Last night was the first She Grrrowls at Catford Mews, and despite a few teething issues, it was a great night. Although it can be hard to be present when running an event, it was such that I was able to really listen and be with the words, with incredible features Lateisha Davine Lovelace-Hanson and Marianella Lopez, such glorious open mic acts and audience members. You can see the joy emanating from the picture below.
My work schedule is changing again, and with this I’m considering that I need to make more rules for myself. These rules are to help me balance and avoid over-working. At the moment, I’m not handling stress well, and I’m currently writing this in the bath, fully aware I need to work on all sorts of boundaries. I only have Tuesday evenings consistently off. It’s not enough. I’m using tomorrow’s extra-long train journeys to read course material and write a book review.
I have committed to Sundays until mid-June, but I think I need to either just do one weekend day of tutoring, or continue to do the Lego Parties as my only fortnightly weekend work commitment. But to do that, I need a consistent amount of weekday work. I have my first totally solo party tomorrow, so I think that will be a deciding factor going forward, weighing up whether the fun factor and variety is worth the increased risk of germs when I could tutor at a nearby location. I’ve also scattered my language learning goals throughout the week in order to protect my Sunday afternoons for art making. It’s all still trial and error.
Living amongst boxes and furniture everywhere is making things difficult at the moment. On paper, I thought I could cope, but in reality, passing the month-mark soon, it does put a strain on your mental health, not to mention struggling with issues to do with being neurodivergent, where it’s coming to light that I find certain social conventions difficult to understand, and particular situations overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. Still, we move. All I can do is try to offer what I feel I can to those in my life, and try to be more present, knowing that this too shall pass. I’ve been using films a lot to escape, using my Everyman membership, attending free film previews, and the CPIFF (Crystal Palace International Film Festival).
A fellow Art Therapist Trainee has organised the above exhibition, so I thought I would share the private view information. With a slight change of running, we will have Lateisha Davine Lovelace-Hanson and Marianella Lopez both sharing new work at She Grrrowls at Catford Mews on Thursday 16th March, plus the short film screening. Buy tickets to the Catford Mews She Grrrowls here. To sign up for the open mic (there’s just two spots left), email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, pronouns, and short bio / sentence to introduce you with. In other news, I’ve been long/short listed for a couple of competitions, so I’m excited about the potential of that!
It’s been nearly a month since I’ve written a reflection, which indicates how busy it has been! However, it feels like I’m losing students I’ve only just gained, and I’m mindful of having to take on extra work to account for the unexpected loss of income. I didn’t get an interview for a casual role I thought I would get and I’m awaiting feedback. In other news, I have now had my training and I’m officially holding Lego Parties as part of the Dynamic Play team!
Last night was the first in-person meeting of the Poetry Society Forest Hill Stanza group. We had an open mic of around twelve poets, including both members and non-members. Taking place in the hidden gem of Mozart London, a cafe-bar in between Anerley and Crystal Palace, we had a full house! Hopefully we will be able to make a monthly event of it. Coming up next is the first She Grrrowls event at Catford Mews on Thursday 16th March at 8pm, and I’m pleased to be showcasing Lateisha Davine Lovelace-Hanson with film and poetry from Marianella Lopez and Mad Pirvan.
Last weekend I got to see the Tate Modern’s Yayoi Kusama exhibition. Although the exhibition itself was a smaller scale than I imagined, consisting of only two rooms, I was gifted the experience for Christmas and it was combined with a lunch. The food of her namesake was Japanese-inspired and it all felt so special. Amongst the chaos of everyday life, I felt I could be present.
With the news of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, it’s been a personally challenging week, with my partner being Turkish. The destruction is unimaginable and the death toll is currently over 22,765 across both countries. It has been a massive shock to process, yet with gratitude that his immediate family were not more so impacted.
Work this week has been disjointed; lots of cancellations for various reasons, tuition taking place in an exclusion centre rather than school, days moved, and I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of students in need of alternative education placements.
After a young girl told me in an emotional and dramatic state that she would never draw flowers again, it seemed poignant that she incorporated them into her work as we made a colour-coded key to label different parts of speech in a sentence. Education is hugely important to me, but a lot of the time I feel more drawn to working with children in a therapeutic way, because otherwise there are so many barriers that many face in their learning.
