I am pleased to say that I have won the Rethink Pringle Arts award 2011
with the poem below entitled "LOVE" I chose the title because LOVE is the main mover in recovery.

If I had a physical condition people would rally round
They would visit me in hospital and praise the courage I’d found
If I had a physical condition I’d get flowers and get well cards
There’d be comforting words and respect for this time in my life that’s so hard
But I’m suffering from mental distress I’m on a mental health ward
Seems like- I’m to be avoided - I’m to be ignored
If I had a physical condition my family would be given support
They wouldn’t be falling apart at the seams anxious-depressed-over aught
If I had a physical condition I wouldn’t feel like I do
But I see that look in you’re eyes - it prevents me from talking to you
That look is borne of FEAR something I deal with every day
The visions I see that you can’t see - angry voices that won’t go away
So my question is why the avoidance? What’s so strange about how I am?
It happened to me it could happen to you only then would you understand
Underneath all this confusion is the person you’ve known for years
So just look beneath this label that’s creating a river of tears
To recover I need acceptance wherever I reside
To recover I need people to understand that mental illness dents the pride
To recover I need employment the chance to prove what I can do
A chance to be part of society - exactly the same as you
To recover I need respect – respect for what I go through
To recover I need friends who genuinely care but also prove to me that they do
To recover I need some structure instead of loneliness and social exclusion
Will I manage to recover? - will it simply remain an illusion?
What I need is relapse prevention a fence around the edge of this cliff
There’s an ambulance below in the valley but I’m left thinking if only!!! what if?
What If we had more resources? What if people understood?
We’d have far less need for inpatient care
We’d start seeing the tree’s for the wood
Recovery relies on so many things but over and above
It will thrive on a need that’s in us all but it won’t happen without

You stole his youth you stole his life you stole his liberty
You stole the dearest prcious gift that life had given me
You stole our hopes you stole his future demolished precious dreams
His life a jigsaw fell apart undone at all the seams
You shattered our lives in the making you took away our hope
Two burning questions why our son? and how will the family cope?
A caliedescope of thoughts and feelings angry hostile voices
You left him in the wilderness devoid of any choices
Horrific hallucinations invaded every day
Compassion and understanding rarely came our way
We clung together for dear life we leaned on one another
Anxious depleted terrified father, mother, brother
This new imposter looked the same but can he raelly be our son?
An alien invades our lives but his battle must be won
Isolation reigned supreme a sad subservient clone
He longed to do so many things but he was lost and so alone
We fell apart we lost our friends alienated from the norm
Stigma prejudice so inhumane we fight another storm
We watched him suffer felt his pain we witnessed his endless fight
We picked him up we gave him hope to see an end in sight
We grieved for lost relationships all the girls he would have kissed
The normal things he'd been denied all the fun he'd missed
You watched this sheer destruction which went on and on for years
You turned the cruellest blindest eye to a river made from tears
Shell shocked grieving we went on from day to day to day
We fought this monster till at last we finally found our way
But who believed they had the right to push us all this far?

My youngest son, Christian John,
Suffers from schizophrenia
He suffers each day in silence
With a kind and gentle demeanour
But look deeply beyond his label
To the baby I held in my arms
To the cheeky mischievous 4 year old
who captured the world with his charms
to the bright intelligent 10 year old
Who excelled at school in his study
To the 12 year old football fanatic
Who’d come home exhausted and muddy
To the handsome carefree teenager
Who’d greet me each day with a kiss
To the son I’d lay down my life for
But the man I was destined to miss
He waded through the torment
Hallucinations and angry voices
Robbed of the sweet years of youth
And denied so many choices
He coped with public ignorance
and the pain inflicted by stigma
Accepting that mental illness
Is viewed as a kind of enigma
Because my son was sent on a journey
There were demons he had to face
Along with painful memories
He struggles each day to erase
Now he’s quiet and unassuming
But to me he stands out in the crowd
He’s the son he was always destined to be
And the one word describes my feelings and that’s

(When my son recovered enough to live in his own flat, no less than 100 angry residents staged a protest as they didn't want the mentally afflicted living there near them. I wrote this to rid me of my feelings.)

