Poetry Corner.

This is mental health awareness week so with this in mind I have chosen a poem which I hope shall resonate with many, and help those struggling to understand what is either happening to themselves or those they love. People have been here before you and there is much more help available these days than there was when this poem was written back in 1966.

Please Hear What I’m Not Saying

Don’t be fooled by me.
Don’t be fooled by the face I wear
for I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
masks that I’m afraid to take off,
and none of them is me.

Pretending is an art that’s second nature with me,
but don’t be fooled,
for God’s sake don’t be fooled.
I give you the impression that I’m secure,
that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without,
that confidence is my name and coolness my game,
that the water’s calm and I’m in command
and that I need no one,
but don’t believe me.
My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask,
ever-varying and ever-concealing.
Beneath lies no complacence.
Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness.
But I hide this. I don’t want anybody to know it.
I panic at the thought of my weakness exposed.
That’s why I frantically create a mask to hide behind,
a nonchalant sophisticated facade,
to help me pretend,
to shield me from the glance that knows.

But such a glance is precisely my salvation, my only hope,
and I know it.
That is, if it’s followed by acceptance,
if it’s followed by love.
It’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself,
from my own self-built prison walls,
from the barriers I so painstakingly erect.
It’s the only thing that will assure me
of what I can’t assure myself,
that I’m really worth something.
But I don’t tell you this. I don’t dare to, I’m afraid to.
I’m afraid your glance will not be followed by acceptance,
will not be followed by love.
I’m afraid you’ll think less of me,
that you’ll laugh, and your laugh would kill me.
I’m afraid that deep-down I’m nothing
and that you will see this and reject me.

So I play my game, my desperate pretending game,
with a facade of assurance without
and a trembling child within.
So begins the glittering but empty parade of masks,
and my life becomes a front.
I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of surface talk.
I tell you everything that’s really nothing,
and nothing of what’s everything,
of what’s crying within me.
So when I’m going through my routine
do not be fooled by what I’m saying.
Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying,
what I’d like to be able to say,
what for survival I need to say,
but what I can’t say.

I don’t like hiding.
I don’t like playing superficial phony games.
I want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me
but you’ve got to help me.
You’ve got to hold out your hand
even when that’s the last thing I seem to want.
Only you can wipe away from my eyes
the blank stare of the breathing dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you’re kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
each time you try to understand because you really care,
my heart begins to grow wings–
very small wings,
very feeble wings,
but wings!

With your power to touch me into feeling
you can breathe life into me.
I want you to know that.
I want you to know how important you are to me,
how you can be a creator–an honest-to-God creator–
of the person that is me
if you choose to.
You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble,
you alone can remove my mask,
you alone can release me from my shadow-world of panic,
from my lonely prison,
if you choose to.
Please choose to.

Do not pass me by.
It will not be easy for you.
A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.
The nearer you approach to me the blinder I may strike back.
It’s irrational, but despite what the books say about man
often I am irrational.
I fight against the very thing I cry out for.
But I am told that love is stronger than strong walls
and in this lies my hope.
Please try to beat down those walls
with firm hands but with gentle hands
for a child is very sensitive.

Who am I, you may wonder?
I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet
and I am every woman you meet.

Charles C. Finn
September 1966

4 replies »

  1. It’s easy to see a broken leg, not so easy to see a broken spirit. But, if you keep your senses open, and are not afraid to reach out, the signs are there to be read, and acted on, with love.

  2. Here are parts of an exchange I had with a friend of mine. We’re both sometimes troubled in mind, and discuss dealing with this – we were lucky to find each other. I’m old, she’s young – we have different perspectives and these different perspectives can help each other. Maybe some of this will help someone else, too.

