Writing and speaking for mental health

Words, music and art are the great connector. Animals, trees, clouds and the ocean are the greatest audience. I wish I could just live life in a pack of wild dogs, hanging out on the mountainside, walking all day long, going to punk rock gigs. But life just isn’t fair!!

Instead I live with Severe Anxiety and Panic Disorder. But words have always helped  although speaking is a difficult task. I feel confident to get to grips, however, with some of the root causes of fear that I experience, in the hope it will support a resilience against anxiety.

It’s my belief that if someone suffering anxiety can develop an audience for themself and perform or speak for them with content that they feel comfortable with, maybe they will develop a comfort with the audience itself. If that person builds up enough experiences whereby they feel comfortable with an audience, perhaps they will become less fearful of being controlled by anxiety, because they’ll be taking control of a fear.

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‘Reading from a blank book’ by Hernan Bas, 2016

What…

So i’ve decided to set up an informal group for people to come and speak, listen and be creative. I really enjoy writing – fiction and non-fiction. This is the content I feel comfortable sharing, even if i’m not confident it’s particularly good! So the idea about this group is that it will offer a space for people to comfortably speak and converse around the subject of ‘creativity, writing and speaking’, without any judgment or expectation. Anything goes:

  • Read out a piece of poetry (yours or someone else’s).
  • Read out a piece of fiction (as above).
  • Learn to sit still and listen to others.
  • Sit and stay in a room with other people in it, maybe people you don’t know.
  • Learn to just give feedback, to offer an opinion on others’ creaivity.
  • Ask for someone’s input on a piece of writing you’re working on.
  • Have someone read your writing through quietly and converse about it afterwards
  • Show and speak about a piece of artwork you’re making, or that you love.
  • … or a graphic novel or comic.
  • Read out an article or review.
  • Perform a song, or read out some lyrics.

The only requirement is that you let others’ stumble if they need to – no ‘boys club’ backslapping and heckling. No tearing apart of other peoples’ work for the sake of your own ego. Only support and gentle encouragement.

Why…

Some of us need to learn how to exist with eyes on us. And some of us just have words and art we’ve created, that we love, that help us get on with life, and we might like to have an opportunity to share that – to feel brave, maybe even get some feedback.

How/when/where…

So – if you’re local to me (Ledbury area, Herefordshire) and want to come to a group meet-up, register your interest by joining the online group. Comment in the forum there if you want to meet – once I have 2 or more interested people we can organise a first group meet-up, and decide on a location. I suggest a Friday in Coffee#1, by the clock tower in Ledbury, simply because I haven’t thought of a better location yet! If it’s sunny, maybe The Walled Garden up Church Lane, or a walk through Dog Hill Wood or on the Malvern Hills. I’m going to see if any cosy venues will let us have a private room for free too. I might add DIY screen-printing to the agenda later on down the line too!

And, if you’re free tonight, go to Paradiddles in Worcester for 6:30, to see local writer Daniel Burton launch his anthology of poems ‘Dark Night into Brighter Days’ with a special performance, for free! Paradiddles is a cafe and teeny weeny gig venue, serving yummy pizza and playing great music from all the bands that get me through! Nowhere else has ever played Against Me!, The Gaslight Anthem, Alkaline Trio, The Menzingers and Tom Petty one after the other… ever! I’m certain of that. Nowhere i’ve been anyway.

And maybe see ya at a group meet-up soon.

*Disclaimer: Although I have had training in therapeutic art and bereavement counselling, I am in no way a qualified therapist. I can create an empathetic, supportive environment but I cannot safely administer clinical advice in any way. If you need this, please seek help from your local Mind or your GP who can point you in the right direction.

 

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