When I first visited 42nd Street my expectations were low. After years of being dismissed by mental health professionals and having my feelings and experiences diminished, the idea of recovery wasn’t something that seemed attainable and therapy was something I was going to try without any kind of optimism. After completing a series of therapy sessions spanning much of 2018 it isn’t over exaggerating to say that 42nd Street saved and changed my life.
The therapy I received helped me feel heard, helped me understand my own thoughts and emotions and was the catalyst for a change in me that was acknowledged, not just in the sessions themselves, but by friends and family too. My therapist was everything you would hope for from someone you’re seeking help from and the rest of the staff were always kind and helpful too. 42nd Street do such vital work for young people in Manchester and I feel incredibly lucky to have benefited from their help. They offer individual and group therapy, run important and engaging groups like Make Our Rights Reality, have spent days creating poems with their poet in residence and are the kind of place I wish every young person had access to around the country. The varied types of support they offer combined with an emphasis upon creativity and a non clinical building tucked away in Ancoats, full of art and strings of bunting, makes it a truly special place.
Much of ‘The Trapped Mermaid’ was written whilst in therapy at 42nd Street and I’m positive I wouldn’t have ended up creating the collection at all had I not benefited so much from the support I received there – it is a place deeply intertwined with the period of my life that the collection covers. It seems fitting to share some of the money I make from the book with them, in the hopes that it can contribute towards their work in some small way.
‘The Trapped Mermaid’ can be purchased via Amazon.
42nd Street’s website can be found herehttp://www.42ndstreet.org.uk.
Before I began to recover from around 10 yrs worth of trauma I experienced so much opposition to unpacking it all, opposition which I internalised and which left me feeling a ridiculous amount of guilt for having perfectly human feelings. And as it took so long to get help I began to see symptoms as just a part of my personality and my reality. I never really considered recovery, what it would look like, what it would feel like.
Recovery is hard. Recovery can feel like you’re getting worse. Recovery can feel brutal. Recovery can involve grief and anger and emotions that make you feel like a failure, make you feel weak and vulnerable. And there’s only so much positivity and hard work that can get you through before you have to acknowledge that sometimes you have to be vulnerable with your emotions and accept what you’re feeling. And it doesn’t mean that you’re not getting better – it’s sitting with the emotions that you’re most uncomfortable with and surviving them that proves you’re making progress.
These kind of things are so important to have an open dialogue about – because people don’t get better over night and mental health isn’t only worth acknowledging if someone can be “strong” all of the time. If you’re recovering from something it’s ok to feel pain and it’s okay to be vulnerable and open about it. Recovery isn’t just about slowly becoming a happier, more productive, more stable person. Recovery is about grieving and feeling and, as a result, making room to let the good things in.
It’s World Mental Health Day today and I feel both compelled to write something and also completely exhausted at the prospect of it – advice like some I shared on an insta story earlier seems cliche, a celebration of my achievements just falls flat when I try to encourage myself and trying to articulate all the ways in which the conversations we have surrounding mental health desperately need to change and improve just leaves me feeling angry and sad. But I guess these kind of acknowledgements are also important – it’s okay to feel like you can’t always talk about mental health in a productive way, it’s okay to feel like the dialogue surrounding it doesn’t help and it’s okay to feel like your own progress isn’t enough to soothe a bad hour, day, week.
I’ve been feeling so much more stable and capable over the last few weeks, far more than I have in years. But I’ve also left a seminar and cried because something in it resurfaced trauma that I’m still struggling to deal with. I’ve also felt completely exhausted, hopeless and defeated. And these things don’t negate from the progress I’ve made or from the fact that I’m getting better. But they’re still things I feel a sense of shame around, they’re still things people don’t ask about, they’re still things I’m working on expressing. I guess this ties into the idea of recovery not being linear. But sometimes accepting that and repeating it in your head isn’t enough. Sometimes we need more than that. And trying to reach out is scary. And sometimes I wish that people weren’t just encouraged to talk but to listen. I wish we acknowledged that sometimes it’s not okay to talk – it’s awkward and uncomfortable and painfully exposing. But that doesn’t mean it’s not necessary.
We all need to reach out and remind people they’re loved, we all need to make an effort to check in with each other and we all need to force ourselves to have that awkward “I’m here if you need me conversation” repeatedly because sometimes it’s impossibly hard to reach out and admit you need help. But when that’s not happening, when people aren’t there, we need to remember that it’s not weak to ask for help, it’s self preservation.
And if you know/suspect someone’s struggling w/ their mental health, this is the best article I’ve read on how you can help https://mybestself.blog/2018/06/25/being-there/