Category Archives: mental health

Truth is a Cruel Mistress


Le baiser de l’Hotel de Ville‘, 1950, Robert Doisneau.

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Truth is a Cruel Mistress.

By David Milligan-Croft.

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Sometimes, I imagine life like a romantic fairy tale.

There’ll be a pounding at my door.

I’ll go to answer it,

And it will be you – standing

In the pouring rain – breathless,

A suitcase in your hand.

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Or, I am walking down the corridor

At work. And I’ll hear my name

Being called. I’ll turn around, and it’s you,

Statuesque, and ready to run

Toward me.

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Perhaps my phone rings. It’s you. (Of course.)

There’s silence.

Breathing.

Then you say,

‘I need to see you.’

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Then, I remember that life isn’t a 90-minute

Hollywood trope.

It’s real. And so is 

The fact that you left your job

So you would never have to see me again.

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The fact, that I haven’t spoken to you since,

The fact, that I haven’t heard your voice since,

The fact, that I haven’t read your words since,

The day,

I told you that you had mistaken my love

For kindness.

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You ran

As fast, and as far,

As you could

In the opposite direction.

The mere thought of me, repugnant to you.

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Truth is a cruel mistress.

So I button my coat

And step outside.

The morning sun warms my face.

I hold out my hand to take yours.

I turn to you and smile.

You smile too.

And we walk into a brand new day.

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για τη δέκατη μούσα

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Lost Love


I met Tom Pow in a Stellenbosch vineyard in South Africa back in the late 90s.

Pretty small world really, as he’s from Scotland and I’m English, but was living in Ireland at the time.

I am fascinated by how people’s paths intersect. Everything that they had to go through prior to that point in time for you to meet. And, perhaps more importantly, why?

One of the things I have carried with me since our meeting, was his poem, ‘Loving, Writing’, from his collection ‘Red Letter Day’.

For me, it encapsulates the beauty and purity of love. Whether or not it lasts is beside the point. The point is that you got to feel that way at all.

Tom Pow

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The Perfect Poetry Antidote


Friday is Library Day for patients on Arden Ward at Stepping Hill Hospital.

And, if you didn’t know already, reading is very good for your mental health. (Probably not if it’s by Piers Morgan or the Tory party manifesto, mind.)

Reading quality literature and poetry, however, is proven to alleviate stress and anxiety.

Quite serendipitously, I came across this collection of poetry by Mary Dickins entitled Happiness FM. I thought her poem, ‘How to administer a poem in an emergency’ was perfectly apt for the group. So, I thought I’d share it with you.

And here is the poem from whence the collection takes its name.

Of course, our visits to the library aren’t just about reading. They’re about social interaction and doing other mindful activities.

While I was writing this post on a rainy Sunday evening in Stockport, a haiku came to mind. So, I’m going to share that with you as well.

The pitter-patter

Of rain outside my window –

Nature’s melody.

Night, night.

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Time to Wise Up


I first became aware of Aimee Mann via her soundtrack for P.T. Anderson’s sensational ensemble movie “Magnolia”.

In fact, Anderson said it was Mann’s lyrics that inspired the screenplay. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to do so. It features an array of fabulous actors, including the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, John C. Riley, Julianne Moore, Melora Walters and a sublime acting masterclass from Tom Cruise. Here’s the trailer:

But it’s Aimee Mann’s classic, ‘literate lyricism’ that I want to revisit. Anderson actually used her lyrics as a dialogue in the movie for Claudia’s character played by Melora Walters:

“Now that I’ve met you,

would you object to,

never seeing each other again?”

Here are three of my favourite songs from the soundtrack, but this time from Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse, which I hadn’t seen before, so I wanted to share them with the class.

Enjoy.

And now, from the movie…

with the entire ensemble.

And here she is doing a cover of The Cars’ classic, ‘Drive’ about self-denial and facing up to alcoholism.

(You can still watch it, just click on the link to YouTube.)

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Dandelion Clock – new poem.


‘Nebular’ by Maria Popova.

This poem was inspired by an article I read on The Marginalian by Maria Popova about G.K. Chesterton, called ‘The Dandelion and the Meaning of Life.’

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Dandelion Clock

By David Milligan Croft

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I searched for the meaning of life

In philosophers’ books.

I looked for a reason for being

In great religious texts.

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But I could not find anything

To assuage the frustration

As to the point

Of my own existence.

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The sun dimmed

On the page I was writing,

As the Earth slowly rotated me away,

Into the shadows.

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And there it was, shimmering

In the fading light of dusk.

A dandelion clock, swaying

Gently in a summer zephyr.

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Its seed pods lifting off 

Into the atmosphere,

Like the universe itself

Exploding into life.

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The wind would carry it

To its destination –

It did not need to worry what it should be

Or where it might be going.

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I searched for the meaning of life,

And found it in a dandelion clock –

Either, it is all important,

Or none of it is.

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I was looking for heaven,

And realised I am already here,

For the briefest, most glorious

Moments in time.

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And the point of existence,

Is to have existed at all.

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Hawks over Haworth


Hawk hovers over

Wuthering moors, searching for

Cathy’s eidolon.

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Motes of my Mother


Motes of my Mother.

By David Milligan-Croft.

As I popped open the lid of the cylinder, 

A faint cloud of ash escaped from within. 

Motes of my mother floated in the morning sun. 

Drifting off into the atmosphere to settle who knows where.

Perhaps somewhere sunny, like Tahiti, she’d like that.

Or maybe just the bookshelf.