In other news, I’ve got two events in March – the Forest Hill Poetry Stanza at Mozart London in Anerley on Friday 3rd March, and She Grrrrowls is back for International Women’s Day with a spoken word event at Catford Mews on Thursday 16th March. Watch this space for news on acts and tickets! The Stanza open mic is available to book for free on Eventbrite.
I’m writing this on a Sunday, which used to be a protected day, but I’m now starting to work. I’m working on at least having Tuesday and Sunday evenings free, and I have enough other self-care stuff in place that it should all be manageable. There’s flat changes going on that are being delayed, so everything is going to still be somewhat unsettled for the rest of this month.
I’ve signed up for more agencies, I’ve got a potential content writing job, and I’ve been accepted as an exam invigilator, whilst protecting my Friday yoga time. When the work starts coming in, it’s hard to protect these things, but it’s vital to prevent burnout. I don’t mind making sacrifices, and I’m no stranger to hard work, but studying at Goldsmiths, having my learning impacted by strikes (which, to be clear, I support), whilst the current warden splashes out £20,000 on Addison Lee expenses is infuriating.
Speaking of my studies, I managed to heal some trauma this week. I had an upcoming debate and put everything I could into the preparation, not knowing if I would even be able to speak on the day. Sat there in a group five times the size of the one I had to be in at school (the source of the trauma), with an audience double that, I didn’t think I’d be able to speak. However, I not only managed to speak, but also made the concluding point to the debate, was able to embrace having no structure, and others commented about how I steered the debate!
Although I’m not actively writing my show on quietness and shyness, all these experiences are feeding into my vision for what this piece could be, and the understanding of myself and how these terms apply to me. My hope in any work I create is that others connect to what I’m saying, so as much as my recent experience may seem like I’m not quiet or shy, what really enables me as someone who does identify with these terms, to have a voice, is to feel held in the space that I’m in and the people I’m with.
So, know I’m working hard to survive and save £500 a month for my course fees. If able to, please donate to my crowd funder, or share, or buy my books. Every little you can do means a lot.
This week has been full on, with more work on, as well as preparing for debates at university. I’ve honestly put too much work into the debate preparation, and it’s been hard to focus my argument on one particular area. It’s all be really interesting though! But I still need to do the reading for the week ahead. I’ve planned loads of notes and quotes, created a PPT that can be viewed with a QR code, and made both physical and digital art.
I found out that I didn’t get the artist role at SPINE festival with Apples & Snakes. There really needs to be more transparency in the arts, which is why I will have no shame is sharing that I cried my eyes out for at least half an hour on reading the news. Yes, this was coloured by my financial situation, but I also felt embarrassed. It was the second time that I had interviewed for this position, and not only had I not been successful, I also felt really alone because I didn’t know who was in the same boat. After having done a workshop for Apples & Snakes, I went back to feeling like I don’t get picked. I consoled myself with my course, and the new direction I’m taking, but after swearing I wouldn’t do it again, I’ve signed up to do exam invigilation work, so when I could have been getting paid £200 a day in a April and May for something I love, I’ll now be getting barely over minimum wage for something that’s really mentally challenging (I try to think of it as meditation). And then it turns to self-blame, because who else is there to blame? My 5-minute workshop wasn’t as strong as others, and my answers weren’t good enough. It’s actually so demoralising. I know I’m capable of the work, but what now – try again next year?
In other news, I’ve also had two meetings about two different events in March. The first is the first Forest Hill Poetry Stanza at a cute cafe-bar ‘Mozart’ in Anerley on Friday 3rd March. The second is She Grrrowls, back for International Women’s Day on Thursday 16th March at the Catford Mews cinema. Aside from this, which is a fair bit of work for little to no pay, I’ve also got another minimum wage role for humble warrior drinks, offering product samples in store.
So, all this has been doing on whilst I’ve had my regular students, applying for more jobs, hosting the online Stanza group, and getting ready for my flatmate moving out! Thankfully I also had time for some exercise – Pilates, Yoga, Boxing and Zoca! I’m also trying to walk more again, but it’s not always possible, so I’ve only gone beyond 10,000 steps twice this week!
Once again, if you’re able to support me on my journey to becoming an Art Therapist, please consider buying my books or sharing stuff on social media, likewise with my crowdfunding campaign.
