My name is Charlotte Underwood. I am a 22 year old mental health advocate and writer. I have fallen into a passion of writing and raising awareness of mental health and suicide by a beautiful accident; now I wouldn’t change a thing for the world. It’s ironic that for a long time I belittled writing and those who perused it, I had no idea that one day writing would save my life.
I used to laugh at my father for writing poems but now I know why he did it.
I remember the feeling of dread when I knew I had an English lesson. Writing and reading had become a chore, a forced constraint of my time – I hated it almost as much as I hated P.E. which was an immeasurable amount. The very thought of Shakespeare would make me groan in frustration.
It wasn’t always this way. As a child of maybe seven, I spent my spare time writing these stories about tornados (I was obsessed with the film Twister at the time) and writing a very varied volume of song lyrics. I was, at one point, an avid book worm. I could read before I could spell or even ride a bike, it was second nature to me. I was always running out of books to read and found myself wiser beyond my years. I couldn’t understand why no one else liked reading, when a whole new world was at your fingertips. I loved that I could be anyone I wanted to be, see anything I desired and it didn’t cost me a thing – except my pocket money. It was a blissful escape for a life which was hard on my younger self.
I feel like a mixture of those pesky teenage hormones, and the dullness of the school that I was attending, was why I lost my love of the novel and I why no longer enjoyed writing. All my creative juices were compressed into a shape dictated to me by the teacher, where is the fun in that?
Besides, I wanted to fit in and those who enjoying reading and writing were at the bottom of the social ladder, an easy way to get bullied. I never understood the reason for this but I never wanted to argue. I had a hard time fitting in and I was often picked on, so I didn’t want to give any ammunition to my peers. So, for the remainder of my school life, I stuck to social networking and gaming as that was cool, apparently.
When I left school, I could have picked up a book again or started to write but I had no time. If I wasn’t drinking with potential partners, or trying to get noticed online, I was working, like everyone else I knew – another social pressure. My brain was much like an empty fuel tank on a rusted vintage car.
Then a blessing hit me when I turned 20. It was disguised as a very traumatic job loss but turned to be the most wonderful gift. Once I had licked my wounds and made the most of not having an alarm clock or a routine, I found myself bored. I am a very independent person and I like to keep busy. I am very compulsive and can’t sit around and do nothing, so I had to find something before I started to relapse. I did not believe that I needed to write but I was wrong, so wrong. I only wish that I never gave up my love of literature because it seems now that my love had never gone, it was just buried under the weights of life.
I don’t know why I started but I began to write. I wrote a little each day – I must have started and stopped many novels. It was hard because I was trying to drink from an empty cup, though with time found the water I needed to nourish the blank paper. Eventually I found a passion for mental health and preventing suicide, as I lost my father in 2014 this way. I wanted to create something that would support people like me as I noticed how lonely it was to be a suicide survivor and that wasn’t right. Thus, born was my first book and the romance of my two passions, writing and mental health.
Since then, I have found myself entering short story competitions and have written a second short novel, as well as a full-length novel yet to be published. However, my love was found in poetry. Poetry allows me to bend the rules of writing, to ignore perfection and focus on emotion, it is a perfect match for my mental health advocacy – even flaws can turn into roses.
For what began as something to keep me busy, writing has become my therapy and daily self-care. I may not wash myself or brush my hair on some days but I will write, like I have every day for the last 6 months – without fail.
To write is an art but it is also a way to remove negative thoughts and feelings from your mind. From there you can start to unjumble it all and start to make sense of it. It’s enlightening and has been my biggest tool in recovery.
It’s worth a mention that writing has kept me feeling productive, and moving my hands is soothing to a person like me who cannot sit still, which means I have less time to allow that black dog back in.
I think I may write every day until my last.