Crazy and creating. My experience of mental health and art.

A personal insight from Thomas Wolfe

16

@Tomarsewolfe // www.tomwolfe.me

Mental health is something we are getting better at talking about. It hasn’t always been this way. When I first started showing signs of depression, I was sent to describe my feelings to a man I had never met before, I met him for 20 minutes and I never saw him again. What I did see however, was two years of swallowing pills and luckily for me, writing poetry.

When my feelings of depression set in, I was already a prominent member of the spoken word scene in Brighton. My work was rudimentary, I was adapting a love of rap and trying to make it poetry and if I am being honest, it wasn’t always working. Rewind back to that appointment I had with the mysterious medical professional, he kept asking me why I felt the way that I did, urging me to be honest. He did not believe I was being honest when every one of his questions were answered with “I don’t know.” But that was the most honest I had been in months.

Isolation played a huge part in my mental health battle, I had a friend who told me that during her depressive episodes everything sharp had to be hidden, or she would use it. The sharpest thing in my room was my pen and I really put it to good use. I decided to try the honesty angle, I wrote as much as I could about what I was feeling, working hard to make them stylistically pleasing. I wrote about real things, I wrote about pretend things, I wrote some poems so awful I am happy to have forgotten them.

One particularly bad evening, I sent an email to Scroobius Pip, I told him all about my struggles. I don’t know why, I am a fan of his poetry but the poor bloke did not need to wake up to my maniacal ramblings. Woke up to them he did, and he replied. What a gent, he commended me for the way I was dealing with my problems and told me to carry on carrying on. Its funny he was just as much a stranger to me as the doctor I was sent to initially but I had no problem connecting with him, because of his artwork. That is the power of creativity to those who would not consider themselves creative. When art is good, we connect with it and those emotional bonds can be strong and can also help us heal.

Similarly, when I am on stage I perform a lot of material about mental health and it always shocks me how many people approach me after spoken word gigs and tell me how relatable my poetry is. Young and old alike have told me they have been through the same, there’s something bitter sweet in that, I always feel sad that these people felt sad but also somewhat relieved that my sadness was not mutually exclusive.

A lot of good work came from that creative period in my life. Of the 100s of poems I wrote the best ones formed the basis of my debut collection Thoughts of a Dying Youthwhich was released in March 2017. Below are two of my poems that really sum up how my mind was working during those dark two years.

cluttered mind.png

While it would be naive to say that I was cured of my mental health problems because of poetry (I am not sure I am really cured), poetry has helped me express myself, it has helped me connect with people and it has helped me relate more openly to society. This has created more intimate bonds with those around me and together we are all just working through our troubles and letting the good times roll.

Talking about Mental Health is important, and I have discussed mine extensively on my blog. While talk can often be enough, it is vital that we take action to help ourselves and those around us. Below is a list of some excellent organisations that can offer much needed support when it comes to mental health.

https://www.mind.org.uk/

https://www.thecalmzone.net/

http://www.together-uk.org/

https://www.stonewall.org.uk/

 

 

 

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