#PleaseHearWhatImNotSaying Poetry Anthology and Me

I am thrilled to have two poems in the new anthology, “Please Hear What I’m Not Saying,” edited by poet Isabelle Kenyon. The profits of the anthology will benefit the UK charity, MIND, which promotes mental health services and support while also working to reduce the stigma around mental illness. If I’m completely honest, I’m most excited to have my poems in the anthology because it is the first time any of my poems will appear in print anywhere, so I’m grateful to Isabelle for that.

Secondly, though, mental illness is a subject with deep meaning for me personally, whichhear what I'm not saying is why I decided to submit to the anthology in the first place. It is my personal belief that 100 percent of people experience mental illness at one time or another, but a fairly high percentage of us struggle for longer periods or with deeper pain. Over the course of my life (57 years as I write), I’ve had many happy times, but I have also been diagnosed with major depression, general anxiety disorder, insomnia, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, and the all-inclusive diagnosis of “stress.” In addition, I’ve pretty much diagnosed myself with Avoidant Personality Disorder just because I relate to every item on the list of diagnostic criteria.

If you look up statistics, you find that more women report depression, but more men die from suicide. You can make up your own mind about why this is the case, but I can tell you that over the years I have been told that my depression was a “luxury” and that it made me seem weak, pathetic, and selfish. If other men get the same message, it isn’t too surprising that fewer men report being depressed. When they do report mental illness, fewer services are aimed at them. Even when services are available to both men and women, the décor of offices and language of materials often has a stereotypically feminine feel that makes men feel unwelcome.

All of this makes me especially sensitive to the high-price of masculinity. We hear quite a bit about toxic masculinity, but toxic masculinity is a by-product of what philosopher Tom Digby calls sacrificial masculinity. Men are taught from the crib to ignore their own physical and mental health. In the past, men ignored their health in order to be better protectors and providers. Increasingly, emotionless brawn is less needed and less valued in society, so men are left with poor mental health with no obvious purpose, which only exacerbates the problem.

For a time, I facilitated men’s bereavement groups, and all the men said some version of the following: “I’ve been told how I’m not supposed to grieve (crying and emotional breakdown), but no one tells me how I am supposed to grieve.” Almost every man in every group I facilitated broke down in tears, and almost every one apologised for it. For this reason, I think if we can fight like men, we must learn to cry like men. Although I haven’t been successful at getting others to use it, I occasionally post information on men’s mental health with the hashtag #CryLikeAMan.

The anthology will be available from 8 February 2018.

 

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Poetry Anthology benefits UK MIND

I was fortunate enough to be included in Isabelle Kenyon’s new poetry anthology supporting the mental health charity, UK MIND. I was happy to participate in the project because I think any effort to remove stigma around mental illness and to provide support for those suffering is a good and necessary thing to do. I don’t think I am unusual, really, but I’ve had my bouts with depression, anxiety, avoidance and attendant health problems. The more open we can be about our struggles, the easier it will be for hear what I'm not sayingus, collectively, to cope. I’m very grateful to Isabelle Kenyon for her efforts, which she describes below.

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Isabelle Kenyon is a Surrey based poet and a graduate in Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance from the University of York. She is the author of poetry anthology, This is not a Spectacle and micro chapbook, The Trees Whispered, published by Origami Poetry Press. She is also the editor of MIND Poetry Anthology ‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’. You can read more about Isabelle and see her work at http://www.flyonthewallpoetry.co.uk

Thank you to Randall Horton for letting me guest blog today! I wanted to spread the word about the MIND Poetry Anthology, which I have compiled and edited. ‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’ will be out in early February, expected date of release to be Thursday the 8th, on Amazon. The Anthology consists of poems from 116 poets (if I include myself!) and the book details a whole range of mental health experiences. The profits of the book with go to UK charity, MIND.

The book came about through my desire to do a collaborative project with other poets and my desire to raise money for a charity desperately seeking donations to cope with the rising need for its work. I received over 600 poems and have narrowed this down to 180.