This week has been very up and down with work. I’ve still had cancellations, which has made me worry about payment. At times, I’ve also felt stressed, which has impacted on how productive I’ve been able to be, or how productive I’ve felt. It’s not been possible to make up any lost hours financially this week, and yet I also can’t schedule anything in the time I’m committing to the students I have. Given the change to PAYE with one of the agencies I work with, there also seems to have been complications with getting paid for the hours I’ve actually worked, and last night I found I was taxed around half of my earnings, so was straight on the phone to HMRC this morning, who picked up just as I finished my washing up, so at least I’m getting things sorted!
Last Saturday, I spent the morning lesson planning, and after a fun visit to Specsavers, I finished my course reading and a Safeguarding workbook (and 3.5 hours of safeguarding training the day before!) Sunday afternoon, after stocking up on some food, I went through emails and sorted out the work admin for some of the other new casual PAYE work I’m taking on. Art making was sadly left until the end, so it wasn’t until nearly midnight that I finished.
As well as tutoring and waiting for students who didn’t turn up, I was back at university this week. Of course, one particular day of cancellations, I thought I’d take a walk and call a friend, only to become overwhelmed later that day. I got prepared for an upcoming debate by researching materials, but still need to do the much-needed reading and note-taking! I also had a lot of meetings, following on from my dyspraxia diagnosis, where I’m hoping to qualify for some support! I also had two intense interviews! One for a tutoring agency and one for a poetry opportunity! Now I’m going to walk to Crystal Palace and make use of my free tickets with the cinema membership I got for Christmas!
Once again, if you’re able to support me on my journey to becoming an Art Therapist, please consider buying my books or sharing stuff on social media, likewise with my crowdfunding campaign.
This Saturday 20th March I am going to be a special guest on Ibizo Lami’s ‘Self-care Saturdays’ on Instagram Live. The show starts at 3pm and lasts for around half an hour. Simply tune in via the live feed and I’ll be sharing some of my personal self-care tips, especially useful if you have any traits of Borderline Personality.
This week has been a struggle, but I’m dealing with things surprisingly well, and I think that’s thanks to working so much last week, and having a little less work this week. That meant that when I was told that I don’t meet the threshold to get therapy via the NHS for my particular needs (essentially, the therapist told me I do need help, but I would need to pay for it thanks to the lack of resources i.e. fuck the Tories), I was able to finish a painting that I have submitted to Grayson Perry’s Art Club. However, I just realised that I forgot to send a 2-minute video about the piece, so I hope it can still be considered, as you never know!
I also recently found out that a friend who I had sensed was being distant was doing so intentionally, (trust your gut!) and after seeing they had unfollowed me on Instagram, I asked them about it. All my worst fears came true: they didn’t want to talk about it, and it was to do with my ‘intensity’. It sucks having issues with fear of abandonment, so then when someone does essentially abandon you, as well as dealing with the loss of that person, it also reaffirms the negative beliefs about your personality and being “too much, too intense”.
Well, in the words of Beyoncé: ‘I’m just too much for you’.
Being Borderline, it’s hard to not let such things make you think that all friends who you haven’t spoken to in a while are feeling the same way. Talking to another BP babe, they pointed out that the true friends are the ones who stick it out, even when you exhibit such behaviours. Everyone communicates in the wrong way sometimes, and the best way to deal with things is through proper conflict-resolution. If a friend isn’t willing to do that, then you’re probably better off without them anyway. For the first time in my life, my self-esteem is somehow high enough for me to truly believe it is their loss.
My painting ‘Footprints’ is for sale on my Big Cartel for £200. Although I am a poet, my book ‘Circles’ features my own illustrations, I completed an Art Foundation Diploma at Central Saint Martins, sold my first painting prior to that, and I’m going to put out another mixed media poetry publication. I hope to carve out more time to combine my poetry with visual art, producing text-based canvases.
The third week of the Living Record Festival has come and gone, with nearly 10 tickets sold so far, and some kind words from Sally Proctor, the Community Director at Slung Low. I hope to see some more colourful pictures in the final week. Please listen to ‘Circles’ and send me your designs via @carminamasoliver on Instagram.
