Stabitha is a poet who struggles with schizophrenia. Poetry has a lot of advantages when it comes to our mental health. Stabitha talks about how big impact poetry has on her.
"I was 8 when I started writing poetry. My first project was an epic poem in rhyming couplets called The Adventures of Bonga Wonga. Heavily inspired by Enid Blyton’s magic-fuelled, middle-class world and Scheherazade’s 1001 Nights (The Arabian Nights), it was a story about an Arabian boy rescuing a princess with the help of a flying carpet.
After that effort, I left off writing poetry for a very long time. I took it up again in my mid-twenties, during my first psychotic episode. Since then, the poetry I’ve written has been influenced by my experience of paranoid schizophrenia. "
"Stabitha shares her thoughts about schizophrenia. “There are several types of schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenia is diagnosed when a person experiences psychosis, that is, hallucinations and/or delusions. These phenomena are called positive symptoms, because they’re extra to reality.
Negative symptoms are those that involve a withdrawal from society, such as shutting yourself away from the world. Schizophrenia is a very painful illness. Many schizophrenics take their own lives. In my view, there are two causes of this. Firstly, living in a state of continuous hallucinations and delusions for months can wreak chaos in the lives of schizophrenics, our families and friends. I’ve been incarcerated at least half a dozen times whilst psychotic, in prison and on psychiatric wards. Secondly, there’s a shocking level of social stigma aimed at people with paranoid schizophrenia. We are stereotyped as unpredictable and dangerous psychopaths, likely to jump out of bushes and attack innocent normal people with axes and suchlike. All the scientific research concludes that the above perception of paranoid schizophrenia is utter bollocks. People with schizophrenia are far more likely to be harmed by sane people, than sane people are to be harmed by schizophrenic people. I wish people would engage with schizophrenics and not mock or fear us. Don’t believe the myths.”
Stabitha’s inspirations are modern American poets like Dorothy Parker or Charles Bukowski, Irish folk songs and British and Jamaican dub poets like Linton Kwesi Johnson and Lee Scratch Perry but as well “the ever-present schizophrenia”.
“I don’t write directly in detail about my more harrowing hallucinations and paranoid delusions. Frankly, I don’t want to scare the shit out of everybody. My poetry does contain dystopian themes, usually war and its consequences. Either that, or I write dark, crude comedy. There’s no middle ground at the moment. Please be aware that I write for adults, on themes that are not at all suitable for children.”
Poetry is very powerful tool which can help many people dealing with how they feel. Stabitha says“I find distraction methods very helpful in dealing with both the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Poetry writing is an absorbing hobby for me; I can easily spend two weeks writing one poem, experimenting with imagery, rhythm and rhyme. The process takes me away from the intensity of the hallucinations and paranoid delusions. Other people who have schizophrenia may find other creative distraction methods useful, such as visual art, crafts, music and dance. Writing poetry and reading or listening to poetry can also enable cathartic experience. Catharsis is described as an emotional and/or spiritual cleansing, an intense process which helps me deal with feelings such as fear or anger. Again, other people may experience catharsis by means of music, art or physical expression.”
Everybody can use poetry to help deal with difficult feelings. Stabitha says ”We’ve all experienced the trauma of the pandemic and there is a possibility that mental health crises will be more frequent in the future, as individuals and communities react to that trauma.
I strongly support grass roots projects that assist people to express their feelings through creativity. Poetry is one of the cheapest creative hobbies and for me it has been a life-line.”
After Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24th of February Stabitha wrote this poem:
In 2022, a nightmare comes true
As Putin invades from the East
When he rides his bear, with his thinning hair
We can see there the mark of the beast
This two-headed hawk, has a hell of a shock
After sending his tanks to the Wild West
The land of Ukraine, united remains
And a Molotow cocktail greets these guests
On Snake Island it starts with the brave-hearted guards
Telling ships to f*ck off to the ocean
A shout of defiance leads to global alliance
And history’s course is in motion
With a dignified calm, the people take arms
To defend the Ukrainian nation
And Zelenskyy holds fast, he’s such a badass
Deserving his standing ovation
In the blue and the gold, the young and the old
Uniting as sisters and brothers
Attacking the ranks of Red Army tanks
Russian troops go on home to your mothers
As the ordnance rains down on Ukrainian towns
Mums and kids leave for the borders
May every spent shell condemn Putin to Hell
It’s death by the red demon’s orders
And each day I call on the gods, on them all
To eliminate Vladimir Putin
May the Russians rise up, may they poison his cup
May they hang him, behead him and shoot him
And as war unfolds, I call on the souls
Of our ancients who guide and watch over
To come and connect, to bless and protect
Each Ukrainian warrior and lover