‘freak‘ into a new word – ‘Failure’.

I have spent now three years with this F word teasing me like the others before it. I feel a failure to humanity, that some how I am not living life the way it is meant to be, always an outsider watching in. Unable to do the ‘normal’ things people do like gain a ‘proper‘ job or move away from where I don’t belong to having partner/companion of my own. My high school physics teacher remarked on how I could always do the advanced stuff but not the basics, which feels like an echo of my life.

However, tonight something has clicked in my head, I feel a new F word is dawning, that word is ‘fine‘. I am ‘fine‘ the way I am, not everyone leads life the same way and it is okay to follow our own path not going the same as every other one. I have no idea what my purpose to what my dreams really are, but that’s okay as I am not frightened. Where will I be this time next month or year, I do not know, but what I do know is that all will be just ‘fine’ in the end and suitably Fi-shaped.

© Fi S. J. Brown