Self Unbandaged


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By Stephanie Sorrell

ISBN: 978-1-84991-839-8
Published: 2013
Pages: 130
Key Themes: Mental Health, Depression, Poetry


Like many life-threatening conditions, whether they are primarily psychiatric or physiological in nature, they are often embedded in the family matrix. The difference between the physiological ones like diabetes, heart failure and psychiatric ones is that the latter genre is less acceptable and, because of this, carries a lot of shame. Yet, as many mental illnesses are genetic in origin, doesn’t that make most of them physiological too? Sadly, this is something our Western culture finds hard to accept, arguing that there is no physiological evidence of this. Yet, scientifically, this mindset is becoming less and less credible. Like the abnormal protein deposits in the brain called ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ which underlie Alzheimer’s disease, there is increasingly more scientific evidence that there are markers in the neurochemistry of the brain which are associated with depression, psychosis and schizophrenia. Although this genetic recipe can undermine our personal autonomy, I do believe that we can choose the way we process this data. Rather than seeing any disease as a life sentence, we can look at how we can utilise our creative tools to process this knowledge. In any given situation, we do have choice of how we can manage ourselves in the ‘here and now’, even though we feel this is the one thing we don’t have.

As a child emerging from a broken and psychologically disturbing family matrix, which I cover more extensively in Depression as a Spiritual Journey, I found that writing poetry calmed me and brought me in touch with a peace that I could only really access when I was out in nature. At the age of eight,
Amidst a historically unpredictable and disturbing family matrix, I wrote my first poem and have been writing them ever since. At the ripe old age of nine, I requested that I receive poetry books instead of Easter eggs, as I could see that, as much as I loved them, they were transitory and I wanted something more permanent. For me, this was a conscious and well informed choice to make as I absolutely adore chocolate and have a sweet tooth second to none!

As I read this, I have before me the 1961 copy of The Golden Treasury of Poetry, selected by Louis Untermeyer. Richly illustrated with poetry ranging from Blake, Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Browning, Tennyson, to name but a few, I took refuge from the turbulence of my everyday life in its pages. On the inside page it reads ‘To Stephanie on her ninth Birthday, with much love, Auntie Monica’. Because my aunt was deputy head mistress of a London school, she was primarily concerned with my education. Although she bought me a collection of educational books and magazines, especially geographical ones, I was only interested in the poetry books because there was something about the rhythm and the wording that drew me into a different world. I was absolutely enthralled by the Pied Piper of Hamelin and how, because the Mayor wouldn’t pay him his due for ridding the town of rats, the Pied Piper stole away all the town’s children, capturing them with his music and taking them into a different world. One soulful child was left behind to tell the woeful story who, because of his lameness. Was unable to keep up with the entourage of children following the Piper before the doors to the other world closed for ever. I learned that there was a price to pay when a contract of trust and agreement was broken. I am also a little fascinated by metaphors. As Easter is a time of regeneration through crucifixion, it is interesting I made the decision to have poetry books in place of Easter eggs; it honours and embeds itself in the regenerative meaning of the Easter Festival.

Inside this world of poetry, I could survive some of the terrifying events that took place in my early years. Poetry, reading and writing poetry became my island of sanity amidst the emotional maelstrom of my everyday life. My other oases of sanity came from nature. Over the years, I used my observation of the natural environment to make sense of my own pain and anguish. I could see, as indicated in Self Unbandaged, the first part which was written when I was in hospital, that nature always re-emerged like some beautiful green phoenix after apparent death in the winter. She would return stronger than ever. In the broken places, new life would always form and this is the essential quality which Self Unbandaged is embedded it. Being creative, whether through art, writing or music is a way of managing unbearable pain and desolation. When I write poetry, something opens inside me which am healing and transformative. This is why I believe that spirituality runs parallel with psychoses. Creativity is the result of this fusion. Invariably, many people who suffer mental disease are highly creative people. However our mindset around mental illness is failing us – in that we believe and has no valid purpose. We may be light years ahead in our technological expertise and wire-less connections but, as far as understanding and accepting each others’ differences, we are in deficit. In Shamanic tradition, from which modern medicine evolved,’breakdown’whether in the body or mind was a crucial stage in the healing process. Through an initiation into the underworld there emerged an opportunity for major change, transition and transformation. This was what the late and compelling mythologist, James Campbell, described so cogently in The Hero’s Journey.

About the Author

Stephanie was born in London in 1956. Despite all the odds of almost dying at birth, having a psychotic mother, a father and uncle who both committed suicide, and being sent to boarding school at the age of 12, Stephanie managed the challenges in her life by writing. While she was working as editor of a publishing trust in Chichester in the 1990’s, she decided to do a Master’s Degree in Psychosynthesis Psychology. Halfway through the training she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital with severe depression. Undeterred, she carried on with her degree and graduated with a merit. Besides writing for the romance market, she has had a number of works published, including Depression as a Spiritual Journey in 2009, Nature as Mirror and Psychosynthesis Made Easy in 2011. Her latest work, The Therapist’s Cat was published in 2012 with the central character being a psychotherapist and suffering from Bipolar 1. She lives in Cumbria with her best friend along with a whippet and a cat.

Book Extract

This is the time of loss and hollows

This is the time of loss and hollows,
Where all these organs which once served,
Now toxic, are operated on or removed.
This is the time of nursing
The ragged empty space left behind,
Of reflection – where mirrors turn inward,
Cast prismatic reminders of losses throughout the years.
Until… honeycombed with emptiness
You long for solidity and sustenance again.

Your fretting feet pace the stone streets endlessly.
Forever searching for distance between you and this loss.
Wanting the long moments to hasten
You on to the ground beyond this awful divide.

Like forbidden fruit,
Life tumbles all around you.
But… it is not for you.
And you shrink from the hollows and loss,
Yet long for what can grow from this.
Can only grow from this.


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