As a performer I have come across a lot of no’s in my career, often based on experience and based on how I look. Certain castings I wouldn’t get due to my ethnicity. Therefore I try to perform and create my own work as much as I can. This can already make a person become self-conscious, in how they approach what makes them happy. Never mind the fact that I also suffer with depression and anxiety. I probably have suffered with mental health issues way before I was actually diagnosed, but I never did anything about it. As a black woman growing up in a very white area, expressing my anxiety and thoughts to teachers or peers proved extremely difficult.
Any signs of distress or often met with ‘Well do you have faith?’, or ‘Have you prayed?’ Or ‘Trust that Jesus has a plan for you,’
At school, any issues I had with racism were met with ‘Stop telling tales.’ I met with several head teachers and teachers about people dropping the N-word in my direction, and laughing in history when we watched Roots, but none of them understood. I was accused of smoking weed twice. I was the only black kid in my sixth form.
My school life was very frustrating and I used to beg not to go in. I see that now I still carry patterns of that time: I often find it difficult to leave my room and face the world. Later in my life this was described as depression and anxiety. My family and my culture can be very religious; to the point that black families don’t really talk about mental health that much. Any signs of distress or often met with ‘Well do you have faith?’, or ‘Have you prayed?’ Or ‘Trust that Jesus has a plan for you,’ which isn’t that helpful when all you can think about is jumping off the bridge near your house.
Therefore poetry and theatre was a release for me. If I didn’t have my writing and my passion to create theatre I feel that I would not have had any outlet to express what I was feeling inside. Poetry helps me say the things that I want to say out loud. My dark humour, my longing to be happy are all up for grabs on that piece of paper I write my thoughts on. My frustrations and hopes are sometimes all too much to contain inside. The mixtures of emotions I feel aren’t allowed in the real world it seems like sometimes. But when I’m alone and I can really delve into myself. I don’t have to please anyone or pretend and that is why I love writing my poetry. I feel that we use poetry to express love and other emotions, so let’s use it to talk about mental health. Let’s use this medium as I way not to only express ourselves but to create a conversation. A real dialogue of what we can do to have an honest open discussion of these issues.
Make Up Your Mind
It’s now or never, 2017
I don’t want to be here I do want to be here
It’s the start of the new year
It’s the start of a new year
I don’t know where I‘m going
I don’t know where I’m going
I don’t know who I am
Someone tell me the plan
Someone give me the plan
Am I too lost to understand?
I want to sleep and sleep and never be disturbed
I want to run, leap and climb and be heard!
Be heard, be heard
Shh Shh Hush now, child.
My voice is too complex, too wide
Inside I have to decide if I want to live or hide.