Catie Nettlingham's debut poetry book Her Patient Fight was released earlier this month. We have a copy ready to send to a Hooked on NZ Books reviewer, and in the meantime, ask Catie about the project.
Kia ora, Catie. Please tell us a bit about this book and how you came to write it.
My poetry book is called Her Patient Fight and it shows the journey I have had through mental health adversity. I have bipolar disorder and I write in part one some of the experiences I have had with that.
This book opens the conversation around depression, anxiety, bipolar, mania and psychosis. It is not weak to speak. As the book goes on it shows how I recovered and now manage such a debilitating illness.
A special part of the book is all about my loved ones and how they and the community saved me. It takes a group of kind people to battle a mental illness and I am so lucky I did receive that. I credit all my success and improvement to them.
Finally, the book finishes with inspiration, hope and encouragement as this too shall definitely pass, and sometimes it takes hearing another person’s story to believe that. I hope I am that person that I desperately wanted to read about when I was going through the worst to others now. I am very proud of my efforts to turn my dark times into something good in this world.
I had never written before I was in hospital. Then I couldn’t put down the pen; I had a lot to process and get out of my brain and onto paper. This process was therapeutic and it healed me. I actually did not intend on writing a book, but it just flowed and came together as a fine collection of poetry that tells my story.
Who’s your ideal reader of Her Patient Flight? What do you hope the book might do for readers?
This is a book any young adult and all adults can enjoy. You do not need to have a mental illness or know someone with poor mental health to be inspired by this collection of poems.
How important is writing to you, in your life? Would you encourage other young people to have a go?
Writing has been my channel to health. Writing brings me purpose and unleashes my individual creativity. To write is to feel and to feel is the beauty in living. When I am writing, I am never alone. Some may say lost in my own thoughts, but I believe I'm strengthening my inner being.
When I write, whether it's shallow or deep, I escape and I grow. Putting together a poem is a tool I use to manage my bipolar. It levels and centres me. I would go as far as saying practicing this is mindfulness as I am in the zone and releasing the pressure on my mind. Detachment of thoughts onto paper is immensely beneficial.
I strongly encourage other young people to write. It is not about a finished poem on the page - it is about having a go. Relax and scribble down words, phrases, or drawings all over the page. From there you can string together sentences.
In a fast-paced world, it is hard to even pick up and tune into how we are feeling or even doing. This means it is even more essential that we take a moment to pause, reflect, express, and learn.
Have some time off your phone and focus on a blank page that is full of possibilities. There are all sorts of practices, such as journaling which is a good start to prompt writing. There are so many benefits of writing. Your mental health improves, heart rate slows down, concentration is expanded and can leave you feeling productive and motivated.
Which books, poets or other writers have been special to you in your life?
I struggled for a long time, and still do a bit now, with my concentration due to my mental illness. This makes reading and following a novel difficult. But this one was different. Despite it being a more challenging read, The Choice by Edith Egar is a book I read and finished right in the thick of my journey and it helped me so much. Edith’s story is very special as it changed my whole mindset around which I still use to this day.
What are you reading right now, and have you got any book recommendations for us?
I am currently reading Believe in Life: How to dance in the rain, by Johanne Schoz.
During my journey, and through my Mum who studies te reo Māori, I discovered my love for whakatoki and my interest in the Māori world. For that reason these two books are great reads, and I really enjoyed flicking through them. I gained great inspiration for my poetry in these pages and meanings.
1) Mauri ora: wisdom from the Māori world, by Peter Alsop and Te Raumawhitu Kupenga; and
2) Aroha: Māori Wisdom for a Contented Life Lived in Harmony with Our Planet by Hinemoa Elder.
What’s next in line for you, Catie? Any new book projects in the works?
I like to take life a step at a time and promoting Her Patient Fight is a big focus on mine at the moment. In saying this, I do have big creative ideas and am excited about my future. No new manuscripts coming together currently. I do however want to keep growing my reach on Instagram and that is such a great platform for getting my message across and touching this lives of more people.