Darling, I’m not going to lie to you. I won’t fill your mind with quixotic fairytales, vacant promises and jubilant dreams. I’m not going to hold your hand, reassure you, tell you that your life will be ideal, it will be complicated. That is the truth. You will struggle. A tiny speck of stardust called hope, will become the elixir you need the most. Your pillow, stained with tears. Your heart, heavy and broken. Your mind, a cloud of chaos. Moments of isolation, panic, fear. Blinded by a forest of darkness. Lost without a compass to guide you. But what you don’t know darling, is how strong you are. You will not see the light for some time, but when you do, it will radiate. Flow beneath your skin, enlighten you. Darling, you will rise like a phoenix. You beautiful warrior. You can do it. I believe in you. Struggle, to find your strength. Fall, to find your bliss. Hope, to find your way. EJ ©Emma-Jane Barlow, all words are my own.
Beneath the twilight,
under the gaze of
the watching moon,
in the presence of a
I made a wish for you
to be mine,
a decade has passed
and our hearts still
beat as one.
©Emma-Jane Barlow, all words are my own.
Last year I entered a Mental Health Poetry competition with Make Our Rights Reality (MORR), my poem Did You Know made it in the top 25 and the prize was for my poem to be published in an anthology. The digital anthology has been released, the physical anthology will be out after the lockdown in the UK is lifted.
Did You Know is a poem I wrote about my darkest time a few years ago, when I was suffering with depression. It is a letter I wrote to let those around me know how deep in depression I was. Poetry for me has always helped me process my emotions. Many of these poems stay in a notebook or on my computer, as I once found them too personal to publish. But I saw this competition as an opportunity to make my voice heard amongst those who have suffered with mental health issues.
I am really pleased with this poem. I can look back on the words I wrote and be grateful that I no longer feel that way. But knowing that this anthology will be read by other young people who may be suffering with their mental health and my poem may make them feel less alone, makes me proud.
Did you know?
by Emma-Jane Barlow
Did you know that in my darkest moments,
I imagined a world without my heart beating and I smiled?
Every day, I wished for a way out, searching for salvation,
a path that would lead me towards the light.
Did you know that before I shared the positive picture that you liked,
I was drowning in desolation on the bathroom floor?
On the edge, pierced with panic in my chest, the walls crumbling around me.
Trapped, desperately watching my dense tears descend to the ground.
Alone, clock ticking, waiting for the storm to pass.
Did you know the immeasurable time I spent fighting with my own mind?
A damaged wasteland, a toxic atmosphere, somewhere you would never want to be.
The countless moments I spent revisiting old conversations.
Analysing every-spoken-word, every-emotion-felt.
Exhausted by the endless cycle of never-feeling-good-enough.
Did you know the infinite seconds, minutes, hours that I struggled to find silence?
Wanting just a fleeting moment of peace amidst the chaos of my unruly thoughts.
Every day, I dragged my legs through the mud until the sun set in the sky.
Sleeping, my only sanctuary, my only safe space away from the bleak.
In my dreams, I was free from the demons that held me hostage.
Did you know that despite the glimmer you saw in my eyes, inside my soul was breaking?
The mask I wore was due to the fear of being misunderstood by a disapproving world.
When it slipped, the eyes would stare, the voices would whisper, the fear returned.
No one recognised the hopelessness in my heart, the desire I felt to eliminate the darkness
that was growing inside me, once and for all.
Did you know that although I am walking on solid ground today,
I am waiting for it to dissolve, without warning, beneath my feet once more?
I see the light, I feel the light, I am the light. I can finally breathe without pain.
Yet I know that one day, when I’m not watching, my demons will return.
View the full anthology here: http://makeourrightsreality.org.uk/young-people-use-poetry-to-speak-out-about-mental-health/
For a while now I have been leaving my novel alone, not intentionally of course. I’ve been avoiding writing all together. I don’t know why I do it. I love to write. I feel better when I write. I ignore my compulsion to write. Why do I depriving myself of it? I’ve figured something out about my writing process though in the last few days. I can’t focus on just the one writing project. I blame university for that. I got so used to juggling several projects at once, short stories, poems, scripts and novels that I can’t help but do the same thing now I have finished my degree (I got a 2.1 by the way, go me!!). So now I’ve started a new poetry collection from scratch, a new short story collection and I’m carrying on with my novel. I don’t understand the impulse I have to do this but it’s worked, my muse has returned.
