Mi’kmaw woman uses struggles with mental health to publish book of poetry

Hannah Battiste holds her book of poetry at an office at the Eskasoni Mental Health Services Centre, where she now works as a youth worker, and reads from her book.

“She was almost at the edge, feet above nothing, about to let go, she closed her eyes, her arms flew freely, heart beating through her chest, goosebumps over her arms, for the moment she was free,” she reads.

The poem is called Images from her book of poetry called Out of Darkness.

In the book, she uses her imagination as an escape from abuse.

“I never really understood what I went through as a child, I never really understood what sexual assault or abuse or any of that kind of stuff meant so I wrote this poem about how I would imagine things.

Battiste said the book was inspired after she’d visited her community’s healing gardens to reflect on her past.

“So, Out of Darkness means a lot of the times in my situations I had to help myself out of darkness because I really believe in that saving, nobody’s going to come save you, you have to come to save yourself,” she said.

The cover of the book, which Battiste designed, follows her journey through abuse, mental illness and therapy.

“It’s about a girl that’s trapped underneath these barbed wires and not being able to reach over and to reach the light,” she said. “But all along she was able to do it because she was the light, she was the inner light.”

Battiste had to cope with anxiety, depression and PTSD after she lost a parent at a young age and a brother who died by suicide.

“It was a lot of horrible things I’ve been through that I kept silent about for a long time and I don’t want to be silent anymore I want to use my voice and I’m hoping that it inspires other people to use their voices too,” she said.

Edmund Morris, Battiste’s friend, said the poems are an inspiration.

“Seeing her struggles made me realize, like, that I have dealt with some issues as well with my mental health,” he said. “So seeing her so open and vulnerable with people encouraged me to do the exact same thing, like seek help.”

Battiste said she got help at the Eskasoni Mental Health Services where she now works as a youth worker.

Angeline Denny-Sylliboy, director of the centre, said she’s proud Battiste is sharing her journey.

“We’re just so excited to be able to read her book, we heard lots about it but now when we have the opportunity to read it, I’m definitely going to have to and hopefully she’ll sign a copy for me,” she said.

Battiste will attend a book launch of Out of Darkness this month in Toronto.

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