Please welcome author Tamara Basic to the blog today! She is going to share some incredibly moving poetry with us, and describe how it helps her in terms of mental health! I am so grateful to her for sharing this- especially since I find poetry to be one of those gorgeous mediums I’d never know how to do myself! Take it away, Tamara!

Before I get into it, I’d like to thank the four amazing co-hosts of the Shattering Stigmas event for helping spread the much-needed awareness, as well as Shannon for letting me share my words and my feelings here.

Over the past two years or so, I became not only more serious about my writing endeavors, but also more passionate about spreading mental health awareness and opening up about my own experiences. I began writing a lot more poetry and found that, through verses and rhymes and structures and rhythm, it became easier to express the feelings I’d been unable to share with anyone in person. In that way, writing is also quite therapeutic for me, and I get to create art that is real and full of emotional and will hopefully make someone else feel a little less alone and a little more comforted.

So today, I’d like to share some poems and writings which touch on my mental health; some of them I hadn’t really meant to share with the world anytime soon, but you know what, I think this is a wonderful opportunity to do so.

content warning for various mental health topics, including self-harm and suicidal ideation

at ten years old, I wanted to be a dancer
making up choreography with my sister
captured in a moment, captured in the rhythm

at thirteen years old, I wanted to be a writer
finding new friends inside chapters of books
discovering the beauty of written word

at fifteen years old, I wanted to be dead
carving scars into my skin
consumed by pain and darkness from the inside

at nineteen years old, life restarted
bringing into the story
a new beginning, new possibilities, second chances

at twenty one years old, I finally learned the truth
gave a name to the monster inside
relief and pain intertwining

I thought this poem was finished at the time of writing, but looking back at it I realize that there is more to the story – I began experiencing mental health related issues somewhere around the age of 14, and since then I’ve had lots of big ups and downs. Due to certain circumstances, I hadn’t been able to seek the help I needed, so I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out my symptoms and self-diagnose through information I could find online. I think it’s important to mention that, if you have the means and the opportunity to seek professional help and opinion, you should definitely do that. But at the same time, a lot of people in a similar situation like mine will try to get any bit of information they can, and there are some great sites online to do so. 

The last verses of this poem are about that – I was in the middle of a new low point and I just wanted some answers. I knew I had experience with depression and anxiety, but something still felt off. So I came across borderline personality disorder, and things just clicked. Now I can say that I was probably a bit too eager to put a label on the darkest part of myself, because I am still not professionally diagnosed, nor do I want to claim to have a disorder I don’t really have, but I do feel like I’ve made some progress in realizing what goes on inside my brain. Self-diagnosing isn’t something you should rely on, but doing your research and trying to be as objective as you can in recognizing your symptoms are things I would definitely encourage until you have the chance to consult a doctor.

(to the ones that can’t relate)

your eyes did not widen, nor blink
you did not gasp; no sound left your lips
when you found out I was drowning within myself
you could only say that you never would have guessed,
that I don’t look like there’s a monster inside of me

I wrote this one a little while after having an open and revealing conversation with a couple close friends. It was the first time I’d told them about the deepest, darkest parts of my brain and some of the worst times in my life. The second to last verse in this poem is the one that hold it all together, I think, because that was a part of the reaction I’d gotten – they couldn’t quite believe how far the story went and how low my lows actually were. Over the years, I’ve become – and I’m positive so many others who are dealing with mental illness are like this, too – an expert on hiding my pain and my bad days. I kept my darkness caged deep inside, not allowing it to seep into my eyes or make a sound through my lips.

So I’d like to take a moment to remind everyone that there are so many people out there, so many people in your life, be it friends or family members of people you don’t really know that well, who are going through something bigger than themselves, something that isn’t their fault, something that is trying to destroy them from the inside. And you’d never tell, because they’ve learned to hide it. Because they feel like people wouldn’t care, or because they don’t feel worthy of love and care and attention, or because they don’t want to burden anyone with their problems.

So keep that in mind and show care and love for the people in your life – you never know when the smallest of acts of kindness will make the biggest of differences.