How dare they believe they can judge him
When they dont even know his name
If they had any idea of his journey
They would hang their heads in shame
Judge and Jury with misguided beliefs
Not one of them knows the truth
They judge the label he's forced to wear
Pinned on in his misspent youth
Almost 5 years in rehab fighting each day to stay sane
So bravely he's fought the demons time and time again
Distorted by the tabloids and the sensational stories
they read they add fuel to the embers of prejudice
Whilst fulfilling the businessman's greed
How long will injustice reign?
Creating their living hell
Yet if this were a physical illness sweet compassion,
poor lambs not well!!!!!!!!
Not one ounce of praise for their strength
With abuse they are more often met
No cards, no flowers, no comforting words
They fight the Grim Reaper yet
It's time for some recognition, compassion's too long
So dig deeply within your resources because one day this could be you!!!!!!!!!!

(taken from "Schizophrenia - Through the maze....")

If you’re wise you’ll take care of your carers
Because carers really care
Miraculously 24/7 carers are always there
Carers prevent a relapse time and time again
Carers provide such solid support
They cope with the pain and the strain
But carers need to stay healthy
We just can’t afford to be ill
Even though our lives are affected
Carers keep caring still
Carers are cost effective
Reassuring by night and by day
Costing £53-10 pence a week
Such a paltry price to pay
Compare that to the price of inpatient care
Or a fully qualified CPN
Years of training - diplomas - degrees
Now do your sums once again
If you’re wise you’ll take care of your carers
We provide the missing key
Carers provide something vital
Essential to recovery
If you’re wondering what that something is
Be assured it cannot be bought
And no matter how many books you read
That something cannot be taught
Love is the magic ingredient
Without it we’d all be lost
So if you’re wise you’ll take care of your carers
Then you’ll measure the meagre cost

(Hopes for the future)

The wheels of improvement are turning
They’ve been rusted and seized for years
Decade upon decade of suffering
Created a river of tears
The voice of the carer is louder
It’s been quiet for such a long time
That voice will get stronger and stronger
Even though there’s a mountain to climb
With the wheels of improvement in motion
After grinding almost to a stop
Though the mountain is high and foreboding
We will all make it up to the top!!!!!!!!!
With so many pulling together
And so much to re-arrange
An army of determination will ensure that things finally change
With rethink, NIMHE and partnership trusts all with so much to address
Along with sufferers and carers who all have so much to invest
The light at the end of the tunnel
Is the light of ‘Hope’ brightly burning?
Renewing respect for all sufferers now the
Wheels of improvement are turning

(taken from "Schizophrenia - Through the maze....")

Imagine a new understanding
We’ve waited patiently now for years
The pain we’ve suffered through STIGMA
Has created a river of tears
Imagine holding our heads up high
No more whisperings-secrets or lies
Lets bare the soul of Mental Distress
No more need for it’s meagre disguise
Imagine that Carer’s talk openly
We don’t hide behind assumed names
We talk about loved ones with pride and respect
Long gone are the feelings of shame
Imagine a new understanding
Equal amounts of compassion
Get well cards-flowers-comforting words
Will never again be on ration
Imagine that reporters change the way that they write
Words like Schitzo and Psycho are finally kept out of sight
Imagine a new understanding
No more alienation from the norm
Imagine that new generations
Are educated from the day they are born
Imagine our neighbours welcoming us
No more protests as to where we reside
Social inclusion won’t be an illusion
Imagine the lift to our pride
It’s time 4 change it’s time for the truth
To relieve decades of painful frustration
Imagine we make this a reality
Not a figment of IMAGINATION

