Performer Helen Seymour on dealing with difficult experiences

Helen Seymour is a spoken word performer and writer based in Canterbury. With a passion for dark, surreal humour, her live show 'To Helen Back' discusses sickness, health and recovery in an authentic and incredibly honest way.

Here, Helen visualises a scenario that reflects the anxiety and pain that so many of us have gone through when dealing with a difficult event, and she offers her words of wisdom on the importance of giving ourselves time to recover...

We all know that life has its ups and downs, but sometimes the downs can really get to us. If something bad has happened to you, perhaps a bereavement, a break-up, a period of ill health, it can take time to feel like yourself again. Sometimes, though, we feel a pressure to get over things before we’re ready.

Here is an imaginary scenario:

You are at a party.
(You got there early, though, because it’s at your mate’s house).

You take a crisp.
(Just one, because, the party hasn’t really started yet, and the crisps are for when everyone’s there. You are, crisp-wise, a hatchling turtle crawling on the sands before hitting the sea (salt and cider vinegar).

They ask you how you are.

You say you are doing okay, thanks.

(You’re not. Today feels like you swallowed that crisp without chewing, but you’re at a party and you feel like you should be happier and over it by now, so you plump for “okay”).

The other people arrive. The more people ask you, the line you give as a response transforms from “doing okay” to “doing better” to “better”, but that’s not the truth. You’re not better yet, but too embarrassed to say so.

Enough of the imaginary now: I know this to be true because I’ve been there.

There’s a chance you’ve been there, too. At the start of this, I listed three examples of “bad" things that might have happened to you, but that “bad" thing can be so many things to different people – so please don’t belittle it. If it hurt, then it hurt, and you need to heal. The main thing to remember is: there’s no set time for healing.

We all recover in different ways, but the trouble is, society can make it seem as though recovery is like microwave times on a ready meal. There can be this pressure, this underlying weight bubbling away for you after a certain amount of time, to not want to talk about it anymore, to have moved on, to be over it.

But please, please, never feel like you are taking too long. There is no such thing as too long. You need to give yourself the time you need. Keep talking. Tell people how you are doing. There’s no shame in not being there yet. Consider therapy. Tell your parents, tell your teachers, tell your friends, that yes, yes it does still hurt and no, no, I’m not over it yet, but I will get there in my own time. Do not fold away your feelings because you feel like you’re taking up too much time. There’s no clock on this one. The more we are all honest and open about the time it’s taking, the more we can all come to understand the reality of recovery: that like hatchling turtles, we will get to the sea in our own time.

Helen Seymour is currently touring her show "To Helen Back". Find out more: and follow her on Twitter: @heronseasaw

Mark Dawson

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