Sarah Jean Bowers is a poet, old soul, and resilient warrior.
At the age of eight, she lost her mother in a tragic car accident. She self-medicated with poetry and began to put words to the feelings that held her down. Twenty years later her father died in an accident. She attempted to soldier through, but PTSD and anxiety forced her to take a step back, slow down, and start to heal her wounds. She listened to her body and finally took the time she needed to find steady ground and a purpose to live her life to the fullest.
She has turned her tragedy into poetry with the intention of empowering and healing others with her words. You can find her poetry on Facebook and Instagram.
Last month Stephanie Bennett-Henry and I wrote something together that touches on Stigma. I was reluctant to post it for (get this) fear of offending people. How ridiculous is that? Pretty ridiculous considering the disgusting comments and jokes that people are making today, in regard to Sinead O’Connor.
I swear to God, some of you need to pass a test before using the Internet.
It’s May, which means it’s Mental Health Awareness month, and I tell you world, you fucking need it.
How funny would it be if I laughed as your daughter lay dying from cancer? What about your mother as she pukes up any strength she has left after dialysis? Maybe we could make a video that pokes fun at everyone who struggles to breathe in the middle of an asthma attack, bet we’d have a viral sensation on our hands there.
Let’s chat, shall we? I hear you’re oh so tired of “this whole mental illness thing” so let me be quick, just clear up a few things for you, and then you can be on your way.
My illness is as real, and as painful, as the physical illness that your beautiful child was born with. Just like she had no control over her genetics, neither did I. And just like your daughter has had to swallow medications and be put through excruciating testing, so have I. The thing about your daughter that differs from me is that she’s made a full recovery, thank the Universe, but I have yet to see that. In fact, if you want to go by statistics, there’s a one in four chance that this illness, the one you’re so tired of hearing about, will end my life.
Here’s another funny thing:
Sometimes people go for YEARS without a diagnosis, and even then, they still don’t tell people about it because people like you are assholes. Do you know what I’ve actually heard, from people super close to me? “Well so and so’s brother’s friend’s boss is ACTUALLY bipolar and he…” Really? No, that’s a true story. As if my symptoms aren’t bipolary enough for you. OR, if they are, as if my poor choices and bad behaviour were some sort of excuse…one that I would never blame on my illness, yet you seem to want me to…when it suits you.
Or, “well which side of the family do you think you got it from?” Um, well, really? What the fuck? I love most of my family, but we’re all nucking futs, the whole damn works, and again, really?
Does it matter where I “got it from”? As if a hateful uncle passed it down on purpose, as if we could weed out the bad ones to preserve the family line. As if one in five people in this world aren’t already diagnosed with a mental illness.
Just stop and try to absorb this:
I don’t give a fuck if you’re tired about hearing about mental illness, and mine in particular, because it’s not going away, and neither am I. If you had to endure half of the things that my mind puts me through, it would bring you to your goddamn knees. Step out of your judgmental bubble, take a look around, and stop being so ignorant.
If my illness offends you, cover your ears, because my warrior’s song is going to drive you crazier than I am.
She danced with delusion
went frolicking with fear
she didn’t allow her mind
to let things not there appear
she could venture with a vampire
or kiss a cannibal
she could fly so very high because she wasn’t afraid to fall
she was right here in each moment, that she was alive
you could call it a defence mechanism, how she’s learnt to survive
She won’t try to see into the future
She shook away yesterday’s dust
She’s mindful in her mindfulness
She won’t confuse love with lust
She’s used all the prettiest colours to cover up her scars
She daydreams through the night
or you’ll find her kissing stars
She believes that fear isn’t real, it exists only in her thoughts
She chooses not to worry about what lies ahead
But she’ll be afraid of something dangerous, of course
Imagination and anxiety build the fears of past hurts and pain
so she uses hers to find happiness, for benefits and gain
And she finds magic in each present moment
her memory keeps the ones she likes the most
Because the future is uncertain
And the past is just a ghost …
Michelle Schaper is a single mum of two beautiful daughters from Australia.
She began writing poetry as a little girl when she was raised as an only child by her adoptive parents. At age eight she wanted to write her own book so her dad brought her a typewriter and she taught herself to type and made that book by hand! Michelle has overcome many hardships and considers herself lucky to be alive. She was attacked and beaten near to death by two rapists at age fifteen, then encountered a series of violent relationships. Her dreams of writing were put on hold for some time as she studied counselling/psychology for personal growth and has worked for the past twelve years supporting people with disabilities,(or as Michelle likes to say ‘enhancing people’s abilities’.) Michelle is a mentor/advocate for disabilities and mental health, social training to support independence and inclusion within a community. Her own daughter has been diagnosed with anxiety disorders and much more but Michelle chooses to look beyond labels to see the person. Today Michelle is in the process of having a short book of Playful poetry and prose published and you’ll find some of her musings at Soul Kissing.