Beta blockers, Tranquillers, Amphetamines, or Speed
Uppers downers lost emotions nothing fills the need
Big fat pipes stained spoons & burners, twisted Baco foil
Veins in tatters sunken eyes, nothing left to spoil
Periodically she’s anorexic, occasionally she’ll binge
One way traffic, no escape route worship’s the syringe
Round & round in circles with a brain like bubble gum
This way – that way – scag head, junkie pardon the sad pun
No rhyme no reason no firm plans from one second to the other
No thoughts for others fuck the hopes of father, sister, mother
Can she make it will she break it? Evil nasty habit
Caught within the Devils headlights pathetic, frightened rabbit.

(taken from "Addict's Language")

Sat up in their ivory towers
They designed this brilliant scheme
None of them knew what was needed
None of them heard us scream
Let’s knock down the institutions they said
We’ve got a far better plan
Life will improve for all of you
Every woman - every man
Folk will be kind they’ll welcome you
Just you wait and see
Incarcerations a thing of the past
Like caged birds you’ll all be set free
You’ll all be well supported they said
There’s loads of support out there
But reality was different
Nobody seemed to care
Social exclusion prevailed
Social inclusion didn’t exist
Our neighbours purely added us on
To a long and stigmatised list
Responsibility was placed at the carer’s door
But carers had very few choices
We knew instinctively what would happen
But nobody heard our voices
New homes became institutions
Just smaller ones than before
Isolation and loneliness
Then back through the revolving door
A total lack of understanding
Reared it’s ugly head
Filling our souls with foreboding
Anxiety sadness and dread
They hadn’t thought it through you see
They thought they had all the solutions
We searched for care in the community
We found mini institutions

(The Hawk comes from case history 2 in the book; this young man has been addicted to heroin for almost 8 years)

He perches on the railings on each relentless stalk
Swoops down for the pickings, fearless is the Hawk
Shiny ruffled feathers eyes as back as coal
He looks through you with a vengeance that mirrors his black soul

His prey is blind to ruthlessness the Hawk must have his fill
He legs it fast and furious with the contents of the till
He rushes to the crackhouse oblivion at last
The syringe is now his closest friend blotting out the past

His nest is filled with replicas losers dealers thugs
But the Hawk has lost his freedom his wings now clipped by drugs

(* taken from "Addict's Language")

Can there be a harder journey than for those who lose their minds?
Can we grasp the slightest inkling of their pain?
Hallucinations angry voices invade their precious time
Forcing fragile minds to go insane
Is there a less demeaning label than Paranoid Schizophrenic?
Would you spare the time to listen to their stories?
Schitzos psychos nutters described so often by the media
To make them sound more dangerous more gory
Can there be anything that strips us of our precious self esteem
Than the ignorance that surrounds mental distress
Surviving every day by the sheer skin of their teeth
Yet their made to feel that they are even less
Less than human beings their weirdos screwballs loony
Their a waste of space their crazy their insane
Can there be a harder journey than for those who lose their minds?
Can we grasp the slightest inkling of their pain?
They lack all motivation but somehow they survive
They accept that people just can’t understand
Get well cards and flowers are thin upon the ground
And the support and comfort of a caring hand
Can there be a bleaker outlook than for those who lose their minds
We should marvel at their strength to face each day
Their the bravest human beings they deserve our deep respect
Fate has dealt them all such painful cards to play
The side affects of medication is the lesser of 2 evils
Sheer resilience is mixed with fear and dread
They don’t have any choices and they’re all very much aware
At least it dulls the voices in my head
Can there be a harder journey than for those who lose their minds?
We should listen to their desperate silent screams
We should put ourselves in their shoes if only for one day
Reflect on all those shattered hopes and dreams
Can there be a harder journey than that for those who lose their minds?
Compassion and respect is overdue 1 in 4 develop mental illness
No one is immune remember one day this could easily be you
They didn’t choose this journey or this tragic life event
Lives changed forever in the blinking of an eye
Support them and respect them and remember these few words
There but for the grace of God go I