Today I have written two poems, I have three new story ideas for my short story collection and I have started writing chapter nine of my novel I Choose Life and it’s only 1pm! Hopefully this will be the end of my writers dry spell and I can finally get something done. I love the feeling of finishing a piece of writing but I have yet to complete an entire first draft of a novel. That will change by the end of the year. If I work hard, I can get my first draft done by the end of December. Most writers claim that the editing stage is the hardest but I think I might find that easier than getting the story written. The problem is, I question myself. I think about all of the things that I am going to change once I get to the second draft stage and I really need to focus on just writing the story from beginning to end.
I need to believe in myself like I do when I write short stories or poetry. Anyone who claims that writing a book is easy, obviously isn’t putting their heart and soul into it. Anyone can write words but it takes a truly disciplined person to be a writer. Although I sometimes lack motivation and give in to the negativity that tells me that my writing isn’t good enough I know that I have the strength to eventually start writing again. There is no way that I am giving up. I will finish the first draft of my novel. I might decide in the second stage of editing that I hate my story and I no longer want to pursue it, if that happens then I will still be pleased that I reached the milestone of writing a 50,000 word draft of a novel.
I’m going to leave it there because I have to get back to my novel. Then I have to write another article for Women Make Waves. Then I might start another short story this afternoon. My mind never stops. I might need another two coffees to help me but today is definitely going to be a great writing day!
Feet curl over the edge of the cliff,
close to flying
ready to soar,
heart of a drum.
Anticipation brews in my sinking stomach.
Time is a flutter:
the future is impending.
Success is sickly sweet
but love is my greatest accomplishment
The rest will come.
The fog will clear and I will soon see
the bottom, ready.
Fingers and toes tingle with adrenaline
Stomach flipping, fear released.
Eyes sewn shut by apprehension – open.
Alive with freedom and choices.
I fly into the sun,
free to venture wherever
the wind may take me.
My eyes are derelict.
Infant and fresh.
Absorbing foreign words, foreign faces.
My mother tongue,
Their faces shine with
A barrier present,
cold and strange.
kisses – swapped and selected.
Twist of culture, language and value.
60 minutes by plane.
60 differences from home.
Of familiarity, warmth and English idioms.
My mind is washed
with the dizziness
Landing home, a relief.
(First Draft Of Foreign Words For My Poetry Portfolio)
behind every street corner.
In the early morn.
Dusty blue and sapphire ignite,
in the sky.
Panting heart quickens.
Racing even, mimicking dangers that
– Do. Not. Exist.
Heightened fear in the darkness.
Over the bridge,
water resembles – thick, black liquid.
Reflecting the light of the moon
Delicate, white flower.
Untouched by fear.
Lost in paradise.
The sky is clear.
Floating on the
surface of blue.
absorbs the view.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Rain is declining
from misty grey.
the light of day.
trapped in storm.
The tide is turning
no longer pure.
has to endure.
tears and pain.
soaked by rain.
lifts its head.
the clouded grey.
Is a small beam
of light to guide the way.
Turning the corner alone, you left behind.
A daughter whose words were wise and kind.
Ripping apart all that is known.
Now all that is left is skin and bone.
The heart will heal, but respect is lost.
Change can have an unforgivable cost.
Desires of the future will never be the same.
The flickering light dims on the family flame.
The tie was love, but now just blood.
I would turn back the clock if I could.
On these separate islands that we now live.
We learn to accept and learn to forgive.
No amount of glue will fix the damage done.
One decision made. No one has won.
Living with guilt – worry – fear.
One day this earth won’t have you here.
Imperfect in your selfish way.
I choose in my life for you to stay.
Ending all this pain and strife.
For you were the one to give me life.
Heavy words lift off my chest.
I still have my mother and for that I am blessed.
catches the light.
Ready to soar.
Flooded with freedom.
Any place is home.
Partners with blue
Friends with green.
One second to
admire her beauty.
One minute later
you remember her.
The white queen
that blossomed one day.
The white queen
of the sky.
Playful, she seeks
Leaving a lasting
trail of beauty.