Last week was also my grandad’s funeral; it was and is surreal and sad, but the sun shined that day. I’ve been watching films like ‘Saint Frances’ and ‘The Book of Life’, and have felt exhausted and overwhelmed, trying to be kind to myself, but still not fully giving myself what I needed. I listened a lot to podcasts like ‘The Good Grief Podcast’ with Alex Di Cuffa, and Griefcast with Cariad Lloyd.
On Friday, I tried to be kind to myself, knowing I had She Grrrowls on Instagram Live in the evening. I took myself off for a walk to my local park to make the most of the sunny weather, and as my grandad also had a sweet tooth, having eaten some lemon curd biscuits in his honour on the day of the funeral, before She Grrrowls, I made myself a hot drink to have with some shortbread biscuits and a blackcurrant and apple pie.
I was glad I didn’t cancel She Grrrowls, as with nine acts on the open mic, it was a full house. I read a poem about Yorkshire that my grandad had written, and a poem I’d written for him as part of his eulogy. In speaking of death and grief, I’ve also shared one of my favourite books on sadness: Sad Book by Michael Rosen.
As I write now, there is a flurry of snow outside my windows, and I’m safely inside after a long walk to Greenwich yesterday, covering 19km. Any sun soon turned to cloud and then rain. Exhausted, I had an array of Korean dishes for dinner, and played the ‘7 Wonders’ board game a couple of times. It is the unbelievableness of the situation that allows me to enjoy these moments, but at other times I lean into the grief, allow myself to feel the shock and sadness of such unexpected loss.
It was recently World Mental Health Day, and I wanted to start writing this blog again. I made a note in my calendar to try to do it weekly, but even then I’ve ended up pushing it back to three days later. It’s been over a year since I actually wrote a proper freelance reflection, so I guess things are going well in that respect, but for my next post, I hope to catch up with that.
So, the topic of this post was the question as to whether poetry is therapy. My short answer is no, but that’s not to say poetry and other forms of art can’t be used for therapeutic goals. Over a year ago now, I made a new friend through other friends and he challenged me to write something everyday, and he would do the same. He wasn’t a writer, but wanted to be more creative, and he told me in this time that it was something that really helped him. After a year, I had a lot more material that I would have had otherwise, and I think the process was therapeutic for both of us.
Poetry is cathartic for me, and it is naturally how I process things. I aim to write my diary each morning, but it is writing poetry that gets to grips with certain issues, delving into them in a way my simple prose writing often doesn’t. Fellow writers may also have the same experiences, whereby the same themes will reemerge time and time again, haunting you, as if each time you return to it, you are attempting to exorcise it from you. There is something about getting it down on paper in a poetic form that allows you to distance yourself from it somehow, as you then try to craft it into art, and shape it into something that can then also connect with others and help them too.
Helping others is what motivated the artist Rich Simmons to create the project ‘Art Is The Cure’. He explains in the short film how art has helped him with autism and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. He talks about how visual art can help as a means of self-expression, and how it can be a positive release, even going as far as saving his life. Throughout the last few months, experiencing lockdown, I have also recounted how poetry has saved my life, in response to the way the arts are suffering and how they continue to be devalued. He talks about how other kinds of art can help us, and that it is really creativity as self-expression that is at the core of what is therapeutic in this sense.
This concept was also summed up in one of my favourite podcasts (before they moved from Spotify to Luminary, which isn’t available in the UK), ‘Guys We Fucked’ by ‘Sorry About Last Night’, made up of comedians Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson. They would repeat the phrase ‘comedy is therapy’. After Tweeting about a show I’d listened to that made me both laugh, cry, and heal, on a train, they repeated this phrase again when retweeting me. Likewise, Apples and Snakes shared poet Inua Ellams’‘Art as Therapy’, where he discusses the topics, stating:
“Any seasoned poet will concur that more time is spent editing than writing. Involved in that process is the going-over of memories and instances, of emotions and images, the combing-through and the filing-down-to-their-smoothest-most-ergonomic-shapes our creations. It involves meditation, introspection and inspection. This for me is where poetry becomes therapeutic, when the created serves the creator, when the feather serves the bird.”
All of these points are true, but it was this Tweet from Burning Eye, which put the state of mental health in UK today into perspective: when it comes to talking about mental health, things are getting better, but when it comes to funding and enabling people to have access to therapy, we are a long way off.
Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay – just a quick one to say hello, your feelings are valid. Poetry can be a powerful tool for healing, but it is not therapy. Your audiences are not therapists and you do not have to give everything you have every time. Find joy in your writing. x
Poetry, art and any kind of creative self-expression is certainly therapeutic, but it is not in itself the same as therapy. CBT and mindfulness are also great tools to tackle mind anxiety and depression, but even with CBT, I would argue that it is pushed because it is often cheap. It is often delivered in groups, and can even be DIY, but it is not a miracle cure. Really, what is needed is a holistic approach, that gives value to both therapy and medication, which can often work best in tandem, rather than it being a case of one or the other (though I’d argue sometimes therapy alone could work, I’m skeptical about medication alone working, but that’s more to do with my view that everyone would benefit from therapy).
At the start of this year, I saw a psychologist who said I had traits of BPD; she phrased it ‘Emotional Intensity Disorder’, but this is just one of the many alternative names for Borderline Personality Disorder. I tend to use the term ‘BPD’ because it is more well-known, though I do feel that EID does capture a large part of the characteristics of my own experience. What others may deem to be “too sensitive” simply refers to my lived experience, and whilst there are negative points to feeling so intensely, I am thankful that at least these experiences of emotions has given me greater empathy and compassion for others.
Although I see it as a kind of neurodivergence, because of the fact, I often feel I really need the support of therapy, whether one-to-one, or a support group. Unfortunately, the support I was given previously was inadequate, essentially due to lack of funding and not being suicidal enough to get proper therapy (though ironically, that changed over the last few months, when it has been impossible to get anywhere). After moving, I found a support group that would have been free to attend, but I was in the wrong borough, and I haven’t had much luck finding anything beyond the £75-100 BPD therapy sessions. If there was a way to pay a fraction of the cost, and for the majority to be covered, it may be doable, but I’m not aware that this framework exists. Previously, I had paid for one-to-one counselling at a cheaper rate, but it didn’t meet my needs.
I know I need to do more self-help work as well, and part of me is using other (sometimes unhealthy) coping mechanisms rather than delve into the DBT book I have, for example, which is meant to be good for those with BPD. Aside from that, poetry, amongst other things, has saved my life, where the system has failed me, and so many others. The less fortunate are no longer with us.
Suicide rates are continuing to rise, and our mental health is bound to be the collateral damage of the current pandemic. Writing, drawing, walking, skateboarding, rollerblading, dancing, singing, cooking, playing games, and having a good support system have all helped me and continue to do so. But when things are okay, I still don’t feel I have the right tools to cope when triggered, where I might turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, whether manifesting as an “episode” of crying inconsolably, screaming in a rage, or self-harming (in its many forms). When these moments happen, I’m reminded that I do need help, but at other times when I reflect on my instability in relationships, it can dawn on me how much I need support in unlearning certain patterns (one of the biggest I think being related to elements of emotional abuse, whereby I have grown attached to receiving comfort after either being ignored or treated poorly emotionally in some way, meaning I am finding myself becoming attached to those who use such manipulation tactics or simply behave in an avoidant way due to their own attachment issues, for example).
Where the system does fail us, we have art to reflect our experiences when we consume it, and we have this fantastic ability to create, where talent and skill doesn’t have to matter, as it is something that everybody can do to feel good, whether it’s as a means of self-expression, an attempt to heal from pain, or simply to get a buzz from creating something from nothing.
If you want to know more about BPD disorder, I stumbled upon this video, which I’ve found accurately describes most of my experience. The fears of abandonment, interpersonal issues, and difficulties with regulating emotions are described here as the main characteristics. The only thing I would say, is that I have a strong sense of identity, though I can relate to the idea of having different personas within myself, but in a way that I feel is somewhat “normal”. I also feel like to say a reaction is “too much” is difficult to fully get to grips with, as it is in response to real emotions, and whilst I fully acknowledge I need to take responsibility for the ways I cope with these emotions, more often than not, a little empathy and compassion goes a long way too.
In the video, Dr Ramani also emphasises that diagnosis is a tool to drive treatment, rather than labelling someone, which is also a great point to remember.
If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email email@example.com or visit the Samaritans website to find details of the nearest branch. I have also personally found CALM’s chat function helpful, because phone calls with strangers can also provoke anxiety.