(A Conversation in the Playground)

Have a sniff, d’ya wanna whiff?
I love going high
I use the dosh mum gives me for nosh
To fly up to the sky

Don’t believe ya s’ only glue
My dads got some indoors
He uses it for loads of fings
Even tiles on my mum’s floors

Take a sniff wanna whiff?
S’better than playstation
Don’t cost much I fink it’s cool
Such a great sensation

Gis some more ‘ere then – let me try it
Christ it’s great where d’ya buy it?
I nicked that from the corner shop
I’ve got some butane too
I’ve tried the lot “I’m solvent king”
My favourite is glue

My bruvver started yonks ago
But now e’s into spliffs
He loved sniffin’ just like us
Gis another whiff.

(from "Addict's Language")

Schizophrenia is a learning curve
It’s made us who we are
2 decades on and now your 35
We were shell shocked we were grieving
We marvelled at your strength
Your iron will that helped you to survive
Were aware that you’re a different son
Nothing like the son we knew
The son that we brought up for 15 years
But this was to be our destiny
We could not intervene
We waded through a river made from tears
Schizophrenia is a teacher
It’s taught us all so much
Compassion kindness and humility
Everyone of us has changed
As our journey took it’s course
It’s made us how we all were meant to be
You say I don’t achieve much mum
I’d have a loved a wife and kids
In the workplace? Well I haven’t fared so well
I remind you of your strength your sheer tenacity
How you’ve managed to survive this living hell
So don’t question things we’ve missed
Reflect on what we’ve learned
On this journey that has taken us so far
Lets look forwards to the future
Be aware of what we’ve gained
This has made us all exactly
“Who We Are”

Unless you’ve suffered from a mental illness it’s hard to imagine how painful life can be. I wrote this poem for my friend Mathew who suffers from Manic Depression----- ‘How Long’ is about our understanding of each other.

The umbilical cord of mental distress
I know yours and you know mine
“Don’t call me I need time alone” you say
Isolation reigns sublime
You’re aware that I won’t disturb you
Truly I'm not offended
The Bionic Man has fallen apart
Given time and space he’ll be mended
I don’t wonder what you’re doing
Or how long this silence will last
I just pray to God you stay strong
As you’ve had to do in the past
I marvel at you’re courage
After so many painful falls
You’re dogged determination
Locked behind such lonely walls
You force yourself to get up out of bed
Clean the house and go to the shop
Force yourself to go to the Gym
Though the voice of exhaustion screams stop
I’ve immense respect for you’re suffering
So hard so sad so deep
You’re tenacity astounds me
Night after night with no sleep
The silence of the unused phone
Deafening but I understand
I’m powerless to help you’re plight
Or steady the trembling hand
You remind me of a chameleon
Such a toughened outer skin
But inside hides a delicate child
With a pain so deep within
The umbilical cord of suffering
You know mine and I know yours
The world hurries past you’re window
But you’re safe behind closed doors
Hold on to you’re qualifications
Unleashed talent so bitter to taste
They say time and tide waits for no man
But this time out won’t go to waste
For now you have to be patient
You and I both know this will pass
One thing were never sure of
Is “How Long?” Isolation will last

(We were not told for years what was wrong with Chris
so consequently I didn't accept that he had schizophrenia,
this next poem attempts to explain this)

Schizophrenia there its done
Doesn't quite roll off the tongue
8 years it stayed within my mouth
I couldn't quite manage to spit it out
A sad achievement but there its done
A label for my precious son

We thought naively they'd be able
Within weeks to make you stable
But sadly you sleep your young life away
16 hours on average every day
Now you're timid quiet subdued
Not fiery angry hyper rude

My senses scream my senses shout
For God's sake whats this all about
Wondering endlessly what this curse is
Depot injections and psychi nurses
Mrs Wakefield try not to worry
We're doing all we can we're sorry

