Tipping Point

Crackle spit heat

That frazzles fur

And blisters paws

Raging through the

Homes of tamarinds

And bright macaws.

Crouching cats are

Gripped in

Death’s fierce jaws,

Whilst world-wide

Leaders fight with

Kitten claws.

So we slouch

Towards flames

Fuelled by our flaws.

We cannot fail to act;

It must be done,

To wrench free

From the web

That we have spun.

English Summer

In the haze:

Watching the turquoise waves,

Dreaming of slower ways

To be.

In the haze:

Found my way from the maze,

Traded the London craze

For sea.

On the stones:

Glistening ocean bones,

Laughter and ice cream cones

For me.

On the stones:

No need for mobile phones,

Far from to-do-list drones,

I’m free.

In the breeze:

Brushing my sandy knees,

I do just as I please.

Easy.

In the sun:

Finding the small things fun,

Feel life has just begun.

You see?

Change

When did I leave that urgent dark,

That plays a tune

On crisscrossed bark

To play amongst the coloured lights:

Sweet honey bees

On whimsy flights?

 

Today I run through blossom trees

And skip through waves

With sandy knees.

All grinding discord left behind.

Discarded bones: a

Stranger’s mind.

 

I like to think there’s nothing lost,

That day is gain

And night is cost,

But still a something lingers there

Of longing, grief

And musey flair.

 

How do I keep the richest thread,

If gritty truth

Is left unsaid?

I fumble through to feel for gold

In shifting sands that

Dreams unfold

 

And one day, at my fingertips

(Electric thrills and

Tummy flips),

I’ll find a way to join the two:

My summer yellow,

Winter blue.

Look Inside

My value is innate.

I know I cannot lose it.

I will not give it up.

It is not mine to give.

 

My worth is at my core.

I do not need to prove it.

I cannot give it up.

It is not mine to give.

 

So I can look you in the eye

And hold your gaze across our tears,

Across our differences and years.

 

For every person holds from birth

A rich, unchanging,

Human worth.

Sports Day from a Distance

Coloured noisy shirts

That jostle brightly:

Sugar strands

On wet icing,

Trace the long stemmed field

In well-worn wheels of

Summer sports.

 

In every hard-pressed heart

A different song is sung:

One that moves

Light feet or knows

The beat of mournful drum.

Young ankles turn on

Dried footprints.

 

But just for now, from

Far off, their sunny

Sport brings smiles

To tired faces:

Pale and lined from endless

Office hours. Their gaze

Rose-tinted.

 

For some, this light will

Blow out here, but not

For all. A

Bold white spark is

Thrown on restless kindling;

Nervous legs will come

Again soon.

 

Feet, unused to trainers,

Will regain their bounce

And eyes that

Lost their starry

Faith will glow once more.

Happy memories

Open doors.

Underground Poetry

To burst through the blank:

It’s harder now.

Quick full days that laugh

At slower life

And suck the spark,

In thrall to life’s quick call.

 

To find the thought space:

Long moment where

Noise fades and my eyes,

To finger point,

Find their click in

Dream haze of writing ways.

 

On hot London tube,

With resting heads,

And all the world in

Smells of spice, dry

Smoke, leather and

Old flat seats. My mind, at

 

Last, can nestle in.

It’s sweeter now:

For long empty wait.

I write the old

Inkwell of tears

And heart spring joy of art.

Dear Sultan

If you woke up, still you, but gay,

You’d be the same in every way.

No less rich or strong or bright,

No more wrong and no more right.

You’d still feel joy, excitement, fear;

You’d still grow older every year.

You’d still know love, and cherish those

Who wiped your tears and kissed your nose.

You’d still have interests, hobbies, jobs.

You’d still feel grief’s chest ache wrench sobs.

The only difference might well be

In who you love: the they, she, he.

And yet you, Sultan, have declared

That those, who only love have shared,

Deserve to die.

And when they do, they must feel pain:

Bone-breaking, cracking, smashing rain

Of stone that flies until you fall.

Until there’s no love left at all.

I see you; but I do not see

Your heart and your humanity.

Rescue

In the crunch tight

Heat creep of my fear

I sway to ill face,

No space, breathless.

 

You, the faceless,

Walk past, wondering,

Not wondering, in

Your high-ground flow

 

Of real life; no

Knife, no need to feel

Pain to stay sane, too

Busy to hurt.