(little knives)

forgive me
for being so silent
but some days
I just need to be alone
with my thoughts
and let them slowly
and painfully
ruin me
over and over again.

I included this poem in my first poetry collection, Starlight, as one of a handful of poems that reflected on my personal struggles. I think my style of writing, ever since I was just a kid, has been a mix of my own experiences and made-up worlds and scenarios, the ratio changing with each work. Starlight is in large part a collection of love poems, beauty of nature, and magical moments throughout life, and so many of its poems and pieces of prose are sprinkled with fiction. Yet I wanted to include the dark and gritty, as well. For a person so well-trained to keep her feelings to herself, that was quite a challenge, because the thought of someone who knows me in real life reading those kind of poems gave me (and still does!) a solid amount of anxiety and doubt.

But in the spirit of transparency and spreading awareness, I wanted to include those writings, too, as well as sharing this next poem with you:

oh, I do wish
that I could shut my eyes forever
exhale one last time
finally stop feeling this life
these emotions
the hurt and the loneliness and the bitterness and hopelessness and the rage and the injustice and the self-loathing
stop having so much goddamn love and not having anyone who wants it
I do wish
to be released from this fright of saying the wrong thing
sounding dumb in front of others
having unclear skin
and large purple circles under my eyes
and wild hair that has become my curtain, my hiding tool
I do wish
for some miracle
that would finally make me less angry
and more lovable
less uncomfortable in crowds
and more confident around strangers
less sad as the clock strikes midnight
and more excited about the new day

but no miracle is waiting on me
and maybe that is the hardest truth to face
because it is the sole silver lining keeping me away from my demons
and if I don’t have that hope
what’s stopping me from letting all the blood drip away from my veins
and finally ending it all?

I’ll admit, I don’t remember exactly when I wrote this one, or what happened on the day I wrote it that had prompted me to do so. Poems like this one – the most personal, the most painful – come to me on some of my worst days, when I’m at my lowest and most vulnerable and hurt. They are often some of my most revealing ones and as such I keep them hidden from the world. Yet I believe that a lot of good can come from sharing poems and writings like this, not only for their writers, who get an outlet for their feelings, but also for anyone who stumbles upon those writings, because they can see that mental illness does not discriminate, and can learn new things and get more informed, be more sympathetic, practice a little more kindness in their everyday life. 

(a reminder to self)

on this day
after a walk downtown
playing cards
in good company
with a few nice pictures
a good song on repeat
and then immersed in a great book
on this day
you actually feel happy
slightly invincible
on this day
your heart beats
in this rhythm:

I want to end my post with this particular poem, which was created as a reminder that life isn’t just the bad and the ugly. I’ve always been a pessimist, so days like the one described are crucial for my well-being and sanity. And if you, reader, are going through any kind of struggle right now, I hope it brings you at least a little bit of solace and hope that things will get better for you. I sincerely hope they do.

About Tamara Basic

Tamara Basic lives in Zagreb, Croatia, where she is currently focusing on her writing career, connecting with readers and spreading mental health awareness. She is the author of poetry and prose collection Starlight, as well as short stories Wicked Games and Broken Reflections. In her spare time, she can be found reading, learning new languages, and tragically failing at blogging regularly.

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Do you find poetry (or other forms of media) especially cathartic? Leave Tamara tons of love!

Posted October 9, 2019 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in #ShatteringStigmas, Giveaway, Guest Post / 4 Comments

4 responses to “How Poetry Helps Me Acknowledge My Mental Health: A Guest Post

  1. Danielle Hammelef

    Poetry is a way to express thought and feeling for me using concrete images to try to capture them in ways I can best understand as I am a visual person. Your poems are painful and expressive and I am happy to read the hopefulness at the end.

  2. Beth W

    Thank you for sharing this with us! Being so vulnerable, with your very personal writings and mental health struggles, is inspiring. And I’m glad poetry has given you the rhythm to speak your truths! That’s the highest calling and purpose of poetry, so in a way your struggles make the genre and style live. I hope you’re able to get proper care and a proper diagnosis someday soon, as I feel like having a label on it helps validate it for others who can’t relate.

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