You know there's not a magic pill
Now calm down or you'll both be ill
Make an appointment see your G.P.
This is bad for Christian can't you see
G.P. gave me Prozac and after a while
I'm flying high I wear a smile

But we're both exhausted from the strain
We watch you struggle feel your pain
Split mind? Split Personality?
Get the leaflets then you'll see
Or just ask me I've read them all
Its really not like that at all

For all the sufferers I have met
One thing strikes me I can't forget
Their sweet natures shin on thru'
Thru' all their pain and anguish too
They've a God given gift humility
So much more than you or me
So try to learn don't turn away
Who knows it might be you one day.

Self-Harm is very misunderstood I have talked to patients who have even had problems with professionals. A young girl I know who self harms was told by a nurse you’re just seeking attention but I can assure you that you won’t get it from me!!!!

I don’t understand her or why she self harms
Just look at the state of her legs and her arms
They whisper in corners they stare at my scars
As if I’m an alien that’s landed from Mars
The temptation to cut is always there
To relieve my feelings of utter despair
A voice in my head screams cut go on cut
Year in and year out I’m stuck in this rut
The blade sinks so easily into my skin
Sweet relief from the pain I’m constantly in
Endorphins swim through my tired brain
But it’s easy to cope with the physical pain
Attention seeker I hear them say
Unaware of the struggle day after day
My negative feelings load every dice
An innocent child paid the highest price
I’m locked in a cupboard under the stairs
Nobody hears me nobody cares
Through the years of abuse when I was a child
The perpetrators amazement when I became wild
I imagine a Mother loving serene
I wake with a start it’s only a dream
I pray for sleep I pray for peace
I stare at the ceiling there is no release
I reach for the blade temptation’s too strong
I’m filled with disgust they tell me it’s wrong
The blood oozes out and in an instant I’m calmer
Just a day in the life of an avid self- harmer.

(Chris had just given up an office job after 10 weeks, his
4th attempt to work, and had returned to Thurrock. Mind,
I was passing the allotment where he and other clients were working, it was a very cold November morning by then I was having a terrible job coping myself. Hopefully this will explain how I felt)

I feel cold as I watch from the car
You've a woolly hat over your ears
As I watch you digging the ground
I can't possibly stop the tears

The ground is very hard
Very similar to your life
Acceptance so far removed
Though reality cuts like a knife

This life isn't what we've planned
In fact nothing like it at all
Things were going so well
Til we all hit a giant wall

We hit it with so much force
That it shattered us to the core
Left us in disbelief
Wondering what it's all for

But still you keep digging away
You work alongside the others
I think about their lives too
The affects on their fathers and mothers

They must find it as hard as we do
They share our relentless pain
They must try to work out why it's happened
Over and over again

They've advised us to join a group
Try to share our worries and fears
But we still can't believe it's true
So it's falling on very deaf ears

Can you see how it would help
Seeing so many others in pain
I shudder at the thought
As I notice it's started to rain

You're cupping a mug of tea
Leaning against your spade
You're not even aware that I'm here
Oblivious to how hard I've prayed

You're wearing your fingerless gloves
A present from Christmas last year
Why do they make me feel sad?
I brush away yet another tear

Then a sudden spark of hope
As I watch you all digging the ground
It ignites new inspiration
As I see the courage you've found

Behind the blackened clouds
Shines a tiny chink of light
I start up the car to go home
Gritting my teeth for the fight.