 

You and your friend

Chat, laughing with red

Cheeks, dogs tasting run

Joy, chase toy, free.

 

I ache with wild

Eyes, mute cries, searching

A parched place, stumbling

And sand blind, lost.

 

Patter of fur paws,

Small claws, follow my

Right side. Our two worlds

Collide, changing

 

My mind tide. You,

Just a small dog, look

With your brown eyes, see

Through my disguise.

 

Water for dry

Lips, first drips, beat skips,

Knowing that you know:

Feel, care, somehow.

 

Just a few short

Steps, with you at my

Side, then, sharp, a shriek,

Call, throw ball. Gone.

 

Walk on, still in

A dark land: sounds grand,

But it’s a crass shop.

Sharp drop, tools that

 

Are missold: too

Old, broken and tacky.

Bright paint and cheap glue

Making them seem

 

New. But now your

Brown eyes, steady and

Soul kind, pierce through my

Heart rind: unwind the

Pain bind. I have a

Friend.

A Good Day

Today we made a green robot.

It had cardigan buttons

For cheerful eyes

And glitter on its chest;

An old black thing

To press and beep.

It was done: without doubt the best.

 

Today we took out your skateboard

And had a go on the path.

We laughed and clung

To each other with fear.

Step up with one,

Push with the other,

Then fall with aplomb on your rear.

 

Today we hunted for nature;

You had a takeaway box

And filled it with

Flowers, acorns and leaves.

Red in the face,

Hair everywhere,

All sorts of damp bits up your sleeves.

 

Today we created three masks

For superhero figures.

Each had its own

Logo: complex and small.

Card to cut out,

Paper to stick,

And a place on each bedroom wall.

 

Today we went to the fun pool:

The one with the slide and jets.

I was the beast

For seeking and hiding;

You swam away

Squealing with glee.

I was the whale for riding.

 

At bedtime, cuddled on my lap,

You smelt all lovely and warm.

We read a book

About life’s rights and wrongs.

You brushed your teeth,

Not without fuss.

You slept whilst I finished your songs.

 

And now you’re in bed and I’m tired,

But I’m not stressed out this time.

I leave the mess,

Admire the cat’s repose.

I have to take

These little wins

And hold them close.

Depression

I just forget it’s you that pulls me down.

I sometimes think it’s me, that I am bad:

A useless mother, weird, a waste of space,

A coward: lazy, pointless, going mad.

 

I just forget that you wait in the wings

For your first chance to sing about my faults;

You wait with sweaty palms and gritted teeth

To mock me, shamed, before the real adults.

 

Then, suddenly, you speak your words in flames,

They dash across the blank grief of my mind.

Your drawl, smooth and familiar, shrinks my spine:

And fondled, touched, my memories unwind.

 

With glee, you fling my laughter to the dogs;

Achievements, skills are torn, mocked and defaced.

You hop and dance and kick salt in old wounds;

You push away the ones I once embraced.

 

So under this internal, cruel abuse,

I cower, cringing, knocking my scarred knees

And, jeering, spitting, come your playground friends:

A crowd of puffed-up bullies. Angry bees.

 

The first is Shame, who laughing, climbs my back

And, forceful, presses down my thumping head.

She covers my white eyes with rancid claws

And calls to Guilt, who comes with heavy tread.

 

Before them, I am naked and alone.

I search blind for a person I once knew.

But, sickly sweet, it’s Suicide who comes:

Seductive, painting death in a new hue.

 

So sudden is the onslaught, I am lost.

Her subtle voice, that slides beneath my skin

Is leaking poison, spreading, gaining ground.

It wants the very root of Self within.

 

I stop. That core is fragile but it’s mine.

To build it I’ve worked hard on self-reflection.

It’s taken years of honesty and pain

And anxious re-starts when I lost direction.

 

I will not give it up, despite your taunts,

Although you’ll hide it from me for a time.

For I have grown within a seed of hope:

And from it springs a ladder I can climb.

 

You told me I was making their lives worse.

You told me just to leave the life we shared.

But now I’ve found the friend within myself.

We will outgrow you. Soon you will run scared.

Poem: Teddies and Pigtails

On Tuesdays it is film night

And you sit there, pink cheeks,

All snuggled with your fizzy drink:

A grown up treat,

Only on Tuesdays.

