Wellbeing: If I let you in, its because I am beginning to find my way out.

There I am, stood, staring in the mirror. Trying to figure out who I am.

There I am, stood, staring in the mirror. Trying to figure out who I am.  What I know is that I am a single mother of two gorgeous boys. I have a degree in Theatre Studies and I have a passion for creating theatre for children. I have many positives in my life but also a constant wall that feels like it just gets higher and higher.

How can I stop my mind from piling experience upon experience – making me feel like I am in the basement of rock bottom? There I struggle daily, struggling with the feeling that I am lost and desperately wanting to be found.  I often feel like I am back in the same locked cage trying different keys hoping that one key, one day will set me free.

I have no idea what the professionals would say. I guess I’m too scared to see a psychologist. After all, I have had one too many doctors too quick to hand me antidepressants and hurry me on my way. I know I am stronger than they are giving me credit for – I don’t want to suppress my thoughts under a blanket of medication. I desperately want to learn how to overcome them.

Over the years I have found a trick or two, I guess that’s what brings me here. If I let you in, its because I am beginning to find my way out.

I have a habit of blocking out things that hurt me. It feels easier that way because I can at least pretend to get on with life. But this only works for so long before I begin to feel more confused and more restless. I scribble positive thoughts and affirmations all over my wall to convince myself that everything is going to be positive from now on. I read them as a distraction,  a way that I can stop the thoughts that torment my mind. I continually question, continually stare at my reflection, digging for answers, pulling out my diaries from when I was a child. It was through reading my diaries that I  realised something that has been helping me through for 14 years. My art, my addiction to performing, my blanket that gives me a soft landing every time I fall.

Here I am 14 years later and this has not changed. I know that the arts, whether it be when I dance when I sing when I pick up a piece of chalk and scribble on paper – these are the times in my life when I feel free – free from heartache and misery, free from my puzzled mind.

As I have grown older, my depression has begun to take its toll on my physical as well as mental health. All my energy is given to the moments that I hide behind masks or pretend (on stage) to be someone else. Other times I am curled up at home, not wanting to go out. This way I can hide my pain from the world. I realise I release my screams through musical notes, holding my breath as I leap across the stage, moving my body in abstract ways. Afterwards, I exhale and everything feels ok for just a minute. For me art is magic, it heals my pain.

A while back I knew I needed to stop hiding behind masks, to stop relying on a pretense to get through life. I wanted to open up about my emotions truthfully to myself and everyone else. I was desperate to be heard but needed to find a way that I could put my thoughts into words that wouldn’t sound so absurd. I couldn’t help but feel too ashamed to just talk, too embarrassed that even adults would think I was strange. Then, just then when I thought I wouldn’t and couldn’t find a way, I was introduced to poetry.

But here too the feelings of inadequacy returned – I cannot write poetry, I don’t know the first thing about it, I will look silly and feel embarrassed.  My anxiety was throwing me overboard, yet for a moment, I stopped…

I remembered that I have a fire in my belly that sometimes pushes through my fear. So I began to write line after line, none of it making sense, paper after paper. Slowly I began piecing the puzzle together.  For once in my life, I can honestly say I never felt better. I looked down into my excited hands, I had written my first poem and I named it ‘For You To Listen’.

But then I had to share it and that was even more frightening. The negative thoughts went into overdrive – what if people think I am silly? What if people don’t believe in me? What if nobody likes what I have to say? What if it’s not good? The questions and the thoughts went on and on.

 

But I dug deep and took to the stage in front of a lot of strange faces, clutching my paper like it was the most precious thing in the world. Before I could stop and think, out it came. I finished my poem word for word, and it felt like the applause was surrounding me like thunder; my eyes began to rain. Finally, finally, I felt heard and finally, I felt less pain. I no longer felt lost.

To some, this may sound crazy but poetry really does help soothe my depression. Through the art of expression, I was able to make that first step towards letting the wider world in. I found where I fit in the puzzle.

Now I want to share and make people aware, that honestly even when you feel like there is no hope, it’s essential to kindle the spark that will ignite the fire within you. For me, art is what gives me that burning desire to live and overcome depression, for you it might be something entirely different. Find that thing that is your healer, the thing that will fix your broken heart, mind and body.

Jemma Burgess

Guest Contributor

My name is Jemma Burgess, I am a Theatre Maker. At the moment I am working on several projects, Firstly, I am an Artistic Assistant for an early - years theatre performance. Alongside this, I am volunteering with the Gulbenkian's youth theatre and participating in writing articles based on arts and the mental health. I am situated in Canterbury, Kent where I am also a member of the Rough Cut Collective, a community of emerging artists who, through creating work together and in partnership with Wise Words, develop the skills, experience, networks, and opportunities that give us the tools to shape not only our own careers but ultimately the wider cultural scene here in Kent. Last, but by no means least, I am working on an independent project to create my own children’s theatre production that I will be releasing in May 2019 at the Wise Words Festival.