Fiona Bawn-Thompson

One Foot Forward

by Fiona Bawn Thompson

Dublin Arts &
Human Rights


You should be grateful.
I know.
So why are you feeling like this.
I don’t know.
Don’t know you’re living!
But I want to live!
But you are.
But I’m not.

I’m surviving.

A dark cloud they compare it to. Well by God I’ve seen some clouds in my life and nothing light and fluffy can compare to this. ‘So you mentioned earlier, that the thoughts were getting too much. Can you tell me more about these ‘thoughts’?’
‘Just a bit overwhelming . . . things, life.’
A pause. I can hear my heart beating. Jesus, this is supposed to be helping me, not making me feel like I’m being interrogated. Hmm (she smiles back reassuringly).

‘And what are your plans then for the week ahead?’
Smile and move on. No dark clouds here… not a cloud to be seen actually. Nothing light and fluffy about anything here. Shut the door, move on, and breathe. Breathe. I need to sort this. My head is exploding with terror and I’m the victim. How can you escape something that is attached to you? How did it get to this point? How the hell can I ever survive this?


Dense, it’s definitely dense, heavy and dense and dark. Like a tar enveloping my head, drowning my senses, suffocating my rational mind. There is

no problem-solving here. The bucket is full, the volcano has erupted.
It’s over. It’s over. There’s nothing more to give as there’s no room left to take. I lie quivering in my room. A mere shadow of the force I was before, completely eradicated, annihilated, destroyed. Pointless, irrelevant, nothing. Nothing. I am nothing. Hopeless and useless and nothing but a hindrance.
The primitive mind is quick to recall the terror and darkness that lies beneath. It’s easier to remember dark times when we are feeling happy than it is to remember happy times when we are bombarded with darkness.
Debilitating thoughts. Anchored to the ground by shackles. Suffocating.
There is no way out.
Say it again.
There is no way out.
Because that’s what it tells us.

No light in the darkness, no glitter on this painting, absolutely nothing to look forward to in this life. Living. I’m living and I’m breathing, I’m comfortable and I’m safe. Or am I. Worry takes over and fear, fear grips me by the throat. I try to cry for help but there is nothing. Nothing can come out. Because no one can help me. Because that’s what the mind does. The evil joker convinces the vulnerable mind to stay down because there is no one that can help a helpless, pitiful excuse for a human.

Stay down.

Sitting at the bottom of an empty well. I look up and I can see there is light, I can see there is daytime

above, I know there is love and brightness, and flowers, and birds singing up there. I can see it all in the distance. But I’m stuck down here. I sit in this round well, with walls all around, no big footholds, no grip, I try to pull myself up to stand but I slip, I am weak, and this Everest is too much to climb unaided.

I feel as if I’m drowning. Drowning in my own thoughts and memories, in the trauma and anger that weighs me down. And sometimes I float to the surface and bob about for a while. The sun is out and the water glistens, and life is good, then a huge wave crashes on top of me and pushes me further than I have ever been down before, the darkest of depths, the scariest of places, and I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

I struggle to the top to gasp for air only to be pushed down again, and it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting. My loved ones throw me life rings but the truth is, I need to be able to save myself. And I’m trying.
And I will!

‘I’m struggling’. A simple text. One of the most difficult messages I ever sent to a loved one. That’s all. I felt at the end of a tether, the bottom of a well, drowning in stormy seas. And whilst they couldn’t find the answers for me, they were there to listen. I felt my shoulders drop and a sigh of relief left me that took away a tiny bit of that darkness. This impenetrable forcefield had been compromised, and now all that was left to do was to keep chipping away at it.

The meds didn’t work. They seemed to fuel the fire and keep me in a state of hypervigilance. Like a rabbit in the headlights, a soldier in the trench. Nothing dropped out of the cupboard and broke in our house. I had reflexes like a cat. Not the best state to be in though when you need a night’s sleep. A night’s sleep was the next thing on my list (once I ditched the drugs), then counselling, yoga, psychotherapy. Then I started to look at my life and what I had been through over the years, and the pressure I continued to put on myself.

And somewhere.
Somewhere and somehow.
Something started working.

I don’t know if it was the positive affirmations, the family time, the newfound sleep habits, the therapy, the exercise, the food choices, the feeling good about me physically and spiritually. Something started to work. But it wasn’t a quick fix. Like someone who has had a life-changing injury, there is work needed to keep it all working as it was before. We need to find the energy to shout from the bottom of the well for a lifeline, for a foothold, to float on the surface and just breathe until the storm has passed and we can climb onto the lifeboat. Send that message or make that call, and tell the primitive mind to piss away off and go bother something else. But we can do it. There is always help.

My mind has been broken and I’m learning how to walk again.

About The ARTIST

Fiona Bawn-Thompson is a hard-working mum with a passion for the arts. She works with women’s groups, young people and adults with moderate to profound learning difficulties, ex paramilitary, ethnic minorities and segregated youth across the island of Ireland.

She is an actor, writer, director and choreographer and loves to work on devising projects and creating collaborative artistic pieces with the groups I work with.

She is also the founder and director of FADD studios, a performing arts academy which was established in 2008 and which runs classes across 3 counties. She has represented Ireland at the world Hip-Hop Championships in 2014 and 2019 with my crew of dancers and have attained many awards over the years.