An emotional moonwalk into the shadow

Does my life seem busy? Does it seem that I’m confident? I can confidently tell you that I am busy. No more busier than a single mother making ends meet and I’ve a lot less to lose too. Perspective is everything.  I may have seemed to be walking forward since January 2nd.  In fact I was receding. And I continued to recede in an emotional moonwalk until mid may.

In the  display of events and openings, the handshakes and speeches I have been a shadow since January. Depression hits the strongest at their weakest spot.  My morning tweets stopped. That’s the number one sign.   In May the shadow lifted as the plane hit the sky from Cape Town. It was a conversation with my Godmother Ethiopia Alfred that triggered something.

Thanks for reading this and for being here. Thanks for each of  thousands of birthday wishes that flew to me on May 21st.  I am writing this blog because if you only see me shining then I’m lying to you.  If you get this… this whatever-you-wanna-call-it   I want you to know it’s going to be okay.  All shadows are defined by light..

Postscript: I am very happy at the moment. Not ridiculously ecstatic. Not unnaturally enthusiastic. Life is good is all. This is why I wanted to share. I have said before “I am not defined by my scars but by the incredible ability to heal”. This is true. But scars hurt sometimes. Especially when you poke them.

(photograph by Greg Williams)


84 thoughts on “An emotional moonwalk into the shadow

  1. Thank you Lemn. I did wonder. You’re such a bright star. Take a rest. XxxxxJanet from Yorkshire Xxxxx Love always.

  2. Thank you for saying this. I think I’ve known this was what it was, somehow, as I’ve watched you whirl in a 2016 blizzard of busy busy busy Lemn-ism. And I’ve wanted to reach in & stop the roundabout & say here’s a key, come & sit in my quiet south facing garden & watch the leaves rustle & be still. Be still. We don’t even have to be here. Just be. Whatever waits for you in the dark days, I know you know full well, will wait till you stop spinning & still be there saying “yeah? And???” Mine is, in the not sleeping however still I lie, in the vacant stare when I “should” be thinking or doing something or both, in the “thanks, yes, I’m good, yes” when I mean no, im not. The garden’s here. Come.

    • Never really sure one should come out with a blog like this. But it’s who I am. Ofcourse I am well and rested right now. I have a choice to continue as I do or to recognise and record what happened. I DO have family but they aren’t around. I become obsessed with recording the darkness… tracking it like a hunter. But I can only track it when I am out of it. All is well 🙂 I will pop down at some point. Mostly I will be going to CORNWALLLLL woohoooo XXL

  3. I am going to write something I read and that stayed with me in relation to what you wrote. I can’t put it in quotations for I am sure I am paraphrasing it. The only reason there is sadness and strife it our world is so that we can recognize peace and happiness when it comes our way. So we live hoping that tomorrow is another day and it comes with its own hopes and breeze that can fill ones heart with joy. Keep on traveling even if you don’t see the road/map.

  4. Thanks for writing this Lemn – you are so loved and your actions very much appreciated. Life is tough that’s for sure x

  5. I fear we are walking in the same pair of shoes.
    You and your words are loved far and wide.
    Waiting for the cloud I seem to be stuck in to be blown away.

  6. I read your words and almost want to let out a huge exhalation and say ‘it’s ok, there are more of us out there’. It can sometimes feel like a massive risk to open up in this way, but I think we all need to open the door a little wider to these parts of our lives…it makes us all feel a little more human (whether we’re writing, reading or talking out loud). Thank you x

  7. Man i’ve only just come to know something of you through your work and I’m glad for that, and deeply moved by reading this and can relate and thank you and God bless and go well x peace x

  8. Sending a poem to a poet. Nod by Walter de la Mare

    His are the quiet steeps of dreamland,
    The waters of no-more-pain;
    His ram’s bell rings ‘neath an arch of stars,
    “Rest, rest, and rest again.”

