Simone Walsh has been to the end of the road and back.
A victim of workplace bullying and harassment, its effects spiraled her into a four-and-a-half-year battle of severe depression.
Walsh chronicles the ordeal — provoked by a toxic presence of authority referenced throughout the book as her ‘tormentor’ — in her poetic memoir, Poetic Diary of a Bleeding Heart. “I thought days of being bullied only happened on school grounds,” Walsh writes in her opening statement.
In the early chapters, with every turn of the page, her journey to recovery is met with roadblocks. She speaks about her health deteriorating, her struggle with seemingly simple daily activities and fighting to get approved for disability benefits. She loses many friends along the way, not to mention her sense of self. Her journal would be the only sounding board to express feelings she couldn’t share with anyone else.
The fact that she was able to publish this memoir and become an advocate for mental health is a testament to her strength and courage to bring the conversation to the forefront against a backdrop of criticism.
Poetic Diary of a Bleeding Heart is divided into four chapters of poetry representing stages of depression that ultimately lead to a breakthrough: Damaged Goods, Scattered Emotions, Ray of Light and Inhale Change Exhale Failure. Walsh’s use of poetic devices is effective in tugging on the heartstrings of those suffering from depression or of those who know someone that is. “The Depressed Trainee” is one such poem that speaks to the feelings and triggers that accompany the illness: “If crying litres of tears could kill / Then I’ve died a thousand times / Travelled the miles only to get labeled as pathetic / Where if you bluntly showed me who I was / I would deny it.” Readers become aware of the feelings of rejection, pain and loneliness that make depression a growing sickness in today’s society.
In the Caribbean community, mental illness is often taboo making it difficult to discuss and seek help. Victims often suffer in silence in fear of being labelled as ‘other’. Walsh, who is of Jamaican heritage, is no exception. The fact that she was able to publish this memoir and become an advocate for mental health is a testament to her strength and courage to bring the conversation to the forefront against a backdrop of criticism. She spreads hope everywhere, particularly to women of colour.
“This book is dedicated to those who hurt, those who cry in the dark, those that have fought and lost.”
“A Talk with Death” is a poem that characterizes the inner dialogue a person may have when contemplating suicide. There were times when Walsh wanted to end her life, but she always found consolation through her spiritual advisor.
“The thing with being depressed is that you lose all love for yourself so you don’t care what happens to you. Your life becomes meaningless, and you just want to die,” Walsh explains in her book.
Some may perceive the act as selfish. The impact on loved ones left behind is deep, but Walsh affirms that suicide is not to gain attention. It is for relief, and those feelings of pain run deeper than anyone outside of the illness can comprehend. Not everyone gets the support and resources they need to beat mental illness. Thankfully Walsh did. She attributes much of her determination and healing to her faith in God, providing biblical scriptures throughout the book that helped her at the most troubling of times. Though the messages are universal, this may be a deterrent to those who are irreligious or practise other religions.
Still, there are other nuggets of information that make this self-help book a golden companion. Along with her poetry, Walsh shares some of the methods and activities she found really helpful from the programs she enrolled in during her therapy. For example, there is an activity called “Small Stuff vs. Gratefulness” that focuses on diffusing an emotionally charged thought into a positive outcome.
Walsh also lets us into her thoughts by including selected entries of her journal written in the face of her ordeal. She even has a backgrounder on workplace bullying and tip sheets on how to spot signs of suicide and how to live a successful lifestyle.
“This book is dedicated to those who hurt, those who cry in the dark, those that have fought and lost,” she writes. “To the many who took a stand and faced the fall, the many who lost it all.”
Photos Courtesy of Essence Publishing