As I spooned some of her ashes into a small ceramic jar – 

A keepsake for my daughter – 

I felt the sudden urge to sneeze.

I froze momentarily, unsure whether to deposit her remains

Back into the large urn, or continue with my task,

And risk dropping some of her in the sink.

Or, worse still, blowing her onto the window.

I twisted my face to my shoulder

In order to stifle the impending sneeze

And lessen any resulting tremors.

It was while I was looking down

Into the larger urn that I wondered just how much

Of this ash was actually my mother. If, in fact,

Any of it was. How would I know if we had someone else’s ashes?

Would the remnants of her dna still cling to these dusty particles?

And, how much of the ash is human, and how much is coffin?

Do they take the brass fittings off first? Whose job is that?

If I dig deep enough, will I find a piece of shoe, or tooth, or bone?

So many questions.

Then I thought of my mother rolling her eyes and laughing 

And saying, “Silly bugger.” Or something like that.

Then the urge to sneeze disappeared.

And I carefully continued spooning the ashes 

Into the ceramic pot and gently closed the lid.

She’ll be safer with my daughter, I thought.

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The 10th Muse


There were nine muses in ancient Greek mythology. Daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, they were the divine inspiration behind human artistic and scientific endeavour. Calliope is probably the most well known, she is the muse responsible for inspiring heroic/epic poetry. Erato is the inspiration behind love poetry.

Because I love art, a couple of years ago, I promised myself I would do some form of art every day. Whether it be a few lines of poetry or prose, a sketch, doodle or a painting – or even taking a photograph. I think I do two types of art – conscious and unconscious.

When I consciously do something, I think about what it is I want to paint, how I want to paint it, materials, medium, etc. And I have an image in my mind’s eye about what I want to achieve. Invariably, I am slightly disappointed with the finished piece because it never lives up to the ambition of my imagination. The enjoyment was in doing it in the first place.

The second type is my unconscious art. I pick up whatever is at hand and just express myself without thinking about it. Whether it be in words or brushstrokes. I tend to get more satisfaction out of this kind of work because I don’t have any preconceived standard I was hoping to meet in my mind.

And it is this work that I sometimes question whether it is actually ‘me’ who is doing it. Or, rather my unconscious connection to the rest of the energy of the universe that my own sub-atomic particles are inextricably linked with. My Divine Muses, if you like. I am merely a conduit to put the marks on paper, canvas, or pizza box lid. (My muses do like a lot of pizza.)

Yeah, I’m aware that all sounds a bit pretentious and hippy-trippy, but you can’t escape the fact that our subconscious selves have an awful lot to say if you only let them speak.

Anyhoo, here’s what the muses wanted me to say recently…

Frida Kahlo inspired by the novel “The Lacuna” by Barbara Kingsolver.
Inspired by The Gorillaz and the war in the Ukraine.
‘Noodle’, inspired by the Gorillaz and Euterpe.
‘Peppa loves jumping in bloody puddles,’ inspired by a recent court case in Russia over copyright.
Inspired by patients at Stepping Hill Hospital where I work.
Ditto for this one.
And this one.
Inspired by the Divine Proportion, or Golden Ratio.
Inspired by Ourania.
Inspired by Melpomene.
Inspired by Polymnia.

I am very passionate about the act of ‘doing’ art being the most important aspect of it, rather than the end result. I see the benefits of this in patients with mental illness all the time. Yes, it can be insightful, but it doesn’t have to be. It can just be mindful, cathartic, meditative, expressive. And most importantly, you don’t have to be good at art to do it – it’s about the process, not the result.

Because, when you open yourself up and let the muses in – be they divine, subconscious, or Earthly, that’s when you really feel the joy of doing art.

Oh, and the 10th Muse?

For me, it’s the Golden Ratio.

More on her another time.

I don’t think there is a muse of epic tidying.

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Ebb & Flow


EBB & FLOW

By David Milligan-Croft.





It begins with tingling pinpricks

In the wrist. Moving slowly

Up through the spongy muscle

Of the palm. From there, it spreads

Its spiky tendrils into the burning cul-de-sacs

Of my fingers.

Until the numbness sets in.





Somewhere outside, a piano is playing

A delicate melody. Vibrations of sound

Floating in the balmy August air,

Drifting off into the universe.





Meanwhile, across the galaxy,

Two spiral nebulae collide,

Stripping charged electrons from their atoms.

Ionised oxygen and magnesium sending 

A kaleidoscope of colours crashing,

And burning in the lightless void.

The beauty and violence of a star

Forming to give birth to new worlds, new life.





Then the ant. The curious ant

Pads across the table.

Its antennae probing the wall

Of flesh that is my hand.

It’s checking to see if I am safe to traverse.

Cautiously, it crawls over my palm,

Up my numb fingers. I feel nothing,

And everything, at the same time.

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A You-Shaped Hole.


A You-Shaped Hole.

By David Milligan-Croft

I was going to text you

This funny meme I saw.

It was of a dog frantic to see its owner,

Who’d just come back from uni,

To see her folks.

The dog scampered up

To the young lady wagging

Its tail, yapping and licking her face.

It got so excited, it literally fainted!

The girl laughed.

I know how much you love dogs

So I figured you’d appreciate it.

But then I remembered you’re dead.

And I felt overwhelmed by this enormous

Bubble of emptiness and silence.

There was this huge you-shaped hole

Inside of me where you used to live.

I sat for a while staring at the message

Until the hole filled up with chores

And thoughts about trivial things 

I had to do that day.

Then I pressed send

And went to wash the dishes.

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