  9. Dear Lemn, you have touched such a part of me, mostly since your Desert Island Discs, I feel like you’re a friend. I have been touched by so much sadness with those I love and feel closest to struggling through anxiety and depression. Your morning tweets lifted me through dark times and I can’t thank you enough for that. If you need a rest for a while, we will understand. Enjoy Cornwall. Relax, enjoy, stop chasing. Then come back. Thank you. xx

  10. Dear Lemn,

    This too is hard to write. I too have recently come out of a depressive episode that lasted many weeks. The safest thing I think is that when it desends, it feels like it will never end and that is undescribably excruciating. I am normally a very happy optimistic and very smiley person who is excited by life but for me depression is defined by the absence of feeling, absence of passion and purpose that directs my life. Thank you so much for sharing and for showing that even in the midst of seemingly and actually great things, there can be pain. We are complex and awesome beings. Sending much love. Jenny

  11. Never apologise for who you are, how you feel or what you choose to share/conceal. We need to be honest about how this horrible illness gets a grip of you but only when we’re strong enough to express it. Not many can be coherent when in the midst of the struggle but our words may help others caught in the dead, soulless eye of the shitstorm.

    Peace and love.

  12. Thanks Godmother for the wake up conversation! It’s always nice to have someone who can make us see things differently. Lemn, your morning tweets challenge my thoughts when I’m not in my best.

  13. Thank you for writing this, as someone with a vulnerability to depression I recognise that shining on the outside which betrays the inside. 🙂

  14. Lemn, I was at your talk and reading in Ennis in Ireland and was blown away by your words, your manner and your way of being. I was very moved and inspired at the same time. I feel even more moved now by reading your post and it touched such a true cord in how I have been feeling myself for the last few weeks. I’m so grateful for how you say it as it is. We all need much more of this real honesty. THANK YOU, Lemn.

  15. Hi Lemn,

    I’m the girl who told you about my anxiety after Mercy Mercy at HomeMCR. This piece has reduced me to tears. Just the simplicity and sincerity in its raw form. I suppose it’s a struggle at the moment to understand my own thoughts and formulate some understanding of my “self”. You radiate light and love and you are poetry in itself. I am so genuinely glad you are “very happy” at the moment. I hope your days to come are filled with increasing warmth, light, and love.


  16. Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability Lemn. I hear you’re good and appreciate why you share this. The way I see it, rather that, risk some reactions and know oneself, than more pretence. I’ve known enough of that. Hugs my friend!!!!

  17. Lemiye, thank you. Really, I don’t deserve any credit, because it is my duty to be there for you. Always remember that. Call me any hour of the day or night.

  18. I’ve completely gone around the bend
    and reading your personal stuff
    Lifts me and makes me laugh
    Have fun in Cornwall Lemn

  19. As I said to you when I bumped into you in the bank the other day, you’re among friends Lemn. Always, everywhere. Friends listen, but of course you have to be able to be with yourself first.

    I gate crashed Ruby Waxs’s talk at Hay on Monday with Jesse. OMG. What a show. Buy her book Frazzled. It’s an epic read and a lesson to us all.

    As she said ‘if you let the cortisol run, it WILL kill you. Life’s short enough already’. As Spike said ‘do the right thing’.


  20. Namaste…..
    in the midst of it we can’t recognise who we were, but when we return we have grown again, but must learn to to watch for the next time we disappear.
    Glad you are back, morning posts and all .

  21. Hi Lemn, I’ve never met you, but I LOVE you. I’ve only seen you perform and I read your poems. I found you because I worked with young people in care and your poems and your example encouraged me to carry on through the darkness of working in the care system. Thank you for sharing how you really are, it’s so important that you do. We are all so much more than whatever emotion we are currently in the grip of. I love your posts and often share them and I read your poems aloud to whoever will listen. Love, love and more love to you.

  22. Dear Lemn

    Such honesty and frankness in your blog. Your willingness to be so open is admirable that stirs a stranger to respond to this blog, ignore your celebrity and dare to speak to the man

    I knew little of your story or work until a couple of months ago until I printed off an article about your life ‘in care’ and gave it as a parting gift to one of my pupils (aged 11) who was in the same situation with the annotation
    ‘ He made it, so can you!’ I watched him read it and his response was to say ‘wow! I am keeping this Miss’! One child of the many you have undoubtedly touched. ……

    I share this to remind you that you make a difference and the power of your history, giftedness and work affects lives.

