Eugene is part of one of our grant-funded projects The Hearth Centre, and writes here about the positive effect of going to their ‘Reading for Wellbeing’ sessions.
I’d never realised the joy of reading until I was in my early twenties. This was because I was rarely at school due to bullying which led me to playing truant. I had very poor eyesight and this didn’t help until I started wearing my glasses in my early twenties when I became very interested in reading about history and politics. So as my thirst for knowledge increased I became an avid reader of books. In my early thirties, I enrolled in a course which enabled me to go to study for a degree in journalism. I graduated, but 2 years later I had a breakdown which led to me being an inpatient at a mental health unit for about 6 weeks.
After being diagnosed with clinical depression with suicidal tendencies I was eventually discharged into a hostel which led to a very unstable and chaotic life for the next ten years. Meeting Polly changed all that.
Polly was an inspirational figure in my life at a time when I was going through a very difficult period. Prior to meeting her my life was a cycle of depression, drugs and alcohol abuse including suicide attempts, spells in psychiatric units, rehabs, prisons and hostels. However, that has since changed. No more am I having constant thoughts of suicide when life was full of despair and emotional anguish.
Since that day when I walked into Polly’s Reading for Well-Being session my life has changed. In fact I can still recall my first day at her session when she gave me a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”. A poem that has had a very positive effect on my life!
Many times have I used the poem at public engagements to illustrate the power of literature to overcome adversity, and I talk about Polly’s ‘Speaking Out’ project, a Time to Change funded campaign, that challenged mental health stigma through literature by using short stories and poems to raise awareness. When I first walked into that session never could I have imagined that one day there would be a time when I would be on Radio WM, performing at The Rep or The MAC in Birmingham.
I’m now managing my depression and dealing with the bullying I endured throughout my childhood and adult life and rather than abusing drugs I’m using literature to combat my depression. I want to say a big thank you to Polly and have written a poem for her which is being put into an anthology.
Park Road Reading for Well-Being Group
As I swam the choppy waters of my life
My voice lost in adversity
Whilst swimming against the tide
Despite the wind and the taste of salt
Washing my mouth and wounds
I kept afloat and came ashore
When drowning in a sea of despair
She gave me back my life
When all is said and done
She heard my voice
And helped me write again”
Eugene’s article was put forward as a nomination for Polly to be awarded a Depression Alliance Award, for which she was shortlisted and was a runner up!
What do you think about the issues raised in this blog?