As part of the ‘Generation You’ project we visited the Caer Las ‘Connect‘ therapeutic writing group twice, on the second visit recording them reading their poems. The poems were for me quite beautiful as from their illness they can produce real works of art. They bounced off each other for an improvised exercise where they had to exchange lines, which for me was very interesting to listen to, and at the end of it I had a smile on my face. They talked about the beauty of the world from their point of view;and they can see true beauty because of their illness. For years there have always been a stigma of mental illness as you can’t see it and most people don’t understand what it does to a person when they have it. For me, it is a difficult time for them as they have their ups and downs every day but it doesn’t make them not “normal”. They are normal people who just had bad things happen to them.
I got to know Sarah, one of our project participants who also attends at Connect, and I found her to be a very open person writing from the best of herself. People sometimes would find her to be unusual but to me she is a person who has a difficult illness that she has to live with. In all the writing exercises that were set she produced material I could never have come up with. The first writing exercise I saw was that they had to write a poem in ten minutes; they did this brilliantly. The second writing exercise involved writing two themed poems on ‘What is heroic about those with mental illness?’ and ‘In what way is mental illness a form of slavery?’ I believe that we all encounter and/or suffer types of mental illness but we somehow resolve and overcome it as we regain our identity. The mind is as strong as it can be but there are moments in life where the mind simply can’t cope with difficulties.
With these two sessions I learnt a lot about mental illness and I wonder if we all go through it. I think the reason why many people don’t go through it is because of their kids and they basically hold themselves together because of them. With people who have that type of illness they feel that they are alone but with Connect they have a chance to be open with their illness and they are not taken the mick out of because of it. So, I am glad that I met these people because they have opened my eyes to the stuff that is going on in the real world that people have to deal with every day in order to survive. If you have got a mental illness I would say to you to go down to projects like Connect; there, you’re never alone.