As an editor, I have not been afraid to shy away from the ugly or the abstract, but I believe that the anthology as a whole is a journey – with each section the perspective changes. I hope that the end of the book reflects the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for mental health and that the outcome of these last sections express positivity and hope.

 

 

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Please Hear What I’m Not Saying Q&A

‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’ is a poetry anthology, the profits of which will go to UK charity, MIND. The book consists of 116 poets (I’m happy to be one of them) from around the world and details a whole range of mental health experiences. The expected date of release is Thursday 8th, on Amazon.

 Editor Isabelle Kenyon answers questions about the project.hear what I'm not saying

Question: How did this project begin?

Isabelle: I knew I wanted to work collaboratively with other poets and it was actually the theme of mental health for a collection, which came to me before the idea of donating the profits to charity MIND. This was because I knew how strongly people felt about the subject and that it is often through writing that the most difficult of feelings can be expressed. I think that is why the project received the sheer number of submissions that it did.

Question: How did you select the poems – was there a process?

Isabelle: In some cases of course personal taste came into my selection, but I tried to be as objective as I could and consider the collection as whole. I wanted the book to have as many different personal experiences and perspectives as I could find. Because of this, I have not been afraid to shy away from the ugly or the abstract, but I hope that the end of the book reflects the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for mental health and that the outcome of these last sections express positivity and hope.

Question: Why should people buy this book?

Isabelle: Easy – to support the fantastic work which MIND does and to support the fantastic poets involved. Rave about their work because I believe the poets involved are both talented and dedicated.

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Guest editor alert!!

Celebrating Change

KIPPA MATTHEWS - COPYRIGHT NOTICE

Hello folks, please join me in welcoming the first of three guest editors for this blog!

Jessie Joe Jacobs is an amazing women – activist, campaigner, charity leader, writer and passionate Teessider! Please visit her website to find out more about the amazing things she’s been involved with, including founding A Way Outcharity, and co-founding We Are Our Mediaproject to produce and distribute positive news and fight tabloid hate-mongering.

She is interested in receiving poetry, flash fiction and short film submissions that speak to issues of power, patriarchy and abuse – heaven knows, there’s plenty to be said! So get sending in your work to celebratingchange2017@gmail.com – you have until 31st January!!

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In US, Illness is Financial Anxiety

In August 2016, I moved from Texas to the northwest of England. Last summer, I while walking in the local park I slipped on a stepping stone and sprained my ankle. As the pain pulsed through my body and my ankle began to swell, I began to wonder whether I needed an ambulance, an x-ray, or possibly even surgery.

I did not think about the cost of an ambulance or whether my insurance might refuse to pay for it, the cost of an x-ray if needed, the price of surgery, or even co-pays for medication or any possible treatments. I was worried only about my condition and getting better.

I enjoy hiking, cycling, dirt bike riding and other sports with risk of injury, so I’m not unaccustomed to dealing with the occasional injury. With similar injuries in the United States, though, I always thought immediately of the cost. Mind you, I was never uninsured, but even with insurance proved by the college where I taught, a shattered tibial plateau in 2001 that required two surgeries and months of physical therapy left me with surmountable but daunting bills long after I had recovered. Since 2001, prices have risen dramatically along with higher deductibles, narrower networks, and higher copays for treatment.

In the United States, illness or injury means an immediate calculation of costs and threats to financial security even for working people securely in the middle class. For others, the situation is much worse. Of course, long-term illness or injury can throw middle-class workers out of work, which means they will lose their insurance, unless they can afford COBRA payments to maintain their insurance for a limited time after employment. In my experience, COBRA payments are much higher than people expect or are able to pay.

As a student in medical humanities, I read many narratives of illness. They all focused on suffering from the condition, facing mortality, finding or making meaning in the face of prolonged pain, but not so much about what truly horrifies Americans when they fall ill. Illness or injury should be a time to focus on healing, if possible, or confronting or preparing for prolonged pain in the case of a chronic condition, or to prepare for death in the case of terminal illnesses. It should not be a time to worry about financial ruin for oneself and one’s family.