 

On Tuesdays we don’t need to talk;

Our heads rest and our hearts meet.

Fluffy blankets hold

Our worries:

Only on Tuesdays.

 

On Tuesdays we conspire and eat

Delicious lollies from the

Ice crunch garage freezer

With cold hands:

Only on Tuesdays.

 

On Tuesdays, when the film ends

And the credits rise, we dance

And laugh and fling it all

Away, silly and giggling:

Only on Tuesdays.

 

And when it’s time for bed, we crawl

Upstairs, dancedrunk and exhausted.

Reading to you, I fall asleep

Surrounded by your teddies

And pigtails.

Only on Tuesdays.

Poem: January Blues

My pen is stuck on a January day

When the splurge and flat of clouds

Hovers like

The edge of thought. Twiggy trees, sad and brown

Stand defeated. Words which once

Flew are caught.

 

A new year and we will, should, must feel the

Bounce and flip of stomach hope.

But if you

Can’t, then swim through last year’s deadlines of the mind:

Lost to urgency, tar-stuck

In artist gloom.

 

In all the rustle scrunch of Christmas wrap

We dropped our threads and now search

For split ends.

We watch The Briefcase Ones who stand tall in

Their stripes and see our slow start

Through their business lens.

 

But since this only highlights business cracks

Against the sky shard metal

Of the funds,

It fails to show the human need for art.

Paint’s perfect imperfection

Money shuns.

 

And so, uncertain, we must take our time

And know that meat is richer

And more tender for slow cooking.

We turn our minds but gently

To the page and trust it will

Hold riches for the looking.

Poem: Loud

My child is the loudest child in all our blue-green world.

He shouts out with his chin up and his ten tight fingers curled.

He calls with every neck vein taut and both his arms up high.

We ask him to be quiet but he can’t see why.

 

Why would he say it softly when it’s such fun to make noise?

To stomp around and crash about is one of life’s great joys.

Why would he hum it quietly when roaring sounds much better?

Why tiptoe in the shallow end, when splashing makes you wetter?

 

Yes my child is the loudest one in all the Milky Way.

Just when you think he’s finished, you find he has more to say.

He sings with great aplomb and smacks the beat against his thigh.

We ask him to be quiet but he can’t see why.

 

Why build a castle carefully when you could bash it down

Or read a book to daddy when you could tell half the town?

Why leave a person sleeping, when you could wake them up?

Imagine all the fun they’d have, if they’d just give sleep up!

 

Yes my child is the loudest child in all the universe

And when you try to silence him, it only makes it worse.

We tried and tried but we gave up because we were so stressed

So we decided to join in and set a noisy test.

 

We got up well before my son with saucepan lids and spoons,

We wore gold bells and whistles and we played some jolly tunes.

We borrowed Grandad’s tuba and some strings from Alf next door,

We got Aunt’s Edith’s double bass, some timps, some flutes and more.

 

Aunt Anna sent eight speakers, which she used for punk rock gigs,

And Grandma brought her cockerel, seven donkeys and the pigs.

The massive engine came from Godfrey: he likes mending jet planes

And Clive our builder joined us with a band of all terrain cranes.

 

That day we made a splendid racket all before the sun rose.

We sang and played and drove around and stomped away our woes.

It wasn’t long before my son was begging us to go.

He promised he would always whisper, if we’d stop the show.

 

But something strange had happened. The music had a hold.

Our limbs felt fast and flighty. Our hearts beat brave and bold.

So one after another, we took off down the street,

A strange, eclectic carnival of hooves and wheels and feet.

 

Astride his growling engine, bearded Godfrey crooned melodious

Behind him frolicked Grandma and the pigs, thick-skinned and odious.

Atop Clive’s cranes, the tuba blared the tune both strong and wrong

And seven donkeys eed and oord a descant to our song.

 

But, suddenly, we saw ahead a child we knew before,

Who stood in train pyjamas with a frown by our front door.

Once loud, now mute, his downturned mouth appeared to still be saying:

It was time to stop our noise and end our early morning playing.

 

‘I’m sorry, son,’ I mumbled from behind my saucepan lid.

‘I never knew how to have fun but it’s clear that you did.

You’ve shown me how to discard all my stressed-out adult ways.’

