Yesterday I took part in a storytelling workshop run by FDAMH (Falkirk's Mental Health Association) as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival. I was invited along to share my experiences of mental health, particularly on how writing helped me reclaim my identity.
I'm a novelist and through my novels I've always sought to give a voice to people who perhaps aren't heard in our society. Both of my novels were written whilst I worked part-time as a primary teacher - a job I was always extremely passionate about.
And then 4 years ago I was involved in a traumatic accident in my classroom. The accident left me in chronic physical pain and suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. I became withdrawn and struggled daily with depression and anxiety. I lost all sense of myself and my self-worth.
I no longer had any interest in writing. I'd lost my voice.
But then two things happened, almost simultaneously.
I was attending a pain management course at Astley Ainslie, which looked at both physical and mental health, and I attended my first Woo'er with Words spoken word event in Falkirk.
As part of the pain management course we were asked to visualise our pain as something concrete with the idea of using this image to release the pain.
I was inspired by the poets and writers at Woo'er with Words and I decided to write a poem based on the visualisation technique.
This turned out to be the first of a series of poems. You can read more here.
I'd reclaimed my voice.
I'd like to thank Janet for inviting me along to share my work and present an exercise, and I'd like to thank FDAMH for organising a fantastic week of events. Yesterday was a clear example of the great work they do!
I was lucky enough to hear you read a scene from your new book, Wildest of All, at an event last year and I was instantly hooked. Tell us a little about what the book is about.
19 years ago I was a young teacher getting excited for the start of the summer holidays. I was pregnant with my first child and I planned to spend the summer holidays relaxing by catching up on my reading. As a primary teacher I was been keen to read children's fiction, eager to keep up with reading trends and always on the lookout for something new to read to the children in my class.
I vividly remember settling down to read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in my garden. It was a beautiful sunny day, one of those days where you're surrounded by the sounds of lawnmowers, children playing, and bees flitting from flower to flower. But I don't remember any of those details because I was hooked in the world of muggles and wizards. I don't even remember stopping to have lunch.
Last September I returned to University for the first time since gaining my degree in teaching twenty years ago. This time I was joining the MLitt course in Creative Writing at the University of Stirling, and to say I was excited would be a slight understatement.
The first year passed by far too quickly, and to mark the end of the year we were challenged with putting on an evening of live literature.
For me, the best thing about the evening was the warmth and appreciation we all showed for each other's writing. What a great way to end the year!
I've got a busy summer of writing projects ahead of me, but I can't wait to start all over again next September...
One of the events run locally took place in Falkirk, and I was delighted to be invited along to read from my latest novel.
I’d like to thank everyone who organised the evening. I’ve got a feeling this event is going to grow...
People on the radio and television are all talking about diets and exercise, and as I made my back to the gym this morning I expected to see lots of newcomers wearing shiny new gym clothes and trainers. But instead I was met with smiles and greetings of 'Happy New Year' from the well-kent faces of the regulars.
18 months ago, I started a pain management programme through the NHS, and one of the things I had to do was make some long term goals. I remember sitting down with one of the course leaders and he asked me what I'd like to see myself being able to do physically.
I laughed and said, 'Well, I'd love to get back to the gym but I know that's never going to happen.'
He looked at me and asked, 'Why not?'
Was he being serious? We'd only just learned about accepting our limits. He'd been teaching me to hoover half a room one day and finish it the next. He'd told me to sit down while I peeled the tatties. And we'd spoken about getting help from my family with simple things like drying my hair (something I found particularly difficult after the accident). And yet, here he was now asking me why I couldn't go to the gym! I was confused...
My debut novel, A Beautiful Game was released just over two years ago and, at the same time, I was undergoing intensive pain management therapy, and counselling for PTSD, after being involved in a nasty accident. I was struggling to get up each morning, and I wasn’t able to concentrate long enough to watch a TV programme, let alone read a book or think about writing anything new.
But I had a character in my head, and so I decided to get out my laptop and see what, if indeed anything, would happen...
The character turned out to be Cathy, the girl in my new novel, Wings to Fly. And Cathy had a story to tell. In the end, it’s a very different story from my first novel, and it’s one I’m very proud of.
Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay, and seeing this pop up on my social media as a hash tag made me want to share part of my story.
The title of this play from Ellie Stewart intrigues me, and so the first thing I ask her is where it came from:
"It comes from the local gossip based on the folklore of the island. Women were banished there because they were 'too much mischief' to have around the Monastery on Iona."
The island Ellie is referring to is Eilean nam Ban (Island of Women), and I discover that St. Columba claimed, "where there is a cow there is a woman, and where there is a woman there is mischief". The wives and daughters of the abbey builders were exiled to live on the island with the cows.
Emma Mooney is a writer of Scottish contemporary fiction and is the author of A Beautiful Game. and Wings to Fly.