The study of medical ethics offers many opportunities to contemplate challenging philosophical problems with rich and varied intellectual interest. However, access to healthcare is by far the most pressing problem in the United States. Anyone concerned about illness, suffering, and medicine must assume the obligation to relieve the suffering created by unaffordable healthcare.

 

 

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Payment as Coercion: Researchers Versus Research Participants

In the world of medical research, ethicists say it is unethical to pay a substantial amount of money to research participants. If you give a hefty sum for participation, people might sign up for risky research that they would otherwise avoid, so they can only receive minimal compensation for their time. Large payments exploit them and violate their autonomy by removing their ability to refuse participation. Of course, people with little money and few resources will sign up for risky experiments, anyway, because they need the money, even if the sum is paltry. Poverty reduces one’s autonomy and makes one ripe for exploitation, unfortunately.

The other way to look at it, of course, is that individuals are participating in research that may yield lucrative products, may cause unpleasant or harmful side effects, and may be quite inconvenient, indeed. For loaning their bodies to this unpredictable, but likely profitable, enterprise, it might make sense to compensate them more generously for their time and willingness to risk their own health. After all, it is common for workers who engage in other types of risky work to be compensated above normal pay scale. So, I say the industries should compensate their research participants in ways that are commensurate with the risk and inconvenience they are accepting.

Finally, if payment is coercive for research participants, surely it is coercive for researchers as well. Even workers with six-figure salaries can be exploited and manipulated with large sums of money and other favors. Without large payments, doctors and researchers might well be doing the work they are doing, but surely large payments (much larger than any research participant ever gets) must compel them to conduct their research in ways they would not in the absence of such large payments. We might say they have, in effect, had their autonomy stripped from them through coercive payments.

And so it goes.

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How the Affordable Care Act has Affected Lives

The following was written in response to a Republican politician’s request for stories about how the Affordable Care Act has affected constituents. He was hoping for horror stories, but many people are depending on the ACA for life-prolonging treatment. Her story is here:

In December 2015, our adult daughter began to have debilitating headaches. Then one morning she woke up and couldn’t focus her eyes. She saw her optometrist who sent her to an ophthalmologist who sent her to a neurological ophthalmologist. But it was the end of the year, and her insurance plan was discontinued, and she had to switch plans and start over with all new doctors. I’ll make a long story short. It took 10 months and too many tests and doctors to count for her to be diagnosed with pseudo tumor cerebri, a neurological condition that is characterized by increased intracranial pressure. The pressure was so great that it increased the pressure on her optic nerves and optic disks causing her eyes to cross. She was forced to wear prism lenses over her glasses to avoid seeing double.

After a while, even those weren’t sufficient for her to see well. With treatment, the pressure was reduced, but her eye muscles were damaged, and last December she had extensive eye surgery to straighten her eyes. They are still well aligned (thank God), but the pressure in her optic nerves and her right optic disk have begun to rise again. She is scheduled to have more tests to try to determine if she can have some stents placed to keep the pressure down. She is on some very strong drugs that have significant side effects, but she is managing. She also is facing having regular lumbar punctures or having a permanent shunt placed to keep the volume of cerebrospinal fluid down.

Our daughter works in a skilled professional position but is hired on a contract basis and has no benefits. She was only able to get health insurance through the ACA marketplace. If she hadn’t had that insurance, she would probably either be blind or dead by now. Even if we had sold our home and cashed out our retirement, we probably could not have paid for more than 1 to 2 years of her medical expenses. Is the system perfect? No! But it saved my child’s life. I’m sure that there are many similar stories. So, obviously, I am a supporter of the ACA. Its repeal would have devastating results for so many people.

Personally, I believe that the problem lies with giving too much power to the private insurance companies. Maybe that’s a political judgement; I’m not sure. What I know is that the CEO of our insurance company, Aetna, makes over $40,000,000 each year. I cannot begin to image how that is merited.

I suspect that you are a supporter of the state high risk insurance pool. Here is a link to an article that reviews those pools, and the results are disturbing.

I ask that you read it with an open mind. I know that there are problems with the ACA, but I also know that the ACA has ensured coverage for millions of people who would otherwise have NO care at all. PLEASE, do not repeal this life-giving law.

 

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