You’ve taught me how to smile again and dance through all my days.’

 

At that, my loud son found his voice from somewhere deep inside,

Addressing all the people who had come from far and wide.

He said that he was sorry for the past din he had made

But that it thrilled him to the core to see our odd parade.

 

The whole town hugged and sang aloud a new and hopeful song

And, arm-in-arm, my son and I skipped happily along.

Now, two weeks on, the mayor says every grown-up has to spend

Six hours a day with children, being driven round the bend.

 

In these mad hours, the children choose the games, the toys, the volume.

At their command the stairs will be a handmade duvet log-flume

And when the little darlings want to make a glitter carpet,

Create slug-slime, form a rock band or bet on the stock market

 

That’s just what they shall do and not one person can say no!

For that half-day, the grown-ups have to let their rule-books go.

But for the other half a day, each child will learn to play

In quiet ways, or reading books or making things from clay.

 

If mummy wants to meditate or daddy wants to write,

Each child will let them do it, with no shout or whine or fight.

If granny wants to water-ski and grandad wants to bake,

Each child will watch in silence eating cake around the lake.

 

And so I’ve learnt to party, to cavort and jive and caper.

Then afterwards I sit in blissful peace and read the paper.

Back when we thought in black and white we couldn’t see each other.

But now we think in happy grey: a loud son and proud mother.

Shopping for a Therapist

For many people in England, talking therapy is something you have to wait weeks, months, even years to receive on the NHS. For others, however, paying for therapy is an option. But when you go looking for private therapy, how do you find it? What are the potential pitfalls or advantages of shopping for a therapist? I am not claiming to be a great expert in the subject, by any means, but my experiences of receiving therapy and studying to become a therapist have given me some thoughts on the subject, which I hope might be helpful to other people.

When I first needed therapy, I didn’t know anything about it. I had no idea that there were different models to choose from or, more importantly, that therapists vary hugely in their natural competence and their training. I have now had various therapists who have received different training and work very differently to one another. More than one have been genuinely helpful and one in particular has supported me in transforming my life to be richer and more meaningful. The more I have learnt about the field of counselling and psychotherapy, the more I feel that it is a world that needs to be explained to society. There needs to be transparency about how to access therapy and how to choose the type that works for you. If you have the luxury of choosing your therapist, then you need to know how to find a good one.

Key Points:

• Shockingly, there is still no government body that regulates therapists or counsellors. This means that people can set themselves up as a practising therapist without any qualifications. They may not have received any therapy themselves and their motives for helping may be dubious. It is therefore very important when you choose a therapist, that you do it through an accrediting body, such as the BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) or the UKCP (UK Council for Psychotherapy). It is also advisable to ask to see the therapist’s qualifications when you first meet them; any therapist working within the ethical guidelines of these bodies will be happy to show you their qualifications.

• I am going to use the words counselling and psychotherapy interchangeably. Although there is debate in the field as to the differences between these terms, to all intents and purposes they are forms of talking therapy which do similar things. When you choose a therapist, it is more important to look at the therapist’s experience, qualifications and what they say about their own practice, than it is to worry about the terminology they use.

• The therapist themselves and the relationship you develop with them are key to the success of therapy. Choose someone who seems to ‘get you’ and with whom you feel comfortable.

• No therapist can ‘cure’ your mental health problems by themselves: the best results in therapy come when the client works together with the therapist and commits to the process. For this reason, try not to give up straightaway. It can be scary starting with a therapist: after all, you might not have shared your feelings with anyone before, especially not a complete stranger. Plenty of people do give up after one session. But it’s worth giving a new therapist a few sessions to see if you might be able to work together.

• The therapeutic process can be cathartic, reassuring and helpful. Sometimes, however, you might have to feel uncomfortable emotions in order to truly process them and this can be scary. If you have developed a good relationship with a therapist but it starts getting too heavy and painful, you might want to walk away. But try, instead, to share this with the therapist. They are there to provide a safe space for you to explore these difficult thoughts and feelings, so if you’re not ready to do that, it’s ok to say so.

There are many different types of talking therapy- too many to mention here but I will attempt to describe some significant ones.