This work is about someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was a both a victim and a witness to the most appalling crimes that you could ever imagine but he was unable to help his girlfriend or himself the worst part of all is that he has become the prisoner.
The creatures who did this served their time but for him [many years on] his life is still in chains the poem was based on our many conversations.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Insanity madness over the border
Ticking time bomb hot volcano
Pressure cooker of rage
Lid exploding sheer destruction
Nothing left to gauge
The desolation to my life
Plays havoc with my kids my wife
Sounds AND visions in my head
Memories of that day
Whispering voices repeat the torture
That destiny sent my way
Swallows me up I can’t break free
Connected to CPTSD
Complex traumatic stress disorder
Insanity madness over the border
Psycho loony lost the plot
Manic depressions what you’ve got!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Pacing tiger in a cage
Anger fury white hot rage
Engulfs my spirit can’t break free
Round in circles IT OR ME?
Were the Professionals let us treat it
Anti psychotics still can’t beat it
Mental turmoil living hell
Imprisoned in my meagre cell
Evil free to walk the streets
Normality remains
Wicked bastards so blind to how
They’ve left my life in chains
I try to curb my anger
But that inflicts more pain
I find the thread then lose it time and time again
Will nothing free my tortured mind
Thoughts of death seem far more kind
Searching for my long lost soul
Revenge remains my only goal
Engulfed by memories waking nightmare
Must find myself I know I’m there!!!!!!!
Painful shackles must break free!!!!!!!!!
Because it’s me or ‘CPTSD’

Nine Mum long years have been and gone
Are we any further on?
The years just seem to come and go
Recovery savagely, grindingly slow

Others outside looking in
Can't perceive the pain I'm in
They think I'm fine, they think she'll cope
I sleep, I breathe, I live in hope

I feel so sad for things you've missed
For all the girls you would have kissed
The friends the fun you've been denied
The times I've thought of this and cried

The normal things that bring us pleasure
Far too numerous to measure
Trips abroad, parties, driving
Still in rehab always striving

Striving to be well one day
"One Day Mum" I'll hear you say
When I feel I can't go on
I think of you my precious son

I feel your strength that rarely falters
I wait and wait until life alters
I never ever give up hope
There is no other way to cope.

Recently I watched a documentary on channel 4 about a young woman aged 35 who suffers from DID or dissoiative identity disorder this has to be one of the most complex of all mental illness’s her personality had fragmented into 7 separate people each of them was part of her, years ago I read a book entitled The 3 Faces Of Eve about a woman in America who at one time had over 40 personalities they made a film about her, her 3 main alter ego’s came out most of the time and each protected the other, the young woman in the documentary had suffered the most appalling satanic abuse from the age of 4 and was often unaware that one of them had come out [taken over] and she didn’t remember what had taken place during that time, I can honestly say that nothing has ever moved me more , I was amazed by her courage and honesty and wrote this next poem afterwards.

Attractive unassuming and very quietly spoken
A mul titude of horrific memories
Her spirit bruised and broken
How has she lived this life?
Throughout such inner hell
Only she can tell
The Horror and sheer evil
Sweet innocence stolen by hatred
Her mind now filled with piercing screams
Tiny body violated
Her being now fragmented protects the other 6
Each one supports the other through what their pain inflicts
A sweet and innocent 4 year old who adores his cuddly toys
A pleasant kindly 10 year old who brings her so much joy
A serious sensible teenager who tries to run the home
A whole crowd of alter ego’s yet each one is so alone
She listens to her therapist weekly sessions are a must
Sweet relief from so much torment
Foundations built on trust
In the comfort of my living room
I watch her plight in awe
Astounded by her courage her open wounds so raw
I pray that they’ll protect her

Schizophrenia, madness, insanity, or condition lacking humanity,
Desperate for understanding, starving for support, Carers soldier on tired, anxious, and totally stressed the threads of pleasure long gone,
But lets not talk about it, talking is not allowed,
With the alienation of a leper we stand alone in the crowd,
Though sadness and shame lace disbelief throughout
each waking day,
Compassion and understanding rarely comes our way
The sufferers deserve some justice recognition for their strength,
Carers need support with the way their lives are spent,
Can we dissolve these misconceptions that makes it so
Our shame is borne of prejudice our secrecy is borne
of stigma,
We must tear down all the barriers creating this enigma

(from "Schizophrenia - Through the maze....")