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 I became withdrawn and struggled daily with depression and anxiety.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!
Two years ago I was involved in an accident at work that left me in extreme pain and, because the accident involved young children, I suffered from panic attacks and constant anxiety. I was at an absolute low.
The pain didn't subside as I expected, and I was left struggling with everyday activities, and this was having a devastating impact on my family life. I was aware of the strong link between mental health and physical health and knew I needed a holistic approach that would attack the pain from all angles, not simply using medication. So I joined a ten week pain management course run at the Astley Ainslie in Edinburgh where I met a group of caring staff who understood and spoke openly about how pain impacts on work, relationships and mental health. I cried when I heard other people's stories and for the first time I didn't feel alone. The course changed my life and by using the range of strategies taught, I now live alongside my pain rather than inside it.
On the opening day of this year's Edinburgh Fringe, the writer and graphic artist and poet Lesley Traynor was challenged to produce a piece of art work that interpreted the first day of the festival.
Her intention? To photograph female poets that use fierce words to smash glass ceilings, blast barriers.
Our challenge? Bring a word that has empowered you. Bring a piece of poetry that speaks your truth.
Before I even got there I was excited. But I hadn't realised just how incredible the event was to be...
Just before 3pm, a group of female poets gathered in the cobbled street outside the Scottish Poetry Library and we were soon creating friendships and bonds. And as the church bells up and down the Royal Mile marked 3 o'clock, Lesley kicked the event off with a piece of her own work.
And her word?
One after another, the women bounded up to the front of the circle. They shouted their poems for passers by, and for the whole world to hear. Unashamed. Unrestricted. Unaccustomed to such freedom to express exactly what they wanted to say. The atmosphere was electric.
The poems were honest and powerful. The fierce words were cheered.
SPIRIT SISTERHOOD EQUALITY FIESTY
QUEEN MIRROR TRANSFORMATION
COCK-A-DOODLE-DO DERANGED POETESS
JOY J.F.D.I [Just Fucking Do It!] VOICE
Emma Mooney is a writer of Scottish contemporary fiction and is the author of A Beautiful Game. and Wings to Fly.