How spoken word saved my life
Poetry allows us to use the nuance of language to talk about some of the most difficult feelings that humans can experience. Like poetry, spoken word is also an excellent tool for helping others understand depression, which helps to end mental health stigma. Poetry gives mental illness a name, a face, and a story.
Patrick struggled with depression for many years which led to a suicide attempt. He was then diagnosed with BPD which has given him a better understanding of himself. Here he talks about how he found poetry and spoken word helped him to express himself and raise awareness of mental illness.
Lost and confused
When I was young, I was always lost, confused and never felt like what we would call ‘normal’. I didn’t care about anything and had no idea of my goals or whether I was even meant to have goals. All I wanted to do was mess about at school and use TV and mischief to ignore my problems. A tricky childhood didn’t help. No motherly presence and moving from one country to another into an area where I struggled to fit in added to my issues. Don’t get me wrong, I was lucky. Privileged even. I had a hardworking, intelligent Dad, two older brothers who looked out for me, a decent home with food on the table every day. Supported.
However, there was something I always gravitated towards no matter what I had. Self-hatred, no value for myself, depression and a curiosity for suicide and pain. I had always noticed it throughout my life but never took it seriously but after the typical confusion of teenage times it got heavier and heavier into my 20s.
I had chosen the artist’s life, wanting to be an actor or a writer which is a very challenging life to choose no matter what your mental state but it was the only thing that had got me through so far. I was bad at school and Drama and Art were the only classes where I could flourish and I was very lucky to get into drama school and train. I met a wonderful girl and fell in love and pursued the actor life in London. I was still always so empty, and I blamed it on my success as an artist and never addressed my internal self.
Pushing me further down the path
My depression affected me, but it pushed away friends, family and at the time the love of my life. This pushed me even further down the path of worthlessness. I had been diagnosed with depression more than once by this time and had been on and off medication but this time I chose not to seek help. Instead I chose my own path of drugs, alcohol and self deprecating living to push me forward. It worked for a bit until I realised how lonely I had become. I met someone new and fell for her quickly maybe clinging to her as a way out of my lost journey. Sadly, all the ignorance of myself had created a person that she could not be with and my demons pushed her away and I was lonelier than ever. That’s when I truly gave up.
It was when I first tried to kill myself that my wake-up call came to seek help again which began the path I am on now and I have been on medication and psychological support for some time. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) just last year. It was a shock at the time, but it has given more focus and a better understanding of myself and why I have been the way I am for so long. I could see myself again and know how to regulate and find peace with my process.
A positive outlet
What really saved me was poetry. Writing my thoughts down and combining it with rhythmic verse gave me a positive outlet and I discovered poetry and Spoken Word nights. I shared my work at various nights talking about my problems and I was touched by how grateful people were for my words. It was very inspiring to see other people like me getting up in front of a crowd of people and talking openly about their mental health struggles and I could see a positive shift in everyone when I was there.
People were using their pain to create awareness and help others. I continued to share my work and I found a new identity as a Spoken Word poet and it gave me an empowering momentum to combine my creative goals with the need to prevent people like me getting worse.
I have now created my own Spoken Word night called ‘Word Soul’ and I host and perform at the night. I create the atmosphere of sharing how you feel and it not being about how great a poet or performer you are but the reward of ‘stepping up’ being what everyone in the room should support and respect. It has attracted a diverse group of people from all ages and communities and organically every night so far has had the running theme of talking openly about mental health issues.
Interestingly a lot of the poets have been men, which as a man growing up in a ‘don’t show your feelings’ environment gave me great courage in eradicating that stigma. Overall it has helped people and has helped myself find the drive I need, and I hope to achieve my goal of combing Spoken Word with my cause to fight mental health issues to make the world be OK with not being OK.