Interview with Harriet Knock, author

Newly-published author Harriet Knock talks about how she captured her mental health challenges in a collection of poems. 

Interview with Harriet Knock, author

Tell us about your own experiences of mental health, and how it has impacted your life?

I’ve been battling mental health problems since the age of 15, and it has been tough.

That said, I’m proud to say, despite not being able to see a light at the end of the tunnel, I am still here. I have recovered from anorexia, depression and self-harm. I still battle anxiety on a daily basis but I am determined to try to face it the best I can for my family.

I now have two beautiful boys, aged 3 years and 18 months.  We live in the very beautiful North Devon, with their Daddy (my fiancé), Luke. Being a young Mum to two toddlers is hard, let alone doing so while battling with my own mental health, but since having my first child, I have finally had the opportunity to pursue my passion of writing and am now able to share it with the world.

Living with mental health problems is difficult and I hope my book will shine a light on the reality and depths of living with mental health problems that often don’t get discussed, and promote recovery. I hope my words will act as an inspiring reminder for all to believe in the existence of better days to come.

I wanted to delve into the reality and issues that are deeper than the standard conversations around mental illness. There is only so much that is openly talked about, still so many side effects and parts of it are hidden away.

Some days are better than others. Anxiety is strange, it’s like you know the things you are worrying about are silly but that doesn’t stop those worries from eating you up! It’s completely irrational but uncontrollable. Some days I don’t even want to leave the house, everything feels overwhelming and daunting. 

It would be easy to let it consume me but I have to push on for my little boys. My boys are also my anchors, they keep me grounded in the storm of my mind and give me a purpose to get up and try every day - even if I don't feel like it.

What are some ways or strategies you have found for improving your own mental health?

It took me a long time to get to where I am now and in a place where I am so comfortable to talk about my experiences.

I received CBT and professional support, which I really urge everyone to seek. It is much easier to get on the road to recovery with adequate support around you and professional help to guide you. No one should ever feel like they have to struggle alone - we are ALL worthy of recovery.When I was receiving counselling and CBT, I had a notebook called 'The Don't Look Book'. It was my safe place where I would write down my feelings, knowing no one else would read it. It helped my mind to free those thoughts.

Writing, such as poetry, has always been a passion of mine and again, really benefits my mental health.

I recently discovered that Cleaning does the world of good for my mental health too.

I use it almost like a therapy for my anxiety. It is the perfect positive distraction and safe coping mechanism, to take me away from the worries of my mind. I created a hashtag, #OneTaskADay, to encourage those struggling with mental illness/health problems/lack of time, to focus on just achieving one task in your home a day. This helps to keep on top of the housework in a more manageable way, it keeps you being productive and achieving something - which makes you feel good. It stops you from overwhelming yourself with too much at once and encourages you to do something small, even on the bad days. This in turn helps to prevent you getting into a rut, when the house is a total mess you lose that sense of control and it can be even more detrimental on your mental health. 

I think it's very important to remember to take things day by day, you can't get over things overnight. Recovery isn't linear and even when you're better you can still have set backs, this is ok and doesn't mean you're failing. Strive for progress not perfection.

Tell us about the work you're doing with Arkbound Foundation

Never did I think that during a worldwide Coronavirus Pandemic, one of my dreams would come true… but here I am telling that story!

During lockdown, I received a Publishing Contract with Arkbound, one of my lifelong dreams is to have my writing published and now it’s becoming a reality. They're publishing my debut book, and they work with underrepresented authors, helping those from disadvantaged backgrounds to break into the industry.

2020 has been a year that has turned the whole world upside down and flooded us all with uncertainty. Mental Health helplines and charities have been under extreme pressure and I feel now is appropriate timing to release my book for World Mental Health Day.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Arkbound for working with me to bring my dream to life, they have been a pleasure to work with and the work they are doing is so important.

It's often the underrepresented voices that need to be heard most!

So tell us about the book. Did the writing process offer and catharsis?

Poetry is a brilliant form of expression. I put pen to paper to help free the busy thoughts and worries from my mind, and to share my personal experiences with others. Writing down how you feel in an artistic way and then sparking conversation in others by doing so, is truly something special.

Living with mental health problems can be incredibly isolating so by writing this book I hope I can reach people that need to feel that empathy and understanding.

To remind others, that no matter what your struggles are, you are NEVER alone.

There is always someone going through something similar, that will understand how you feel, even if those around you don't.

It really helped bring me closure to be able to share my story and speak up about my life with mental health problems, in a way no one has seen or heard before.

It's raw, emotional and real.

What was the process you took to write the book? 

I just wrote the poems as and when they came to me, then compiled them into one book.

Are there any tips you'd give to someone who wants to start writing

I recommend anyone wanting to write always keep a notebook nearby, or utilizes their phone notes app to jot ideas down in the moment. I quite often jot things down when I'm too anxious to sleep. I have to write ideas down as they come to me as inspiration can come from anywhere and easily be forgotten if you don't make notes!

I would also say, never force or push your writing or it won't come across as natural.

It can take a while to get enough content together for a book but it's worth the wait! You want to show people your true talent, not something that has been rushed and pushed out the doors.

Write about something powerful to you, something you are passionate about. I wrote about my experiences because they are such a big part of my life and in shaping the person I am today. I am passionate about raising mental health awareness and hope my book will help to do this and further break the stigma.

How do you view the current mental health provisions in the UK at the moment, is there enough being done?

Over the last few years the mental health support available has got better but in my opinion it's still not enough.

Mental health should be discussed more in schools as so many mental health problems start during adolescence.

I feel like there is still a degree of stigma. People are more open about mental health problems now, however, few of them discuss the real and raw depths of it, such as the side effects that they live with etc.

My book aims to shine a light on some of these things and remind people that self care is so much more than a bubble bath! It’s personal hygiene, brushing your teeth, and getting out of bed when all you want to do is hide away from the world.

I would love to see more funding for mental health provisions and I would love to see mental health included more in the secondary school curriculum. 

Emerging from the Storm is available from bookshops now, and is published by Arkbound.

Header Image Credit: Lisa Fotios / Pexels


Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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