I would never read a book if it were possible for me to talk half an hour with the man who wrote it.— Woodrow Wilson
I’m going to have to disagree with Wilson here. I have spent many hours talking with Allie Burke and I will devour every word the woman writes. She is the best of the best, a true literary genius.
Paper Souls took my breath away, and I inhaled it within hours of its arrival. The only way I could have gotten Allie’s exquisite words in faster was if I had eaten the book. One week after I had closed Paper Souls, I opened it back up again, and I walked the gut wrenchingly beautiful journey that Allie wrote while in the depths of a schizophrenic psychosis.
I’m not going to give you any spoilers, I’m just going to say that there is something in this book for everyone and what you take away from it may surprise you. Allie Burke is phenomenal, and this book has the potential to save your life. Paper Souls is one of my top five all time favourite books, I highly recommend it to everyone.
A Bestselling Author, NPO VP, and Psychology Today Blogger from Burbank, California, Allie Burke writes books she can’t find in the bookstore. Having been recognized as writing a “kickass book that defies the genre it’s in”, Allie writes with a prose that has been labeled poetic and ethereal.
Her life is a beautiful disaster, flowered with the harrowing existence of inherited eccentricity, a murderous family history, a faithful literature addiction, and the intricate darkness of true love. These are the enchanting experiences that inspire Allie’s fairytales.
Allie founded The OCH Literary Society and magazine for all who strive for, appreciate, and seek out the art of the written word. It is a place for writers, readers, professors, bibliophiles, editors, designers, and literary enthusiasts to come together to celebrate the passion of words on the page and to celebrate the best of the best in literary fiction.
I recently read an outstanding book that made the case FOR mental illness, rather than AGAINST it. Nassir Ghaemi, director of the Mood Disorders Programme at Tufts Medical Center, wrote, A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness.
Gandhi, President Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King Jr., were examined from Ghaemi’s point of view. He made an excellent case that the mood orders of these leaders actually benefited them–becoming the best leaders the world has ever known in times of crisis.
Isn’t that phenomenal? Think about it. How many times have you felt ashamed of your mind? Ashamed of your thoughts, actions and sensitivity? If you are like me, I bet you would say, “every day.” In Phoenix Rising I wrote about the struggles I have with my mind.
What do we do about it? We attend therapy. We take medication. We hide.
I would like to propose a new way of thinking. After reading this book, I believe we should celebrate our minds. Cracked, bruised, and maybe crazy–I believe our mood disorders make us shine brilliantly–like a diamond.
MY THOUGHTS ON FOUR MOOD DISORDERS AND THEIR POTENTIAL POSITIVE ATTRIBUTES:
Depressed (That’s me): Are in touch with the human experience, and empathetic. Being able to put ourselves in the shoes of another is a beautiful thing. Compassionate and thoughtful, depressives at their best can also make a habit of evaluating themselves. No denial allowed; depressives are realistic. Known to be ace problem solvers, depressives are also trustworthy.
Bipolar (Mild): Thinking out of the box is second nature for the bipolar individual. Creative in song, art, performance, and prose–bipolar tendencies are responsible for much of what we find breathtakingly beautiful in the world.
Anxiety: Observant, attentive and sensitive. Having an anxiety disorder is a shared trait amongst surgeons and bankers. Anxiety makes it’s host alert and vigilant. Not a bad thing, if you look at it like this.
Obsessive Compulsive Personality: (That’s me as well): Get it done, the right way. Conscientious perfectionists, some people with OCP make great leaders in business. Creating order out of chaos is one discerning trait.
I am certainly not suggesting that we thumb our noses to therapy and dump our meds in the trash. I am not suggesting that mental illness is a joke or something that should be taken lightly.
On the contrary, I am suggesting that instead of looking at our glass as half full (like we tend to do) and chalk ourselves off as fuckups–we have an opportunity to celebrate the positive side of our gifts. Even when some might have the audacity to call us crazy let’s remember what we really are. Brilliant, rare, coveted and valuable; Crazy diamonds, that’s us!
Julie Anderson is a fashion survivor, sort of. After spending decades globetrotting wearing her “Supermodel” cape, she is now the Creator and Publisher of Feminine Collective.
Feminine Collective provides a platform for stories that mainstream media often denies. . Writers from around the world: women, teenagers and a few good men have contributed to the site, making it dynamic and diversified. Unlike any other site online.