 

• At the moment, the NHS mostly recommends CBT: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This is for a number of reasons. It is partly because it has been shown to be effective in certain clinical trials and partly also because it is a time-limited form of therapy, which is therefore cheaper for the NHS and easier to structure because they know how many sessions each person will get. If you haven’t tried CBT before, it is worth trying it. It is particularly useful if you do not wish to talk about your childhood experiences, but you do want to learn some new strategies for improving your wellbeing. I can only talk for myself but I found CBT really helpful for my OCD and for my anxiety but much less effective when I struggled with severe depression. However, different people respond to different types of talking therapy differently. The key is to be curious, try things and see what works for you.

Psychodynamic counselling explores the way in which your childhood experiences have formed an unconscious pattern of feeling and behaving that continues to occur throughout your life. Expect a therapist who might be reserved and does not give much away about themselves. Possible positives: if you’ve had enough of advice or had your fill of structured sessions with homework to do, then this might be for you. The therapist is likely to sit back and listen a lot, giving you space to explore your own problems and find your own way out of them, with the goal that this should be an empowering experience. Possible criticism: strictly psychodynamic therapists might seem cold and unfriendly. Sometimes it might feel like there is more of an unhelpful power dynamic in this sort of counselling- with a reserved expert quietly analysing and a patient at the receiving end of a mysterious treatment.

Humanistic therapy was developed as a backlash against the more deterministic outlook of psychoanalytic and behavioural approaches. It takes an essentially optimistic view of humanity: that every individual has intrinsic self-worth and that every human has the capacity for personal growth and fulfilment in life. Possible criticisms: may take longer to see results than with CBT. Possibly easier to avoid the most difficult bits of your past, which might need dealing with at some point. Possible positives: you are likely to find a warm, welcoming therapist, who treats you as a fellow human, struggling with shared human difficulties. Also, if you develop a good therapeutic relationship with your therapist, then you will feel safer and more able to take risks to explore difficult stuff in your own time and when you’re ready.

• An integrative therapist will draw on lots of different models to offer you therapy that is tailored to your individual needs. Possible criticism- jack of all trades, master of none. Possible advantages: will not make your complicated human situation fit their rigid model. Should not come with a preconceived idea of what exactly will help but work collaboratively with you to help you understand your difficulties and ascertain what you want to achieve through therapy. This is my preferred model and the one that I am studying, since I believe it gives me the best opportunity to treat each person as an equal and an individual.

There are so many other models and they are all interesting but I know that it can be overwhelming to have too much choice. If you need any more information, these pages can be helpful:

https://www.rethink.org/resources/t/talking-therapies-factsheet

https://www.psychotherapy.org.uk/

https://www.bacp.co.uk/

I wish you the very best of luck finding a therapist. Good therapy is out there. When you find it, given time, it might enable you to transform how you feel about your life.

Family Christmas

Seems so strange: the way we all

Expect perfection once a year.

Resist change: stay neat and small.

No self-reflection welcome here.

 

Play the game by the same rules,

Your place set in our house of cards.

Do the same: frogs to home pools,

Tricked by the past’s power. Bauble shards

 

Mirror us in distortion.

New angles to shine: double light.

If only we had their truth:

Their way to sparkle: broken, bright.

 

No need to fit the old mould.

Rather build beauty in new skin.

We can find warmth in the cold

If we allow our real selves in.

 

To find love we must accept

Ourselves and others in true form.

Do not fear to be different.

For that is how babes all are born.

Poem: Good Therapy

You take all the threads

The knotted and tangled threads

And tease them out.

Slowly, frustratingly,

We work.  We pull and push and

Struggle to find

A bright reflective

Stream of thought that clarifies 

And breaks the chain.

It comes all at once,

Resonating deep in my 

Gut: it just clicks.

It’s not just sense.

The grind and click of logic

Replaced by the

Purity of feeling.

Like cold water on my wrists

A truth spreads its

Electric tendrils

Through my veins. The past, my life,

Enthralled by a 

New hue. Like a child

With a kaleidoscope, I

Can only gaze,

Wide-eyed, and wonder.

Framed by this transformative

Idea, my life

Looks alien and

Unfamiliar. It hurts:

Loss of a firm

Perceived sense of I.

There is fear there, uncertainty.

There is hope, too.

Because through this new

Window of perception I can 

Jump. Not to fall. But

To fly, expanding

My beautiful half-formed wings:

Imperfectly free.