Continuing our campaign to paint picture of young peoples experiences of mental health services across Europe, Beth from the UK, shares this poem with us on her experience of mental health services in the UK growing up.
Beth is an activist and founder of youth mental health peer project Hearts and Minds from the UK and you can follow her work on twitter @Beth_1day or @heartsand_minds
When I blink I’m reminded of the despair I resist
The grief that I’ve felt for myself
But tried so hard to forget.
Would it be possible to be stabbed from within
If I swallowed a knife
Would that show the doctors how it feels-
What my 15 year old self can’t express
For fear of being laughed at, dismissed or patronised?
6 African men all in black security uniforms holding me down to be injected
Whilst laughing about what happened last weekend.
The kindness of that single nurse who saw me with pity and compassion
And brought me a glass of water afterwards.
Would I have been helped if I was less complicated?
Have I done this needle rape to myself?
When I blink I see my brother
Pulling me back from the window
As I fight him, leaving bruises till I finally let go and crumple.
Does that image show you what I felt? Probably not.
Does it show you how I’d look at people
Wondering how they could manage to live-
Is it something they have that I don’t?
Does it show you how I broke from within very suddenly? Probably not.
When I blink I see myself in that locked hospital bathroom
With the cord from my headphones wrapped tightly round my neck
Hoping not to be found and hoping to be found
That war constantly waging inside of me.
When you blink
Do you see the nurse that cared
Opening the window hatch and seeing me in the corner?
Do you hear
The alarm that made all the staff come
With the scissors they used when they couldn’t ply my hands from that tight death grip
With which I held that cord?
Do you see me afterwards
Sensing their frustration at my lack of willingness and obedience?
Do you understand that I was doing the only thing I knew how
What I thought was needed of me at the time?
When I blink I picture myself swimming
In all the tears my parents have shed for me.
In some ways it was worse for them
To simply have to watch.
I see the looks of a room circled with professionals
When, in the CPA, they saw the yellow-purple marks
I’d left on my Mum’s arms.
What to do when your heart cries to live
But your mind says it know better.
What to do when your heart becomes the enemy
That means you get less help.
Those very same survival cries
Are the reason you’re taken less seriously.
What to do with a system that teaches you to hate the part of yourself
Desperately still fighting to live-
That only gives help to the people
Who have proved enough that they don’t.
You can say have no regrets
But my inner sutures have been painfully ripped apart
Too many times to care for those sentimental words.
I wish I could have been there for my 15 year old self.
Sat with her until she finally let herself fold into the pain
And shatter into 100 scared shards.
The shards that were instead kept inside,
That cut my vocal cords so I couldn’t speak
Perforated my lungs so I couldn’t breathe
And wrapped around my muscle sinews
Contorting my movements into
Violent, Self Destructive and blood thirsty motions.
I regret that no adults in my life had the maturity to enquire more
Into what was going on for me and how I was coping.
I wish I could have held myself
While my tears could have finally escaped.
I regret that no one saw me truly enough to know that they needed to explain
How my emotions and self talk could validate me
Without needing to escalate the issues I already had.
And I cry over that young fear and confusion and self hate
That eventually tore me into two.
I regret that services and adults paid to show me how I could heal myself
Couldn’t even see I was broken.
I regret that at the very moments I needed to be taken seriously
I was instead mocked or reprimanded.
I regret that my physical safety
Became the only risk that mattered.
I wish I could go back to my 17 year old self now
And tell her it’s not her fault.
That the same system that taught her
She needed to self harm to be seen
Was the system that was telling her to stop.
I wish I could tell everyone who was discussing my care
And how my treatment was not helping
That I had no other real option
And that actually, the attachments I formed that you pathologised
Offered the most hope of keeping me alive,
And that if you don’t have the funding or time for positive attention and reinforcement
Of course we’ll seek out the bad.
I wish I could have told you that
‘This isn’t the place for people like you,
With your particular set of needs’
Is the most despairing thing I’ve ever heard in my life
And still haunts me to this day.
Because when is a psychiatric ward ever the right place for anybody?
When will people with my diagnosis stop being an inconvenient reality,
That you respond to with a sigh?
And perhaps the reason I’ll cut myself to stay on the ward
Is because even this hell is better than a society
Where I feel neither seen nor heard.
I know you don’t want to think about anything other than
Immediate solutions and what’s at hand,
For fear of spiralling, yourself.
But perhaps I require that of you?
Perhaps, the spiritual, adult accountability and self honesty of my professionals
Should be part of my Care Plan?
It’s easy to move me onto a ‘service’ that will ‘serve’ me for a few more weeks
In their ‘Service-Centred’ way,
That spends more time spelling out
How they put their patients first in their branding
Than they do listening and practicing the self aware thinking they teach.
I know everyone’s just a cog in the machine
But own that when you’re talking to me.
Listen to me as I heal
And accompany me with an awareness of YOUR Limited capacity
Rather than rushing to tell me about my own.
I look back now
Ashamed by this anger I’m learning to embrace
That’s desperate to be heard for a change.
I wish the past 6 years hadn’t happened
But since they have
I will cry and then I’ll love.
I will learn to innovate a system with my insight
Rather than wage war or run, like the rest.
I will speak the words I needed to hear from adults
As a young adult
Back to myself.
And I will make a space for the young people that
Everyone else seems to burdened by.
Because to create
When you’ve destructed and imploded for so long
Is an act of restoration, love, power and justice.
Thankyou to Laura, Imi, Keith, Outreach and my family.
Thankyou to Rochelle, Dr Hodgson and Emily.
Thankyou to Miss Ferro and my patient friends.
And thankyou to the spirit that I despised until recently.
The one that kept me alive to fight.
No thanks to a church that taught me to hate myself.
No thanks to professionals who used their power to make THEIR lives easier-
And no it’s never truly out of your hands.
No thanks to the family hand-me- down of shame, fear and silence.
No thanks to a system who’s boxes I didn’t fit into.
And no thanks to a society that made me feel guilty for my burden.
I honour the part of me that had to try and protect myself
But that tall wall of self destruction
Is no longer one I need.
For I have fallen 7 times and stood up eight
And look at what I can create!