    J. “I feel like we still don’t discuss it enough. Everyone is so opening and understanding until it’s too real.”

    Me. “Yes indeedy-do! When it’s talked about as an abstract idea, being understanding of troubled people, it’s all fiiiiiiine and sympathetic. but, all to often, when it’s real, they don’t want to know, don’t want to be there. Don’t want to get involved if someone is being ‘difficult’ – that’s often how folk are described – difficult – it usually means that they have something to them! Yes, people can seem to want to spend their time with those who pull the right faces and make the right noises, and that used to get to me a lot – still does sometimes. But……I then ask myself how much does it matter to me, that those particular people don’t want to deal with someone who isn’t ‘easy’? The answer, the honest answer, is that I’m not particularly interested in having much to so with them, anyway! It just hurts when it happens. To quote the wonderful Mr. Plant, again “… there ain’t no use in crying, ’cause it’ll only, only drive you mad. If it hurts, to hear them lying, was it the only world you had?” And it isn’t the only world I have – the whole of the whole world, and all that’s in it, is there.”

    J. “Ah those lyrics are brilliant and re reading that just made my day.”

    Me. “Those that don’t want the ‘easy’ friendships – those are the ones to stick with. And….just keep on, keeping on, stay alive, and the good feelings do come back again. Then the dark days come again, then the light returns, etc. etc. So it goes!
    Friend Roo said “Folk can see a broken leg. They can’t see a broken spirit.” But, some folk can, see the broken spirit, too.”

    J. “I am happy for people to share and think the future should be us sharing and connecting more. It’s the disease of our times and is just as dangerous as other ones past. I am sorry to hear you suffer from it, as it is an incredibly serious infliction but I think it makes us stronger and more understanding. It sounds like you were surrounded by lovely people and I’m glad of that, it’s often hard to see the positives when those demons rear their heads.”

    Me. “Yes, it’s worth looking at those times, when the cloud descends. Trouble is……….when I’m in The Pit, I defiantly won’t see it. I don’t know if you do the same? I can’t /won’t see it.
    When I was ill, I was assigned a psychiatric nurse, Janet, and thank God, I was assigned Janet! Janet gave me a task to do – I was to get a piece of paper, write my name in the middle, then, out from my name, write all those that I felt connected with. I did it, including animals, beings, places, the ‘dead’ and the ‘living’, all those I feel to be connected with. The idea was to show me just how much I am connected with and play a part in the lives of others. When Janet next came to see me, I showed her my piece of paper. I then took her into the Office and showed her The Wall. You may have noticed The Wall when you were here. The room we call the office, we call that because it was Mike’s office when he worked freelance. He had a big year planner on the wall. When he got a job, the year planner came down. that was…. 6 years ago? You know you come across images which you don’t quite know what to do with, but you like and don’t want to throw away? I had some in a box, so I started to put them in the space on the wall.
    This has now spread, and, they connect up – colours, ideas, actual images – they link and connect. When I showed Janet The Wall, she said that I’d been doing the exercise she’d set me, for myself, so, when I’m down, why not come into the office and look at those images and think of all the connections? The answer is……me not being right in the heed! When I was feeling like that, if Mike had tried to get me to come into the office and look at The Wall and said to me, “Look at all these people, all these things, in your life” – I would have said “F**k off – that’s past, those are all past” etc etc. Yes, I was truly bonkers – still am, on and off! I live with it, and….well, as I said before, it’s part of me, and can produce some good things. Goodness, but I’ve rambled, there.”

    J. “I think again its those who are so much more attuned with the world, it effects them more.
    A good debate amongst friends is healthy, I completely agree. If we are despondent and just agree all the time then good conversation comes to an end. I think it already slightly is with newer generations and it’s such a sad occurance people don’t want to talk about anything “heavy” or think really . . So sad.”

    Me. ” I wrote this when I was 18 – now 62, still learning……………..

    Being Centred

    “If I could live from my centre
    Instead of from my outer covering
    My superficialities
    My ideas of how I should be acting
    If I could do this
    I would find – ? (Joy?)
    And if
    Others abused this living from my centre
    This nakedness
    The fault
    Would surely be in them and reflect on them.”


  3. mental unhealthy is as normal as mental health. I reckon it’s only with the former that one really getsto appreciate the latter!

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