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A poem for World Mental Health Day

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

Mental health is a topic that is very close to my heart. As someone that has suffered with anxiety and PTSD for over 15 years, I know the importance of breaking the stigma over mental health and really being open about it.

When I was first diagnosed with anxiety, I felt ashamed and I tried to hide it from my friends. That was until a relatively new friend asked me what was going on and, when I told her, smiled, said it was completely normal, and then shared her own experiences. It was liberating and unburdening to know that I was not alone or insane.

Since I decided to speak openly about my own difficulties, I have consistently been surprised by the extent to which telling someone that I have anxiety enables others to open up about their own stories. The truth is that mental health struggles are more common than we know, and speaking up about your own mental health might be exactly what someone else needs, in order to feel safe to open up, themselves.

To mark World Mental Health Day, I have created a video of a poem, which I wrote around ten years ago, when my Counsellor was trying to encourage me to explore my feelings over past traumas. At the time, I would dissociate from my feelings about difficult situations and the thought of allowing myself to feel negative emotions felt very dangerous to me. It took me years to finally release some of those emotions and it's something I still find difficult to this day. The words of the poem are also below.

The Locked Up Box

by Annie Bell

The shadows shimmer.

My eyelids shake.

The abyss awaits.

How do I do it?

How do I tell myself the truth?

In order to achieve

the goal I have in mind,

I must dive into quicksand;

sink into suffocation;

suffer. I can’t breathe.

Suffer in silence. I can’t breathe.

Suffer out loud. I can’t breathe!

How do I do it?

How do I find the key?

How do I unlock Pandora’s box:

the leaden box that contains me?

An ocean of tears in a matchbox.

Miles and miles of agony,

tickertape antagonism,

Intermingled … well … stuff,

crammed into the suitcase of my mind.

How do I do it?

How do I tell myself the truth?

I have peeked through the keyhole.

I saw a glimpse of what’s inside.

It has teeth.

Its eyes are cruel and vicious.

It is hungry but only for me.

Why would I let that out?

Why would I embrace that first encounter

with the ghost of the effect of her -

the priestess of my misery,

the orchestrator of my undoing,

the vindictive dame of vitriol,

the lying, inhumane, inhuman vampire?

In order to soothe the flames of my distress,

I first must journey barefoot:

not through pastures new

but through wastelands old:

barren wastelands filled with

hidden shards of broken glass,

with no idea where they might be.

I must feel them slice between my naked toes,

before I find some Savlon and plasters.

Why would I do it?

Why must I do it?

Why did she do it?

Peeking through the keyhole

of my Pandora’s box, I see

oceans of tears unshed,

balloons packed with anger, red,

horrors I long thought dead,

coiled springs of fears I dread,

pushed in through wounds that bled,

pressed down inside my head,

awaiting the time ahead,

when the cage will break.

A mental earthquake.

A tsunami of agony.

to quench the fire:

to bring me peace.

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