    If I may be so bold to say that In all the applause, adoration and plaudits you get Lemn, never lose hope or sight of your core purpose. This world is better with you in it than not. In the words of the writer of one of the books you would take on that desert island of yours I quote:
    ‘For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion’ Ecclesiates 9:4

    You are very happy now? I wish you more than that and pray you remain grounded, are truly loved for you and find total contentment.

    Kindest regards


  23. You talked to me a few times about this and you can talk any time. Solidarity, total. Love, total. Speak soon Lemn xx

  24. When I read your blog I felt the emotions and the pain. My brother suffered depression throughout his adult life and took his life in 2008 at the age of 49. I miss him terribly and think of him everyday.

    Lemn thank you for sharing with us your personal experience.

    Take care Vero ♥️

  25. This moved me deeply as a voyager to the shadows myself and also the mother of a young poet who also goes there and bears the scars. All the darkness of the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle, and by shining your own light into the shadow you make it less crushing. Thank you for your inspiring courage and honesty. Love to you

  26. I was deeply moved by what you wrote. I have been a voyager to the shadows most of my life and my young son, who is also a gifted poet, bears the scars of his own shadow voyaging. All the darkness in the world cannot put out the light of a single candle and by shining a light on your own shadow you make it less crushing for us all. Thank you for your inspiring courage and honesty. With love

  27. Lemn you give so much to so many with your words and electric presence. Time to let the soft winds of Cornwall blow away the cobwebs and refresh your soul. We love you in all your complexity, strength and vulnerability. (((Hugs))) and thank you x

  28. “I have said before “I am not defined by my scars but by the incredible ability to heal”. This is true. But scars hurt sometimes. Especially when you poke them.”

    Thank you Lemn for this …I recently went through the same and I realised I had the ability to say NO to those who want me to look at my scars ….

    I came from the far land, where people and communities care for each other , and now I am faced with clinical clean land where people are cold and unfriendly . I couldn’t understand why my neighbour wouldn’t accept my kindness without being suspicious and then I realised its to do with the environment.

    I have decided not to accept give in to this environment and every time I am in a dark place i sAY “ITS OK TO FEEL THIS WAY” ..

    • Beautiful. I know people who have suffered serious shock when they come to England because of the cold nature. Especially in London. But everywhere else too. Thankyou Amina!

  29. Thanks for this. When I feel depressed I take long walk and recite poems that I have memorized. I hope you’ll enjoy these two beautiful poems (I’m confident that you have already read them some time in the past).


    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll.
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.
    William Ernest Henley

    Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

    Whose woods these are I think I know.
    His house is in the village, though;
    He will not see me stopping here
    To watch his woods fill up with snow.

    My little horse must think it queer
    To stop without a farmhouse near
    Between the woods and frozen lake
    The darkest evening of the year.

    He gives his harness bells a shake
    To ask if there is some mistake.
    The only other sound’s the sweep
    Of easy wind and downy flake.

    The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.
    Robert Frost

  30. I love what you said, “All shadows are defined by light.” I’ve battled with depression for most of my 70 years. Gotta remember, the light is always there. 🙂

  31. Thanks for this. When I feel depressed I visit funeral places, there people are died on the age of 10,20,30,60 even in months. and professionally; teachers, doctors, economists accountant… etc.Educational background, first degree second, third…… even know not a single letter. Rich or poor….. every body die and go with out his staff what he collect on his life time. So after I red all the above on the tomb I become relaxed and forgot all my depression went back home. Be brave Bro.

    Best regards,


  32. Post once a day: remember you have a personal and private life, take that seriously, be a good chancellor and map the local well?

  33. I first saw your words on the walls of the Southbank centre, truly beautiful they were and l needed to seek out more words. I was lucky enouuh to hear you speak here in Lincolnshire, reciting your poetry and being you.
    We have to listen to our soul, follow what we need and bugger everyone else
    So happy for you to of come out the other side of the darkness.
    I am carer for my Grand daughter who would otherwise of gone into care so l read with interest your amazing work in the care sector

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