Everyone has a story to tell; each one of us writes poetry – some, without even realising. That stream of consciousness that runs in our veins? It’s poetry waiting to be written. We believe in the power of words, and that power is what urged us set up PoetsIN.
It’s because of those inner streams, that we bring you this regular interview feature, Writer Profiles. An interview with a writer. This week we meet a remarkable human who has made it her mission to raise mental health awareness and end the stigma attached to it.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Charlotte Underwood, I’m a 22 year old from rainy Norfolk, UK. I’m a pretty simple person who is as ordinary as it gets but I have passion for writing and raising awareness of mental health. I mainly write blog posts and use twitter to advocate for mental heal, talking about subjects which are taboo or hard to swallow – honesty is my policy. I also write poetry, short stories and am a freelance writer.
You’re a prolific mental health advocate with blogs and articles all over the internet. What were the catalysts for you speaking up?
Honestly, I still feel like I am this invisible person but when you have lived in the shadows your whole life, it can be hard to see yourself as anything but unimportant. I fell into mental health advocacy, it wasn’t intended but it just sort of happened but it’s become my passion, I’m pretty sure it’s my life purpose. I think that my father’s death by suicide is the reason I am so determined – I want to make a change and save lives.
How long have you been writing, what is your favourite style of writing and why?
I have been writing for longer than I could ride a bike. I was a book worm from day one and despite my struggles with reading and writing, it never stopped me because I loved how much imagination became this escape, you can be whoever you want to be by reading or writing your own story. I don’t have a style of writing, I don’t think but I am in love with expressive poetry at the moment – I hope to have an anthology one day.
You’ve released a couple of books. Can you tell us about them?
I forget that I have released a few short books, it’s been a year since my first, how time flies! I wrote After Suicide after wanting to write a book but having no passion, until I realized that my father’s story could help prevent suicide. It’s a book based on the events in my father’s suicide and the way that it affected me, it’s an emotional read but it gives hope and its purpose is to be a bit like a friend.
The House on The Avenue was a creative piece that I had the urge to write, it’s not my pride and joy at all but it’s a light horror, more of a thriller based on a very real story of mine. Though it’s not technically mental health based, it does show an insight into the hallucinations I used to experience due to my mental health.
We’re a charity founded on the power creative writing has as a means to purge mental illness. Do you have any helpful advice on this?
All I can say is that honesty and reality is what can remove the stigma and provide support. Real writing resonates with real people, it just makes sense.
We’ve just had mental Health Awareness Week. Do you think we are on the way to removing the stigma attached to mental health?
I believe that mental health awareness is only really 5 years old or so, even a decade ago I remember having no help when I reached out, because it didn’t exist. I think a lot of work has been done but a lot of work still needs to be done. The issue is changing minds and were not superhuman, all we can do is try and keep fighting.
Many writers love to read. What book/s are on your bedside right now and why?
I’m going to be honest, I haven’t read a book in a very long time. Don’t get me wrong, I love snuggling up with a book, I have a history of reading three full volume novels in four hours on a sleepless night (because I just had to know what happened next). However, one part of my mental illness is an inability to focus which has been very present the last few years, I have zero attention span. I do however love listening to books being read, so an audio book or my husband reading is fab – Turtles All The Way Down and They Both Die At The End are my most recent books that I loved.
What quote inspires you the most. Why?
Engage nerd mode – my favourite quote of all time is by Sheik, a character in Ocarina of Time (Game) in the Zelda series, it’s just so real and makes you think, a shot of reality I suppose.
“Time passes, people move. Like a river’s flow, it never ends. A childish mind will turn to noble ambition. Young love will become deep affection. The clear water’s surface reflects growth.”
Writer’s block, real or a myth?
Very damn real, for me it’s because I have so much in my head, it’s like trying to grab inspiration from a merry-go-round moving at lightspeed.
If there was one piece of advice you were to give anyone suffering from poor mental health, what would it be?
You’re doing just fine. You are not a problem and you are not a failure. Life is hard, no one ever said it was easy but that dosen’t mean you cannot enjoy it. Good things will happen if you let them and you are more deserving of that. Give yourself a chance, give life a chance and fight for it, fight for you.
Finish this sentence… Words are the epitome of…
What’s next for Charlotte Underwood?
My focus career wise is to work on getting my poetry out there, a task that seems even more impossible than traditionally publishing a novel! I’d also love to do more freelancing because who doesn’t want to earn money from home while they drink coffee and eat cake.
I would love to work with communities and get them talking about mental health so that they can make changes. I want to keep telling my story until everyone has listened and is sick of hearing it, I can’t save the world but if I can make a change for it to be more mental health friendly, then it’s all worth it.