If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you will already know that last year I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder and it caused me to have a lot of time off work and it played havoc with my emotions as well as my relationships. I thought that it might be stress spiraling out of control or that it might be the start of the dreaded menopause, yes I am ever closer to that dreaded age and hopefully I won’t turn psycho 🙂)
When my anxiety and stress was at its worst, I remember numerous times being doubled over, clutching my stomach as I continually had a strong sensation like butterflies, which was the precursor to abandoning control. I didn’t want to go out and I didn’t want to go to work. I just wanted to lock myself away to be safe. I took a total of 6 weeks off work, which in turn was scaring me even more as I was scared of returning. I underwent sessions of CBT and although I learned to recognise the difference between practical worries and ‘what if’, I’m not out of the dark woods. As I write this, a dark mood has descended upon me and I need to be left alone. I’m very irritable and tired and trying to question why am I feeling like this? I want to be on my own, yet my partner and granddaughter are expecting me to pick up my camera and venture out photographing graveyards and have a good day out. How can I disappoint them?
Stupid things are really annoying me and why, when a thought drifts into my mind, can I not just let it float out and disappear? It would be much better than creating a pathetic and unrealistic drama with disastrous consequences that may never happen. What sets me off this way as I know that what am I doing is wrong, but why can’t I fix myself?
I’m currently studying meditation and mindfulness, which I find better than CBT, plus I’m also reading Ruby Wax’s book ‘Frazzled‘, which is funny and I’m enjoying it.
I haven’t got the hang of meditation yet, but I have realised one thing this morning already. My escape when feeling like this is to throw myself into my photography by finding old photographs and editing them to create a new masterpiece. The picture below is what I’ve just created, but this time it didn’t provide me with a feeling of being relaxed. I’m on edge and I don’t know why. Perhaps I’m bloody well ovulating, but I need to be mindful of this thought as it will help me going forward. That’s another thing that I notice about me. I try to take the mickey out of myself, try and turn a horrible situation into something humorous. Anyway, I digress from what this post is about.
Stephen Harper’s Autumn: The Melancholy and Mental Health
One of the things that did help me through my battle with mental health was being able to talk openly with talented artist and writer, Stephen Harper who has his own issues with mental health. The topic of mental health has, in the past been a taboo subject, one that people avoid, one that people are ashamed of. Fortunately, awareness of mental health issues is rising, but we have a long way to go. I think it’s very important that people associated with dealing with mental health issues, have the courage to speak openly. Stephen Harper is taking this massive step by releasing his new dark poetry book titled Autumn: The Melancholy & Mental Health. I admire his strength and most of all courage for laying his soul bare for all to see and I encourage you to please support his work.
Congratulations on your new dark poetry book ‘Autumn: The Melancholy & Mental Health’.
What inspired you to create the book and what do you hope to achieve?
The inspiration to create came from within really. I knew I wanted to create an artistic piece based around mental health and toyed with various ideas until I decided the best focal point was myself. I’ve struggled with different mental illnesses for an extremely long time, so thought I’d create an almost autobiographical account of my experiences, although this is merely a snippet. Delving into the world of poetry happened purely by accident. I began free-writing my thoughts and feelings to the point I’d written tonnes of pages. I decided then to re-edit them and structure chronologically. It was during this process they evolved into dark poems. I had a clear vision very early on how I wanted the narrative to read stylistically and how each page laid out aesthetically.
It’s very kind of you to donate all of you sales to a mental health charity. How can people purchase a copy?
All I wish to achieve from the book is to raise awareness. I’m not after any accolades whatsoever as the process was a cathartic experience in my recovery journey. If it reaches one person positively then that’s an achievement. Any proceeds I make will be donated to a mental health charity or maybe split between a few as unfortunately our current government doesn’t do enough for people experiencing mental illness. People have to rely on mainly charities for support so anything I can raise would be hugely beneficial. There are limited copies available with a minimum donation of £5.00 payable through PayPal: (email@example.com) this will help towards postage fees and the rest towards donation.
Do you have a favourite poem from the book that you would like to share with my readers?
All the poems are very dear to me because they are me. They fully explain who I am, what I’ve been through and what I continue to fight. Choosing a specific one would be hard, but I wrote a poem called ‘Crown Of Hurt’ last year based on my experiences of being diagnosed and filtered into the mental health system that many people may identify with.
What does the future hold for you?
At this moment in time I’m not sure what the future holds for me?
I’m extremely lucky to be alive, so that’s a positive. I’m also very lucky to have a very supportive wife, family and close friends who are very patient and believe in me not only as a person but creatively. I take each day as it comes and try to stay positive. Living with mental illness is an ongoing battle, but one I hope I’ll eventually overcome.
Get to Know Stephen Harper
To view Stephen’s wonderful illustrations and find out more about him, please visit his Folklore Cult Art Illustration website. You can also connect with him on Instagram and Twitter