Please find below two poems written by Farah Stokes.

Farah would like to share her experience of the pandemic. We have all experienced difficult times recently and it helps to know that we are not alone. It's okay to not be okay. Please contact the Healthy Minds Team, AKHB, if you wish to discuss any issues in relation to mental health at [email protected].  

The climb by Farah Stokes
Picture yourself at the base of a canyon. It is dark in here and there are no stars in the sky to provide 
even a glimmer of light. Things just feel bleak, hopeless and inescapable. You have a better chance of
winning the lottery than climbing this gargantuan rock. Hopelessness.
There is a voice in the back of your mind telling you to look up. Telling you that if you climb this
jagged rock face, you will eventually see light. Despite this, something keeps you down there. There
is comfort in this darkness and in the familiar cloak of isolation. There is comfort in staying still and
taking the easy option. There is no failure or shame to face there. Staying surrounded by darkness is
easier than facing the climb.
Experience has taught you that along the way there are cliff edges that jut out. Small places to rest
and catch your breath, if you choose to climb. You also know that those same ‘safe havens’ could
crumble beneath you, taking you right back to where you started. They could make you fall into a
deeper, darker place that will leave you frozen, scared and in despair. It is too big a risk.
You know that it won’t be easy. It will hurt, it will drain you and it will push you beyond your limits.
You inwardly scream, knowing no-one can hear you. Why is it so dark? Your thoughts turn against
you and the mind games begin - stay where you are - climb - accept the inevitable - grab hold of the
rock - don’t bother - you can do this, one step at a time - You won’t know unless you try - You’ll fall –
get back up –You have to try – Climb. All these thoughts are distracting, you can’t focus. You feel
frustrated, overwhelmed and that this cycle is never going to end.
Deep down you know that there is one way to find your way out. You begin the ascent, digging your
fingers into the edges, desperately holding on. They bleed, it hurts but you cling on. This is fight. This
is strength drawn from the deepest part of your soul. This is determination that you will not
succumb, not be beaten and this is what pushes you to go further. Resilience.
One step at a time. Small steps are ok. You pause, take a breath and look up. There is something in
the distance. You can’t quite make out what it is but there is definitely something there, something
to aim for. You keep climbing, lose your footing, but don’t give up. Keep on pushing. The higher you
climb the stronger you feel. Resilience.
That something in the distance...there is light behind it. Did someone hear you scream? Is someone
there? There is a shadow – if there is shadow, then there must be light. A warmth rushes through
you. What is this? You have not felt this in a while. It’s hope.
There is a rope. Only you can’t grab it, not yet. You need to keep climbing, keep digging and keep
pushing. Your fingers are shredded and losing strength. Your heart aches and you are so tired of
fighting. This is so painful. Why does there have to be so much pain? You look back down. It would
be so much easier to go retreat back into the darkness. There’s no pain down there, just emptiness.
But that shadow - you think about how far you have come and what it took to get to this point.
Come on, keep climbing. Strength.
Your eyes start to focus and adjust more to your surroundings. There are shadows all around you
climbing. How did you not know this? How did you not hear them? You realise that you are not
alone. Other people are fighting, just like you and you can do this together. Looking up, you see that
the shadow is still there. You have done the hardest part – you started the climb – now you need to
use the strength of everything and everyone around you to help you get to the top. Connected.
Despite everything, you made it. You stand up, exhausted and drained. You look down, in awe of
what you have achieved. Look how strong you are! You did this. You. Did. This. Crouching down, you
throw the rope down for someone else to use. You can be their shadow with the light behind it.
Panic by Farah Stokes
It comes out of nowhere and begins with a feeling in the pit of my gut.
People talk about having butterflies in their stomach.
It feels more like a swarm of locusts, butterflies are dainty – this feeling is anything but.
I can hear my heart beating so fast! It sounds like a big drum.
This is all I can hear. It’s so overwhelming, all encompassing.
The beating drowns everything else out.
My hands are shaking – I need to stop this. How do I hide it?
Now I’m sweating too!
People are staring at me. I need to leave.
The walls and ceiling are closing in.
I can’t move. Frozen in fear. The room feels like a tiny box.
There is no escape.
It feels like drowning. A giant wave is dragging me under.
Everything is out of focus. What is happening?
How do I stop this? I need air.
I’m afraid. Am I dying?
I need to catch my breath.
How do I make my body do something that it does automatically?
Breathe in. Breathe out. There is no danger.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Keep telling yourself that.
As quick as it started, is subsides.
The crescendo of a huge wave. The water has retreated.
Is that it?