Bestselling UK author and Mental Health Advocate Rachel Kelly believes in the power of writing for wellbeing. It has helped her to navigate challenging times in her life, especially when she suffered from depression.
Rachel loves poetry. Poems help us to feel deeply and to connect. ’I think of it like a handshake with the poet’, said Rachel. Her new book ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone: Poems for Life’s Ups and Downs’ is about how verse – both reading and writing it – could become an unexpected part of your mental health toolbox and help you manage and allow all types of feelings to come to the surface. Poetry can help you to honour those emotions and to possibly explore them further.
In the same way that an artist spills their feelings onto the page, writing can pin down good times, as well as make sense of adversity and anaesthetise trauma. My head may be full of chaotic pain, but I find the chaos lessens when I get my thoughts onto the page.
In this lovely book there are poems that allow us to enjoy a full range of emotions, from wintery and dark verses to poems that are more spring-like and hopeful. Even if you haven’t looked at a poem or written a creative word since school, it’s never too late to explore the moving power of poetry. According to Rachel, ‘It’s all about finding the right poem, to which you feel connected’.
If the thought of writing daunts you. Don’t think about it as being good or bad. Instead, write straight from the heart: writing for wellbeing is as much about how you feel as the words you choose and the images they suggest.
During Rachel’s toughest period in her life, writing created something concrete and tangible out of ‘swirling and shapeless darkness’ in her mind. The author’s 2014 memoir ‘Black Rainbow: how words healed me – my journey through depression’, is about her struggle with depression and how writing helped on the road to recovery.
Writing about my depression and my recovery allowed me, to paraphrase the Bible, to feel ‘oneself to be in a desert, and make of it a well’. Something positive came out of it, which perhaps spoke to others. And for me the creative process itself is also valuable – writing for me, and fiddling with sentences, and how to express myself, feels fruitful and purposeful.
It can be challenging to look back and recall those dark moments in Rachel’s life, especially when she felt suicidal. But remembering those times and writing about them reminded her how lucky she felt to no longer feel so depressed.
Writing is about connection. Therapy can be wonderful but at 3am it is unlikely to be available. Words can be our companion at any time of the day or night. Which is why I called the book ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Rachel Kelly together with Irish author and psychologist Niamh Fitzpatrick joins us for a very special online event on 16 January 2023 12:30 – 2:00 pm UK time.